Archive for April, 2012

Our True Calling

April 30, 2012

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you and example, so that you might follow his steps,” I Peter 2:21.

Last week the church world lost, in my opinion, a great Christian brother and ambassador for Christ.  Chuck Colson passed away at the age of eighty.  Chuck was known for his Water-gate dealings in the early 1970’s.  It would be in prison that Chuck would hear the call of God for salvation and for service.  It was there in prison where his true calling came through.  Here is what he often said about this experience, “It was in prison where I finally understand what God required of my life.  I would not trade my jail experience.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, some would say Chuck’s experience is what Peter is making reference to in our More For Christ readings, I Peter 2:18-3:12.  However, I would beg to differ.  Certainly Peter’s readers were facing hard times, persecution for their faith.  But they were not in sin.  It was sin that caused Chuck to be in prison.  Yes God did use this for his glory in getting Chuck’s attention.  But the suffering Peter is writing about is the suffering experienced by those who are following their true calling.

James McDonald put it this way; “Some suffer as the consequences of their sins while others suffer in their calling.”  This very day I want you to know that Jesus identifies with those who are suffering in their calling.  Jesus came to be the light in a dark world.  Men loved the darkness so they struck out against the light (John 3:19).  If you are walking in the light, take heart because what you are facing is all apart of this journey.  This very moment God is positing you to bring glory to Him in your suffering.  So rejoice for your redemption is drawing nigh.

This very day Jesus identifies with those of you who are suffering the consequences of your sin.  How does he identify with you?  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”  I Peter 2:24. Jesus suffered for your sin and mine.  This day I challenge you to die to sin.  May there be no more reason for consequences for sin.  This day live in righteousness.  Have joy in knowing you are following your true calling.

Chuck Colson went on to found Prison Fellowship which reaches into countless prisons to share the gospel.  This was his true calling. Today you have a true calling.  Follow Christ and you will be able to see your life turn into a trophy of his grace.

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Work With Me Here

April 27, 2012

And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.”  Mark 16:20

One of the many joys in my life has been in the training of my children in many different areas of life.  For example, “Helping my boys to understand how to mow grass.”  This past week John had his first solo attempt at moving with the ridding mover.  After he was finished it was clear that I needed to do more work.  The strips that were missed were indicators that John was not working with his equipment.  But the more he works with me the better we will be simply because God has taught me how to mow correctly.

This morning we come to the end of the gospel of Mark, Chapter 16 in our More For Christ readings.  We are blessed to see Jesus resurrection and his 40 days of ministry with his followers and then his accession.  As I read these familiar verses, I was made keenly aware of Marks final words.  They are recorded at the beginning of our blog, take a moment and glance back to the top.

Notice what Mark records:

1)  Those who had been trained were now going out to testify concerning what they had been trained.

This morning, I felt the weight of how often I fail to testify of my training.  I find myself engaged in doing less than meaningful things.  The fact is, I must hour by hour and moment by moment work with the Lord if I am going to be successful in testimony.

2)  Their testimony was authenticated by signs.

This morning, I again felt the weight of how often there are no signs of working with Jesus in my life.  These moments are when I get upset with John for missing spots in the grass or I get frustrated with Keith for not putting up the tools.

In these moments God is reminding me that the real signs of working with Jesus is when we are occupying ourselves with the Spirit’s direction.  Paul said it best, “If we live by the spirit, let us also walk by the spirit,” Galatians 5:25.

This day I discover the two most important decisions of my day are simply these: 1) Will I spend time with God, in His word, being trained for the day.  2) Will I occupy myself with His Spirit or will I occupy myself with my spirit?

The signs in my daily life tell the story.  Hear the call of God, “Work with me!!!”

The Cross

April 26, 2012

And they led him out to crucify him,” Mark 15:20.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are just a few weeks removed from Easter.  Question, “Are you as joyous, thankful, and mindful of the implications of the cross today as you were just a few weeks ago?”

This mornings More For Christ readings, Mark 15:20-47 give us scenes from the way of suffering and the cross itself.  Much of what you will read this day is familiar to you.  I can honestly say, “I needed refreshment as I read these verses.”  In my desire to be fresh in my studies, I found myself listing all the different types of suffering Jesus faced during those six hours on the cross.  Mark lists no less than nine different types of suffering that Jesus faced.  The list includes such things as being offered a type of pain-killer, “Wine mixed with myrrh,” and the ridicule of people who said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  I am eternally thankful that He did not.  Each of these things reminded me of the amount of sacrifice Jesus made to redeem me from the wrath of God.  All of these things are familiar to us.

However there is one verse that maybe we just read and maybe missed the vivid image that it portrays.  Here is the verse: “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”

In this moment I was reminded that usually a condemned prisoner had to carry his own cross beam to the place of his crucifixion.  But because of Jesus beatings, he was weakened to the point that he could not carry his cross.  So this man was compelled to carry the beam for Jesus.  What a picture we have of Jesus words in Mark 8:24, “Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.”

Certainly the weight of the cross was born by Christ alone. But the witness of the cross is to be carried daily by his followers.  We carry the cross by the way we live our lives.  We are to carry the cross in our hearts and we are to express the message of the cross in accurate teaching and witnessing to all we meet today.

This very day, our Lord will compel each of us to carry the cross.  It could be that you will carry the cross to lunch and share the message with your waiter or the client you are entertaining.  It could be your co-worker or the person you do work for today.  It could be your children or your spouse.  It could be the person you are taking classes with.

May the cross have its way with you today.  Oh the wonderful cross that bids me to come and die and follow Him.

Deny or not deny?

April 25, 2012

“But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you mean.’ And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed.” Mark 14:68

Recently I stood beside one of our flower beds with John.  Both of us were looking at a row of rose bushes.  One of the bushes had a limb that was broken.  As we stood there John felt the need to say, “Dad I did not do it.”  To his shock, I responded, “I was not thinking that you did.”

In our lives there are circumstances that arise in which we find ourselves faced with the need of a response.  For instance we read in God’s word. “Today is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time,” II Cor. 6:1.  In this moment Paul is calling people to respond to the Gospel.  At other times the scriptures encourage us to stand up for what we believe, I Peter 3:15.

For me I found such a moment as I walked through our More For Christ readings, Mark 14:66-15:21.  In these verses we find both Peter’s denial and our Lord’s refusal to deny.

First let’s consider Peter’s denial.  This is a familiar scene for us.  Peter has followed Jesus, at a distance, as he is taken under arrest before the religious authority.  Peter makes his way into the court-yard of the High Priest.  Little did he know that he would be faced with deny or not deny.  In the scene we find three opportunities:

1)  Would he deny or not deny knowing the Lord

2) Would he deny or not deny being one of the disciples of the Lord

3)  Would he deny or not deny being delivered by the Lord.

You and I both know that Peter denies the Lord in all three instances.  However here is something that you may not know, “I have been guilty of the same denials.  Here is the deal, “How many times have I been silent when I had an opportunity to share Christ with someone, (Denial # 1).”  How many times have I been selfless when someone needed help but I did nothing (Denial # 2).  How many times have I decided to do what I wanted to do (Denial # 3).

This very day I encourage you to consider how every decision in our day either points to our denial or our dedication to Christ.  Thankfully we have another example before us.  Mark 15 begins with the powerful example of Christ whose life models one who would not deny His allegiance to the Father.

1)  When asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus responded, “I am.”

2) When he was falsely accused, Jesus accepted the Father’s plan.

3) When he was mocked and beaten, again Jesus accepted the Father’s plan.

Oh what a Savior.  This very day I am so thankful that our Savior was not Peter and that Jesus is our Savior.  This day, I identify with Peter in my old nature, but I have and identity with Christ in my new nature.

Brothers and sisters, this day we can be successful in Christ.  So I say, stand up stand up for Jesus as a soldier of the cross.  Before us is the decision:  “Deny or not deny.”  The gospel hinges on your response!

In Step With The Word

April 24, 2012

Day after day I was with you in the temple, teaching and you did not seize me, But let the scripture be fulfilled.” Mark 14:49

I can still remember the struggle I had with trying to be in step with my dad as he took me hunting when I was a little boy.  My Dad seemed like such a giant of a man (Through a little boys eyes).  He towered over me as we walked up the hill to the place where we were to hunt.  My dad instructed me to walk where he walked so that we could make as little noise as possible.  He walked with such ease and precision but it was not the case with me. I almost had to jump from step to step.  I found myself missing where he stepped and would break sticks and fall on rocks.  Finally my dad realized after I alerted everything in the forest of our presence that he would have to take smaller steps so that I could be in step with him.

This morning we see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walking in large steps.  His Father, before time began determined the only way man could be redeemed was through His Only Son.  Now in the fullness of time Jesus has come and truly He is in step with the word.

Our More For Christ readings, Mark 14:43-65, give us a wonderful viewpoint from the grandstand of scripture concerning each step Jesus took in obedience to the word.  Notice Vs:43-50 as Jesus submits to the word.  This passage is alive with stress as we see both a betrayer and his soldiers and a bruiser and his sword.  Both these men are carrying out what is in their hearts.  Judas is betraying Jesus into the hands of the High Priests soldiers.  Peter is a bruiser who cuts off the ear of one of the soldiers.  He is willing to die with Jesus.  Wow, what a scene.  But in the midst of this scene we see the settled calmness of Jesus in taking the right step, “Let the word be fulfilled.”

Question, “Is your life in step with the word?”  Maybe your response is, “I am trying, but the steps seem harder and harder.”  Brothers and sisters I can identify and more importantly Jesus can identify.  As you trace His steps in Mark 14 you find each step harder, but with each step Jesus continues to have the resolve that he knows where the steps will lead.

Here is what Jesus said, “And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.'”  Jesus is so in step with the word that He knows the end from the beginning.  His confidence in the end gives him the settled peace that is needed for the moment of great trial.

This morning, I challenge you to look to Christ who is both the author and finisher of our faith.  I challenge you to have a settled conviction that God’s word is true and in the end you will be a victor in and through Christ alone.

For further reading check out II Corinthians 4:16-18.  

Healthy Reminders

April 23, 2012

“Truly I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”  Mk. 14:25

Certainly there are things in life that you and I would rather not be reminded about.  For example, “I would like to forget a dentist appointment.  I would like to not be reminded when I have difficult meetings coming up.”  Even though we don’t like to be reminded, “Reminders are good things.”

This is certainly true in our More For Christ readings, Mk 14:22-42.  Here we find Christ ministry in its most crucial hours.   The text before us gives us details of Jesus in both the Upper Room and in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In these places we discover three healthy reminders:

1)  A wonderful reminder

Here we experience Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper.  Each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of at least three things:  We are reminded of His sacrifice of both His blood and body for our atonement.  We are reminded of our need to share this message with the world around us.  And finally we are reminded of the soon return of our Lord.  Each time we partake it is a healthy reminder of these things.

2) A woeful reminder

     Here we find Peter engaged with Jesus in a prideful response.  Peter makes a commitment that he cannot keep.  As Peter stood before the courtroom of the High Priest he was woefully reminded of his failure as he denied the Lord three times.  In this I am reminded that I must always submit myself to the Spirit’s leading because I cannot possibly be faithful apart from the Spirit’s direction.

3) A Wise reminder

In this scene our Lord is faithful in His obedience.  I cannot imagine the agony that Christ faced as he prepared himself to endure the wrath of God being placed upon him.  This bitter cup was toughest assignment of all.  I am amazed at how Jesus modeled, “Not our will but His will be done.”

In each of these reminders we are brought more and more into the Love of Christ.  Dear Lord, my prayer comes to you in the name of Jesus who sacrificed for my sin.  May I not waste this day in doing useless things.  This very day, I want to sow your world before the multitudes.  May my heart and mind be firmly planted in submission before you. Keep me safely from the pitfalls of our enemy.  Lord I thank you for all good things.

Brothers and sisters, I pray these healthy reminders increase your love for Christ and you dedication to the will of God for your life.

The Most Important Things

April 20, 2012

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “What commandment is the most important of all?”  Mk 12:28

Every day we are faced with decisions about what we do with our day.  In my house, I have a wonderful wife we often will ask, just before we go to sleep, “What are you plans for tomorrow?”  In that moment, before I loose conscience from exhaustion, I chose to either ask God or I chose to decide for myself.

This mornings More For Christ readings, Mk 12:28-44, places us in this very scene as a man who was charged with interpreting the law asks Jesus a question.  He wanted to know what was of most important in our daily lives.  Jesus response is amazing.  Here is His response:

1)  Every day we are to love the one true God (Vs: 29-30).

How are we to accomplish this? We are to love God with our emotions (Heart).  We are to love God with our soul (Immaterial part).  We are to love God with our minds (Our intellect).  We are to love God with our strength (Our greatest and total effort).

As I read this for maybe the 1000 time, I found myself grasping the depths of Jesus words.  Every day I am to invest myself in loving God because it is the most important thing I can do.  This will determine how I live each day.

2)  Every day we are to love those in the world (Vs: 31).

     Jesus here identifies these people as our neighbors.  As we focus our energies on loving God we naturally are filled with his love so that we can now love others as he loves others, John 3:16.

In this moment I am amazed at the scribes response, “this is much more important than all the sacrifices we offer.”  How true this is.  He got it right.  We can serve, sacrifice, and scream out in defense of God.  But still not be right with God.

In this moment I am also amazed at Jesus response, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  Here we discover truth at its deepest point. “All this man needed to be able to do these most important things was to be born again.”

The reality of this should alter how we deal with people in the church who seem to not be focused on the most important things.  Here we discover a man with the scripture who was  void of power to carry out the scripture.  This man was close but could not do it on his own.

I wonder, “Did he do the most important things?”  The scripture only offers this commentary, “All questions ceased.”  Did he not want to know more? Did he respond in obedience to Christ?  In my opinion, I think not because the next verses teach us about how the leaders could not accept that they needed to be born again.

This morning, I must ask, “Are you doing the most important things?”  If so, “Praise Him because you could not do them on your own!”  If not, “Either you are not born again or you are choosing to live as if you are not born again?”  Come to Jesus.

 

You Are In Charge

April 19, 2012

And they were seeking to arrest him, but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them.  So they left him and went away,” Mk. 12:12

As a kid, I was blessed with many wonderful things in my childhood.  One of those things was being able to be raised in a family that was close.  My mother’s grandparents lived close by.  My love for them is still so strong even after they have been gone for many years.  One of the wonderful things my grandparents did, “was to own a country store.”  I used to love to spend time stocking shelves, interacting with people, and enjoying the candy!!!

There were times when my grandfather would allow me to take care of customers.  In those moments, I felt great joy in being in charge.  But there was the awesome weight of what it mean to be in charge.  I was responsible to charge the right amount.  If I did not, either I was cheating the customer or I was cheating my grandparents.  I did not want to do either.

This morning, I again feel the weight of being in charge.  Our More For Christ readings come from Mark 12:1-22.  Here we find Christ sharing a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and then leased it to tenants.  These tenants abuse their authority and did not accomplish what was expected.  They went as far as to refuse the leadership of the man who planted the vineyard and even killed his son.

For those of us who are blessed with the scripture, we know Jesus is referring to the fact that His Father had planted Israel in the Promised Land to make Him famous before the world.  They were placed in charge of this task.  But they chose to do their own things in life.  Isaiah 5 gives us a clear picture of their sinful behavior.  When God sent his prophets to turn them back, they refused and mistreated the prophets.  Now the Father’s own son is here and they would crucify him.  The scene is clear.  They wasted their position and now they would pay the price.

Question, “Do you understand those things you have been given charge?”  If you are a follower of Christ, you have been given the gospel.  This gospel is to be spread throughout the world.  Because of this gospel, you have been given many resources including a job (Vineyard), place to live (Vineyard), financial blessing (Harvest), and his word (The Bible).

These are things you have been given.  You are in charge of them.  Question, “Is Christ being made famous in all these places in all these things?”  Only you can answer this question.  This very day, I challenge you to take inventory of what you have been placed in charge of.  I also challenge you to become a person of character, conviction, and competency in this great thing you have been placed in charge of.

Be assured, God has not asked you to do this alone.  He has given His Spirit who empowers us to be successful in our task.

The Day After A Good Day

April 18, 2012

“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry.” Mk 11:12

Someone once said; “There are more bad days than good days in a person’s life.” This brothers and sisters is often the mindset of people I encounter.  These well-meaning misinformed people try their best to have good days but their mentality always places them in the position where they are expecting bad days.  Let this not be the case with you my brothers and sisters.

Our More For Christ readings, Mark 11:12-33, carry us to two scenes in the life of Christ on the day after his Triumphant Entry (11:1-11) into Jerusalem.  The first scene is somewhat confusing in that Jesus pronounces a curse on a fruitless tress.  The second scene is also somewhat confusing in that Jesus forcibly removes those who have violated the temple.  To an outsider it simple looks like Jesus is having a bad day.

However, upon deeper investigation we discover that we need to read beyond the two scenes which cover 11:12-19.  Beginning in verse 20 our Lord explains the first scene.  The fact is the fruitless tree represents a life that does not bear fruit.  In the Christian’s life he or she is to bear fruit (John 15:1-9).  Jesus reminds us of the need of faith as we approach bad days and good days.  Jesus reminds us of our need of forgiving others as we go through the good days and bad days.  If you are going to finish each day with a flourishing faith you must come to understand Jesus words in Mk. 11:20-25.

Now we move to the second scene, Jesus forcibly removes those who violated the temple.  Again we must allow scripture to interpret scripture.  In Mk 11:27-33 we discover the why of this action from Jesus.  All authority rests with Jesus.  Our place of worship belongs to Christ and on this day Jesus tested those who had taken authority to themselves.  The religious leaders questioned his authority, but were in no position to overcome him in this moment.  In this we recognize that only under Jesus authority can we flourish in good days and bad days.

So what is our take away?

1) A truly fruitful life is lived by faith in Jesus authority. 

2) A truly faithful life is lived by focusing on Jesus authority in every circumstance whether good or bad.

This very moment, it is important for you to allow this to sink into your heart and mind.  I challenge you to go over the text, Mk. 11:12-33, several times.  Allow the word to speak to you.  Write down those very things you are facing . I mean, those things that are draining the fruitfulness from your life.  Write down how God can use them for His glory.  Then praise God for what He is going to do in this day!

For further study consider II Samuel 22 as David praises God for all He has done in good days and bad.  Also John 15.

The One Who Serves

April 17, 2012

“And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?'”  Mk. 10:51

As I write this bog I am listening (In the back ground) to a pastor of my childhood, Dr. Adrian Rodgers. He is speaking about the power of Kingdom Authority.  In this message he is speaking of how that God’s children who are God’s Kings and Priest will be servants.

This is exactly what Jesus is modeling for us in our More For Christ readings which come from Mk 10:46-52.  In this encounter we see Jesus as the one who serves.  I confess I don’t see myself as one who serves nearly enough.  Notice Mark’s progression:

1) Mark identifies: “a man of sorrows,”

Here we see a blind beggar who sits by the road.  I can greatly identify with this life as I was born as a sinner in darkness.   I too am a man of sorrows because of sin.

2) Mark identifies: “The Man of Sorrows,”

Here we see Jesus being identified as, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and “Son of David.”  Jesus is his humanity came to this world to be identified with us.  This blind man realized this is the one the world had been looking for.

3)  Mark identifies: “The moment of Sorrow,”

Here we discover the silent majority saying, “Be quiet.”  In this moment would this man of sorrow listen to the crowd or will he cry out to The Man of Sorrow.  Praise God, he cries out!!!  In the moment the Lord calls him.

4)  Mark identifies: “The magnitude of success,”

Here we find a man who humbles himself before the Man of Sorrows, he cries out in admittance that He could not help himself and He was with all of his heart placing his faith in the power of the Man of Sorrows to bring Him to the light.  In this moment Jesus says, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”  Wow!!  Oh what a Savior, the one who serves.

This very day, I find great challenge in knowing that the one who serves has called me to serve.  As a man of sorrows I am to tell men of sorrow about The Man of Sorrow who brings success to all who come to Him in obedience.

Wow!!!  Let’s get busy in God’s work.