A damning indictment!

“If you were put on trial for being a disciple of Jesus Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” is a question that was asked among Christians when I was in my teens. I do not know who first asked it, but it’s a worthy question, isn’t it? Those who truly love Him should live a distinctly separate and different life from people who are not Believers. I love that story in Acts where Peter and John are dragged before a religious court and questioned about their work for the Lord. Those men who were hostile to their message none the less were impressed by one thing: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV) Oh, that those who talk, work, and live around us today would come to the same conclusion!

A kind of sophistication has settled over many American Christians that allows them to live in two worlds at the same time. They lay claim to the grace of Christ and the hope of eternal life while holding onto their love of things, their pride of place and face, and unholy pleasures. Any call to genuine holiness, to living a separated life, is rejected as ‘legalism.’ So, they are capable of singing, ‘take all of me, Lord,’ on Sunday in worship and then choosing to be their own master on Monday. Those who live that way might think they are sophisticated, but they are actually foolish – robbing themselves of the power and joy that a wholly committed follower of Jesus knows.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus took on some sophisticates of His day who thought they could know God and keep control of their lives at the same time. His words were a damning indictment that I would never want Him to speak of me.
“Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, Ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads. … You scratch out God’s Word and scrawl a whim in its place. You do a lot of things like this.” (Mark 7:6-8; 12-14, The Message)
Disciple, do not let it be said of you that you are hypocrite, saying the right words but failing to live the life of a disciple. Do not slide into legalism, either. That’s a dead end, too. Merely putting some external rules in place about what you eat, what you wear, how you talk, what movies you watch, and such matters is not true holiness. To be sure, when Christ is Lord of our lives, there will be an observable difference in those things, because our hearts are changed!

For example:
A man who loves Christ and is filled with the life of the Spirit will not be profane or filthy in speech because his heart is washed of anger and lust!
A woman who is truly full of the Spirit will not exploit the sensual beauty of her sexuality because she will know the true beauty that comes from a heart full of the love of Christ.

Spend time in quiet with the Lord today. There is no substitute for solitude, for prayerful meditation, for becoming truly holy. Only when we are really with Jesus will we become like Jesus! Here’s a word from the Word. I pray that the challenge will one you will embrace, with God’s help, today so that others will see real evidence that you are a disciple of the Lord of life.
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NLT)
________________________

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee.
Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love,

At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Always, only, for my King.

Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages for Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold,
Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne.
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my God, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Take My Life
Francis Havergal © Public Domain

EOTWAWKI? (Translation? See last line!)

Could we move up the election to tomorrow? The election hype, the dire warnings that come from both sides promising that the US of A is doomed if the other guy is elected are so over the top that I wonder how the candidates utter them with a straight face? Are there differences between the Republicans and the Democrats? Sure there are. Will the election of one party or the other really effect American history? Most certainly! Public policies for the next decade will be changed by the legislation enacted, the national security choices made, and the judges appointed during the next four years. I am not minimizing the importance of this election, but I want to set it in context of Heaven’s truth.

Time and again, God makes it known in the Scripture – “I am in charge of history!” Consider Daniel. This man was carried from his home in Jerusalem to Babylon where he was put in the service of a pagan emperor. It must have been hard for Daniel to reconcile the truth that God was revealing to him concerning His control of human events and the fact that his homeland was in ruins and that young Jews like himself were in captives in a foreign land. Yet, he stayed faithful to the revelation. Daniel, despite tragedy, remained God’s man. As a result he was amazingly effective as God’s spokesman in that pagan culture.

One time, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that his counselors tell him what he had dreamed and the meaning of his dream. Impossible? Sure it was. But, Daniel went to prayer, received the revelation, and went to tell the king what God was saying to him. God showed Daniel that He was still in charge. Remember that dream? It was a large statue with golden head, silver chest, bronze belly, iron legs, and feet of clay. It represented the kingdoms of men. The key part of the dream was the Stone that was cut out, not with human hands, that smashed the statue. The meaning? All earthly kingdoms will come to an end when the King of Kings sets up His reign.

Later in the king’s life, he had another terrifying dream. He saw a great tree in the center of the earth. It was cut down by a heavenly messenger, but the stump was left. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that it was a message that he was about to be cut down because of his arrogance. “They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules.” (Daniel 4:25-26, NKJV)

When Daniel was about 80 years old, once again a king saw a terrifying vision. Belshazzar, the regent of Babylon, whose arrogance far outstripped that of Nebuchadnezzar, was throwing a banquet when a hand appeared to write on the wall of the hall. No one could understand the cryptic phrase – MN MN TKL PRSN. Then the queen mother reminded Belshazzar of an old Jewish man who had counseled the prior king. Daniel came and read the inscription: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” — “Numbered, numbered, Weighed, and Divided!” Boldly, Daniel pronounced the message of Heaven.
“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. He made him so great that people of all races and nations and languages trembled before him in fear. … But when his heart and mind were hardened with pride, he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. …until he learned that the Most High God rules the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them. You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself. For you have defied the Lord of heaven …you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny! So God has sent this hand to write a message.” (Daniel 5:18-24, NLT)

God rules! For the Believer, that is not a message of fear, but of great comfort. The Scripture consistently calls us to be responsible, proactive, and engaged all the while reminding us that we are not in charge and that we need not be afraid. Though we are aliens in this world, passing through on our way to our home, the Spirit is with us and God is guiding us.

Disciple, I want to urge you to trust that revelation today. Steady yourself in faith in God, that He is capable of keeping you in the palm of His hand, no matter what happens to our economy, no matter who controls the Congress after next Tuesday, and no matter who sits in the White House. God has not left us to ourselves. Pray for eyes that see what God sees and a mind that thinks as He thinks as the Spirit gives revelation. In this election year when there is so much anxiety about the future of this country… remember the Truth!
“Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all: He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down.” (Daniel 2:20-21, The Message) He has charged us with responsibility to pray for His will to be done, and then we will obey Him and live with heart-deep faith and rock-solid assurance.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:8-13, NIV)

Oh, yeah: EOTWAWKI means- End Of The World As We Know It

What is the worth of just one?

Today’s TFTD starts with a story from www.Christianitytoday.com. I am re-telling it because I think many Christians- yes, that includes me! – sometime fail to appreciate the value of serving just one. If we’re not “changing the world,” we are tempted to believe that our efforts are wasted, or that we need not serve wholeheartedly. Grayson’s story inspires! His idea that is changing many lives was born because he let himself be touched by the need of one! Take a look.

Grayson Rosenberger, 15, often asked God where he fit into his parents’ work with prosthetic patients in Africa. His mother lost both legs as a result of a car accident. To provide hope to others with this same setback and share Christ, Grayson’s parents founded a non-profit organization called Standing with Hope. But how could Grayson fit in?

After one of their trips to Africa, Grayson’s parents told him about Daniel, a boy his age. “He broke his leg playing soccer and had to have it amputated,” Grayson said. “Standing with Hope could only afford to give him a basic metal-rod prosthetic leg. The kids always teased him and he wanted a cosmetic covering. But they’re so expensive that even some Americans can’t afford them.” Hearing of Daniel’s experience, Grayson wanted to somehow invent a low-cost cosmetic covering for prosthetics. So, when Grayson heard about Sealed Air Corporation’s Bubble Wrap Invention Competition, he came up with a crazy idea. He wrapped a prosthetic rod with bubble wrap and then used heat to mold it into the shape of a leg. With a colored stocking pulled over the Bubble wrap, the leg is very realistic looking. And it only cost $15 instead of the $1,000 or more a cosmetic leg covering would normally cost. Grayson won the contest’s $10,000 prize.

Last June, (2007) Grayson and his parents traveled to Ghana, Africa, to fit amputees with new legs. He was excited to meet Daniel and give him the invention he helped inspire. But when the Rosenbergers arrived at the Ghana clinic, doctors told them Daniel had died from malaria just a few weeks earlier. “My heart sank,” Grayson said. “But I knew God had called me there for a reason.” Grayson refit Daniel’s leg for another boy. “Someone will walk because of Daniel,” Grayson said. “As I put the boy’s leg together, I envisioned Daniel.”

For 10 days, Grayson, his parents, and other staff worked 10 to 13 hours a day. The Rosenbergers fit 25 people with brand new legs. They also trained clinic workers to build Grayson’s invention. “We had some long days,” Grayson said. “But I had the best job on the production line. I got to put the end piece on the leg and watch people walk on two legs.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/cl/2008/001/27.11.html

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT)

Disciple, Jesus values individuals! Sure there are the BIG moments in the Gospels: feeding five thousand with five loaves of bread and two small fish, preaching the Sermon on the Mount in the meadow overlooking Galilee- but most of Jesus’ work was done one to one! He was never too busy for one – young, old, poor, sick, lonely. Rescuing humanity was the core of His mission during the Incarnation and yet, He always had time for one!

Do you? Would you take time for a long conversation with one person today who needed you to listen? Would you write a note, make a phone call, or give a $20 bill to just one this week? Even after the Resurrection, in His glory, He had time for one; Simon Peter, the failed disciple. Jesus traveled to Galilee to find him, made breakfast for him on the beach, and offered him the opportunity to renew his commitment and find forgiveness- for just one!

Does one person matter to you? He does to the Lord. Take this word from the Word with you today. Let the Spirit lead you to so that you know the joy of serving, even just one!

Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:3-7, NIV)
______________________________

Each one, can reach one, as we follow after Christ.
We all can lead one, We can lead one to the Savior.
Then together, we can tell the world, that Jesus is the way.
If we each one, reach one.

The message is unchanging, “Go ye into all the world.
And share the love of Jesus, Far away or door to door.
Just like somebody told you, That Jesus loves you so.
You must tell someone, Who will tell someone,
Until the whole world knows.

So will you go and labor?
Will you hold high your light?
One by one, and two by two,
We can win our world
For Jesus Christ!

Each One, Reach One
Babbie Mason © 1990 Word Music, Inc. (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)
CCLI License No. 810055

Misusing the Name of the Lord?

As Election Day approaches, there are more and more messages in my email inbox telling me that God wants me to join with other Believers to vote for _____________ because he is “the one” God has chosen, the only righteous candidate. God has not told me which candidate He’s voting for! I don’t think He has revealed that information to anyone else either. What I am certain about is this: He has given me the amazing capabilities of reason and analysis, and the gift of choice. In the upcoming election, I am equally certain that I will please Him if I make a wise and principled decision that is aligned with the all of the values derived from the Scripture that I hold as a Christian.

As for those who claim that “God told me to tell you…” I think that they are dangerously close to violating one of the Ten Commandments, the one that says: “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” (Exodus 20:7, NLT) This Word forbids invoking God’s authority and/or endorsement for our decisions and choices.

That either political party could lay claim to being the “party of God” or that any Believer would think that either the Democrats or Republicans have the endorsement of Heaven are ideas that I find, well – more than a little naive. “But, Jerry, don’t you think God is pleased by the pro-life stance of Sen. McCain?” That is a good position but to my knowledge the Republican’s platform on pro-life issues is woefully inconsistent in that a true ethic of life will extend beyond protecting unborn babies and include such things as addressing quality of life issues for the the aged and thoughtful treatment of the morality of capital punishment. “So, Jerry, don’t you think that Sen. Obama’s support of civil rights for homosexuals is sinful?” No. The Bible is clear that homosexual practice is sinful, but everyone of us who sins is still afforded protection from harm and discrimination under the law.

My point is not to argue either candidate’s worthiness! What I am trying to point out is that neither party nor candidate offers up a totally “Christian” platform as I would write it. We must not use a single issue to brand one candidate or the other, “God’s candidate.” To do so is to misuse His holy Name.

One week from today, we have the wonderful privilege of selecting our leaders – from our local town, to our state government, and for the nation. I urge you to be very prayerful. Exercise your citizenship with wisdom and in keeping with your primary calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Many will vote along lines of self-interest. The choices made in the voting booth are so often shaped by questions like: “Who offers me more promise of benefits? Who is most like me?” Disciple, be different! Ask God to help you to see through the haze of the campaigning with a discerning eye. Then, vote for those that you believe will most help all of us to fulfill God’s demands of all people.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)
_____________________________

Father, I know that this nation is in terrible times.
Our economy is faltering; greed is everywhere.
Lust and pleasure seeking are America’s idols.
I repent and pray for your mercy to be extended.

We have sought our own interest too often,
both individually and as a nation and so I humbly say,
Please forgive us. Show us how to love others, Lord.

Through the next few days, Spirit of God, give me discernment.
Keep me from being used by a party or candidate only interested in pursuit of more power.
Help me to choose those who have the character and courage
to lead this nation to the highest and best for all-
to act justly, to love mercy, and to take You seriously.
In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen

Healing a broken heart

A broken heart is one of the most painful experiences in life, isn’t it? The experience is universal, too!

  • A little girl came down the aisle in church last week nearly inconsolable, her entire face twisted with sadness. I stopped her and listened as she poured out her woe about being rejected by another little friend. Earth shattering? No, but heart breaking when you’re eight years old.
  • I sat with a father whose 16 year old daughter had just told him she was pregnant. We cried together because we both knew, far better than she did, how her choice was going to change her life forever. Some of his dreams for that daughter died that day.
  • I held the hand of the aged widow as we stood beside her husband’s body. She could not even cry, so profound was her sense of loss. All she could do was say his name, again and again.
  • I listened to the anguish of a young husband whose marriage is dissolving and wondered how a man survives such rejection.
  • Too many times to remember, I have been privileged to hear the confession of those whose sins have broken their hearts. The weight of guilt and/or shame breaks their heart. Unconfessed sin is a poison to the soul and a heart breaker without equal!

At one time or another, in differing situations, we all experience the pain of a broken heart. I know what a broken heart feels like, too. I know the ache that settles in the pit of the stomach, when food has no appeal, when spiritual worship is a sacrifice, not a delight, and I also know this promise of God:
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18, NLT)

Is your heart broken today, disciple?
Know that God cares and He understands even that sorrow that defies definition with words! He does not ask you to ignore your pain, nor does He try to cheer you with jokes or slogans like “The sun will shine again tomorrow!” He is our Comforter, One who listens when we cry and holds us together with hope.

And take care, too! A broken heart leaves us vulnerable to temptation. It is a short trip from broken to bitter! It is so easy to justify becoming full of rage and/or vengeful when the heart is filled with grief. Don’t! In times of disappointment with people and situations, the Word urges us to something other than licking our wounds. God tells us to be proactive.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NLT)

David’s heart was broken by his own faithlessness. When the sins of adultery and murder were uncovered by Nathan, the prophet, the king’s heart was crushed. His prayer, more of a heart cry, is one of the most beautiful passages in all of the Bible. The 51st Psalm is raw, emotional, and full of hope. For the broken hearted, I take these words. May they bring us comfort and healing as we pray them.

“God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! …
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”

(Psalm 51:9-12, 17, The Message)
________________________

If you’ve knelt beside the rubble
Of an aching broken heart.
When the things you gave
Your life to fell apart,
You’re not the first to be acquainted
With sorrow grief or pain,
But the Master promised sunshine after rain.

Hold on my child,
Joy comes in the morning,
Weeping only lasts for the night.
Hold on my child,
Joy comes in the morning,
The darkest hour means
Dawn is just in sight.

To invest your seed of trust in God,
In mountains you can’t move.
You have risked your life
On things you cannot prove.
But to give the things you cannot keep,
For what you can not lose,
Is the way to find
The joy God has for you.

Joy Comes in the Morning
William and Gloria Gaither© 1974 William J. Gaither, Inc. ARR UBP of Gaither Copyright Management
CCLI License No. 810055

He just keeps on going and going!

One of Aesop’s Fables came to mind this morning when I was trying to muster up some enthusiasm for the day, you know; the one about the Energizer Bunny. Oops… wrong cultural icon! I mean that one about a tortoise and a hare. It’s so improbable! Seems that the rabbit challenged the old turtle to a race, knowing full well that he was so superior in running abilities to his short-legged, heavy-shelled friend that the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Turtle accepted the challenge because he knew rabbit was much too over-confident! Mr. Rabbit ran quickly ahead and turned off the course to find a shade tree and catch a nap. Meanwhile, Mr. Turtle plodded along,not stopping even though he, too, was tired. When rabbit awakened and ran to the finish line, he found turtle waiting for him with a bit of advice – ‘slow and steady wins the race!’

Consistency cannot be over-rated – but it often is. In our culture we love those who are attractive – physically and/or psychologically. We let ourselves be charmed by appearances. The consequence of this is that the rewards often go to those who ‘look’ like winners, those who wow us at first presentation. We are too often deceived. Mere ordinary mortals, like the majority of us, observe this trend and come to the conclusion that because we don’t have ‘the look’ we cannot compete in the race, that we will never win. That’s not true. Stars may get the attention, but the faithful plodders usually carry the heaviest part of the load in life. They are not overly self-confident. They know that they can compensate for what they lack in ‘star power’ with hard work, networking, and showing up every day, on time, ready to do wha they are asked to do. In the end, when the star has dropped out, burnt out, or moved on; the steady one is still standing!

Christian, God needs steady plodders in His Kingdom. Christianity has its share of super-stars who can tell miracle stories, though I often wonder about their veracity. We are drawn our culture’s myth that ‘if we know the secret’ then life will be easy and always work in our favor. We think that the bright and beautiful have found the key to the ‘life I’ve always wanted.’ Even our preachers imply that what we seek will be found in the next seminar; in the best-selling book, or in whatever city where the ‘revival’ is breaking out! But, it is just not the truth.

The Spirit of God is with us, right here, right now. He gives strength to the faithful who seek Him. The Bible calls on us to endure: to keep on walking in His strength even when we just want to lay down and rest. Paul reminds us: “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2:10-12, NLT) We are called to soldier on in the struggle with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil! Conflict, by definition, is exhausting. We live in a world that is not our home, not a paradise; where the Evil One is working to destroy all that is good and of God. The power structures that surround us are corrupt. They oppose the will of God which includes living a life of love, integrity, humility, faithfulness, and sacrificial service. Our own internal desires are often at odds with the call of the Spirit to holiness. We all struggle with temptation to lust, or greed, or laziness, or pride! (That list could be longer, but I don’t want to discourage you anymore than I have already.)

Are you weary today? Me, too.
Got some unanswered questions? Me, too.

Keep walking! Take the steady, standing wisdom of God’s Word to heart. He says “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. … So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”
(Hebrews 10:23-24, 35-36, NLT)

If you hang in there, you will be able to say, at the very end of this earthly life:
“This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish,believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’sapplause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right … by everyone eager for his coming. “
(2 Timothy 4:7-8, The Message)

Ah, disciple, the celebration at the finish line is going to be some party! I want to finish well and be a part of it, don’t you?

Not the answer I want

I spent some time last night in my dreams in the realm of fairy tales. I dreamt of wishing for ‘happily ever after,’ of finding the right phrases that magically changed everything. But, alas, that is the stuff of kid’s story books. I live in a world where problems become catalysts of solutions that are worked out, step by step; where disappointments become the doorway to discovery of God’s plans – worked out in His own mysterious ways and almost never within my timetable. If you think I am discouraged, you’re wrong. There is some battle fatigue in evidence. I know that especially when I start to dream of the ability to wave a magical wand and make it all go away. Even weariness, however, has its own kind of blessing. It makes me quiet down and listen to the Spirit more intently.

Here’s what He said to me through the Scripture today. It was not the answer I wanted, but it was exactly the wisdom I needed. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. … Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!”
(1 Peter 4:10-16, NLT)

For me that short passage was a real boost.

First, God reminded me us that HE prepares me to be part of His work and gives me divine abilities to fulfill His purposes.

Second, He assured me that the stuff that is scorching me – a very ill Dad, leading a church in a world that is so casual about spiritual matters, constantly standing alongside of people in deep times of crisis, resisting temptation that can be intensely attractive, and more – is part of being human and that all of these painful things serve the purpose of burning away the fog that obscures the brightness of Christ Jesus shining through me!

Third, He promised that the pain will make me a partner with Christ, joined in His efforts, and open to the Spirit’s strength.

Fourth, He challenged me to praise Him for my high calling in the middle of it all!

None of those things would happen if I found some magical method that allowed me to create a world of eternal sunshine, without any suffering, full of perpetual happiness! (Oh, the land of wonderful dreams and of Heaven that awaits!) Without stress that forces growth I would remain a child in a man’s world. Visiting the classroom inhabited by 6 year-old children where my wife teaches first grade is refreshing. Those little ones are largely untroubled by the economic crisis, unconcerned about the state of America’s culture, or other problems in life. They are amazingly happy, as little children ought to be. Some people mistakenly think that real disciples of Christ should continue to live as little children- laughing and unburdened. Really? Can those first graders do the work of God? Do they have the capacity to comfort the broken, help a sinner find redemption, or exercise a spiritual gift? Of course not. They are not adults, nor should they be expected to act as mature adults. They will grow up, learn to accept responsibility, and become useful as they deal with life.

I am a mature man, called to the work of building the Kingdom of God in a world full of sin that makes that task sometimes hard. In my weariness, God did not give me the answer I wanted today because I was longing for a childish fantasy! Instead, He gave me the answer I needed; a call to steady endurance and a renewed faith in His strength to keep me.

I hope you’re open to His Word and listening intently for the voice of the Spirit. He will speak to you, too: not to say what you want to hear, but always to speak the Truth that brings genuine comfort.
_______________________

In a world of fear and turmoil,
In a race that seems so hard to run;
Lord, I need Thy rich infilling,
Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come;
O come, my heart doth long for Thee;
Though I’ve failed and betrayed Thy trust,
O Lord Jesus, come.

When my eyes shall span the river,
When I gaze into the vast unknown;
May I say with calm assurance,
“Even now, Lord Jesus, come.”

William and Gloria Gaither
© 1964 William J. Gaither, Inc. ARR UBP of Gaither Copyright ManagementCCLI License No. 810055

The Seed Principle

Are you certified? OK, stop laughing. Some of us might wonder if we are ‘certifiable’ but that’s not what I am asking today. In our highly specialized society, we learn a skill that allows us to generate an income. To insure a minimum competence, many occupations now require a certification or series of them. A person is trained and when he demonstrates mastery of information and/or ability to perform, he is given a certificate. Some people mistakenly understand Christianity in this way. Want to become a better human being? Start attending a
church. Attend some classes: a Discipleship course, a Marriage/Family
Life seminar, a course on ‘How to Read the Bible,’ …..and then, when you have completed all the classes, you join the church and when you’re handed your membership certificate… bam! … you’re a good Christian!

Don’t get me wrong. Training is great and the Church is commissioned to be a place of instruction. Jesus says that discipleship is a totally different experience than
‘certification.’ While we may certainly be trained in a range of skills related to the Christian life such as Scripture interpretation, relational skills, and prayer; the actual experience of becoming a Christian is an inner process of life transformation. This happens when the Holy Spirit causes us to become spiritually alive. Jesus illustrates it with one of His great stories.
“The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.” (Mark 4:26-28, NLT)

The idea of ‘seed’ in the Scripture is two-fold. The Word speaks of seeds that are planted in the earth and seed as the originator of life as in sperm that impregnates a woman. With that latter sense in mind, we read these words from Peter’s letter.
“You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23, NIV) God, through His Word and, by His Spirit, implants the seed of life in us and a transformational process starts! This is the ‘seed principle.’ Without this mysterious, wonderful, and faith-based impartation of divine life, we may become religious, but we will not become Christian, nor will we ever be able to fully know the life of the disciple that the New Testament describes.

There is certainly a part for you and me to play in enhancing the harvest of spiritual fruit that results when the planted seed grows in our lives. Jesus’ story of the various kinds of soil helps us to understand that. “Some of God’s seed,” He said, “falls on hearts that are as hard as a well-trodden footpath. It never even germinates. Some falls on rocky soil where it starts to grow, but soon dies for lack of root. Some falls into a heart that is receptive but the weeds of a life full of worries and earthly concerns chokes the growth. And, some falls into good, fertile soil, well cultivated. That seed bears a great crop.” (see Mark 4:13-20)
<http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark%204:13-20;&version=51;>

So there are two questions that each of should ask:

a. Have I, by faith, received the seed of the Word and experienced the spiritual life that is promised to those who believe and receive?

b. Am I, by daily disciplines of the Spirit (things such as prayer, silence, obedience, service, and study) cultivating the soil of my heart and mind so that the harvest will be plentiful?

Are you merely certified as a ‘nice person who tries hard to be spiritual,’ OR is the seed growing in you? The answer to that question has eternal significance.
________________

O holy Wind of God now blowing,
You are the seed that God is sowing,
You are the life that starts us growing, Spirit, now live in me.

O holy Rain of God now falling,
You make the word of God enthralling,
You are that inner voice now calling,
Spirit, now live in me.

O holy Flame of God now burning,
You are the power of Christ returning,
You are the answer to our yearning,
Spirit, now live in me Amen.

Spirit, Now Live in Me
Bryan Leech © 1976 Fred Bock Music Company

"What makes Jesus angry?"

Mark’s Gospel tells this story about Jesus.
“Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.”
Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!
At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.”
(Mark 3:1-6, NLT)

The Pharisees were so in love with their traditional ways of observing the Sabbath laws that they could not appreciate that it would be right to heal a man during the holy observance! Their rigidity, their lack of compassion, their failure to grasp the heart of God as they claimed to speak in His Name deeply angered Jesus Christ. “He (was) angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion.” (Mark 3:5, The Message) This is a classic case of missing the point. Sadly, it still happens – and commonly too – when well-meaning people confuse their preferences with God’s commands. On some things, the Scripture is very clear. Murder is wrong, so is stealing. Lying is a sin and those who are dishonest are acting like the Devil! Jesus said that. Adultery is always to be condemned, as are greed and worshipping things or persons other than the Lord God. Love is always right; truth is universally good! Making peace is a trait of those who are true children of God.

Beware a ‘hard-nosed religion’ that gets in the way of the Spirit’s purposes. When you are ready to criticize or condemn, check your facts and your motive. Are you really concerned about the ‘sins’ of the other or are you more interested in protecting your preferences or making yourself look or feel better? Are you willing to allow the Spirit to help you separate between essential Truth and choices that ought to be matters of personal conscience? The Scripture guides us to love and tolerance about such matters. “Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. . . . For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:17-19, NIV)

Can you imagine making Jesus angry? It’s possible, but not in the way most of think. He loved those who were truly in the grips of their sin, those who were rejected by the respectable citizens. By His very love, He challenged them to change, invited them into the Kingdom of God. He grew furious with those who allowed their self-righteousness to hinder the work of God. That’s a trap that we can easily fall into, and especially the longer we hang around religion!

____________________

Jesus on the radio, Jesus on a late night show.
Jesus in a dream, looking all serene,
Jesus on a steeple, Jesus in the Gallup poll.
Jesus has His very own brand of rock and roll!

Watched Him on the silver screen,
Bought the action figurine,
But Jesus is the only name that makes you flinch.
Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?

Oh, let Your love unveil the mystery of the real Jesus.

Jesus started something new,
Jesus coined a phrase or two.
Jesus split the line at the turning point of time.
Jesus sparked a controversy,
Jesus, known for His mercy, gave a man his sight.
Jesus isn’t white!

Jesus loves the children, holds the lambs,
Jesus prays a lot,
Jesus has distinguishing marks on His hands.
If anybody walks behind the Good Shepherd,
If anybody holds the hands that heal lepers,
And if you recognize the eyes that see forever, please…
Jesus, Jesus;
Oh, can anybody show me Jesus?
Oh, let Your love unveil the glory, the real Jesus.
Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?
Oh, let Your love unveil the glory of the real Jesus, the real Jesus!

The Real Jesus
Downhere copyright 2006

Missing the Scenery?

In the Sept. ’08 issue of Christianity Today, Philip Yancey wrote an article that I want to share in part with you today. In it he reminds disciples that their faith is not just about the destination, as glorious as Heaven is. Christ Jesus calls us to a new kind of life along the Way to Heaven, too! It’s as much about the journey as it is about reaching Home. He offers this analogy.

“A bus load of tourists is enroute to the Grand Canyon. On the long journey across the wheat fields of Kansas and through the glorious mountains of Colorado, the travelers inexplicably keep the shades down. Intent on the ultimate destination, they never even bother to look outside. As a result they spend their time arguing over such matters as who has the best seat and who’s taking too much time in the bathroom. The Church can resemble such a bus. We should remember that the Bible has far more to say about how to live during the journey than about the final destination.”

I hope that your Christianity is not just expressed within the walls of your local church! Truthfully, I hope you feel alive in the Spirit as you wrestle with your work, interact with your neighbors, drive to the bank, hold your child close at the end of the day . . . in these ordinary moments, we have the privilege of making God’s Presence real in this world. The Scripture is direct about our responsibility to live in the Kingdom right now, not just in the age to come. “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. . . . And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. . . . Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:12, 17, 23-24, NLT)

Recently, in a trying situation, when my patience and strength were near gone, I heard the Spirit say to my heart: “Jerry, this duty will be a delight if you accept, by faith, that you are serving your Lord Jesus in it.” Obediently, I responded and thanked Jesus for the opportunity to serve Him. His face replaced the face of the one I served. In a moment, I was no longer just doing what my responsibilities required. I was enjoying the privilege of serving Jesus Himself, a high and holy honor!

Our lives are totally changed when we grasp what Jesus said in that one line of the prayer He taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, KJV) What an awesome, wonderful, amazing, challenging, ‘bigger than we could hope to accomplish in our strength,’ commission that is! A Kingdom-oriented disciple will find himself in constant communication with the Lord, seeking the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit for this adventure!

Oh, how I pray for a Kingdom vision from Christ to be planted in each of us. It is transforming. How can we give ourselves to base things, to silly conflicts over trivial matters, if our words and actions are about serving Jesus and bringing His love and goodness into every situation in which we find ourselves?

Dear Believer, this is the wonder of Eternal Life. We don’t have to wait until we die to begin to live in it! That is why the fear of death no longer controls those who live in the Spirit. Even as they live on this planet, watching the days pass, they are citizens of a Kingdom without end. If we are living thus, when our body ceases to function, our spirit will simply move from the confines of time and space into a realm in which we are already at home. Don’t pull the shades and miss the scenery. In fact, let me expand Yancey’s analogy – “Don’t just stay on the bus!” When it parks, get off and find somebody to serve. As you gaze into the face of that person, whomever she may be; catch a glimpse of the face of Jesus.

___________________________

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul
And mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God!
His kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.

Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up, and make her great!

Lift high the cross of Christ,
Tread where His feet have trod;
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!

Rise Up, O Men of God
William Merrill© Public Domain