Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Million Thanks

It is reported that only one book sent to the U.S. Library of Congress for registration has ever been turned down. It was produced by a wealthy and whimsical Texas businessman, who intended to hand out copies to his customers and friends. Its title was “A Million Thanks,” and the book consisted of the word "thanks" repeated one million times. No thanks, replied the Library as they declined to register the book. They stated that a single word is not copyrightable. Although that one word was not considered acceptable for copyright it certainly holds importance. The Holy Spirit thought it important enough to include in the Bible several hundred times. And it seems to be the point of contention in Luke 17. Ten lepers are healed but only one returns to give thanks which prompts Jesus to ask, “Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?” It is here that the Messiah faces one of humanities' greatest ills--ingratitude. Indeed it is a sad commentary when we who receive so much give thanks so little. Such a malady implies that there is an illness that lies within the soul of man that is far greater than the physical. This seems to be the case with the nine lepers referenced by Luke.  Notice how Jesus responds to the one who returns. “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And he said to him, Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” The terminology used in the last part of that statement is interesting. Bruce Larson comments about it and says, "Ten were healed, but only one was made well, and that's far more important than being healed. The point made here is, that unless gratitude is a part of our nature, we can't be whole people." No doubt this is the reason the Psalmist as well as Paul calls upon us to live a life of unbridled gratitude. “Be thankful to him; in everything give thanks.” We may not have all we want, and our lives may not be void of challenging circumstances but we are admonished to exemplify a lifestyle of thanksgiving. The great commentator, Matthew Henry epitomizes the spirit after being encountered by thieves and robbed. He wrote later in his diary: “Let me be thankful. First, because I was never robbed before. Second because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I that was robbed, not I who robbed.” The truth is, on any given day and any given moment, each of us has multiple blessings for which we can give “A Million Thanks!”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Beauty of Brokenness

Brokenness is never easy and seldom perceived as a positive experience. Most often it is mistaken as weakness, but Scripture reveals just the opposite. In essence it is a testimony of strength and something that God delights in. One only needs to look at Psalm 34:18 to determine its real value. “The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” John Bevere in his book “Under Cover” illustrates brokenness by saying,
“A warhorse is not fit for service until his will is broken.  Though he may be stronger, swifter, and more gifted than all the other horses in the stables, he cannot serve until he’s broken.  He will stay in the stables while less gifted horses go to war.  To be broken does not mean to be weakened.  It has to do with submission to authority.  In the horse’s case, his master is the rider.  If the horse is successfully broken and trained, he can be trusted in any and all circumstances.  In the heat of the battle as the bullets or arrows fly, he will not flinch.  While swords and axes are wielded, he will not retreat.  While guns are raised and cannons shot, he will not deviate from his master’s desires.  He will stay in firm submission to his master, no matter who he is.  He will bypass any attempt to protect or benefit himself in order to fulfill the commands of his rider. This breaking process is uniquely accomplished in each individual in accordance with the prescription of the Lord Himself.
Again in the face of the independently strong, brokenness displays weakness and vulnerability. However to those who put their trust in God it demonstrates incredible reliability. God looks for those who are willing to be stripped of all self-efficacy; those who are able to see the beauty of brokenness.   


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting on the Same Time-frame

The Bewley family had a reunion a few days ago.  Initially when I was called we were to meet on a Sunday.  Some few days later the date was changed to Saturday at 11:30 a.m. My wife and I anxiously showed up at Golden Corral on the designated day, but strangely enough no one was there.  I called my father and asked where they were. He said “we are on our way to the restaurant. We are meeting at 12:00.” He eventually showed up but the organizer of the family luncheon was still missing. We waited and waited and he finally appeared at 12:30. Others came at 1:00 and a few at 1:30. Each group explained their reason for being late; they had been given different starting times. How that happened only God knows. In the natural, mishaps like this are a common experience and nothing to be alarmed about.  However, when it comes to the spiritual it’s much more serious. One doesn’t have to listen very long to discover there is vast confusion as to the time Jesus will return for our family reunion. There are those who believe He will return before, in middle of or at the end of the tribulation. In addition there are multitudes who believe Jesus could appear at any moment so they live their lives accordingly being ever-ready. Others see no need for alarm,   living as if He is never going to return. However, in 1st John 2:18 we are told “Little children it is the last time” and because there are so many Antichrists “we know that it is the last time.” According to this writer, it appears that the reunion has been scheduled but the time is still pending. That being the case how should we conduct ourselves? Paul encouraged us to “Redeem the time,” meaning we are to make the best of it. Jesus said we are to “be ready for the Son of man will come at a time when you least expect Him.” We cannot predict the exact moment Jesus will appear but we can R.V.S.P our acceptance of the invitation while remaining alert to the call. Our behavior as such will definitely inform the Father that we are all on the same time-frame.   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seeing Him Face to Face

Billy Graham in his autobiography “Just as I am” tells the touching story of going to Korea in December, 1952 to visit the American troops.   He was accompanied by the General assigned to the area at that time. He writes, “In a field hospital about a mile behind the front lines on Christmas Eve, we went from bed to bed, bringing greetings and trying to encourage the wounded. One young man was so mangled that he lay face down on a canvas-and-steel contraption.  A doctor whispered to me, “I doubt he’ll ever walk again.” “Mr. Graham, could I see your face:” asked the young man. “We’ve all been praying for you and looking forward to your coming.  I won’t be able to be at the service.” So I lay on the floor beneath him and looked up into his hollow eyes, still stunned with his fate.  I prayed with him. “Sir,” said the young man to General Jenkins, who was escorting me, “I fought for you, but I’ve never seen you.  Could I see your face?” The general got down on all fours, slid under that bed as best he could, and talked with the young man. I saw a tear fall from the soldier onto the general’s face.” This soldier’s desire is that of millions of Christians around the world past and present. To all those who have fought the fight and kept the faith there is the longing to see their Master’s face and one day we will. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 put it like this, “for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” The promise given here implies intimacy as well as integration. The shift from the natural—temporal to the spiritual—eternal makes this all possible. Presently each of us has a relationship with Christ which allows us to sense His presence and to experience Him by faith. However, faith according to Hebrews 11:1 is the “Substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”  This means the wait will soon be over; faith will become a reality. Our long awaited hope of seeing the one we fight for will reach its apex as Jesus steps amidst the clouds. And in the words of a King we will hear him proclaim, “Come faithful ones! Come look upon me!” Then at that very moment “every eye shall see Him.” And for the first time we will come face to face.