Archive for May, 2013

The Father’s Heart

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

What kind of God would give His only begotten Son to die on a cruel Roman cross? One whose heart is that no person have to spend an eternity in a devil’s hell. The Bible says of the Father that He is one, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. Again the Word of God says that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.” 2 Timothy 3:4

What can fuel the fires of evangelism in the local church to compel men to tell God’s Story? What can ignite the flames of missionary passion in the church to go to the ends of the earth so that “every kindred, every tribe,” every people group might heart the Good News, Jesus saves? I believe that we must rediscover our Father’s heart. I do not claim to have all the answers to every nuance of the scripture. I do not know why Jesus loves me, or why He loves all the little children, red, yellow, black, and white. I do not know how to solve the mysteries of so many of the paradoxes of balancing truths in the Scriptures. What I know is that Jesus commands us to “Go and make disciples of every people group.” (Matt. 28:18-20) What I know without any shadow of doubt is that God’s Word promises that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Rom. 10:13. And yet the scripture quickly reminds us that it is impossible to call on someone that you have never heard of in the next verse.

Countless billions are still untold. Too many will slip into eternity today without ever hearing the Gospel. How can we sit in room controlled “worship centers” and proclaim our steadfast love for the Lord and allow our most serious thoughts to be “where will I go eat lunch after the sermon?” How can we spend more on pet food than on sharing the Gospel with a lost world? Why do we think that we are special enough to deserve God’s grace and that we have no responsibility to tell everyone?

I love the way Charles Spurgeon said it: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”–C. H. Spurgeon

Jesus said that our Father’s heart can be seen in the story in Luke 15. “A certain Father had two sons . . .” Remember how the younger son insulted his father demanding his inheritance, now? He essentially said to his father, “I wish you were dead.” Then he squandered the wealth on wild and reckless living. He did every possible thing he could to cause his father not to love him. And yet the Father loved him and watched for him to return. When the son returned, He embraced him and restored him, and celebrated. We are too often like the elder brother. We too often receive our blessings from the hands of God as though they were entitlements of our special privilege. Oh that we would rediscover our Father’s heart.

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"You brought light to our darkness.".

Lantern

“You have brought light into our village,” said the mayor of F-village at the end of our first trip to Mali. At times it seems so long ago, and yet it is as fresh as yesterday. Our first night was in the heart of the village, gathered around a single kerosene lantern that provided our only light. I could see the first row and I could hear those who had gathered behind them. In the village it grew quiet as we started, “I want to tell you a story. This story comes from the very Word of God. It is not a story made up by men, but one given to us from the Most High God. He is the One true God.” Those were the first words of proclamation I would have in a village that we would return to some 25 times over the next 5 years.

We shared the story of Creation, and the origin of sin. We talked about God’s incredible love that sent the law and the prophets, and provided a sacrificial system. And in that very first message I made a bee-line to the Cross and the story of Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins. That first night nine men in that village surrendered their hearts and lives to be followers of Jesus Christ. It was an unbelievable moment. It was for me a life-changing moment.

That night, after those first followers of Jesus in that village had left, I zipped myself up in a nylon sleeping bag. I had doused myself in insect repellant and was zipped up tight trying to not be bitten by mosquitoes for fear of malaria. It was hot, and I was on a concrete slab that formed the front porch of the rustic “guest house” provided by the mayor of the village. The donkeys brayed and the dogs barked. Babies cried and every sound for miles traveled to our ears. I couldn’t sleep. Not so much because of the heat, and not so much because of the noise, but because of the incredible realization that God could overcome language and cultural barriers with the truth of His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And we had shared the story of Jesus. So that at the end of our time, our first time in that village, the mayor had said, “You have brought light to our darkness.”

The very last word in the book of Acts in the Greek text is a word that translates into English, “Unhindered” or “freely”. It is particularly interesting in the context. The apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome. He is not in a dark and damp prison like some other times, but he is under arrest and he is not free to come or go. But even though the apostle Paul is not free, the Gospel is not hindered. The text says that Paul was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus without hindrance.

In many parts of our world it is illegal to share the Gospel with people, and yet the Gospel is going unhindered anyway. In the U.S. today we celebrate Memorial Day and although we are supposed to have absolute freedom, the Gospel is often hindered. I am not referring to government restrictions, or a ban on prayer from schools, or the seeming opposition by the media at times to the message of the Word of God. I am talking about the fact that as Christians we have bound the Gospel in our little boxes and traditions and hindered the message ourselves.

I believe that God put the word “Unleashed” in my heart and mind several years ago in reference to this. What would it be like if we took the lid off the boxes of our preconceived ideas and simply got out of God’s way? What would happen if we unleashed God’s Spirit from our traditions and rules? I am not advocating anarchy, but simply breaking free of man-made restrictions.

For example. Is God’s Word able to stand on its own? Or does it require our individual interpretations to do its work? In our western culture, someone asks a question and we tell them our opinion of what God says in answer. But notice how often Jesus answered a question with another question, or He simply told them a story. What would it look like if we answered a question with a story from God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit speak through that story to the person’s heart?

Not too long ago I was having coffee with someone, and sharing a vision of discipleship training that has resulted in rapid spread of the Gospel in many parts of our world. The person with me said, “Here is what worries me about that. How do you control it?” I would suggest to you that herein lies some of the problems we face in western cultural church. We want to control the uncontrollable. We have attempted to “control” the Holy Spirit to the point that He is grieved to silence in our presence.

I am just raising the question for you to consider. Paul was not free, but that didn’t stop Him from sharing God’s Word, and it was never bound. We are free, and yet the Gospel often seems to be hindered. So what if we shared the truth and let God do His thing without so much interference from us.

Cookie Cutter Churches

Posted: May 26, 2013 in Fresh Wind

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Although I grew up through my middle school years attending a church of a different denomination, most of my experiential knowledge comes as a Southern Baptist. When I began attending SB churches, they were all pretty similar. The buildings looked the same, although those with money dressed a little more pretentiously than less affluent buildings. The difference was typically some had better preachers than others.

Now that there are “contemporary” and “traditional” variations there is some difference. Still within the various genre of church styles, they still tend to look alike. I am not suggesting that is necessarily a negative reality, or for that matter a positive either. But it begs a simple question: How much of church life in the 21st western church is simply imitation?

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in the value of the church.: It is the Bride of the Lord Jesus, after all. But I wonder: Do we spend too much time in a programmatic sense? Someone discovers a combination that leads to excitement and church growth and there is a new program to implement.

There was a day that I recall early in my ministry when I seemed to hear more frequently about the need of spiritual awakening. What we need, I was told then, and I believe now, is a fresh wind of God to blow upon the church in the person of the Holy Spirit. What would happen if we spend as much time in fasting and prayer as we do in implementing the next new thing? I suspect that the revival (or revitalization as I hear now) of the church would happen regardless of whether we are singing hymns, or modern praise choruses, whether we are dressed in suits or jeans. For then, it would truly be about God, not us.

The Enemy of Great

Posted: May 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Businessman multitasking

Have you ever thought, “If I ever had an extra set of arms, I could get more done?” Have you ever thought, “Wow, we really have a lot of good things going on at our church?” Is it possible that you are so busy doing good things, that you cannot do the best things? I remember years ago hearing someone say, “The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

I began reading through Nehemiah again this morning. Nehemiah is the man who God used to lead the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, remember? He wasn’t a prophet. He wasn’t a priest. He was the cup-bearer of King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah had some enemies constantly resisting him. And in Chapter 6, one of those enemies comes and says, “Nehemiah, come down from the work and let’s reason together and talk about this.” In one of my favorite moments in this book, Nehemiah answers and says, “No, I will not stop what I am doing, because I am doing a great work.”

How easily are you distracted from God’s work? I know it is a constant battle to maintain the focus where God desires. Sometimes the “tyranny of the urgent” gets in the way of us focusing and doing the essential. Jesus called us to “Make disciples.”
Is it possible that many Christians and Churches are so busy doing “Good things” for God, that they cannot do the “Great work” that God has called us to. Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” He didn’t call us to settle for doing a lot of good things. He called us to do the one great work He has given us.

Living This Day for That Day.