Sunday, April 26, 2015

STICKINESS

OUR YARD IS FULL OF FORGET-ME-NOTS. And I mean FULL! Each spring brings my wife back into her garden to weed and trim and to simply enjoy being outside in the midst of God’s beautiful and bountiful creation. And every time she is working out in garden in the early spring she does her best to help in the spreading of more Forget-Me-Nots. It’s not that she tries to, it’s just that Forget-Me-Not seeds seem to have a knack for jumping off the plant and sticking to any bit a clothing that it can find.

The removal of the fuzzy little Velcro-type seeds becomes a spring-time ritual at our home. I am sure Linda is responsible for plant redistribution for the entire Forget-Me-Not population in our neighborhood, if not for the larger general area! It’s not that she’s trying to be the Johnny Appleseed for the propagation of Forget-Me-Nots, it just happens.

There’s of course a Gospel lesson here for each of us.  The spreading of the Good News about Jesus Christ and His sacrificial, sin-atoning death and resurrection, should be as natural for us as moving the seeds of the Forget-Me-Not. The seed of the Gospel must be on us, often unnoticed, but ready to be dropped when the timing and soil is right. In fact, when it comes to those sticky little seeds, they seem to have a mind of their own. You don’t even have to worry so much about planting them, if you have them stuck to you the planting just happens.

So, do you have the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, stuck on you? Those seeds can only attach themselves as you are spending time in the Garden of God’s Word, on your knees in prayer, seeking to remove any weeds of sin, trimming back the overgrowth of wasteful activities, and just learning to lay back and enjoy the beauty of God’s recreation in you through His Holy Spirit.

I guarantee that if you spend that kind of time in the presence of God’s Garden, those loving seeds of His Gospel will attach themselves to you, ready to find the fertile soil in which to plant and grow and multiply.

Be sure to take some Garden time today and enjoy the beauty of the Lord!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WORKING FOR JUSTICE

DEAR BLOG READERS. 

Please take 20 minutes to watch this video with Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission.  It is filled with sad news and good news, with great needs but also great hope.  Maybe you'll be led to pray, to give, to act. 

As Gary continually reminds us, it's all about COMPASSION.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

UPHILL THEOLOGY

AS THE SAYING GOES, “IT’S AN UPHILL BATTLE!” Why must it always be so? Well, I guess for one thing walking uphill is hard work. Walking uphill, especially on a steep grade, is more difficult than a lazy stroll around the duff-covered nature trail at Henry Cowell State Park, or a walk in the wind along West Cliff Drive.  However, sometimes getting to the top provides a great view and the climb is worth the effort.

Ah, there’s the rub; is this sweaty uphill trudge worth the effort? What if I get to the top of the mountain and there’s nothing to see, or worse, what if what I see is more mountain?! We really don’t know if the effort will be worth it all . . . unless, we’ve been this way before, or if we trust the encouragement of the person who told us it would be worth it once we made it to the top.

Our walk with Jesus Christ is more often than not a tough journey. He seems to have a thing for wilderness walks (Matthew 4:1-11), stormy seas (Matthew 8:23-27), mountaintop meetings (Matthew 17:1-9), and mid-night darkened gardens (Matthew 26:26-46).

But, here is the good news; in all of these uphill battles, Jesus is there with us. Yes, I realize that it may seem like you’re all alone and that he has left you to face this aspect of the journey on your own, but the reality is that He IS WITH you!  He is not only Immanuel, God with us, but He is also the One who declared, in both the Old and New Testament (Deuteronomy 31:8; John 14:15-18) that He would never leave us or forsake us, He would be with us always, wherever the journey takes us.


Therefore, if you find yourself traveling one of those unpleasant places, take heart you do not travel alone. God, the Almighty, is at your side! (Psalm 118:5-9) And if God is leading you on the journey, it’s always worth it.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

TWO MOST POWERFUL DAYS

KENYON ARTIST-ACTIVIST, Boniface Mwangi, in a TED Talks
presentation, stated that he discovered the two most powerful days in a person’s life is first, the day they were born and second, the day they discover why they were born.

One of the most asked questions in our lives is probably, “Why?” And to discover “why” you were born can be life altering. I’m not talking about the biological “why” of your being here, that’s pretty clear. I’m talking about your purpose for being here. For many of us we don’t stop and truly contemplate the purpose of our being.  We’re too busy just being, to take serious time to wonder why. But, I believe if we would take time to truly consider “why” it would answer a lot of the “whats” in life as well.

Now, I can’t know your specific reason for being here. I can’t know the fullness of your “why.” But I can offer you at least part of the answer, in fact maybe the most important part. The answer is found in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Your reason “why,” as well as my reason “why,” is to be conformed to the image of Jesus. It is that for which we were designed; to bear the Image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) It sounds like a huge responsibility and it is! It also sounds like something way beyond our capability and it is! The good news is that God the Holy Spirit is at work inside the life of everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and He is the One who is doing this transformative work.


So, there you have it, now you know your “why”  May the gracious God give us His strength as he continues that good work he began on the first most powerful day of our lives. (Philippians 1:6)

Monday, April 06, 2015

UNASHAMED!

FOR I AM NOT ASHAMED of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes--the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16, New Living Translation) The reality is there are many things in my life for which I bear both guilt and shame, and I dare say that is true about all of us. For as the Word of God reminds us, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 NLT)

Yet, here again the Good News is that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings to all who have placed their lives into His gracious hands, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 6:23, NLT) and the Apostle John writes to the followers of Jesus,

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3, NLT)

Now, if by placing your faith and trust and life in the hands of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, you discover that your sins and their guilt have been dealt with and if you discover that Jesus bore your shame and that you are now brought into an eternal loving relationship with the God who created and is sovereign over all things, of what are you ashamed?

On this Resurrection Sunday, we not only celebrate the reality of the risen Savior Jesus Christ, but we also celebrate the glorious truth that we can be called the beloved children of God; forgiven and shame free!


So, REJOICE! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

LIVING LIKE LAZARUS

MOST OF US KNOW THE STORY OF LAZARUS, sick friend of Jesus, whom Jesus waits to visit until he’s dead. Upset sisters. Jesus weeps. Raises Lazarus from the dead. Sets him free from his clothes of death. All in a day’s work for the Messiah!  (Don’t remember? Read all about it here: John 11:1-57.)

Like all good stories and this is more than just a good story, there’s more to it, the story moves on. When Jesus raises you from the dead your life can never be the same again. Some people are ecstatic with joy! If you’re Lazarus, you may be a little perplexed. And then there are those who are those I like to refer to as the “joy-suckers.”  Their place in this world is the suck the life out of anything that brings life and joy.  In Jesus’ day a lot of those were part of a fun-loving group called the Sanhedrin.  (John 11:46-53; John 12:10-11)

Back to our buddy Lazarus.  There’s not a whole lot we know about him. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha.  He lived (and died, at least once) in Bethany. He was a friend of Jesus, that’s a great thing if you’re sick and moving toward death, (which we all are.) He was brought back to life by Jesus and became a local celebrity; everybody was dropping by to see a living miracle. (John 12:9)

Now, if Jesus raises you from the dead, it carries with it certain responsibilities like thankfulness, staying close to Jesus, making sure that even though there are many coming to see you, you’re not to be the main point of attention. Remember, you didn't raise you from the dead, Jesus did! And, oh yeah, not everybody is going to believe you were really dead and they’re not too happy you’re a live either.  Spoil sports!

There is a lesson for those of us whom Jesus has raised from our spiritual death. Remember the Scriptures tell us that apart from surrendering our life to Jesus, and placing our faith in Him and His atoning death upon the cross and the power of His resurrection we are dead (present-tense) because of our sins. (Romans 3:23-26; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:4-10)  The good news is that He has raised us (past-tense) to a newness of life, a life that is to be life for His glory.  A life that is to bring attention not to us, but to Him!

So, here’s my strong suggestion: let’s live lives like Lazarus! Let’s allow Jesus to raise us from our spiritual deathbed. Let His Word loose us from our shroud of death so that we can walk freely, living for Him. Let us live lives that draw attention to the life-giving power of Jesus by our thankfulness, our constant drawing near to Him and through the proclamation of both word and deed.

Sure, not everybody is going to be thrilled with you message of God’s grace, but hey, you've been raised from the dead by your friend!  How cool is that?! For we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6; Psalm 118:5-9)


Live the resurrected life! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

JESUS ROCKS!!!

SOME OF THE PHARISEES IN THE CROWD said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40)   I kind of wish that the crowd would have fallen deathly quiet and then those stones on the road would have let loose with the first Jesus rock concert! That would have been a sound for sore ears!

The question that comes to my wondering mind is how in fact would these inanimate objects have made the sound that filled in for the missing “Hosannas” to the King of kings and Lord of lords? Would the ground have shaken in an earthquake? Would tiny mouths appear and begin to praise the Promised One, the Messiah? Some scholars believe that Jesus was not referring to the stones upon the ground, but the stones that made up the Temple which stood at the center of the city of Jerusalem.

Truthfully, we’ll never know (this side of heaven), but to think in this manner is to truly miss the point of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. Jesus’ rebuke was a statement to the blindness and deafness of those condemning religious leaders. In some sense the word of the Lord was declaring even these inanimate objects of My creation know more and see more than you. What a powerful indictment!

The discussion of that day over 2,000 years ago is still relevant today. Will we allow our eyes, ears and hearts to be open to the reality of the One who is alive in our midst? Will we declare with our voices praise to God for His indescribable gift in the Person of Jesus, the Messiah? (2 Corinthians 9:10-15; Romans 5:12-15)

Today is the day we must stand and rock with the church throughout the ages declaring,

Hosanna!
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”