On My 33rd Spiritual Birthday (I dedicate the rest of my life to this…)

33 years ago on this little spot in Imboden, Arkansas, I turned from being king of my life and received God’s gift of salvation by making Jesus my Lord and Savior.

Today, one of my sons is off to another country to share this good news that we can know and be loved by God, personally. It is THE most important thing he, or anyone, can possibly do. Nothing matters more than eternity.

This life is very short, and earthly speaking you will be dead much longer than you will be alive. You are not prepared to live until you are prepared for the other side of death.

The world demands we live for whatever it thinks and believes, but only God’s Word stands forever. So live for the eternal things, and for and with the eternal One…even if it seems you stand alone. You don’t; He is always with you if you are His and you trust Him.

I dedicate the rest of my life to trusting Him, but even more, to sharing His message that people can be rescued from themselves and their bondage of sin, from hell itself, and that God will restore this decaying earth (including our decaying bodies) and make all things new for those who have surrendered to Him as Lord and Savior.

If you are not His, won’t you join our family? If you are His, won’t you join me in the mission to bring as many with us into eternity with us as we can before we go?

Let’s go give ’em Heaven!FB_IMG_1466706528092

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Response to the June 12, 2016 Orlando Shooting

The true Christian response to this tragedy is heartbrokenness over eternal loss. I’m blown away by the secular assumption that somehow we Christ followers are relishing in this. Were this a church, some of the homosexual community may say we got what we deserve, but I know no true believer who has enjoyed the loss of life that has occurred over the weekend.

I mean, if the victims were at a gay bar, I assume most of the victims were not followers of Christ. They were victims of the Enemy long before that night. Perhaps some were there that are struggling with temptations they were giving into, but in general it is not a wild assumption to say most didn’t know or wish to know the Lord. And if one doesn’t want God in this life, He will not be forced to live with Him in the next.

Yes, that means they died and will go to hell and never, ever, ever, EVER have another opportunity to turn to Christ. Never, as in NE.VER!

For the believer, this is the most tragic of all circumstances. It is worse than a church shooting; by far worse than any missionary martyrdom…for such souls have eternal life before them. No more tragic outcome could have happened in Orlando that night. Eternities were sealed.

Were I as godly as Paul and had Christ’s true heart for the lost, I would wish to take any one of their places simply to give one an opportunity to hear the gospel and be rescued from hell. I am not, in all honesty and may God forgive me, not quite there just yet.

The eternal lostness, and the delight of the Enemy to gather in so many to his mocking self so immediately- and by the hand of one of his- this is the ultimate tragedy. To then use it to blame God’s people for it all in our culture?  A vile, demonic bonus for the ancient disgusting serpent.

Mourning and brokenheartedness for families and loved ones, yes, but even more over such massive ETERNAL loss… this response of heart is the true Christ follower’s response.

Break our hearts for the lost, Lord.

Dead World Spinning

DEAD WORLD SPINNING
“If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted.” I’ve never heard a sermon like that, and certainly never heard an evangelist close with a “come to Jesus, he awaits to give you a life where people treat you like garbage.” As I laugh at the very picture of that, I realize it would be ridiculous to expect anybody to pull off a line like that….except Jesus did.
Who wants that? I have my full quota of people who treat me badly enough; why would I willfully choose more relational difficulty and potential humiliation for my life?
That’s how I see the offer. Because my perspective is, well, warped…at best. It belies my true values, and I don’t mean the hardware store kind, I mean the kind that attaches itself like a summer tick to the skin, burrowing itself head deep…to the things of the earth.
My home is the earth. My people are its inhabitants. My values are their values of success, importance, significance. My world is this world. Yes, I’m at home here. But this casa isn’t supposed to be my casa. My citizenship is in heaven.
If I dare take on the perspective of the Kingdom, I see the world clearly…as a dead world spinning. It will pass away, God’s word will stand. Earth’s values are in contradiction with the ways of Jesus. God’s Kingdom will last, it isn’t made by hands. HIS Kingdom is written on my heart.
Of course I will take it on the chin for living like Christ. Jesus was called the prince of demons; he tells us not to be surprised when we’re called his Mini-Me.
Everything about Him flies in the face of the world’s system. Yet it’s not just evil alone in a vacuum. This kind of evil is systematized, acculturated, and all those who challenge it’s flow will be caught in the rapids. Choosing the Kingdom makes me the kid at the mall going UP the downstairs escalator…with all the disdainful looks of the riders (and the ire of the mall cop booking it from Sears on his segway at the report of the juvenile delinquent who dared break the rules). But Jesus says He has overcome the world, and we live FROM victory.
Put your eyes on the Kingdom; fix your eyes on Christ. Do not hold fast or attach yourself tightly to this earth. It’s time is short. There is a new heaven and earth coming and our reward lies there.
Give up the frustrations, the yearnings, the insanity of the earth’s system and trade it in for a heavenly perspective of this cursed blue marble and its spinning ways. Surrender your very life into the hands of your loving Father…and find it.

Forever Forgiveness

Scripture: Matthew 9 

When Jesus encounters a paralyzed man, the expectation of healing was present. “Hey, watch this! He’s been healing people all over the joint and this guy can’t walk…miracle alert!” But Jesus pulls one out of the hat and offers forgiveness to the man. Forgiveness? 

“Wait Jesus, you’re not doing it right.” Jesus just juked us. He’s waaaaay off topic here. The religiously righteous especially took umbrage. “Your sins are forgiven? Who does he think he is? God?”

I love a show, but Jesus’ “show” was not for the sake of getting TV ratings…it was to “show” who He was and is. “The Son of Man has come….to seek and save the ones who are lost.” 

Healing? No big deal to Jesus. That’s a prayer and a snap. And eventually, even if He was to resurrect a guy or two (which He did), they’d end up dead in the end. Because our spiritual condition is terminal. But to forgive sins? Now we’re in the eternal implications. Which is greater, Jesus asks, to heal or forgive sins? To fix my physical ailments works for me, let’s reverse some aging and I can quit watching those infomercials of products that don’t work. But Jesus is looking to heal something greater-that wound of the soul for which there seems no cure. Even were I a perfect physical specimen of a human, when I’m alone and nobody else is watching, if I’m honest…it hurts. I’m wounded. I’m a cosmic screw up. And it’s self inflicted. 

Jesus offers the greatest healing, the deepest freedom, the loosening of the greatest of fetters that bind me….forever forgiveness. My body will die and is dying…fact of life. But Jesus, triggered by a simple response of submission and faith in Him, reversed the course of my life-my eternal life- with a simple phrase that He backed up with His very own blood. Only One could do such a thing…”Your sins are forgiven.” 

Who does this Jesus think He is? God? You’d BETTER believe it. 

 

 

 

 

By the Content of our Faith

Scripture: Mark 7:24-30 First, a little background to the passage:  The Jewish people had developed a lot of animosity toward Gentiles, the non-Jewish people. The Gentiles were pagans, god worshippers. Some had sexual rituals…a Jewish person would not go to their homes for fear of being defiled. For one thing, they would abort children in their homes and Jewish people would consider it a cemetery. The idea of Jews was to avoid them all for fear of being defiled by one. To speak with a Gentile was taboo; to speak with a Gentile woman was scandalous.  The religious Jewish people had completely lost the mission they were “chosen” for- “to be a light to the nations” and replaced it with being “chosen” and special as if though God cared for only them and all others were defiled and unworthy.

 Observation: The woman in this story was a Gentile from the southern part of what is now Turkey. She would have been at least a former god/s worshipper of some sort. It is true and clear that Jesus’ mission was to the Jew first. They WERE God’s chosen. But why and what were they chosen for? To be a light to the nations. Jesus interacts with a number of Gentiles, even a female Gentile in the story of the woman at the well, and all of this is highly taboo and unheard of. So it’s important to watch what Jesus DOES, not just what he says. The first thing is that he spoke with this woman at all. This is in and of itself shocking. The Jewish term for Gentiles is often “dog” which denotes being outcast (dogs weren’t pets to them, they were kept outside the cities and were used to clean up other decayed animals. They were more like buzzards in our minds today I suppose). 

Jesus conversation with her is actually intended for the people (primarily Jewish) to overhear. He said what the people are thinking, ‘Why take from the children and give it to the dogs?” or “Why should a Gentile receive benefits intended for Jews?” This was a common idiom, albeit racist, Jesus is quoting from his culture. 

This context continues throughout the New Testament and Paul breaks through that the good news of Jesus IS for all and not merely the Jewish people. It’s hard for us to understand this as Gentiles who are the ones mostly who are believers, but the first context of Christianity was distinctively Jewish.  

Anyway, watch what Jesus DOES. Did he help her? Yes. Was he hesitant to do so? No. Did he want those with him to understand that he came for all? Yes he did. And the economy of the Kingdom is not heritage, it’s faith in the soul and heart. 

It’s hard for us to understand why Jesus would seemingly be so harsh with this woman and even seem to call her a “dog.”  But look carefully and we see that his words aren’t for her; they are for those whose attitudes deemed her unworthy. The closest similar context I can think of would be like a white man in the 60’s where some drinking fountains were for whites only. And there’s a line of people for the “white” water fountain and a black man walks up panting and parched, obviously in great need of water-much more than others in line. And the white man in front of the line turns and says, “Is it right for a black man to drink? Or even ahead of a white man?” And he lets him in front because of his great need. The question is not for himself, nor does it portray his beliefs.  What he DOES shows his beliefs and, while the others may not like it, they understand that what he DOES in that situation states a conviction that he holds.

Of course, while it speaks to racism, Jesus wasn’t talking about that-his focus here is about faith itself.  

Application: What Jesus DOES clearly trumps his words and he is also showing this truth: God accepts us not on the basis of “who we are” but rather by our faith. This woman came to Jesus, not her other gods or anyone else, because she had faith he could help her. He did…because of her faith, not because she had the right background, race, or even morals. Jesus judges not by the color of our skin, our background, or anything other than the content of our faith in Him.

Prayer: I have faith Lord. Help my lack of faith.

God Can…Do I Believe God Will?

Scripture: Matthew 8

Observation: Jesus came healing, casting out demons, rescuing people. He was, and still is, in the seeking and saving business (John 10:10). It’s interesting that the one thing that separated the healed from others is they believed. This word translated believe is the word “faith:” they “faithed.”

The question was not “can Jesus?” The question was will you Jesus? “Because you faithed,’ Jesus said, ‘it has happened.

Application: How often have I believed Jesus “can,” but not that Jesus “will.” When I ask, I must as in faith and believe not merely that God is powerful enough to “do” in my life, but also loves me enough that He “will” in my life.

When requests are made unto God’s glory and not our own fleshly wants, I can boldly ask and know that He “will.”

Prayer: Jesus, you love me. I’ve always believed You can, now I believe that You will as I persevere in faith. My life…into Your capable hands.

Is God Holding Out on You?

Scripture: Matthew 7

Observation: If I keep persisting in prayer; I will receive. When I ask, I can know that God wants to give me good gifts. Keep pursuing, knocking, and the way I should step forward will show itself…the door will open.

Application: I ask, I receive. I ask and continue to do the unrighteous things of the world, then I should not expect to receive from the Lord (why would He give when it would cloud His glory to others rather than clearly reveal it?)

When I ask, God IS hearing and answering. Perhaps He is “holding out” because to give in the immediate circumstances would be less than the best gift. So, I keep asking-not with the attitude that God is withholding from me (as though God could be selfish), but rather trust that God is working out things for the very BEST gifts.

What seems even a disappointment is most likely God setting aside a lesser gift for a greater one.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for not trusting Your goodness and your heart. I know You love me as a precious child. I ask for Your blessings and humbly receive them with gratitude….for Your glory.