Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wake Me Up, Lord!

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:42 NIV)

The Apostles were full-time ministers of the Gospel. And they appear to spend the bulk of their time:

+Praying (Acts 6)
+Preaching/proclaiming the Word of God in the Temple courts (5:42)
+Teaching the Word of God house to house (5:42)
+Serving and healing the sick, poor, orphan, widow & foreigner (Acts 6)

They weren't busy doing a lot of other things. They may have had to work some to provide for their families (although I suspect they were fully supported by other Believers so that they could minister full-time). 

Their preaching and teaching revolved around the same things Jesus' preaching and teaching did--the Good News about the Kingdom of God.

Why do we think we should be doing anything differently? 

Why aren't we doing these same things?

Jesus went to the Temple (where people were seeking God) and the places where the poor gathered and he healed. And then he went where he was asked to go sometimes (homes). He spent his time ministering to these folks preaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. 

Here it says, "They NEVER STOPPED teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah."

"Never stopped." That is convicting. 

And, is it good news to us that, "Jesus is the Messiah?" It should be. We should wonder why it's not. We should repent if it is not. Help us see how awesome it is that Jesus came for us!

So what?

I should think this is an easy one to answer. 

We should be doing the same things that these Apostles who were with Jesus were doing. They were absolutely convinced that he was, "The Christ, the Son of the Living God." And they were absolutely convinced that he died, was buried and yet rose from the dead and lives. 

They lived like it too.

I would ask us if we believe all of this but I think I know what our answer would be. A sheepish "Yes." 

Sheepish, why? Because we know that we don't live like it's true. We live like it isn't real. Like it didn't really happen. It has little to no impact on our daily life. 

That should bother us.

I know that it bothers me. But not enough.

What should we do? The same things these Apostles did. The same things Jesus did and that he taught his followers to do. Be kingdom citizens. Live as if there really is a kingdom of God in our hearts. And show and tell others about this awesome kingdom. Freedom! Forgiveness! Reward! Belonging! Rescue! Deliverance!

Lord, wake me up from my slumber of apathy and self-service, from pride and lack of fear of God. Wake me up! 

Help me realize that you are alive and well and that you've placed me here on this little ball of mud to show everyone how great and good you really are. What a privilege. What a responsibility. One I haven't carried very well. I repent of that.

Don't give up on me, Lord! Transform me from the inside out. Awaken my soul to be fully alive and lead others in that life as well. 

Thank you for forgiving me once again! (1 John 1:9)

And help me pray this prayer without ceasing from this point forward. In Jesus' name I pray, amen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Step Out and Take It

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, (Nehemiah 9:17 NIV)

Here the Levites of Nehemiah and Ezra's day are briefly recounting the history of Israel as a part of the return of Israel from exile. 

What jumped out to me is the part of their history around the 12 spies. Moses sent 12 spies (one from each tribe) into the promise land in anticipation of them conquering the land The Lord was to give them. 

10 of the 12 spies came back showing their lack of faith in The Lord and declaring that there were giants fortified cities. Therefore, there was no way (in their minds) that they could take the land. Only Joshua and Caleb would have the faith to take the land (and would actually live to that).

The 10 spies represented the bulk of Israel and their lack of faith in the Lord's promise. Here is how Nehemiah records it:

"They (Israel) refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you (God) performed among them."

They apparently were refusing to listen to Caleb and others who were calling Israel to trust and follow the Lord's leading into the promise land. They were not remembering that just a few weeks before The Lord brought them across the Red Sea on dry ground and led them by a pillar of fire and pillar of cloud (not to mention the 10 plagues).

"They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery."

This is the verse the got my attention. They were so afraid of what they (the 10 spies) saw and what they (the rest of the people) heard the 10 spies say about the giants and walled cities, that they couldn't hear reason or remember what God had just done for them. 

This was so bad that they "appointed a leader...to return to their slavery." They actually selected an anti-Moses to lead them back into Egypt and slavery. 

They were so blinded by their fear that they saw returning to Egypt (their slave-master for 400 years) as a better idea than to forge ahead by faith into the land that the God--who just delivered them from Egypt--was giving them.

So what?

It's so easy to be critical of Israel here. It's so clear to us that God was working on their behalf. Hindsight is a great advantage.

But we do the same thing. 

We "refuse to listen" to people of faith in the word and fail "to remember the (past) miracles" in the word in our willful and fearful "rebellion." We often trust God no more than these Israelites did.

And we have the words and works of Jesus to look back to. We must realize what we're capable of even as God's people and repent. 

This verse ends with encouraging words.

"But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them."

Yes, he did discipline them. But he didn't abandon them. That's what a loving, faithful father does for his children--for their good and his glory.

Ask God to search your heart and reveal the fear and doubt that lives there. Confess it. 

Step out in faith and take the "land" that God has promised you. Don't settle for going back into slavery. That never ends well.

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creation? Intelligent Design? Origins?

Pic from http://superfamous.com/

Questions about creation, intelligent design, origins? Here are some websites that can help you think about these and more. They don't all agree on everything and I'm not endorsing any one in particular. But it's a good place to start. No offense intended for my evolutionary-minded friends:-) My thoughts have certainly evolved on this over the years. (from Theistic evolution to Creationism) Happy reading!

http://www.reasons.org/ (Hugh Ross) 
https://answersingenesis.org/ (Ken Ham website)
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/ (William Lane Craig)
http://www.intelligentdesign.org/ (Stephen Meyer)
http://www.apologetics.org/ (CS Lewis disciples)
http://carm.org/ (Matt Slick -- I don't know anything about him yet)
http://www.apologetics315.com/ (variety of evangelicals)

Friday, October 24, 2014

More Jesus

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." -Prayer of Jesus for his disciples, John 17:17

I want God to sanctify me. Daily. So what is sanctification? It's the process of becoming like Jesus Christ.

It's been said: "The word of God + the Spirit of God + the people of God will make us like the Son of God."

That sounds on the surface like three strategies or tools. But I submit that it's not. I think it's one. But not one strategy or tool. I think it's one person--one God. 


Let's take them one at a time.

The word of God

We learn in John 1:-3, 14 that Jesus is called the "Word." He's "The Truth" (John 14:6). And he came in the flesh (John 1:14). So Jesus is the word of God. That's one.

The Spirit of God

This is the Holy Spirit or "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ".

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

 This is Jesus' Spirit. I'm not debating that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Son of God. That is an important distinction in the Trinity. But there is also this sense in which He's the Father's and Son's Spirit too--"God's Spirit". To call the Holy Spirit the "Spirit of Christ" makes it clear we're still talking about Jesus, at least in part. I think that's significant. 

The people of God

We are the body of Christ. 

Now you (Corinthian Christians) are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

He's the head of that body--his body--called "the Church". 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. (Ephesians 1:22)

So the people (Christians) are Jesus' body submitted to Jesus as the head of that same body. The people of God are Jesus, at least in part.

What's my point? What does this have to do with being sanctified?

Jesus is the key ingredient in us becoming like Jesus. Makes sense. But even as we say God's Spirit and God's word and God's people are essential ingredients let's not miss that Jesus is a key part in each of those ingredients. 

In other words, give me Jesus. Give me more of Jesus. Give me his word. Give me his Spirit. Give me his people. That is what I must immerse myself in to become more and more like Jesus, the Son of God.

And by his grace I will.

What is Jesus saying to you right now?

What will you do about it?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Touch of the Master's Hand (Myra Welch)

In honor of Charles Wesley Williamson Sep 2, 1924 - Oct 20, 2014 who could quote this so well. 

The Touch of the Master's Hand 
(by Myra Welch)

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer       
Thought it scarcely worth his while 
To waste much time on the old violin,       
But held it up with a smile. 
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,     
"Who'll start the bidding for me?" 
"A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?       
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?" 

"Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;       
Going for three…" But no, 
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man       
Came forward and picked up the bow; 
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,       
And tightening the loosened strings, 
He played a melody pure and sweet,       
As a caroling angel sings. 

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,       
With a voice that was quiet and low, 
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"       
And he held it up with the bow. 
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?       
Two thousand! And who'll make it three? 
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,     
And going and gone," said he. 

The people cheered, but some of them cried,     
"We do not quite understand. 
What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply:     
"The touch of the Master's hand." 
And many a man with life out of tune,       
And battered and scarred with sin, 
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd       
Much like the old violin. 

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine,     
A game — and he travels on. 
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,     
He's "going" and almost "gone." 
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd     
Never can quite understand 
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought     

By the touch of the Master's hand.

Charles Wesley Williamson - 1924 - 2014 Parks Funeral Home site http://buff.ly/1sTWchQ 

Author Notes
Myra Welch would say that she heard a speaker address a group of students on the power of God to bring out the best in people. She said she herself became filled with light and that “Touch of the Master’s Hand” was written in 30 minutes.. The finished poem was sent anonymously to the editor of her local church news bulletin. She felt it was a gift from God and didn’t need her name on it. 

Pastor Saeed: A Letter of Hope

This is a letter from imprisoned pastor Saeed (Iran) to his wife in America. It will encourage you through whatever you are going through.



We Have A Job To Do

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

The disciples' heads are spinning. Jesus is alive! They still couldn't comprehend what was happening here. But neither could they deny his presence. Physical. Real. They could hug him and eat with him. Yet he could walk through doors and walls and disappear in the blink of an eye. They were full of childlike wonder.

So naturally their thoughts turned to the kingdom he talked so much about. The Kingdom of God that would come and free Israel from her oppressors. Jesus answers them in typical Jesus manner. Mystery.

"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."

They would not get their answer yet. However, there was much to be done, they would soon find out.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

And then he left them for good. (Physically) He left them with the Holy Spirit giving them all they needed to be his witnesses around the corner and around the world. Men and women who'd witnessed The Lord Jesus in life, in death, and in resurrected life! 

And yes, they had everything they needed to be witnesses. He told them they'd receive power. And boy did they. Raising the dead, healing the lame and blind, mute and deaf. Casting out demons and ushering in eternal life through the Spirit of God. Resurrection power. Creation power. God's power.

Yes, the Kingdom would take care of itself. In the meantime, we have a job to do.

So what?

The Kingdom has yet to come in all it's fullness. But that day is drawing near. It's coming. In the meantime, it reigns in the hearts of God's people. Hearts fully surrendered to his will and his ways. People more than content to live out his mission of rescuing people far from God but close to them. Being his witnesses locally and globally.

This is our mandate. To be a faithful witness to what we've seen, heard and experienced. To share with others how he's changed our life--this King of Glory, Jesus Christ.

What is God saying to you?

What will you do about it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sun vs. Son

We can be encouraged by God's mercy already shown us and empowered by God's power when we receive his Good News. (2 Corinthians 4)

God the Father is like the sun.
God the Son (Jesus) is like the sun-rays.

By extension (as his body), we (his people the Church) are the sunrays when we faithfully reflect that same light.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"A Very Special Offering" by James Emery White

On a Thursday afternoon, a young woman came by the office to give me something. She was going to put it in the offering plate, but decided to just hand it to me.
I was in a meeting, so she left it at the front desk.
On the outside it said, “Jim White,” and underneath, “Be careful…sharp objects inside.”
On the back it read, “I thought I was going to put this in an offering plate but I think it would be best to give you directly.”
I opened the envelope, and inside a plastic bag were razor blades.
And a letter.
I asked her if I could share it, and she said I could:
“I have been coming to your church on and off now since I was in 5th grade. I am now 23…When I was 12 years old I started cutting myself. Now my arms are covered in an overwhelming amount of scars, but I am proud to say there are no open cuts. I have not cut for probably a year now, but I still have razor blades that are hidden around my room…
“I quit when I was about to cut one day but heard Jesus in my ear saying, ‘I bled enough.’
“He took my pain on the cross and I no longer needed to take it out on myself.
“But I realized by holding on to razor blades I am not fully letting go of the pain and addiction to cutting. I want to fully let it go now...
“It says in the Bible, ‘Cast all your anxiety on him for He cares for you.’ So I’m doing that today. This is an offering plate and I am offering to Jesus today more than any amount of money I could ever offer Him. These are all my razor blades that I have keep hidden around in different places of my reach just in case.
“I am handing it over to God and I trust you also with this as well. Thank you for all you and this church have done in my life...”
And then she signed her name.
I have those blades in my desk drawer.
I will keep them there for as long as I pastor.
James Emery White
Editor’s Note
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.  His latest book,The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now available on Amazon.  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Servant or Enemy of the King?

The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. (Luke 19:11 NLT) (whole story)

What we read this entire story about the kingdom of God, we learn several things.

Luke tells us right away (even before the story) that Jesus is trying to "correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away." So while the kingdom of God is near (Jesus says earlier), it's not fully present and won't be until after the cross and Jesus' second return.

Jesus then begins to show that covenant is a essential part of kingdom. We see that the servants in his kingdom have a relationship with him. They are entrusted, therefore, with kingdom responsibilities. Some invest and one does nothing (out of fear and foolishness). 

Kingdom Responsibility comes with Covenant Relationship. They are two sides of the same coin.

Those who invested and got a return on the king's money were blessed with a lot more responsibility, privilege and favor.

We learn that those who don't want the king to be their king will not enter into a covenant with them. Instead, they will receive his judgement. That judgement is they cannot be a part of his kingdom.

So what?

First, we learn that God entrusts responsibilities to his servants--his kingdom citizens. He gives them a mission and resources to carry out that mission. He expects those resources to be invested wisely in the mission. And he generously rewards those who do that well. 

For us this is everything that God has given us. It's our time, talent and treasure. What we spend these on and the results we get matter to God. He doesn't just bless us to make us happy. He blesses us to be a blessing by investing ourselves in the mission.

Note he also disciplined the one who had a relationship with him but did not invest the king's resources wisely. God disciplines his children.

Second, he punishes (even judges) those who reject a relationship with him. (the citizens who didn't want him to be their kin) Not having a covenant relationship with the king means you're his enemy. It's unwise to be an enemy of God. 

It's important that we evaluate our relationship (or lack thereof) with God, our Creator and King. If we are in that covenant relationship with him, our next step is to evaluate how faithful and fruitful we are being as his stewards. He's entrusted to us the responsibility to manage our God-given time, talent and treasure well. We're to join him in his holy search and rescue mission to follow Christ and lead others to do the same. 

How are you doing?

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Note: To read many of my thoughts on scripture on a more regular basis, follow me at YouVersion.com.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"Our Story" (2 min vid) - Agree?

This is a popular YouTube video right now. 

Do you agree with what's in this? 
What's not? Is it balanced? 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

That Faith-full Future

“The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’ ” (Ezekiel 48:35 NLT)

This name for the city is an interesting one. "The LORD is There" is what The Lord told Ezekiel the name of the city of God would be.

Why that name?

Because it's a picture of the ultimate city of God--the New Jerusalem; the New Zion.

"The LORD is There."

Why is this significant? 

It seems to me that the Lord's presence is significant. It always is in scripture. The classic example I think of is when the ark of the covenant blesses Obed-Edom and his family when David leaves it at his house.

Wherever God is--his blessings flow. Healing, peace and all the fruit of the Spirit of God follow him. It's why it matters that "The Kingdom of God is near." It's why it's good news when scripture says, "He draws near to the broken-hearted."

So what?

Well, one day we, as God's people, will live in this city. And it will be precious because he'll be there. He will be THERE." As a result, we will live in ecstasy and ever increasing joy for the eternity. 

That's amazing news.

Therefore, I should live in light of that hope--that faith-filled future. For he is faith-full!