What Do We Deserve?

This is a true story.

A minister of God didn’t have anyone to work with, so he asked God to make him available to whatever would be his will. He checked want ads, because he needed some money, and he saw there was a bus driving job made available to him. So he worked as a bus driver in south Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago, it is not south Chicago you want to drive a bus in, but that’s where they had the need. He found out later it was because nobody else would stay on the job. So he drove it.

Before a week passed, some thugs got on the bus and didn’t pay, they sat in the back, sneered and jeered and mocked him. The next day the same thing happened. The third day it happened again. After it went on for about a week, he decided he didn’t have to put up with that. So he decided to call an officer inside the bus and make them pay. He saw one down about a block away and after he got on he told the officer that the fellows back there haven’t paid for several days, would you at least make them pay today? And he did, but unfortunately the officer got off the bus. When the door was closed, the bus driver drove a little further and turned a corner, and that was the last thing he remembered. They knocked a couple of teeth out and stole his money, and when he woke up the bus was empty.

He sat there in confusion and disillusionment wondering, “What kind of ministry is this, Lord? I told you I was available and this was the job you opened up?” And he went home, turned the bus in, took the rest of the day off. He stared at the ceiling as he was nursing his wounds, and he thought, “I’m not gonna let them get away with that.” So, through an interesting chain of events, they rounded up, with the help of some officers, the very guys and took them to court. All four of them.

The of the hearing he stood before the court, and the judge listened carefully, an decided the fellows were guilty. And they didn’t have any money to buy their way out, so they had to spend some time in jail. Suddenly the minister realized, “Here’s my chance.” He said, “Your honor, may I speak for a moment?” The judge allowed it and the minister said, “I’d like for you to tally up all of the time these fellows together would be spending in jail, and I’d like to go in their behalf.” And the judge responded, “Well, that’s highly irregular, it has never been done before.” And the minister responded, “Oh yes it has, about 2,000 years ago.” And then in about 4 minutes he gave them the gospel.

Three of the young men came to know Christ right away and one of them later, after the minister was incarcerated. That fellow was having a ministry with those four guys who heard the message that somebody else wanted to pay the price for their sin. A living testimony for what Christ did for us.

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What does it mean to follow Jesus?

I sometimes wonder what the responses would be if I asked the church I preach for, or any other church for that matter what it means to follow Jesus?

Would I get a religious response? Would it be an emotional response? Would it be something that they heard a co-worker say or saw on the internet? Would it be a Biblical response? What would it be?stock-photo-religious-word-cloud-314485148

Would they say it means to be happy? It means we need to be serious? It means to obey? It means . . . ?

I must be honest, I don’t understand the Trinity of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Three-in-One. I believe the Bible accurately reveals this truth to us. But understanding and explaining the reality is hard. But one thing I understand, that the relationship each member of the Trinity has with each is one of joy, love, respect, and unity. They trust each other. They trust each other implicitly.

Given that we are helpless sinners, saved by grace through our faith in Jesus, what does it mean to follow Jesus?

I see it comes from the relationship of Jesus with the Heavenly Father. It comes from the love and unity they have. Jesus always obeyed the Father. It was because of love and trust. Jesus tells us, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:25).

And the best way to keep Jesus’ commands is to do as he does. It is to become like him in character and trust God with all our might, or as Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 33:37 and 39).

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New Ministry, New Vision

In July I accepted a new ministry. I moved from the church and ministry I was serving at FCC big logothe Lake of the Ozarks, to a ministry with the Forsyth Christian Church.

I could talk about what happened in which God led me away from my previous ministry to this ministry. Let me save that for one of the next posts.

With a change in ministry, location, and even variances in job description, comes new focus, purpose, vision, and goals. Here we have about a 12-year-old congregation whose minister retired and they realize where the direction they need to go. The congregation is mostly older folks, in fact, the town has an average age of 51. They sense the need to reach younger families with children and for several reasons. First, those people need the Lord too. They need to have Jesus offered to them. Second, they realize that young people are the future . . .  of anything. They grow up to be the church and the leaders in the church and the outreach for the church. So we need young families and so we have a vision of a children’s program with a support program to their families.

They want to bring their music into a contemporary model. Add newer songs and do the music in fresh ways. I know some feel this will draw the younger crowd, and it might, but it is a refreshing that can be a game-changer for all the folks in our church.

And, they are looking forward to a Biblical elder-ship to lead the congregation. Godly, Spirit-filled men leading with love and grace.

We are carrying out the great commission and discipleship development. We are seeking the Spirit’s empowering and guidance to fulfill our role and responsibility in the kingdom of God. We will stand faithful and true to Christ and his Word no matter what.

I have a new ministry focus. Pray for me.

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I Believe in the Impossible

THE IMPOSSIBLE

How many people do you know who have come back from the dead?  I don’t know of a single person who has.  Not since the events in the Bible happened and were recorded for our benefit.

Let’s see, Elijah raised the widow’s son, and didn’t Elisha raise someone also.  There is the widow’s son in the city of Nain, the young daughter of the synagogue ruler, and Lazarus, and of course Jesus.  Anyone else I missed?  Maybe, but I have not heard of a verified raising of the dead since New Testament times.

The story of Frankenstein is about getting life back into a dead body, and the story goes all wrong.  Cryogenics is meant to preserve until a cure for whatever killed the person cryogenically frozen is found, than they are supposed to be revived after they are thawed.  The only problem is, there is no cure for death other than God’s miraculous intervention and that hasn’t happened since Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and Paul was revived by God after being stoned to death.

Jesus is the death conqueror.  He overcame death not by being raised by Peter or Paul or Elijah or someone else, as God he raised on his own.  He possesses the power of God, for he is God, and was even when he was in the flesh as human.  Revelation 1 paints the picture of Jesus in the same imagery that Daniel, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah do in describing God in heaven.

The impossible, coming back to life is only possible by God’s power.  Anyone who lives again has returned to life by God’s power, not by science, not by medical means, not by voodoo, nothing but God’s power can overcome the one thing that is certainly impossible for humans.

I believe in the impossible.

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PS: I hope you have enjoyed this series :I Believe in the Impossible

Where Does Faith Come From?

Ken was from Connecticut, blind, raised in a foster home with a foster dad who abused his wife. He has lived in poverty most of his life. He always wanted to go to Oklahoma, be a social worker and work with native Americans. He was accepted at a junior college in Oklahoma and one day, in the lunch room, the lunch lady who usually helped Ken get to a table was unable to assist him, so she asked a couple of students to help Ken and they gladly did. They were friendly and a part of a Christian campus ministry. They invited Ken to a pizza party and he agreed to attend.

Ken admits that the only reason he went to the party was for free pizza (he believes it is one of the foods on the basic food group). He made some friends, he played volleyballible, pretty good for a blind guy (you should see him play basketball), and agreed to return for their regular Bible studies. After attending several Bible studies and events with the campus ministry, Ken was invited to a weekend retreat and accepted Christ and was baptized.

Where did Ken’s faith come from? Where does your faith come from? Where does faith come from?

I have read and heard countless stories and every one of them has one element that is the same, the word of God. Ken, and you and I and every person encountered God’s word and it effected our hearts and mind and we believed in and obeyed Jesus.

I found an interesting blog relating many stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, http://tony-tate.com/whats-your-story/. The stories with enough detail show God’s word at work.

The word of God is the common denominator in every conversion. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” God’s word produces faith.

Remember the Gideon Bibles you were given in fourth grade at school, or were in the drawer in a motel room. A lot of people picked up the Bible and read some of God’s word for the first time and were brought to faith. Remember the campus ministry Ken encountered. Their goodness and kindness was God’s word in action and coupled to some Bible studies, Ken, like many others came to faith through the word he witnesses in their lives.

God’s word is related in so many ways, reading, hearing, and seeing faith in action.

There are times I want a particular food or flavor and only certain foods provide the taste I desire. God’s word is like that too. When a person that actually wants that taste, and is looking for it, the only thing that fulfills the desire is God’s word, and many times, it ultimately leads to that person’s salvation.

The faith that is produced comes from God’s word being read, spoken, shared, exhibited, felt, experienced etc. That is one of the ways that God’s word is living and active Hebrews 4:12). It is not just words on a page. It is truth that is lived.

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What Do You See?

thA man is pushing a stroller down the street. A sloppily dressed individual is bent over beside the road. A man is running through the neighborhood in street clothes. A woman  sits in her car on the shoulder of the road busily fumbling with something. What is it that you see?

Do you see a kidnapper who just swiped someone’s child? Do you see an annoying vagrant? Do you see a criminal on the run? Do you see a woman plotting to hurt someone else? Or do you see a father taking a stroll with his child; a person picking up a lost item; a man who is hurrying to help someone in need down the street; or a woman who is trying to encourage someone on the phone using the blue-tooth technology in her car?

In the movie “The Recruit” with Al Pacino and Collin Ferrell, Pacino’s character tells the CIA recruits that nothing is what it seems. What may look like one thing may be in fact something completely different. I am guessing that the emphasis was teach the recruits to be aware of and suspicious of everything. What appears innocent and harmless may be a potentially dangerous situation and what may appear dangerous may be innocent and harmless.

The Israelite people in New Testament times had the view that the Messiah would be a leader like King David 900 years before. Not just a king to rule, but a leader to overcome Israel’s enemies and bring greater prosperity than Israel had ever known.

Then Jesus comes on the scene around A.D. 29 and begins teaching and the people are amazed at his teaching. He hasn’t gone to the Jewish Seminary in Jerusalem and learned from the teachers of the Law, and he is about 30 years old is all; he teaches like he knows what he is talking about and he possesses wisdom for someone so young and untaught, not like the regular teachers. In Mark 6 when he returned to his hometown, Nazareth and taught in the synagogue the people were amazed but then were offended because he was a hometown boy who came from an insignificant and poor family and now he acts like a teacher. Either they were jealous of what he had become or upset that he thought himself a teacher though they knew his background (Mark 6:1-6).

To Nazareth, Jesus  wasn’t who they thought him to be. The rest of Israel believed that maybe he was the promised One, the Messiah to come.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover and his arrest IconJesusMessiahAndKingand crucifixion, the people began to honor him as the coming Messiah. The popular Jewish Messianic expectations in place and what better time for the Messiah-King to assume the throne and reign in Jerusalem but at the biggest feast of the year.

But Jesus didn’t come to set up an “earthly kingdom.” In fact, as Pilate questioned Jesus, Jesus’ response to Pilate was, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Even Jesus’ apostles (and it appears most of the rest of his disciples) expected an earthly kingdom. The concept that he would die was out of the scope of their concept of the God’s Messiah-King. Death would ruin it all. If he died, he might not actually be the Messiah.

What do you see? Are you aware of the truth and reality or do your preconceived ideas provide the basis of your understanding?

Many people want Jesus to only be a great teacher or a spiritual guru. Some want him to fulfill their self-help needs, or provide assistance like EMT in an emergency. Some want Jesus out of their lives and forgotten in this world. Some want Jesus to be everything to them.

What do you see? Who is Jesus to you? If he is not the Messiah of God, who saves and rules lives by his atoning death, well, read the Gospels and the book of Acts, and the letters of Peter, John, James, and Paul, read the book of Revelation and see that what some people see in Jesus is much less than he really is and their understanding and beliefs about Jesus are their own devices and not from God, or from Jesus, or his disciples, and not from the Bible.

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Asking the Hard Questions

A week ago, a teen girl came in a minute late to our Bible study and asked if I would answer her questions. She wanted me to answer them quickly so she could go. She didn’t want to stay and endure a Bible discussion. I looked at her questions which were very personal and full of struggle. Questions written as a letter to God in her diary. She asked why she was the size she is; why some people are successful at suicide but she hasn’t been; if God would let her die; and more like those.

I suggested that the Bible study hour was not the best to deal with these personal questions, and she asked if I would talk to her afterwards. I told her that I would.

I found her upstairs and we sat down and I looked at her questions again and told her that I might not be able to answer some of her questions. She was hurting deeply and wondering about whether she really believed in God and his goodness and justice.

I told her that maybe the best way to answer her concerns was to set the base for understanding God and what happened with creation. God created us with the capacity to make moral choices, choosing to receive God’s love or rejecting his love which also gives the capability to return God’s love or withhold it. God didn’t create beings that would love him without choice because forced love is not genuine love.

Understanding this truth settled some of the questions she had.

The 90 minutes I spent with this young lady was one fo the most important moments in my life. Not because I answered hard questions, but because I was given an opportunity to share God’s love and glory with someone who is searching for his love. Right now, I am certain that a seed has been planted and pray that she will come to faith in God and ultimately in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

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