Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Bullet of Truth: The Power of the Word in Troubled Times

The following words appeared in a newsletter from Dr. Billy Graham ten years ago … in 1999! The reference to the computer crisis of 2000 is not a misprint. Hear the words of Billy Graham about man’s continual dilemmas:

In our world, we see mighty, cataclysmic possibilities as we approach the 21st century. Small wars are being fought, and some nations are assembling highly sophisticated armaments – including nuclear, germ and chemical weapons – for the next war. Millions of people live on the edge of starvation. Ethnic violence seems to be almost worldwide. Economically, America is in a boom era, but one feels the uncertainty caused by the financial crisis sweeping many other parts of the world. And people are fearful of what computers will do as January 1, 2000, nears.

In such a world, and under such conditions, the Word of God has a message to stabilize the hearts of all who put their trust in Him. When some calamity sweeps our foundations away, we should turn to the Word for light and help.

When will we learn that nothing ever really changes on this earth but people who become new creations in Christ? People are still worrying … and they always will … until they turn to the Light of the Word! The power of our overcoming is always in proportion to our love for the Living Word, Jesus … our knowledge of the written Word, Scripture … and our yieldedness to the implanted Word in us!

Great peace have they who love the law … nothing shall make them stumble in confusion.Psalm 119:165

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Bullet of Purpose: The Only FIX That Works!

We are always trying to fix things! In fact, we live in the naive arrogance that all things are fixable. There is always an answer or solution to the “things” that complicate, confuse and conflict our little plans of well being. This is a fake assumption apart from Christ.

The Father has fixed things on earth so that they can never be fixed by man’s attempts, strength or solutions. In a fallen world the things created by human evil are unfixable outside of putting everyone and everything “in Christ.” It is not in demonic hearts to ever want this, much less to let it happen.

Even the Lord Jesus didn’t “fix” the world. It was in as great a mess when He left as when He came … except for one thing … there was now a message and an example on earth of the kind of permanent FIX the Father had in mind to achieve His eternal purpose. The Savior didn’t even fix things for His own life. It was short, hard and ended in horrific cruelty.

Hence, the primary point. My highest purpose as a Cross Disciple is not to fix things so I’ll be happy … or to fix other people so I will be significant … but to so yield to Christ that He will fix me and I will be a pleasure to the Father! Each of us needs a total makeover … a way to fix ourselves. This comes from self-discipling. Paul said it well:

I have discipled myself so that in every situation I will be sufficient enough to fix my response to please Christ.” Philippians 4:11

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bullet of Wisdom: A Few Well Chosen Words

Some time ago a friend sent me the following words of wit and wisdom from church signs. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did:

Free Trip to Heaven. Details Inside!
People are like tea bags – you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.
Fight truth decay – clean with the Scripture daily.
Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives.
It is unlikely there’ll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church.
If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.

Church signs can give bullet theology that we all enjoy. But the great truths of the Creator-Redeemer-Perfecter are also found in thick volumes on a theologian’s bookshelf. The words in these books represent freedom, truth, power and eternal significance. Each word must be carefully weighed and its exact meaning thoroughly thought through before the writer submits his manuscript for printing. That is the theologian’s job … to make each word count in the right way and with an exact meaning. The layman may get lost in the exactitude of theological discussion but we all must admire the precision and wonder of this Queen of Sciences … Theology!

Church signs are vastly different. They are meant to attract the interest of the passing motorist who has but a few seconds to grasp the words before they are far behind in his or her rear view mirror. Yet even as brief a statement as those found on such signs can carry theological impact. They, too, should convey freedom, truth, power and eternal significance. In their brevity they must be exact if they are to be effective. Precision counts … whether it is in a theological treatise or a church sign!

If precision counts so much in our communication of spiritual reality, how are you doing in your own efforts to make every word, thought and action count? And, above all, there must be precision following of Jesus if we expect to experience His precision promises!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Bullet of Joy: Let It Overflow!

Our Ventures For Christ office is a happy place to work. Odd happenings and entertaining stories make us laugh quite often. We also have a serious side … working with people always exposes us to the painful, traumatic, agonizing, distressing and depression-filled situations of life in a fallen world.

I asked our office staff to try to think of some of our funniest stories to share with you. The result was hilarious … but not very productive. We brainstormed our memories but we couldn’t think of a single printable story although we laughed hard enough in the attempt; some of you may have heard us, we were that loud! There was the copier incident … but that was a little too embarrassing. There was the radio story … but that didn’t happen at work. What about the man who … no, we wouldn’t want to share anything too personal about another Believer’s misfortunes even though they were funny. Oh, well, it was fun trying!

Maybe the point of humor in our lives isn’t so much the stories themselves as the camaraderie, solidarity and universality of laughing together. It draws us together when we laugh with each other. Have you ever noticed how a well told joke in the course of a sermon brings the congregation together? That moment of shared laughter may just be a shared moment of heavenly bliss the dear Lord Jesus is allowing us to experience here on earth. “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly …” (Hebrews 12:22).

And above all … no matter what we encounter on earth or how bad things get … or seem to get … it cannot stop the Cross Disciple from getting closer to Jesus and enjoying His Mind about all things. Let’s loosen up … He has everything under control! “The One enthroned in heaven laughs …” (Psalm 2:4).

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Bullet of Joy: Laughter Is Good For You

Last week, we considered the relationship between happiness, joy and praise. This week, let’s look at these three from a different point of view … humor and the role laughter can play in making us productive citizens of the Lord Jesus’ kingdom here on earth.

The following observations about laughter come from my dear friend Larry Walker of Visionwalk International Ministries:

“God gave us a great gift in the capacity to laugh. Look for those things that can be truly funny, or maybe take lightly some things that we take far too seriously. Most of all, never lose the ability to laugh at yourself.

Laughter results in muscle relaxation, pain reduction, lowers blood pressure, and even is helpful for digestion. It lowers stress, dissolves anger and frustration, and even soothes sadness. It unites family and friends, builds trust, and enhances relationships.

No matter the circumstances, the joy of the Lord can be ours and can be expressed, not only in prayer and worship, but also in laughter.”

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) and if we truly “put” our expectations in Christ alone His joy becomes our joy! We then experience the impactive wonder of Nehemiah 8:10, “…for the joy of the Lord IS your strength.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Bullet of Praise: Giving Up Without a Fight?

There are many bad things in this world … there can be no argument about that! But … are we letting the Evil One gain an easy victory when we allow the bad to SUFFOCATE the wonder and curiosity, the praise and thanksgiving the Lord created us to have? Let’s place that thought against the beatitudes: “Oh, the happiness of the man or woman….” Our Lord is recommending a way of life that escapes so many of us. How few seem to be truly joyous in the ways He mentioned here or in any other of our options! How many of us have surrendered to dreariness and mediocrity?

Let’s remember that happiness usually depends on happenings. They are unpredictable and both good and bad. But the happiness Jesus teaches rests on more than what occurs. It has an element of joy that far exceeds the passing happiness of earth. Abiding and overcoming joy depends on loving and knowing Jesus. He never changes and our joy shouldn’t either, no matter how much our feeling of happiness waxes and wanes.

How can we fight back against the bad and the dull? Let’s consider the first point of the business book, Fish!* The authors suggest your attitude about your work determines in large part if you will be content, effective and productive. In short, we must have the right attitude … God’s attitude … toward our work if it is to be meaningful to us. How much more do we need that right attitude toward the life we claim to have “in Christ?” It is clearly obvious that American Christianity needs a real “attitude of praise” adjustment. Of course, I need to start first with me! How about you! If our praise for all He is doesn’t exceed our complaints for all the world isn’t, we demonstrate that we don’t know the difference between happiness and joy.

*Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Bullet of Praise: Are You Excited About Life?

Eighty-one-year-old Harry "Hawk" McGinnis is walking around the world – actually he has been doing it for years (since 1992) having visited 80 countries and traveled some 80,000 miles. He is excited about what he is seeing and doing. McGinnis said about his adventures, “The secret of life is to experience life. Life is about living life.”*

I wonder if, for many of us who claim to be Disciples of Jesus, there is a connection between that sort of attitude … or lack of it … and our own excitement for thanksgiving and praise. Have we lost much of the childlike sense of wonder and curiosity this world and the Father’s purposes should invoke? Mr. McGinnis’ adventurous spirit should challenge us to consider if we have forgotten to thank God for His creation and expectations! If we let go of such a basic level of thanksgiving, we soon find that it takes a LOT to inspire thanks of any kind, much less the emotional exuberance of praise.

When was the last time you stopped in your daily routine to tell the Creator “thank you” for the beauty of some small wonder of His world? Have you exulted recently in praise that He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything you see including you? How about taking a moment now to thank Him for what He has done and praise Him for Who He is? It might just help you capture a little of Mr. McGinnis’s excitement about life. Our journey on this earth was intended by the Father to be an adventure! If someone has lost his or her zest for it, they might be on the wrong road!

*Sunday, January 25, 2009, NPR’s Weekend Edition "Walker Talks About Journey."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Bullet of Truth: Good Works Matter More

Examples of great folks who did their duty regardless of their feelings are legion. The lives of those pitiful souls who excuse their weak wills under the guise of not wanting to be hypocritical never bring impact on anyone or anything. Their pretense pales into insignificance beside the lives of those who disdain their feelings and act on love and duty.

It’s far better to do right even when you don’t feel like it than to do what you feel and allow what you know is wrong to take place. James 4:17 says it so well, “… to one who knows the right thing to do, and does NOT DO IT, to him it is sin.”

The hypocrite is not the person who does right even though he doesn’t feel like it! Right has been done, others are benefited, God is pleased and the one who has acted builds confidence! The real hypocrite is the one who knows what to do, but allows his feelings to keep him from it.

Finally, it’s a lot easier to work yourself into a good feeling than to feel your way into a good work! Think about it!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Bullet of Truth: Feeling Verses Obedience

The extremes that we humans go to in order to avoid truth is amazing. Take the old bit that says, “I’m not going to do something for God when I really don’t feel like it because I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

This pretense of truth is sickening. Example: “I’m not going to pretend to love her when I can’t stand her!” or “I don’t go to church unless my heart is in it.” (God commands us to go anyway.) Some of us have convinced ourselves that if we do what’s right and we really don’t “feel like it” it makes us a hypocrite!

Nonsense! It makes you a person of courage over timidity, will over emotions, right over wrong, love over laziness, compassion over self-interest!

Washington didn’t feel like crossing the ice-clogged Delaware River on a Christmas night during a wild storm. This act didn’t prove him a hypocrite, but a soldier of courage and daring. Jesus didn’t feel like being crucified. That He voluntarily allowed it didn’t prove Him a hypocrite, but the obedient son of God.