Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Under Attack

  There are times when we are convinced that we must have made a wrong turn somewhere.  We still have the conviction that God is leading in a certain direction, and we are doing our best to follow.  The problem is that things have become so difficult that we are sure that we must have missed something along the way.

  This happens both at individual and group levels.  People lose heart and lean towards throwing in the towel because things just aren't going as they had envisioned.  This road was supposed to be smoother, the path straighter.  We are sure of it.  We find ourselves tired and hurt.  At moments like this, it is hard not to look back and ask ourselves, "What went wrong?".  Surely, if we can just sort out the answer to this question, things will get better.  We just have to find where we have strayed, because the path can't be this hard.

2 Corinthians 11:23-33

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, there is that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is caused to stumble, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for evermore knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes in order to take me: and through a window was I let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands. 

  As ambassadors of Christ, we find ourselves in a strange land.  It is a land who's forces have come against us in full measure.  We can rest assured that when we are in His will, nothing can stand against us.  This means that we will be victorious.  His will is going to be accomplished.  The enemy will do anything and everything to stop us, but he will fail.  The only recourse that remains is to convince us to quit.  When the enemy turns on you, it is an attempt to steal the victory that  can never be taken otherwise.  

  I urge you to remember this:

2 Corinthians 4:8

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

  Remain steadfast and cover yourself in prayer.  Pray that those involved in all aspects of your ministry stay the course.  Don't give up your victory.  God certainly won't.  He sees us through in all things.  Keep faith.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yes, you have to do it again...

  Have you ever been called to do something that seemed futile and a complete waste of time?  I had one of those moments recently in preparing for Sunday morning in our home church.
  Sunday was approaching; it was Saturday night, in fact.  I still did not have a message to share for the next morning and there was a mountain of errands to run.  We loaded up the car and headed out.  I did, in that moment, something that I almost never do.  I asked Kendra to drive.  I climbed into the passenger seat with my Bible and ipad.  Shortly thereafter, I decided it was pointless, and set my Bible aside.  I was just going to wait until I got home.  God had a different plan.

  I was suddenly drawn to pray on the matter.  I did.  Then I opened my Bible to nowhere in particular and started to read.  There it was, a passage from 1 Samuel.  I knew this was it.  Then came the other problem.  I was getting nothing out of it.  I put everything aside and we ran our errands.  

  On the way home (it was a bit of a drive to the next town) I put together my notes for that message.  I then read through my notes and decided this couldn't possibly be it.  We arrived at home, put the kids to bed, and I returned to my Bible in prayer.  Again, I was drawn to the same passage.  I started again, and was coming up with the same notes.  What was God trying to tell me?  I just wasn't grasping it.  I prayed again, begging for God to intervene if this was not right.  I did not want to make the mistake of delivering a message that was nothing but a well intended guess on my part.

  Sunday morning came and I didn't feel any better about the message.  I had no doubt that this was what I was supposed to be sharing, but had no idea where it was going to go.  I prayed for the epiphany that I hoped was only moments away.  We progressed through the children's worship service and the lesson that followed.  We moved into the adult service, still no epiphany.

  Worship moved into the message.  We prayed.  The selected passage was read aloud.  I started to read through my notes one last time, but stopped and instead just listened to the Word as it was read aloud.  When I again looked at my notes the words were the same, but there was a whole new meaning.  I was reading them in a different light.  I started to speak.  The words came from my mouth, but not from my understanding.  I was hearing this message as I was sharing it.

  Tears and prayer followed.  This was a word that was needed.  God had moved in my complete lack of understanding and made His message clear.  I stood there in awe, and then remembered the children's lesson from only an hour or so before.

  Luke 5: 4 - 11

  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch"
  Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.   So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, LORD; I am a sinful man!"  For he and all of his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
  Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men."  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him.

  These men were fishermen, they knew their craft.  They knew those waters.  There was no reason for them to think that what they had done over and over all night would bring a different result now.  Yet they trusted and obeyed the LORD.  They were blessed with an unexpected result.  What they knew did not matter.  It went out the window and was replaced by what God intended to do.

  Jesus did two things in that moment.  He blessed them with a large catch as a lesson in faith.  He also used something that they did understand, and did with it the impossible, to reveal something that they never would have grasped in any other way.  They were to be the start of a ministry that would change the world for God, overflowing church after church, just as Christ had done with the fish in their boat.

  It was this sort of thing that God had done for me with that Sunday morning message.  He took what I thought I understood and used it to teach me something I never would have caught any other way.

  Yes, I do intend to share that lesson at some point, but the one that I learned in the process warrants pondering in the mean time.  I should have remembered this:

  Proverbs 3: 5

  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

  We would all do well to remember this lesson from time to time.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Heart of a Servant

  Consider this:

   Genesis 18: 1-8

  The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was  sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.  Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.  When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
  He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.  Let a little water be brought, and then you may wash all your feet and rest under this tree.  Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant."
  "Very well," they answered, "do as you say."
  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah.  "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of flour and knead it and bake some bread."
  Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender, calf and gavce it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.  He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them.  While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

  Abraham didn't have to have someone tell him that it was right to honor the Lord.  He knew it from day one.  God had made a promise to Abraham, and was, from Abraham's perspective, yet to deliver.  Yet, this did not stop him from paying the Lord due honor and respect.

  He approached God with the heart of a servant, and one eager to please.  He begged the Lord for the honor of His presence.  He asked only to serve Him.  God honored this request and more.

  We can learn a great deal from this father of Israel.  What could be better than to stand in the presence of the LORD?  What could possibly compare?

  Christ came to us and showed us how to live.  He showed us in word and deed that our role is that of a servant.  We are to serve the Lord.  Jesus made it clear what form this service to God should take.  We are to spread His gospel.  We are to minister to one another.  He who will always be the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, was a servant to us.  As Christians, we strive to follow after our Lord.  It is our joy to follow His example.  We are to have the heart of a servant.

  What boon will you beg of the Lord?  For Abraham, it was the joy of service in His presence.

  "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Bread of Life rejected...

Read John 6: 25-71

Christ lays it out for the disciples very simply.  He tells the truth of His mission, and what He is giving up, that we all may have life.

Jesus is the bread of life.  Unless we eat this bread and drink this cup, we shall not have life within us. Those who believe in Hm will have everlasting life. Nobody comes to Christ without the father's call. The Spirit gives life and the flesh counts for nothing.  We must accept this and put our faith in Him rather than the things of this world.

This is so important, that it was this, the breaking of the bread, that He used to reveal himself to the disciples when He came to them when He had risen.

People, his own disciples; People who had been with Him through miracle after miracle, teaching after teaching, left Him when they heard this message.  There is nothing new about people rejecting the truth of the gospel.  It breaks our hearts.  We believers, trying to spread the message of Jesus, desire to see the whole world saved by the truth of who He is and what He has done.  We just can't understand how people can hear the truth and walk away.

They walked away from Him.  He did not give up.  He did not quit.  They nailed Him to a tree.  Still He saves us.  He gave us His word, Hs love, His power through the Holy Spirit, knowing we would turn on Him and put Him to death.  None of this stopped Him.  How can we, who are so much less than He who is God, even consider letting embarrassment or ignorance stop us from fulfilling His commission for us all?  We are called to be like Christ.  He did not stop teaching  because many would not listen.  He knew that those who would listen, those who would believe, were worth it.  To Him, we were worth even the pain of the cross.

John 6: 63-64 "The spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you who do not believe."