Friday, May 27, 2011

Earthen Vessels

I love to go, “antiquing!” Yep, no doubt about it! When I do, my imagination sores with thoughts of “yesterdays”.

Oh, if only those items could speak; imagine the stories they would tell! They would probably tell the story of their origin and the care by which they were prepared for display. Perhaps they would recall the pride they felt at first sight of their reflection in the store front window. Maybe each would confess dismay upon realizing it was simply an insignificant duplicate.

Oh, but there was hope! Although it may have been one of many, it’s value would ultimately be confirmed by the one who would purchase it. And now it is preserved as a testament of someone’s love.

Oh, if it could only speak.

It might tell us of the care taken to preserve it to this day. After all, it has become unique; one of a few remaining of it’s kind. A weathered, old inexpensive trinket has attained value. The patina of age and the blemishes of time serve to confirm it’s authenticity and increase it’s value.

Perhaps, just perhaps - it is speaking.

“However, we possess this precious treasure, [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth, that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be of God and not from ourselves.” - 2 Corinthians 4:7

“Do you not know that your body is the temple - the very sanctuary - of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price - purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.” - 1 Corinthians 6:19,20

“For [the proclaiming of] this [Gospel], I was appointed a herald (preacher) and an apostle (special messenger) and a teacher of the Gentiles. And this is why I am suffering as I do. Still I am not ashamed, for I know - I perceive, have knowledge of and am acquainted with - Him Whom I have believed (adhere to and trusted in and relied on), and I am [positively] persuaded that He is able to guard and keep that which has been entrusted to me and which I have committed [to Him] until that day. - 2 Timothy 1:11,12

All of that to say this: much has been written and preached about believers being lowly earthen vessels. Although we may be blemished and weak, the tarnished patina of time may be overtaking us, we have been purchased at a great price! Oh that we might more faithfully tell our story. How that we were lost amongst the congregation of millions like us. How that there was no distinguishing beauty or attribute setting us apart or distinguishing us as having a greater value than another. But how value was established by the One Who purchased us at such a great price! And now, as God protects and preserves us, He does so that we may faithfully carry His love to others.

So, rather than setting on a shelf, it’s time to speak.

Other’s just might be shopping!

Friday, May 13, 2011

How Will You Respond May 22, 2011?

Hundreds of dooms-day bill board signs will begin coming down. Frightened, confused, hurt and disillusioned thousands will clog cell phone lines in desperate attempts to contact family members. Had they been left behind too?

For the fortunate, reality will be immediate. For others, not so. Their hearts will writhe in unimaginable pain. A few may even take their fate into their own hands.

It will be the headline of every newspaper, the opening segment for every major media network, and the topic of every social network. Fodder for late night comedians, sermon topics for the pastorate, the truth will now be evident.

The Messiah did not come; the rapture did not take place.

Family Radio Stations, Inc., may choose to play 24 hours of music; perhaps 48 - at least until the dust begins to settle. A dedicated team will deliberately put into motion their well rehearsed plan B. The plan? It has no doubt been secretly orchestrated for months now.

Most of the daily programing is produced on a master roll two weeks in advance of air date and time. On this roll producers pot in high frequency tones activating cues for live news and comment from each individual station. By this, all programing appears to be “in the moment”. Perhaps a special tape has been produced; a master only a select few are aware of. There will be no cue for a live, “open forum”. That line will be out of service. Dedicated employees will, as directed, stay home until they receive further notice. They will have been admonished to not talk with the press or engage in conversations with others about the non-event - which will have become the event.

My guess is that station attorneys have rehearsed this day for years. For now, they will be the station’s only messengers. Cleverly, no member of the station ever encouraged listeners to take specific action; only to pray. Any costs incurred by “listener faithfuls” were made voluntarily at the listener’s own discretion and personal choice. Since the station has distributed tracks and books freely it will be held harmless for any voluntary action, costs or losses incurred by the listening public.

So, how will you respond?

If you are a Christian will you be saddened or perhaps repulsed at the scores of individuals influenced by this false prophet? Will you be angry; defensive? How should a Christian respond?

“Therefore, rejecting all falsity and done now with it, let every one express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members of one another. When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath - your exasperation, your fury or indignation last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil give no opportunity to him. Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth; but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s unmerited favor) to those who hear it. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God (do not offend, or vex or sadden Him) by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption - of final deliverance, through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin. Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will or baseness of any kind). AND BECOME USEFUL AND HELPFUL AND KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:25-32

This is no inconsequential event. The soon to be experienced results of reckless interpretation and proclamation are by no means to be taken lightly. In some cases this has or will forever scar family relationships. Even more sadly, it will give any reasonable thinking individual cause to [all the more] ignore any future conversation with reference to the Gospel. I am saddened and angered. However, I am also overwhelmed with a renewed sense of responsibility and love.

It is important that we consider the influence one very passionate man, with a false message, has had upon so many. By comparison, what can the simple loving message of a risen Savior have upon the world when we humbly and sacrificially share it?

The fact that Jesus will someday return is not so much the message as is the fact that those who open their hearts to Him can enjoy this life all the more as a result of His salvation and daily presence. The story has not changed.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [shall eat] with Me.” - Revelation 3:20

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Bible, Foolishness?

Yes the Bible is foolishness to some individuals. They have experienced a legitimate introduction to the Bible. They can recite the Biblical accounts of creation, the flood, Cecil B. DeMille and his brother Moses and their story of the exodus from Egypt, Samson, David and Goliath, the 23rd Psalms, the birth of Jesus, His feeding of over 5,000 people with fish and chips, His crucifixion, resurrection and His return with a vengeance. These individuals have heard or read and simply cannot, by any means, believe that the stories are anything more than the literary talents of a few men combined with the editing efforts of an even larger group.

There are others who have never had an introduction. The only “evidences” they have of Biblical truths and accuracy are the lives of those proclaiming to be Christians. So, what are they witnessing?

Let’s face it. It is impossible to adequately express the inexpressible unmerited love, fulfilling comfort and endless security offered freely to all who would believe. Attempts to convincingly argue one’s personal experience, apart from the unspeakable Devine power through which Christ Personally touches a heart and enters a life, become futile.

Unfortunately, the Gospel is too often replaced by a plethora of theological interpretation or updated religious extravaganzas designed to impress, amaze and perhaps even convince the non-believer's senses that therein is something of value. But they cannot cut through the "show" to the real power and heart of the matter. The praise is understood by fellow-Christians but unnecessarily off-putting to those sincerely searching - but yet to have been spiritually touched.

But isn’t THIS what the Bible says will happen?

“For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing; but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:18

The answer to the question is, YES. However, let’s look at the context of the Apostle Paul’s statement. I previously missed it. Instead of being open to the words of this letter I used them to reenforced my personal and convenient assumptions. The net result? I missed what the Word is actually saying; IT IS POWERFUL! It is more powerful than any human testimony, any miraculous event, any evangelist’s story. Let’s read the passage.

“Paul, summoned by the will and purpose of God to be an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes; to the church (assembly) of God which is in Corinth, to those consecrated and purified and made holy in Christ Jesus, [who are] selected and called to be saints (God’s people) together with all those who in any place call upon and give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace (unmerited favor and spiritual blessing) be to you and (heart) peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God at all times for you because of the grace (the unmerited favor and spiritual blessing) of God which was bestowed on you in Christ Jesus. [So] that in Him in every respect you were enriched, in full power and readiness of speech (to speak of your faith), and complete knowledge and illumination (to give you full insight into it’s meaning). In this way [our] witnessing concerning Christ, the Messiah, was so confirmed and established and made sure in you. That you are not (consciously) falling behind or lacking in any special spiritual endowment or Christian grace (the reception of which is due to the power of Divine grace operating in our souls by the Holy Spirit), while you wait and watch (constantly living in hope) for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and [His] being made visible to all. And He will establish you to the end - keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication, that is, be your warrant against all accusation or indictment - [so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God is faithful - reliable, trustworthy and [therefore] ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on; by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

This was Paul’s introduction to those worshiping at the church in Corinth. Paul then turns to the matter at hand.

“But I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony, and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you; but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments. For it has been made clear to me, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household that there are contentions and wrangling and fractions among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you [either] says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or, ‘I belong to Apollos’, or, “I belong to Peter’, or, ‘I belong to Christ’. Is Christ, the Messiah, divided into parts? Was Paul crucified on behalf of you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest any one should say that I baptized in my own name. Yes, I did baptize the household of Stephanas, also. More than these, I do not remember that I baptized any one. For Christ, the Messiah, sent me out not to baptize but (to evangelize by) preaching the glad tidings (the Gospel); and that not with verbal eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be deprived of force and emptied of its power and rendered vain - fruitless, void of value and of no effect. For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Paul then goes into more specific detail about the heady philosophical debates which were replacing the incomprehensible power of the cross. Instead the Jews were demanding the entertainment of signs and miracles, while the more educated Greeks pursued philosophy and wisdom. Focus was being drawn away from Christ, the Messiah, crucified - which to the Jews was a scandal and an offensive stumbling block and to the Gentiles absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense. (vs 22,23)

Not much has changed, has it? Mankind cannot orchestrate, stage, produce or direct any religious testimony more powerful or more cutting to the heart’s need than the story of Christ’s death burial and resurrection.

To some [who have had an honest introduction to THIS story] it remains foolish. Their decision does not alter the true Christian’s love for them. This is a decision that is personal, between them and God - just as the decision to believe and yield is personal between the believer and God. The question is, what story is the daily life of those claiming to be true believers telling? Do our lives manifest a reflection of the Gospel without capturing some of the glory for ourselves?

Christian’s, we cannot add to His love. We cannot sensationalize that which is so sensational that only the heart can capture, ever so slightly, the true impact of His saving grace. The power of the cross and His resurrection is all in all.

Today, as you go about your daily responsibilities and “chance” meetings, consider the story your life will share. You may never know who is truly reading.

God bless!