Sunday, November 23, 2014

God's Grace Abounds

You know the Bible passage, 'to whom much is given, much is required"? We older sheep need to keep that in mind when praying for struggling little lambs who seem to get themselves ensnared in sin over and over again. When interceding on their behalf I think the best thing to ask God for is more grace for them. Maybe if we were doing the same thing, we would be under more scrutiny because by now we should have learned how to overcome the sin that so easily besets us.

Don't get me wrong -- we still need God's grace -- but hopefully not as often as we did when we were new believers. We have had more time to grow in the grace and knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ and should have long ago stopped putting His grace to the test.

We need to have more patience with younger believers in our lives -- not to judge them and think ill of them because they don't have it all together. They have a lot to learn and God gives grace to them, and will be with them as they go through trials and testings of their faith in the 'learn by doing' method. We've been there, done that; have the stretch marks. 

I thank God that "His mercy endures forever." Keep that in mind when praying for straying sheep and lambs. Beg Him for His mercy on their behalf when fasting and praying for those you love who appear to be backsliding. Don't count them out so quickly. 

Warn, without accusing;
Correct, without punishing;
Exhort, without lecturing;
Reprove, without condemning.

Be an example to them and always keep your door open and offer a shoulder for them to cry on. Pray without ceasing for those that the LORD has placed on your heart. As the old saying goes,' be part of the solution and not part of the problem.'

"Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions...Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - Rom 14:1,4

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil." - Heb 5:12-14

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Love; Don't Revile

Greetings from Utah. I'm here house-hunting and visiting with my daughter who is in computer college here. The LORD immediately confirmed His call for me to come to the Bee Hive State. 

I met with my realty specialist to analyze what I'll need to prepare to purchase a home and what area to look in. Mike (not his real name) knows his stuff when it comes to the Utah housing market. When we sat down to talk I just assumed he was a Mormon as most of the population of the state is. During our conversation I told him I would like to be in striking distance to my future church home and he asked what church that was. When I told him, he said, "I've been to that church." I was pleasantly surprised.

He then shared from his heart with me how the LORD brought him out of the church of the LDS despite the fact that his family goes way back through Mormon history. It's funny how I have written before on my fb page that there is a crisis in the Mormon church due to the availability of information on the Internet and for the popularity of Cartoon Network's South Park and their parody of Mormonism. Both of those things figured into Mike's search for the Truth in spite of his ingrained worldview. 

Now the kicker! Mike is church-hopping, unable to find a church where he feels comfortable. The cultural shock of leaving the LDS cult is almost unbearable. He shared going to a local Calvary Chapel and not being able to bring his children into the service, but his wife had to deliver them to the right age-group class and leave them there at the door, not welcome to stay with them for a while for them to get comfortable. They were in a strange place and they were scared. 

Then during the worship time, the music was so unbearably loud that he felt he could not sing to the LORD quietly and thoughtfully to prepare his heart to hear the Word. Then all the people standing, swaying, and raising their hands in the air was even more of a negative distraction.

His children now beg him to take them back to the Mormon church where it is more friendly and comfortable for their family. And it is a big temptation for Mike to do just that even knowing that the religion is a cult and totally false. The cultural comfort there is almost worth the compromise. But for now, he listens online to an Evangelical teacher he likes but is in another state. He's become a scattered sheep with no home pasture. And he says he knows many, many others in his same condition.

One thing he shared really struck me. When he was still a Mormon and would speak to Christians he said many would say to him, 'how can you be that blind to believe all of Joseph Smith's tall tales? You must be so naive to fall for that.' That approach never did him any good except to make him believe more in the rhetoric of the elders that the entire world would persecute them just as their prophets said they would.

After coming to believe that the Bible is the authority of the Christian faith, he said that he was struck by Jesus' love for others. The story of Lazarus had an impact on him. The fact that Jesus wept, even though He knew what He was about to do, demonstrates His love for those who get it wrong. He wasn't crying for Lazarus but for those in grief. If His followers could just show that much love for people, demonstrate love for them, only then can they come alongside someone and assist them with their spiritual confusion. Ridiculing them only pushes them further into their entrenched position.

Mike wouldn't take the word of the critics that he was in a cult -- he searched it out on Google to find original information from Mormon sources themselves to conclude that it was all built upon deception. Many others have done the same thing - and now they are scattered with no place to pasture.

Pray for them - that God would do a work here in Utah. And if you meet a seeking Mormon, weep with them, don't ridicule.

"Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to Him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept." - John 11:33-35

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." - Rom 12:9-15

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I Love Jesus

It is so easy to get a hardened heart as we observe all the evil in the world and in the professing church. I naturally react with righteous indignation - as well I should - but if I don’t follow that up with purifying my mind from what I just witnessed or my ears just heard, it can leave me depressed. Sometimes the very evil we fight against can work against us and desensitize us to it. For every evil report we read, we should read an equal amount of good reports and or course, God’s Word. These recent news stories left me feeling in the dumps:

*The story of the 16-year-old girl abducted by force on the streets of Philadelphia by a mad man this week had me in tears and in intercession for her safe return. PTL she was rescued. My anger toward that evil man was so intense it was palpable. 

*The recent story in the Christian press that got me seeing red was of the wicked televangelist Ernest Angsley sexually abusing members of his congregation, forcing abortions on some and vasectomies on others. In my heart I wanted to take a two-by-four to his head.

*When a “senior US official “ called Israel’s Benjamin Natanyahu “chickensh**” for insisting on protecting the people of his country, I seethed over that. The audacity to call the biggest hero on the political scene today something comparable to a ‘coward’ is outrageous. I agreed with one blogger who said they’d like to tie that man down and wash his mouth out with soap. 

We cannot put our heads in the sand and just refuse to hear any bad news. But at the same time we have to guard our hearts and abide in Christ and renew our commitment to Him. Work out our salvation with fear and trembling, while at the same time pondering His attributes and keeping our love for Him alive.

Our love for Jesus can grow cold when we lose our focus on Him. Remember how strong and overpowering that first love for Him was when He first made Himself known to us? I remember as a new Christian I was such an embarrassment to my parents because I would take my bible with me wherever I went. When I took it with me to a funeral of an elderly aunt I attended with my dad, he was so nervous thinking I would stand up and start preaching. After all, I was so vocal about my love for Jesus, he knew I couldn't keep my mouth shut. He was so relieved when I behaved myself.

Now 30+ years later I need to remind myself of how I felt when I was in my honeymoon stage with Jesus. You too can recall those things He did for you:

He pulled your life out of the cesspool;
He revealed His glory to you - the exalted coming King;
He rescued you from the path of destruction and set you on the way everlasting;
He loves you and hears your prayers and sends His Spirit to minister to you when you call on Him;
He gave you a second, third, fourth, fifth chance, ad infinitum;
His words in the Gospels penetrated your hard heart and humbled you;
The glory of His greatness left you awestruck in His presence;
You were amazed and excited when you first discovered the Word of God;
You were excited at the discovery of great and lasting Truth.

We can add to this a long list of answered prayer and renew our love for Him even in the midst of all the evil we see every day. We need to cast our cares upon Him daily and make Him our Refuge in these perilous times. 

I love this message/prayer/song of praise by Keith Green. Let this song be your prayer today.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent." - Rev.2:2-5

"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us." - 1John 4:9-12

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Open Your Bible

There are so many distractions in our lives, sometimes we can get so caught up in our responsibilities at work or in strained relationships and then it hits us that we haven't opened the Book all week. Skipping our Daily Manna of the Word often manifests in our behavior - how we treat people or how stressed out we get. It can even unsettle our minds while we're asleep and result in troubling dreams. Have you ever sinned in your dream and wake up and say to yourself, "I would never ever do that in real life'? That should be a red flag to get back in the Word.

I cannot count the number of times that I've opened the Bible after a time of neglecting to do so just to find a rebuke in the passage I've just read. The Living Word - His spiritual two-edged sword - breathed upon by His Spirit - is the primary means that our God communicates with us and guides us in this life. We need it as our Daily Bread to get our instructions for the day. 

I sleep with my Bible - it doesn't just go on the nightstand, it gets its own pillow. And even then I might forget to read it or lay my crossword puzzle on it. The practice of staying in the Word is not a legalistic rule - but to the born-again believer it is the response in our hearts to the love of Jesus and our desire to draw close to Him. As the LORD's brother wrote:

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." - James 4:8

One thing that does get in the way of our desire to open the Word is sin in our lives. If we are harboring a sinful attitude or have transgressed against our own conscience in something we're involved in, we tend to neglect the Bible and our prayer life suffers. To whom much is given, much is required is a biblical concept that we know in our lives. We might turn our ear from what the LORD is saying to us when we don't want to deal with something that might be painful to handle God's way. But my experience has always shown me that doing things with His counsel always has the best results. And the last thing we want during these troubled times is to quench the Spirit so that He may just stop striving with us.

Draw near to Him today. Let Him make course corrections in your life. Jesus loves you -- and that's not just some cliche.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matt 11:29

"Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me."
Prov 1:23-28