Those Who Answered the Call

“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Abraham traveling into the unknown, Joseph remaining faithful in Egypt, Moses crossing the Red Sea, Joshua conquering the Promised Land, Deborah lifting her sword in battle against the Midianites, Ruth returning with Naomi to the land of Canaan, David slaying a Giant and becoming a King, Isaiah telling his visions, Zechariah telling his dreams, Daniel in the Lion’s den, Nehemiah rebuilding the Walls, Zerubbabel rebuilding the Temple, Simon Peter leaving his fishing nets, Paul preaching the Gospel, John writing the Revelation—each one of these ordinary men and women heard and answered the call of God, and as a result lived extraordinary lives.

answer the callVision, passion, discipline and risk—these are the marks of a noble fellowship assembled by the Son of God down through the ages; men and women called out of mediocrity into magnificence; followers of Jesus from each generation who have left their world better than they found it. They each heard God’s voice and followed Him with trusting hearts—marked by vision, passion, discipline and risk. And now it’s your turn.

The Lord longs for you to answer the call on your life and be a part of this timeless Team. And in your heart you know it’s what you want to do more than anything else in the world!

I pray, in the words of Paul, that God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness in your life, and bring to pass with His power each and every work of faith you perform for His honor!

Enriched By Memory

“You shall remember all the way the Lord thy God has led thee.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Our lives come, from time to time, to crossroads of defining importance; those critical intersections along the way, which face us with choices for new directions in our thinking, and in our living. At such moments we need briefly pause, for we have not passed this way before.

faithfulnessEre we move onward we must first reflect back upon where we have been; remembering all the way that the Lord our God has led us. For in His leading are the lessons that will hold true all the days of our lives. As we think upon what He has taught us, shown us, done for us and with us — our lives become enriched by memory, and mindful of a love that never fails.

With this, we then step across the boundary into another season, filled with faith and courage. And we are also renewed in spirit and adventure, discovering afresh that the way in is also the way on. As He has led us, so He will still lead us. As He has loved us, so He will still love us. And as He has been faithful, so faithful shall He ever be.

Such is the happy lot of those whose lives are enriched by the memory of God’s handiwork throughout their days. Why not pause right now and recall to mind the many undeniable moments throughout your life when the Lord blessed you, loved you, healed you, helped you, saved you, used you — and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on…

 

Keep it up and you will be enriched by memory!

The Bridge of Sighs

“At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs –He hears; He rescues.” (Psalm 55:17, The Message).

Bridge of Sighs 01Have you ever sighed? Of course you have. It’s a dumb question. We each sigh all the time. The struggle has ended…..and so we sigh. The deal fell through…. and so we sigh. Our team won…. and so we sigh. Our team lost…. and so we sigh. The movie ended happily ever after…and so we sigh.

A sigh is part of the vocabulary of dreamers and lovers alike.

A sigh gathers up our deepest longings, our faintest hopes, and our most treasured dreams and carries them where words cannot go. Yes, we may feel a set back from the momentary loss of hope, or the superficial dash of a great expectation. And so we sigh. And in that sigh is an unspoken prayer; a faint blush of hope — for tomorrow may bring it in after all.

A sigh lets go of the disappointment and breathes in a fresh faith for another run at the prize. A sigh vents out of our emotional store the tepid air of failure, and makes room for optimism’s mysterious power.

God has given us an invitation to walk through the door of faith into His presence and commune at the most intimate level – just beyond the bridge of sighs. The apostle put it this way, “with groanings too deep to be uttered.”

What if there was a way to speak words we’ve never learned, in a vocabulary known only to God? And what if a sigh were the means of transporting those words beyond the veil that separates earth from heaven? Who in their right mind would refuse to sigh?

The wicked; that’s who.

The wicked do not sigh. They huff and puff, and (dare I say it?) — blow their house down. Or, at least they try. That’s it. They try, but they do not sigh. Hard hearts and shallow lungs are often found in the same place.

But for childlike souls the wide world over, this bridge of sighs provides safe passage above and beyond the limitations of land-locked trivialities, and carries us into the presence of the Lord where we are filled afresh with new mercies every day.

OK…so take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Sigh. Now didn’t that just feel right? Keep it up and you just might cross that bridge into the Lord’s presence!

The Inescapable Question

And Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16).

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist. Others say you are Elijah, or one of the prophets.” Unmentioned on this occasion were the many other epithets for Jesus circulating about Palestine — blasphemer, madman, false-prophet, drunkard, glutton, and demon-possessed maniac!

One fact is undeniable: everybody talks about Jesus. Everybody has an opinion about who He is — and the opinions are remarkably varied. In fact, the portraits of Jesus that have emerged throughout history make it difficult to believe that the same person is being described.

Authors have cast Jesus as a political revolutionary, a magician, a peasant unwittingly caught up in social revolution, a charismatic prophet foretelling the end of the world, a “marginal” Jew who challenged the teachings and practices of the religious leaders of his day, a spiritual master who overcame the humblest of origins to proclaim the gospel of love and forgiveness.

In a document published in 1984 by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, we are given no less than ten distinct methodologies for answering the Jesus question — speculative, historical, anthropological, existential, social, Judaistic, religious, moral, personal, and denominational. In other words, each of these sources give us a different spin on who Jesus was…and is.

One person has said that assembling a portrait of Jesus is a bit like crafting a stain glass window. Each piece of glass contributes to the mosaic, but an individual piece can seem incongruous, even contradictory, compared with the piece beside it. And, many times, the glass of the “Jesus Mosaic” is highly reflective; revealing at least as much about the person assembling the picture as about Jesus.

rich young rulerThe Jesus of the Middle Ages was a heavenly King who ruled benevolently over his subjects, much as earthly kings of that era saw themselves. The Puritan’s Jesus was a fire-and-brimstone-wielding Judge who would have been quite comfortable in a long black frock and three-cornered hat. The Jesus of the late ’60s was a long-haired dropout espousing Free Love, or a political revolutionary bent on overthrowing the Establishment.

More recent studies have portrayed Jesus as a disenfranchised figure struggling to find His way in a world in which the old rules no longer applied — a compelling portrait in these days of nomadic searchers, running to and fro for a touch from God. Writer Tom McNichol said, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and ever since then, it seems, man has been trying to return the favor.” (“The Many Faces of Jesus” USA Weekend, 121892, pg4).

We each must know Jesus for who He is and be transformed into His likeness, rather than molding His image after our way of thinking. The question of the ages remains for you and I to answer, “Who do you say that I am?” Your eternal destiny depends upon how you answer that one inescapable question.

Recently I heard a short chorus that sums it up best…..

What shall I do with Jesus?
Neutral I cannot be.
For one day my heart shall be asking,
What will He do with me?”

When All is Said and Done

“Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it.” (Acts 28:24, The Message)

Paul was unquestionably one of the best and most effective preachers who ever lived. Yet, not everybody believed what he said. Someone once wrote, “When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done.” Having preached for many years I know this is true.

It is interesting to observe the dynamics at work in a gathering of people who are hearing the truth of God’s Word proclaimed with persuasive power. First there is a curiosity that inclines them to listen, which they do for a brief moment. If there is not sufficient reason to continue listening presented in those first minutes — the talk is over before it ever begins. A skilled preacher knows how to get to the heart of the matter without delay.

no les no moreAfter people decide to listen, then there is the eerie silence of uninterrupted focus. At times it seems you could hear a pin drop. People’s minds are quiet and their heart’s are open. Truth is doing a deep work.

Then there is a shifting in the seats as people process what they are hearing; in some there is an internal debate, while in others there is a dawning awareness of truth. Ultimately, all preaching comes to the moment of decision. What are you going to do with what you have heard?

Like Paul, all of us have our moments when we are effective in doing what God has gifted us to do. And, we also have our moments when, no matter what we do, it doesn’t seem to make any difference at all. It is interesting to note that, in Paul’s case, some were persuaded, convinced, and believed the things that were spoken. But others – note how the Bible puts it – “refused to believe a word of it.”

It wasn’t that they could not believe; rather, they would not believe. Paul had indeed convinced even them, but their hearts refused to accept what they were hearing because they did not want to change. Jesus said, “The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil” (John 3:19).

And so it is that when all is said and done — and this World is no more — this simple verse of Scripture will serve as the judicial summary of all human history: “Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it.”

Which side of the line will you be on in that day?

Seeking Greatness?

“Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.” (Luke 22:24)

The disciples of old were not at all unlike the disciples of today. There yet continues to be disputes among us over who is the greatest. Fallen souls that we are, something deep within us is forever aspiring to rise to greater and greater heights. Yet, the Lord loves us too much to leave us unguarded in this matter.

charles spurgeonWhen Charles Spurgeon, the great and celebrated preacher, was eighteen years old and seeking God’s will for his life, he felt the need for theological training. Both his friends and his father advised him to attend college. So he made application to Regent’s Park College, and an interview was set between the head of the college and young Spurgeon at the Cambridge home of a publisher.

At the appointed time, Spurgeon arrived and a servant showed him into the parlor. There he sat for two hours until at last his patience could stand it no longer. He called for the servant and was horrified to discover that she had forgotten to announce his arrival, and had forgotten all about him!

Meanwhile the head of the college had sat waiting in an adjoining room until his patience, too, had been exhausted, and he had left Cambridge for London by train without the interview ever having taken place.

Spurgeon was deeply disturbed, and his first impulse was to run after the man, to chase him to London, to explain what had happened. But he took a long walk out in the country to calm down, and by-and-by a verse of Scripture came to his mind so forcibly that he almost seemed to hear it audibly — “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!” (Jeremiah 45:5).

The Lord seemed to be telling him not to worry about the misunderstanding, not to make extraordinary efforts to clear it up, but to take it as the Lord’s will and serve the Lord humbly where he was. As a result, Spurgeon never did make it to college, but it didn’t matter. He became the most successful and influential minister in the history of Victorian England, and he later said that he “a thousand times thanked the Lord very heartily for the strange providence which forced his steps into another and far better path.”

Maybe instead of seeking to be great, we ought to seek to be good. Spurgeon once said in a sermon, “Many, through wishing to be great, fail to be good.”
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The Never Ending Triumphant Trudge

“They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

There is action to this thing called Faith. It is not a stationary proposal; there is movement; a constant ebb and flow of ups and downs, ins and outs, advances and setbacks, break-throughs and break-ups. Certainly, there is never a dull moment, even when the lull of a laborious trek carries us through the unattended miles of unsung service.

a walk in the woodsAn underground river is a river nonetheless. And though men will never admire its passage, nor fish its depths, nor tour its many channels, it still supplies untold life to many unnoticed outlets.

For many of us — this is the normal Christian life. None on earth will fully know all the ways the Lord blessed and used us for His glory. But on that day, the unseen river will surely burst forth into a heavenly geyser — showing forth the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.

We are not weary in well-doing, nor do we faint when the trudge seems endless. Rather, we gird our loins, bestir our souls, and press onward, and ever upward; knowing that it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.

Did I triumph in this trudge? Did I stand, or did I budge? Before the tempter did I fudge? Do my garments bear a smudge? Did I stumble? More than once. Did I bumble? Like a dunce. Did I fumble? Like a klutz. Was I humble? Perhaps, I was.

Did I give up? Not an inch. Was I faithful? In a pinch. Did I trust Him? Every day. Did I follow? Come what may. Am I worthy? Not at all. He alone will make that call. I just know that, for my part, I gave Him all, with all my heart. I soared like eagle at the start, and ran with zeal in every part.

Was I sinner? Was I saint?

No. I simply walked, and did not faint.

Join along, my friends, as together we make this never ending triumphant trudge!

A Strange Communion Indeed

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1).

Yesterday I told you about an encounter with the Lord I experienced during a time of Communion. A few months after this experience I was in England for a meeting with church leaders, hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. 

During one of the session breaks, I strolled downstairs to the “catacombs” for a refreshment.  I noticed something off in the corner of a storage area and took a closer look.  It was an elaborate wood carving of the Last Supper, dating from the 18th century.  However, parts of it were broken, which accounted for its being in storage.  Holding it gave me mixed feelings — a sense of reverence over how old it was, a sense of regret over how damaged it had become, and a sense of intrigue over the strange appearance caused by the missing pieces.

First, and most obvious, the Lord was not there!  A haunting gap existed in the center of the table where one expected to see Jesus.  This created an interesting image — two groupings of disciples, huddled together and talking apart from the other group. 

Finally, the two figures on opposite ends of the table completed the strange sight:  Both were missing their heads!  I was very fascinated with this broken work of art, but even more so after I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me, “When the Lord is not present, the disciples become divided and lose their heads.  They end up in storage, covered with dust.” 

last supper divided

There was a time when I would have looked at this broken sculpture and not even have given it a second thought, or maybe I would have at most expressed dismay at someone’s negligence for breaking it. But the Holy Spirit used it to catch my eye, and when I looked I heard the Lord speak to me. 

Do you see how a simple occasion of life can become an opportunity to have a conversation with God?  I was merely wandering about in a church basement when I came upon a “conversation piece” that the Holy Spirit wanted to talk about!

Even though God speaks this way to all of us, some people never hear the message.  Preoccupied with the cares of life, pierced through with the deceitfulness of fleeting riches and carnal pleasures, they have eyes but they do not see; ears have they but they do not hear nor understand. 

They “cannot see the forest for the trees.” 

Therefore Jesus said, “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’ In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: `You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them’” (Matthew 13:13-15). 

Jesus expressed His bewilderment with Nicodemus over this very matter, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12). 

Perhaps we are like Nicodemus, looking unto the heavens for the secrets of life while dismissing the ordinary things of earth which speak those secrets to us everyday. What “parables” might the Lord use to speak to you today? What earthly things might He use to show you something heavenly?

“Which Disciple Are You Most Like?”

“When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.” (Matthew 26:20)

During a time of worship I stood at the communion table looking at a copy of DiVinci’s  famous painting of the Lord’s supper. In my quiet thoughts I found myself asking, “James, which disciple are you most like?”

I reflected for a moment and realized, “There are times when I am like each one of them.”  It is the truth.  Looking at that painting, my eyes were opened by the Lord to see things in myself I could not deny. 

The Last Supper DiVinci

Sometimes I am like John, reposing with my head at Jesus’ heart. Other times I am like Peter, impetuous and outspoken. I have been dramatically converted as Matthew, the former tax-collector.  Yet, there are times when the doubts of Thomas take a distant second to my own, making him appear as a great man of faith. Like Andrew, I have brought others to Jesus, and on the other hand like James and John, the sons of thunder, I’ve wanted to call down fire from heaven upon those who reject the Lord. 

I, like Nathaniel, have often questioned those who have spoken the word of the Lord to me, and many times I’ve completely missed the point of what the Lord was saying to me, just like Philip.  I have known the obscurity of Simon, James the lesser, Thaddeus and Bartholomew.  And, yes, I have been a Judas on more than one occasion — denying the Lord and betraying Him before His enemies.  

Humility swept over my soul as I stood before the communion table.  The one I wanted most to be like was Jesus, and yet I was so much like all the others.  The Lord said, “That is why I have invited you to drink of My cup.”

Tomorrow I will pick up on this and tell you what happened next.