Do It Again!

Perhaps Gonature-summer-background-wallpaper-1080x1920d is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that He makes all daisies alike, it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  -GK Chesterton (England)

I love this quote, especially on the heels of Spring. Chesterton points out that what seems monotonous to us is a theatrical encore to God. And when we peer our eyes closer and consider the sameness in nature, we in fact see something quite surprising: a subtle, yet striking difference on every petal, every feather, every water drop, and every blade of grass. And I suppose if you were to put two tiny grains of sand under a microscope you would note the uniqueness of each one.  Genesis tells us that God looked upon His creation and “saw that it was good.” He regarded the beauty.  He noted its goodness and recorded it five times in the words of scripture. And when He was finished he again “saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was VERY good” (emphasis mine). 

Has it occurred to you that God does this every day (and probably every moment)?  He creates new things every day and looks upon them and sees that they are good.  Each day is dazzling and it shines His creativity with such brilliant splendor. Amos testifies to this when he writes, “For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!”  It is indescribable.  God’s creation has a language of its own, which is why we fail to articulate it with words.  Words mean so little in light of this triumph. We cannot consider these things without attributing a greatness to them and identify a Great Creator of them.

If He is so incredibly creative with nature, consider how vastly creative He is with each of us. In fact, the Psalmist says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” No one can look at any facet of the human body and not marvel at the way it works and the marvelous way it was created.  But the Psalmist also points out that the soul knows the depths of this wonder and attributes it to God alone.  Each and every one of us was created to glorify God in His creation, and if we don’t see it in nature, certainly we know it by the way we are made … fearfully and wonderfully. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  We were created to marvel Him.  We were created to walk in His way.  If we do not do these things, then we deny His creation.  In Timothy we are told not to neglect the gift we have.

The tender care he takes each day in creating new things demonstrates His vast love for us. Lamentations records it well: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  And the Psalmist reminds us to sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

May we be reminded of God’s glory with the dawning of each day and give Him the praise He deserves, walk in His way, and sing to Him a new song of joy and thanksgiving; of humble gladness and delight.  Indulge today Him with your praise!


The Many-Sidedness of Christ

This morning I was reading in The Way, a devotional book by E. Stanley Jones.  Jones is so incredibly insightful and intuitive that it doesn’t take me long to get into deep thought about one of his topics.  Today this one caught my attention:  

“The straightforward, open proclamation is the best method. Jesus appeals to the soul as light appeals to the eye, as truth fits the conscience, as beauty speaks to the aesthetic nature. For Christ and the soul are made for one another.” – E. Stanley Jones

I began thinking about how Christ appeals to us in our differences, our gifts, and the purposes He has called us to, and the questions began to fill my mind.  So how does the landscaper consider Christ?  How about the cook, the writer or the educator? If God is the Creator of all things and has a plan and purpose for us, then how does He expect us to see and understand Christ through the lens of our gifts and interests?

Not more than two hours later, my daughter and I were cleaning out some storage bins and I happened across an old news clipping from the Gospel Advocate dated January 22, 1925.  I found the clipping years ago in an old book and tucked it away in a file.  I’m not sure what attracted me to the clipping then, but this day it spoke right to the very questions which lingered in my mind earlier this morning.  As you read, consider who Christ is to you in your gifts and occupation.

Jesus challenges the attention of the world by his many-sidedness.  He meets the needs of all classes and conditions of men.  As deep answereth unto deep, so does He respond to the movings of each soul of man.

Call the roll of the world’s workers and ask, “What do you think of Christ?” Their answers amaze us by their revelation of the universal appeal of Christ.  Someone (whose name has been lost) has collected the following examples of this universality.

  • To the artist He is the One Altogether Lovely.
  • To the architect He is the Chief Corner Stone.
  • To the astronomer He is the Sun of Righteousness.
  • To the baker He is the Living Bread.
  • To the banker He is the Hidden Treasure.
  • To the biologist He is the Life.
  • To the builder He is the Sure Foundation.
  • To the carpenter He is the Door.
  • To the educator He is the Great Teacher.
  • To the farmer he is the Sower and Lord of the Harvest.
  • To the florist He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
  • To the geologist He is the Rock of Ages.
  • To the horticulturist He is the True Vine.
  • To the judge He is the Righteous Judge, the Judge of all men.
  • To the jeweler He is the Pearl of Great Price.
  • To the lawyer He is the Counselor, the Lawgiver, the Advocate.
  • To the newspaper man He is the Good Tidings of Great Joy.
  • To the philanthropist He is the Unspeakable Gift.
  • To the philosopher He is the Wisdom of God.
  • To the railroad man He is the New and Living Way.
  • To the preacher He is the Word of God.
  • To the sculptor He is the Living Stone.
  • To the servant He is the Good Master.
  • To the statesman He is the Desire of All Nations.
  • To the student He is the Incarnate Truth.
  • To the theologian He is the Author and Finisher of our Faith.
  • To the toiler He is the Giver of Rest.
  • To the sinner He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
  • To the Christian He is the Son of the Living God, Savior, Redeemer and Lord.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and was taken from what appears to be an interview of many people over a course of time in the mid-1920s.  How did this information strike you?  Who is Christ to you?


Purpose of Testimony

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.  – John 21:24-25 (NASB)

This verse gently reminds me that I can tell story after story, but still not know the effect, whether great or small.  And I’m also reminded that the focus of our work is not in numbers, not in stories, and not in the adventure.  It’s in relating the glory of God for the purpose of reconciliation.  As you read the next few stories from this blog, consider God’s hand at work and the way in which He is elevated to a high place of honor and glory.  For when we go as we are called and share as we are commissioned, He works. Through sinful man, He works. Whether five people on the train hear the gospel and are saved or the young lady in the park said “no” to Him, He works.  We cannot know and we cannot measure.

John also reminds us here that knowledge of Christ, no matter the testimony, is still partial, and everything Jesus did during his three and a half years on earth is unreported and unknown.  Christ can never be known exhaustively, and therefore, His work through us can never be known exhaustively.  Each person will come away from a mission trip with a different story, a different testimony and a different perspective.

I was in Russia for a total of 15 days, and in that time I saw and heard many great and wonderful testimonies of transformation.  But I will only share a few so that you can know the amazing ways in which God works in Russia.  And even if I were to share all that I heard and saw, it still would be a partial report.  Much happens in the spiritual realm that is left hidden from us, and whether we work abroad temporarily, permanently or stay home, we must be acutely aware of that truth.

In a short commentary found in WORLD magazine, HCJB Global President Wayne Pederson writes, “Proclaiming the Gospel is not just for the salvation of individual souls—though it is just that—but also for the reconciliation of the world.  Scripture clearly states that Christ came to reconcile all creation to himself which makes our message more, not less, compelling.” 

May God have the GLORY.  Amen.

______________________________

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NASB)


Fearing the World

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 (NIV)

Theresa stood behind the counter going over my purchases when a friend of hers walked in and said hello. We three chatted a little about the heat and I made some comment about being a runner but having to stay indoors for my runs because of the humidity. Theresa’s friend teased her about her upcoming triathlon, and they both laughed about that as a future prospect. But Theresa quickly became serious and said that the hopes of any triathlon were nonexistent because “we don’t have much time left.” She looked away as she totaled my order.

As a Christian, I hear that a lot. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain the whole world heard about that not too long ago with the false prediction of the end of the world on May 21st. Just in case, I checked in on the other side of the world at 5pm and it was still intact, so I knew we were okay–at least for one more day. There have been other predictions, and there are more to come with a huge community of people who have formed focus and support groups, many believing that the world will end in 2012. A simple Google search for “2012″ and “the end of the world” brings up nearly 300,000 hits. And YouTube hosts more than 65,000 clips informing and warning viewers about their fate in 2012.

Theresa’s prediction was based the earth’s core shifting, something she watched on TV, and no doubt, researches in the Internet. She also believes that we have less than a year left. I tried to make light of her seriousness and encouraged her to do that triathlon before the final countdown. Her friend chimed in and said she should make a final announcement on Facebook. Theresa didn’t like that either. “Oh,” she said, as she handed me my change. “That’s not good either. Anyone in their right mind should get off Facebook right away.” I immediately thought of the resources and friends I would miss.

As I drove from the store, I began thinking in hindsight how I missed the opportunity to ask Theresa what she plans to do in her year left on this earth. Or better, encourage her to live in joy, not fear; to know Christ and love and serve Him. I could have invited her to lunch to discuss her future plans for the next 365 days. And then I began thinking of all the counter clerks who fear the world. I imagined they work their eight hours, count the change, close the store and go home to another episode of Discovery Channel. They review the calendar and pencil in important things to do before the end of days. They feel a rumble under their feet and wonder of the impending doom. They know it can’t be reversed, so they warn us between transactions because, deep inside, they’re scared. And in a way, they’re right.

Honestly, I don’t like getting philosophical with counter clerks I don’t know, but I think I missed an opportunity to share Christ here. Whether or not Theresa knows Christ is unknown to me, but it is apparent she is thinking of human mortality, and if she’s willing to say these things out loud to a perfect stranger then I can only imagine what unspoken questions she has when the lights go out each night.

I thank God that I don’t fear the world and all its danger. I don’t even fear death, but I’m not foolish enough to think that the world could not stand still on its axis or that the days I plan have an expiration date. With God, anything is possible. In the meantime, I do ask that God make me strong enough to remember those who are lost and live in fear. They live without peace or hope, and whether they have one day left or a hundred, they are not far from truth which can set them free from the bondage of fearing the world. This world has nothing to offer and nothing to promise any of us. Jesus tells us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Even in trials, Christ is near. He left His Holy Spirit to give us comfort and hope when the world offers shallow responses to questions contemplated and left hanging over the counter.

It is the soul reconciled to God which no longer lives in fear. Our only hope for these days–one or a thousand–is in Christ. We anxiously wait for His coming, but He patiently waits for us to share with those who still need to hear. This is a race but it’s also more than that. It’s a responsibility. And if we are ones who are reconciled to God, then we are given the responsibility to share Christ with those who live in fear.

When I return to the store in late August I plan to stop by and say hello to Theresa. And this time, I’ll invite her to lunch.


Lost Ballerina

On the third day of our trip, we met Glenda, an 89-year-old widow.  Once a gifted and graceful ballerina, she sat in her tiny apartment, sharing stories of her glory days, and becoming so entrenched that when she stood to show us a dance, she nearly collapsed.  Remembering her deformed feet, she reclaimed her seat on the tiny sofa and quickly composed herself.  Glenda would never dance again; never again dazzle audiences with her once vibrant grace and beauty.  She laid her hands in her lap and asked why we had come.  We shared the story of Christ and His love; we shared the beauty of our Creator.  She waved her hand at us, “Yes, yes, I know,” she said.  “Tell me something I don’t know!” I realized that while Glenda knew, she still would not trust.

Her grown son entered the apartment and her elderly eyes lit up.  She was full of delight, and nestled him beside her on the sofa. While my friend talked to him about the Lord, Glenda would attempt to change the subject or waive her hand at our “foolish talk.” But I couldn’t shake the feeling of love I had for her, and as we left her apartment I turned and told her that God wants her to dance again; He wants her to dance in heaven.  There was no response.  The door closed, and my heart broke.  (Koroblino, Russia, August 2010)

___________________

Glenda’s story is one of many I could tell, but this penetrates me most because, unlike the other people we visited, there was no visible impact when we shared the Gospel.  I feel it demonstrates the enormous need for hope, trust and freedom from despair for the people of Russia.  It also demonstrates the reality of mission work: some hear and are changed; some hear and turn away.  But it’s not our job to save the lost.  We merely listen, we tell the wonders of Christ, and then we pray.

E3 is a church planting ministry dedicated to taking the Gospel to the nations.  They work strategically with churches already in place to help establish new churches in areas where none exist.  In our Western minds, that’s difficult to understand because we have churches everywhere.  But in nations like Russia, very few Evangelical churches exist for hundreds of miles.  E3 works with Russian Christian nationals who are committed to following-up with the people we meet.  They dedicate themselves to starting these new churches, however small, but so desperately needed.

I’ve been working strategically with E3 team leadership for the past year, and have accepted the invitation to return and work with two back-to-back mission campaigns in early August.  And while I’ll be working with teams who GO, I need to build a team who will SEND.  A sending team is committed to prayer before, during and after the campaign.  I humbly request your prayers for this important and strategic trip.

Secondly, a sending team can also help give financially.  The total cost of both trips is $4000, and I’ve already contributed some of my own money to the mission.  The balance is due June 15, and I’m praying that God would bring sending partners who will pray and can help with the remaining cost.  Please see visit my sponsor page to help.

Thank you for prayerfully considering this request to join my sending team.  Together, and through faith, we can anticipate the movement of the Lord and trust that His arm is not too short to save the lost, nor His ear too dull to hear their call—and our prayers.  Thank you for praying for people like Glenda.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. – Isaiah 59:1


Obedience (Revival – Day 4)

Obedience

And Samuel said, ”Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”  -1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

Word Study

  • delight (willingly taking pleasure in something)
  • better (to make good; to do well; to adorn)
  • sacrifice (an offering)
  • obey (to hear)

How refreshing that our God, unlike other gods, does not rely on our sacrifices to be who He is or to reveal Himself to us.  God willingly takes pleasure in our obedience first and calls this a greater thing when compared to the sacrifice.  It doesn’t matter how grand our sacrifice, if it’s done without obedience it gains nothing.  But, oh, how tempting it is for us to sacrifice rather than obey.  We struggle with obedience because our flesh contends for self-magnification and idolatry, which ultimately rejects the Lord and makes gods of ourselves.  Obedience requires the intentional work of our will toward reflective, analytical and spiritual worship.

It’s interesting that the word obey here means to hear.  Even more interesting is that in many parts of the New Testament the word means to trust.  Hearing God, then, is closely related to trusting Him and visa versa.  God does not need our obedience for His purpose to prevail.  He will continue to glorify Himself and reveal His purpose whether we obey Him or not.  Our failure to hear and trust Him leaves us in a state of disarray.  We will not be under God’s protection and will fall prey to every evil temptation under the sun.

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” –Deuteronomy 28:1-6

Here in Deuteronomy 28 we see the glorious, life-giving blessings of obedience.  They are both temporal and spiritual.  They glorify God and give Him power as the HOLY GOD as we are blessed! They reveal Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives.  And through our humility there is faith, grace, purity and godliness.  Foreign to the life of a Christian are anarchy, chaos, disobedience, and disrespect.  Brethren, if you are ruled by any of these traits, it’s time to seek the face of Christ and beg His sweet forgiveness so that you may be filled with His blessings and live a life of unaltered joy and peace which surpasses the understanding of man.

If we love God enough, we will obey; we will keep his commandments. Let us so think of the temporal and spiritual blessings that He has showered upon us, and His constant, surrounding loving-kindness that out of appreciation we will hear Him, trust Him and love Him enough to do what He asks. Our gratitude to God can be expressed only in loving, humble obedience to his will.

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Bitter Reflection

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

I was having lunch recently with a group of ladies and found myself in a lively conversation with a friend across the table about bread.  I had just received a bread maker for my birthday, and was getting ready to share a really funny story about the first loaf I made, which ended up looking somewhat like fried chicken.  Clearly, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and I was having fun retelling my experience.  But there was someone sitting with us who is a bread expert and began sharing a litany of reasons why my bread turned out so terribly.  Of course, I knew it was probably this or that, and truthfully I have made great loaves since then.  I was simply sharing a funny story.

The woman continued talking about her experience as a bread maker, using her own grain, milling it, making bread often for her family, etc.  She definitely knew her stuff and received a lot of respect for her knowledge.  But what she didn’t know was that I’ve been there, and I’ve done that.  As a matter of fact, I believe I still have a 10-gallon bucket of Prairie Gold Wheat stored away in my basement somewhere.  When I had more time for such domestic pursuits, I enjoyed the labor of making bread from scratch.  And it’s not that I don’t agree that freshly milled wheat is healthier than anything store bought or otherwise, it’s that my story was washed under the table by a bread baking expert, and I was left feeling as if I just lost a battle of domestic one-upness with the resounding, unspoken opinion that one isn’t a serious bread baker unless she mills, kneads, forms, punches and bakes her dough by hand using the Bread Beckers’ no-fail 5-loaf recipe.  I assure you, competition is fierce in the kitchen!

But this is one example of many that I’ve noted these past few weeks.  I wonder why I’m just now beginning to see things from this lens?  I don’t read the KJV, therefore I’m not a real Christian.  I take my car to an automatic carwash, therefore I’m ruining the paint.  And occasionally I accidentally grab the dinner fork to eat my salad.  Sometimes I just like living dangerously.

Last year I have been told that I don’t breathe right, that I should let my hair go gray, and that I should not wear heels.  I’ve also been told that my camera is mediocre, that I work too hard and don’t weigh enough, that I should have more children, that my children are sheltered (really?), that I’m too old to run, and that I must turn off all electronic equipment as I board the plane.  Okay that last statement was a rule, not an observation or opinion, but what consistently amazes me are the people who feel brazen enough to express such opinion of what I need to do to be a better person, or at least a person who is good enough for them.

What’s really at the heart of this is that I not only am victim to such judgment and criticism, but I have also been the perpetrator.  How sad, when I look back, that I may have offended or belittled someone because they didn’t meet a standard of living that I should expect of them.  My own comments and observations are no better than those thrust upon me, and I find myself swimming right along with the sharks looking for the next person to give my “good advice” to and form into my image of who I think they should be.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve taken note of these things lately.  Perhaps it’s time to swallow the pill of bitter reflection and chase it down with humble pie.  It certainly doesn’t taste like cheesecake, but it’s good for the soul.

Yet I think we sit in a majority pool of judges. We go to bed with a great idea and wake up with an ego.  We spend weeks perfecting a subject and become experts overnight, elevating ourselves to places no man should ever tread.  We fall prey to sins of aesthetics, materialism, knowledge and ideals.  We judge.  We determine that the Holy Spirit has left the building and it’s up to us to right the world, when in reality, we have kicked the Holy Spirit from the throne and put ourselves in His place.

And who are we to judge?  Evidently, we forget.

There are a lot of theological responses and practical applications I could make here, but the verse which continues to resonate in my head as I form these words is from Philippians 2:3.  Paul warns that we should do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but consider others more important that ourselves.  This is exactly what Jesus is talking about when He challenges us in Matthew 22 to love our brother as ourselves.  But Paul goes further in Philippians to not only look out for our own well-being, but also the well-being of others.  If you define the word well-being, you will see that it means comfort, joy, abundance, and contentment.

Think about life on a pillar.  Judgmental man cannot possibly reach the ground and wouldn’t want to anyway.  He likes the pillar.  It took him a lot of training and hard work to get there.  He earned it.  Plus, you can’t beat the view, especially at the dawning of a new day or the resting of the sun on the horizon.  People are amazed he ever made it up there, so they look upon him in awe, and that’s the part he likes best: to be admired.  It doesn’t take long, however, for him to get a sense of loneliness.  And while he’d love to just climb down that pillar and join the rest of society, he can’t.  He’s an expert, you see.  He has made a name for himself.  So instead of reaching down to his brother, he begins making observations from his place on high.  And then, from his view, he believes that if everyone just lived life the way he does, then they would all be happy.  So he stands tall on that pillar, pulls out his bullhorn and begins making judgments, one after the other.  Some are funny, and people laugh.  But his judgments fiercely grow.  They are brash, bold, determined and presumptuous.  He forgets God because he has become his own god.  He is no good to the people and certainly no good to himself.  Sadly, he has forgotten the God who loves him so and left his first love, trading it for a very shallow love of himself.

Paul was warning the Philippians in chapter two not to become high and lofty, to leave their judgments of others behind.  He uged them to look out for others, providing them with encouragement so that they too could enjoy a life of cheer and abundance.  Oh, how we tear down the frailest of hearts when we wrongly judge or accuse others!  How we rob others of joy and peace of mind.  God forgive us!

Paul gives a few more final commands to be obedient for God’s will and good pleasure, and to do things without grumbling so that we will be made blameless and presented without guilt.  We are to hold fast to the word of life until the end of time, until the day of judgment, so that we will not be guilty of vain pursuits.  We are to shine! And this is the exact recipe for living a life of humility and allowing the Holy Spirit to do His good work not only in the lives of others, but especially in our own lives.

So this is a new year and a new day.  It marks an opportunity for humble reflection and genuine transformation.  Let’s all strive to make it a year of humility and simplicity as we look after the well-being of others, building them up and considering them better than ourselves.  Let’s make it our year to shine!


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