Friday, December 20, 2013

First Christmas in Heaven... author unknown

First Christmas in Heaven


I’ve had my first Christmas in Heaven,

A glorious, wonderful day!

I stood with saints of the ages

Who found Christ, the Truth, and the Way.


I sang with the heavenly choir -

Just think!  I, who so longed to sing!

And oh!  What celestial music

We brought to our Savior and King!


We sang the glad songs of redemption,

How Jesus of Bethlehem came,

And how they had called His name Jesus,

That all might be saved through His name.


We sang once again with the angels,

The song they sang that blessed morn,

When shepherds first heard the glad story

That Jesus, the Savior, was born.


O, dear one, I wish you had been here.

No Christmas on earth could compare

With all the rapture and glory

We witnessed in Heaven so fair.


You know how I always loved Christmas;

It seemed such a wonderful day,

With all my loved ones around me,

The children so happy and gay.


Yes, now I can see why I loved it,

And, oh, what a joy it will be

When all of my loved ones are with me,

To share in the glories I see.


So dear ones on earth here’s my greeting –

Look up ‘til the day’s dawn appears,

And, oh, what a Christmas awaits us

Beyond all our partings and tears.

Give Jesus Your Best Gift... by Rick Warren

I wanted to share a devotion written by Rick Warren from Saddleback Church.  It can be found on his "Purpose Driven" website at this link.

The idea of giving Jesus something for the day we celebrate His birth seems out of the ordinary, but I like the idea of putting Jesus first. Rick makes a point to say that Jesus still needs gifts, and the gifts He wants are:
  1. Our trust
  2. The first place in our lives
  3. Our hearts
  4. Other people brought to Him
I think that this is worth a thought...  Have a blessed day!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Jesus- A Brief Life by Dr. James A. Francis"

I wanted to share this poem from Dr. James A. Francis (1864-1928), although I may not agree on every detail of his verse, I think the point he makes is that no one person has affected human history the way that Jesus did, and does.  He is the center of humanity, human history, and He is Lord!

Jesus- A Brief Life by Dr. James A. Francis

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in another obscure village.

He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never owned a home He never had a family.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Man After God's Own Heart (Part 4)

I wanted to conclude my thoughts on David this month, and although there would be much more to say, I am going to end this theme for now…

So in our last episode, David has beheaded Goliath and the Israelites have routed the Philistines…

After that day, Saul refused to let David return to his father’s house.  Saul’s son, Jonathan, and David start a friendship that lasts for their lives.  Even after Jonathan is killed in battle, David remembers him, and takes care of his son.

David becomes a mighty warrior and King Saul sets him over all of his men of war. At some point, David is returning from battle and the women are singing and dancing with tambourines; when Saul hears their song, he begins to resent him.  From that moment on, Saul watched David because he was afraid of him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Man After God's Own Heart (Part 3)

So David has become Saul's armor bearer and plays anointed music to minister to the troubled king.  Yet occasionally he goes back to tend his father’s flocks.  Those are the times that David is refreshed in the Lord and spends intimate time with Him again.
Then comes the moment that changes David’s life again!  God has prepared him for this day that he slays a giant called Goliath. He has already faced a lion and a bear, while watching his father’s flocks, and has come out victorious.  His trust is in God, not in his own ability.
He is told by his father to take toasted grains, cheese (the original nacho chips), and bread to his brothers who were serving in King Saul’s army.  They have been camped on a mountain facing the Philistine army who was camped on a mountain facing them with a valley between them.
For forty days, each morning and each evening, Goliath had been taunting the Israelites (and especially King Saul- who stood a head taller that all the other men of Israel) crying out to them to send out a warrior to fight. Goliath was a giant of a man, an  intimidating dude standing about 9 feet 9 inches tall (six cubits and a span), his spearhead alone weighed the same as a bowling ball. and he walked around wearing about 150-200 lbs of armor.  He even had a servant whose job was to carry his shield for him!
David arrives on the scene at the moment the armies are going out to the fight and to shout for the battle. The fearful men of Israel ask David (remember, he is Saul’s armor bearer) if he had seen this man, and if he knew about the reward Saul offered anyone who would take Goliath on in battle.
David turns and asks about the reward just as his oldest brother Eliab comes up and overhears the conversation. He gets angry, starts to rail on David and tries to belittle him, accusing him of pride and insolence.  David does not argue or lose his focus (or temper), but he deflects the accusation with a question. He turns to someone else (ignoring his brothers words) and again asks about the rewards.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Man After God's Own Heart (Part 2)

So David is anointed to be king of Israel by the Lord at the hands of Samuel the prophet...
This happens in front of all of his older brothers, so I could conceive there might have been some interesting dynamics between them... of course I'd have to go extra-biblical to say that there were, but at some point some anger shows through with at least one of his brothers (more on that later).

What is interesting to me is that David does not get "puffed up" at all.  In fact, he simply goes back to what he was doing before all of the excitement. He seems to be content to take care of his father's flocks. He does not try to make something happen.  He could have become boastful and proud – after all, he was anointed king by none other than Samuel himself!  But pride does not show itself strong in David.

But something has changed. Deep in David's heart, a seed of greatness was planted that would never be diminished; a seed sown by God Himself.

David continues on as if nothing had changed, but I can imagine that his relationship with the Lord deepened and grew. He became even more skillful on the harp, and God began to breathe songs in him... songs that he later wrote down and taught others to play. Some of those same songs we still sing today.

At some point, the Spirit of the Lord departs from King Saul, and he becomes troubled by an evil spirit. His people suggest that he allow them to seek out a skillful harp player, and let him play when the king is troubled, and he would "be well."

Then one of his servants tells him about the son of Jesse who is, “…skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him. 1 Samuel 16:18. How did this man know all this about a shepherd boy? 

Perhaps David’s reputation had grown.  Perhaps the rumor mill from Bethlehem had gotten around that people should watch this young man that Samuel visited; there was just something about him.

David had grown in the Lord, he had become skillful in playing, and brave.  He is called a “man of war” although he had never been in a battle (that is, with the exception of a lion and a bear!)  David was disciplined and healthy.  He was wise in his speech – he would have had to be wise with his words, especially with, I repeat myself, seven older brothers!  He was good looking and most of all – the Lord was with him.

So the king sends for David, who comes with gifts from his father, Jesse, for the king.  The bible says that Saul loved David greatly and David became his armor bearer.  An armor bearer was a trusted position and that position was for someone who would be right with the king in battle or whatever he was doing. David also  

Saul then sends a message to Jesse to ask for him to allow David to stand before him, for he “has found favor in my sight.” 1 Samuel 16: 22

And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” 1 Samuel 16:23

I’m curious to know if David ever wondered how God was going to make him king.  Did that question cross his mind when he was called up minister to King Saul? Perhaps something would happen, and the king would step down and let David sit on the throne?  Not likely...

Who knows what he was thinking, but the next chapter in his life changed everything again!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Man after God's Own Heart (Part 1)

I think that my favorite hero of the faith of the Old Testament is David - the man after God's own heart. I love to read about him and the relationship he had with the Lord.

I have other heroes of the Old Testament too; Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Moses and the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and many more. However, I find that I identify with David the most.

Perhaps it is because he was a worshipper and a psalmist. I can relate to that. He wanted to know God intimately and to bless Him.

David was also a shepherd, an armor bearer, a man of war, and a king. He went from feeding his father's flocks to leading the nation that God had called unto Himself.

Although he made some huge mistakes in his life, the priority of his relationship with God never changed. Even after incredible sin, he found redemption and forgiveness, and God still called him a man after His own heart.

I have to believe that this relationship started when he was a lad caring for his father’s flocks. David must have spent long hours playing and singing and worshiping the Lord as he shepherded the flock. He became a skillful minstrel and psalmist as he developed his intimate relationship with the Lord.

When we first meet David he was more than likely a teenager – ruddy and young. Saul had been rejected by God as king, and Samuel was on a mission to find the next king of Israel.

You may recall that Israel had begged God for a king, and Samuel the prophet had tried to plead with them to understand that God was their king, but their voices prevailed.

The people rejected God and wanted to be like the other nations. So God chose Saul. He was handsome and a head taller than any of the people, but unfortunately, like most of us, he had some character flaws… one of those flaws was fear. The day Samuel anointed him as king, he was found hiding among the stuff.

After just two years of reigning over Israel, he went against the word of the prophet Samuel and offered a burnt offering - which was not his job. That was the job of Samuel the prophet. Just as he completed the offering, Samuel came and proclaimed the judgment of God on Saul.

“And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:13-14

Even after this, Saul rebels again, and fails to obey the Lord as he was commanded. Samuel has to once again confront him, and the Lord tells Samuel, "I greatly regrest that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments."

It grieved Samuel and he wept all that night long. The next day he delivers the devastating news to Saul of God’s rejection of him as king.
It is after all this that we first get a glimpse of David, the sweet psalmist of Israel...

Samuel clandestinely (for fear of Saul) goes to David’s home town of Bethlehem, to the house of David's father Jesse, of the tribe of Judah to anoint a king.

In those days, it was not a light thing for a prophet of God to come and visit a town. It was especially not a small thing that the prophet Samuel had come to town.

Samuel was the prophet that God promised to not let any of his words hit the ground. In other words, he spoke as an oracle of God.

When he spoke, it was the word of the Lord, and what he said came to pass. At his word Israel trembled. In fact, when he enters Bethlehem, the elders of the city ask him if he came there peaceably! So this is a BIG deal!

Starting with the oldest, all seven of David's brothers pass in front of Samuel. Samuel, who would have anointed the oldest, heard the Lord say, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7

There was something about David's heart that pleased the Lord. God saw something in David that He really liked. So much so, that He called Him a man after His own heart, and told Samuel to anoint him as King of Israel.

None of the seven are God’s chosen, and finally Samuel asks Jesse if he has any other sons. It almost seems that Samuel is a bit perplexed at this point after going through seven sons of Jesse… Jesse tells him that his youngest son is in the fields with the sheep…

For a moment, imagine yourself as the youngest son in a family with seven older brothers. You are out caring for the flocks as usual, minding your p's and q's because you have seven older brothers who will thump you if you mess up. (Remember what happened to Joseph?)

Suddenly someone from your father’s house comes running and tells you that Samuel the Prophet has come and needs to see you immediately - Yikes!

As David walked in front of Samuel, and the Lord tells Samuel, this is the one!

“And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came on David from that day forward.” 1 Samuel 16:12-13

David's life changed from that moment on.

More to come...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Giving Cheerfully...

I just thought I would share a couple of thoughts about giving...

One of the things that amazes me is how simple the Apostle Paul reflected on giving, and how complicated we tend to make it. He shares some excellent principles in two chapters (eight and nine) in his second letter to the Corinthians as he speaks to the believers there about helping out others who are suffering in Judea.

"I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:8-9

Notice the first thing Paul says is that he makes it clear he is not commanding the Corinthians to give, but he then gives an example of the generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We might not think about Jesus being rich because we have this image of a poor itinerant preacher, but think about a couple of things with me: God is incredibly wealthy - beyond belief!

He has streets with pure gold and gates made from pearls. His pattern for the tabernacle was to use implements of gold; the Arkof the Covenant was covered in gold!

Heaven and earth belong to God.

Jesus left all the wealth of heaven to walk this earth. And yet, in His earthly ministry, he still had enough resources that he needed a treasurer! He even gave the job to someone he trusted, Judas (who proved himself a thief and a betrayer).

You may not realize it, but Jesus also had financial supporters who helped Him and his entourage. Can you imagine traveling with at least twelve hungry dudes - not to mention the women that followed Him. They had to be fed and taken care of. Where did they stay in the wintertime? Even Israel gets snow.

To say the least, I think it is a stretch to imagine Him constantly multiplying bread and fish, or having Pete and the boys catch fish with gold coins in their mouths to pay for their needs. But I digress...

Paul continues talking about giving in chapter nine:

"Remember this: The farmer who plants a few seeds will have a very small harvest. But the farmer who plants because he has received God’s blessings will receive a harvest of God’s blessings in return. Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver. Besides, God will give you his constantly overflowing kindness. Then, when you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things. Scripture says, “The righteous person gives freely to the poor. His righteousness continues forever.” God gives seed to the farmer and food to those who need to eat. God will also give you seed and multiply it. In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval. God will make you rich enough so that you can always be generous. Your generosity will produce thanksgiving to God because of us." 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 God's Word Translation

I love how Paul brings it all together with these verses. We are to sow and give as we decide in our hearts to give. That is what grace teaches.

You "shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give," or feel that if you don't give God won't bless you. 
God has already blessed you!

He has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness. How - through your giving? Not through your giving, but through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! (2 Peter 1:3). We are blessed because of what Jesus gave at the cross, not because we gave in the plate.

We should give, just not grudgingly or feeling like we were compelled - but we should give with cheerful hearts! Why? Because by giving, we are declaring that we trust God with our lives, and besides, He loves a cheerful giver. It all belongs to Him anyway.

I love that grace is involved with giving. Grace is so involved that "God will give you his constantly overflowing kindness.[Grace] Then, when you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things."

God even gives us the seed to sow. He gives us the seed, He gives us the harvest. His desire is "make you rich enough so that you can always be generous." That is what I call prosperity with a purpose.

That is why we can give cheerfully!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Persecution - Have You Heard the News?

Last Thursday was a day in which thousands of people from all over the world prayed for the release of American pastor, Saeed Abedini, and for millions of other persecuted Christians worldwide

Pastor Saeed's wife, Naghmeh, organized the intercessory prayer effort and released the following video:


We are living in a day and time when persecution against Christians seems to be on the rise like never before, and unfortunately, at least until recently, the church in the West has largely ignored it.
When is the last time you heard a sermon (or prayer request) for the persecuted church? It is not generally a subject one would bring up in “polite” conversation.  Yet, every year, thousands of Christians are persecuted or killed for their faith.  Estimates range from 105,000 to 176,000 Christians are martyred every year, or to put it another way at least one every five minutes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More about Grace...

I find it fascinating that (it seems) when anyone starts preaching or teaching about the subject of God's grace, there is always someone else who tries to accuse them of giving people a license to sin... A couple of things come to mind. 

First of all, I'm smart alecky enough to say that I never needed a license to sin - I sinned real good without ever needing a license!  People need a license to drive a car and to get married, but no one has ever needed a license to sin!

The next thing that comes to mind is that a person's sin consciousness is exposed by that statement.  The thoughts of their own heart are exposed.
Sort of like the older brother in Luke 15 who accuses his younger brother to their father of wasting his inheritance on wild living and prostitutes.  Funny, I do not remember any mention of prostitutes before.The word "prodigal" just means wasteful, not wild...  As the older brother made the case as to why he was righteous, he exposed his own heart. 

To paraphrase: "All these long years I served you obediently, and I never once disobeyed anything you told me... and you never even gave me a little kid [a measly little goat!] to celebrate with my friends... But when this son of yours , this fornicating prodigal comes, you roll out the red carpet!

The older brother was so sin-conscious, he could not understand that the grace the father was pouring upon the younger son, had always been available to him too!

Sin consciousness will always question your own performance.  Did I do enough for God to bless me?  Did I attend enough church services?  Did I give enough?  When things aren't looking good, sin consciousness tries to figure out what did I do wrong?

What grace does is liberate us.  We are free from sin.  Free from the law.  Free from the law's requirements. Free to love Jesus - Naked and unashamed because He has chosen to "be merciful to our unrighteousness, and our sins and lawless deeds He will not remember." Hebrews 8:12

Grace does not give license to sin, but sin consciousness pushes you toward the very thing you don't want to do.

When we truly come into a grace-filled, love relationship with God, the last thing we want to do is go lay down with the hogs and sin!  No, grace does not lead us to lasciviousness, it leads us to liberty.

I heard a great message this evening from Creflo Dollar while he was at the Southwest Believer's convention in Fort Worth,Texas on July 2, 2013.  I want to share the link for the video with you.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finding our identity in Christ alone….

One of the greatest blessings we have as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is to discover and understand who we are in Him and what God thinks of us!  Knowing who we are in Christ is essential to walking out this life in righteousness, peace and joy. 

The beginning of renewing our minds is to find out the truth of what God’s word says about us and what the blood of Jesus purchased for us.  God has given us incredible promises in the New Testament that tell us who we are. Why?  Why did He do that and why do we need to know?
Well, according to 2 Peter 1:4 – “By which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

So, Peter says that God gave us His promises that through them we might become partakers of the divine nature.  The divine nature is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit as we hear and believe the promises. (Faith comes through hearing the word - Romans 10:17)

1 Corinthians 2:12 – “Now, we didn’t receive the spirit that belongs to the world. Instead, we received the Spirit who comes from God so that we could know the things which God has freely given us.” God's Word Translation

God gave us Holy Spirit to empower us and to reveal Christ in us, but also so that we could know the things which God has freely given us.  Freely given!  In other words, God is not hiding His promises or His gifts or anything else from us.  He gave us the Holy Spirit to reveal those things to us, but unless we believe it, we will not understand who we truly are.

To paraphrase Dr. Neil Anderson in his book, “Victory Over the Darkness” a person will never be able to consistently live and behave in a way that they do not consistently see themselves.  In other words, as long as you see yourself as “just an old sinner saved by grace” that is how you will live – like an old sinner!

You are not an old sinner saved by grace! That is a lie from the enemy!  The bible says if anyone is in Christ they have become a new creation and old things have passed away. The moment you became a believer in Jesus, you became brand new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And it doesn’t stop there!  You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus from that moment on! (2 Corinthians 5:21) You have been made free from sin and have become a slave of righteousness – you are righteous at all times – you just can’t help but be righteous! (Romans 6:18)  Why?  Because the new nature that is in you is righteous.  Your old nature was crucified at the cross – reckon yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. ( Romans 6:6, 6:11)

It is time that we actually believe what the bible says about us instead of man’s tradition or man's opinion says about us!

A person who does not grasp the truth of what God says in His word about them will continue to be driven by winds of doctrine, and will allow the enemy and people to spoil them through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8, Ephesians 4:14)

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth; that He would not only comfort us, but also teach us.(John 14:26)

What does God’s word say about you and me? 

What does it mean in relating to God? 

What does it mean as we walk out our earthly lives?
Here are just a few scripture references that tell us what God thinks of us.  You should consider these personally directed to you! 
Romans 5:1 – I am justified through faith in Jesus.  Justification through faith!
2 Corinthians 5:21 – I am the righteousness of God in Christ.  This is an incredible exchange.  God took all of my unrighteousness and put it on Jesus, and then put all of Christ’s righteousness on me!
John 17:23 – God loves me like He loves Jesus!  Think how much value we must have that God was willing to give up the precious life of Jesus!
Romans 6:2 – I have died to sin.
Romans 6:6 – My old man was crucified with Christ.  Why?  That the body of sin might be done away.
Romans6:7 – I am freed from sin.
Romans 6:11 – I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ.
Romans6:14 – Sin does not have dominion over me. Why? Because I am under grace not law
Romans 6:18 – I am set free from sin, and I am a slave of righteousness.  A slave does not have any choice but to obey its master.  My master is Jesus and He says I am righteous!

Ephesians 2:6 – I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies!
There are incredible promises that apply to us as the Body of Christ.  These were just a few that talk about who we are and what we have in Christ.  I want to encourage you to seek those promises out and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal how they apply to your life. 



Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Can of Worms...

I thought I would open up a can of worms today…

So where do you go to church?

How do you go to something you are?

Huh? What?

How do you go to something you are?

You know what I mean - where do you attend services – where is your church building?

The church is people, not a building. The church, or ecclesia in the Greek, can mean many things, but nowhere in the New Testament is it described as a building! It mostly refers to 1) the whole body of Christians; 2) a company of Christians gathering for worship, sharing, and teaching; 3) a body of believers in a district – for example, “…To the church of Galatia…”

In other words, it really does just mean people. The church is people who have been called out of darkness through faith in Jesus Christ. People not only make up the church, they are the church.

The building or home or place that we meet is not what the Bible refers to as church.

If you mean, where do I fellowship with other believers, then I could tell you any place I find them. I also meet regularly with friends for fellowship in the Lord. Some people call that a house church or simple church, and some people don’t label it at all.

What do you mean by that? What is a house church?

However and whatever you want to call it, what I am talking about is simply a gathering of believers. Typically this happens in someone’s home, but it could be their office or shop, a restaurant, or any place at all.
We gather to worship Jesus, to pray for needs, to share the Word of God and minister together.

Yeah, but don’t you miss being part of a church?

I am part of a church. I’m part of the church!

Again, you know what I mean. So don’t you attend services in a regular church?

Actually, sometimes I do. I even occasionally minister in traditional churches.

However, there is something about gathering with a small group of like-minded believers to hear what God has been ministering to each one during the week that blesses and edifies. Frankly, this can only happen in a smaller group… It is generally not practical to try this in a large group setting. Logistically, it would be very difficult.

Paul the apostle described gatherings of believers actually sharing with each other as something good and necessary:

“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”1 Corinthians 14:26

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16
There is something about inviting people into your home, over for a barbeque, or to a party that causes them open up and sometimes even share what is really happening in their lives. Inviting someone out for coffee or a golf game may open the door for the Holy Spirit to minister in a way that would never happen in a service while you stare at the back of someone's head.
Sure, it could happen in a traditional service, but generally doesn't. It may happen, but it is rare.
Most people can "play church" for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. They can put on their "church" face, and pretend in a large group. They greet you during the 2-minute "fellowship time" and say, "Peace be with you," but you may never know what is really happening in their lives.
Their kids may be on drugs, their spouse having an affair, and they are ready to quit, but they will not open up about that during a Sunday service. No way! No one wants to have all that out there in front of the pastor and congregation - especially not during a service. Besides, if someone gets emotional in a service, they are generally ushered outside - and fast!
I guess what I am saying is that there is something genuine about being face to face with a small group of believing friends and sharing what is happening in your life and what God is speaking to your heart. It is a safe place, and people can feel free to reveal their victories and failures.
Jesus said it best when He declared, “For wheretwo or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20.

If Jesus thought that two or three were enough of a gathering of believers for Him to show up, why don’t we?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

An Allegory

Part One

"Welcome, Sojourner," said the shepherd. "I see you have laid your heavy burden down at the foot of the cross. How wonderful!  Now that you have received the wonderful gift of salvation, let me show you how to grow.  Follow me and I will guide you through your new responsibilities."

“Responsibilities?” he questioned?  “Yes, let me show you,” said the shepherd.  With those words, Sojourner began a journey into the New Life.

As each day progressed, he was excited to learn how he was now to live and what he needed to do to please his new Master. There was so much to learn, so many new things he needed to accomplish!

The shepherd and the people of the flock helped him as he began to absorb all the great notions that were so new to him. He discovered that many in the flock found these ideas in a Book they said contained the "Great Standard of Life."

"Oh, there is so much to comprehend,” he fretted. “How will I ever please my new Master?"

"Follow my lead," said the shepherd, I have lived by the Great Standard for many years.

"But how can I ever live up to such a Great Standard."

"The Master’s grace will help you fulfill the Great Standard. You see, we understand He gives us grace so we can live up to the Great Standard. No one can accomplish it without help, so we must ask the Master for grace to help us."

"I think I understand," whispered Sojourner. "You are saying that I should ask the Master for grace to help me live up to the Great Standard of Life, and in that way I will earn the Master's approval."

“You are a fast learner!” said the shepherd.


Part two

As the days passed, no one worked harder in the flock than Sojourner. He performed excellently. He faithfully accomplished everything the shepherd taught him to do to please the Master. The desire of his whole heart was to please the One who had taken his heavy burden.

Yet, something was missing. Sojourner was unfulfilled and sort of, well… disappointed.  And yet, he could not put his finger on the reason why.  Even with all the effort he was putting in; He was reading the Book every day – sometimes for hours; he was praying and seeking and asking for help. He went for days without food just to have more time to learn about the Great Standard. And even then, something was absent in the New Life he had found.

So he decided he must try harder. “I will achieve even more than the shepherd has taught me. I will follow the Great Standard yet closer than before. Then I will be satisfied, because then I will know I have pleased the Master." So, he began to act upon his newly found fervor.

He passionately lived his life as close to the Great Standard as humanly possible. He performed even the minutest details, and constantly prayed for more of the Master's grace to live up to even more. “What more is there to do and to learn, when will I ever please the Master?”

He also learned about the "Rules for the Flock," which included suggestions on how the flock should live so that other people could see that they were part of a flock, and not just wanderers in the shadows.

Sojourner also executed these rules flawlessly.

He out-performed all of the other members of the flock, and the shepherd began to point to him as another example for the flock to follow. He spent immeasurable hours reading the Book and would always stumble upon more things to do that he hoped would please the Master.

He discovered increasingly more ways to labor, which he was sure, would succeed in gaining the Master's favor. He spent days praying and crying out to the Master for the ability to please Him more.

Yet, deep in his heart, Sojourner was unconvinced that he was pleasing the Master.

As the weeks, and months, and years wore on, Sojourner became frustrated with his New Life. The precepts and the tenets that he rejoiced to learn at the first, now had become heavy burdens that weighed his life down. The harder he toiled, the more he seemed to leave undone.

"Is this all there is to it – a life of performance-based living and never knowing for sure if I am pleasing the Master? Even when I obey all of the Rules, I never feel that I have done enough!"

As he sought the counsel of the shepherd and the older, wiser members of the flock, they all seemed to agree that there must be something wrong in the way that Sojourner was performing. They assured him that if he had been performing correctly, he could be sure that he was pleasing the Master.

"You simply need to read further about the Great Standard and the Rules for the Flock. After all, they have been our guide all of these years."

"Sojourner, if you would just fast and pray more often, these thoughts would not trouble you."

He could hear the others whispering, "Perhaps there is disobedience in Sojourner's life, or worse, a transgression of the Great Standard... "

"Maybe he needs to go to the cross again and repent.”

“Maybe he just needs to re-commit.”

“There must be something he is doing wrong or he would not have these thoughts – we cannot help him…"


Part three

One night, after many hours of weeping in discouragement, a still, small Voice gently whispered, "Sojourner, I love you and I want to be your Friend."

"Who, who are you? Are you the taskmaster that I have worn myself out trying to please?"

"I am not a taskmaster. I Am the One who loves you. I want to live My Life through you!  Why are you trying to do something to please Me?  There is nothing more for you to do!"

“Do you not know that I did it all for you?”

“How can that be?" Sojourner doubted. "I have done everything I could think of to live my life to please You. How can I please You without executing to the letter what the Great Standard teaches?"

"Sojourner," the Friend replied, "Be at peace. I love you, and I satisfied it all when I shed My Blood.  When I died on that cruel cross and rose from the dead, I finished all that was needed for life and godliness.  Everything our Father ever wanted in a son or daughter was found the moment you came to Me.”

"You please Me by entering into My Life. You enter into My Life by trusting Me. I want to live and express My Life through you. I want you to realize that your New Life is hidden with Me, and there is nothing that could make me love you more, and nothing that can make me love you less.”

"I did not conquer your heavy burden of sin with the intention that you would pick up an even heavier burden – thinking that you are pleasing Me – My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

"Have you not yet understood that this New Life is not about doing things or achieving to please Me? Because you are in Me, I am already pleased.”

"This New Life is about being a New Creation in Me with My life dwelling in you. It is also about relating with Me as Your Friend."

"You, You want me as your friend? How can this be?”

“Lord, I have served You all this time, and yet I never realized that You wanted me as a friend. I have done nothing to be worthy of Your friendship!"

"Sojourner, I have always wanted your love and friendship. I have given you My grace, not to help you fulfill the Great Standard, but rather, because you never can fulfill the Great Standard. I fulfilled it.

My grace is not help you live up to the Great Standard, but rather, to liberate you from trying to bring about something that I have already accomplished for you.

This New Life that you have sought can only be lived through abiding in My Presence and Grace.”

"I fulfilled the requirements of the Great Standard when I died on the cross, and because you are in Me, you have become a partaker of Me and all that I have. You have become everything I have ever wanted, simply because you are in Me. I love you. And because I love you, I want to live My Life through you."

"Be strong, establish your heart, and grow in My Grace. You will find that My Grace will be sufficient to sustain you through all of your earthly life."

"And remember, I am with you. I will not fail you, and you cannot fail Me as you stay close to me. I know your beginning from your ending, and I will sustain you with My Grace."

As Sojourner heard these words, a flood of tears released every fear he had ever had of not pleasing his Lord and Friend. As the tears streamed down, he was filled with a joy, a peace, and a love he had not felt since the day that he lay his burden at the cross. The freedom he sensed was overwhelming, as if a heavy load had been again lifted from his shoulders.

The New Life was no longer a burden, but a joy, and he couldn't wait to share the Grace he had found.