Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It's Simple: Bring People to Jesus...

What do you know about Andrew the apostle? Not much, probably. He is mentioned several times in the New Testament but is usually mostly in the background. However, there is one unique thing about Andrew. He was always bringing people to Jesus. He brought his brother Peter (John 1:40). He brought the boy who had 5 loaves and 2 fish (John 6:8). And, along with Philip, he brought a group of Greeks who were seeking to see Jesus (John 12:20-22). What a great thing to be remembered for: simply bringing people to Jesus! (Idea from H. Blackaby writings)

I wonder what they will put on my tombstone? Or what will I be remembered for? I honestly am not too worried about it. But wouldn't it be nice if our obituaries one day simply said...

"He/She brought people to Jesus"

We do a lot of "things" in our life but there is none more impactful and lasting than bringing people to Jesus.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Don't Make The Good Things In Your Life Into An Idol...

There's a great set of connecting stories in the Old and New Testaments regarding the bronzed serpent made by Moses in the wilderness. Taken together, they give us a couple of really good life-lessons to heed and follow.

In Numbers 21, Aaron has passed away, Israel has a skirmish with Arad and then God has them skirt around the Edomites. The people become impatient so they complain against Moses and against God.  The Lord sends poisonous snakes among them and several Israelites are bitten and die. They cry out to mercy and so God tells Moses to make a snake image, mount it on a pole and anyone who looks at the bronzed snake, will live (even if they are bitten).

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to the time of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18). Israel (the northern Kingdom) has fallen and times are tough in Judah. Hezekiah, is one of the good kings and he desires to renew Judah's vows and commitment to Yaweh. He removes the high places and destroys the altars and shrines of the foreign gods. He then breaks into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made because it too has become an idol. He even named it "Nehushtan" meaning a bronzed thing or a detestable thing.

Again, fast forward a couple of hundred years to the time of Jesus. Jesus is talking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who came to him by night to ask Jesus about God (John 3). As Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, He brings up the imagery of Moses' bronzed snake and uses it as a redemptive analogy to describe His coming sacrifice and crucifixion. Jesus says in John 3:14-15...

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life."

So, here's the recap.

* The children of God are disobedient and rebellious, God sends snakes among them, He then has Moses to make a bronzed snake and all that looked at the snake were saved.

* The Israelites began to worship the bronzed snake forgetting that it was God who provided salvation. Hezekiah had the idol destroyed.

* Jesus uses the story of the serpent being lifted up and people looking to it to foreshadow the fact that He also would one day be lifted up (on a cross) and those who "looked" to Him would live and have eternal life.

Life Lesson #1 - We should always be very careful about the victories God brings to our lives. We do not want them to turn into idols. It is God that should be the focus, not what He does for us. We should, as the saying goes, seek His face, not his hands.

Life Lesson #2 - God/Jesus can take the most twisted story (e.g. the bronzed snake becoming a "Nehushtan") and turn it into a redemptive story. I find comfort in this knowing that He has done this in my life and millions of others. I know that I once was blind, but now I see.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It Always Pays to Hear and Follow...

I have re-read through the story of King David (1 Chronicles 10 thru 16), his coming to power and his desire to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. I won’t go into details (you know the story), but the Ark was lost during the days of Eli the Judge and Prophet and his two corrupt sons. It was when Samuel was just a small boy and the Philistines captured it in battle. After they were afflicted, they returned it to Israel where it came to rest in Beth-Shemesh (a priestly town) but 70 men there were struck down for looking into the Ark and so they sent it on to Kiriath-Jearim where is came to rest at the home of of the family of Abinidab.

The Ark stayed there throughout the reign of Saul and into the beginning of the reign of David. One of David’s first desire was to bring the Ark back to a more central area of his kingdom and his new capital, Jerusalem. You remember that he sent 30,000 men to “fetch” the Ark (ironically, the number of men who died when the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the Ark) and they failed costing Uzzah his life (because he dared to touch God’s holy Ark). The Ark was then turned aside and placed at the house of Obed-Edom and God blessed his family.

In the next couple of months, David learned a great lesson. The Philistines attacked him on two different occasions and in the same way each time. David, wisely, inquired of the Lord both times, “Should I go war against the Philistines?” and the Lord replied that he should but gave him different strategies and marching orders for each encounter. (See my last blog post) David saw that the battle belongs to God and that obedience to God’s direction is always better than man’s strategy. Therefore, he renewed his quest to bring the Ark to Jerusalem but this time, he inquired of the Lord as to the Lord’s plan. And…you know the rest. God honored David’s request and brought His presence back to Israel.

Long story, clear lesson…

There are ways that seem right to man but in the end, it is always best to hear God and follow His plan.

I pray that truth for all of us. I pray that we look to God for our marching orders, not to ourselves or even what makes sense to us as individuals. I pray that we see Him clearly and what He is doing among the helpless, hopeless and hurting of the world and I pray that we look to Him and hear Him clearly on how He wants us to align ourselves with His will to join in that great endeavor.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Best Get Your Marching Orders From God...

When David became king of Israel, the Philistines heard and so they sent a massive army to teach him a lesson (2 Samuel 5:17-25). David was young, new to the job, but wise enough to inquire of the Lord and ask...

"Should I go to war against the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?"

To which the Lord replied, "Go, for I will certainly hand the Philistines over to you."

David marched straight down, with his army and proceeded (in the strength and command of the Lord) to rout the whole Philistine army. He came on them with a frontal assault like a "bursting flood".

The Philistines ran away, went home, licked their wounds and then decided to try it once again. So they came up the same way and in the same manner, spread out in the Valley of Rephaim.

It was just like before. The natural thing for David would be to do the same thing they had just done. A head on attack. It worked remarkably well the first time. Why wouldn't it work a second time?

But here, David shows true wisdom even at a young age. Instead of jumping to the obvious, he stops, and he once again inquires of the Lord. And the Lord answers differently this time...

"Do not make a frontal assault. Circle around behind them and attack opposite the balsam trees. When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, act decisively, for then the Lord will have marched out ahead of you to attack the camp of the Philistines."

To his credit, David did exactly what the Lord commanded and God honored this action by striking down the Philistines.

The moral of the story? Just because we have success today with one method and just because we did so because we listened to God doesn't mean that the same method will work next time. It is always best to get our marching orders from God day by day. He may surprise us. He just might want to do something in a new way that we have never thought of or experienced.

And, when we listen and get our orders from God and He breaks through with an amazing miracle, it's He that gets the glory not us...just the way it should be!

Where are you getting your marching orders today? I don't know about you, but I long to hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Can You Name the Sons of Samuel? I Didn't Think So...

I have been reading through this morning the story of Samuel. Do you remember his sons Joel and Abijah? Probably not. They are only mentioned in a few short verses. Joel was the eldest and Abijah the second born. They were judges in Beer-sheba but they did not walk in the ways of their father. The turned toward dishonest gain, they took bribes and, worst of all, they perverted justice. They were so unlike their father that they basically disappeared from the scene and were relegated to Israeli historical irrelevancy. (1 Samuel 8:1-3)

Dad (Samuel) was a great guy. One of the greatest prophets/judges that ever lived. He was a man after God’s heart. When the glory of the Lord had departed from Israel due to the sins of Eli and his two inept and corrupt sons, God still visited and spoke to Israel through Samuel. 

Joel and Abijah, Samuel's sons, were raised in a good home. They were trained and appointed as judges by their father, the prophet. But they were just bad. 

What went wrong?

Here is a truth. Our successes today in no way guarantee success for tomorrow. Our successes as individuals in no way guarantees success for our families. And the scary part is that our faithfulness today doesn’t guarantee faithfulness tomorrow as well. Our walk with God through Christ empowered by His Spirit is at best a day to day proposition of denying our self, taking up our cross and choosing to follow Him.

Jesus never said, “Don’t count the cost to follow”. Conversely, He always reminded those listening that it is extremely and always costly to follow Him. 

I pray that we, as followers of Christ, be ones who always daily looks to Jesus for our marching orders and willingly count the cost, take up the cross and follow Him daily.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Do Not Remove Ancient Boundary Markers...

Don't you just love the seemingly quirky laws of the Old Testament? I won't go into detail here, but there are a ton of them that don't really make sense to us today because of the specifics of the time that they were given (see Deuteronomy 23:13 and the command to have a digging closed).

Anyway, I ran across a favorite law. It is regarding ancient boundary markers. In Deuteronomy 19:14 it is explicit that the Israelites were not to in any way move or adjust them. These were the boundaries of the tribes established by the Lord when Israel reached the promised land. They were God appointed and any attempt to move or adjust the boundary between you and your neighbor was a direct offense to God.

It causes me to reflect on ancient boundary markers that God has placed in my life. Things like a commitment and promise I made to my sweetheart so many years ago that I would love her like Christ loves the church, until death parts us. Or like the promise I made to God that I would always honor Him with my tithe and offerings as an act of obedience. And the promise I made to Him to raise and guide my children and family in His way and never waver from His path no matter what comes.

I then think about the ancient boundary marker of the call that He placed in Regina's and my life of a lifetime commitment of service in His Kingdom. Of the call that led us to say "yes Lord" to wherever and however He chose to lead us. And that commitment that we made so long ago to join Him in His global task of making His Name known to the nations.

These are ancient boundary markers that should never be moved. And I once again submit and commit to His calling. For my life is not mine, it has been bought and paid for with a dear price; one I could never repay.

I choose to remember His boundary marker in my life and choose to follow it from here to eternity.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Cost of Discipleship...

In my recent trip to Nepal, we visited with several communities and leaders of local churches. One pastor received us into his home, prepared us a meal and spent the best part of a day taking around his community to look at earthquake damage and potential projects.

As we were relaxing in his home, he told us his life story. He said it wasn't easy to be a follower of Christ in a place where there was so much persecution. There is constant verbal and emotional abuse from neighbors who don't like the church. There is actual physical abuse to persons and properties. And there is the constant secret threats that come to the believers day and night.

When we asked about the persecution and was it worth it all, he told a story of how he knew the value of being a follower of Christ.

He said that when he was a young boy, about 5 years old, local village leaders came into their home, tied his mother and father to some chairs, and then, in front of him and his sibling, began to beat them with wires. They beat them and demanded that they recant their faith in Jesus. But his parents refused to do so, no matter how hard they beat them or how much they threatened them.

He said that he knew that very day that their faith was something real and different. And he knew and committed that he would be a life long follower of Jesus no matter what might come.

Today, he is an overseer of hundreds of churches. And he is constantly singing and sharing about God's love and goodness...even in the midst of on-going persecution.

Jesus said, "If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)

What a great testimony. Oh that you and I would be so faithful...