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Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

There are many things in life that I have a hard time understanding.  The scale of the universe…time into eternity…what my wife is thinking.  (OK, actually I know what my wife is thinking a fair amount of the time, such as “what was he thinking?”, but most other times I am clueless.)  Of all the deep thoughts that fit into the category of head-scratching realities, the fact that Jesus died for me and for you is at the top of the list.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 NIV.  This is truly mind-boggling.  But the wonder of it does not diminish the simple fact – it is true.

 

I heard a story a few years back that gave me a new perspective on this.  It seems a little girl, 7 years old, was dying of a rare blood disorder.  The doctors had done what they could with medicine, but the prognosis was grim.  In a final effort to save the little girl’s life they offered a new treatment option that had shown promise.  If they found a perfect blood match they could perform a special blood transfusion and potentially cure the little girl.

The parents said yes and the search of databases begin.  The parents plus aunts, uncles, and all extended family members were tested but no match was found.  When the results returned the father looked at his wife and asked, “What about Billy?”  The mother, heart-broken, dropped her head, hoping not to have this question posed.  With a deep sigh, she said, “we can ask him.”

The results of the test showed a perfect match.  The news was bittersweet to the parents as they knew what they were asking of Billy would mean some pain and discomfort for their little boy, but it was their final option.  They called their 5-year old son into the room with the doctor and asked him.

“Billy, Annie is very sick.  The doctors have said she won’t live much longer without special help.  You see her blood is where the sickness is and she needs new blood.”

Billy listened wide-eyed, tears forming and flowing as he thought about his big sister not being there anymore.

“But Billy,” said the Dad, “There is hope.  You see there is a person who was a perfect match to Annie.  A person who can give her blood that can make her sickness go away.”

Hope leapt into Billy’s eyes.  “Really, Daddy?  That makes me happy.  But Daddy, why do you and Mommy still look so sad?”

“Honey, you are the perfect match and it would mean you would have to undergo a procedure to give your blood to Annie,” the Mother said choking back tears.  “But it means your sister will be able to live.”

At this Billy became quiet, his little brow furrowed.  Shortly he asked one question.  “You mean if I give my blood, Annie can live and play, and make you smile Mommy.”

“That’s right honey.  You’re the only one who can do it.”

A troubled look crossed Billy’s face for a moment, but then he brightened as if a pleasing thought crossed his mind.  “OK Momma.  If it will make you happy.  I will do it.”

The medical personnel quickly began making the arrangements.  Billy was given a few minutes alone with his parents.  His Dad knelt down and gave him a big hug and told him what a brave young man he was.  Billy’s smile was sad, but it was evident he wanted to be brave and please his Daddy.  Momma held his hand and looked him in the eye and said, “Billy, this is the most loving thing you can ever do for your sister.  I am so thankful for you, son.”  While a tear ran down her face, she was also giving Billy a smile.  Billy leaned into his Momma’s hug.

“That’s a happy tear, right Momma?  Like you told me last year when Aunt Sally got married.  I wondered why you were crying and smiling and laughing all at the same time, but you said they were happy tears.”

“That’s right dear.  That’s a happy tear, because my little boy is going to help save my little girl’s life.”

Soon the nurse came and took Billy away to prep him.  He cried a little as he looked back at Momma and Daddy, but he tried to smile so they could be happy tears.

In the transfusion lab, Annie, pale and listless, was wheeled in and connected to the blood transfer machine.  Two nurses bustled about checking vitals on machine and patient, making sure the procedure had the highest possible chance for success.

A little later Billy was wheeled in, his clothes replaced with a hospital gown, a pic line already inserted in his arm ready to begin the blood draw.  Because he was so young, a parent, Momma, was allowed in the room.  Billy’s face was tense, something significantly out of place on one so young.  When he saw Momma he relaxed a little.  Then he saw his sister Annie lying on the gurney on the other side of the machines.  His look became determined.  “This is going to help Annie, right Momma?”

“Yes dear, Annie is going to be able to recover because of what you are doing.”

“Then I’m happy Momma.  I’m glad this will help Sissy.”

A few minutes later a nurse bent down to let them know the procedure was about to start.  Billy bravely squeezed Momma’s hand a little tighter.

“OK” he said as he looked into Momma’s eyes.  The machine was switched on, and a quiet whirring began.  Within just a few minutes Annie’s color began to change as her blood was removed, cleansed and then mixed with Billy’s healthy blood.  Billy broke his gaze from Momma just long enough to look at Annie and to see the change.  He turned back to Momma.

A tear was now running down his cheek.  “How much longer Momma?”

“Not much longer,” she said as she too had turned to notice the change in Annie.  Hope was growing in Momma and Billy could see it.

“Will it hurt Momma?”

“I’m sorry dear, does the pic line hurt.”

“No Momma.  I mean when all my blood is gone and I’m dead.  Will it hurt?”

Momma gasped.  Billy had misunderstood.  He didn’t realize he was only giving a little of his blood to mix with his Sissy’s blood.  He thought he was giving it all…

 

‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:6-8

Jesus held no illusions when He came to earth.  He came on a rescue mission.  There were no other options.  It was His blood that was going to save the day.

But unlike Billy, Jesus was shedding all His blood for ALL mankind.  Every person who has ever lived, was alive then, or was to live in the future were being given an antidote to the terminal illness of sin.

He was also different from Billy, He didn’t just think He was going to die, He knew He was going to die.  He knew not only pain and suffering were in His path, but humiliation and, sadly, rejection.  Yet He bravely faced it.

‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’  Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus was God, who became a man, who walked this earth for 30+ years, and at the culmination of His earthly life, He paid the penalty for sin for everyone – for you and for me.  And then He put an exclamation mark on this selfless act by rising from the dead three days later and ascending into heaven.  He sits there today at the right hand of God the Father.  But He isn’t grim-faced.  No, He has a warm and inviting smile and His arms are outstretched toward us, beckoning with His nail-pierced hands.

“Come to me.  Come home.  Lay down your striving and join me.  We have much to talk about.  And in the time you have left on earth there are things to do, things that only you and I can do.  Come home to me and let’s talk.  I love you and I desire to live with you and to put my Holy Spirit inside you to help you from now on.”

Say yes to Jesus, my friend.  You will never be the same.

Blessings upon you.

 

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Throughout our stay in Hawaii we heard “Aloha!” both in greeting and as a goodbye.  Every tour guide we met referred to the importance of the word in conveying the Hawaiian sense of love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy.  It was always said with a smile and, in many cases, with a hug or a kiss on the cheek.

We attended a Luau one night and the Chief spoke of the ancient roots of the word in the Polynesian language.  It seems the word is the combination of “Alo” which means to meet or stand face to face and the word “Ha” which carries the sense of breath or life or spirit.  So it has a sense of being in close connection with another and sharing the same breath or sharing life together.

As I heard this description my mind went to Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples after His resurrection.  It’s recorded in the 20th chapter of the book of John.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” ‘  John 20:19-22

Jesus is unique among all religious leaders.  In fact, Jesus would scoff at being called a religious leader.  Jesus spoke very plainly and clearly about Who He was.  He said He was God’s Son.  He said there was only one way to enter into a face to face relationship with God and that was through Him.  His disciples didn’t understand what He meant when He first told them, but with His resurrection, the truth began to become clear.  Jesus was God’s solution to man’s problem.  God is Holy and Perfect.  Sin cannot stand in God’s presence, yet His love desires to be joined with His children.  Therefore imperfect people cannot stand in God’s presence, but Jesus intervened on our behalf and in our place.  That’s what the cross was.  Jesus accepting the punishment for sin, for our sin, in our place so that we could be able to enter into a relationship with God.

I mentioned that Jesus was unique.  Others have made mighty proclamations.  But no others have been able to demonstrate their deity because they were mere men or women.  Only Jesus conquered death.  Only Jesus rose from the grave to be witnessed by hundreds after a very public and very real death.  Jesus proved Who He was by His resurrection. That proof is also supported by the transformed lives of thousands into millions who have experienced a personal relationship with the living Lord.  I am one of them.

Jesus may not be Hawaiian, but I believe He is probably okay with the definition of Aloha that the chief gave at our Luau.  I know He is calling people to come meet with Him face to face, to put their trust in Him, to turn from a life of trusting anything and everything else and to turn to Him.  Jesus is waiting.  He wants to breath His Spirit into His children.  Let today be the day you lean into Jesus and say “Yes”… you put your trust in Him and say “I’m Yours”… you step off the throne of your life and say, “My Lord and my God.”  If you speak Hawaiian, you just might hear Him say, “Aloha, my child.  I’ve been waiting for this moment since the day I first thought of you.  Receive My Spirit and enter my rest.”

Be blessed my friends and pass it on!

Note: These pictures are from our first full day in Oahu when we took the Ultimate Circle Tour of Oahu with our guide, Levent, and a van full of new friends like Sandra, Johnny, Fred, and Gail.  (Sorry we got separated at the end of the day like we did.  Hope you had a great wrap-up to your trip.)

Please feel free to view an download any pics that you like.  More to follow in the coming days.

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The world noted the passing of Stephen Hawking yesterday.  Hawking was a renowned physicist.  He was also a very outspoken atheist whose godless beliefs were routinely touted as the height of intellectual honesty concerning origins of the universe and the fairy tales some people believe.  I did not personally know the man.  And I do not know if there is anything that I could have done to help him.  But I do feel a degree of sadness at his passing.  You see as intelligent as he was and despite all his accolades, he was dead wrong about the most important things concerning life and death.  Even more sad is the fact that his position upon the pedestal of worldly acclaim meant that his theories about God, or the non-existence of God, were viewed by many with the weight of truth.  But they were dead wrong.

Like Mr. Hawking, my belief system is the result of my life experiences, the things I’ve read, my observations of life and assumptions I have made related to those things.  A huge factor in our belief system is our frame of reference or the paradigm we establish.  Our paradigm influences how we receive and process all the information that comes our way.  The scientific mind seeks to have a truly open mind, to be impartial in observation and interpretation of the results.  Unfortunately it’s not possible to completely divorce ourselves from our paradigms.  Our paradigms therefore create in us blind-spots where we cannot see correctly.  We all have blind-spots.  The solution to blind-spots is to be aware we have them and then constantly strive to see things from multiple perspectives.

For a reminder, everyone has a worldview.  It is simply the combination of thoughts and beliefs that make up how we understand and view the world.  This in turn sets up our paradigm about how we interpret everything.  I recognize this to be true in me and therefore I have chosen to compartmentalize the information that makes up my worldview into three buckets.

The largest bucket is my “Things I Think” bucket which contains a lot of things I am reasonably sure are true and accurate.  This is also the information that, while I am fairly confident is true, I give my confidence about a 75%.  These are things I might joke about and debate on, but I won’t argue over.

The second bucket is my “Things I Believe” bucket.  This is a good bit more serious because I live my life in accordance to my understanding of the Things I Believe and the third bucket.  I would be hard-pressed to give up these beliefs, however, I do not hold these so rigid that I would fight for them.  I would argue my point and not concede without strong evidence contrary to my belief.  I do leave a little wiggle room for new information to adjust my belief though.  The opening is narrow and the bar for new information to become a paradigm-changing truth is pretty high, but I know my beliefs are not complete.  God has routinely revealed subtle errors in me, or more accurately, fuller understanding of things to me, that cause me to realize there is so much more I don’t know than I do.

Then there is the third and smallest bucket which is the “Things I Know” bucket.  While this bucket is not large, it contains the things that define the core of who I am.  If the things I believe are the lens I view everything in the world, then the things I know are the indestructible frame that holds it all together.  These are the things which I will die believing, the things I will die for.  These are absolute truths and they are not open to correction because they are the established as true on multiple levels and been verified as absolute.  One of them is that there is a God Whom we will all stand before in judgement.  Mr. Hawking knows that now.  No matter how firmly he believed there was no God while he walked this earth, he has learned he was wrong.

Here are the three primary reasons I know Mr. Hawking was wrong.  The first is the evidence of intelligent design in the universe.  It surprises me greatly that anyone who closely studies the universe in all it’s complexity AND order doesn’t see the absolutely essential need for a intelligent designer behind the design.  The odds of the things that have had to occur in the creation of all that is happening by random chance are truly insurmountable.  They are literally impossible.  And yet from a paradigm that says there cannot be a God, an otherwise intelligent human being, argues for something that is mathematically impossible.

Second is a two-fold answer – the deep and historically accurate information from the bible and the person of Jesus.  We have a book compiled over the course of some 2000 years by over 3 dozen different authors that uniformly holds together as a testament to a God that is real, active, and seeking to be known by humankind.  There are many things identified in this book as future-looking prophecies that have been fulfilled that the uniqueness and veracity of the book are beyond reproach.  The prophecies about God’s messiah such as the virgin birth, the birth in Bethlehem, Herod’s murder of the innocent children around Bethlehem, Jesus crucifixion… the list goes on with dozens of old testament prophecies that were exactly fulfilled by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that are, again, mathematically impossible to have happened by chance.  Yet there is an absolutely clear historical record that shows that these impossibilities occurred.

There is so much to say about Jesus, but for the sake of hopefully debunking the late Mr. Hawking’s biggest error, I would point to the resurrection as the hinge point.  For persons who hold an atheistic, agnostic, or even a religious world view other than Christianity, there is one event that Christianity either rises or falls on and that is the resurrection.  If it didn’t happen then we are fools, our religion is a lie, and our hope is in vain.  It truly is that simple.

However, if the resurrection is a true historical event, then God is validated as the God revealed in the bible and the Christian faith is upheld as true.  Furthermore atheists, agnostics, and any religion that does not have Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world are wrong.  History, even recent history, is full of persons who have set out as committed atheists to disprove the resurrection and, after careful research, found the claims of Christianity and the veracity of the resurrection to be paradigm-shifting and life changing.  Two very good authors to research on this are Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.

There is one, more personal reason I know Mr. Hawking is wrong.  It is because he denies the existence of a person he has never personally met.  He argues that a place doesn’t exist that he has never been (until now) nor ever researched.  The funny thing, he has to argue against people who have met God and people who have thoroughly researched (and a few who have been to and returned from) heaven.  I am one who has met God.  I have personally experienced a number of miracles in my life and the lives of people I know well.  Miracles that have no other explanation… a dream that sent me to the doctor to find and repair three blockages in my heart, nudges to pray for people out of the blue that turned out to be at exactly when an urgent need arose, healings of illnesses including cancer, divine peace in times of great difficulty.  I have literally a dozen or more verifiable instances of miracles that God brought about because His people prayed.  That is simply counting the ones I have been directly involved in.  Multiplying that by the millions of believers around the world who have stories of God’s direct intervention, and the body of evidence is overwhelming.

Yes, I am sad as I consider Mr. Hawking’s passing.  But it is not so much for him.  He had a lifetime to seek God, but he chose not to.  And God allowed him to chose an eternity of separation from all that is good.  God, Who is love, grants us the right to choose.  So my sadness is not really for Mr. Hawking, but for all the persons Mr. Hawking represents.  People who refuse to consider, “Is God real?”  People who fail to seek Him.  People who are gullible enough to be duped by the many half-truths, lies, and falsehoods that distract and lead away from knowledge of the One True God.

If you don’t know God, I suggest a couple simple steps.  Right where you are say this simple prayer.  “God, I don’t know if you are real or not.  But if you are, please reveal yourself to me.  Please show me who you are and what I am to do to get to know you.”  Pretty simple, right?  And thinking logically, there is nothing at risk if you do this and I am wrong and everything to gain if I am right.

That is the first thing.  The second thing is to get a bible, preferably a more recent translation like a New International Version or the New Living Translation and start reading in the gospels.  Actually you can get the free bible app, YouVersion, and read multiple translations.   I suggest beginning with John.  These are simple steps that, if God isn’t real you won’t be losing anything.  But if He is real (and I can assure you that He is, but you must realize that for yourself) He will open your mind to truth and lead you to people that will help you to know Him.

There are many things in life that being wrong about doesn’t really matter much.  This is not one of those things.  Not believing in God, not recognizing Jesus for Who the bible shows us He is, is not something you want to be wrong on.  It is appointed unto mankind to live one life and then die.  And after that to face judgement.  For those who have accepted Jesus sacrificial death on their behalf and submitted to His leadership, death is no longer the end, but rather the beginning of a larger life spent in the presence of God.

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“For God so loved the World that He gave…”  (John 3:16) Jesus is God’s most precious and most amazing gift.  The fact that Jesus condescended at all is the most humbling gift imaginable.  He, Who had always existed in splendid community with His Father, left heaven to come to a world that was beneath Him in every way.  Yet He came to offer every single person the absolute best there is – a restored relationship with the Father, and an intimacy with the Lord that enlivens life in the best of ways and puts everything into proper perspective.

In coming to earth, dying for the sins of the world, and rising to new life, Jesus began something totally new.  He created the Church – the Body of Christ present in the world today.  For every individual who comes to faith, Jesus puts His Holy Spirit inside them.  The Holy Spirit is a seal of our redemption and a very present Helper in living the life of faith in God.  Jesus spoke extensively about the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life in the hours just prior to His crucifixion.  See John 14:15-31, 15:26-16:15.  Practically the first thing He did after His resurrection was impart the Holy Spirit upon His closest followers.  John 20:22 reads “And with that He (Jesus) breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In our continuing study of the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have focused upon writings from three different epistles written by the Apostle Paul – Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.  In all three of these passages Paul discourses on Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The lists of the gifts in these verses contain some overlap, but each also contains unique gifts.  One element that is present in all three is the imagery of the Body of Christ being the bearer of, and reason for, the gifts of the Spirit to exist.  The Gifts of the Spirit are alluded to indirectly in a few other places, but these three chapters give the deepest and most comprehensive discussion of the Gifts of the Spirit.

As I have done in the last two blogs, I am going to include the teaching notes from our lessons on the Gifts of the Spirit.  I begin with some open-ended questions and then we move into the Bible Study on the Gifts.  I encourage you to use these as part of a personal bible study or perhaps a small group study.  I know I was lead to new insights on God’s empowerment of the Body through the study and my personal walk has been strengthened.  I pray that this will do the same for you.

Body of Christ as the Recipient of the Gifts of the Spirit

  • Have you ever been part of a team? 
  • What were the positives of being on that team? 
  • What were the less desirable aspects of being on a team?

Read:

  • 1 Corinthians 12: 1 – 11
  • Romans 12:3-5,
  • Ephesians 4:3-7 & 15-16
  • 1 Cor 12, Verses 12 – 27

How is the Church like a human body?

  • One Body.  Not two… not many…
  • Many parts, but ONE Body.

Why do you think Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used the imagery of a body?

  • One Body.  Not a team… Not an Organization… Not a Committee… A living organism, a BODY.
  • Not just any Body.  The BODY of Christ.
  • Central nervous system.  With what we now know about the body we can see the Holy Spirit living in the believer is like the central nervous system transferring vital information back and form between the brain / head (Christ is the “Head” of the Body) and all the varied organs and members of the body (That’s us, the Church)
  • White blood cells. The body has a defensive mechanism living and working inside it.  The Holy Spirit serves in a similar role with the Body of Christ.
  • The interdependence of the parts. No part of the Body can live apart and independent from the other parts.  The maximized capability of the body is when all parts are healthy and performing it’s intended role.
  • The body will not survive without several of the parts.  There are organs of our physical body that we cannot live without… heart, brain, spine, etc.  Some of the gifts of the Spirit are supernatural enabling that the Body of Christ must have… apostles, pastors, teachers, leaders, etc.
  • The body can be ill, but still survive.  There are maladies that can and will affect the Body.  Steps can be taken to help the body remain healthy, but we don’t always take those steps and we will at times succumb to illness.
  • Life and death are potential states for the body.  Life is a matter of the body parts functioning.  The imagery here is a little more of a stretch, but when taken in context of Jesus resurrection, there is a picture of the body living through death… like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of death.

What key attributes does Paul exhort his readers to strive for in these verses?

Humility, gentleness, patience, love, seeking of unity, accepting of diversity, empathy

Why are these attributes so important in a body?

The Body of Christ is a diverse conglomeration of parts.  The world tends to emphasize our differences, to puff up pride, and promote a self-centered world view.  Isolation, whether as an individual or small group, is the antithesis of the unity pictured in a healthy, fully functioning body.

What are the outcomes of all the members of the body functioning as they are designed?

  • Not uniformity, but unity.
  • Not all the same, but each valued and vital.
  • The roles are varied.  The parts are varied.  The gifts and abilities are varied.  The whole body knit together accomplishes far more than the capabilities of each part alone.

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

Christ Himself gave:

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Pastors
  • Teachers

Imagery of the Body with Christ as the Head.  We are to grow into unity and maturity within the Body of Christ.  Growing in unity means growing more intimate with Him and allowing Him to transform us, to change us.

Every part does its part, its role.

Our role in God’s plan is to draw close to Him, live a life in intimacy with Him, receive His guidance and gifts, and operate in those gifts in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We will all fit into God’s plan.  If we submit to Him, He will equip us and lead us in fulfilling our God-ordained destiny.  Since He is sovereign, He already knows what our destiny is.  Since He allows us to exercise free will, He does not force us to walk a certain path.  He knows what is best – His perfect will, but He will work with us wherever we are.  The optimum is consistent and continual obedience.  However, He will work with us whenever we submit to Him and will use us wherever we are when that happens.

One short side story.  There was a co-worker of mine for several years who steadfastly refused to turn to Christ.  He was at times a very difficult person to deal with, but the Lord always, always kept bringing me back to praying for and loving this man.  After he retired he got into serious trouble, was arrested, and sent to prison.  During the time leading up to his being sent to prison he contemplated suicide.  On one particular day he knew he had to make a decision.  Either he was going to walk into his bedroom and end his life or he was going to pick up the old family bible his late wife kept in the living room to see if there was something there that could give him hope.  Fortunately when he walked into his house he turned to the right and picked up the bible.  In it He found a reason for hope.  This prideful man who had lived for himself for 60+ years fell on his knees, repented of his sins, and accepted God’s forgiveness.  Shortly afterwards he headed off to prison for seven years.
I wrote to him in prison.  He was a different man… gentler, softer spoken, broken in good ways, hungry to know Jesus more.  And after he got out I met with him and we had Church.  It was good.  I was blessed to play a role in encouraging him.  The gift of exhortation and encouragement is a Spiritual Gift that God has given me to use for the benefit of the Body.  This story I just shared is 25 years in the making.  Yet God loved my friend enough that He placed people like me in his life to intercede, to encourage, to exhort, and to evangelize.  Today he is walking in freedom and growing in the gifts God has given him to build the Body of Christ.

As we walk in the gifts the Lord has given us, we will become the part of the body we were created to be.  God will not leave us guessing, but rather He will cause confidence to grow as we walk in the Spirit.  He is able to send us counselors and teachers, people who have experienced God’s gifting in the same or similar areas, to help us grow in the gifts we are to walk in.  We are His Body and He is passionate in His Body being whole, healthy, and beautiful.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be the vehicle of God’s blessing in someone else’s life today.

 

 

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God is almost never limited by our lack.

We can lack money and yet God can provide the means for whatever He calls us to do.  My thoughts run to a little boy with two fish and five loaves on a remote hillside with Jesus and a crowd of thousands, hungry after a day of teaching and healing.

We can lack strength and yet Paul passes on what Jesus said to Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

We can lack intellect, but God can still use us.  I have been in a number of situations where I did not know “the answer” and yet the answer has always come.

But I realized the other day that there is one definite lack on our part that can constrain God… the lack of humility!  The lack of humility is powerful, ugly, and spiritually deadly.

There is value in specifically saying “lack of humility” and not simply calling it pride.  Being proud of your children, your country, your church can all stray into an unhealthy region, but for the most part these do not capture the attitude that the bible means when it says in a number of places, “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6).  The lack of humility is that kind of proud.  It is a cancer that sucks the life out of relationships, beginning with our relationship with the Father.

God loves us and He wants us to live in intimacy with Him.  The level of intimacy God desires is predicated upon mutual love, trust, and honesty.  Coming clean about every aspect of our life – from acts done or not done, words uttered or not uttered, even thoughts we’ve harbored requires a humility and honesty that does not come easily to us.  In fact it often requires a degree of divine support to achieve.  But He is near to us to lend us this help if we but bend our hearts toward Him in humility.

As I consider what this humility looks like several pictures come to mind.  A child listening in rapt attention and a teachable spirit… a parent returning from deployment falling on their knees and embracing their family… a “terminally” ill patient who is given a new lease on life.  God is the giver of all good gifts.  As He gives what He desires (which is always better than what we deserve) we should recognize the opportunity to give thanks and receive with humility all that the Lord wants for us.  Often, it is in these moments that He will speak wisdom into our lives that we can’t hear otherwise.

This morning I awoke with a very clear picture of what the lack of humility looks like.  It is one of the formational stories of the nation of Israel and it is found in the 2nd book of the bible, Exodus.  What had begun as a flight to sanctuary at the end of the Genesis had become servitude and slavery 400 years later.  The Pharaoh’s government had become a hard task-master and the people of Israel were crying out for deliverance.  God raised up Moses to serve as His human voice.  The message to Pharaoh was simple, “Let my people go.”  But Pharaoh, who was considered a god in that culture, refused.  Time and again God sent signs of His power and authority to convince Pharaoh and give Him the opportunity to bend His will to the Lord Almighty.  But Pharaoh would not.  The bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Friends, this is a vital spiritual truth.  The longer and harder we resist the Lord, the more difficult it becomes to respond to Him.  It is not that God’s love is not there nor is it that He won’t accept us.  The issue is that until we are humble enough to acknowledge that He is God and we are not, we can’t bend our knee to Him and submit to the foundational truth of faith that God is the great “I AM”, the wholly, Holy Other.  While I am thrilled that my heavenly Father loves me and desires to fellowship with me, it never changes the fact that He is the LORD God Almighty, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The lack of humility can keep a person from accepting Christ, God’s provision to reconcile fallen humans with Himself.  But it can also rear it’s ugly head after conversion and stifle the spiritual growth the Lord intends for His children.  When I consider my faith walk, I can see how the lack of humility was a key factor in many of the lulls.

The message of today’s post is simple.  Take a moment to examine your life.  Do you have a deficit of humility that is limiting your relationship with God and others?  Are you thankful for the small gifts of grace you receive or are you disappointed because you feel slighted in some way?  Is God actively speaking to you and using you for positive change or is it quiet when you call out to Him?  If any of these answers make you realize that you have a deficit of humility, congratulations! Recognizing this is the hardest step.  Turn to God with your whole heart, acknowledge your sin (if you haven’t already figured it out, the lack of humility is a sin), accept His Lordship over you, and begin to walk in fresh fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The limits of our intellect do not in any way limit God’s ability to use us.  The limits of our humility constrain how, and how much God can work in and through us.  Choose humility and throw off those constraints.  Reach for the Father’s hand and talk a walk with the One Who loves you to the uttermost.  You will be so happy that you did.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing to those the Lord puts in your life today.

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One of the main events at Gauntlet each year is the sunrise baptism in the ocean.  This year 1400 persons waded into the Atlantic Ocean to be baptized in a pattern followed by  Christ-followers for close to 2000 years.  Baptism is a rich symbol in the Christian faith.  In baptism we are identifying with Jesus is His death and burial as we plunge under the water.  In rising out of the water we are connecting with His resurrection from the dead.  Baptism is an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace God has given us in our salvation.  By baptism we proclaim we are followers of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

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Even as organized as our church has become through the 10 previous Gauntlets, baptism of 1400 people takes some time and creates quite a spectacle.  Below are a few pics of the service.  Three short vignettes stand out to me.

First, we met and spoke with Maddie as she provided Life guard support.  I explained how Jesus is real and that baptism is a person’s next step after accepting Him as their savior.  Maddie is at a life change point as she enters her final year in college.  She has questions about what she is going to do with her life.  As we walked away after praying with her, I could sense the Holy Spirit stirring in her heart.  I pray that she too will soon be baptized and experience the joy and peace that Jesus gives.

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The next shots are from the lifeguard seat in the middle of our service.  One of the staff came up to me and pointed out the man kneeling in the sand to the south of our group.  He had wandered up early in the baptism and, after chatting with some of our folks, fell to his knees and remained there for the entire time I was there – close to an hour that I know of.  His posture of prayer over our group remains one of the most poignant images for me of the week.  It also reminded me that there were literally thousands of people back home praying for us before and during the Gauntlet.

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The final Baptism morning vignette was when Greg, Dylan and I held our devotion on the pier.  We wanted a vantage point where we could continue to observe and pray for the baptism service, but also open the Word and see what God had in store for us.  As we finished an older gentleman from the restaurant on the pier approached and asked what was going on up the beach.  I shared about the baptism and Gauntlet which lead to an engaging conversation with Mark.  A one-time minister, Mark had slipped and backslidden to the point that he had ended up on the streets.  A year and a half earlier he decided he had to turn his life around so for 16 months he had worked at the restaurant and was staying away from the drink and other temptations that had caused him to fall.  We prayed with Mark.  I was blessed as my guys were fully engaged in the conversation, even encouraging Mark to watch the services on-line.

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So many people… so many God-stories… so many miracles… such an amazing God.

The next post will be about the worship.  The one after that is about one of the mighty miracles that occurred and which is continuing to play out in a most marvelous way.

God is moving… the wave started in the student section and it is growing in intensity.  Come Lord Jesus – overwhelm us with more of you.

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I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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