Ever since I have been a Christian, one thing has bothered me... it has been in every facet of my life, in every new undertaking, in every relationship, in every corner, hidden or seen, in everything that has ever happened in my walk with Christ. This thing that bothers me is this: the feeling that there is something more. When I read in the New Testament Gospels and especially in Acts, I see one thing: the Spirit moving in power. Lives were changed, people were healed, demons fled. The early church did not move in arrogant power based on man's ideas for man's gain due to man's greed. The early church moved in divine endowment from on high, in divine power for God's glory due to divine purposes. The one thing that you will see, from a communal sense, in the early church that you will not see in a majority of churches today is this: obedience.
I know my obedience is not absolute. That is not to say that I live in blatant disobedience, but I have reached a level of comfortable obedience. That level has left me on the inside of my own house looking at the outside world through the small, distorted view of the peephole the door contains. I can see, for the most part, anything that would assume to threaten my safe existence within my home, but as far as having a clear view of the world outside my home, I don't have it.
I have recently begun (as of this morning) Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "The Cost of Discipleship." Needless to say, I cannot put it down. I could just quote the whole book, it is that good. But one paragraph convicted me to a point of conviction I have seldom felt. Here it is:
"And as he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. (Mark 2:14)
The call goes forth, and is at once followed by the response of obedience. The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience? The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason, and it is no wonder that frantic attempts have been made to separate the two events. By hook or by crook a bridge must be found between them. Something must have happened in between, some psychological or historical event. Thus we get the stupid question: Surely the publican must have known Jesus before, and that previous acquaintance explains his readiness to hear the Master's call. Unfortunately our text is ruthlessly silent on this point, and in fact it regards the immediate sequence of call and response as a matter of crucial importance. It displays not the slightest interest in the psychological reasons for a man's religious decision. And why? For the simple reason that the cause behind the immediate following of call by response is Jesus Christ himself. It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once. This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus. There is no need of any preliminaries, and no other consequence but obedience to the call. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons men to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God. In this short text Jesus Christ and his claim are proclaimed to men. Not a word of praise is given to the disciple for his decision for Christ. We are not expected to contemplate the disciple, but only him who calls, and his absolute authority. According to our text, there is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road -- only obedience to the call of Jesus."
What truth there is to this matter above! Let us imagine, as parents, that our child is in a life or death situation. Let us say that there is a fire in the home, and the only way the child will be safe is to jump from a window into your arms. You call. The child will either answer or not. But it isn't enough for the child to just answer. It logically does not make sense for a child to jump from a second story window. However, given the life and death circumstances, your call stands against reason for the survival of the child. When you tell the child to jump, they can either be obedient and land in your arms, or disobey and perish in the flames. Our spiritual lives are not so different from this. The house represents the life that God has given us, in the world that God has given us. The fire represents the effects of sin on an otherwise safe and secure setting. Jesus, having passed through the flames and already standing outside, calls. We are all standing in the midst of flames. Many of us hear the call. Some jump instantly, being fully obedient to Christ. Some hear the call, but are still considering the jump. Because of their indecisiveness, they are beginning to have breathing problems due to the smoke, and the heat is making them sweat. They are starting to lose coherence, and the call is diminishing. Their ability to jump by obedience into safety is slowly being consumed by the flames about them. Still others choose to completely ignore the call to safety and obstinately perish in the flames. Their choice to perish in no way signifies that the call hasn't been made..... over and over and over.
What has been lacking in my life since I became a Christian is pure, unhindered, full obedience to Christ. It is what the church itself is lacking today as a whole. Sure, we have programs and whatnot, but a majority of those programs are programs to help us feel better about not being fully obedient. Full obedience to the call does not mean that we never falter or stumble in our faith. The disciples who were fully obedient to the call of Christ were gone at His crucifixion. Not one of them was present. However, it was on these very same apostles and disciples of Christ that the church began. Faith is refined in the fire. Obedience is understood at times in a much deeper, more impacting way through fault and failure. The wealth of obedience is learned best through the shame of disobedience.
Obedience does not bring praise or fame. It brings suffering, and at times, death. Look at the New Testament. Those who were fully obedient to the call of Christ knew one thing: their lives were no longer their own. They followed the call into suffering, and more often than not, unto death. Did they count it a waste? Have you read anywhere in Scripture or outside writings that any of the disciples regretted their lives, or losing their lives for the One who saved theirs? We live with regret because we are not obedient. For me personally, I can only say this, "I am trying to receive the life of Christ while failing to fully yield my life to Christ." Now, just to clarify, I am not saying that salvation has anything to do with me or my works. Salvation is by grace through faith. There is no other way. I cannot sneak in secretly through my "works." I simply mean that I say I want to fulfill Christ's all for my life, yet I resist to be fully and completely obedient to Him. How many of us are complacent in our "part-time, percentage-based" obedience to Christ? What would happen if we understood the message of the New Testament as this: Salvation, while free and by Christ alone, asks obedience? When I read the Bible, I see nowhere where it says, "Ye are saved, now do what you want." Yet that is what the church lives like. We sell ourselves short every day. One of the greatest lies we can ever believe is that we are expected to sin. Does this mean that we live without sin? Even the greatest stumble. But to give into or set ourselves up to sin because "it is our nature" even after salvation is a lie from the devil.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me." Galatians 2:20.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17.
"Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him." Colossians 2:12-15.
"Greater is He that is in me, that he that is of the world." 1 John 4:4.
"For they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they did not loves their lives, even unto the death." Revelation 12:11.
"Though a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered." Hebrews 5:8
The Call of Christ:
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30
Bonhoeffer, earlier in the chapter, says:
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him... Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God."
And finally, Bonhoeffer says:
"But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back upon us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay to-day in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard. Where were those truths which impelled the early Church to institute the catechumenate, which enabled a strict watch to be kept over the frontier between the Church and the world, and afforded adequate protection for costly grace? What had happened to all those warnings of Luther's against preaching the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared with the millions of spiritual corpses in our country to-day? With us it has been abundantly proved that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. Cheap grace has turned out to be utterly merciless to our Evangelical Church."
We lack power because we lack obedience.
Psalm 46To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth. 1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
God IS our refuge and strength. This is a present tense statement. God wasn't our refuge and strength and then somehow, right now, has ceased to be; He is also not our refuge and strength now and then won't be in the future. God has been, is, and will be our refuge and strength. He eternally has been, and He eternally will be a very present help in trouble. So many times in my walk, when I come face to face with a trial or test, my mind instantly does something like this: "Well, God has brought me through a lot, but I don't know about this one. Seems like it is just too big to face. Why me? I mean, I know that You were there through all my past stuff, but this is just too much." However, the reality is: He did bring me through all my past stuff because He is ever present with me. He is my refuge and my strength. He has brought me through things in days that seemed like it would take years to make it through. He has sustained me, guided me, loved me, protected me. Every time I start going through something the questions start coming: Why do I have to go through this? How long is this going to last? Is this fair? And yet, on the other side of those circumstances, once they are gone through, I can most definitely and clearly see the hand of God moving in my life. I can see why some things happened. There are some things that I don't understand, nor can I as of right now see the point of, but I also know that I wouldn't be here, right here, where I am at this very day and time, without them. So I rest assured that God is my refuge and strength, and that He is a very present help in trouble. Sometimes, it helps to remember that when a parent helps a child out of a situation, it isn't always in the way or in the form that the child wanted the help to come in, yet, the parent knows more and can help in a way that has lasting effect, not just temporary effect. God does this to us. He may not help us in the exact way that our finite human minds have completely figured out, but He will help in the way that only He can, which is in the way that is best for us. It also amazed me that when I know I need help, I also seemingly know exactly how that help should come and what it should consist of. However, would I really need help if I had all the answers. Help is a two-fold process: asking, then receiving.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
I don't know about you, but this picture above scares me. Could you imagine the earth being removed and the mountains carried into the sea? the mountains shaking with the sea's swelling? This sound extremely catastrophic to me. However, the Psalmists declare that they will not be afraid. How can they not be? Because God is their refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. They know, like we all should, that whatever comes their way, no matter what it is, God has it under control. No matter how bad it may look from our viewpoint and our perspective, we see dimly as of right now (1 Corinthians 13:12). We cannot see clearly nor see the whole picture. We think our tiny view is the whole picture, when in reality our little tiny, teensy weensy view is just a small thread in the canvas of creation.
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
God will not allow His church to be moved. He sees. He knows. We project our personal problems into communal problems by associating others into them. We run to our parents, our friends, our significant others, people who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior... all these people when we should run to God first. I am not saying to not share your burdens (Proverbs 15:22; 11:14, Galatians 6:2). We just need to run to our Refuge and Strength, our very present help in times of trouble first. The Holy Spirit represents the river above. God has given His Spirit to us, to the church. There is joy to be had in the Spirit. When we run to our Refuge and Strength, He will lead us beside the still waters. We will enjoy the comfort and companionship of the Spirit.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Once again, we enter into what men do. Nations rage. Kingdoms move. Yet God utters His voice and the earth melts. This clearly and plainly shows the sovereignty of God. At the mere opening of His mouth, the earth melts. This is the God who is with us! This is the God who is our refuge! The very God that can cause the earth to melt by the words of His tongue is our very present help in times of trouble. Who cares if what we are going through isn't fair? Not much in life is fair to our flawed, "its all about me," materialistic attitude. We should all be rich, laying on the beach, sipping mimosas and not having a care in the world right? Yet, God, the very God that could destroy the earth by His words (and which, I might add, spoke the world into existence) so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whomsoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). Redemption was born through suffering. My life was bought by the unfair price Jesus paid. Anyone who wants to talk about things not being fair... read the Gospel. God may have created the beach, but He didn't intend for us to spend our lives laying on it.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
We pride ourselves on our military, our national strength. Men pride themselves on "men stuff." Women pride themselves on "women stuff." We, mere humans, pride ourselves that we matter to the point that the whole world is about us. We boast in our strength as humans, our uniqueness as mankind. We make this, we invent that, we start this war or "finish" this one. We believe that God is merely here to serve us, in what we want and in what we think is right. We fool ourselves into thinking that we somehow share the running of this universe with the Almighty God. While we occupy space and time in it, we are weak, pitiful creatures that constantly need a Savior. In all reality, the very breath we take that some use to curse God is the very thing that we would not have without Him. He makes wars cease. He is sovereign over all things. When nations rise up in all their might and glory He sets them back down in their place.
10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Be still is a command, not a suggestion. Still is defined as "not moving or making a sound; deep silence and calm." So, we have a command to do something, but what comes next? Another command. BE still and KNOW that I am God. The word know requires actions on our part. However, it is not a physical action. We are so consumed with gadgets and trinkets and the such (this computer I am writing on, for instance) that it is almost impossible to sit still (being a drummer, my body is always moving... my feet are tapping, my fingers are dancing, my legs are shaking, or my lips are being used as audible percussive instruments). The first command is to get our focus centered. Tune the world out. Tune into God. This is not some transcendental meditational formula. It is simply biblical and Godly reflection (we have gone so far to steer clear of the New Age movement that we assume that any sort of reflection, while still, is an attempt to go out of ourselves and into the astral projections of our mind, achieving transcendence; being still is simply quieting ourselves and letting the Spirit that is within us speak clearly. Not the same thing). It is in this preparational stage that we then are commanded to act again, and that is to know. Knowing requires two things, in my opinion: understanding with the head and acceptance with the heart. But what if we took it further? What if, because we are humans, we let every aspect of our lives know that He is God? What if we allowed our bodies to know that He is God? Even though we may be going through sickness, may not look the way we have always wanted to, or might have a defect, we are in the body God designed and gave to us. Some have treated their bodies better than others. However, any body can glorify God in what the person within chooses to do with it. What if we exercised the understanding of knowing that God is God when faced with sickness and difficulties within our bodies? What if we allowed our minds to fully grasp that He is God? He is not God because we do or do not grasp that He is. He is God because He is God. Yet, if we can ever understand and know that, then our outlook changes. Our mental picture or who we are, what this earth is, who others are, all come into proper focus when our minds know that He is God. What about our hearts? When our hearts know that He is God, we can love like He loves. Our hearts will become a heart of flesh and not stone. A heart that can beat with His. What about our spirits? Once our spirits know that He is God, we can cease to spend so much time, effort and energy in building up fleshly treasures and making our bodies into what the world says they should be, and we can concentrate on storing up treasures in heaven and using the body God gave us to glorify Him. Materialism is not so much a spiritual problem as it is simply a problem of not fully knowing God in all capacities that we have as humans. What about our emotions? When our emotions know that He is God, we can truly glorify Him. In all of what it means to be human, this is the area I struggle with the most. My body knows that God is God. My mind knows that God is God. My heart knows that God is God. Yet my emotions seem to be taking a while in receiving that memo. When someone hurts me, I react, but not as if I know that God is God. When things go wrong, I react, but not as if I know that God is God. Stress? Yeah, I have a lot of it, but I would have less if that part of me understood that God is God. God does not need us to know Him for Him to be God; but we need to know Him for Him to be God to us. Knowing God is how we live our lives as Christians. Can we really claim to be a Christian if we do not know God? Another thing that we need to understand is that God will be exalted among the nations and in the earth whether we know Him to be God or not. The two statements are not dependent upon each other. We don't KNOW God and then He is exalted by our knowing. God says to know Him, for He will be exalted. His exaltation is not dependent upon our knowing Him.
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Then, to conclude, once again God plainly and clearly tells us that He is with us. He is our refuge. In Him, the one who can cause the earth to cease by His voice and the one who can stop nations of humans in their tracks, we have our strength, our refuge. He is a very present help in trouble. KNOW God.
Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne. - Hebrews 12:1-2
We must endure. The point of trials and temptations, collisions and failures, fears and struggles is the perseverance of endurance. There are certain points in our life, both physically and spiritually, that we will never reach without pain. It is as simple as that.
Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3: 12-14
Oswald Chambers once said that the strength is found in the struggle. Paul was in constant pursuit of the goal of eternal life with Christ Jesus. He never let go. He of all people had every reason to give up, but he never did.
Then He told them: "Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. You will be hated by everyone because of My name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. By your endurance gain your lives. - Luke 21:10-19
By your endurance gain your lives.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. - Romans 5:3-5
Affliction ----> endurance ----> proven character ----> hope that does not disappoint.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so our comfort overflows through Christ. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in the endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Everything we need is found in that title. Everything.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. - James 1:2-4
Trials ----> testing of faith ----> endurance ----> maturity.
Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him. - James 1:12
Enduring trials equates to passing the test and receiving the crown of life. Hold on. Hold fast. Hold out.
You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith —more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Genuine faith is more valuable than gold (an allegorical connection to the best the world has to offer). Genuine faith is more valuable than anything this world can offer.... anything!
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:1, 8-9
Hebrews 11:1) Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
The reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Man, what powerful words. It almost sounds like something that could never happen: the reality of what is hoped for? The proof of what is not seen? How can these things be? Let's take a walk through Hebrews 11, 12 and 13 together.
3) By faith, we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.
Awesome Scripture! I have been in a lot of discussions lately that deal with the creation of the universe, the big bang, the fine tuning argument, the Kalaam cosmological argument, etc, etc, that all try to properly explain "creatio ex nihilo", or creation out of nothing. None of these arguments deal with faith. They deal with realities that we can see. Mathematical equations that can be worked out on paper. Scientific hypothesis and equations that all work off of facts. Where is faith in this? I have a mind that wants to know how things work. I have a desire to give an answer to any and every question I come across. Faith, for me, is hard. It goes against my nature as a human. I want to rely on "knowing" "facts".
5) By faith, Enoch was taken away so that he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his transformation he was approved, having pleased God. 6) Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one that draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
I had been seeking answers. I love apologetics, but apologetics slowly replaced my faith with fact. I began to rely more on the reasoning of man than I did the Word of God. Is something good enough because God says it is? Or because a certain amount of men with PhD's decided to give God a hand in proving Himself? I began to replace my time spent in the Word with time spent in the writings of these men. Now, don't get me wrong, apologetics has its place... I just used it wrong. I learned a lot in my pursuit of understanding, but it was mainly how fickle the human mind is, and the intellectual objections to Christ that many atheists have. Now lets look at what happened when men and women of God decided to trust the Word of God to them in spite of all counsel and popular opinion... even what many would consider "fact."
7) By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
"After being warned about what was not yet seen...." If someone came to you and said, "Build a massive boat, for a flood will cover the whole earth," could you do it, or does what others think matter more? To be honest, I would instantly call my parents. I would talk to some close friends. I would want time to pray, a sign, confirmation, maybe another sign, at least two or three more conferences with my parents, then a group of people to help me build the ark so at least if something went wrong we could all be "fools" together. In taking an honest look at my faith, it lacks compared to that of Noah, yet by his faith he condemned the world. The people ridiculed him and mocked him... yet I wonder how many cried out for deliverance when their arms grew tired of swimming and only Noah's boat was floating. I wonder how many times my lack of faith has mocked the faith of others who were willing to believe in the things that were not yet seen....
8) By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was going.
"He went out, not knowing where he was going...." I can't even get in my car with my cell phone and drive somewhere if I don't know where I am going. How many of us have heard the call of God only to sit back and either wait for a map or not go at all due to a lack of directions to our "destination"? What if the true "destination" (spiritually) if found on the path to the "destination" (physically)? Oh Lord! That I would have faith to move when You say move!
11) By faith Sarah herself, when she was barren, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful. 12) And therefore from one man - in fact, one as good as dead - came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumberable as the sands by the seashore.
"Received power to conceive offspring..." If God has given you a promise, He will also give you the power to have that promise conceive and come forth. Sarah was too old to have a child. She was dried up. God's promise flew in the face of physical nature. It went against every conceivable "fact" known to man. When we respond in faith to God's promise, IT IS FULFILLED, no matter who says what or what circumstances think they can offer definition to the demise of your dream. Father, that we may respond in faith to the promises You have given each of us!!!
To pick out a few more verses from chapter 11 before we move to chapter 12:
17) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was offering up his unique son, 18) about whom it had been said, In Isaac your seed will be called. 19) He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration.
Abraham offered up his promise. Can you imagine receiving a promise from God in a miraculous way, then being required to give that promise back to God? The faith of Abraham was tested in the midst of enjoying his promise. But the faith of Abraham went beyond the reception of the promise into the full fulfillment of the promise. Abraham held fast to the words of God that said, "In Isaac your seed will be called," and stood fast in his faith to hold God accountable to the promise He had made. It appears that with faith comes an intimate understanding of the relationship between the Promiser and the promisee.
24) By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter 25) and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. 26) For he considered reproach for the sake of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.
"...and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin." It looks like suffering might accompany faith at some point in time. How many of us have given in for the short-lived pleasure of sin rather than suffer for the reward of the promise? Father, that You would grant us an eternal view rather than a temporary view... help us hold out, suffer, and receive the reward of the promise. How many of us have traded the God-given promise we have for the immediate wealth of the world? Do not let the world tell you who you are in Christ. If God has given you a promise, "Hold On. Hold Fast. Hold Out." That is what this blog is about: holding onto the promise, through faith, to receive not only the promise but the reward of faith.
Hebrews 121) Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2) keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.
We are to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us. It does not say to sit back and beg God to do it for us. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. It takes effort on our part to shed the burdens and weight of sin. If you close a door, keep it closed. Open it an inch, and your will be overwhelmed. Sin is not something to laugh at, mock, ridicule, or "passively accept." Sin is a serious problem for many Christians today, and the church as a whole. I pray that we wake up to our part of the plan, that we assist Christ in what He is doing for us, and that we allow full cooperation with the Holy Spirit to help us run the race set before us. Sin is not something we can beat ourselves, we need the power of the Holy Spirit. But it is not something where we sit back and expect the Holy Spirit to be our housekeeper while we keep throwing garbage on the floors of our house. It is a combined effort. He does the cleansing, but we do what we can to keep the garbage out. Faith in the power of God is necessary.
3) For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won't grow weary and lose heart. 4) In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5) And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord's discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; 6) for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. 7) Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? 8) But if you are without discipline—which all receive —then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9) Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn't we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10) For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11) No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12) Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, 13) and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead.
This is a hard portion of Scripture for me to accept. I do not like to be disciplined. I didn't as a child, and it is even harder as an adult, especially when it comes from above. However, every time the Lord has dealt with me I have been the better for it. It hurts, and a certain amount of humility is always received out of the deal, but it is also a way that I know the Lord is continuing to use me and shape and mold me for His glory. "Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead." Such powerful words! These words have been saturating my heart and my mind for days now. If your hands are tired and your knees are weak, get into the Word. There is strength and sustenance there. We go through great lengths to feed ourselves physically, yet many do nothing to feed themselves spiritually. If you are tired of fighting the same old battle, read the Word. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). If you are lacking faith, strengthen yourself in the Word. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105). Make straight paths for yourself, but illuminate those paths by the Word of God. Many of us have left our lamps at home and are wandering around in the pitch black. Exercise your faith through the Word of God and watch your path be illuminated!
Hebrews 135) Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. 6) Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
To many, this verse is killer. There are so many today that chase the American dream. They chase success, and the money that comes with it. Everything they have points to who they are, not who God is. Does God bless His children? Yes. But should we spend our lives in pursuit of material gain and call it God's blessing? No.
19) “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20) But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21)For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22) “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23) But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness! 24)“No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money. 25) “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26) Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27) Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28) And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30)If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31)So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32) For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34) Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
This whole passage of Scripture could be summed up in a few words: HAVE FAITH IN GOD. PERIOD.
8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
This is a promise made to all that we can accept in faith. All it takes is that little bit.
14) When they reached the crowd, a man approached and knelt down before Him. 15) "Lord," he said, "have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers severely. He often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16) I brought him to Your disciples, but they couldn't heal him." 17) Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 18) Then Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and from that moment the boy was healed. 19) Then the disciples approached Jesus privately and said, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 20) "Because of your little faith," He told them. "For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. 21) However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting."
I am not going to turn the rest of this blog into a "demon under every leaf" type blog, but I do want to illustrate a point here: if the power of the enemy is attacking your church, your home, your family, or even you, it can prevail or remain because of a lack of faith. There are certain battles that cannot be won by someone else, or through a program, or through sleep, or through denial. Certain battles can only be won by FAITH. If you are being trampled by the enemy, dig into the Word. Renew your strength in prayer to the Lord. "I called to the Lord in my distress, and I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears" (Psalm 18:6). Praying to God for help shows two things: dependence upon Him and faith that He will move on your behalf.
20) Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep —with the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21) equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
I was just telling a close friend the other day that the enemy is closing in on me from every possible angle he can. I am waiting to hear from the Lord and all there is is silence. Yet, in His silence, I know I am not alone. It is a test of my faith. Do I give up because I don't feel the "goosebumps" or "hear Him speak to my mind and heart?" No. Do I give up because it is hard? No. Do I give up because I cannot see what tomorrow holds? No. Do I give up because what I thought was going to be isn't, and I can't see how things are going to work out? No. Two things about all of this: 1) He will never leave me or forsake me. 2) It is in the areas that I don't have the answers that faith can move the most. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I don't need to. Do I want to? Absolutely. Will I be okay if I don't? Absolutely. I told my friend that the only faith I had at the moment was about the thickness of a hair. It isn't much. Blink and you might miss it. But it was enough for me to pray last night, to pray this morning, and to pick up my Bible and read. Is my faith restored? Yes. Is my situation different? No. But the strength is found in the strain. (Chambers). Actually, to show exactly what happened, I turn to Oswald Chambers:
"God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute."
I see a lot of tired Christians running around, but I have met a few that pour themselves out spiritually. May God gives us all the strength for the minute, and may we all have the faith to react to the promises He has given us, in spite of everything that stands in the way. I pray that we see God for who He is... and that it be enough just to see Him as the Promise, and that we have the FAITH to receive it.
Make sure you don't settle for an "angel of light" when you can have the One who created the dawn.
Sacrifice hurts. It always cost someone or something as much as they have to give. Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament caused the animals their very being. Their life was spilt so others could be saved. It is the same with Christ, but in full completion of the redemption of humanity: His life was spilt so that others could live. He sacrificed, by obedience, through faith, and in the power of the Spirit. So many times we look at the Christian life, and especially the aspect of a missionary, as a glorified "Mission: Impossible" adventure with a godly twist. Exotic location, exciting people, fun. laughter... and the "good" stuff. The thing we often forget is that no missionary ever gets anywhere without giving something. If they do, then what they are doing is not missions, but vacation. Missions is serious business. It is to reach souls... to offer hope where despair reigns. To pour out life where death saturates. To bring freedom where bondage controls. That is what missions is about. It is not about a plaque on the wall, a title gained, or money earned... it is about reaching the lost. That is all it has ever been about. When missions becomes about something other than that, it is a manly thing, not a God thing. Can God still move in "man-driven" missions? Yes, but He is limited. The Spirit empowers missions, we do not empower the Spirit.
"The problems in missions is basically spiritual: we don't see the heathen, we don't hear their cry, we don't open our mouths, and we don't unfold our wallets." ~ WDB (Missionary to Brazil)
"The command has been to "go" but we have stayed - in body, gifts, prayer and influence. He has asked us to be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth..... but 99% of Christians have kept puttering around in the homeland." ~ Robert Savage
"Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in hell and neither do most Christians." Leonard Ravenhill
"A tiny group of believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal Hell without ever hearing the salvation story." ~ K. P. Yohannan
One of the things that grieves my heart so bad, being a missionary and living in a place outside the "reality" of typical United States life, is the apathy of so many Christians. I do not say this from my pedestal, because before I came here I was the same way. I firmly believe that satan has blinded us through our ignorance. We see the commercials on the TV about children starving and we turn our heads. We see the homeless man walking down the street and we go to the other side of the street so we won't have to meet them face to face. Those people are the very people Christ ministered to. WE are in danger of being the ones He said this to: "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the mouth the heart speaks." Matthew 12:34. He said this to the "religious" leaders and people of the day. He said this to the ones who found their "spirituality" in actions and traditions. We can fool ourselves no longer. IF we belong to Christ, then our hearts will belong to Him, our minds will belong to Him, our emotions will belong to Him, our will will belong to Him. This means that we HURT for what He HURTS for; we UNDERSTAND what He UNDERSTANDS concerning sinners and the lost; we SUFFER for the lost as He SUFFERED for us; we ACT as He ACTED. This means we hunger and thirst for the lost. We actually hurt at the amount of spiritual death there is in the world today. Sin grieves us, but sinners move us. Poverty sickens us, but passion ignites us. We see the world through Kingdom eyes, not through the eyes of our flesh. We give up our rights, our expectations, our LIVES to LIVE in Him. If we are Christ's, we are not our own. "I have been CRUCIFIED with Christ; IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by FAITH in the Son of God, who LOVED me and GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME." Galatians 2:20.
"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for." ~ Charles Spurgeon
"The gospel is only good news if it reaches the lost in time." ~ Anonymous
"The worst crime of the desert is knowing where the water is and not telling." ~ Anonymous
"The saddest thing one meets is a nominal Christian. I had not seen it in Japan where missions is younger. The church here is a "field full of wheat and tares."" ~ Amy Carmichael
I understand the fear of giving up security, family, money, etc. to do what God has asked. It is a battle. If it wasn't, then it wouldn't be worth it. Here is the thing about redemption: it costs something. The thing being redeemed has value to the person redeeming it, and it takes something of value to be able to redeem.
"Obedience to the call of Christ nearly always costs everything to two people: the one who is called, and the one who loves that one." ~ Oswald Chambers
"Two distinguishing marks of the early church were: 1) Poverty & 2) Power." ~ T. J. Bach
"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you yourself must believe." ~ Winston Churchill
"There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do." Freya Stark
Not all of us can give our lives to do missions. But, we all have things we can give. Some are blessed with encouraging words... encouraging words to someone who is a missionary are more valuable than gold. If you know a missionary, encourage them. I can say from personal experience that the hardest part about doing this is not having anyone to tell certain things to. When times like that hit, it is often just a kind word or a "Thinking about you" that can encourage and inspire. I am thankful for the friends I have had that could do this for me, and would do it for me. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.
"God had only one Son and He made Him a missionary." ~ David Livingstone
"What are we here for, to have a good time with Christians or to save sinners?" ~ Malla Moe
"I have said that there is nothing in world or the Church, except its disobedience, to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility." ~ Robert Speer
"His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice." ~ John Stott
Some people are prayer warriors. They know how to pray with wisdom and discernment, and can intercede on behalf of others. It is not only the lost that need intercession. Spiritual battles are common to any Christian, but I have never experienced battles like I have here, in the mission's field, and I am sure any person who has spent time on the mission's field would say the same. Interceding on behalf of the lost is crucial, but interceding on behalf of the missionary ministering to those lost is just as crucial. As Paul wrote in Ephesians, "Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should." Ephesians 6:18-20. I would like to point out that this Scripture is found in the "Spiritual Warfare" chapter. Missionaries are reflections and ambassadors of Christ to people who may have never heard the Gospel of Christ before (we all are, to be honest). There is a time for boldness and a time for subtlety. Prayer cover goes for more than just warring against spirits, it goes to encourages us spiritually as well.
"If you read in history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." ~ C.S. Lewis
"Today Christians spend more money on dog food than on missions." ~ Leonard Ravenhill
"We talk of the second coming, half of the world has never heard of the first." ~ Oswald J. Smith
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." ~ C. T. Studd
Any talent you have can be used to glorify God. Have you ever thought about the talents you have and how they could benefit a missionary? Letters of encouragement, prayer, physical support, financial support, drawings, paintings, etc, etc, are all things that can benefit missionaries. It is a combined effort to reach the lost. The church is responsible not only for reaching the lost in its own backyard, so to speak, but in neighboring communities and countries as well.
"Answering a student's question, 'Will the heathen who have not heard the Gospel be saved?' thus, 'It is more of a question with me whether we, who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not, can be saved.'" ~ Charles Spurgeon
"There is something wonderfully misleading, full of hallucination and delusion in this business of missionary calls. With many of us it is not a missionary call at all that we are looking for; it is a shove. There are a great many of us who would never hear a call if it came." ~ Robert Speer
"The 3.5 billion unreached people on earth would form a single line that would stretch around the equator 25 times! Can you picture 25 lines of Christless people, trampling endlessly towards Hell? Let that vision stay with you day and night." ~ Larry Stockstill
"Why wait for a call when you have a command?" ~ Bob Hughes (Missionary to the Philippines)
Missionaries spill their lives so that others may be reached.... how are you spilling your life? We all have more we can do to impact this world for Christ. It is hard to step past the security of what we know and trade it for the insecurity of what we do not know, but faith is found in what we hope for and what we do not see, not in visible things full of certainty.
"You must go or send a substitute." ~ Oswald J. Smith
"Delayed obedience is disobedience; and disobedience is sin." ~Don Hillis
"No other generation but ours can evangelize the present generation." ~ John R. Mott
"We can give less to missons this year... if the world is getting smaller." ~ Anonymous
"Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Matthew 9:35-38
"Too many Christians think the Great Commission is just a Great Suggestion." ~ Anonymous
"Sympathy is no substitute for action." ~ David Livingstone
"God does not want men who are distinguished, but men whom the world cannot extinguish." ~ Unknown
"Not one person in the world needs Jesus Christ less than you do." ~ Anonymous
This is not the first blog I have used and it probably won't be the last. I love to write, but have been drawn away from the pleasure of pouring my heart out through words by the small, unimportant tasks that face us every day. I hope to reclaim my passion for words, and blessing others through them, through this blog. I hope you enjoy!
I am a missionary on a Native American Reservation. Due to some issues previously with some aspects of ministry, I will have to be careful about what is posted on this blog. Please forgive me if things are not explained in depth or if it seems like certain parts of some posts are left out or don't flow well with the rest of the post. It is hard writing with your hands tied behind your back....
I have been on the Reservation for almost one year. October 1, 2011 will be a year since I moved from my home to come to this place. What a year it has been. I still don't feel like I fully fit in, or that what I am doing here is fully accepted or understood, but progress has most definitely been made. Instead of stares, there are waves. Instead of blank looks, there are smiles. Where there used to be silence, there is now small talk and even some joking. Slow progress is still progress.
The Lord has taught me so much about myself since coming here. I used to think that I knew what a relationship with Christ was and how it was to look like when being lived out. I now think completely different from what I did back then. When you come from a place where your family is your spiritual support, you have an assortment of churches to attend, and you have been assimilated into the people around you, you live in a kind of "blanket security." Your beliefs aren't necessarily yours because you have them as much as they are formed and defined by the people and life around you. Please don't misunderstand me... each person has their own personal beliefs. I just know for myself, those beliefs were never properly or fully tested until I came here... three hours away from my hometown by car, but worlds away by any other standard. I used to think I knew what it was like to have faith, to live off less than average, to understand what it was like to go without, to know and experience trials and tests. The thing about a preschool is that it prepares you for school. Well, I have entered school here, in this place. I have learned how to have less than I did before, but watch the Lord provide more than I ever need. I have learned that true faith is not worth having if it can't pass various tests. I have learned how much worldly safety and security can hinder, even halt, the advancement of faith. I have learned how uninformed most people are to the suffering and heartache of others. The main thing I have learned though, is who Christ is to me. I have taken a lot of "Christian" classes, completed a lot of studying and various programs, even took and passed a test to become a licensed minister, but that isn't where I learned who Christ is to me. I learned who Christ is to me through two different things: watching the hopelessness of a child turn into genuine, true faith; and by serving others from sun up to sun down. This is when the Lord has shaped and pruned me for His service. I can learn about Christ all I want through study and classes, but I learn who Christ is by and through service. I am so different now than I was a year ago. While I have experienced more pain and heartache in this year than any other year before, I have also witnessed the grace and mercy of God in the most powerful ways I could imagine. I have watched lives be transformed by the saving and renewing power of Jesus, and I have watched the Holy Spirit purge and cleanse my heart and my life in ways I didn't think were possible. I have fought my darkest days spiritually; and the Spirit of God has given me the wings I need to fly to the mountaintop for rest, before heading back to the valley to battle again and again. I have learned both how subtle and how blatant the enemy can be. I have said goodbye to good friends, and hello to new ones. I have seen bridges smashed by events beyond our control, but I have seen the lifeboat of God ferry us from place to place, shore to shore. I have watched lives without hope change into lives that cannot contain the joy that radiates in them and through them. I have seen faces of fear become faces of happiness. I have seen the effects of the enemy reversed; new breath breathed into dead lives; and floodwater rise in a famine land. I have experienced the presence and power of the Lord in such a mighty way that the only thing to do was lay prostrate on the ground before Him. I have spent nights longing and yearning to hear that Still Small Voice, and having to move on in faith in the morning after hearing nothing but silence. I have seen how the hand of God has protected and provided through situations that shook me to the core. I have been torn down and built up; wrecked and renewed; bled and transfused.
I say all that to say this: there is pain in sacrifice.... but there are experiences of joy, power, and life that can only be found this side of sacrifice, and that can only be reached through faith and obedience, despite all obstacles, despite all counsel, despite all fears. To any who are reading this that know that God has called them to more than what you are doing now: jump.
I pray that our Heavenly Father would begin to open the eyes of His children who are blind to their surroundings, and the hurt and pain of so many within the boundaries of what we call home. He needed to remind me of this recently. Even though I live in conditions that seem unreal at times, I can still grow complacent. I went to the dump the other day to deliver the garbage. When I pulled up, there was a person digging through the trash. The depth of the trash varied from stuff you could walk on to stuff you literally had to wade through. The trail I picked for my car depended on what I thought wouldn't hurt my tires versus what I thought would. When I got out of my car, I looked into this person's eyes, and saw.... nothing. No life. No hope. No sense of self-worth. It broke my heart. I popped my trunk and grabbed my garbage. As I was walking it to the trash bins, I heard a voice say, "You have TRASH BAGS!!!!!" This was said with the excitement of a child on Christmas Day who just received a present beyond their wildest imaginings. I turned around, and there stood a little child. This child was large, probably four or five... and still in diapers. This child's nose was running down past their chin. The child's diaper was soaking wet, and had saturated the shorts. This child was dirty. My heart broke again. I just answered this child the best way I knew how, but my smile did not reach my eyes, for my eyes were full of pain. I continued getting out my garbage, and heard the child say, "Look Dad, I found a toy!" I turned around once more, and saw this child holding up what most of us would consider unfit for a toy for our pets. The smile on this child's face was one of pure happiness. As I was watching, another reality settled in: this child was not wearing shoes. This child was walking through nasty, disgusting, filthy garbage with no shoes or socks. THIS IS REALITY! And what are we doing about it?
I pray that the stupor that sits upon us fall off. I pray that the contentment that has enslaved and bound us be broken. I pray that we understand how evil it is to be an apathetic Christian. I pray that the chains of complacency be broken in Jesus' Name. I pray that God does what it takes to make us hurt for who He hurts for. Christ did not die to make us rich and successful. He died so that we may live to serve others. There is no other reality than this.
I read a quote a while ago that I can't seem to find again. Please forgive me if I state it other than how I read it. It is: "Christ did not die to make bad people good, but to make dead people live." (Author Unknown) But what are we made alive in Christ for? TO SERVE AND REACH OTHERS AS WE HAVE BEEN REACHED AND SERVED. We need to wake up to the world around us and stop living like WE are special or that WE deserved the grace that was shown to us. What a shame that we receive grace and squander it on successful living, when a whole world goes by unnoticed and unreached. Father, forgive us and MOVE us into action, by whatever means necessary!
James 4:1-4, 17:
1 What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure. 4 Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world's friend becomes God's enemy.
17 So, for the person who knows to do good and doesn't do it, it is a sin."
We can live in ignorance no longer. We know what we are to do... all we have to do is do it.