Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Bullet of Discovery: Post-Modern Virtual Reality or God’s Reality

I see the fake irrelevance and pretense of our culture all around us. Columnist Suzanne Fields has expressed it beautifully: “Television dramas, talk-show celebrities, news anchors all create a synthetic sense of community. Common references require no time-consuming obligations, no icky closeness. It’s less important that we live vicariously than that we feel vicariously, a post-modern virtue. It’s no coincidence that the only show that exceeds Seinfield in popularity is ER. It creates urgency, the modern version of the tragic idea that, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It helps us to think ahead at a faster pace … we get to feel someone else’s pain-painlessly.” In modern American Christianity, the emphasis is almost totally on what we feel rather than what we are to be in Christ!

The Lord is shaking many of His people so that our attention will be drawn to first realities. Pray that a remnant of us will opt for His peace and calmness in the chaos of this “fast-forward” world.

One of my favorite hymns from college expresses my own heart’s desire. My prayer is similar for Christians everywhere:

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.

(All for Jesus by Mary James: the beautiful melody I like is from The Crucifixion, by John Stainer. To hear it click on the link to it on this All for Jesus Page.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Bullet of Discovery: Does Knowing the Creator God Make a Difference?

To discover Christ Jesus as Savior and to experience His Lordship daily in our lives is to live according to “the Gospel of the Christ Life.”

Even though all churchmen say they believe and even pretend that God is alive, His mighty promises to all too many of us are lifeless. It’s a staggering thought to know that many Christians find the Creator God too trivial and limiting to excite their lives and captivate their hearts.

Os Guinness beautifully stated that “if God is dead, then nature is morally ambivalent, reason is only a tool to power, and human freedom is fiction.” As Christians we must build lives where the wondrous details of the written and living Word of God make us alive in the incredulous claims and promises of the Master.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Bullet of Pressure: Storms and Walking on Water

God is always initiating storms in our lives that we can’t handle. Do you remember the story of Peter and the disciples in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in that great storm? Peter was able to walk on water only after Jesus told him he could.

Strange, isn’t it, that many of us think that we can walk on water without God’s power. The Father wants all Christians to live supernaturally and many of us have sunk trying just like Peter. When we look to self we sink … when we look to God we walk! The simple reason for our failure is that we have lived by our own wills and not by the Word of God.

Until we know God has said something to us through His Word, we’d better stay in the boat! What storms has God initiated in your life to prompt you to let Him cope for you? You’d better not get out of the boat until you’ve settled that question.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Bullet of Pressure: Why Do We Encounter Problems?

One of the most liberating and thrilling truths for the Christian is how to handle problems. Everyone has situations that frustrate them … everyone feels pressure … why?

One of the great revelations of Scripture is that God allows pressures to come into our lives so that He can get our attention. All of us run from truth and try to disguise our petty plans and pygmy lives with the cloak of real meaning. As creatures of the Creator we can not escape His efforts to teach us that He matters most.

A dear friend of mine tells the story of his five-year old boy who was trying to climb a tree and ended up hanging by both hands from a limb that looked real high for a small boy. His mother approached for the rescue just in time to hear him pray … “God, help me! Jesus, help me! One of you, please do something!!” I don’t know about his theology of the Trinity but he certainly know he was in a place beyond his ability to cope. The person who discovers that life is too big to cope with without God makes earth’s most thrilling discovery.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

You, Me, Moses and "I Am"!

Consider, one of the most remarkable statements found in Scripture. It is God’s response to a question by Moses. In three little letters – only two words – is unleashed a greater explosive power than when man split the atom and released nuclear energy.

You remember the story. The event of the burning bush in Exodus 3 is one of the classics of the Bible. The Lord had called Moses to leadership. Moses was chosen to bear the weight and responsibility of leading people from the pit to the promise – from slavery to salvation – from mediocrity to meaning.

Moses tries to convince God he’s not the man for such a major sacrifice! (Don’t we all?) Yet the Lord will not leave him alone! Nor will the Master give any of us that luxury! The man who has accepted Christ will be constantly exhorted, by light discipline to hard chastisement, to accept more of His cross. The longsuffering Job but it beautifully, “O Watcher of Heaven, why has Thou made me Your target?”

Moses knows He can’t escape “the truth of the Presence” so he pleads inadequacy. (One of our favorite ploys, I hear it in the church all the time!) “Who am I,” says Moses, :”to challenge Pharaoh and deliver Israel?” (Exodus 3:11)

The Lord implies that Moses is rather dense and has missed the whole point. The strength for the impossible is not dependent on “who Moses is” but on “who God chooses to be with!”

Once he realizes that, Moses questions what response that will evoke from others, in this case, the over one million Hebrews enslaved in Egypt! What authority can he have as one little man using the term “God of your fathers?” (3:13) Anyone could do that! They will expect more and want evidence.

Then Moses is told to tell them, “I Am,” (or a variant in Hebrew, “I Will”), “has sent you!” God determines that when Moses speaks in the Name of I Am, He, God, shall accompany that revelation with the power of conviction and demonstration! History confirms the fantastic results, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea and the giving of the Ten Commandments.

I Am says it all. I used to think the Lord missed it here by not finishing that declaration! For example, I Am the Greatest, or I Am the Power! Now I realize that would have been limiting and inadequate. I Am is Who He Is. The unlimited and inexhaustible Responder to all that comes against Him in rebellion or comes to Him in need. When Satan came against Him, the Lord demonstrated I Am your Superior! When man insists on his sinful rebellion, God says, I Am your Judge.

When the Christian is weak, God says, I Am your Strength. When you are lonely, He says, I Am your Friend. When you are in the dark and lost, He says, I Am your Light! To every need you or I can name, the Lord says, I Am your Answer … and lets us fill in the blank. Fantastic!

Is there an exciting, practical application for Biblical manhood? It is so obvious. A man is nothing unless he becomes God-dependent! Discipleship, the pursuit of and obedience to Christ – is nothing more than the deepening discover of the One who calls Himself I Am Who I Am. The goal is to turn “Who am I” men into those who can know and say, “I am God’s man in Christ.” Such confidence is the seed knowledge of all spiritual triumph.

As a Biblical man, I must never thing first of “what is” but “what I am” because of I Am. In response to unbelievable financial pressure, the Biblical man says, “I am confident.” Regarding his betrayal by key personnel who have jeopardized his business, he testifies, “I am a man who endures.” In reaction to a severe physical problem or failed health, he declares, “I am one who finds the Master’s purpose in everything!” Perhaps best of all, the “I Am” man has discovered the key to a happy and significant marriage. As a Biblical man, my mind is not to be focused on what expectations my wife should fulfill toward me but always on what “I am” to her.

The Biblical man never considers any situation or circumstance as the major issue. No! Only one thought dominates. It’s not “what is” but what “I am” in the midst of “what is” that reveals my true passion to follow my Master!

The Lord told Moses to tell Israel “I Am has sent me.” Yet to Moses, He revealed His deeper purpose and more intimate Name when He called Himself I Am Who I Am. The lesson here is that true men must always know the deeper character of their Creator. The greatest Christian who ever lived captured this insight. The Apostle Paul took Exodus 3:14 and phrased it as every Biblical man’s highest ambition, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” (I Corinthians 15:10)

Nothing matters for the Biblical man other than being what “I am” by Christ’s power and for Christ’s glory! Only then will everything else matter as it should! Only then will we enter into the exhilarating and life-changing experience of knowing I Am has also laid His hand on us!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Prayer Power

J. Sidlow Baxter had a way of phrasing things that makes them memorable. The following is one such thought:

Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons … but they are helpless against our prayers.
J. Sidlow Baxter

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reaction Time

Someone once told me that it is not a man’s actions, but his reactions that prove his strength of character. The older I get, the more this makes sense. Actions can be planned, though through. Reactions come immediately, suddenly, with little chance to prepare.

I remember driving down the street some time ago talking to a young university student about his future. I was happy with the world, thinking through my thoughts as I shared with this young man, and I was musing to myself that I was doing a pretty good job of stating forth the faith. Suddenly, a car pulled in front of me without signaling. At this point it would have be nice to say it was a “crazy woman driver,” but unfortunately, it was one of my own gender who, at the last moment, had decided he was going to make a turn. I hope I don’t lose faith with the “holy readers” of this column or that my rabbinical dignity is tarnished too easily by the following confession; but my reaction to the maneuvering of this male drive was one of surprise, fear and intense irritation as I threw on my breaks to keep from hitting him. I found myself thinking I’d like to tell him a few things; but as I calmed down, I realized I had been guilty of the same offense on many occasions.

The above experience is true of all of us in all areas of life. We think we can take honest criticism until someone tells us where we are wrong. We think we can love everyone until the very unlovable person confronts us with his unlovability. We pride ourselves on being rational until our emotions are stirred. We deceive ourselves into thinking we’re on top of the situation until a mood of passion destroys us.

A man’s reactions always are a finer test of what he really is than his actions. Jesus Christ said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Quite a few years ago a young man brutally murdered eight nurses in Chicago as they came to their apartment, one by one. He didn’t suddenly decide to do this, but had been thinking dirty and ignorantly for years. His reaction to this opportunity simply displayed the thrust of his thoughts. He though evil for years, and it finally came out. A man never suddenly goes wrong, but rather is suddenly found out.

If you want to know what a man is thinking, watch his actions over a long period of time; for as our Lord said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” All of Jesus’ reactions were perfect. That’s because His mind was constantly set on God. He controlled His actions as well as His reactions. That’s the test of greatness. How do you test out?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Bullet of Value: Words verses Righteousness

Words are cheap! What we all should hunger for is the reality of truth in life behind the words we speak! In my book the only way for a person to be righteous is to gain the mind of Christ! We discover the mind of Christ by understanding the Bible as confirmed by the leadership of the Spirit. It’s a slow process!

Some folks are “religious” with no desire to be “righteous.” They may even use the Bible to beat others over the head and to justify their own prejudicial ways! Other folks are genuinely sincere in wanting to comprehend and obey the way of Christ, and they agonize over their slow progress! Rest assured that God knows the difference between them!

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Bullet of Forgiveness: Being a Little Child

Allow me to use my younger grandchildren for an illustration of an important truth. One morning in my devotions, I was rather depressed at the messy life that seemed to plague me. My past failures and future weaknesses looked bleak. As I “discussed this” with the Savior in prayer HE reminded me that I was His “little child.” My depression originated in my false assumptions about my supposed maturity. We may be 40, 50, 70 or 80 but when we are in the presence of the Heavenly Father we are all as a “little child!”

Little children act like little children. They mess up, don’t get it and play when they should think. Their happiest reality is the “world of pretend.” The sudden realization of all this came alive for me when I thought of my small grandchildren. The past for them holds no guilt and the future holds no fear. Their contentment is full when they are with their Poppy (that’s me!!) on one of our “Dates”! My presence makes their past and future secondary if not irrelevant. All that matters is our being together on some new adventure! So it is when I am truly “in the presence” of the Father. He is with me in “the now” and whatever we do together is secondary, although pleasing. Why let the past or future mess up the wonder of our present?

I am liberated from my goof-ups and sense of uselessness when I accept the fact I am the Lord’s “little child.” He loves and forgives me as I do my “little children.” He is with me and I find myself more alive because of it.

These simple thoughts constitute the ground of forgiveness. The inability to forgive crushes the ability to live. Until we truly see “the light of God” and accept our status as “little children” the explosive power of forgiveness will forever elude us. Forgiveness is the Father’s greatest word! Our “little children” are our greatest lesson on what forgiveness means!

Determine to live in His presence and to discover forgiveness … for God , for others, for yourself and for the church … then you will find all your heart has ever sought … just like a little child!

“Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
Pictuare Credit: Children Playing, RA Stites