Archives for category: evangelism

signsofthetimes(A Brief Meditation on Psalm 46 and Matthew 24)

The way of grace teaches us that our hope for life begins in repentance. We prioritize out of necessity and for the sake of aligning ourselves with the truth.

We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because man-made opinions and bubbles burst and the world tries to bustle us into becoming entangled with its causes, wars, and disputes. We believe so our ways might be exchanged for the ways of God, worldly reactions and responses exchanged for the will of God’s Kingdom.

We build up our faith because the systems upon which we lean and depend will be kicked out from under us. There will be divisions along ethnic lines and realms of thought.

We bless others in the power of the Spirit because a spirit of bitterness is taking hold of our society. There is a famine of taking in God’s Word.  We are called to move as free people, willing to let go of our own lives for the sake of those who are locked into their limiting fortresses of unbelief. We know soon all the vain things which leech and consume our attention will be consumed by God’s fiery judgment so while the light of grace still shines we are working.

We bring life in Jesus’ name to those pestered and plagued by sin, seemingly bound to turmoil, chaos, and unrest. We influence this wicked and perverse generation by the rest and stillness we have found in the presence of God. As we allow God to ascend in the midst of what we do, even the ‘fools who say there is no God’ may discover otherwise.

We breakthrough as the One whose name is above all names is exalted in our lives. Everything we know will be shaken including the ground upon which we stand. The confidence we carry is “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46: 7, 11)

(This post is used by permission and is written by my dear friend, Dr. Craig Green, Pastor of Livingston First Church, Livingston, TN.)


Misunderstood Love

PalmSundayWhen Yeshua had come closer and could see the city (Jerusalem), he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for shalom! But for now it is hidden from your sight… all because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it!” (Luke 19:41-44 CJB)

Misunderstanding love is the hallmark of the fallen human race—regardless of how God presents love; regardless of how explicit He is in foretelling it. Not only are we guilty of misunderstanding His love, we are guilty of redefining His love—even though He has clearly defined what real love is—and is not—in His Word…

Jesus wept over a city that should have known better. Zechariah 9:9 clearly states that your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey. The crowd outside the city got it…sort of. They covered the ground with palm branches and clothing and shouted praises as King Jesus rode toward Jerusalem. But they misunderstood the Messiah coming in humility, regardless of what the prophet had said.

That misunderstanding caused Jesus to weep over a city that would be utterly destroyed—with enormous loss of life—less than forty years later. Many in Israel never did come to see their Messiah…

I wonder if Jesus’ second coming—this time as the King of Kings riding on a white horse—will be equally or even more misunderstood…

While the religious leaders and most of the public two thousand years ago could not fathom a Suffering Servant as the Messiah (despite the prophet Isaiah’s clear words), most of our current world can’t seem to fathom a mighty victorious King coming in perfect authority and righteousness in His Second Coming.

In perfect humility—or in perfect glory, honor, and strength—Jesus is still… Perfect Love! His love is equally evident in suffering for our sin (as He did on the cross), in calling us to righteous holiness that finds victory over sin (as He does now), to returning in all glory and power to restore perfection (as He will soon).

The Love of God is still misunderstood and it is still being redefined as people long to manufacture a god who serves our needs and scratches our itches rather than submit to the one true God who—in humility and in all power—calls us to surrender to Him, as if… He is God and we are not!

Both, I believe, make Jesus weep as multitudes miss the peace Jesus brought, brings, and will bring.

· He came as a humble servant, but they wanted a militant king…

· He is now the King of righteousness who demands transformation by the Word and Spirit, but many bristle at the suggestion that HIS definition of righteousness and love, not ours, is the standard.

· He will come in all glory as God the King, but many will balk in full-blown rebellion.

This Palm Sunday, perhaps the thing to do is to lay down our lives before Him (rather than palm branches), and to receive HIM until our misunderstandings and redefinitions are overpowered by His enormous and perfect love…!

pridequoteThe seed of sin holds its own destruction. When it first flowers you may not see it. In the beginning of sin, there is only the betrayal, the small failure, the falling short of victory. We feel the dis-appointment. We hopefully are conscious and aware that we have missed the mark. But, we’ve been told, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So, one sin begets two; begets a thousand.

We got locked into a self-serving, sin-perpetuating biased way of doing things. At first, the dis-appointment nudged us towards introspection and evaluation. Now, it moves us to look for someone to blame.

True self-improvement will always pull us back towards humility and truly starting over. Sin with all its bitterness will simply demand repetition or recruitment of a crowd that agrees with us.

Pretty soon, a battle is being fought, sides have to be chosen.  Alignment to a path with those committed to breakthrough becomes impossible for us. Why? Because, we are no longer committed to breakthrough and newness of life. We are now committed to putting off and forestalling our breakdown and downfall.  This translates into a commitment to destroy anything or anyone who will once again expose our dis-appointment.

To what are we appointed? The Bible says, we  are all appointed to death and after that the judgement. (Hebrews 9: 27) But, what if that judgement had already been borne by someone else? Indeed, it has been. “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Hebrews 9: 28)

For those, who await a different outcome, it is not too late for you. Today, if you will hear God’s voice, the offer of grace stands.  Yes, you are appointed to death but come before the Lord in humility and repentance and let that death be a death to self, a confession of your sin, and a turning to the Lord that uproots you from the life you’ve lived up til now and roots you and grafts you into God’s kingdom.

Yes, you will still be fighting a battle but this one will begin in humility.

payattention“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3: 13 – 15)

This is the most concise summation of the two calls God makes upon us. The first is the call to come to Jesus and be with him. The second call is to be sent by him to share the word and power of the gospel.

One calls us to be aligned with Jesus. The second calls us to act as an ambassador under the authority of Jesus.  One call command us to be saved by grace through faith. The second call commands us to serve by faith to share the grace of Jesus with others.

Romans 8: 28 – 30 describes these two calls: one has God orchestrating everything together for our good; the second has God organizing and ordering our steps together by His Spirit for the good of others.

The first call commands us to repent and believe in Jesus. The second calls us to represent and to bless others.

The first call is heralded out to all as a mandate from God, because “now (God) commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17: 30) The second call is delivered more discreetly and directly to our heart as we are given our personal assignment to forgive, to help, to demonstrate compassion, and to extend the comfort and mercy of the Lord.

If you are trying to fulfill the second call apart from being a response to answering the first call, you are likely to be perpetuating the good works you like to do instead of what God is asking of you.  God will not ask you to be a witness for him without you first receiving the sign and seal of being with him – the Holy Spirit. As Jean Holmes said, “You’ve got to have a with-ness before you have a witness.”

You have to pay attention to how both calls of God are being fulfilled in your life. Most Christians have forgotten or have never learned how to emphasize the priority of answering the first call before you try to fulfill the second one.  Some will try to tell you that you can come to realize the first through your efforts at following the second.

A whole generation (millennials) have been taught if you find a place to belong among serving people, you will eventually realize you have a place of belonging with God. But, in practical and pastoral terms, I’ve seen very little evidence where putting the cart before the horse gets you very far. What I’ve noticed most often when we try to switch the order of these two calls is we end up fooling ourselves and frustrating ourselves from ever experiencing the reality of a Spirit-filled faith experience with Jesus.

So, I ask you to pay attention and ask yourself these two questions. Have I responded to the call of Jesus to come to him and be with him? Secondly, do I now live each day, sent into it by Jesus?

Well?

“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5: 15)

 

why“Then Jesus told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil’?” (Luke 13: 6 -7)

Jesus is giving us the opportunity to do more than use up space. In fact in Luke 13, Jesus gives the bookends for our whole reason for being on the earth. The first reason why we are here is to repent: to align our life with the life of God, to align our will with the will of God; to turn to God, find forgiveness from God, and walk with God.

Jesus says, if we don’t repent we perish. Plain and simple. God expects fruit from our lives and the kind of fruit God desires is rooted in repentance.

The other bookend for why we’re here is the byproduct from what is begun in repentance. The way of grace works like this. We begin in repentance. We believe in the Lord Jesus and exchange our way for His. We build up our faith, praying and practicing the habits the Holy Spirit teaches us. We bless others. We bring life to others through the sacrifice of our service. Finally, we breakthrough into newness of life.

How do we breakthrough? We become a disciple maker. We become a fisher of people. We become an example, the proprietary system God uses to bring freedom and life to others: the freedom of forgiveness and faith, the freedom of healing and joy, the freedom of purpose and mercy.

I call you to account this day. Have you repented of doing no more than taking up space in the soil? The Holy Spirit will continue to dig around in your life so that you might align yourself in faith with Jesus but don’t take that work of God for granted. You can only share out of what you have. Have a relationship with Jesus. Live by His grace as a free person so you can be used of God to share what you have received.

 

prodigal-verseIn yesterday’s post I shared the story from Mark 3 where Jesus restored and made whole the man with the withered hand. Today, I want to focus on one sentence in that story: “Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone’.” (Mark 3: 3)

This is the command Jesus gives and the challenge every prodigal faces. Can I stand up in front of everyone? Can I admit what I have done? Can I hold my head up and move forward?  Can I determine this new course of life without denying or trying to cover up the old one? Can humility and honesty replace my pride and shame?

In Luke 15, the prodigal begins his journey home when he stands up in front of himself. He discovers what he lacks and he’s not primarily referring to his loss of fortune, friends, or food. It finally dawns on him, he is not living the life the Father envisioned for him or even the one he envisioned for himself. He has fallen far short of all that.

That’s when he stands up to go home. That’s when he prepares a confession based on how he has been diminished by his losses.  He doesn’t believe he can ever recover what he’s lost but he is determined to live his life standing rather than fallen.

Yes, he stands up to go home and it is then he is delivered by the One who loves him. It is totally unexpected though at one time you could have said, he knew the Father. But, back in those days he lived bent over serving himself. It was only after he stood up and went to the Father in honesty and humility that he finally sees the Father for who he is: One who rejoices and embraces this son who “was dead and is alive again; (who) was lost and is found”. (Luke 15: 32)

So, stand up in front of everyone today and acknowledge the One who is filled with compassion for you and has given Himself for you. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” (Proverbs 3: 5 – 7)

This will bring healing and strength for you to stand up in front of everyone!

handstretchMark’s gospel, chapter three tells us, “Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” (Mark 3: 1 – 5)

I’m so glad Jesus is able and willing to heal and restore. But, I’m equally angered and distressed that we still live in a world where people do not want Jesus to act.

We have told ourselves lies to justify our opposition to Jesus. We have said that a shriveled life is just as good as a full one. We’ve raved about the multiple religious expressions available  for our choosing as long as we don’t exclaim or emphasize there’s One choice that’s able to make us whole. We have said multiple cultures are equally  beneficial to its citizens. But, truth be told, that’s not the truth.

We live in a world where we are intimidated away from acknowledging the truth or exposing the consequences of sin’s evil. Will we be brave and honest enough to stretch out our hand and through our restoration speak to the parched, broken, and shriveled among us, and tell them of One whose deepest passion is to restore them to fullness of life?

P.S. Please  pray for me and this ministry of writing. I’m trying to stretch out my hand today to move my blog to a self-hosted site where we can do more for those who read our stuff. Me and technology – what could go wrong?