Lessons From Lepers

“…and as they entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, sir, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go to the Jewish priest and show him that you are healed!” And as they were going, their leprosy disappeared. One of them came back to Jesus, shouting, “Glory to God, I’m healed!” He fell flat on the ground in front of Jesus, face downward in the dust, thanking him for what he had done…” (Luke 17:11-16, NCV).

Then there is the rest of the story.

Ten were healed. One returned to say, “Thank you.” Nine did not.   The one received something the nine did not.

Perhaps the nine were too focused on being free to remember who had given them their freedom. Maybe they were prideful and thought they deserved what they had been given. It could have been they were simply anxious to return to the lives they once had. Whatever the reason, they failed to express their thanks to the One who had healed them. And, ultimately, while we may not know the fine point details, we do know the absence of thankfulness made a difference.

The tenth leper was first blessed physically, then blessed spiritually for his thankfulness. While the others were cleansed of their leprosy, it seems this thankful one received something more when Jesus said, “…thy faith hath made thee whole.” The others received healing; this one received wholeness. Continue reading “Lessons From Lepers”

SALT AND LIGHT

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, KJV).

In the verses following the familiar blesseds of the Beatitudes, Jesus instructs us that we are to be both salt and light in a world that needs to be seasoned with His presence and power, in darkness that must be dispelled by His light in us.

He has empowered us to exert influence in our world. The question is – will we? We are often very clear on the call to be separate from the world, to be distinctly different from the world not just outwardly but inwardly. Sometimes I fear, though, that we have adopted a survival mentality rather than realizing that He has called us to change our world! Continue reading “SALT AND LIGHT”

Fathers’ Day 2015

According to Webster’s Dictionary A father is, in the simplest form, the “male parent” or “a man who has begotten a child.” Reality tells us it takes a little more than just the biology to make a real father. In celebration of Father’s Day, as I did for Mother’s Day, I share with you here a random collection of quotes regarding this month’s holiday celebration of Dads!

Clarence B. Kelland said, “He didn’t tell me how to live; He lived, and let me watch him do it.

Ruth Renkel said, “Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.

William Shakespeare wrote, “It is a wise father who knows his own child.

Mark Twain is credited with this astute observation: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

Sigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s love and protection.

For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers,” is found in the writings of Homer.

General Douglas MacArthur said, “By profession I am a soldier, and take pride in the fact. But I am prouder – infinitely prouder – to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle field but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.‘”

The story is told of a father who stood outside the doorway of his young son’s bedroom as bedtime prayers were spoken. He overheard his son say, “Dear God, make me the kind of man my Daddy is...” Later that night the father knelt beside his own bed and prayed: “Dear God, make me the kind of man my son needs me to be.

Have You Seen Him?

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)

Friday was the darkest day anyone had ever lived through. As he cried, “It is finished!” there was darkness at noonday, earthquakes, and tremblings. All hope seemed lost as even though he saved others, Himself He did not save. They hadn’t yet realized that the real message was in that very fact – because He did not save Himself He could save them. Saturday passed in a haze of despair and despondency. What were they to do? Where were they to go? The disciples were scattered. The sick He had healed probably wondered if their illnesses would return. Saturday is the longest day. He was in the tomb and it appeared nothing was happening. If they only knew… Continue reading “Have You Seen Him?”

Decaf

It seems our world is obsessed with coffee. Even McDonald’s has added the McCafe’ menu of iced coffees and lattes and all the other fancy names for coffee with something done to it. Sometimes it’s hard to find just a good ol’ cup of coffee – no extra flavors, not shots or pumps of anything added.

Living in Louisiana, I admittedly have a taste for strong dark coffee. When I want a cup of coffee, I do want coffee . . . not lightly colored brown water. I don’t want it flavored to taste like pecans or cupcakes. I want it to taste like coffee. I don’t want it decaffeinated or even “half-caf” status. One cup of full flavored – fully caffeinated – undiluted coffee coming up! My wife and I drink coffee together in the morning, before starting our day. Many times in the afternoon, when we are both home, we will sit down for another cup. I like mine stronger than she likes it. What could have been a problem was solved by the addition of a second coffee maker.

So what does my coffee drinking have to do with God? Let’s go back to that “caffeinated” discussion. Several months ago I read an excerpt from a book in a popular Christian publication. I admit I have not read the book, so this is neither a recommendation for or against it. It was the review – that was an excerpt from it – that got my attention. The author, Owen Strachan, talked about the difference between the time when we are 100% sold out, committed to the Kingdom. We are working and diligently doing our best for His cause. It’s those times when we are “full strength” at work in our world. Then, there are those times when it seems we’re a little weaker, a little less potent, we’ve crossed over into “decaf faith.” Continue reading “Decaf”

Levi’s Genes

I recently was called upon to share some of my Christmas messages with a small group of fellow ministers.  In reviewing them for that purpose, I thought I might Apull out an old one and use it for this purpose as well!  I think it originated as far back as 1993 – perhaps even earlier than that.The Christmas story is told over and over again – year after year – perhaps with a new song or a new skit or dramatic presentation – but it is ageless and timeless in its message to us: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end...”The baby born that starlit Bethlehem night is still Emmanuel – God with us!  Just as He came in fulfillment of all the prophecies of old – He will come again to fulfill the ones that remain.May your holiday season be blessed with the gifts of the season – peace, joy, love!

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Several years ago I ran across a sermon by Vic Pentz.  I’m not sure who he is or where he is from, but I liked his Christmas message.  I share an edited version of it with you:

Everybody knows the genealogies are the biggest yawn in the Bible.  “Rehoboam begat Abijah and Abijah begat Ralph” – I mean it warms your heart about as much as reading a phone book.  What’s not often said right out, but what’s understood, is that it’s probably best to skip over “the begats” and not get bogged down in all those funny old names.

Yet, at the same time, we pay lip service to II Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching and reproof.”  If that’s true, that includes the begats.

What’s obvious from the prominence given the names at the opening of Matthew’s gospel is that what we consider to be the most boring, least interesting part of the Christmas story was of the utmost importance to the original audience.  Genealogies become important to us at certain times of the year, like at Christmas.  Historians say that 26 of the 102 people who traveled in the Mayflower across the Atlantic in 1620 and celebrated the first Thanksgiving had children who had children who had children.  Today, twelve generations later, the Mayflower passengers may well have had 25 million descendants, which means there’s a one-in-ten chance that you are a direct descendent of those who came over on the Mayflower.

Regardless of how that may make you feel, in Jesus’ day, one’s pedigree was a source of tremendous pride.  In order to own land in Israel, you had to show the public documents documenting your genealogy that gave you the right to a piece of the Holy Land.  Privileges were reserved for certain tribes.  For example, to be a priest you had to be of the tribe of Levi and (are you ready for it) have Levi’s genes (which, of course, means being a blue-blood.)

Continue reading “Levi’s Genes”

“I’M FLUSTRATED!”

You’ve probably heard it said but there really is no such word.  However, time has proven, if we continue to use it long enough it will get in the dictionary.  It is my assumption that when the old-timers used to say, “I’m flustrated” they actually were using a derivation of the word “frustrated.”  If that’s it, you’d better believe, we’ve all been there.

It was the Apostle Paul who said, “He has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind…”  The word “fear” has been translated “frustration“.  If we are frustrated, God didn’t give it to us.  Well, where did it come from?

David Augsberger made this observation:  “Listen deeply to the hopes that lie beneath our frustrations, within our anger, or behind our depressive feelings.”  Hope in frustration?  Now, that was a new one for me.  Frustration has usually brought me despair. Continue reading ““I’M FLUSTRATED!””

Second Thoughts

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,  And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see  The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me  (Matthew 11:2-6).

John the Baptist found himself in prison.  The countdown on his life was on and things were admittedly pretty bleak.  He found himself a little despondent, discouraged, and doubting.  So he sent two of his disciples to Jesus with a simple question, “Are you the one or should we look for another?”  The question only needed a simple yes or no answer.  Instead, they were told to go back and tell John the things they had heard and seen – blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, dead raised, poor hearing the Gospel.  There was one last thing added to the list, almost as if it was an afterthought, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

John had heard those things himself, perhaps been there to see some of them happen.  Jesus was proclaiming the opening of prison doors; John was waiting in his cell, behind prison doors that were not opening.  Doubt set in.  John knew he was the forerunner of the Messiah.  He just wanted to know again if Jesus was indeed the Messiah – for if he was, why was John in jail?  There are times when we find ourselves in similar situations – probably not actually in a prison cell, as much in a circumstance beyond our control.  We ponder and wonder and question God about how we got in this predicament when we were following His will.  Remember, though, the Christian life is a marathon not a 100-yard dash.  We are in it for the long haul and the long haul brings disappointments.  John needed reassurance and clarification, for he had expected the Messiah to overcome wickedness, judge sin, and bring in His kingdom. So we find ourselves in need of reassurance when our expectations are not met, when His Kingdom does not appear to be coming nor His will seem to be being done. Continue reading “Second Thoughts”

Calvary Love

To make the statement “There is freedom in surrender” may make some question your logic.  The reality of life in Christ’s kingdom is that very often the “foolish things of the world confound the wise” and the weak confound the mighty.  The way up is down.  The way to live is to die.  The way of freedom requires a cross.  Surrender to the cross of Christ brings freedom that can only be described as abundant life in Christ.

Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 and died in 1951. She spent fifty-three years in India setting up orphanages to rescue children from prostitution in Hindu temples and ministering to the people she met. Amy affected the lives of countless Indians, giving them a hope for a future on earth and in heaven.While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is a chance to die.Continue reading “Calvary Love”

WE ARE IN A WAR!

“A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength; for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.” (Proverbs 24:5-6, NIV).

Wherever people honor wickedness, darkness prevails and it sets the spiritual atmosphere. As the spiritual climate in our world deteriorates, we are facing warfare as never before.  A spiritual warfare climate tries to make us feel insignificant – lives no substance, no worth – battle futile.  However, the truth of the matter is, we are already victorious! Read the back of the Book!

In Judges 2, we find Israel coming under the principalities and powers of their day – worshiping the Baal gods… instead of Israel influencing their world.

In times of spiritual warfare, you cannot honor the heathen climate of your area.

The commission of the church today is to displace the kingdom of darkness and replace it with genuine Christianity and power.  As the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi went…  “where there is hatred, we must bring love.  Where there is strife, we must bring peace.  Where there is sickness, we bring health.  Where there is death, life.”  It is not just speaking but acting out principles of the Kingdom that will displace the kingdom of darkness.  When church is filled with obedient believers, active faith, darkness is pushed out. The church must be more than just a group of people with set of doctrines, beliefs, and rituals.  Darkness is not dispelled by what goes on within the four walls of the church.  We must take the warfare to the field.

When our inside relationship with Jesus is hot – we have the law of the life of Jesus flowing through us.  When this relationship wanes, we start battling lust of the flesh, things of the flesh, darkness creeps in.  We must keep walking in the light and having fellowship or light turns to darkness.

We must never fall into the deception that comes with believing that accumulated knowledge is the same as applied knowledge.  It’s not!  Books on prayer can be tremendous but knowledge of prayer is useless unless we pray. We may know all the Greek words for love but if we hold bitterness in our heart toward one another all that knowledge is to no avail.  We must live what we know!  Knowledge in action will produce substance and fruit.  Without the action we will not have Biblical Christianity; we will not displace the kingdom of darkness.  God’s people acting on truth in love, brings displacement of darkness.  The devil directs his warfare against the actions of our faith – not just what we say.  You can say all you want.  You won’t intimidate him until you start doing.  He can still say, “Jesus, I know and Paul I know, but who are you?

Obedience is a vital part of every miracle. In the Old Testament, everything God did after creation was done in cooperation with man.  God could have scraped land of Canaan free of inhabitants, but He didn’t.  He had the children of Israel march around Jericho – and shout – before the walls came down.  They had to do something for the substance – the deliverance – the victory – to come.

In the New Testament, Jesus could have snapped a finger and filled the pots at the wedding in Cana with wine.  He didn’t.  Instead, he had men take the existing waterpots, fill them with water, and carry them to the head waiter.  It has been approximated this was about 168 gallons of liquid.  Yet the miracle was contingent on their obedience to His instructions.  Obedience is the pre-requisite for miracles.  When you obey God, He releases power.

The battle we face is against passivity and inactivity.  It seems our struggle is to act on what we believe, not on what we feel.  The enemy often intimidates us into inactivity.  Manifestation of the kingdom ceases when we are inactive.  We can sing songs about warfare – but singing about warfare and doing warfare are two different things.  We pray and suddenly a wave of unworthiness tries to undermine our confidence in prayer – a barrage of questions comes.  Did I pray right?  Did I use right words?  Did I pray long enough?  Did I pray in faith?  Do I need someone to agree with me?  What’s going on?  It is demonic warfare against our confidence to make us believe our prayers haven’t reached God.  That’s not true.  God hears.  The time frame for answering is His and His alone – but He hears every word.

When we worship we face warfare.   The Old Testament war instructions for Israel were to let Judah go first.  (Judah is representative of worship and praise.)  But Judah, the praisers, had to be prepared spiritually.  So must we!

Satan tells us we’re not worthy – that’s warfare of guilt and condemnation.  Remember, though, he is the father of lies and he is not going to start telling the truth with you.  When someone went to the Temple to sacrifice, it was the sacrifice, not the worshipper, that was examined and judged as to its worth.  If the sacrifice was acceptable and sufficient, then the worshipper was fully accepted.  The Lamb who was slain is worthy – therefore we are accepted.  God’s acceptance of our worship isn’t based on our mechanics – but on our faith and on the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Our salvation is built on the foundation of grace, not law.  Many Christians live under the weight of guilt, condemnation, constantly trying to gain God’s approval. Our minds and senses war against things of God.  If we bow under warfare we miss the miracle – miss the very thing we are praying for.  If you bow to Baal you get cheated out of the miracles!

Here’s some advice for warfare:

  1. Don’t Bow to Baals – Greed – materialism – lust – worldliness.  These spirits don’t belong in the church – and don’t belong in our lives.  Don’t bow to them. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to affect culture not bow to it.
  2. Don’t Let Men or Devils Define You – Don’t judge yourself in a storm.  There is an anti-Christ sentiment that wants to define us.  Read the newspaper, listen to the radio and you’ll hear all kinds of misrepresentation and misinformation about God and Christians.   Don’t let the devil define who you are or what you believe.  If we bow to the pressure and start apologizing, changing the message to suit people, telling people what they want to hear to avoid trouble – we’ll find ourselves in the worst of trouble.  Rise up with a weapon of truth.  Don’t let the devil define your message.
  3. Don’t Give In To Feelings of Failure and Uselessness – God has given us project to do.   Don’t bow to discouragement, hopelessness.  Rise up with God’s word in your mouth – “The gates of hell will not prevail!”   If we don’t rise up verbally and with action to confront the Baals, we will submit to their influence and be discouraged or depressed.  Courage is not the absence of the fear.  Courage is the presence of God.
  4. Don’t Drift Into Things – You never fall onto a mountain – you climb it.  The Scripture says, “Give more earnest heed to the things which we’ve heard lest we let them slip…”   The word “slip” there means drift.  You are not going to drift into victory – into holiness.  More often than not, when one drifts – you are drifting away from something – not into something.  Yelling at the devil won’t make him go away.   He must be displaced by right living.  We need to affirm the truth not only with our mouths but our actions.

We are in a war.  The victories we win, the defeats we suffer are not just for the moment but for eternity.  Souls are stake.  Read the back of the book – we win!

“‘And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).