03 October 2016

As far as it depends on you....

Romans 12:18 (ESV) If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. A pretty easy pill to swallow: this concept of living peaceably. However stop and really think about where you fit into the scheme of things when it comes to this verse. We find that all the responsibility sits squarely on the shoulders of the person reading the verse. So if the shoe fits, wear it definitely applies and the challenge has been issued by the Word of God for you to go far beyond your comfort zone to forgive and love accordingly. I suppose the question being asked now is what is the actual distance I have to go when it comes to understanding the “as far as it depends on you.”
While the verse of the week is the 18th, take a moment and explore a couple verses later for your answer. Romans 12:20-21 points out to us that if our enemy is hungry, feed him; thirsty give them drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head … do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (paraphrase of the scripture but check it out for yourself.)
I think if we were to be honest with ourselves we would find that not many of us operate in that part of as far as depends on you; rather we search for the as long as it’s easy and comfortable I’ll do it. While we can’t control other people and the things we can do, what we can do is be a reflection of Christ by forgiving and loving folks appropriately. It could be as simple as a genuinely kind text message or E-Mail followed by a sincere prayer for them. Or it could be finding a way to bless that person unexpectedly and even apologizing for your part.
When we do this we find that we are overcoming evil with good and this my friends might be what brings about repentance and reconciliation. Even if your perception is that the other person is at fault. This week our challenge is to live in the “as far as it depends on you” portion of the passage. No expectations of anything in return. Simply walk out the scripture of the week where “it is possible” and let Christ’s love flow through you and soak into your relationships with others. This week choose to live at peace with all (even those who get on your last nerve.)

11 August 2016

Beautiful Scars

Fanny Crosby was probably the most prolific hymn­ist in history. Though blinded by an incompetent doctor at six weeks of age, she wrote over 8,000 hymns. About her blindness, she said: It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
In her lifetime, Fanny Crosby was one of the best known women in the United States. To this day, the vast majority of American hymnals contain her work.
When Fanny died, her tombstone carried the words, “Aunt Fanny” and “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”

One of those hymns written in circa 1885; Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word.  Who is Jesus? …  I read somewhere that
He is the Star of astronomy. He is the rock of Geology. He is the Lion and the Lamb of Zoology. He's the Harmonizer of all discords and the Healer of all diseases. Great men have come and gone, but He lives on. Herod and Pilate could not kill Him. Satan could not seduce Him. Death could not destroy Him and the grave could not hold Him. He was human and divine. He was God and He was man. He was just as much God as though never man and just as much man as though never God. He was so human that he got lonely and longed for human companionship, but He was so divine that He said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."  He was so human that He prayed, but was so divine that in all of His prayers He never had to make one confession of sin. He was so human that He became thirsty, but He was so divine that He could say, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." He was so human that He became hungry, but He was so divine that He took a lad's lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fishes and fed a multitude. He was so human that a ship carried Him, but He was so divine that He walked on the waves. He was so human that He fell asleep on board ship during a storm, but He was so divine that He awoke and rebuked the wind and the waves as calm as a babe asleep on her mother's bosom. He was so human that His enemies threw slurs at Him insinuating that He was the son of illegitimate birth, but He was so divine that He could look His tormentors in the eyes and say, "Before Abraham was I AM! He was so human that He wept at a graveside, but He was so divine that with the voice of authority He cried, "Lazarus, come forth." His purpose was stupendous and was purposed in the mind of God before the foundations of the world and before the mudsills of the earth were laid. Before He had stretched out the heavens like a scroll, or scooped out the valleys, or piled up the mountains or carpeted the earth with verdant green, or laced it with running brooks and flowing rivers. Before He had set the furnace of the sun on fire or called the queen of the night into her orbit, or set the stars to dancing in the heavens, or the sons of God to shouting for joy, Redemption was accomplished. OH, WHAT A SAVIOR!

Tell me the story most precious sweetest that ever was heard.  Sweet … makes you think of something real nice … some even say that the story is so sweet that Jesus was weak, that to be a Christian doesn’t take much … However, He took the lashing, He carried the cross afterwards and then for six hours He hung there. Besides the nails in His hands and feet being excruciatingly painful, he was slowly suffocating. In this dying state, He interceded for His transgressors. He redeemed the lost thief. Darkness rolled in. He Who knew no sin was about to be made sin and about to be separated from the Father as a result. This was the hardest thing. It made Him cry out, “Eli, Eli, lama savakthanee.” The beloved Son is forsaken and the Father must pour out His wrath on Him – because of our sin.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

Last verse of the hymn written by Fanny Crosby
Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in 
anguish and pain.
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you 
Love paid the 
ransom for me.
This story of Jesus is filled with hate and love, a story filled with death and life, a story filled with sadness and joy, a story filled with disappointment and hope, a story filled with tears and laughter... it’s the story of Jesus.

This morning I want to tell you a story ... about a Savior perfect in every way, Jesus what a wonderful Name … what a wonderful Savior.  Who is Jesus … well perhaps many of us already know this Jesus; this Man that has been The Difference in our lives. We know Him as Savior, Friend, Deliverer, King, Lord; But for those of you who don’t or maybe we just need to be reminded who Jesus is or maybe you just aren’t sure … don’t worry because the ones who walked with Him nearly every day of their lives after meeting Him didn’t quite know Him as well as perhaps they should have …
Matthew 8:23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

We have no problem talking about the birth of the Savior … pretty significant event … the whole world knew what had happened that day whether they want to admit it or not.  Romans tells us 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  We have no problem talking about the crucifixion … pretty significant event, that yet again the whole world knew what had happened that day whether they want to admit it or not. Luke 23:44It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

But there’s something that we perhaps don’t speak so much about … that is this Savior, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world; He has scars.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that a lot of us carry scars from different injuries … whether it is from an operation, a vehicle incident  or from shooting yourself in the finger with a BB gun we could go around and tell stories about these scars.  And yet there are some of us who have scars that others can’t see … broken relationships, broken dreams, unrealized potential … some of these scars are a result from our own bad choices; others have been forced upon us by someone else … these scars constantly remind us that we’ve been hurt, marked and forever changed. 

Behind these scars lie some of the most horrific events in our lives … the scar a mark from things we wish would have never happened. We try to hide those scars, but a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt won’t do the trick.  So we hide behind masks, thinking nobody will notice. But they don’t go away, do they? We begin to look at the scars not as battle wounds we can be proud of, but as a mark of disgrace that spreads to the inner fibers of who we are and of the story God has thrust upon us. A reminder that life’s not fair, not easy, and that even our own stories are broken.

Lots of us, though, carry scars from different injuries. Scars not from a physical accident, but from pain of a different kind. Pain from broken relationships, broken dreams, unrealized potentials. Some have been the product of our own bad choices. Others have been forced on us without our consent. Our scars remind us constantly that we have been injured, marked, and forever changed. Behind the scars lie the most horrific events in our lives. The scar is the outward-facing result of pain we wish had never happened.  We try to hide those scars, but a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt won’t do the trick. So we decide that we’ll never be hurt again and we put on a mask to hide the scar, thinking nobody will notice. But they don’t go away, do they? We begin to look at the scars not as battle wounds we can be proud of, but as a mark of disgrace that goes deeper than anyone can ever touch and are a reflection of the story God has thrust upon us. A constant reminder that life’s not fair, not easy, and that even our own stories are broken.

Jesus has those types of scars … They are scars that He didn’t deserve, scars that shouldn’t be His, yet scars none the less.  These scars caused by our actions, by our sin, by our choices and decisions in life But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 ...

Healed … healing that’s what scars really represent.  They are a display that an injury is gone. You’re forever marked, but not plagued by a constantly open wound. The wound scabbed over, then scarred. It leaves you looking different, but healed.
Scars represent healing from a traumatic event. They remind us that though life was seemingly unbearable, God has mended the wound, reminding you constantly of the healing that happened.
Look at your scar as a disgrace if you’d like. In fact that’s exactly where the enemy would like you to remain. As an ugly part of you that everybody stares at, questions, and judges you for.    But what about this … BUT GOD … what about embracing that as part of your story.  As part of your healing and restoration. As a unique piece of your journey that God intends to use to heal others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

WHAT DO YOUR SCARS REPRESENT TO YOU? Do they remind you of tough times, broken dreams, altered plans? Or of endurance, strength, overcoming …
For Jesus His scars represent love … love that can never be erased.

A love that hung Him on a cross, a love that buried Him in a tomb, a love that caused Him to rise from the grave, a love that says I did this for you.  All we need to do is receive His love; it costs you nothing except your life and your will and while many of us can say well that’s everything? You are right … but you gain everything when you lose it all to follow Christ.

28 July 2016

It's His Love that saves

The challenging part to all of living life is in our response to difficulties.  Presently I want to address the issues in the media that are presented us.  Right, wrong or indifferent … whatever your opinion is, we as followers in Christ have to rise above.  I will agree with you that it is often more easily said than done and I most definitely don’t want to try to do the proverbial sweeping under the rug of the issues.  But followers of Christ, our response to injustice and wrong doing in society today has been anything but loving.  Rather than following Christ, we’ve taken the bait, we’ve gone into a world ill-equipped and improperly prepared because we’ve gone in our own strength, the sinful way in which we have dealt with our differences is crushing any opportunity at a peaceful future for our children.  

Christians, regardless of what facts you chose to follow (because we can skew the facts to fit any cause), must stand united, have to stand in love and do our battle there. We’ve been given our orders from our Commander in His operations order, the Bible, we have to pray for our spiritual and political leaders as well as our enemies.  The biggest threat to our nation isn’t ISIS, it isn’t homosexuality, it isn’t abortion … it’s our own selves because we are so busy standing against everything that the world doesn’t know what we stand for.  

Instead of us always telling someone they are in sin, (Here’s a hint … THEY ALREADY KNOW IT) we should be telling them of a Love that comes from the Father that will cast out every fear of walking away from sin into the arms of a Righteous God. 

24 July 2016

Christ is the only remedy

Are you fed up? Are you tired yet? The television, internet, Facebook, etc. is full of mess, confusion, you’ve got those of the world and in the world all looking and sounding the same.  When the world has been screaming and crying out for a relief; looking for it from everywhere except the only place it can truly come from. 

The church has been silent.  The men and women of God who should have been praying for the nation and the things that we were warned about that not only were coming but are knocking on the front door … and the sound emanating so deafeningly from the church … CRICKETS!!!! Crickets; because the church has been trying to figure out how to get feet under the seat.  How many flavors of coffee can we serve, how can we draw the younger generation into the house, we need more smoke and lights, we need what the world has so we can bring the world to us and instead of influencing the world we’ve allowed the world to influence us.  And then we’ve got the nerve to ask why “salvation” doesn’t stick. 

We ask why people leave the church and the fact of the matter is they’ve already got what the world offers so why would they come to the church to get a watered down version of the world?  The church has lost its influence in the world and now the gospel has been watered down so much that the attempt to get back to the gospel has been lost; the church doesn’t realize its power in the Holy Spirit much less allow Holy Spirit into the church services or ministry at all.  And we find supposed ministers of the gospel giving feel good messages rather than His Truth which is the remedy for the problems in the world today.  So I ask you again; are you tired yet?

With everything that’s been going on in our world today, it has never been more ripe than right now … we are seeing before our very eyes John 4:35 
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”  The world is ripe, the fields are white … it’s time to come out of our marble palaces and get to picking.

I’ve heard it said that folks should get past the s
ound bites and hashtags and get to the root of the issues.  That sounds great in never never land and once upon a time-ville.  It especially is easy for those to say when the sound bites aren’t a part of their directly impacted world.  For those with the sound bites, unfortunately it is the harsh reality of life for some folks.  Regardless of where you sit on the most recent media focus in the world, before we can get to the substance of the issues we must stop and listen to the sound bites. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the sound bites or not, have you earned the right to speak to the root?  Even Jesus fed the five thousand before He was able to give them what they really needed; Truth.  

Then after hearing those sound bites, examine the fact, that as believers we know the truth of the matter is we live in a fallen world.  Because we live in a fallen world we must always, without fail, hold a Christ-like perspective and that perspective comes from the very essence of what Ephesians 6:12 tells us … and what it says is that no matter what the package is wrapped in, no matter what the package has within itself, that we as believers do not wrestle against flesh and blood.  

The only answer for us in this day is to put on the full armor of God so that we will have the Right Perspective.  We don’t have to dance with the rhetoric being force fed through the media.  The only side we should choose would be just like Joshua when confronted with the commander of the Lord’s Army … God is neither for one or the other.  He’s about His business.  We cannot approach or view any of it through our lens, the only view is through the scope of Christ. Outside of that, we will never get to the root which is sin and Christ is the only remedy.  

20 May 2016

engulf me in who YOU are

Father we are seeking You.  We long for Your presence.  There is none like You.  You are an awesome God.  Unmatched, unchanged, immovable.  We live in a world that is so lost and yet You aren't surprised.  You aren't surprised by anything Your creation has done, is doing or will do.  You know the beginning from the end and everything in between.  We try to fill the void in our lives with stuff ... yet You don't turn Your back on us.  You are always ready and willing to receive us unto Yourself.  There's an uncomfortability of waiting for You Lord.

An uneasiness that can only be explained by a longing desire to be in Your presence, to feel Your touch, to hear Your voice.  A deeper calling, a deeper yearning that can only be filled by You.  You call out to us and yet more times than not we hear nothing or at least give the impression that we hear nothing.  When in fact we do hear Your voice and do nothing about it.  The stirring within is the response to the Spirit You've deposited within each of us to commune with You; to walk with You in the light of day; to rest with You in the dark of night.

Stir this weary soul, grasp my heart, consume me, use these hands, these feet, this voice for Your glory.

Stir the stagnant waters of my soul
Merge me with Your river which springs life
I don't have all the right words
To say that will provoke You
To want me anymore than You already do
Won't You come

Come like You promised
Pour out Your Spirit
Pour out Your Spirit
Overcome the darkness of my night
Jesus be the strength of my life
Reaching past my hiding oh reach beyond my running
Oh Lord flood my soul with Your love
You love like a Father
You love like a brother
You love like a lion
Fierce like no other
You violently chase me down to embrace me
Engulf me in who You are
CCLI Song # 6096742