It’s time…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people come into our lives, with many staying but most around only for perhaps a season or maybe two before moving on. People who we’ve worked with, gone to different churches with, who’ve been our neighbors at one time or maybe even close friends who, one day, are no longer in our sphere of influence.

When we’re really following Christ, which, for me means intentionally doing what I know He would do, do we pay attention to the moments God gives us each day to reach out physically to bless someone, even if it’s just to speak a word of encouragement? You know the ones I’m talking about–the ones we put on our prayer list and stand with in faith, believing for healed marriages, rescued children, restored health, and work opportunities. 

Most of the time we’re not there when the prayers are answered, but we continue to ask in faith, believing that God will finish the work He began. I like how Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Am I doing my part, or am I so busy that opportunities to plant and water come and go without my notice? Seriously, am I really a fellow-worker in God’s service? Who is standing in my field? Who is there in my building? Who is God telling me to encourage? Don’t you think it’s time we paid attention? We have this day, this moment in time to make a difference. Will we?

I posted this on my Facebook page this morning:  Pray for Brussels, for those injured by the attacks, for the families of those who lost their lives, for the rest of Europe, which is on high alert because of the possibility of other attacks, and for our own country that seems to have grown complacent.

And then I got to thinking about 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is the scripture Christians seem to use the most to call the Church to pray for our country. But have you ever read it in context?

The Lord Gives Solomon a Promise and a Warning
After Solomon finished building the Lord’s temple and the royal palace, and accomplished all his plans for the Lord’s temple and his royal palace, the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: “I have answered your prayer and chosen this place to be my temple where sacrifices are to be made. When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. You must serve me as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. Then I will establish your dynasty, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor ruling over Israel.’

“But if you people ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove you from my land I have given you, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and I will make you an object of mockery and ridicule among all the nations. As for this temple, which was once majestic, everyone who passes by it will be shocked and say, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors, who led them out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why he brought all this disaster down on them.’”

The message is sobering. I don’t think the majority of Americans appreciate ‘sobering’ messages. It’s just not in our DNA, which is more about the good guy winning, getting the pretty girl, and riding off happily into the sunset.

I used to think like a lot of Christians do that America isn’t mentioned in the Book of Revelation, until I read about the church in Laodicea in the 3rd chapter.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Hmm… If John was referencing the present-day Church, particularly in America, then, at the very least, we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do! And even if he wasn’t specifically talking about the Church today, John’s description should be a little too close for comfort!

Seriously, is there any question as to whether or not the Church in America has grown soft? We ARE the Church! Look around you, and don’t forget to look within too. Have we become as self-obsessed as the society we live in, only concerned about what affects us personally and/or our churches corporately? Do we as individuals and as organized groups of Christians have poor and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes, which, by the way, is the very definition of dysfunctional? Is that perhaps why so many groups of believers have become ineffectual, no longer able to attract people to fill the pews, much less want to know the One who died for them?

Are we more concerned about how we look to the world on the outside than how we look to God on the inside? Are we buying into the lie that looking thinner, younger, prettier/handsomer, wealthier, and even more spiritual—is what’s really important in this life?

For the record, our priorities do matter to God. It really does all comes down to what our primary focus is. What do we put first? Knowing God or knowing others? Hearing from Him or hearing from others? Talking to Him or talking to others? Looking good for Him or looking good for others?

We talk a lot about what we’re sick and tired of these days, but I find myself wondering what God might be sick and tired of. I think His list has little to do with ours and is a whole lot longer too. Do you suppose God might be sick and tired of us—so sick of our self-obsession that He’s about ‘to vomit us out of His mouth’? Personally, I think He might be getting close.

There’s only one way to win, to overcome, and it will come when, individually, we Christ-followers are willing to humble ourselves before God, confessing and repenting of our sin, and seeking to please God instead of self or others. It is then and only then, when the spirit of humility invades our hearts that He will forgive us and heal our land.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, because “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) Are you up for it, every single day of your life and not just for a few hours each week? If you are, this would be a good time to read 1 Timothy 4, especially verses 11-16, because Paul pretty well sets out what we have to do.

“Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress. Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

Therein lies the test questions for each of us:
* Am I setting an example for other believers in my speech, conduct, love, faithfulness and purity?
* Am I studying the Word of God and encouraging and teaching others about Christ?
* Am I neglecting the spiritual gifts God has given me?
* Am I focused on what God wants me to do to the extent others notice and want to do the same?
* Am I conscientious about how I live and what that says about my relationship with Christ?
* Am I ‘at it’ for God and ‘in it’ until the end?

We can do nothing without God, but with Him, we can change the world, because with God, all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27 reads: Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astonished at these words. But again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God.”

I am assuming that you, too, would like to see our world, and particularly our country, change for the good. It won’t happen by electing a new president. We should know by now what putting one’s hope in a man who promises hope and change produces. The kind of change we really need will only happen as we humble ourselves and put our faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It really is up to us.

If you wonder how to be ‘at it’ for God and don’t know who to ask, you will find what you need to begin pursuing the only life worth living at this website: http://www.gospelway.com/christianlife/change_yourself.php

However, please don’t stop there. Ask God to bring Christ-followers into your life who are taking seriously the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Sometimes, God…

Sometimes, God has to take us beyond our four walls and put us in a place where our path crosses someone else’s who, like Peter, has been unshackled from man’s constraints by a quake of such spiritual magnitude that the very walls that are obstacles to freedom are leveled by the uncompromising Word that proceeds from his mouth.

I have heard Kyle Lance Martin speak before thousands, and I have heard him ignite–with as much passion–the dying embers of hope in a solitary person. I have seen the passion of this man, who leaves home and wife and children to go into all the world where people are bound by unbelief, tradition, misinformation.

    • I have heard him offer hope to a woman who learned to pray as a child while hiding from an abusive father and now flees from an abusive husband.
    • I have seen him show up and give a woman a reason to believe again in a God who loves her despite the ill-chosen words of her desperate plea just hours before.
    • I have seen him lead with humility those who lead others, purposely sharing the vision of bringing revival to their community, their area, their state–not through one man, one church or one denomination but through the Body of Christ working together.
    • I have seen that his passion for souls is not diminished one iota by someone spitting expletives at him.

Sometimes, God even says to look beyond the Peters of this world and just be one.

Note to reader: Check out http://www.reviveindiana.org/ and be encouraged.

I hear the mournful cries…

A train in the distance heralds impending danger at crossing after crossing,
and just as surely as it comes, it fades into farmland, its mournful call forgotten.
We seldom hear the real harbingers of danger, but deep in our spirit
we feel their impending presence and know the certainty of approaching peril,
despite the lack of sight or sound.
Overshadowing this perfect morning of blue skies, gentle breeze, teeming life,
there is a hollowness, a sadness, that descends as surely as the sun rises.
It is the certain knowledge of children slain by madmen, crazed by ideology
so abhorrent, so base, I scarce can take it in.
The stillness is interrupted once more, but it is the mournful cries
of mothers and fathers ascending to Heaven that I hear,
and I cannot help but ask how long they must endure.
Father of Comfort, my spirit cries, hold them in the shelter of Your embrace.
Father of Life, safeguard their shattered hearts and give them hope.
Father of Mercy, deliver them from darkness to light.

The Importance of Trust

The Importance of Trust

March 25, 2012

If you had a brother or sister growing up, you knew just about everything that went on in their life; and, depending on your relationship with them, I’m pretty sure you sympathized, or maybe even secretly rejoiced at times, when trouble came their way.

My brother Ronnie and I had different parents, but there never was a day that I felt he was anything less than my real brother, in every positive sense of the word.

The reasons were simple. We always ‘had each other’s back’—when things were good and when they were bad. When my brother talked to me, I listened; and when I talked to him, he listened. We understood each other, but the primary bond between us was an unshakeable loyalty built on the solid foundation of trust. He is gone now, but the lessons I learned in our relationship have stayed with me through the years.

In the summers we would escape to the woods behind our house to lay on the creek bank and share our dreams for the future and sometimes the fears about the present. And, in the winter we would climb the bales in the haymow to our secret room, which we walled in each year with fresh bales of straw. (It wasn’t totally secret because our dad sometimes climbed up to join us.)

My brother and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that no matter what we shared during those times—the precious whispers of our heart or the harsh reality of our anger—our words would never become fodder for someone else’s ruminations. We were kindred spirits, fast friends, brother and sister, all rolled into one.

I know we were just two kids growing up on a farm in Indiana, but early on we developed a loyalty that many adults never know. Our mutual love and respect engendered trust, and so we learned to be trustworthy. Perhaps you had the same experience growing up. I hope you did.

Wouldn’t it be great if we never had to say to our brothers and sisters in Christ “Please don’t say anything to anyone” and they wouldn’t? Not even by sharing our concerns ‘in confidence’ with someone else? Or by mentioning it to us when other people are around?

We in the Family of Christ should never have to worry that what we have shared in private will ever be spoken publicly, whether it’s under the guise of a prayer ‘concern’ or just a slip of the lip. This nearly happened to me awhile ago, and it felt awful. I said ‘nearly’ because I was able to stop the person from revealing in the presence of others something I had shared in confidence.

By the way, when we open our mouths when we shouldn’t, we do a great job of conditioning people to keep their mouths shut when it comes to revealing needs, hurts, and yes, even sin. Is it any wonder that people don’t call us when they’re hurting and want someone to pray for them or maybe walk through the valley with them? Isn’t that what fellowship in the Family of God is supposed to be like?

There are consequences to our indiscretions when it comes to breaking a trust. Loose lips really can sink ships—ships like companionship, friendship and fellowship; discipleship, apostleship and leadership; and even worship.

Shouldn’t we be able to say to each other “Please don’t say anything to anyone…” and know that whatever we say will go only to God’s throne, and even then, not within anyone else’s hearing?

I firmly believe that God continues to call the Body of Christ to walk in honesty, openness and confession before Him and with each other—for our benefit, yes, but, additionally for the benefit of a world that is waiting for God’s people to rise up above their own self-interest and fulfill the Great Commission.

If we cannot trust each other enough to walk in honesty, openness and confession, how can we possibly think we can effectively reach out to a generation that, more often than not, describes the universal Church as:

  • Hypocritical
  • Pretentious
  • Irrelevant
  • Mean-Spirited
  • Judgmental

If we truly have a burden for lost souls, we will ask God to ‘do whatever it takes’ to prepare us to hear the darkest secrets, as well as the brightest hopes, of those He brings into our life to disciple.

My prayer is that someday I may say of all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, “We knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that no matter what we shared during those times, whether it was the precious whispers of our heart or the harsh reality of our anger, our words would never become fodder for someone else’s ruminations. We were kindred spirits, fast friends, and brothers and sisters, all rolled into one.” 

      I leave you with three questions to consider:

  • Is it possible for the Body of Christ to tear down the walls that keep us from reaching out to each other?
  • What will it take to do that—to engender trust between our brothers and sisters, so we may know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we, each one of us, are trustworthy?
  • Is that even possible?