There ought to be a law

lawThere are thousands of laws that go unenforced in the US of A.  Yes, that’s right.  Here is a sampling.  In Michigan a woman needs to have her husband’s permission to cut her hair. Why?  Because a 19th century law says it belongs to him!  A law in Charlotte, North Carolina, requires a woman to wear at least 16 yards of fabric before going out on city streets. Yikes! A 19th century statute still on the books in NYC makes wearing tight body conforming clothing a crime with a $25 dollar fine.  I like this one best. In Memphis, Tennessee, if a woman drives a car a man with a red flag must walk in front of the car warning others on the road.

The weight of the law bears heavily on people because legislators feel compelled to attempt to right every wrong. A few years ago, after seeing how a traffic violation stacked multiple fines and fees amounting to nearly $1000 on a poor person, I called the NJ lawmakers who represent our region.  I told them about the family I knew who became homeless as a result of one traffic stop that led to a crushing series of fines. Each man listened politely, thanked me for calling, and went on passing more laws to try to regulate our daily lives.

I wonder if Christians sometimes adopt the same behavior, trying to make better ‘disciples’ by creating multiple religious laws?  The Pharisees did it and Jesus condemned them.  He said “They don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”  (Matthew 23:3-4 NLT) We can make all the rules we think are necessary, but they won’t really change much.  Unless there is a change of heart, the sinful nature will find a way around the rules. Or, like the archaic laws I wrote about, our rules will just be ignored.

One of my favorites passages reminds me of the futility of trying to regulate my behavior with endless lists of rules. “You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” (Colossians 2:20-23, NLT)  If my desire is truly to please God, I will find myself often in the Presence of Jesus. I will open my life to the Holy Spirit, letting Him lead me, quickly responding when He awakens my conscience to some thought, word, or action that is not pleasing to my Father in heaven.

A nation needs laws, but if we think that law alone will make a better society, we are fools. The cost for a cop on every corner and jail cell for every offender will crush the country. A well-ordered, prosperous nation demands inspired leadership, shared values, opportunity, and education.  Without respect for reasonable laws, we all become scofflaws.

A Christian who wants to know the best life God has planned for him goes beyond childish restraint and learns to ‘delight himself in the Lord´ so that He can ‘give him the desires of his heart.’ (Psalm 37:4)  Are you struggling with temptation?  Carry it to Christ in prayer.  Ask Him to lead you through the training that will reshape your mind and heart around His will.  Troubled by the state of your church?  Lift it to Jesus prayerfully.  Ask Him for greater love; in you, in those with whom you live.  Pray for renewal, not mere restraint.

Here’s the word from the Word.  Meditate on the truth that transforms.  “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.

Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:12-17, The Message)

_________

I’m calling out to You,

There must be something more,

Some deeper place to find-

Some secret place to hide-

Where I’ve not gone before.

 

Where my soul is satisfied

And my sin is put to death,

And I can hear Your voice,

Your purpose is my choice,

As natural as a breath.

 

The love I knew before,

When You first touched my life,

I need You to restore-

I want You to revive.

 

Would you place in my heart

A passion for Jesus,

A hunger that seizes,

My passion for You?

My one desire,

My greatest possession,

My only confession,

My passion for You.

 

Passion For Jesus

Brian Houston

© 1999 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

A Grandfather’s Thoughts….

ImageLandon Sean joined our family last week.  His Dad, my son, introduced us with pictures sent from Florida.  Even though it happens millions of time every year, the birth of a child is a thing of wonder and, for me, a moment that reminds me of the awesome responsibilities that belong to us who will be his guides from infancy to adulthood.  Landon is a little bundle of potential.  Imprinted in his DNA are personality traits and abilities. Will he be an artist, an athlete, a musician, a dreamer?  That part is God’s work.  What he does with those gifts, how he relates to others,  he will learn from us.

 

None of us can be Landon’s Savior but each of us will have some part in setting his course for life by our example.  The choices we make- our circle of friends, our possessions, our  entertainment, the music that fills our home, the words we use when we talk about others, Who and where we worship – shape lives.  My greatest desire when I was actively parenting my own children was not that they go to an Ivy League college, that they acquired the skills to become wealthy, or that they gained positions of power. Before anything else, I desired that they would become disciples of Jesus.  Bev and I knew that our example was a powerful part of that choice.  

 

I want to live in such a way that I can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” to Landon. Jesus’ words are remind us that this a matter of extreme concern to our Father in Heaven, too. “He put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me. … But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.” (Mark 9:36-37, 42, NLT)

This is not a call to piety or excessive religiosity around children. Holding back profanity because children are present, living like the Devil all week and then insisting on going to church every Sunday – and such religious practices are terrible choices.  To claim to love people wholeheartedly when in public and then denigrating those of a different race or religion at the dinner table is wrong.  Those gaps teach children to be hypocrites, to think that God can be bought with a few trinkets and a couple of hours of feigned worship! God is Lord of Monday as surely as He is of Sunday. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, NIV) Is the Lord part of every conversation? No, I don’t mean in a forced way, a strain to mention “Jesus” in every paragraph! Is He present?

We choose to love, they learn to love.
We choose to forgive, they learn to forgive.
We choose to seek God first, they learn He is their primary resource.
We are faithful to our commitments, they learn to stick with the tough things.
We discipline ourselves in big and small ways, they learn how to make the choice to eat cookies after dinner. We live our faith, they look to the One who gives them life.

The Proverb offers this wisdom: “Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” (Proverbs 22:6, The Message)   Yes, it’s a heavy responsibility and one no parent can carry alone. It should send us often into the Presence of God where we ask for His wisdom, where we pray for forgiveness, where we invite the Holy Spirit to shape us into the likeness of Christ Jesus.

Landon, you have made Poppa think! I pray I am a Christian from whom you will see the beauty of Jesus and, in your time, you will choose to love and serve Him.

_____________________

I am a promise
I am a possibility
I am a promise with a capital “P”
I am a great big bundle of potentiality
And I am learnin’ to hear God’s voice
And I am tryin’ to make the right choice
I am a promise to be anything God wants me to be.

I can go anywhere that He wants me to go
I can be anything He wants me to be
I can climb the high mountains
I can cross the wide sea
I’m a great big promise you see!

I am a promise
I am a possibility
I am a promise with a capital “P”
I am a great big bundle of potentiality
And I am learnin’ to hear God’s voice
And I am tryin’ to make the right choice
I’m a promise to be anything God wants me to be
Anything God wants me to be!

I Am A Promise, Bill and Gloria Gaither

What time is it?

timeEric, who has served our local congregation as our Youth pastor since August, 2010 announced his resignation on Sunday. He came to us just out of college with the fresh enthusiasm that is the strength of the young! He saw a need in our town and led the way to founding a youth outreach called “The Vault.”  Now he’s moving to a new position. It’s time to grow on.  None of us is thrilled with the loss of a friend. But, it appears to me that we recognize that the Lord has another chapter to write in all of our lives. His departure leaves the challenges of change for us. Where do we go from here?  What kind of influences will a new person  bring to our church?

Solomon makes us think when he writes that “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NLT)  He goes on to talk about living and dying, planting and plowing, mourning and dancing, scattering and gathering, war and peace.  It’s easy to read that passage and say, “Yes, that’s right,” and give it little thought. Hit the pause button for a moment. Who really wants to think that there is a time to die?  Have you prepared your will?  Are your relationships in good shape so that if you made your exit from this world today there would be nothing left unsaid?  We grow wise when we remember, ‘there is a time to die.’  Who values mourning?  We try hard to keep ourselves happy, sometimes to the point of ignoring the plight of our friends or family, don’t we?  We are tender when we accept that ‘there is a time to mourn.’   Who likes to weep? I know that there are things we discover only when we are so broken that our tears become a kind of wordless prayer language.

I love Springtime, when the sun warms the earth and all things grow again. It’s a time of renewal. I love the Summer with its bright days and invitations to play. I love the Fall when the harvest arrives, when the nights cool, and life settles toward its inevitable Winter. And, I have come to love Winter; icy, cold, deathly. It is a time to wait for Resurrection!

The wise person embraces life fully;  using the changes, the seasons, as opportunities to discover more of the fullness of God, to understand himself better, to enrich the world of which he is a part.  I am not a fatalist. I do not believe, for a moment, that old saw that says, ‘everything happens for a reason.’  Much of what we experience happens to us because of our choices, some good, some bad, some wise, some foolish. But, as a Christian I know I can present every situation to the Lord and to trust that He will work in it for my good.  In faith to trust God with today we find a depth to life that is beyond the grasp of those who desperately struggle to control it all.

What time is it? “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:14-20, NIV)

__________

 

My Life Is In Your Hands

 

Life can be so good,

Life can be so hard,

Never knowing what each day,

Will bring to where You are.

Sometimes I forget

And sometimes I can’t see

That whatever comes my way

You’ll be with me.

 

Nothing is for sure.

Nothing is for keeps.

All I know is that Your love

Will live eternally.

So I will find my rest,

And I will find my peace,

Knowing that You’ll meet

My ev’ry need.

 

My life is in Your hands,

My heart is in Your keeping.

I’m never without hope

Not when my future is with You.

My life is in Your hands,

And though I may not see clearly,

I will lift my voice and sing,

‘Cause Your love

Does amazing things.

Lord I know my life

Is in Your hands!

 

Bill Montvilo | Kathy Troccoli

© 1993, 1994 Careers-BMG Music Publishing, Inc. (Admin. by BMG Music Publishing)

Floating Note Music, Inc. (Admin. by Unaffiliated Admin (UA))

CCLI License # 810055

Will day’s end find you standing tall?

ImageHupomone (hoop·om·on·ay). Go ahead, say it aloud! Hupomone! Fun, isn’t it?  It is a word of Koine (coin- ay) Greek. (the language in which the New Testament was first written)  It’s a compound word;  a prefix meaning ‘under,‘ and a root meaning, ‘remain.’  “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance (hupomone) the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV) Unlike a sprinter who explodes from the starting block, pouring everything he has into a 100 meter dash,  Christians are long-distance runners.  We set a pace that we can maintain, steadily and consistently, living for Jesus– with patience, with endurance. (hupomone!)  We have to hold it together even under the weight of many trials!

 

Lots of people begin projects only to collapse before the finish line!
Marriages, once sparkling with love, turn into a dull partnership, when the strains of kids, debt, or ill health comes.
That new job was going the place to shine, but a burnt out functionary takes the place of the inspiring performer.
Students go off to college intending to make the Dean’s list and too easily get sidetracked into the three day weekend party lifestyle.

 

People respond the Good News about Jesus Christ and begin their Christian life with enthusiasm. They are always in church, loving worship and fellowship. They discover God’s will and purpose and cheerfully change things that the Spirit teaches them.  Their prayer is full of childlike simplicity and earnest faith.  But, then comes disappointment.  In the fire of temptation, the joy evaporates. The disciple turns into a pew warmer, a critic, with a ‘form of godliness that denies the real Power.’

 

Hupomone is about a faithful finish!

 

‘Finishers’ are people who keep their word, who fulfill their calling, who maintain their Christian witness through joy and sorrow, Summer and Winter, sunshine and rain.  Jesus told a teaching story about this. “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’ Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?” (Luke 14:28-32, The Message) The implied conclusion is – FINISH what you start! (Hupomone!)

 

Remember that it isn’t “all guts, no glory.” Finishers enjoy what mere starters never find: the satisfaction of a job well done, a life well lived, a victor’s crown! The ultimate reward is the commendation of the Lord and a welcome into His presence.

 

How do we endure, finishing well?  “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:2-3, NLT)   It’s about Jesus!  Exhausted?  Stop and re-center on Him. You may be chasing too many goals.  Unmotivated?  Set your hope on Eternity’s promise.  Doubtful? Jesus was tested too. Pray for Him to renew your faith by the Spirit.

 

HUPOMONE! Say through the day. People might think you are a little unbalanced. If they ask, just tell them you’re speaking Greek. (You are!) Have fun.

___________

 

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

 

A mighty fortress is our God,

A bulwark never failing.

Our helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing.

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe,

His craft and pow’r are great,

And armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

 

Did we in our own strength confide

Our striving would be losing.

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He.

Lord Sabaoth, His name.

From age to age, the same.

And He must win the battle.

 

And tho’ this world with devils filled

Should threaten to undo us.

We will not fear for God hath willed

His truth to triumph thru us.

The prince of darkness grim,

We tremble not for him,

His rage we can endure,

For lo his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

 

That word above all earthly pow’rs

No thanks to them abideth.

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Thru Him who with us sideth.

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also,

The body they may kill,

God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever!

 

Martin Luther

© Words: Public Domain

 

Just a lot of words?

bibleteachIn a lifetime of Christian ministry, I’ve heard and done a lot of speaking! Some of those messages changed me.  The sermon preached I heard 40 years ago still inspires. The text was about a warrior named Eleazar of Dodai, a man who served with David. That’s right, it is an obscure one. “He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day.” (2 Samuel 23:10, KJV)  The old preacher urged faithfulness, that we stay with the struggle no matter how tired we become, until we see God’s Kingdom victory won! The image an exhausted warrior looking over a field of defeated foes, his hand frozen around the hilt of his sword, was burnt into my mind that May evening.  I don’t remember his name but I remember his message.  Many more ‘talks’ were forgettable, a lot of words and clichés filling the air, punctuated with jokes and stories designed to evoke emotion. Then, too, there were the silly speculative presentations that were flights of imagination launched from a flimsy pretext of Biblical ‘truth.’

Our engagement with the Scripture must be deep and intense, focused on life change and application. Paul urged Timothy to make sure that teaching was connected to the real world and was Truth that transforms. “When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3-5, NLT)

Christian, you may not fill a pulpit each week, but you are a preacher. Your life is a living sermon to those with whom you rub elbows every day. As you carry the Name of Christ, others will observe your character, commitment, and core values. Will they see a life that is shaped by the wisdom of the Word or will they see that you regard the Scripture as ‘just a lot of words,’ a place to find topics for debate, or a few cheap moments of sentimentality?

The Scripture will change us when we approach it with proper reverence and submission. Mark Twain allegedly said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, but the parts I do understand!”   After a lifetime of study there are passages that still resist my grasp.  Will I focus on those, forgetting the ones that “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV)?

Be a student of the Bible, not just to know words or ideas, but to learn Truth.  As you read it, hear it, study it, talk about it – do so with a prayer that the Spirit will make it alive. “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word.”  The Message (Hebrews 4:12-13)  As you learn the principles, the history that gives context, and are mastered by the Text and the Lord of the Text; your life will change.

Here’s a word from the Word.  Lord, help us to be diligent students of your Truth. Amen.
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer, as in the case of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have left the path of truth, claiming that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred; in this way, they have turned some people away from the faith. But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.” (2 Timothy 2:15-19, NLT)

________

Humble leader. Oxymoron?

humilty Politics is full of dirty tricks and power plays.  The level of media attention being given to NJ Governor Chris Christie over allegations that he played some petty games with rivals is rather strange to me.  Is he the first politician that ever pushed people to fall in line?  Of course, hindering the travel of NJ commuters was a stupid thing to do. But, the Gov. says he knew nothing about it. Is he telling the truth?  Who knows?   What I do know is this:  power is frequently a corrupting force.  Those who are trusted with it- in a home, in a church, in a city, or nation-  need to be reminded that authority is a gift to be used for others, not for self.

When I was a young man, one of my uncles advised me about making my way in the world with this parody of a Bible verse. “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted!”  He believed that gaining success required that a person position himself to gain notice.  He counseled me to do things to that caught the eye of the ‘right people.’ Get out the press releases, make sure that others know your achievements. He also thought it important to get to the head of line, pushing if necessary. He was wrong, especially about leadership in Christ’s Kingdom.

All of us must pursue humility, but it is particularly required in those entrusted with spiritual leadership. The gentleness that the Lord asks of us is an expression of ultimate trust in Him! A gentle person shows real courage when he willingly seeks a greater good than his own agenda or security. The Spirit says, “Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people.” (Ephesians 4:2-4, CEV) We are not to threaten anyone, ever!  Gentle, humble leadership is a difficult (and sometimes personally costly) but it what He desires from us. Our security and our personal happiness are not found in forcing our way or intimidation. They are found in giving away ourselves and our personal preferences.   We trust God to be our Strength.  His power will assure the success of His plans.

Human relationships will be difficult.  The Word implicitly acknowledges that when it asks us to “Patiently put up with each other!”  People, even those who are Christian, will sometimes be cranky, headstrong, selfish, or immature. (Yes, I fail in those ways, too, I am sad to confess.) The church is not a utopian community where ‘never is heard a discouraging word.’ It is a developing, evolving community of people.  We are all ‘in process,’  called to choose patience over power, to move – together– toward the calling of God – s l o w l y – but steadily as the Spirit leads us.

 

Have you been given authority – in your home, at work, in ministry? The Proverb teaches “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2, NKJV)  The best leaders are those who have learned how to follow.  When we submit ourselves completely to Christ, through the Spirit, He will help us to use authority responsibly and to benefit those we lead.

 

Second only to loving our Lord, is the command to “Love each other!” I propose an experiment for us. When we are tempted to use some lever of power to gain compliance from another, even in the little things of life, let’s deliberately choose the way of humility.  Let’s seek to serve rather than to be served, to listen carefully to find out what the other person desires.  Demonstrate submission by asking God’s Holy Spirit – “what is Your divine will in this matter?”   In this, we will surely please the Father and bless His children.
__________________

 

Give as ’twas given to you in your need,

Love as the Master loved you.

Be to the helpless a helper, indeed.

Unto your mission be true.

 

Make me a blessing.

Make me a blessing

Out of my life, may Jesus shine.

Make me a blessing,

O Savior, I pray,

Make me a blessing

to someone today.

 

George S. Schuler | Ira Bishop Wilson

© Words: 1924, Renewed 1952 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

The Gospel is more than a little ‘Jesus therapy’

Knowing how our emotions work, understanding the ongoing effect of past experiences, learning about our personality can be quite useful. Therapists give us tools that aid in overcoming self-destructive ways and addictions. But, Freud is no replacement for Jesus Christ! At the core of the Gospel is the promise of our transformation. A religion focused on self-help is not Christianity.

The true Gospel offers spiritual transformation. If we turn Jesus into the Great Therapist instead of the Great Savior, we are stealing His power, exchanging the truth for a half-truth; yes, in essence a lie. People broken by the evil of this world need more than someone who soothes. They want to be healed! Our Savior reveals the deceptions. He is the Light that shows us the Way, to life and to the love of our Father. Psychology is a tool for dealing with dysfunctional human behaviors but it has its limits. At the end of the road of counseling, we kneel and accept the Lord Jesus.  The Word promises that “anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)

The Therapeutic Jesus is a Friend that we talk to, sharing our burdens, finding love and understanding. He is more than a Friend. He is the Lord, the Savior, the Mediator who bridges the wide gap between us and our Creator! He not only listens with empathy, He is able to change us and heal us by giving us the Spirit to live in us! The Word says, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV) Another version states the wonderful promise like this – “Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God. … Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. … he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.” (Hebrews  7:22-27, NLT)

Have you ‘psychologized’ Jesus?
Have you made Him a kind of super “Dr. Phil” without really realizing it?
Do you talk over your fears, problems, failures, and sins with Him but without the expectation that He can do more than just listen and advise?

He is the Lord of Glory who came to ‘save us from our sins.’

When you discover why you act in ways that are harmful, why you cannot trust others, why you are full of rage; learn and understand. Tell Him you want forgiveness, that you want to be healed, that you want to overcome fear, doubt, and dysfunction. Expect the power of the Spirit to begin working deeply in you, not just to comfort, but to change you from the inside out.  He can, and He will.  Receive Him with new faith. Follow Him to the Cross, into suffering and death, and into a new life marked by the Eternal Life of the Spirit.

The word from the Word is full of promise of inner change- “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. …. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:10-11, NLT)

__________________

“Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,

Ye ransomed from the Fall,

Hail Him who saves you by His grace,

and crown Him, Lord of All.

 

All Hail the pow’r of Jesus’ Name,

let angels prostrate fall,

bring forth the royal diadem,

and crown Him, Lord of All!”

The Best News

What’s the best news that you have heard?  Near the top of the list are things like the birth of a child, the discovery of love, or a recovery of a very ill person.  Somewhat further down are moments of success; a new business, a windfall profit, a new home. I love to share good news, don’t you?

We who know Christ are entrusted with the Best News. What is it? If you say, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins,” I’ll disagree. Now you are wondering about my Christianity, aren’t you?

Listen to what Jesus told His disciples to tell others: “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15, NIV)  “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2, NIV)

Telling others that they are ‘sinners,’ is not good news. It is true that apart from Christ, we all will miss God’s plan, we are hopelessly corrupted by evil, and we are spiritually dead.  But, how can we ever reach others if the first thing we tell them is that they are miserable, sinful wretches destined for destruction?  We must announce Good News.  We are messengers of a glorious Kingdom.  We declare: “God loves you. He has a destiny that you can discover through faith. He is greater than the evil so prevalent in this world. Would you like to know Him?”   The Gospel is that “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:12-14, NLT)

When the Spirit has awakened a desire, then we can turn attention to the Cross of Christ, where the guilt is erased, where atonement (at-one-ment) replaces alienation!  The best news for people is that there is something better than can be found in pleasure, money, sex, or power.  Jesus calls it the abundant life or life to the full.  We can know a life of love, become people with purpose, and take hold of the promise of eternal life right now.  That is Great News.

Paul, a man who knew first-hand the disappointment of religiosity, celebrates the love of God and the possibilities that His Kingdom creates for those who enter it through faith in the Savior. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:3-5, NLT)  “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21, NLT)  That is the BEST News.

As you pray for friends and family members who are not yet disciples of Christ Jesus, begin to pray for their hearts and minds to desire more than they can find in the daily scramble of existence. Ask the Spirit to speak to them of a better kingdom.  Take the opportunity to speak boldly of the new way that God has prepared.

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Satisfied

 

 

All my lifelong I had panted

For a draught from some cool spring

That I hoped would quench the burning

Of the thirst I felt within.

 

Poor I was and sought for riches,

Something that would satisfy,

But the dust I gathered ’round me

Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.

 

 

Well of water ever springing,

Bread of life, so rich and free.

Untold wealth that never faileth,

My Redeemer is to me.

 

Hallelujah! I have found Him

Whom my soul so long has craved.

Jesus satisfies my longings

Thro’ His blood I now am saved!

 

Clara Tear Williams | Ralph E. Hudson

© Words: Public Domain

Music: Public Domain

 

This Little Light of Mine

Let It ShineDad loved bright rooms!  I don’t think he ever bought a light bulb that was not a 100 watt. When I visited his house I found every light in the room switched on.  The idea of accent lighting was lost on him.  Apparently that gene resides in me.  I’m not much on having dinner in semi-darkness!  I like to turn on the ceiling lights; Bev to use lamps that she says make the room ‘cozy.’  What about you? Are you a make it brighter or a mood lighting kind of person?

Light is amazing. A sunny day makes us more cheerful.  A tiny nightlight chases away the monsters that terrifies a little boy. A flashlight gives us confidence to walk across the yard in the middle of the night.

Are you a bright light in your world? Jesus said, “You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, CEV)  In His time, there were no street lights along the roads or pathways.  If a traveler was trying to make it home, he looked for the light that spilled from the windows of the town. If a town was built on a hilltop, those lights guided travelers to home by shining for miles!

The prophet Isaiah, moved by the Spirit, spoke of God’s glory (a holy glow!) that spills from His people “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3, NIV)  What does this mean?

 

When Christ comes to us, by the Holy Spirit we are made alive to God and we begin to see clearly.  We understand right and wrong, we see through the deceptions of evil. Our lives are not wasted wandering in confusion or chasing shadows. Instead we live with purpose. We love in a hate-filled world. We are people of integrity in a world where lies abound. We are ready to care for the weak, to give dignity to those who are outcast, to seek justice for those who are downtrodden.  By the Spirit, we bring lasting joy to a world that chases momentary happiness.  And yes, we know where our true home is and we show others the way. “It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, The Message)

 

Has the Light shined into your life? If not, invite Him to come and dispel the darkness.  If so, let Him shine brightly.

 

Here’s the word from the Word.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. … the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:2-11, NIV)

 

__________

 

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine,

Let it shine,

Let it shine!

 

Meet My Friend

ImageLet me ask you an ‘in your face’ kind of question. Have you ever been instrumental in bringing a person to a living relationship with Christ Jesus?  It is not my intent or motive to create guilt, but I am aiming to renew a sense of urgent commitment to the work of ‘evangelism.’  Jesus gave a universal directive to all of His followers – “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15, NIV)  Due to the excesses of a previous generation when Jesus appeared to be product to be marketed, where morality convictions and cultural issues got tangled up with the Good News about Life, some (might I say most?) American Christians seldom do the work of an evangelist.

“Well, Jerry, I’m just not comfortable shoving my religion down somebody’s throat.”  Well, that’s a relief. Neither am I!  When I was a teen, my local church handed me some literature, pointed me to streets in our town, and told me to go knock on doors to ‘witness.’ I hated it then and still do. In my youth,  I absorbed the idea that it was my duty as a Christian to take on what I saw as ‘sin.’  I became adept at condemnation of all manner of social ills and in all the noise, Jesus’ loving voice of invitation got lost. Somehow I sensed that the emphasis was on the wrong things, but the Moral Majority (what an arrogant name) was in vogue. Evangelical Christians were forming voting blocks and we were going to save America from all those godless people (i.e.- people not like us).

We fulfill Jesus’ command to preach the good news by making an introduction.  We do not need to sell Jesus! We do not need to beat people over the head with the Bible.  We do not need to draw attention to sin with flamboyant denunciations.  By our life and words we say, “meet my Friend.”   Christians are peace-makers, bridge builders.  Our work is not to tell people to ‘go to Hell.’ We invite them to come with us to Heaven.  “Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. … The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21, NLT)

When our lives are completely devoted to Him there will be a kind of beauty that radiates from us. No, it’s not perfection. We are still flawed individuals and we fail.  The radiance is Christ in us, who removes our pride, destroys the power of sin and guilt, and fills us with unquenchable hope. The message is never about me, always about Him.  Does this mean that no one will ever be offended by our message?  Jesus answers that. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.” (John 15:18-21, NLT)  

The Gospel cuts both ways.  It invites, and when rejected, it judges!  (Remember, the Gospel does that, not us.)  If others hate me for my projected spiritual superiority, my religious arrogance, or my refusal to show compassion, shame on me. If they hate me because I love Jesus, because I refuse to participate in their schemes, or because the Spirit in me makes them aware that they are not who God desires them to be, I will gladly endure their rejection.

Evangelism (the work of bringing the Gospel to others) is intentional, not passive.  Jesus said, “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35, NLT)  Let’s pray to see our friends who are without faith in God like Jesus does; compassionately, in need of life and light.  Let’s pray for wisdom, learn the Scripture, be authentic in our faith and then say, “Meet my Friend!”   The joy of seeing someone come to faith, understanding the love of the Father, and gaining eternal life is incomparable.

Here’s the word from the Word. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17, NIV)  I believe that, do you?

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