21 May 2010

Be Wary – Be Ready

2 Corinthians 5:5
Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Religion permeates culture. There has never been a society in the annuls of recorded history that did not have a religion. It is inarguable that inside the created man, there is a yearning in one's heart to seek the/a higher power. Why they seek that higher power could come under a number of guises. Times are hard and we can no longer cope. We go through an event where we suddenly realize that we are not in control of our lives. Someone told them they need to look for it. Or perhaps the soul that was created by God in them is crying out to be heard, and reunited with the Father. But, no matter what the cause or reason, no society has ever developed that did not have religion. Bottom line, you cannot have a culture without religion.

Keep this in mind however. There have been societies that have tried to not have any religion. Cultures and nations that have prohibited God, and made it illegal to worship a creator. In every case, those nations, societies and godless experiments have failed. Think about that. From biblical times on through today, every nation that has eliminated God from its culture has crumbled and failed. Why? Not because God made it so. Man is not just entrusted with the gospel message to pass on and share, he has also be given an even greater gift that bears even greater personal responsibility: Free Will. Because of that, man can reject God. We can elect people to positions of power and authority who reject God. A government can reject God. But when this rejection comes full circle, it always brings failure, because the Spirit in man will always cry out for God! It's simply how we are made. There can be no culture without religion.

At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus gave us a final command. The Great Commission it is called. Some people call it a mandate, or a command, which of course it is. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations". To mw this means two things:

  1. We cannot make successful believers and not make disciples. In other words, sharing the gospel is not enough. We must make disciples of these people who come to know Jesus, not just count their acceptance of Jesus as their Lord and savior as another notch in our belt and then leave them to muddle their way through life without fellowship, teaching and counseling.
  2. We cannot make successful nations without making the people in them disciples of Jesus.

We can argue the definition of 'successful' in light of this context. Is getting saved, coming to know and understand that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, the only Gatekeeper to heaven, and the only mediator between God and man a success story? Sure. And one can argue that this is enough. But will this person ever reach their potential, will this person ever be able to pursue what God has dreamed for them if they do not soak themselves in the Word of God? Anything can happen, God is sovereign, but we are not called to be lazy Christians. We are called to be active in prayer, in fellowship, in rightly dividing the Word, sharpening each other as we discuss and meditate on what God shows us. In this context, only fulfilling your true potential is a great success. As Paul tells us, we must run the race to win! And as Richard Petty once said (for all you fellow red-necks out there), "second place is just another name for the first loser." To be successful in accordance with the Great Commission, you must be able and willing to go out, to places where you are not comfortable (all the world mind you), and not just take the message of Christ, but also be willing to invest in people. You must be willing to make disciples!

In the same vein, what makes a successful nation? Is it longevity alone? Is it economic or military strength? Is it world influence? A nation can be successful at or because of all these things. But the success would be temporary if that success is not used for good, and if that success is not used to make disciples. For over 200 years our nation has done that. We have used our power and influence to make disciples. We were founded as, and widely known as a Christian nation. As a matter of fact that is the sole reason that many of the world's nation hate us. Seems like our government is the only government on the plant that does not recognize us as Christian. Our 'success' is waning. And it is because as a nation, we are no longer making disciples. Not just Christians, but disciples.

Our nation has made other people all over the world disciples of democracy, disciples of freedom, and disciples of a free-market, free-religious society. But as the world progressed into a post-modern juggernaut, the influence began to work in a backwards fashion, and before you knew it, our intellectuals were turning their back on our Christian heritage, and embracing the call of the world to post-modern humanism where God is no longer welcome. Seems now, that because we are still a Christian nation that our nation is no longer welcome on the world stage. Seems following a successful revolt of a tyrannical government that had lied, cheated and stole from its subjects (ironic that the British Crown could so smugly call the people of the American colonies their 'subjects' and not wince at the fact that the very title itself made us little more than slaves to the crown), that being proud of your success was accepted on the world stage. Now, successful nations are looked down upon and are being toppled and dismantled from within because the new influence no longer answers or even recognizes the call of their hearts. Our nation is no longer making disciples of other nations. Freedom seems to be accepted as a natural thing, but yet there is no recognition that it does not come without a high price.

We must continue to make disciples as people, as individuals. If we do this, our nation will again make disciples of other nations. Why? Because inside the heart of every man is a spirit crying out to God, seeking that higher power. If we lead, they will follow. If we become like them, we will look like so many sheep in a flock of millions all walking in different directions. But to properly do this, we must be ready. And we must be informed.

Be in the word every day. Come to know and understand scripture like you do the directions to work or to school. Be able to quote biblical history like you can quote your own family history; after all it is. Be wary of false teachers and false prophets. Test them against the Word of God sand the Spirit of God. Know the truth so that you can recognize what's false. Be in church often, and not just so you can say you went to church. Go to a church where you are going to get fed, not pandered. God will you will grow, and sometimes that is not easy, that's why they call them 'growing pains'. Go where you are going to be stretched. Stretching tired muscles and old scars can be painful too. Don't go to church where they train you to make 'friends' with everyone, go where you have been trained to make disciples of everyone.

20 May 2010


Luke 2:46-50

46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously."
49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

I was reading a book the other day that took me to this passage. I was amazed, just like Joseph and Mary, by some of the things that the Lord revealed to me in these sentences. It reveals so much about the character of Jesus, both as God and as a human.

First of all, let's just say this: This was not the last time that Jesus was misunderstood. But, near as I can tell, it is the first time that we see it in scripture, chronologically speaking. Let's set the stage.

Jesus is 12 years old. His family had gone to Jerusalem for Passover. Remember that Passover is more than just a day. It is the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. It comes in the fall each year and commemorates the several things. Firstly, the Passover itself; the salvation of the Hebrew people as God sent the angel of death into the land of Egypt, sparing those who had sacrificed the innocent and spotless lamb and painting its blood on the door posts and lintels of their doors. But it is also the beginning of a week-long celebration called the Feast of Unleavened bread. This Feast is to commemorate the leaving of Egypt in such haste that they could take no risen bread with them. For this reason they wandered 40 years in the wilderness where the Israelites were provided manna from heaven. For this reason, the family would usually be 'in town' for more than a week. The Feast of Tabernacles is full of daily worship, fun and fellowship. Families get together and mingle like this is a weeklong family reunion, which in essence, it really is. When it came time to go, Jesus stayed behind. Not out of disobedience or meanness, but because he was used to spending time at the temple. At age twelve in preparation for his Bar-Mizpah (meaning 'son of promise' or 'son of covenant'), Jesus would have been to the temple for the first time. The sights, the sounds, the smells, and the teachings!

Joseph and Mary leave Jerusalem, and unknowingly leave the 12 year old Jesus behind. Not out of neglect, but at a weeklong family reunion, you get used to the kids being gone to play, and one parent assumes the other knows where he is. In a frantic state, Joseph and Mary discover that their son is missing, and back to Jerusalem, swimming upstream against the tide of pilgrims heading back home, they finally find Jesus three days later. That's where the scripture picks up the story.

There's Jesus, sitting in the midst of the Rabbi's, the teachers. He is both 'listening and asking questions'. But more to the point of the amazing character of this little boy, the teachers are astonished at Jesus. Why? Well, for two reasons:

  1. His understanding of what they were teaching.
  2. Because of His answers.

His answers? While the text does not say so in so many words, the very discussion not only implied but portends to reveal that they were asking questions of Jesus and He was answering! There was a heart in this human boy that melted before the Father. His love for the Father drove Him to be attentive, obedient, and to seek all that He could learn to know of the Father. It tells us that He was fully man, and this His omnipotence was set aside so that He could learn just like every other 12 year old of His time. Matter of fact, verse 52 states that He increased in wisdom and stature and favor with God & men!

Then came the remarks of Mom and Dad. Paraphrasing: "Jesus! You have caused PANIC in us! We have feared for your life! We were so afraid! Why did you for this!?"

Here Jesus responds, and sets the stage for His ministry to come. Here, at the temple, in front of the teachers and His parents, he reveals in carefully chosen words what His life was to be from that point on. It was to be about the Father's business. And like so many others that would follow in their footsteps in try, the earthly parents of Jesus do not understand Him.

Jesus was, and still is, not understood by many. As Christians we need to live our lives as if we are about the Father's business. We, the believers of today, are the representatives, emissaries or Ambassadors if you will, of God on earth. Many people do not understand that. Even those, just like Joseph and Mary, very close to Jesus. It just doesn't all click. We live to serve Him and represent Him. All the rest is peripheral to our calling and mission. At twelve, Jesus was sold-out to God the Father. At 3, 4, 5 or 6 times that age, some of us walk around wondering if we are, or worse yet, know that we are not.

Jesus came to this earth with a mandate and with authority. Sadly, most Christians do not realize that we have the same mandate and authority. I'm not saying that you are I are little "Jesus'", or that we too cane become "God' or 'godlike'. Not at all. What I am saying is that the authority of God rests on us as His Ambassadors. There is authority in God's Word, we need to put that in use! God has given us this authority. Scripture tells us that we have been "entrusted" with God's gospel (I Thess. 2:4), and that as pastors, we have been "entrusted" with an authority over our flocks (1 Peter 5:3) that we are to use, but not abuse.

The authority found in God's Word will amaze! It will astonish! It will also confuse. Some people will not understand. But if you do not share it, deliver it, show it, live it with authority, you are short-selling what God has given us; POWER. Not to harm or to lord over people, or to force people against their will, but power to heal with His tender words of mercy. Power to bring light into darkness, power to bring peace where there is unrest. Power to bring life where now lives death.

That is authority. Showing the gospel in your life, give people an example of what a person serving Jesus should look like. Sharing the gospel with someone and exposing them to that saving grace of Jesus is power. It can't be had anywhere else. And it is yours and mine to use. Let us use it more often, in His name.

17 May 2010

The Power of Prayer

I know, you've seen this title a million times before. Rightfully, the power of prayer is a subject that should be frequently covered. I have stated many times myself that prayer is the most powerful, yet most under-used tool that the Christian has. A direct link to the Creator cannot be over looked or understated. What could be a more efficient administrative chain than to have the lowliest of people on the chain have direct access to the one highest? Having this direct link we use it (when we deem necessary, but not nearly frequent enough) with great efficiency and joy. We see results from it sometimes instantaneously, and because of these results we most often look at the power of prayer in its ability to bring resolution and direct intervention by God as its most powerful trait. But there is much, so much more to the power of prayer.

Our family is moving forward right now through an emotionally stressed time. Sonja's Grandmother passed away last week, and so this week brings the memorials, visits from extended family, planning and logistics that all have to be ironed out and dealt with that go along with such events. Being believers we of course have a different outlook than other members of the family, and we deal with things in different ways than those who have different world (or heaven) views. The pain of a family member lost is tempered by the sight of long lost relatives and the warm hugs and restored friendships of those who have been left behind as we move along with our lives.

As we work through eternal issues with temporal emotions, even the most dedicated Christian will have times when they need a good cry, or feel the need to ask the question "why?" It is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith or understanding of the sovereignty of God it is more than that, and it points out another power that is in prayer.

When a person prays to God, they are doing more than just seeking divine guidance, assistance or intervention. They are doing more than seeking to have direct contact with the Creator, and bring to the all powerful One the things that are in their hearts. A person praying is doing far more than seeking out from God that which he or she cannot provide for themselves, or to solve an issue or intervene in an event that is far beyond their control and completely beyond their ability to fix. While all of these things can be true, what is perhaps even more important is this: It is man doing what comes natural. It is man showing his basest of instincts; seeking God to show them His love.

A.W. Tozer once wrote, "For that man of woman who has been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, the most natural thing for that person to do is lift his or her heart in prayer and praise God. God put that desire there. God put that response there. And redemption unleashes its capacity." You see the real power of prayer is not that it brings results, or that god is sure to hear you, or that all your prayers are heard, but simply that it brings man closer to God!

Prayer often brings man to his knees before God. It is hard to be arrogant when we are kneeling before someone. Prayer is a self realized conclusion expressing that you are subservient to One greater than yourself. Prayer is placing yourself under the headship of the One who can answer that prayer. Prayer is the main sponsor of humility. Psalm 25:9 says, "The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way."

The power of prayer is the power to unite the lost with their God. The power of prayer, again, the most common and natural reaction for mankind to have in times of need, a most natural of instincts known to man, is a builder of bridges between the lost and the found. Its power is in its ability to bring eternal life to the prayer. This is truly the power of prayer.

Do not ever hesitate to lift what is on your heart to God in prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that we should hold back nothing, but bring all things to God in prayer, with thanksgiving and that God's peace, which will be far from our own understanding will be the result. Exercise the power of prayer today, and get reacquainted with God.