rails

rails

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why Train Tracks?

Why the picture of railroad tracks for the blog? 
Good question, actually. 

Of all the pictures I could have selected, this one captures what I want to accomplish here.

When I see the railroad tracks, here's some of what I see.


I see direction. It is clear that these tracks lead somewhere. My life is heading somewhere. The question is am I going where I choose to go, where I'm being led, or randomly without really thinking about it?

I see purpose. Purposeful as seen in the tracks being laid out thoughtfully. They are straight indicating that this is an efficient and direct route. The exist not for themselves but for the train. The train gets all the glory. People love the train. Kids gawk at the giant engine. No one notices the tracks. Timber and steel repeated numbingly for miles and miles. Taken for granted, they provide the purposeful pathway for the train to run along. If they fail, the train does too. They are essential for the train to fulfill it's purpose.

I see mission. I see a rail for leading myself well as I follow Christ my LORD. I see another rail as leading others to do the same. That's my life mission. Follow Christ and lead others to do the same.

I see movement. There is a time to be still. Trains sit in the station as they refuel, pick up passengers and prepare to move again. But, the train isn't doing what it's designed to do until it is moving. At the end of the day, my life needs to be moving forward. Moving in step with God.

I see tension. Tension between the two rails. Like two sides of the same coin. Justice and mercy. Grace and truth. Covenant and kingdom. God's work and my work. Tension is good. Manage the tension.

I see a journey. We are all traveling somewhere. We are the sum of our decisions and actions. Contrary to what the good conductor on the Polar Express says, it DOES matter where the train is going. Just having the faith to get on the train is not enough. You need to get on the right train. The one headed where you want to go.

Where are you headed right now? Are you even thinking about it? Is it where you want to end up? Do you even know where you want to end up? If so, are the tracks you're on taking you there? If not, what are you going to do about it?

My hope is that the thoughts I share as a result of my daily journey through God's word will encourage, comfort and strengthen you in your life journey. If can help beyond that, just message me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Picture of Following God


"Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. " Numbers 9:22 NLT


This is such a simple and beautiful picture of what it means to follow the LORD.

As soon as the Tabernacle was completed for the first time, the LORD showed up as a pillar of cloud by day. At night, he showed up as a pillar of fire. He hovered over the Tabernacle reminding Israel of his constant presence in their lives. Personal. Available. Protecting and providing. The faithful LORD of all!

When he was ready to move on, he'd rise and start moving. Israel would pack up their tents and the Tabernacle and march on following his cloud. As this verse indicates, sometimes they'd setup camp for a night. Sometimes for a few days, a month. Sometimes, as long as a year.

But the point is this simple but profound truth: God's people move when he says move and stay when he says stay. We live and serve at the pleasure of our King.

Moses sums this up in the next verse when he writes, "So they camped or traveled at the LORD'S command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses."

That's what it means to trust and follow the LORD. And that's what he calls each and everyone of us. Those who don't trust and follow him show that they aren't really his people.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

END IT : Shine a Light on Slavery




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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Made Perfect--Becoming Holy


"For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:8 NLT


This is a promise. Circle this promise in your Bible. Then pray it regularly. God doesn't break his promises.

What's this promise, you ask? Through that one holy offering (Jesus on the cross), God forever made perfect (complete, pure, righteous) those who are being made holy (his children/disciples/followers). Made perfect. Being made holy.

That's those who are in Christ. That's an amazing promise. 

If this promise is true, it means I can't earn any more of God's favor. I have it already.

If this promise is true, it means I can't lose his favor. Because he's made me perfect (in and through Christ) I will continue to grow in holiness (sanctification). 

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to perform my way into God's favor. In fact, I can't. He doesn't look at my behavior but Christ's behavior imputed on me...His taking my place on the cross...His bearing my sin and becoming sin on my behalf for me.

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to fear death because he is with me and I will never die. (sure, this temporary body of mine will die, but not me)

One final thought. This promise is for those "who are being made holy." How can we be "being made holy" if we're already perfect? Aren't we holy if we're perfect.

Yes and no. 

Yes, we are seen in God's eyes as perfect and holy in position. This is our legal standing in God's holy court. He looks at us and sees Christ's righteousness imputed on us. Therefore, legally, we are redeemed and justified (declared right with God our judge and creator). 

No, because in practice (how we actually live) we're far from holy and perfect. We are in the process of becoming like Jesus. We're in the process of moving towards our holy position by learning to live in holy practice. That's what sanctification is. That's what being a disciple is all about. Learning to follow Christ and becoming more and more like him.

You are made perfect. You are being made holy. Wow!

So circle this promise. Pray it and praise God for it. Pray it for your kids and your friends and your neighbors. Go grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. He has done this great thing for you and me!


What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Does God Ever Blow Your Mind?


Two things about God I can’t comprehend:

1. God had no beginning. You can’t go back to when God was born, started or created. It just didn’t happen. He has always been. That idea is staggering to me.

2. Me not existing before God created me. God created me out of nothing. Not just no consciousness—nothing. No Darien. It’s a bit terrifying to me to consider where I would be if I wasn’t created. The answer is unspeakable.

God is so big he just blows my mind. Yeah.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is the New Testament Better than the Old?

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Hebrews 8:10 NIV


God established the new covenant--the new testament--through his son, Jesus when he died on the cross. Israel broke the old covenant through wickedness and unfaithfulness. They couldn't keep the law--not even externally. So God created a new one. A "better" one. (8:6, 13)

God replaced redemption from sin through the blood of animals with the blood of his holy son Jesus for our sins--internal and external. It is for all people who repent and believe.

This is the infinitely high price paid, "So that we may serve the living God!" (8:14) We so don't deserve this.

And God gives us even more grace in that this covenant isn't on tablets of stone but on our "minds" and "hearts". Internally and eternally engraved on us by his gracious hand.

And God reminds us how much he loves us and wants to be with us when he says, "I will be their God and they will be my people." He treasures his people. (Eph 2:10)


Prayer

Lord, help me better appreciate the sacrifice you made in sending Jesus to die for my sins. Grow my comprehension of this merciful act so that I may better reflect it today. In Christ's merciful name I pray, amen.


Reflection

What is God saying to you?

What are you doing about it?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trouble Worshiping God? Me too.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NIV

It hurts my brain to think God created the universe. 
With words.
From nothing.
And that he keeps it going.

But what is even more incomprehensible to me is:

1. God has no beginning. He's always been there. No birth. No starting point. He is the uncaused cause. It blows my mind.

Think about it a minute. He never wasn't God. There never was a time when he wasn't God.

The other is...

2. At some point in the past, I didn't exist. Not my soul. Not my mind. Like nothing. Before he created me, I was not.

Think about it like this, "Where was I before God created me?"

Wow.

So if you're struggling with worshiping God, perhaps it's because you're view of him is too small. 

I wish I could say that I don't struggle with this. But, I do. A lot. I undersize God regularly in the way that I live. In the lack of faith I have in him. In the amount of time I live as if he's irrelevant. I blow this one regularly. But there's hope! It comes when I think rightly about God.

When I think of God as this big, I'm humbled and moved to fearful and respectful awe and worship. He is worthy. He is so worthy.


What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

#21 Martyrs Video (2:28)




The Theban Martyrs

The Theban Martyrs (The Martyrs of Agaunum)
Guest blog post by John "Barnie" Barnes, Summerville, SC

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was, at one time, a very well known work among Christians. Sadly, this time seems to have passed into the night.  John Foxe (1517-1587) published his initial work in 1563 which detailed the torment and savagery of the Christian persecutions from the 12 Disciples, to the early Church and right on up to his own era. If you have never read this classic you can catch it online, just prepare yourself for some very graphic scenes.

One of the hundreds of accounts of persecution and martyrdom described by Foxe involved a Roman Legion known in history as “The Theban Legion”.  These legionnaires were all recruited from northern Egypt and were stationed near the city of Thebias with a standard compliment of 6,600 men. The distinguishing characteristic of this legion was that they were, to a man, Egyptian Coptic Christians. (Coptic has to do with the ancient dialect of Egypt)

In the preceding decades Christianity had been spreading rapidly in Egypt.  This became an increasing threat to Imperial Rome and several edicts were issued to suppress this spread.  The Edict of 250 A.D. decreed that all citizens must at all times carry with them documentation that they had sacrificed to the gods.  Ponder that!  Those who refused to comply became subject to unprecedented torture and savage persecution.  It was in this setting that the Theban Legion served Imperial Rome as a tested and formidable fighting unit.

In the year 286 the Theban Legion was ordered to Gaul by Emperor Maximian to suppress a rebellion there.  The legion set sail from Egypt, landed in Italy and marched across the Alps into Gaul under the command of Mauritius and ably assisted by Candidus and Exupernis.  Upon arrival in Gaul they joined the Emperor and other Roman forces already assembled. This is where the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs account begins.

The Emperor Maximian issued an order in September 286 that the whole army should join in sacrifices to the Roman gods.  At the same time they would take an oath of allegiance to assist in the ‘extirpation’ of Christianity in Gaul.  Upon hearing these orders the Theban Legion refused to comply, withdrew and encamped near Agaunum.

Maximian, upon hearing of this action, became enraged and ordered the decimation of the Theban Legion.  This meant that every tenth man would be ‘put to the sword’.  The names of legionnaires were placed in each centurion’s helmet and 660 names were drawn.   After embracing their comrades, those whose names were drawn were then put to the sword by other Roman forces.  

Again the Theban Legion, to the man, refused to comply with the Emperor’s order to make sacrifices to the Roman gods and comply with the edict.  This further enraged Maximian who then ordered a second decimation that included about 600 men.  At this point, the blood of over 1,260 men soaked the ground of the legion’s encampment.

Mauritius, after calling the legion’s attention to the hundreds of faithful, fellow soldiers who had already been martyred, sent this reply to Maximian:

“Emperor, we are your soldiers but also the soldiers of the true God.  We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours even though you reject Him.  In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto.  We readily oppose your enemies whoever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people (Christians).  We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you, (and) you cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the first.  You commanded us to execute Christians, behold we are such.  We confess God the Father, the creator of all things and His son Jesus Christ, God.  We have seen our comrades slain with the sword, we do not weep for them but rather rejoice at their honor.  Neither this, nor any other provocation, have tempted us to revolt.  Behold, we have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we would rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

Perhaps some may have thought this loyal remonstrance would have changed and softened Maximian’s thinking.  However, it had a contrary effect in than the Emperor became even more enraged at the unity and perseverance of the Theban Legion. Accordingly, on September 22, 286, Maximian ordered that the entire legion be put to the sword.
And so the order was carried out with many of the legionnaires presenting their necks to the sword of fellow Roman soldiers.  It was said that in the process many Roman soldiers became converted to a belief in the God that their fellow legionnaires were so willing to surrender their very life for.

Over the years I have read many inspirational stories about the sacrifices made by Christians in their faithful service to God.  It has certainly not been intentional, but many of these accounts have been forgotten along the way.  Perhaps you have had a similar experience.  I came upon the story of the Theban Legion many years ago and I have never been able to forget the details of this incredible event.  Perhaps you will have a similar experience.

What is our response to be (this year) to this event of some 1727 years ago?  We have such touchy feely/seeker friendly doctrines today in the American Church that any attempt to connect the Theban Legion to them might cause mass fainting or even a mass exodus in many congregations.  And yet there is the stark reality that Egyptian Coptic Christians, surely Theban Legion descendants, continue to experience great persecution at the hands of Islamic extremist.  Just witness the news out of Egypt regarding the Muslim Brotherhood’s actions!

I believe our response must be to acknowledge, honor, and ‘rejoice’ over our Brothers’ of the Theban Legion and their intrepid faith.  This would simply mimic Mauritius actions upon being an eye witness to the sacrifice of 1260 of his own dear soldiers.  Let’s do it!

I have found Hebrews 12 a good place to encamp while considering the courage, faith and ‘joy’ of the Theban Legion and reflecting upon their sacrificial service to God and to man.  We can rejoice in the reality of God’s tapestry that so carefully weaves us into the testimony of these warriors, The Martyrs of Agaunum,  and be inspired by the exemplary standard they have set before us.

There is one Body, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.  -Apostle Paul

Prepared by:
CDR                      USN®
22 August 2013