Facing the Final Curtain

•May 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There is a song which says in part “and now, the end is near and I face the final curtain”.  The lyrics suggest the end of life as “the final curtain” – the last act in the drama of life.  The challenge for many is the uncertainty of what the final act in the drama of life will be.  We fear death because we are unsure of what death holds.  Of course, as a follower of Christ, a person can be confident in life after death.  Jesus Christ declared Himself to be “the Resurrection, and the Life” and He said that the one who believes in Him will never die and the one who believes in Him, though the person be dead, he shall live again (see the gospel of John 11:25-26).  Still, even followers of Christ can sometimes find themselves in dread of death – especially when the death is someone the love.

In such cases, the person who believes in Christ and is facing the death of a friend or family member can take courage from God’s instruction to Joshua when God called Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the land God had promised to give them.  In Joshua 1:9, we read “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Notice that last phrase – “your God is with you wherever you go”.  Just as God promised to be with Joshua as he obeyed God’s command and moved forward in a role and into a place where much uncertainty awaited, you and I can move confidently forward through our greatest fear even when we don’t understand what lies ahead.  Our confidence is not necessarily based on our ability to believe.  Rather, the basis of our confidence is the certainty of our God’s presence with us in all things.  Somehow, as I walk with yet another family through the valley of the death of a loved one, I am encouraged by God’s promise of His company.  Aren’t you?

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Hindrance to Intimacy with God

•May 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Most of us who claim to be followers of Christ would affirm that we desire intimacy with God.  We practice disciplines we believe help us grow in our closeness with the Heavenly Father.  We pray, we read the Bible, we attend church, we even participate in small groups.  Some of us go to conferences and seminars to seek ways to grow closer to God.  Still, for many of us, that goal of knowing God in a more personal and genuinely experiential manner seems elusive and difficult to achieve.  What could make it so difficult to have intimacy with the God who has loved us so much He gave His Only Begotten Son for us so we could be in relationship with Him?

I recently ran across a statement in a daily devotional provided by Dr. Charles Stanley which said, “Animosity toward another person and intimacy with God cannot coexist in the same heart”.  Suddenly, it seemed so obvious to me that having intimacy with God while at the same time having animosity or hatred or bitterness in our spirit is like trying to merge two completely opposite passions.  God, by His very nature, is love (1 John 4:8).  To know Him intimately is to engage in connecting with His nature (love).  When I harbor feelings contrary to love within me, I have formed a barrier between my inner being and my Heavenly Father.  His love is so amazing He has demonstrated its measure when He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins while we were still enemies against God!  When God is so loving and goes to such great lengths to demonstrate His love, how can I expect to draw intimately close to Him without taking on His loving nature?

Reflecting on Dr. Stanley’s comment “nimosity toward another person and intimacy with God cannot coexist in the same heart”, I have come to realize that the intimacy I desire with God may not be as far away as I once believed.  Maybe all I need to do is simply allow God to mold me into a more loving person so that my nature no longer opposes His but joins with His loving character.  What about you?  Are thoughts of animosity, anger, bitterness and the like keeping you from the close, personal relationship with God you really desire?  Let’s seek God’s help in becoming more like Christ – loving one another as He loved us!

The Tactics of Jesus In Evangelism

•May 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As I read the account of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John, chapter 4, this morning, I had some thoughts about the tactics of Jesus in an evangelistic situation.  I would enjoy your feedback and thoughts as I am trying to grow in my own ability at seizing the moment when presented with a chance to present the Gospel.  I began with the thought that Jesus was INTENTIONAL about evangelism.  In John 4:1-5, we find that Jesus was at the well in the middle of the day by actions He intentionally took.  Notice the latter part of JOHN 4:5 (So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.)  I also noticed that Jesus met the woman where she was: at the well.  He did not wait for her to come to one of His teaching sessions.  He went to a place where people go to find water.  I see a tactic here that I could make us of:  going where people gather.  Perhaps we could find people at a popular hangout such as a park, a coffee bar, a book store lounge area, etc.

Question:  How INTENTIONAL are we in seeking out opportunities to encounter others who need to hear the Gospel?

Next, I noticed that Jesus INITIATED a conversation by engaging the woman about her activity.  She came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink of water (John 4:7).  My observation is that one way to begin a conversation about the Gospel would be to engage a person in conversation about their activity.  Start a conversation with them beginning with something they are already engaged in.

Another important think I noticed about the tactics of Jesus in this evangelistic opportunity is that He did not allow the woman to draw Him away from His purpose.  When the woman inquires of Jesus why He would even speak to her, let alone ask her for water, Jesus does not waver from His course.  He uses the opportunity to create interest in what He is about to do.  Notice JOHN 4:10 (10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”)  What a clever way to spark interest in spiritual matters!  Instead of entering into a conversation about inter-racial relations and bias, Jesus focuses on the more important aspect of “living water”.  How could the woman not be at least a little curious?

She is and she asks Jesus about how He is going to get this “living water” since she notices He doesn’t even have anything to draw water up from a well with.  Once again, Jesus stays on track by clearly stating the benefits of the “living water” He is about to offer in JOHN 4:13-14 (13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”)

Question:  How can we better focus our spiritual conversations on the benefits of the Gospel?

I think what happens next may be something we often miss in our attempts to share Jesus with others.  The woman asks for the living water BEFORE she realizes her need of what it offers.  In JOHN 4:15 it appears that the woman is only interested in the convenience of the living water (15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”).  Notice that Jesus first took action to help the woman see her real need by asking her to go call her husband (John 4:16).  In response, the woman admits she has no husband and Jesus uses that opportunity to reveal His knowledge of her life: a depth of knowledge that so caught her attention she perceives Jesus as a prophet!

What I think we often do is provide a memorized solution to a problem before we get the person we are sharing with to realize their depth of need and how the message of Christ can truly satisfy.  Jesus took the time here in John 4 to bring the woman to the point of asking a key question about where people should worship (JOHN 4:19-20).  That gives Jesus the opening to clearly present the challenge of becoming a person who is more concerned with TRUE WORSHIP (that is, worship in spirit and in truth) than with WHERE we go to church! (JOHN 4:21-24 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”)

Question:  How can we be more effective at getting people to realize the importance of a genuine relationship with God, TRUE WORSHIP, rather than the superficial aspects of what denomination or place of worship we join?

As you read the rest of the story about the woman in John chapter 4, you discover that she not only comes to see Jesus as the Messiah, she also goes into the village and witnesses about Him so that others go out to meet Jesus for themselves.  In short, she becomes a “disciple-making disciple” right from the start.  Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as followers of Christ?  Maybe we should employ more of the tactics of Jesus!

 

Resurrection Power

•April 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Resurrection Power: that’s the name of the musical our Worship Pastor put together for Easter Sunday morning this year.  So what’s Resurrection Power all about?  A follower of Jesus Christ from long ago, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, wrote to a church in the ancient city of Corinth these words:

19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

How could this man, Paul, be so sure Jesus actually was resurrected?  The bible records that the man was converted when he encountered the risen Christ personally.  You can read the story in the book of Acts, found in the New Testament.  Paul, first called Saul of Tarsus, encounters the risen Christ in chapter 9.  From the words he wrote to the Corinthians, Paul is convinced of the reality of the resurrection.  The impact on Paul’s life was so dramatic that he was transformed from being the most aggressive opponent to the claims of Jesus to being the greatest spokesman and missionary!  Talk about power!

What about us, today?  How does the resurrection of Christ impact a person living in the world of our times?  Does the resurrection power still have the ability to transform lives?  I would say emphatically, “Yes”!  Every time a former addict comes to Christ and finds deliverance; every time a skeptic studies the evidence supporting the resurrection of Christ and becomes a believer; every time an ordinary person surrenders their entire life to Christ and becomes an extra ordinary witness of the life-changing power of the gospel, resurrection power still triumphs over the grave!  Check it out for yourself.  Research the evidence and see how God works.

Reflections on Life View

•December 3, 2016 • 1 Comment

After a conversation with someone on the subject of our world views, I found myself thinking about what I am calling my life view.  I started thinking about whether I see my life from the vantage point of how God fits into my life or from the perspective of how my life fits into God’s plan.  The difference seems significant.

When I think about my life being my own and I see God having to fit into my plans, my career ambitions, my goals, I discover that I am placing the sovereign God of All Creation in a very small box.  I begin to realize that such a view, while perhaps held by many, is not at all a view of life that makes any sense.  The very concept of God, a being who is so vast and so powerful as to be the author of all things, precludes me from seeing Him as having to fit into my life or as having to approach me on my terms.  Instead, the concept of God, at least from the perspective of a God who created all things and who rules over them, calls for me to take the view of life that my life must fit into God’s plan.

When I take that life view (the view that God has a master plan and is working out His purpose and plan in all things), I discover that my objective is to seek understanding of how my life fits into God’s design.  I find that there is a purpose, not my own, for which I exist.  My life is a gift from my Creator and He has designed me and created me for His purpose.  Thus, my joy and satisfaction in life will never be found in following my own passion and ambition.  Instead, this life view teaches me that true and lasting happiness and fulfillment are found in yielding to the plan God has for me.

What’s your life view?

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Thirty-one

•October 31, 2016 • 1 Comment

On this final day of the October, 2016, Proverbs Challenge, I am drawn to think about the opening phrase of verse two – “What should I say, my son?”.  It seems that King Lemuel opens with his own reflection as to what advice, what wisdom, what instruction he could offer that would best benefit his son.  As I read those words, it comes to me that all of us need to consider the legacy we will pass on to those who come after us.  What should I say?

Proverbs 31 goes on with several verses offering some wisdom and insight into about things like maintaining a right focus for our energy (verse 3); some caution about intoxicating beverages (verses 4-7); and some exhortation to speak up for those who are oppressed and needy ( verses 8-9). Then comes the section that deals with the attributes of a godly woman (verses 10 and following).  In light of my thoughts above, I wonder if King Lemuel answered his own question when he decided to take some time to provide guidance about one of the most critical of relationships – that of husband and wife?

Those verses that describe a virtuous woman and speak about how a husband who finds such a woman as his wife can safely trust in her and about how her children rise up and call her blessed may be verses intended to suggest the most important legacy we can leave to those who come after us is the legacy of taking care to choose wisely in selecting our spouse.  Maybe the point is that the marriage relationship and the roles of the man the wife working together as God ordained is such a critical part of society as a whole that leaving wisdom about the choice of a bride was the answer to the question “what should I say, my son?”.

Closing out the challenge for the month, I am thankful that God has given me a wife who models the traits in Proverbs 31.  May God help us both to build the legacy that honors Him and inspires and motivates those who come after us to do the same!

Proverbs Challenge, October 2016 – Day Thirty

•October 30, 2016 • 1 Comment

It’s a little saddening to me that tomorrow is the final day of the October, 2016, Proverbs Challenge.  The journey through one chapter of Proverbs in the bible each day has gone by quickly.  It does not have to end tomorrow.  You can go on reading a chapter a day.  You can continue devoting time each day to digest a thought from God’s Word.  Why not press on even after we conclude this month’s challenge?

In today’s reading from Proverbs 30, I am meditating on the content of verse five.  Verse five tells me that “every word of God is tested”, meaning I can rely on the certainty and truth of it.  God’s word has been proven true through testing and His word has proven reliable through the testing.  Thus, the second half of verse five reminds us “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him”.  As I think on these words, I am reminded of the opening verses of the Gospel of John – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men”.  Those words give me a clear indication of who Proverbs 30:5 refers to when it says “He is a shield”.  I become even more convinced the saying refers to Christ when I remember the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 (14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.).

Yes, the Word of God has been tested.  He (the Word) proved True (without sin) in all things.  Those who run to Him find refuge (salvation).  What great confidence and assurance can be ours in Christ!  Have you discovered it for yourself?