Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Fresh In-filling

For the past two months I have been aware of a heart need, and hungering for a fresh in-filling of God's Holy Spirit in my life. I have had no conviction of sin or disobedience, only a hunger for the Holy Spirit's fresh in-filling. Throughout my journey of prayer, reading Scripture, and reading books on prayer, I have been asking God for a fresh baptism of holy love. This morning He came. It was sweet. It was emotional. It was precious.

At the close of the service at Camp Sychar, I held back from going to the altar. Just then, Matthew David Grissom, Bob and Sylvia's adopted and developmentally challenged son, hooked his right arm through my left and led me to the steps beyond the altar to pray. He led me there to experience a fresh flood of glory in my soul. Matthew's sensitivity to the Spirit and his leading me to the place of prayer, was just what I needed for God to witness to my heart with a fresh in-filling of Himself.

I am excited to preach tonight. I know it will be with a fresh sense of power and blessing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Where is your citizenship?

"Any Christian man has a double citizenship. He is a citizen of the country of the world in which he happens to live. To that country he owes me anything. He owes the safety against lawless men which only settled government can give; he owes all public services to the state. To take a simple example, few men are wealthy enough to have a lighting system or cleansing system or a water system of their own. These are public services. In a welfare state the citizen owes still more to the state-education, medical services, provision for unemployment and old age. This places him under an obligatory debt. Because the Christian is a man of honor, he must be a responsible citizen; and failure in good citizenship is also failure in Christian duty. Untold troubles can descend upon a country or an industry when Christians refuse to take their part in the administration of the country, and leave that administration to selfish, self-seeking, partisan, and unchristian men. The Christian has a duty to Cesar in return for the privileges which the rule of Caesar brings to him.

"But the Christian is also a citizen of heaven. There are matters of conscience and of religion and of principle in which the responsibility of the Christian is to God. It may well be that the two citizenships will never clash; they do not need to. But when the Christian is convinced that it is God's will that something should be done, it must be done; or, if he is convinced that something is against the will of God, it must be resisted, and he can take no part in it. Where the boundaries between the two duties lie Jesus does not say. That is for a man's own conscience to test. But a real Christian-and this is the permanent truth which Jesus here lays down-is at one in the same time a good citizen of this country, and a good citizen of the kingdom of heaven. He will fail in his duty neither to God nor to men. He will as Peter said, 'Fear God, and honor the king' (1 Peter 2:17)." (William Barclay in the Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, pp. 302-303).

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Scales" Religion

There is a dominant religion in America and throughout much of the world. I call it "scales" religion. The idea is this: if my good works outweigh my bad acts, I will make it to heaven! I am my own judge and jury. I am the one to decide if my good works are greater in number and quality than my "poor choices."

In "scales" religion, sin is never mentioned–such an ugly word, after all. Redemption is unnecessary. Salvation is ignored. Eternal punishment is a myth.

"After all, if I am the arbiter of my own eternal destiny, why would I send myself to Hell? That would be a foolish act of self-loathing. After all, I am essentially a good person!  Right?"

There is no formal day of judgment in "scales" religion. "I have no other judge apart from my own subjectivity and emotion. I am the master of my own destiny!"

The ultimate humanistic optimism in a cult of self!

Just one small problem... "Scales" religion is a myth. It’s not real. Salvation is not according to our good works. A sinless, holy Deity must become a sinless sacrifice for my sins, and for the sins of the entire world. He must come in the form of humanity, live a sinless life, die on a cruel cross, resurrect from the dead, return to the Father in heaven, send His Holy Spirit to live in transformed and surrendered human hearts, with the promise of His soon return to take His Church–His Bride–to be with Himself–the Groom–throughout all eternity.

That’s heaven.

It’s not about scales.

It’s about a Savior. And His name is Jesus.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mute Cowardice

Matthew 21:23-27 NKJV 

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"

But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?"

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." 27 So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know."

And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

Dear God,

There comes a time to speak. Such a time is now. But it is dangerous to speak. The tide of public opinion seeks to silence truth. Grant me courage to speak in a time like this.

The chilling effect of political correctness seeks to silence truth. The truth of the value of human life is silenced. The truth of the value of the unborn is silenced. The truth of God’s design for holy marriage between one man and one woman for life is silenced.

In place of truth, a new morality is proclaimed. Moral relativism is the idol of today and tolerance is her theological foundation. The priests and priestesses of postmodernism and political correctness parade themselves and opine their virtues in ubiquitous media proclamations.

Courageous prophets of truth are intolerable to the theologians of tolerance, so we are bullied, intimidated, and shoved into silence. Often, mute cowardice replaces courage. I don’t want to be exploited, embarrassed, or to suffer an execution of my character because of my stand for truth. But such may be my lot. Grant me courage when You require me to suffer for Your Name.

"There is such a thing as the deliberately assumed ignorance of cowardice. If a man consults expediency rather than principle, his first question will be, not, ‘What is the truth?’ but, ‘What is it safe to say?’" (William Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 285).

Lord, preserve me from being sucked into a spiral of silence. Howard Hendricks said, "While the world is screaming for answers, the church is stuttering." Empower me with Your Holy Spirit to speak no "uncertain sound." Liberate me from the instinct of self-preservation which renders me mute. Grant me courage to speak the truth.

In the Name of the One who fills my mouth with truth,


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Are you fruitful?

Matthew 21:18-22 ESV

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.

The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

I am thinking this morning about the implications of Jesus' cursing the fig tree.

William Barclay says "the symbolic action taught that uselessness invites disaster… This incident teaches that profession without practice is condemned… Profession without practice was not only the curse of the Jews; it is been through out the ages the curse of the church.… Profession without practice is something of which we are all more or less guilty… We may well believe that Jesus used the lesson of the diseased and degenerate fig tree to say to the Jews – and to us – that uselessness invites disaster, and profession without practice is doomed." (Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, pp. 280-281).

There are multiple implications to this scripture lesson. Fruitfulness, faithfulness, and service are key among them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What's in it for me?

Matthew 19:27-30
Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

Dear Jesus,

Peter's question seemed so inappropriate, yet you answered him!  "What's in it for me?" is the question of the self-centered and self-seeking.  So, if Peter could ask the question, so shall I. After all, if I am to follow You, Lord, what is to be gained?

One of the saddest sights in our cities is that of a homeless veteran begging. I see these warriors cast aside by our nation, our government, and polite society.  War heroes, once useful, are often abandoned when the conflict has settled. Not so with you.  You tell me that if I share in Your conflict and victory, I will share in your eternal reward.

You acknowledge the service and sacrifice of your followers.  Leaving behind siblings, parents, spouse, offspring, and possessions to follow You is no small sacrifice. You promise multiplied relationships in exchange for obedience to follow You. "It is always true that the Christian will receive far more than he has to give up; but what he receives is not new material possessions, but new fellowship, human and divine" (William Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 243).

Thank You for giving me thousands of friends. I have a phone book full of thousands. Obedience to
 You has never diminished by friendships. I think that I could travel across the country for hundreds of miles and never run out of friends to see.  And my precious fellowship with Your Church reaches even to the ends of the earth, and will last into eternity with You!

There are blessings with You that transcend the material. Surely,  You have always provided for me. However, Your spiritual, relational, and eternal blessings are forever. Thank You for Your supply of all that I need.

In the Name of my Provider Lord,

Monday, July 6, 2015

Wealth or Heaven?

Dear Jesus,

You said that it is hard for a rich person to go to heaven.

William Barclay says that riches have a three-fold impact on a man's outlook on life and the hereafter.  First, "Riches encourage a false independence."  Second, "Riches shackle a man to this earth."  Third, "Riches tend to make a man selfish." (William Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, pp. 240-241).

I live in one of the wealthiest nations and in one of the wealthiest eras in all of human history. Yet, all around me I sense a disconnect with human hope for eternity and heaven. Social theology offers little hope beyond universal eternal bliss in some nebulous hereafter.  People eulogize their dearly departed as being in an ambiguous "better place."  American "scales" religion says that if my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, then I can go to this "better place" when I die. It seems that each person is his or her own judge and jury on these decisions of eternal destiny.

Wealth and prosperity have made life so comfortable on earth that many folks seem to have lost a desire for the hereafter.  Yet, You went to prepare a place for those who love and serve you.

Have riches dulled my desperate dependence upon You?  Oh God, forgive me for my my faithless dependence upon the fragile, yet visible material world to which I cling!  I repent of my reliance upon myself, my resources, my energies, and my abilities, and cast myself upon You!

I cannot save myself.  You have to come from outside of my lost estate and call me to salvation. You gave Your live to redeem me. Help me to never lose sight of who You are and what You offer through Your Great Salvation!  I choose dependence upon You for time, and hope in You for all eternity.

Money, wealth, and material prosperity cannot buy me salvation or eternal life with You. Drive me into Your loving embrace.  Surely, I have nowhere else to go.

In the Name of my Savior who is preparing me a place!

Friday, July 3, 2015

God's High Ideal of Christian Marriage

"...The Jewish ideal gives us the basis of the Christian ideal.  The Jewish term for marriage was Kiddushin.  Kiddushin means sanctification or consecration... This means that in marriage the husband is dedicated and consecrated to the wife, and the wife is dedicated and consecrated to the husband.  The one becomes the exclusive possession of the other, as much as an offering and a sacrifice become the exclusive possession of God.  That is what Jesus meant when He said that for the sake of marriage a man would leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife; and that is what He meant when He said that man and wife become so totally one that they can be called one flesh.  That was God's ideal of marriage as the old Genesis story saw it and that is the ideal which Jesus restates."  (William Barclay in The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2, p. 223).

Barclay goes on to describe specific consequences of God's design for holy marriage.

1.  Total Unity.  "Marriage is not given for one act in life... but for all acts in life.  That is to say that while sex is a supremely important part of marriage, it is not the whole of marriage... Marriage is given, not that two people should do one thing together, but that they should do all things together."

2.  Total Union of two personalities.  Humanity can exist in pairs in a variety of ways:  dominant-submissive partners, armed neutrality, or resigned acceptance.  "The ideal is that in the marriage state two people find the completing of their personalities... Marriage should not narrow life; it should complete it.  It is the union of two personalities in which the two complete each other" (Barclay, p. 224).

3.  A sharing of all of life's circumstances.  "Unless two people are prepared to face the routine of life as well as the glamour of life together, marriage must of necessity be a failure" (Barclay, p. 225).

4.  Marriage is togetherness and considerateness.  "Selfishness is the murderer of any personal relationship with other people... It is the Christlike love, which knows that in forgetting self it will find self, and that in losing itself it will complete itself." (Barclay, p. 226).

Lord Jesus,

Empower me to love as You love.  Fill me with Your Spirit and let Your perfect love saturate my marriage in total unity, interpersonal union, sharing, and forgetting myself.  Only then can my marriage be what You want it to be.

Through my lifelong marriage on earth, prepare me to be part of Your Bride, united with You, the Bridegroom, in heaven throughout all eternity.

I love You, and I anticipate heaven with You.  Help me to construct my marriage as a little bit of earthly heaven, filling me with longing to see You!

In Your Name,