A problem with culture

I love to watch documentaries, but it frustrates me to no end when the show intends to tell everyone not to affect a culture or people-group. Hate me if you must, but please read on.

Our world is on loan to us from God. It’s not ours to keep. There will be a day when God will take it back. That’s true of all “things,” including people.

A baby is born, and we see such great potential in that little person. And, God willing, that baby grows, becomes a person, receives Jesus and accomplishes great things in God’s kingdom. But a day comes when God takes that person. Our physical bodies are on loan from God.

How foolish we are when we decide to “protect” cultures and people-groups FROM the Gospel of Jesus. Every culture will pass away. Nothing on earth is permanent. God has other plans. So, how can we arbitrarily decide to damn one people-group while preaching the Gospel to another people-group? They all have a time appointed when they will meet the same God.

Undoubtedly, the people that withhold the Gospel are guilty of a greater sin than those who have never heard the good news of God’s Savior. How can anyone argue against this when God clearly said in Isaiah 45:22 (ESV), “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

To fail in foreign missions is to utterly fail in any mission.

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One of those people

subway entrance in Toronto, Canada

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

There was a time, shortly after I’d recommitted my life to Jesus when God sent me to boot camp. Not a military camp, but one of which God created just for me. God’s boot camp lasted several years. He was teaching me to trust him. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will share one odd thing God had me do. He had me go to Canada.

I knew no one in Canada except Jesus. I had some vacation time that I needed to use, and I had a bit of money so I headed to Toronto. I learned how to book an international flight and I learned how to go through Customs. These experiences were very worthwhile since I ended up doing a lot of international travel.

Upon my arrival, I walked down to the baggage claim in Toronto, Canada with no agenda, nobody to help me, and no apparent reason to be there; the Holy Spirit just said to me, “Go.” 

It’s a bit strange when you’re standing in the arrival area of an airport and you have no idea where to go. So, I prayed. I saw a phone with a list of hotels. I scanned the list, picked up the phone, and asked if I could get a room for several days. Yes! And it was downtown and close to the subway. Cool!

During my visit, I learned to find my way around the city on a subway. I met a Christian that owned a recording studio so we hung out there while he and his crew recorded several songs for a Canadian Christian group. After I left him, I called the switchboard of the Canadian BBC and asked if I could see their operation. They connected me with the Chief Engineer. He was a Christian, and he arranged to meet me at a side door to their building. I got a personal tour and met a very interesting Christian. Several other “divine appointments” happened. 

When I was ready to go home, I entered the airport just when an announcement came over the speakers saying that the Canadian pilots had gone on strike! Everybody started calling hotels. It was a madhouse. I went back to the sign that listed hotels. I picked up the phone and called one. I got the last available room. I needed a taxi, but all the taxis were full, but God made a way for me to share a cab with a Japanese couple that spoke no English. A couple of days elapsed, the strike ended, and I got home in time to go back to work without being late.

I learned so much on that trip. The most important thing I learned was to look for Jesus in people. When I saw Him, I saw a Christian that I could receive whatever help I needed. That lesson has served me well and challenged me to be one of those people. I pray the same for you. Amen.

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It is well

Rich Mullins was an influential, talented Christian singer/songwriter. It’s been many years since he was killed in an automobile accident. Before his death, he wrote songs that are now standards in Christian music. Songs such as “Awesome God,” “If I Stand,” “Hold Me Jesus,” “Calling Out Your Name,” and my favorite, “Creed.”

One of Rich Mullins’ songs is called, “Everywhere I Go I See You.” It’s a very simple song, unlike many other songs he wrote, but the Lord just laid it on my heart today.

Yes, the world is complicated, full of dissent, lies, and pain. And yes, God is complex. And yes, churches struggle to preach Jesus to a world that doesn’t deny Christ but hates Christ.

Nevertheless, if we look, no matter where we look, we can see God at work. The world hasn’t won the battle. The “Gospel Ship” isn’t shipwrecked. God still answers prayers. God still saves. The Bride of Christ is still listening for her call. Hearts are still open; lives are still changed; fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is still sweet. God is still good. We, as followers of Jesus, can still sing, “It is well, with my soul.”

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Pray God's Will

Many times when I have a need, or I intercede for someone, I first talk with Jesus. He has been hungry, thirsty, tired, ridiculed, and rejected. He understands me. So I may take a few minutes or several days with Jesus for talking, listening, and discerning before I am ready to take my request to God, our Father.

I do these things because of John 16:23 (ESV),“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Regarding John 16:23, MacLaren’s Expositions states, “Our Lord here sums up the prerogatives and privileges of His servants in the day that was about to dawn and to last till He came again.

You see, if I’m going to pray in Jesus’ name, it only seems right for me to be sure that He agrees with that for which I’m asking. Using His name is serious business. While I’m preparing to go before our heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, who abides within me, guides me, and I receive the confidence that I will pray God’s will. If I pray God’s will, whatever I ask in the name of Jesus shall be accomplished.

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Why, then?

creche

God doesn’t reach the same conclusions which we reach. An example is the arrival of Jesus. We, as Christians, will soon be celebrating the birth of “God with us”: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Now, my guess is that neither you nor I would choose the middle of the history of Adam to introduce Christ Jesus, our Savior. Why did God not come in the flesh as soon as Adam sinned? Or, why did God not erase Adam and Eve and start over (my choice ;-)? Or, why did God not come in the flesh at the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)? Why would God come in the flesh in the middle of Adam’s history? We don’t know. But we do know that God is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and God is good (Mark 10:18), and Jesus, God with us, is essential.

No matter what time of day that you’ve read this, If you’ve accepted Jesus, then I pray that God’s hand will rest upon you, giving you direction, giving you strength, and provide you with courage. 

If you’ve not yet received Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to read: Salvation.

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A Redemption Allegory

sheep in a pen

When we study God’s salvation, it isn’t like anything a person would logically come up with. Let me give you an allegory, and then I’ll point us to a Scriptures.

An Allegory About Redemption

Imagine a drove of dirty, sickly, starving sheep with only small patches of fleece. They are standing in a pen which has nothing for them to eat. The owner of the sheep is standing by the only gate. Jesus walks up and says, “Those are my sheep.” The devil says, “No, the sheep asked me to be their master, so they’re in my pen, and I own them.”

Jesus says to the devil, “Look, here is my perfect blood sacrifice, the proof that I have paid (i.e., redeemed) all of them. Since I am the Lamb of God I’m one of them (John 1:29), the Law says that as a “kinsman,” I have the right to redeem them. And that’s what I’m doing.” The devil opens the gate, and Jesus calls to the sheep, “I am your Kinsman Redeemer, I have paid the price for your freedom. Come follow me!”

Some of the sheep run to Jesus and when they touch Him that are miraculasly changed into the most beautiful sheep that ever existed; other sheep gather around the open gate because they like Jesus, but they don’t leave because the pen is their home. Still other sheep run to the backside of the pen. They want nothing to do with Jesus. A few, perhaps, may start to leave the pen, but then they pull back.

Only the sheep that leave the devil’s pen and come to Jesus receive forgiveness for their sin. All the other sheep that remain in the pen, no matter how close they came to Jesus, do not receive forgiveness; their sin remains with them. The sheep that remain in the pen will receive the same punishment from God that their master, the devil, will receive.

God’s Process

Notice that redemption comes before God’s call. God’s process for our salvation is:
– Redemption, once for all (Jn. 3:16, Ro. 6:9)
– Preaching the Good News of Jesus (Mt. 28:19, Ro. 10:15)
– Coming to Jesus. (2 Cor. 6:17)
– Being reborn into the kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:3) 

What an amazing salvation God has provided! “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Colossians 2:12-15 (ESV)

Isn’t God amazing!

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A Deluded Heart

picture of a lion

Many years ago, a close friend of mine began experimenting with drugs. When I first met him, he was a regular guy, but he had a terrible home life. Anyway, he began escaping his real-life problems through stronger and stronger drugs. As he did, his thinking became more illogical, and his life more chaotic.

One night we were sitting in a local restaurant when he became paranoid. He was sure there was a plain-clothed policeman in the restaurant and the policeman was going to arrest him; at least that was his story. Anyway, he had small bag heroin that he kept trying to get me to swallow so he wouldn’t be found with drugs on him.

Thankfully, I refused his pleas, and finally, he took me back to my car, and I drove home. The good news is that several years later, my friend accepted Jesus as his Savior, and he is now the music director for a local church.

A Deluded Heart

Today, as I was reading my Bible, I came upon Isaiah 44:20  and this part of the verse jumped out at me: “a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself.”  The commentary pointed out that our hearts are​ first to go astray, which then leads our intellects astray, which then leads our lives astray. The result is the abject poverty of our morals and we cannot deliver ourselves. 

Our hearts are the battlegrounds that the enemy of God desires to win. If he wins our hearts then the rest of our undoing will soon follow. But God has given us this promise in 1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV):

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Lion of Judah

Pay no attention to that roaring lion for Christ Jesus, the Lion of Judah, (Revelation 5:5) will deal with him. Place your wholehearted devotion (Matthew 22:37) in God. And I pray for you, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2) Amen.

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Walk, don't run!​

kids running

I have no idea how many times, when I was growing up, I was told walk, don’t run! In the school’s hallways, at church, when our family visited friends or relatives. It was always slow down, walk, don’t run!

Matthew 4:18 (NLT), One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.

When I first began computer programming, it took 24 hours for me to get the results back from my program. When I worked on a significant software project back in the 1990s, I was told that the results from a User clicking a button had to come back in 15 seconds or less. When I a manager of product development, I was told the results from a User clicking a button had to return in less time than a person could pick up their coffee cup, take a drink, and put it back down. Now, a User will abandon a web site if it doesn’t come up in less than one second.

The world in which we live is all about instantaneous. People have no time for “slow.” This mindset collides with that of God, for He is not in a hurry. He’s never running late. He never gets upset when someone else throws a prayer request on Him. He is the Great “I AM” and the Creator of time.

A Different Perspective

Nowhere in the Bible is this difference of perspectives made more evident than in Isaiah 5:19 (NLT): They even mock God and say, “Hurry up and do something! We want to see what you can do. Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan, for we want to know what it is.”

We are now in arguably the most hurried and stressful time of the year – Christmas. How easy it is for us to become infected with the “hurry & worry” virus. Let God’s Word inoculate you. We are to be imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1). We should flow with the Holy Spirit, make no compromise with the impatience of others, and seek Jesus; even during Christmas, you will find Him!

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Which is better?

birthday party

Which is better, to be the first to recognize Jesus or the first to run to Christ for forgiveness? That’s a question that entered my mind as I read the following:

It is the Lord!

John 21:6-7 ESV, He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [John] therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

A niece’s birthday party, purchasing a box of nails at the local hardware store, or ice fishing, we are rightly focused on the task at hand. And then Jesus shows up. 

Surely it is excellent to recognize Jesus within any situation, especially where we were not expecting Him. And we are more likely to recognize Jesus when we are in close communion with Jesus. Still, it was Jesus that said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?“, Luke 15:4 (ESV)

After Christ’s resurrection, it was He that sought out Peter, the Apostle that estranged from Him. And it was Peter when shown where Jesus was, that dove into the sea to run back to Jesus.

Maybe Both

It seems to me that my question shouldn’t be either/or, because I think the answer is, “Both.” 

Christians in close communion with Jesus will spot Him, even when there’s no expectation that Christ will manifest His presence. And it is those Christians who nudge others and say, “Hey, Jesus is here!” That’s when people that have a burning in their hearts to get right with Jesus will run to Him.

We all need to walk with Jesus, but there are times when some wander off. Jesus will not lose His own. He goes after them, and maybe it’s you that will play the role of the Apostle John and say, “Hey, I see Jesus!”

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13 milliseconds

an eye

The human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. – MIT NEWS That’s nearly eight times faster than a blink of an eye.  Admittedly, we don’t know how long Jesus looked at Peter when Jesus was on trial, but it was enough time for both of them to know that Christ’s prophecy about Peter was fulfilled.

Luke 22:61 (ESV), And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

I can’t think within 13 milliseconds, so I need to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He’s continually leaking out of me, through my eyes, through my words, through the way I carry myself, through my facial muscles. I need all of those working for God if I only have 13 milliseconds for someone to see Jesus in me. 

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