Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Month: January 2015

Finding Common Ground

The rapid and convenient spread of information these days has forced me to see how many more divergent streams of Christianity exist in our day. We seem to be finding more reasons to be divided that I could have ever thought possible! Now I am not suggesting that every disagreement among the followers of Christ is trivial. I have strong convictions myself that I am unwilling to abandon simply because I believe they have been given to me my Christ Himself. So I must respect my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe He is directing them as well.

It is for Christ that I must seek for common ground with others in His Kingdom. While I understand that beliefs are important, and that they play a strong part in how we live out our lives, I have also found that different beliefs do not always translate to different motives and actions.

The common ground that I have come to be comfortable with is this:

I can truly enjoy fellowship and work alongside anyone who believes in the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and who loves and desires to please Him. For me the evidence of this desire will be shown in expressions of love for all believers and a concern for others who do not know Him.

If we can discuss our differences while honoring these important values, I am fine with that. I continue to learn from such discussions. However, I do not have time to debate with people who value debate more than faith in Christ accompanied by good works that glorify God. I gravitate to those who love to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).

Suffering and the Will of God

Over 40 years ago I experienced a life-crisis through a failed marriage which I did everything in my power to save. This was the most painful time I had ever experienced in my life. Feelings of helplessness brought me to my knees before the Lord, and I rededicated my heart to Him one night in my home. Amazingly, I awoke the next morning feeling light as a feather! The whole world seemed fresh and new, even though my troubles had in no way been dissolved.

The only change was in me. In fact, I experienced the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that I had never known before. It was then that I realized how God could work all things, even heart-breaking experiences for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Before I go any further, let me say that I do not enjoy difficulties and hard times any more than anyone else. Sometimes I can take them in stride, other times I literally despise them. I do not always know when it is appropriate to accept situations and when they should be challenged and resisted. For this reason I have found that the only safe thing to do is to trust in the Lord with all my heart, to lean not on my own understanding, to acknowledge Him in all my ways, knowing He will direct my path. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

However, the Word of the Lord is clear. There are times in which our suffering is the will of God. Those who do not believe that examples of Old Covenant believers like Joseph, David, Daniel and Job apply to us today cannot deny the lessons of Jesus, Peter and Paul in the New Covenant. All of them portrayed the inescapable fact that some times of suffering in the life of the child of God are His will for us, and are even of great value.

In an earlier podcast, I spoke of prayer, thanksgiving, and rejoicing as being activities that reflect the will of God for the believer. While we can maintain a general attitude of rejoicing, there is a time, however, to weep with those who weep, and morn with those who morn. (Romans 12:15). There is also a time when a state of distress or heaviness becomes necessary. (1 Peter 1:6).

There is even a time to rise up in righteous anger against situations that oppose the advance of the righteous Kingdom of God. Jesus surrendered to the plans of evil men, in order to fulfill the will of God. But He always challenged their oppressive tendencies, and championed the needs of those sick and oppressed of the devil and his workers.

Today I would like to challenge certain beliefs that are prevalent today in many Christian circles. We seem to be divided into two camps. One group seems to be saying that everything that happens, every sickness, every disease, every crime, every war, every rape and murder is the will of God, for He is sovereign. They say that we are to praise Him FOR everything that happens, whether good or bad. We do know that God has brought good out of some horrible circumstances, but nowhere are we taught in Scripture to draw this fatalistic conclusion. In fact, it is plain that many tragedies happen because people reject the good will of God for their lives.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that suffering is never in the will of God for any believer. They believe that perfect health, personal comfort, and an abundance of material possessions is always God’s perfect will for those of us who love Him. To this point I ask, “Is God not able to perform His will?” The reason often given for why so few obtain this state of perfect physical bliss is that we simply don’t believe like we should. Again, that puts God in a state of helplessness, as if even He cannot overcome our evident lack of faith.

God is our Heavenly Father. As a father myself I will always have ideals for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I want what is best for them. Of course I want them to be happy, healthy and prosperous, but more than that, I desire for them to know Christ and to reflect His character. When my children were in my home and under my care, I had to sometimes tell them “no” for their own good. I do not like saying no. Sometimes I had to withhold from them things that were not wrong or hurtful, simply to teach them obedience. Other times I even had to use forceful measures to teach them, not because I enjoyed it but because they needed it. I am sad to say that my distaste for discipline was behind some of my failures as a father and they ultimately suffered because of it.

The Kingdom of God is a picture of an ideal world pressing against a corrupt and sin-ridden world. We must never let God’s ideal of “Shalom” — peace, wholeness, well-being, safety, and His ideals of justice, holiness, and love fade in our minds. His ideals press us forward toward the goal of becoming the express image of Jesus Himself. No amount of suffering or sacrifice can compare to that marvelous end! When necessary, He will use unpleasant circumstances, that are even unpleasant to Him, in order to bring forth His ideals in us.

We must learn to be passive towards the dealings of God our Father, and at the same time active and aggressive in our resistance to sin and to the pressures of the culture and values of fallen humanity.

1 Peter 4:19:
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”

Romans 12:1-2:
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
NASB

Romans 8:28-29:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

It is not the time to choose up sides on this issue. It is the time to re-evaluate our assumptions and listen to the whole counsel of God. You may find several flaws in the considerations I have put forth here. I only ask you to consider them, and seek the Lord for yourself in every situation in order to determine His will for you. His will and intention for you is more wonderful, more glorious, more joyous than anything you could ever imagine for yourself!

The Ultimate Adventure

From the beginning of time every culture has had its heroes to inspire them. People have always been thrilled to tell and listen to stories of adventures both real and fictional. These are our heroes who have overcome impossible odds with courage, skill, and character that are almost superhuman. There is something about this desire in us to imagine far away places and exciting events that lift us out of the routine of our every day existence. Perhaps they serve us by encouraging us in the challenges we face in normal living.

One day, I was listening to a college professor discussing the many religions of the world. He noted that many of the great religions of the east were contemplative and generally were in pursuit of tranquility, but that Christianity was more heroic. This set off a line of thinking in me that I had never considered before. From that time on I began to see heroism as an element that is very central to the Christian Faith.

The message of the Good News of the Kingdom of God that Jesus Christ brought to mankind goes to the very core of human need. The love that He expressed and the forgiveness He brought is commonly known to us as the salvation experience. The peace that follows our surrender to God our Father, and our reunion with Him is described in many ways, depending upon our religious and cultural backgrounds, but the desire and need for it is universal. The title of “Savior of the World,” has appropriately been given to Jesus, but today the phrase has become so worn out that to some it has lost its meaning.

Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, has indeed become the Great Rescuer of the world, in that He has delivered us all from guilt, sin, failure and defeat and death! You and I have simply to believe and submit to the truth of what He purchased for us by His death, burial and resurrection. By it we can obtain great peace of mind, but there is even more awaiting us than that! He can and will also fill us with a great sense of purpose and adventure! Besides needing love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace and security, human beings have another great need. That need is to live in an atmosphere of excitement, enthusiasm and exuberance for life itself! We all need a reason to be here! Some might be satisfied to say that our reason for being is God, but what does that actually mean? It is my contention that living, moving and having our being in God includes possessing His passion and enthusiasm for His Creation as well!

Jesus sent His 12 disciples, and the others who followed Him, out on the greatest adventure of all. They were to tell the world the Good News that the Kingdom of God had come and was continuing to come upon the earth. They were to be ambassadors sent by God Himself to demonstrate how this rule was to take place. In a short time, they became living examples to the world of God’s forgiveness and love, and it was easy for people to see it by the harmony in which they lived. Among other things, Church life became as environment where disciples were developed and equipped to witnesses to this reality. Then they were sent forth out into the workplaces and marketplaces of the world to share this Good News to others in their own unique way. These people were by no means perfect, and we can read about their weaknesses in the New Testament, but this did not hinder their mission. In fact this only enhanced their relationships with God and kept them together in their need for Him. Therefor His power and grace became even more abundant in their lives!

These fisherman, rebels and tax collectors obviously met with great opposition from the religious and political leaders of that day. Because their economic security was at risk and their authority was being challenged, some of the more fanatic religionists even risked their lives to stop this message from being preached! Now the excitement is really building up, and these nobodies from Galilee were going to begin calling up courage from within themselves that they did not know they had! The Holy Spirit which had empowered them from the birth of God’s Church proved to be sufficient in every test, and by His Strength the Early Church drove back the gates of Hell!

These early Christians were not content to be “the rescued. “Having been well instructed by their Master, they knew the art of becoming rescuers, and because they were on fire with their love for Him, they were driven to save anyone they could. Some of them faced the most viscous hatred that men could muster, all the while revealing the fullness of Jesus’ grace and love. Many laid down their physical lives in order that many more could be translated into the Kingdom of God’s righteousness, peace, and joy. The Reign of God that started in them began to expand, as the prophets foretold, until less than 300 years later Christianity became the dominant faith in Europe.

Over the centuries, Christians have developed a false sense of security, with the material prosperity and acceptance the institution of Christianity has enjoyed. But God has always had His flame burning in some of the nobodies of each age. The modern church in North America tends to forget about the flaming messengers of the New Testament times. Sure we can usually work up some excitement in our services, and many are out there actually living the Jesus Life, but we as a whole need liberated from our sleepy Sunday morning thinking! What we don’t need, is more motivation by guilt that often quenches our enthusiasm. The only answer is a renewing of our original sense of adventure that only Jesus Himself can impart, and He has come to bring it to us all today!

Are you up to the challenge of the ages? Is your heart crying out for new meaning and purpose? Then just say “YES, YES, YES!” to the Lord, for He is calling us to rise up today, and be empowered in His Quest! The only thing you need is a willing heart. He will do the rest. He will take you out of your boring routine and transplant you into the work that He Himself has designed you for. Many of you are already prepared, but if not, don’t worry. Being prepared by God and going to His School is an adventure in itself! I won’t guarantee He will relocate you physically, or even change your natural vocation. I do know that your days of being a “Pew Potato” will be over and you will begin experience a sense of mission in everything you do!

Every day I am learning of more individuals and groups who are through with the boring routine of “going to church” that has dominated us for centuries. Thousands are coming together today in large and small groups to learn more of Him and His Glorious Church, the Many-Membered Body of Christ. In this Body every individual is absolutely crucial to the health and well-being of the whole body. God has given us leadership whose desire is to equip every saint for the work he/she is called by God to do. As you find your place to function in God’s economy, all of us will benefit, and the wall of sickness and death will be driven back! I am talking about coming into a riotous, rowdy, informal family of believers in Jesus Christ! These people know about laughter and pain, success and failure, pressure and challenge, but they have said good-bye forever to falling asleep in “church” on Sunday morning!

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