Archive for June, 2011

Going To Work

June 30, 2011

Someone recently said in passing conversation, “The worst part of my day is going to work and the best part of my day is quitting time.”  Certainly we live in an era where most Americans work far too many hours with far less true benefit.  However there is something most followers of Christ miss when it comes to their work place.  The work place is God’s mission field.

This morning I began a study in the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is one of my favorite books.  In this book, the prophet of God has been called to go and work with a people who are rebellious.  These people do not like him, they seek to undermine his work.  They have him demoted as a citizen and even throw him into a miry cistern.  I wonder, does his work place seem like yours?

Maybe you are a missionary on a foreign field?  Things are difficult.  You do not speak their language.  Their customs are so different and it seems that they reject every attempt you make in building a relationship.  It can often be the same way for those whose mission field is their workplace. People speak a different language.  They engage in conversation that is ungodly.  They travel in circles that you cannot travel in.  They refuse to allow you to build relationships.

Be assured Jeremiah understands what you are facing.  He faced it as well, “But you, dress yourself for work; arise and say to them everything that I command you.  Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you,” 1:17.  Jeremiah had a call on his life but this call did not ensure that he would not get discouraged, as you and I sometimes do.

Jeremiah needed more if he was going to stay with his call.  You ask, “What did he need?”  This is a very good question.  Here is God’s answer, “They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you declares the Lord, to deliver you,” 1:19.  

For me there is so much peace, power, and perspective in God’s word to Jeremiah.  Oh what peace that comes to our lives when we know God is with us, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. Oh what power we experience as we seek to be obedient in our field of work, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Phil. 4:13.  Oh what perspective that comes when we know God is with us,” I am with you even until the end of the age,” Matt. 28:20.  Our God has had people in every age working their mission fields and He has given victory in each place.

So, today I encourage you to go to work.  Work is your mission field.  Our God goes with you.  Our God works in you and through you for His glory.  Take heart brothers and sisters, “He is on the job with you.”  

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Unfit

June 29, 2011

The title for our blog may seem hard to some, but the content of our blog today demands such a title.  “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away,” Isaiah 64:6. As Isaiah comes to the end of his prophetic book we find a strong reminder of who we are without Christ.  The bottom line is that we are unfit for God and we are unfit for godliness.

Question, “When was the last time you admitted to God and to someone else that you were unfit, on your own?”  This truth was brought so clearly into focus for me last evening.  Sherry and I had the honor of attending a screening of the new movie Courageous which airs September 30, 2011 in theaters across America.  The theme of the movie is the need for Godly fathers.  With each scene in the movie I saw so many things where I have been unfit as a father.  But I also saw so many things where I have been fit as a father.  But in each of them I could not lay claim to fame because it was only because of Christ that I am fit.

I left the theater last evening with four different thoughts.  First, I felt great humility in knowing that Christ in me is key to a godly fit family.  Second, I felt a great challenge to grow in Christ so that I can be even more fit as a father.  Third, I felt a charge to recruit men to take the courageous challenge to become fit in Christ.  Finally I felt the calling to reach out to young men who do not have a father.

So today, I am seeking to grow in Christ even more as I submit to His word and to His will through prayer.  Today I am praising Him for His work of salvation and sanctification in my life.  I am also confessing my sin and asking God to show me where I am unfit.  Finally I am challenging all who read this to take the courageous challenge to become fit in Christ.  Lastly I am prayerfully seeking those young men that I can share Christ with and mentor in His life.

 

Stuck Between First And Second

June 28, 2011

Admittedly I am not a big fan of baseball even though I have played and coached.  However one of my favorite things about baseball is when a player who is running the bases gets stuck between first and second.  It’s amazing how hard the runner will try to outwit his opponents.  I believe the percentage of hope to make it safe is less than one percent.  I wonder, “Is there anything in your life that has you stuck between first and second?”

Now you may consider the illustration odd, but follow my thought process.  Isaiah 61 speaks of “The Year Of The Lord’s Favor.”  Here is what Isaiah prophecies about Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God,” 61:1-2.  

Focus in on the last two parts of verse two, “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Here we discover Isaiah writing about the Lord’s first coming and His second coming.  When Jesus came, Luke 4:18-20, He quotes the first part of this section, but he left off the second.  Question, “Was he stuck between first and second?”  The answer is no.  The time between his first and second coming is a time of mercy and grace.  When he comes again all mercy and grace will cease and it will be a day of great wrath.

Now here is where it could it get sticky, “Are you communicating mercy and grace to those around you, or are you communicating wrath to those around you?”  I am convinced many people are stuck between the two.  They have received mercy and grace, but they cannot give it to others.

I was reading a new blog site this morning that quoted Francis Bacon.  Here is the quote, “As long as you keep anger alive you will always have green fruit of bitterness.”  Those who are sunk deep into my heart.  I want to be a person who keeps the gospel as the center of my heart so that the green fruit in my life will be the grace and mercy of my Lord.

So, how does a person get out of the place of being stuck?  He or she must lay all of their anger before God and confess it as sin.  This person must ask for forgiveness and this person must seek God’s love in each circumstance.  Being stuck between first and second is not a good place to be. However you can get to home plate safe if you walk in the love of Christ.

The Best Community To Live In

June 27, 2011

This morning I worked my way through chapters 54-60 in the book of Isaiah.  There was much to comprehend as Isaiah spoke of both condemnation and redemption.  The people of Israel were under God’s wrath because of their rebellion, “Each has turned to their own way, each to their own gain, one and all,” 56:11.  

As I read these words I was reminded of the words of my small group leader, “New York is another place where we would not want to live because of the approval of gay marriage.”  Our nation is much like Israel in the fact we are living in open rebellion against a loving and holy God.  Daily our sins increase and daily our God is grieved with our sin.

As a follower of Christ, I ask myself, “What if I were called to go and live in states that have legalized gay marriage?”  “What if I were called to move my family to a community that practices homosexuality openly?”  There are tough questions, but be assured our God has truthful answers.

As a follower of Christ, I am reminded that I am to be a light to darkness, Matthew 5:16.  I am reminded that no matter where I live I am a member of another community called the family of God. Here is what Isaiah writes about God’s family, “The Lord God, who gathers the outcast of Israel, declares, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered,” 56:8.

Isaiah reminded Israel that God was going to bring Gentiles into His family.  Both born again Jews and Gentiles would make up the best community to live in.  This morning I stand amazed that God would place me in His community of believers.  I also stand amazed that God would call others to be in His community of faith.

Revelation 21 gives us a wonderful picture of what it means to be in community, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God,” Vs:3.  Some day we will be in heaven where there is an absence of sin.  There will be no corruption of this community.

However we are not there as of yet.  Certainly our God dwells within every believer in the person of the Holy Spirit. Certainly we are in fellowship with the God who empowers us to live holy lives.  But also certainly we have been called to live in communities that are corrupt so that we can give forth the light to a dark world.

So this day I want to challenge each of you to not run away from corrupt communities.  I want to challenge you to take the light of the gospel to these communities because I still believe God is “gathering people from other places.”  I also want to plead with you to share the gospel in the community you live in.  People need the Lord!!!

Get outside of your comfort zone and engage the lostness around you.  This is the only way your community will grow.  Who knows who the Lord will call to His community today?  He could us you be His mouth peace.

Yeah, Whatever

June 24, 2011

I seem to never cease to be amazed at how people view things so differently.  For example, even in my own house there are different viewpoints on such things as what we watch on TV.  For me, nothing is any better than an awesome John Wayne film, but for some reason the girls do not get excited about it.  It is almost like they are against watching such classics.

Certainly this is a fun illustration, but there are far more serious illustrations in life.  Consider, the encounters our missions team had yesterday as we ministered to the needy in our community.  We handed out more food than at any other time since I have been involved in this ministry.  But at the same time there were fewer people who were even willing to allow me to share the gospel.  It was as if they were saying, “Yeah, Whatever.”  I found myself mad and also heartbroken at the same time.

These thoughts came flooding back as I read in the book of Isaiah this morning, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, Your God reigns,” 52:7. The footnote in my bible read as follows, “Messengers run from the scene of battle across the hills to Zion with the good news that God reigns.  They prefigure the evangelists who will announce the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Cited from The Reformation Study Bible.”

The problem with all of this is in the fact that the people who are hearing the good news, do not see its value nor do they seek its value.  One chapter later as Isaiah writes about our Suffering Servant we find the following truth, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” 53:6.

As I read these words the madness left my heart as I was reminded of the all in verse six.  I am in that all.  If not for the grace of God I would still be in the all.  I would be saying, “Yeah, whatever.”  But because of God’s grace I am in the land of those who proclaim, “Praise be to His name for the good news.”

I believe this morning’s blog is for all those who are finding it difficult to share the gospel.  You find yourself facing people who do not see the value of the gospel.  This could be with a family member, a co-worker, a friend, or neighbor.  Please allow me to encourage you to simply keep sharing the gospel and to daily pray that God would open the hearts of those you are sharing with.

Oh how much I have to praise Him for.  How beautiful is the gospel.  How beautiful is our Savior who brought us the gospel.  One final note, “Be sure you are worshipping Him on His day.”  He deserves our time especially on the first day of the week!!!

By Invitation Only

June 23, 2011

This morning I have the blessed opportunity to serve alongside missionaries in our church in caring for the needy.  For the next few hours we will meet family after family, each with a different story of how they arrived at this place of needing help. The reason we go is because we have the answer for the need of everyone who comes.  Certainly you know the answer is Jesus.

This morning as I read the word of the Lord from the book of Isaiah, the Lord put forth a question, “Is my hand shortened, that I cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver,” 50:2?  Certainly we know our God has the power to reach out and pull the darkest sinner from the grip of sin.

But the question is, in some people’s minds, “Will they respond?”  Yes, there will be many who will come and smile as I share the gospel and they will thank me for sharing. But I can see in the eyes of some, “A blank look of being unable to understand.”

The truth is, “No one comes to the Father unless He is drawn by God Himself.”  Hence the title of our blog today, “By invitation only.”  I must confess there are moments in my day when I lose sight of such marvelous grace that has been extended to me.  I find myself complaining about busy schedules, long hours, or problems that arise.  All the while I am loosing sight of all I have in Christ.  I have been invited by a King into a relationship that lasts for eternity.  This King paid my entry fee into eternal life.  Not only this, He opened the eyes of my understanding so that I could see my need of entering this relationship.  He opened my heart to have faith in His finished work on the cross and finally He sealed me by His Spirit so that I could not lose what He has given.

How could I do less than praise Him this day for His precious invitation.  This morning I was reminded that some day I will be given the honor of being before the Lord to praise Him.  Here is the scene in heaven: “And the angel said to me, ‘write this; blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb,'” Revelation 19:9,  

Some day every one from every tribe and nation that has been invited will be called to celebrate our King.  Question, “Have you been invited?”  If, so praise His name.  Also, “have you been telling others about His invitation?’  This very day, I have the opportunity to tell families in need.  O how I pray that you would join me in prayer for two things:  1) God would grant me the courage to share the gospel. 2) God would invite people to Himself today.

My prayer for you is the very same things in the mission field where you work and live.  To God be all the glory in this day.  I look forward to sitting down with each of you in heaven some day.  Have you received your invitation as of yet?

What Did He Say?

June 22, 2011

Imagine being on a crowded airplane with hundreds of people who are all talking at the same time.  Suddenly the captain makes an announcement, but because of the noise you cannot hear him.  For some reason you feel as if you need to know what he says.  In an attempt to find out what he said you begin to ask the people who are seated around you, what the captain said.  However they are in the same circumstance as you.  At this point you have a choice, either you can give up and go back to what you were doing or you can ask a flight attendant what the captain said.  The choice you make is determined by how much you value the words of the captain.

In a much more significant way God had been speaking through His prophet Isaiah to the rebellious nation of Israel. “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord you God who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go,” 48:17.  However there was a problem, “Oh that you would have paid attention to my commandments,” 48:18a.

This nation was occupied with the chatter of the world instead of being occupied with the clarity of the word.   This nation was occupied with the corruption of the world instead of being occupied with the cleansing word.  God in His grace continued to speak but the people continued to not pay attention.

Question, “How long have you owned a copy of God’s word?”  I wonder do you realize what is in God’s word?  Each page contains life-giving words from the Captain of our Faith, Jesus Christ.  I am convinced that many who read this today find themselves in a busy life much like the people who are on the crowded airplane.  I am convinced that many who read this want to hear from the captain, but the business of their daily flight schedule keeps them from hearing from the Captain.

Consider what such people miss out on: “Then you would have peace like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” 48:18.  The nation of Israel would have found continual success if they would have listened to what God said.  Brothers and sisters in Christ we cannot have success in our lives unless we are in a position to hear and heed what God’s says.

Please take time every day to study God’s word. In doing so, you will be able to hear what God says.  Please take time every day to pray.  In doing so, you will be able to hear God speak and you will be able to seek God’s help in obeying what He says.  Please take time every day to proclaim to others what you are hearing.  In doing do, you will be sowing the gospel to the world.

 

Take My Hand

June 21, 2011

It has happened with all three of my children and I do not like it.  Maybe you ask, “What are you talking about?”  All three of my children reached a point when they no longer wanted to hold my hand.  John is our youngest and this past weekend was the first time he pulled away when I reached for his hand as we crossed a busy roadway.

Now maybe you are saying, “it’s a good thing that they have a desire for independence.”  But as a father who seeks to protect his son, I still see a need to protect him from the youth within him that causes him to rush headlong into life without looking both ways.

This morning I was so excited to open my bible because I knew that I had reached the section in Isaiah that gives us a look into the life of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 42 in particular speaks of the ministry of our Savior.  Isaiah identifies Christ as “The Lord’s chosen servant.”  Notice the word of the Lord, “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind,” 42:6.

As I read these words, tears filled my eyes as I was reminded of the intimate relationship we can have with the Father because of Christ.  The God who created everything including man takes us by the hand.  But not only does He take us by the hand, He also keeps us in the palm of His hand.

I can still remember the day, He took me by the hand in 1974.  The connection I have with the Father was all arranged by Jesus.  I have no claim to fame, only by His grace do I walk hand in hand with God.  Forgive me if I pause from typing and praise my Lord!!!

Suddenly I feel compelled to tell you that just like my children who pull away from my hand, I too have tried from time to time to pull away from God’s hand.  Either through circumstances or a calloused heart, I have found myself wondering from the God I love.  In these moments, my Lord has brought me back through what I have come to know as the chastening hand of God.

The fact is, our God who reaches out in love also reaches out in discipline with His hand because He loves us and is protecting us from falling into the hands of the enemy.  So, I want to encourage you to take time to investigate what you are receiving from God’s hand today.  If you are walking in sweet fellowship, praise Him with all of your might.  If you are wondering from God, repent and come home to fellowship.  One more thing, tell others about the one who is holding your hand!!!

Please Do Not Give Us What We deserve

June 20, 2011

This morning I found myself in a moment of great humility as I sat before the Lord with my bible open.  I found great encouragement from the pen of Isaiah in chapters 38-41 as he gave God’s encouragement to exiles who would be granted the grace to return home.  In particular the words of Isaiah 40 are so filled with strength, “He gives power to the faithful, and to him who has no might he gives strength,” 40:29.  “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint,” 40:31. 

The people of God could confidently wait for their God. Their God and our God is a God of mercy and love who has given us Christ instead of His wrath.  The exiles would not receive what they deserved.  As I contemplated this truth I turned to Revelation 15 and 16.  In these chapters we see people who have rejected the love and mercy of God.  Here we see the wrath of God being poured out against the ungodliness of man.  After the third angel poured out the bowl of God’s wrath we find the following commentary, “It is what they deserve.”

I must admit, I became weak at this moment.  I gasped and wrote in the margin of my bible, “Please do not give me what I deserve!” Oh dear friend, if you and I get what we deserve, eternity will hold hell for us.  But praise God for His mercy which flows in abundance.

As I fell to knees to pray, joy and adoration was on my lips.  I could never praise Him enough for not giving me what I deserve.  But not only me, my entire family.  But not only my entire family, but multitudes beyond number in my spiritual family.  Yes, it was a joyous time.

However I was reminded by the Spirit of God, “So many do not know of this mercy.”  God’s wrath still remains on most of the world.  Millions have never heard.  So I ask myself, “How do we get this gospel to those who have never heard?”  The answer is in getting people who are not getting what they deserve to go to people who are getting what they deserve with the message of the gospel.

I want to encourage you to do two things today:

1)  Daily pray for God to give you understanding in the gospel as well as confidence to share the gospel in your mission field.

2) Discover those who have never heard and pray about how you can reach them with the gospel. Here is a helpful website in point two:  IMB.org

Getting Beyond Your Record

June 17, 2011

Certainly there has been much written in the news about the failure and fall of Congressman Weiner. Many have written or commented that his failure began when he lied to cover up the truth.  But the fact is his failure came as a result of his sin.  However before we condemn we must remember that it is the same with each of us, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of the Lord.”

The fact is Congressman Weiner had a record before this incident.  Here was his record and my record as well, “Guilty as charged.”  Now the challenge for this Congressman will be, “How does he get beyond his record.”  Most believe he will never recover.

This same truth is felt by multitudes of people who find themselves held ransom by their record of sin.  Daily they feel the weight of their guilt, plus they cannot stop sinning.  They are held ransom by their sin.  Certainly many who read this today understand the reality of this truth.

For such people I have great news.  There is a God in heaven who delivers those who are held ransom.  Here is how Isaiah describes our God, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” 35:10.

This scene depicts the moment when God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage.  This scene also foreshadows the day when Israel would return from exile.  In each of these scenes the Lord is the redeemer who ransom Israel from her captors.

What joy I find in reading such truth.  We serve a God who is able to ransom us from the debt we owe.  We serve a God who is able to redeem us from the curse of sin.  This day, I can say to Congressman Weiner, “Only in Christ can you get beyond your record.”  This day, I can say to the world, “Only in Christ can you get beyond your record.”

Just as Israel praised the Lord, so must you and I praise the Lord. Because of His great love we can be forgiven of our sin and our sin is forgotten by God.  This is the beauty of redemption.  I will never be able to praise Him enough!!!