Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Radio Show: Following Jesus

The radio announcer was talking with Michael Card about Jesus' death and asked the audience, "What does the idea of taking up your cross and following Jesus mean to you where you are today?" (Yes, Chris Fabry likes words.)  I fumbled with my phone, but didn't dare dial as I exited the interstate.  Compared to the 71-year-old woman's ups and downs, my personal examples felt silly.  However, these examples came to mind immediately, and I know there is no inconsequential choice.  If I'd called in, this is what I would have said:

Today, dying to myself meant not eating the frosted cherry pop-tart.  I wanted it.  Really wanted it, but I have been convicted of consuming more calories than I need.  Disobedience, following my wants and desires, would have been eating the pop tart.  Obedience, following Jesus, meant choosing a low-calorie alternative.

Today, dying to myself meant placing a call to the nursing home.  "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..."  (James 1:27).  I've been unable to connect with this friend lately.  Disobedience would be indulging in story-world via an audiobook or netflix.  Obedience meant putting my friend's preferences before my own.

Today, I am reminded that dying to self is not all about loss, for God's rule of sowing and reaping applies at all times.  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).  When I do that which is right and good and pleasing to God in faith, I am rewarded with like consequences.  I feel good, my heart is filled with joy and peace, my faith is assured and doubt is diminished. 

As I choose to follow Christ in obedience, in suffering, in dying to self, I am encouraged that God provides for each and every need, that I might glory in Him and glorify Him!  As a result of the radio program and meditating on Jesus' sacrifice, I pray that death to myself would be more than martyrdom; that it would be the supernatural outpouring of gratitude and devotion.  It is Jesus Christ, beaten,  brutally killed, bearing the wrath of Almighty God in my place, who rose to victory over sin and the grave!  It is because of this that I can joyfully endure trial, temptation, loss (Hebrews 12:1-3, James 1:2-4).

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.   So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.   And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.   As it is written:
'He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.'

"Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,  while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.  For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,   while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.   Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In the Presence of Serpents

In the garden, Satan took the form of a serpent and led Eve down a path of deceit and disobedience.  In the desert, God sent fiery serpents to chastise His people's disbelief and ingratitude. 

My first impression on reading Numbers 21:6-9 this morning was that God did not remove the serpents.   He did provide a means of healing.  He instructed Moses to create a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole.  Those who looked to the serpent were healed.  The serpents continued their destructive path, and those afflicted had a choice:  they could believe and receive healing or disbelieve and die.  We have that same choice today.  Sin works havoc, death and destruction in our personal lives and relationships.  But God has provided a way of escape for those who come in faith.  In the fullness of time, Jesus, the Son of Man, was lifted up to bring healing and forgiveness to those who believe (John 3:14-15).

The problem is, the serpent of sin--of unbelief and ingratitude--lives in my heart.  The great hope and comfort is, the Savior is there as well.  The life of faith must continue with the same sincerity and dependence with which it started. 

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,  rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 2:6-7

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spiritual Greed

One of the greatest dangers of ministry is spiritual greed.  We see a need, a hole, and want to fill it.  In our sinful selves, there is a part of us that 1) isn't content to trust God to meet the need His way, 2) wants to be the savior.  Oh, what a dangerous, dreadful decision to step in the gap that God has left open!

We know what it is to struggle with an unmet need, to want something--something good--and to live without it.  We often step into God's place, trying to meet our own need, creating anxiety, worry and fear, before we step back willingly to wait on Him (see Psalm 131).  Learning to wait is long, painful process that can be practiced successfully, but never perfectly.  Ah, the life of a sinner!  (Romans 7-8)

Even more dangerous is our desire to step into the lives of others and meet their needs apart from God's provision.  This morning as I read about Korah's rebellion, I was struck by the difference between Moses' focus and the focus of the wayward priests who were eaten by spiritual greed.  Moses' focus was God:  "The LORD will... He will... the man whom the LORD chooses...."  The priests' view was on themselves and Moses, "You have gone far exalt yourselves... you have brought us up out of a land...." (Numbers 16:1-14)

When I fall into believing that people are sovereign over their choices and the choices of others, I live in a sea of doubt, uncertainty, and unbelief.  But when God is my focus, the Author of circumstances, privilege, and trials, I can live with assurance, peace, and contentment.  When I find myself discontent with the ministry opportunities of others, or  unmet needs that glare to distraction, the question is, where is my focus?  Do I truly believe God is control?  Or am I attributing God's qualities to broken, sinful man who cannot control his own life, let alone mine.  To quote Moses, "...the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing."  (Numbers 16:28)

May you be blessed today as you see the ministry opportunities and individuals God has brought into your life and may you rest in His provision, finding peace and contentment not in the task, but in God Himself who enables and empowers you to serve Him, and Him only.