Bible

Abide

Learning to Abide

I love the word “abide.” It comes from the Greek word monē (monay). Twice it appears in John 14.

The first time is in John 14:2: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” The English phrase “dwelling places” is the Greek word for abide.

The place Jesus wants us to abide forever is with him. Amazing!

The second time is in John 14:23: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” There it is again. This time in the form of “abode.”

The place God desires to abide is with us. Amazing!

Think about this for just a few moments or so. Sure God could snap his fingers and instantly change everything…automatically we humans would be disallowed from messing things up. We’d look to him perfectly…without reflection, without choice. Like automatons. However, that wouldn’t be love…neither from God or from us. So, while he doesn’t like it, he let’s us mess up…but all the while he’s wooing us back…calling…imploring…abide with me. Amazing!

 

 

Standard
Life's Moments

A Simple Invitation

Over the years in our youth ministry we have often discussed “God Bombs.” I learned the power of their effectiveness from my wife, Vanita. They are just simple, yet meaningful and timely, name dropping opportunities. Here’s how it works…

Sally, the soccer mom, sees Molly, another soccer mom, by being at most of the practice sessions and soccer games in which their two little girls participate. The little girls become instant friends. Sally and Molly take a little longer. Sally works at a relationship of integrity. The ladies become “soccer mom friends.” Time passes. They talk about many things. They share about their likes, their dislikes. They Facebook. They meet for coffee. Trust levels increase. They become friends, not just “soccer mom friends.” One day Molly seems a bit agitated. Sally, doesn’t pry, but as always she is friendly and encouraging. They sit with one another observing the game. They cheer. They chat about the usual small talk. Molly then says something out of the ordinary. She complains, not terribly, just simply about something her husband did. Sally just listens. She makes no observations. She just listens. She lets Molly be Molly. Maybe the only words she utters are something like, “Molly, I’m sorry things are not going as well as you like.” Something simple like that. Time passes. Days pass. Friendship grows. Molly talks. Sally is a good friend. One day, who knows why this day, maybe it just feels right, Molly once again is discouraged and shares something personal. In response, Sally says, “That must be frustrating. I don’t know what I would do without prayer when I deal with tough times.” She then goes right back to listening. That’s a God bomb.

Over time, Sally refers to her life with the Savior as simply and as meaningfully as she refers to her family, her hopes, her dreams, her daughter’s last game, her work, and what she has cooking in the oven. She and Molly become good friends. She doesn’t drop the entire Book of Romans on Molly as they discuss their lives with one another. However, over time, it becomes rather obvious to Molly how important the Lord is to Sally–and it doesn’t repel, it compels. One day it all falls into place. Sally has prayed and prayed for her friend. Molly’s heart is open to a simple invitation. It might look a little like this brief video…except, of course, it will be far more in keeping with the special nature of the friendship shared between Sally and Molly. It may be an invitation to a concert, to church, a retreat, or, better still, it may be an invitation to the Savior. But it won’t be awkward. It won’t be stiff. It will be a simple invitation…one as simple and natural as an invitation to meet for lunch.

Standard
Uncategorized

God Loves

God the Father when he breaks his silence:

Mark 1:11  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The Father unleashing his glory:

Matthew 17:5  a bright cloud…a voice from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Jesus on why he would die:

John 14:31a  “But that the world may know that I love the Father.”

It’s amazing! The transcendent, never created, always eternally there, infinite perfection of one God in three persons, when speaking of one another, say, “This is the one I love.” Perfect love. Agenda harmony love. Love that produces only the ultimate best.

When Jesus prayed before dying:

John 17:23c,d  “that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me.”

What!? The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Father loves his followers just as, even as, the same as he loves the One and Only Begotten Son!

More than amazing! The transcendent, eternal, infinite, perfect creator… above, beyond, and utterly other than his creation…in love chooses to be immanent, here, personally present with us.

Breathtaking…the love that God has for you.

Standard
Bible

A Fifty Year Reunion About Salvation

What a beautiful verification of God’s amazing call in the life of missionaries Don and Carol Richardson and their children. What a beautiful verification of God’s amazing grace among the once cannibal headhunters known as the Sawi. This is truly a must see.

The book to the left tells the incredible mission of Don and Carol to the Sawi people. The video below tells the amazing story of Don’s 50 year reunion with the Sawi.

Standard
Bible, Life's Moments

A Glimpse of Heaven

glimpse of heaven 150

A dear friend of mine sent me a slide show of the magnificent statue “Christ the Redeemer” that stands atop Mt.Corcovado overlooking Rio de Janeiro. The statue—standing 38 meters from foot to head—was designed by Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa and created by Frenchman Paul Landowski. Their work not only stands as a testament to their genius, but to our Savior. In my friend’s email, I read, “I will hold this dream close to my heart to one day make this climb and see this in person. I can only imagine !!!!!”

I can not agree with her more. I believe I would stand in absolute awe if I ever had the privilege of visiting this monument to Jesus. The pictures she sent stirred my heart…but not simply for a visit to Rio de Janeiro. It was something else. The pictures made me wonder, so I answered my friend’s email. The words I wrote then are for everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus.

“I hope you will one day fulfill your dream. I can only imagine what standing at the base of that giant statue must be like…but how much more so walking into the out-stretched arms of our Savior Jesus in heaven. Can you imagine? He embraces you. You melt into his hug. Your eyes peer over his shoulder…and you behold the vista of heaven. Rolling on and on before you is the splendor of eternity. Inhabiting the landscape is Moses…Solomon…Deborah… Rahab… Peter…Gideon…angels, my oh my, angels… seraphim and cherubim…and look, there’s Michael.

Dotting the hills and valleys and plains and mountains are mansions prepared for each of the Savior’s followers. Almost overlooked, because you gaze upon this magnificence, are the loved ones who inhabit some of those houses of holiness. On earth, you missed them ever so greatly. Now they surround the throne of God with their hands reaching toward you. No, not you. They reach toward Jesus. And then, then—only after they have filled their eyes with the Lamb of God—they turn their eyes upon you and you glory in their welcome.

Nearly undone with the millions of sensory inputs cascading through your very soul, you glance down ever so briefly only to behold that upon which you stand. Could it be? A sea of crystal? You see into it. Down into it. Deep, deep, deep down…as if it might descend to infinity. It undulates with the rhythm of heaven. Yet it is more solid than any place you have ever before placed your feet.

Having witnessed infinity at the feet of Jesus, you think to look up. The glow of the light of Christ illuminates an expanse so vast no eye can penetrate its reach. At one and the same time you see worlds flickering in the distance as you once did on earth, but you also see them up close and personal as if you were walking upon them…and at once you realize you are no longer exercising earthly eyesight, but heavenly eyesight. Never again will you see as through a mirror darkly. All of this. All of this is yours, but not yours. It is the Lord’s—and he gives it to you without reservation. You see it. You experience it. You revel in it. You long to explore it…and then that wonder fades. You look no longer upon the vistas of heaven. You no longer peer over the shoulder of Jesus. You lift your head. You turn it ever so slightly. You lift your eyes…and they meet his…can you imagine…you look into the very eyes of love and compassion and sacrifice and wisdom and grace and peace and righteousness and mercy. Yet none of these compares to something else you see.

You see God. The eternal. The infinite. The Spirit. And you finally understand. The limits of time and space and matter have been stripped away. You observe the very mystery of creation and all that was eternal before creation. Your heart accelerates. The love you feel is overwhelming. If it were not for his hug, you would fall upon your face before him. Yet still you look into his eyes…deep into an endless gaze…and you see one more thing. You see something no other will ever see. You see into the heart of the everlasting second member of the Trinity. You see him spreading his arms out wide upon that old rugged cross. You see into his soul and mind…and you see you. There in that most important moment of history…in all of his agony…as he became a sin sacrifice for the world…you were front and center in his thoughts. As blood spilled upon his now unrecognizable face, the corners of his lips lifted, because…because he smiled.

Oh my God, my marvelous God, he smiled. He smiled for you. He did. He does. He always will.

Standard
Bible, Life's Moments

Evangelism Hero…for Guys

One thing I think we can agree on is this: every man would give treasure and fame for one moment in which he could rescue a damsel in distress while delivering a Chuck Norris round house kick to the dastardly villain. Sweeping the fair maiden up in one arm, he would first use his free hand to tuck his nunchuks in his belt, tie the bad guy up with the telephone cord just ripped from the wall, then jump to safety from the third floor window, deliver the damsel into the waiting arms of her awed, but now annoyed boyfriend, and then disappear into the quiet of the night with the soft voices of the crowd drifting along in the wind, saying, “Who was that guy?”

In fact, if truth be known, there are few men who would not heed the call to battle if it meant saving someone’s life. He would run through fire, swim through ice, sling rocks at giants, wield a sword against the talons of a dragon or an M-16 against a terrorist. He would offer his final half-ounce of water in a burning desert, tie the last parachute on the back of anyone but himself while the plane spiraled toward the ground, or dangle by the strength of only his finger tips over a precipice of peril to reach a fallen and frightened stranger.

You would do this. Wouldn’t you? Though the socially polite thing to say when asked this question is, “Well, I would like to think I would act heroic, but I guess you don’t really know until you’re faced with the situation for real.” However, deep inside, deep in your heart of hearts, you just know. You know you would take up the challenge. It would seem like instinct, but upon further reflection, as you looked back on your David against Goliath moment, you would know. You would know that you had been preparing for that moment your whole life.

“3, 2, 1, swish. Buzzzzzz!”

“Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Bases loaded. Down by three. Pitcher’s ahead, no balls, two strikes. Pitcher seizes his advantage. It’s a fast ball low and away. You have to protect the plate. Swing. Foul ball. Next pitch. Same location. Change up. It throws your timing off a fraction. Swing! Another foul ball. Next pitch. Heater high and inside. Foul ball. Pitcher starts to sweat. He delivers the pitch. The fatal mistake. A curve ball intended to leave you standing. But you know it’s yours. One micromeasurement too little from the pitchers wrist-snap. The curve ball hangs. Crack off the fat of the bat. Walk off homerun.”

“Run, run, dive, tuck, roll, back up again. Bopbopbopbopbop fires from the barrel of your Thompson 45…and then you see it…the white flag of surrender. Your enemy has met his match.”

“You hear the creak of a floorboard and a small thud as something goes bump in the night. Every fiber in your radar starts to tingle. You pick up your 19 inch, 6 D-cell MagLite and silently position yourself hidden behind a corner. Soft foot steps indicate someone drawing closer. A stranger! An intruder! In less than a second you realize your precious family is in jeopardy. Swing! Down slams the 50 oz MagLite against the jaw line of the creeper’s head. He goes down. He’s out. You turn on lights. Check for weapons. Secure them. Remove his belt. Bind his hands behind his back. Only then does anyone else finally enter the same room. Quickly, you demand, “Call 911.” You stand sentinel over the bad guy.”

A thousand scenarios have played themselves out through your imagination. You’ve been preparing. You are prepared.

In fact, even this one seems possible: “A left, a right, a round-house kick. Down goes Chuck Norris!”

In true moments of victory, your evaluation would not be pride. It would not be arrogance. No, it would be a simple evaluation of something you have always known. There would be no need to inform anyone else. It would be more than enough to have that certain knowledge now safely tucked away in your Man Portfolio. Stamp it bright red with “For Your Eyes Only” and then file it under H for Hero. Pull it out every now and then, not to gloat, but to prepare yourself even better for the next magical moment.

You can relate to this, right? Then why is it that so many of us who know Jesus as our Savior, know his truth as our wisdom, walk with his Spirit as our scout, and acknowledge his Father King as our Liege Lord, fail to heed his call to arms? Why do we pass by as Satan’s victims languish in the bowels of his infernal kingdom of darkness?

Why, especially since one of the most often used motifs in the Lord’s Great Commission strategy is the motif of rescue?

Look. In Luke 4:14 through 19 we read,

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  

In Mark 10:45, we hear the Savior say, 

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In John 8:34-36 we read about when Jesus said,

Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The Holy Spirit of God moved the Apostles of God to pick up this motif and record it in the word of God.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:17 and 18,

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

When writing to a young pastor, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:2 through 4,

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote (10:3-5),

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Let there be no doubt, there are damsels in distress. There are feeble men with neither the physical presence nor spiritual strength to engage the spiritual combat of our times. There are weak-willed women walking like zombies into the pit of despair. There are wonderful little children, confused and frightened, covering their eyes both at night and in the broad day light. There are teenagers acting brave on the outside, but running scared from what torments them on the inside. And there is a dragon on the loose (Revelation 12:1-17). He’s looking to scorch every man, woman, and child. And there is a roaring lion on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8). He is looking to devour the rich and the poor, the big and the small, the busy and the lazy. The dragon would torch his own mother if he had one. The lion would consume his own pride if he thought it would help his cause. The dragon is foul of breath and the lion is fierce of stench…for those with spiritual sense. For the blind, the lost, the unbelieving…the lion covers himself in light…a flimsy raiment of white silk…and the gullible fall for it until it is too late. They have but one hope: the Lord of Hosts and those of his who will rally to the sound of his voice…Go, therefore, into all the world.

The enemy’s challenge is no different than a rude man talking offensively to your wife, mother, sister, or girl-friend. This is the same as a neighborhood bully slapping your precious ten year old daughter. This smacks of the same evil as the users and abusers who lead our boys and young men away. This is terror. This is abuse. This is crime. This is kidnapping. This is false accusation, slavery, discrimination, and torture. This is war!

This is why the Holy Spirit guided Jude to write in verses 20 through 23,

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

When we leap into the fire, when we charge across the battle field, when we bend down to lift a child from the dung-heap of humanity, when we take up weapons of spiritual warfare, we are to outfit ourselves in the gospel armor. This is not jihad. It is the firm conviction and faithful compassion of a tender warrior. The Apostle Paul wrote this very thing to the First Church of Ephesus:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

When Jesus readied himself to return to his Father’s side he prepared his disciples for the departure. Central to his instructions is what we have come to call the Great Commission. It was not the Great Suggestion. It was not the Great Sound Bite. It was not the Great Encouragement. It was delivered as marching orders…it was the Great Commandment, the Great Objective, the Great Cause, the Great Commission. So, if like that first batch of disciples, we want to be ready in season and out we need to ask ourselves some questions. And just so it lands close to home, let’s be sure the questions are voiced in the first person singular.

1.         What am I celebrating lately regarding my part in the Great Commission?

2.         Do I really believe people need to be snatched from the fire? How is the prospect of a Christ-less eternity for the lost demonstrated in my worldview?

3.         In Mark 2:40-45, I can read about Jesus touching a leper. The Bible said he (Jesus) was moved by compassion. Is this true of me? If I prepare like a ninja to protect my family or to rescue damsels in distress, what would preparing for this kind of compassion look like?

●  How do I assess the needs of people I know who do not know the Savior?

●  How do I assess the needs of people I meet occasionally?

●  How do I assess the needs of those I may only meet once?

●  In what ways do I have consistent contact with unchurched people?

●  How do I identify and build relationships with the pre-Christians in my life?

4.         When I look at the following chart of evangelism styles, where do I see myself? If I asked my closest loved ones, what might be their evaluation?

Let there be no doubt, only one of these quadrants is biblical: missional. Let there also be no doubt, I do not have today’s nuance in mind when I use the word “missional.” In stead, I mean it in its normal sense: the sense that points to every believer being on mission. With this in mind: the Church is a missionary force and every born-again believer is a missionary.

5.         In what ways do I help my local church to corporately work at evangelism?

●  If the following statement is true, “Some give so others can go,” what am I doing to facilitate its truth?

●  What other resources do I have or can I acquire to facilitate the above statement?

●  When was the last time I balanced my Great Life-style vs. my Great Commission ledger?

Just thinking out loud. Peace.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14.15 NIV

Standard