Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The old song is cliché but true: "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world". Fact is, we need people and are greatly enriched by genuine friendships.

The friendship of King David and Jonathan is legendary. Although Jonathan's father, King Saul, chose to become an enemy of David, these two men enjoyed the closest possible friendship. It is said of Jonathan's love for David that "he loved him as he loved his own life" (1 Samuel 20:17)

Genuine friendship is one of God's great gifts. At the risk of sounding sentimental and nostalgic, David and Jonathon's friendship caused me to recount the special people who have genuinely and selflessly befriended me over the years. There are those who have - and still do - pray for my spiritual growth. There were the men whom I regularly walked with in the morning over several years who were supportive listeners when I needed to talk and unburden myself of concerns. There have been those who deliberately included me in fun activities to help keep me balanced. And there are those who have been friends since college whose friendship remains constant and steady.

A large part of the Kingdom of God is relationships. After all, we won't be in the Kingdom alone; we'll be surrounded by family - brothers and sisters in Christ. And the older I get the more clearly I the church in this light - it is designed to be a living demonstration today of the Kingdom relationships of the Age To Come. I sense this was a major part of the dynamic of the Church in Acts that turned the world upside down - "everyone keep feeling a sense of awe" (Acts 2:43).

I am more convinced than ever that a Christian community today that evidences relationships characteristic of the Kingdom of God will be a magnetic fellowship. People desperately want genuine friendships like that of David and Jonathan and will zealously pursue opportunities for such.

Biblical truth must be the foundation for all Christian relationships and fellowships but nothing is more compelling than truth in action; truth being "fleshed out" in genuine relationships. Truth in action through relationships becomes the most powerful witness of all, according to Jesus:

"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; "that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21)

May today be a celebration of genuine Christian friendships as well as an opportunity to further develop a powerful witness through cultivating friendships that demonstrate the Kingdom.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Never has so much been said about so little. At least that's my take on the proliferation of information on Internet communities. One popular site asks participants to answer the question, "What are you doing right now?". In response, the entire world potentially learns about the most mundane details of daily existence. Add to this the frenetic pace of text-messaging and incessant cell phone usage and it's easy to observe that lots of information is being communicated in our age. The only real question is regarding the value of that information.

"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge." (Psalm 19:1-2)

God's creation is constantly communicating profound information about its Creator. Those who have ears to hear above the din of our modern electronic communications can receive life-changing insights. As such, the spiritually attentive can echo the words of the Psalmist:

"The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:7-10)

Through being attuned to creation's communication we are drawn to God's divine communication, His written word. There we find how perfect, sure, right, pure, and enlightening the law, testimony, precepts, and commandments of the Lord truly are. Through attention and meditation we realize how very valuable the word of the Lord is.

As those who have been renewed through the word of God, our goal becomes that of communicating in harmony with nature. As such our prayer becomes,

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

May our communications today resound with the excellencies of nature's communications.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The book with the catchy title, "Who Moved My Cheese?", is basically a modern-day parable about where and how we find success and satisfaction in the world. For most people the daily routine of job and career is comparable to a mouse moving through a maze in search of nourishing cheese. Take away the cheese (the job) - as is happening to many in today's economy - and frustration and even despair result. The real issue, however, is: who truly provides "the cheese" that I daily pursue?

Perhaps there is no Bible passage more familiar than Psalm 23. It is undoubtedly the most-read passage in times of trouble and at deathbeds, and understandably so. Few Bible passage resonate with such peace and assurance as this one: "I shall not want ... He makes ... He leads ... He restores ... He guides. You are with me ... comfort me ... prepare a table ... anointed my head." The Psalmist confidently declares God's provision in the present tense even as he looks to the future in confidence: "I shall not want." As surely as God presently provides, the Psalmist is convinced that God will provide in the future.

It is painful when our "cheese" (job) is moved and even removed, as I have previously experienced and as so many are experiencing today. But it is far less painful when the owner of our "cheese" is our Father rather than our employer. If our faith is based upon the ultimate Owner of the "cheese" then the need will never be greater than the supply.

Perhaps the priority of Matthew 6:33 is more clearly evident in light of today's economic climate: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." The ultimate "cheese" to daily pursue is the kingdom and its lifestyle, and the "cheese" of this life's necessities will follow.

Abraham, the man of faith, declared in Genesis 22 that our Father is Yahweh-jirah, The God Who Provides. Perhaps no title for God is more comforting and reassuring these days than this one. The God Who Provides will continue to do so even as He always has: "I shall not want".

May we live this day, and every day, in resolute faith in the God Who Provides.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If faith can move mountains, why doesn't the landscape look different? I'm surrounded by mountains where I live and I've not heard of any dramatic changes to them, but perhaps that's not exactly what Jesus meant.

"Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions." (Mark 11:23-25)

At first glance Jesus seems to make a blanket promise about receiving everything we ask for in prayer if we have enough faith. But in the same breath He also talks about forgiving and forgiveness. What's that all about?

The "mountains" that often need to be moved are related to issues of forgiveness. Often the greatest obstacles we face have to do with forgiving others. And these are the "mountains" that need to be moved in faith.

Many of us face no greater mountains than those of forgiveness. Long-standing issues loom over our lives like the shadows of giant mountains. The passing of time has left us with seemingly impossible alienation from friends or family who we were once close to. Deeds done remain unresolved and have grown from proverbial molehills into mountains. We've tried to forget but the mountain shadows remain as constant reminders.

This is what the promise of "moving mountains" is really about. Hopeless conflict can be resolved; broken relationships can be mended. And this opens up the pathway for effective prayer - to receive what we believe and ask for. In fact, the opposite is also true - we often do not receive what we ask for in prayer and faith because of "mountains" of unforgiveness.

Is there a broken or damaged relationship that is causing you pain? Does a solution to the problem seem as impossible as moving a huge mountain? Be encouraged as you pray - through faith that unresolved and unforgiven situation can be remedied.

May this be a mountain-moving day.


Monday, March 16, 2009

We are presently living in a "give up economy" - we're giving up jobs, house values, retirement funds, etc. But no matter how much it seems we are giving up, we are gaining far more than we can comprehend.

"Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)

Regardless of the economy over the years, I can truly say that I have gained far more than I have ever given up. Years ago, when I committed my life to pastoral ministry some of my first thoughts were of all that I would forego in this life - "success", riches, owning a home, proximity to family, etc. Reflecting back on thirty years of service, I clearly see that I have gained far more than I could have ever imagined - houses, financial resources, family. It is a journey that I absolutely wouldn't trade anything for.

It hasn't always been easy; after all, Jesus did promise "persecutions". I've experienced opposition and unpopularity but nothing compared to God's faithful people recorded in Scripture.
I'm confident that all who have given up of the world's blessings and security for the sake of the Kingdom have ultimately received far more. No doubt you and countless others can add voice to mine in testifying that we have received "a hundred times as much now in the present age". Granted, we didn't "sign up" for these added benefits but we are thankful for them.

In any economy there is one value that remains constant and it is worth far more than the "hundred times" blessings of this age - "in the age to come, eternal life." Blessings one hundred times over in this age do not even begin to compare with eternal life in the age to come!

Serve faithfully today, family of God. Surely you are being rewarded in this life even as you anticipate the ultimate gift of life in the age to come. There is joy in the journey even as there is unspeakable joy to come.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

If you don't believe what you hear at least believe what you see.

"If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37-38)

No one ever made bolder claims than Jesus but no one ever provided more convincing evidence either. His works validated His words.And the key purpose of both His works and His words were "so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father."

The intimate, dynamic relationship that Jesus had with His Father was key to His life and mission. He honestly admitted, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)

In case we are prone to envy the relationship that Jesus has with His Father, it is important that we be reminded that Jesus desires the same for us: "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21).

Jesus is actively interceding for us, His followers, to have a dynamic and intimate relationship with each other that characterizes His relationship with the Father. As such, we are drawn into Their relationship and testify to the world that God has sent Jesus into the world.

The bottom line is that the words and works of Jesus are designed to draw us into relationship with each other and with Him and the Father. These relationships exemplify and testify to the living reality of the Kingdom of God which we proclaim. Thus our words and works are characterized by divine authority and authenticity.

May our words, works and relationships give powerful and compelling testimony to the world today.


Monday, March 09, 2009

I don't wanna grow up and hopefully never will. I'm not "anti-maturity"; just "pro-childhood".

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)

The danger of adulthood is that it potentially robs us of the uncomplicated, simplistic and pure childlike qualities that are essential to the kingdom of God. Age and experience easily instill cynicism, distrust, and rigidity - traits in opposition to necessary kingdom qualities.

Simple trust and teachability are essential childlike qualities. Living in constant awe and undying trust of our Creator Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus, characterize the child of God. A willingness to grow and learn are also indispensable qualities.

I've just returned from a life-changing adventure. Conversations and new-found friendships testify to the hand of God in ways unprecedented in my life. Today I reflect back on these experiences with the wonderment of a simple child. I see my Father in ways I have not previously seen, and sense His hand in places I could not have previously imagined. The simple truth that He has promised His kingdom with power is more real to me than ever before.

A child is constantly in need of his/her parents. This child of God sees far more clearly how much he needs His Father, and isn't ashamed to admit it.

Through simplistic searching of Scripture and honest, heart-felt prayer before the throne of the Father we retain necessary child-like qualities. It is here that we remain enrolled in the Kingdom school that we dare never graduate from.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ today flood you with His presence and work and leave you standing in gape-jawed wonderment.

It's not so much about ability as it is availability. In fact, it seems that God more often than not uses those with limited ability. Consider Gideon of the Old Testament:

"The LORD looked at him and said, "Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?" He said to Him, "O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house." But the LORD said to him, "Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man." (Judges 6:14-16)

God's use of men such as Gideon drives home the truth that "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong," (1 Corinthians 1:27)

The absurdity of the ages is that our Lord Jesus is preparing His followers, most of whom have little power and influence in this present age, to rule His world-wide one-thousand year kingdom on earth. It is the ultimate foolishness and weakness which will shame the wise and the strong.

Most of us are in good company with Gideon. We may be the "least likely to succeed" in our class or family, and we may live in relative obscurity in a nearly-forgotten corner of the world, but like the miniscule mustard seed, we are growing in the Lord for the greatness He has designed.

I am awed by the company I keep. The believers I minister to and with in the body of Christ are destined for far greater fame and influence than the most notable of today's leaders and dignitaries. It is thrilling to be in the company of the foolish and weak!

Government leaders, don't lose sight of your exalted status even as you look at the foolishness and weakness of your life today. Perhaps you'll live life today with a mischievous smirk on your face that will cause others to think you are up to something, because you are! In partnership with the Coming King, we are conspiring to rule the world in perfect justice and truth.

It really is far more about availability than ability. The King of Kings supplies the ability as we are available to Him. May He take our foolishness and weakness and turn them into wisdom and strength today as we surrender to Him and His "government-in-training" work in our lives.