Wednesday, 6/19/19 – Pressing on…

On Monday I closed that blog with the words “Brother and sisters, we are the Church. Be the Church today.”

Just wondering how that’s going for you?

20190617_185816Jesus said to His followers “You are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). He said this just after His teaching on what we today know as the Beatitudes… that list of virtuous character traits and the blessings that come to those who manifest them. (See Matt. 13:1-12).

The Beatitudes are called that because the term derives from the Vulgate where in Latin these verses begin “Beati sunt…” i.e. “Blessed are…” The traits they extol include poverty of spirit, compassion, meekness, desiring righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, peace-making and patient endurance of persecution.

food forest blueberries raspberries

In Galatians Paul itemizes the familiar nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Other lists of blessings, fruits and gifts which manifest through believers from Christ are found throughout the New Testament.

20190617_191357I rather think that Jesus may have had these and other aspects of the character of the Father in mind as He told His followers “You are the salt of the earth.” As if each were a particular grain dropped by a particular saint at a particular time in a particular situation… multiplied by that individual’s many instances and opportunities, responses and attitudes through each day… then multiplied again by all believers “being the Church” in this world day to day, year to year…

No one grain of salt can take credit for the tastiness of any dish, but all the grains having their individual saltiness do wonders.

  • Salt is white, indicating its purity before God.
  • Salt enhances the flavor of things, as we make Christ attractive to an otherwise bland world.
  • Salt stings in an open wound, thereby revealing what needs attention.
  • Salt creates a thirst, a thirst for that which is soul-quenching.
  • Salt serves as a preservative, restraining God’s wrath and giving lost souls more opportunity to find life.
  • Salt as electrolytes transmits power… electricity, as God the Holy Spirit works through us.

Be salt. Be the Church.

Press on…

Tuesday, 6/18/19 – Pressing on…

selective focus photography of tombstoneThis past Sunday was also Fathers Day. Roaming about on Facebook I noticed an unfortunate number of folk commenting on their love for a father now deceased. I too have been among those ranks for most of my life. My father passed away shortly after suffering his third heart attack just three days past my sixteenth birthday.

Having no siblings I was quickly designated “man of the house” as mom and I struggled to redefine our lives. Now with no earthly father I pressed in more deeply to my heavenly Father. I found Him in prayers, in scripture, and in my father’s notes and legacy. In time I found Him also in other godly friends, showing me how to fix a lawnmower, learn to drive… and at work in me as I learned to give more of myself to Him.

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There’s a popular Christian song these days which testifies in worship to God, “You’re a good, good Father. It’s who you are, it’s who you are…” Good fathering is not just a thing God does, it’s something He is. He made man in His Image in part so that they to could aspire to good fathering. Without His Image, marred though it now is, man would have no hope or knowing of good fatherhood.

And who are you?

There is good theology in those lyrics, for they continue “And I’m loved by you. It’s who I am, it’s who I am…”

20190424_101920One day all this world will be over. The New will be come. The kingdoms of this world will have become the Kingdom of our Lord… and he will reign for ever and ever (see Rev. 11:15). We will no longer look as through a glass darkly, but we will see all things clearly (see 1 Cor. 13:12). We will be transformed. Mortality will be no more, only the new immortality (see 1 Cor. 15:53). We will be that for which God has taken hold of us (see Phil. 3:12). We will see Him as He is (see 1 John 3:2).

Who are you to be a part of this eternal scene? Nobody special by this world’s standards. But by the Father’s, you are most precious indeed. This perfect Father made you, formed you, loves you. Yes, you are loved by the good, good Father. It’s who you are, and it’s all you need ever desire to be.

Happy Fathers Day!

More tomorrow…

Monday, 6/17/19 – Pressing on…

This past Sunday God’s people gathered at our church to fellowship, to pray, to worship and to hear from God. After an opening song Elder Jim began our service with prayer, scripture and some announcements. The worship team led us in praise, folk looked to the Lord in prayers, and Pastor Andrew mounted the platform.

man raising his left hand

“I have no message for you this morning,” he announced. “I sought the Lord all week for a word, asking Him what He wanted me to bring to His people, but He gave me none. I can only assume He has something different in mind for this morning’s service. Perhaps one of you has a word from our Lord?”

It takes a brave believer to shun second best. To refuse to be a scratcher of “itching ears” as Paul cautioned Timothy.

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim. 4:3).

We want none of that. We want to hear from God.

close up photo of man holding microphone

One by one folk spoke. Some had prayers… some testimonies… one had a song. We shared what we had each received from our One True Lord. We heard from each other, and we heard from God.

We read in 1 Corinthians 14 the pattern for exactly this sort of meeting together. We find it is not odd at all.

“…When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up… in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Cor. 14:26, 40)

man standing in front of people

Elder Don referred us to what he regarded the most chilling passage in scripture: Exodus 33:3. Here, God Almighty is fed-up with the stubbornness of His people. “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.” He says, But I will not go with you…” The people repented, Moses plead with the Lord… and the Lord reconsidered: ”My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Moses responded, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (v.14,15). How essential it is that we hear from God, not man.

Brothers and sisters, we are the Church. Be the Church today.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 6/12/19 – Pressing on…

selective focus photography of a telescopeWhy is it that we are to seek the Kingdom of God above our own self-interests? Why is God so opposed to our own selfishness?

Selfish people often justify it saying “Let me be. I’m not hurting anyone!” But why is that argument found insufficient by God? Does He deny us our selfishness because He wants all attention on Him. Is He Himself selfish?

One reason I think, though there are many, is that God desires our best happiness. He desires our best happiness because of course He is not selfish. And He knows that our greatest happiness comes in blessing others.

construction house architecture luxury

Selfish people do not know this. They think happiness is found in things, or in prestige, or wealth, or fame. It does not matter if they have any of these things, only that they think happiness can be found in them. Even having the things or the fame or whatever is not wherein they think dwells happiness, but in having the things, the fame, the whatever when others around them do not.

C.S. Lewis writes elegantly on this,

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So, when Christ commands us, “Seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness,” (Matt. 6:33) He does so knowing our greatest happiness is to be found in Him.

He is s very good, good God indeed.

Press on…

Tuesday, 6/11/19 – Pressing on…

selective focus photography of three disney princesses figurines on brown surfaceA dad watched as his five year old son struggled to twist open a new jar of play-doh. “Use all your strength,” encouraged the father. “I’m trying,” said the child. The dad watched and waited a while longer. Clearly the child was too weak to meet the task. “You’re not using ALL your strength,” said the father. “But I am!” the child protested. “I’m trying with all my strength!”

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The dad leaned in low, looked the child in the eyes and lovingly said, “No… You’re not using ALL your strength, because you haven’t asked me to help you.” The dad took the jar and in one effortless twist opened it.

How often, and how seemingly easy, it is for us to forget that God is our Strength, our ever-present Help in time of need. We love Him. We know He is right there with us, and we want to please Him. We want to serve Him. But we find our Strength to do so is limited. In frustration, we double down, grit our teeth and try harder. But we forget to turn to Him and surrender the task into His Hands, for He too – and above all — is our Strength and our Shield.

20190609_222155This past Sunday Shant Manuel reminded us of the boy who surrendered his lunch to Jesus. In Jesus’ hands that small offering fed thousands – with leftovers to spare…. leftovers greater than the initial surrendered supply.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” – Psalm 28:7

“When they had all had enough to eat… they… filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” – John 6:12, 13

Do you remember what God asked Moses?

child holding clear glass jar with yellow light

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’” – Exod. 4:2

What is in your hand today? Give it to the Father and watch Him do wonders!

More tomorrow…

To hear Shant Manuel’s complete message, go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website and look under ‘Media’ for the June 9 message.
To learn more about Shant Manuel and Far Corners Ministry, click here.

Monday, 6/10/19 – Pressing on…

20190609_154625Shant Manuel of Far Corners Ministry was our guest speaker this past Sunday. He shared with us about the significant work being done in Nepal, India. (To learn more about or to support this ministry, click on the “Far Corners” link above.)

Shant then brought us an excellent message from John 6, Jesus miracle of feeding over five thousand people with only five loaves and two small fish. We learn here several lessons which should challenge our faith and obedience.

It was just before Passover and Jerusalem was no doubt teeming with visitors in town for the celebrations. They had heard about this man Jesus too… this man said to do miracles… the one many called ‘Teacher.’ And so multitudes clamoured behind Jesus and His disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee… as they climbed up on a mountainside.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus looked up and saw them He turned to Phillip and asked “Where should we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). It was a test. Scripture tells us it was a test. Jesus already knew how He was going to meet this need (v.6). But He asked Philip anyway. He wanted Philip to think. As if to ask, “Look Around You Phillip… What resources are available to you? Where would you go to solve this problem?”

people enjoying the concert

Phillips did look around. Perhaps he thought of a few merchants yet so far away – but before he even thought of the merchants he realize the impossible cost. He replied, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” (v.7). An astute observation of fact. Phillip turned to his own resources and thinking and found them lacking. But another disciple, unnamed in John’s gospel, saw some meager resources. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,” he reported, then added “but how far will they go among so many?” (v.9)

20190609_160246There was some small strength among their human selves but woefully not enough. Still this disciple willingly brought it to Jesus. He knew Jesus was also a resource among them.

If you have been listening to the Spirit speaking these past several Sundays, and not just listening to His messengers, you will recall the emphases on prayer… you will recall also this morning’s Bible class video — one man’s testimony of God answering bigly. You will note too Don Longworth’s captivation for weeks now with the promise “You may ask Me for anything in My Name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13,14).

It seems our God is calling us to BIG belief.

What BIG belief is He asking of you today? To what resources will you turn?

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 6/5/19 – Pressing on…

black and white book business close upAccording to the Cambridge Dictionary the idiom “a broken man” refers to a person who has suffered emotional pain to the point that it has changed the way the person lives. A “broken” person has come to the end of their coping abilities. Broken persons cannot “fix” themselves; they cannot even imagine that things could get better. Outside assistance is necessary.

brown horse beside gray metal bar

“Breaking” a horse is the process of training the horse to be ridden. The animal must be taught to accept a saddle and bridle and become accustomed to carrying the weight of a rider. A new pair of shoes will rub against your toes and cause blisters until they are “broken in.” Warming the shoe or applying various oils are techniques used to accomplish this until, as one source put it, “shoe and foot find a way to conform to each other in harmony.”

The gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ parable of the vineyard tenants. Time and time again the owner of the vineyard sends servants to collect his fruit but each is killed by the cruel tenants. Finally the owner sends his own son. “Surely they will respect him,” thinks the owner. But they do not. Even the son is slain.

20190604_083056Jesus then summarises the parable by quoting from the Psalms. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps.118:22). He is saying the Gospel, having been rejected by the Jews, will now go to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish races around them. He then adds this curious statement,

“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces;
anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matt. 21:44).

Commentators vary on their understanding of the first half of this statement. Is Jesus here twice speaking of the judgement that will fall upon those who refuse Him, or does the first part of His statement refer to the breaking of one’s own will in their submission to Christ? I tend to believe He means the latter.

Jesus has also just told a parable about two sons. One says “No” to his father’s wishes, but then obeys; the other says “Yes,” but in fact disobeys. Jesus asks, “Which one did the will of the father?” (see Matt. 21:28-32). It is the first son who has truly obeyed; he has obeyed by “breaking” his stiff will to bow to the will of the father.

The Psalmist also wrote,

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

silhouette of person riding horse on body of water under yellow sunset

To fall upon Christ, allowing our stiff wills to surrender to His does not bring captivity, but freedom! We come to the end of our-selves, but find new Life in Christ. He leads us out of our troubles. He sees just how better things will be… things we cannot now imagine.

Fall on Him. He will take you where without Him you could never go.

Press on…