Burning Bridges Instead of Reaching Out

There are many church signs with cute sayings. There are many with profound sayings, some with ones that are witty and some that show great creativity. Then there are those that are offensive or just downright rude, like the one I saw while taking my daughter to school this week.

What was on the sign? “If Christmas offends you than go to Thailand for 30 days. They don’t like it there either. Grow up or shut up.” I don’t really know why poor Thailand was singled out, as far as I know they have never gone out of their way to ruin anyone’s Christmas in south Georgia, but what bothers me is the attitude portrayed in the sign from a church  with the word “grace” in their name.

The unsaved are not the enemy. They are our mission. To unnecessarily offend them makes it ten times as hard to witness to them of God’s love. Christmas is God showing love to man by coming down and becoming one of us. It was for dirty, sinful, lost mankind that He came, not for the smug religious crowd. As a minister, this sign offends me. It also offends the unchurched in our community.

Wouldn’t it be better to hold a community party to celebrate Jesus’ birth? Maybe they could be proactive and do a food drive or help gather presents for the poor that would show God’s love in action instead of belittling those who have not yet experienced the grace of God. Come on church, live up to your name — show grace, the giving of a gift to someone undeserving of it this holiday season instead of being snarky and strident.  Telling a large segment of your community to “Grow up or shut up” simply shows them how childish and immature you are. Why would they come to your church for answers when their life falls apart?

Lost people act lost because they are spiritually blind and without hope. They are spiritually dead and incapable of acting any other way than what they do. So-called Christians acting the way this church did just shows stupidity. I know that is harsh but it is true. The sign may play well to the frozen chosen inside her walls but it embarrasses those of us going out and meeting people in the marketplace and introducing them to a Jesus who offers grace, mercy and new life. I truly wish that this church would grow up and until that happens, please – shut up so the rest of us can give a message of hope to our town. It desperately needs it.

Hymn Devotions Day 34 – Must I Go, And Empty-Handed?

DAY 34 – MUST I GO, AND EMPTY-HANDED?

 

What a haunting thought, to meet Jesus in heaven and have nothing to show Him. To waste the talents He has given us, to squander the time allotted to us, to waste the opportunities to reach others for His kingdom, what a tragedy. We must work now, before He returns, to reach as many people as we can with the gospel, for when He comes again it will be in judgment and not mercy.

Jesus will not lie to us. He will not say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” if we have not done well nor been good. If we have hidden our talent, as the man in the parable did, if we have refused to live our life for His glory, it will be in shame that we stand before Him.

To live a life with no regrets, to make the most of every opportunity given, to use every minute of every day seeking His will, that should be our goal. Oh if we could have time back. Time to witness once more to friends that have passed away. Time to speak, once again, to family members that have died without Christ. But there is no turning back the clock, we must make the most of every opportunity, redeeming the time we have.

This is a good resolution to make: to seize the time, to earnestly seek after souls and ferret out opportunities to share the gospel. Will we have people in heaven come up to us, thanking us for sharing the gospel with them or will we have people in hell shrieking, asking us why we cared so little for us that we kept our gospel to ourselves? Will we meet Jesus empty-handed?

 

Lord Jesus, help me redeem the time You have allotted to me to work for the kingdom. Give me souls to witness to, give me opportunities to share. Let me lead others to You so You can save them by Your grace.

MUST I GO, AND EMPTY-HANDED by Charles Luther

 

Must I go and empty-handed

Thus my dear Redeemer meet

Not one day of service give Him

Lay no trophy at His feet?

 

Not at death I shrink nor falter

For my Savior saves me now

But to meet Him empty-handed

Thought of that now clouds my brow

 

O the years in sinning wasted

Could I but recall them now

I would give them to my Savior

To His will I’d gladly bow

 

O ye saints, arouse, be earnest

Up and work while yet ’tis day

Ere the night of death o’er-take thee

Strive for souls while you still may

 

REFRAIN:

 

Must I go and empty-handed?

Must I meet my Savior so?

Not one soul with which to greet Him:

Must I empty-handed go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hymn Devotions Day 11 – Come Thou Fount

DAY 11 – COME THOU FOUNT

Prone to wander – yes, that is me. Prone to leave the God I love. Why? That is the question, isn’t it. Why do we leave the place where we are safest? Why do we leave the One who has given us everything we need to live a godly life?

O, the depths the human soul has sunk to! Even when brought into a transforming relationship with the God of the Universe we still seek to go our own way. Yes, I will raise my Ebenezer, knowing full well it is only by His help, His grace and power that I have come as far as I have. Only by His help, grace and power will I arrive at the destination He has planned for me. I need to pray for Him to daily bind me to Him. Not to keep me from experiencing a wonderful life, but to keep me from danger and harm. To keep me close to Him, the Savior of Life and every good blessing.

If I cannot keep myself close to Him, and I have proven over and over that I cannot, I can ask Him to keep close to me.

Bend my heart to Thee Lord, I pray. Fetter my wandering feet so they do not leave Your path. You have said you will never leave me nor forsake me and I appreciate that very much. Forgive my sins, I pray, and draw me close to your side.

 

COME THOU FOUNT by Robert Robinson

Come, thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Streams of mercy, never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above

Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it

Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise mine Ebenezer

Hither by Thy help I’m come

And I hope by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wandering from the fold of God

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Is Jesus Enough? Excerpt

 

One of the songs we often sing at our church has a line that goes like this:

He gave His life, what more could He give?

 Oh how He loves you, oh how He loves me, oh how He loves you and me!

When we come to Jesus Christ in saving faith, we are acknowledging that He gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. That act of supreme sacrifice makes Jesus worthy of our love and worship. Even if Jesus never does anything else for us, His procurement of salvation for our souls is more than enough. Any other blessing we receive from Him is simply extra gravy on an already overfilled plate.

When we start to live our lives based on conditional requirements rather than on the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are, in effect, saying that His death was not sufficient for all our needs. We are saying that we need more proof, more tangible benefits before we will give Him the honor He is due. Can you see how arrogant that way of thinking is? Can you see how are attitude has shifted from gratefulness of being a recipient of God’s mercy to one of an expectation of God existing to serve our wants?

We all know of people who started out on fire for the Lord and who dropped out along the way. Many became angry with God for His not answering their prayers a certain way or for not protecting a loved one from harm. If we are honest we must admit that we, too, have become disappointed in God for failing to meet our expectations.

Discouragement sets in when we become disappointed. Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Our expectations and reality often collide and rarely do we blame ourselves as having expectations that were misguided, ill-founded or unreasonable. We blame either the reality around us or God for not changing the reality to suit our needs.

When pressed by adversity our hearts reveal the truth about us and about our relationship with God. Many believers are in love with the things of the Lord but not the Lord Himself. Despite what our lips may profess, our hearts show the shallowness of our faith. We act more like the crowds who followed Jesus for the miracles of food than the disciples. After all, when one becomes disappointed in God, is it His fault for not catering to our whims and desires or ours for not understanding His ways and trusting in His goodness?

God is good. When we cease to believe that foundational principle we open ourselves up to despair and hopelessness. Even when we do not understand the reasons why things are happening to us, we must cling to that one assurance. Job did. Job was greatly disappointed. Job could not understand why all those calamities had occurred in his life. Job, though, held onto his faith that God was good. Through everything Job never lost his faith in that aspect of God’s character.

One of the ironies of the Christian life is that so many of our prayers center on God healing or delivering us from a life-threatening situation – in effect delaying our arrival at the very place of our reward! How angry people get at God for transporting their loved one to glory instead of leaving them here to endure this sinful, broken earth. It seems that we have lost sight of heaven, that death has somehow regained her sting. Dying has become less than an entrance into eternity and our selfish desires to cling to more time on earth with our loved one trumps our desire to let God determine what is best for them.

The ultimate healing, the ultimate deliverance is from this body of decay and sin and to be with the Lord in heaven. When we take a lesser view on this it diminishes our faith and trust in a God who is good. This lesson was driven home to me in a dramatic way.

The day before my son, then 17 months old, was to have open-heart surgery, my wife and I were passing through the halls of the Ronald McDonald house where we were staying. People in those places get close to each other since all there are in similar situations. One lady we had spoken with quite often was packing her clothes. “I’m going home”, she said in response to our inquiry.  Knowing that her little boy was very ill and could not have possibly been released, we asked her why. “My boy died last night”, she answered. Seeing our hurt, embarrassment and shock plastered on our faces, she took us aside and said, “You’re not ready for your child to die, are you?” We shook our heads no.  “You need to be. Come in here and let me tell you something.” For over an hour she talked with us about how she knew her boy was in heaven, “doing that little shuffle-step dance for Jesus like he did in church on Sundays.” She told us that she was thankful for the years Jesus had loaned her boy to her and that he wasn’t suffering anymore. She thanked Him for His deliverance and healing of her boy. She praised Him for His goodness and mercy. At that Ronald McDonald house I learned that God loves my children even more than I do and that when we pray for complete recovery and healing it may be that God takes our loved ones to heaven to accomplish just that. God is good in all He does because goodness is a central characteristic of Himself.

Our faith grows deeper when we mature enough to understand that our belief at how God can best answer our prayers is different than His knowledge of how best to answer our prayers.

To be honest, even the depth of a faith that acknowledges that God is worthy because He made a way to provide for our salvation is not deep enough. You see, God is worthy because He alone is God. Even if He had not made provision to save mankind, if He had allowed us to enter eternity forever separated from Him because of our sin, He would still be worthy of praise. He did not have to save us. He made us. He made the earth for us to live on. He made colors and sounds and our senses to enjoy them. God made a universe and populated it with myriads of wonderful and incomprehensible things. He is God. He is the Creator and Maker of All Things. He is Good and Holy and this makes Him worthy to be praised.

Now, the fact that He made us with a redeemable soul and sent His Son precisely to redeem that soul is, indeed, good news. The character of who God is, though, is what makes Him worthy of praise and adoration. His holiness is the reason that He is worthy.  A faith that worships God and gives Him praise and adoration based only on what He has done for us, whether it is a family, a job, a car or even salvation is a deficient faith. God is worthy because He is God.

This was a critical point in my walk with Christ. I loved the fact that He had sent people into my life to share the gospel with me. I loved the fact that His Spirit had drawn me to saving faith in His redemptive act.  I loved the family He had given me. I loved being a minister of the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus. But I had to ask myself if my love for Him was deeper than even that. Did I love Him just because He is?

In his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, Jeff Iorg makes this profound statement:

Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you. (Iorg, 2009)

 

Excerpt from Is Jesus Enough? available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and our sister site, http://www.discernmentministries.webs.com

Thoughts on Salvation

Many times I have people ask me, “When were you saved?”. While they are well meaning, I fear that they do not know exactly what they are asking. You see, I am still being saved. In a very real sense, I was set apart before the foundation of the world in Christ Jesus. God knew whom He would call to be one of His. Yes, on March 26, 1973 I surrendered my life to His control, His Lordship, begging His forgiveness, seeking His mercy, grace and forgiveness. I am still being saved – from this world, our adversary, my own foolish desires and actions. Jesus is alive and active through His Spirit in my even now and He Himself makes intercession for me before the Father continually. I will be saved. He is coming for me (or sending angels to escort me to Him) where I will continue to be saved for all eternity.

When was I saved? A long time ago, today and tomorrow. I know in whom I have believed. And I am persuaded that He is able to keep my soul, which I committed to Him, against the day of judgment. I know He called me and made me His own and that He has the power to keep, sustain and guide me. Jesus isn’t just One who can save, He is the One who does save.

Hymn Devotions Day 4 – Lord. Like A Publican I Stand

DAY 4 – LORD, LIKE A PUBLICAN I STAND

 

This hymn is not as widely known as the majority of others in this devotional, but it is very powerful and moving. The words of this hymn are taken straight out of the gospel of Luke, chapter 18. The author, Thomas Raffles, shows us what is necessary to obtain God’s pardoning grace and mercy – confession and repentance.

Throwing himself at the foot of God’s throne, confessing the agony of his sinful soul, the penitent tax-collector pleads for mercy based on Jesus’ atonement. He stands in contrast to the Pharisee who assumed that because he was religious, he was in good standing with God. The tax-collector knew that righteous works were not enough to find pardon before a God who demands perfection. All he can hope for is to confess all of his sins, all of his unrighteousness and throw himself on the mercy of the Heavenly Court. As he does, he finds Jesus’ mercy and saving power.

What a wonderful picture this song gives us of the hope that is found in Jesus. As you go before God’s throne today, like the publican call upon His mercy and confess your sins. You, too, will find the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood washing away your sins and making you justified in the sight of God.

 

Lord, here I stand, naked before you. You know me, my ways, my thoughts, my deceitful heart. I can offer no excuse. I can offer no works that are pure to atone for my sins. I repent and cast myself on your mercy. Be merciful to me Lord, a sinner.

 

LORD, LIKE A PUBLICAN I STAND by Thomas Raffles

 

Lord, like the publican I stand

And lift my heart to Thee

Thy pardoning grace, O God, command

Be merciful to me

 

I smite upon my anxious breast

O’er whelmed with agony

O save my soul by sin oppressed

Be merciful to me

 

My guilt, my shame, I all confess

I have no hope nor plea

But Jesus’ blood and righteousness

Be merciful to me

 

Here at the cross I still would wait

Nor from its shelter flee

But Thou, O God, in mercy great

Art merciful to me

 

Hymn Devotions Day 2 – Rock of Ages

DAY 2 – ROCK OF AGES 

One of the greatest hymns of all time, Rock of Ages packs deep spiritual truths in its short stanzas. The Rock of Ages is, of course, Jesus Christ, the One who was cleft for us on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. To Him alone we must go for salvation. The final part of verse one, though, is truly deep:

Be of sin the double cure

Save from wrath and make me pure

God’s wrath is poured out on the sinner. Even now they are under His condemnation (John 3:17). The precious blood of Jesus, poured out on the penitent crying for mercy and salvation, satisfies the wrath of God the Father. Not only that, but it cleanses us from all unrighteousness, hence “the double cure.” So much truth packed into so few words.

The rest of the song hammers home the inability of man to save himself, whether by works, (labor of hands) enthusiasm, (zeal) or by sorrow (tears). Only Jesus, alone, can save. This is the great truth about our Lord. Not only can He save, but He does save.

One early, alternate version of the first stanza ended like this: Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power. While this version is not used as often, it also contains a great truth. Sin is a terrible power that makes all of us stand guilty before God. Truly, we need to fly to the fountain filled with the blood of Jesus to be washed clean.

As you spend time in prayer and contemplation, thank Jesus for His saving grace. Thank Him for substituting Himself for you on the cross, taking the wrath of God in your place and being willing to save.

 

Thank you Father, for sending Your Son as the means of salvation. Thank you Jesus for atoning for our sins by paying sin’s penalty. Be our Rock, we pray, where we can find shelter for all eternity. 

Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady

 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me

Let me find myself in Thee

Let the water and the blood

From Thy wounded side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure

Save from wrath and make me pure

 

Not the labor of my hands

Can fulfill Thy laws demands

Could my zeal no languor know

Could my tears forever flow

These for sin could not atone

Thou must save and Thou alone

 

In my hand no price I bring

Simply to Thy cross I’ll cling

Naked, come to Thee for dress

Helpless, look to Thee for grace

Foul, I to the fountain fly

Wash me Savior, lest I die

 

While I draw this fleeting breath

When my eyes shall close in death

When I rise to worlds unknown

And behold Thee on Thy throne

Rock of Ages, cleft for me

Let me hide myself in Thee