Sunday, April 27, 2014

Our Cancelled Debt

Several years ago while pastoring in middle Tennessee a guest walked into our services for the very first time. From appearance, Evelyn looked as if she lived meagerly and was far from being a lady of financial means; however, looks can be very deceiving. I found out she was a rather savvy business person whose investments had resulted in her amassing several thousand dollars. Immediately she began to bless the church as well as her pastor. With this new member’s assistance several renovation projects were completed and she made it possible for my wife and me to take our very first tour of Israel. In addition, throughout the years I was the recipient of multiple financial gifts. However, time and age has a way of affecting the mind. Evelyn’s capacity to remember began to slip. Her spirit of generosity had not waned but her memory had. This became apparent when she began to give me checks that had previously been endorsed, cashed and returned to her from the bank.  She could not grasp the fact that even though my name appeared on the check along with her signature, once it had been drawn upon the paper was no longer valid. The first time she recirculated one I remember thinking, “Unnoticed, this could be quite embarrassing and possibly incriminating if given to a teller at the bank.”  I could not draw upon something that had been cancelled. While innocence was at play in my experience, the same cannot be said of the Devil. How often he produces notes that have been paid in full. That’s the reason why the last three words Jesus bellowed from the cross was “It is finished.” The terminology used here had to do with a merchant cancelling a debt or a prisoner being pardoned. In essence the declaration was a guarantee that once our sins are forgiven the enemy has no right to try and recirculate the check.  He cannot and we should not. Jesus has given us his endorsement. Our debt has been cancelled!     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Ultimate Sacrifice

A Christian businessman was traveling in Korea. In a field by the side of the road was a young man pulling a rude plow while an old man held the handles. The businessman was amused and took a snapshot of the scene. "I suppose these people are very poor,” he said to the missionary who was interpreter and guide to the party. "Yes,” was the quiet reply, “those two men happen to be Christians. When their church was being built, they were eager to give something toward it, but they had no money. So they decided to sell their one and only ox and give the proceeds to the church. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves.” The businessman was silent for some moments. Then he said, “That must have been a real sacrifice.”  “They did not call it that," said the missionary. “They thought themselves fortunate that they had an ox to sell!” When that businessman reached home, he took the picture to his pastor and told him all about it. Then he added, “I want to double my giving to the church and do some plow work. Up until now I have never given God anything that involved real sacrifice.” While this story shows a deep level of sacrifice, it falls short in describing the ultimate. We see that in the life of Jesus. He chose to leave the celestial surroundings of heaven to come to earth amidst tainted and sinful man. He chose flesh and blood rather than the ethereal, hard labor in the carpenter shop as opposed to the luxury of a palace and ministry rather than the monarchy. He was lied upon, spit upon, and beaten beyond recognition, but chose nails, a cross, and a borrowed tomb when He could have been rescued by legions of angels. Denying oneself never comes without a price, neither does it come without a reward.  Jesus chose sacrifice, but God chose resurrection. Being  raised from the dead, this giver found himself being given the ultimate crown: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”  Paul explained the gift in his own words. “God has given him a name that is above every name and at the mention of that name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  Submission involves no fear when we realize that resurrection is God’s answer to the question of ultimate sacrifice.       

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Power of Suggestion

Several years ago, there was a beautiful hotel that was built in Galveston, Texas, which jutted out over the water in the bay. It had these large plate glass windows that allowed you to look out over the Gulf of Mexico. And the balconies on each room made an ideal fishing pier! It seems that right after this hotel opened, there was a fisherman who took his rod and reel and tried to cast out into the water. Somehow, though, he managed in his clumsiness to knock out some windows below him. The hotel very quickly put up signs in every room that read: "No fishing from balconies." Guess what happened? People had never given much thought to fishing from their balconies, but they suddenly thought that was a great idea! So everyone decided to try it! Even people who could care less about fishing joined in. And they kept knocking out windows. Finally, one bright administrator came up with the unlikely remedy, removing the "no fishing" signs. Guess what happened? People quit fishing and there were no more broken windows! Suggestion is a powerful thing. Somehow it places in the mind of the reader or listener the temptation to act foolishly. We fight it when we come to a “wet paint” or a “stay off the grass” sign. But even more so we fight it in the spiritual realm.  Eve fell prey to the suggestion of eating, Abraham to lying, and Achan to that of stealing.  Paul even wrestled this beast of the brain. He explains it to us in Romans. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  Here is a man who admits falling into the power of suggestion. Although, we read of those who contended with this culprit in the past it does not exclude us from wrestling with it in the present.  Daily we find ourselves battling with the power of suggestion. Paul well versed and loaded with experience gave us the means which allows for ongoing victory. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We cannot keep this force from approaching our mind but we can keep it from penetrating and overtaking our will. Foreign thoughts will always be lurking in the shadows seeking to control our actions. However, God has given us the ability to label them as spiritual opposition. But most of all He has given us the power to cast them down and to be successful when faced with the power of suggestion.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Lottery

Thousands of people will stand in line this week to purchase a ticket hoping it bears the winning numbers that will make them an instant lottery winner.  Many will do this out of need others will do so out of sheer pleasure. However, at the end of the day the vast majority will realize their efforts were all in vain. The risk of being the 1 in 175,223,510 just didn’t pay off. On the other hand there will be just as many that will visit a store, health clinic, or an unemployment office stand in line, take a number, sit down and wait to be called. Unlike the purchase of the lottery ticket, the risk is minimal because eventually they will get results, yet each selection demands following a procedure and waiting. When we think of this in relation to God, the realization comes that He does not work on the lottery or number system. Rather out of the mouth of Jeremiah we hear the instructions, “Call unto me and I will answer, and show you great and mighty things that you know not.” There is no risk involved in the investment, no long lines to contend with, and most of all no waste of time. We are guaranteed an immediate presence, a listening ear and timely results. Granted, prayer does require our waiting on occasions for an answer but it never requires waiting for an audience with the God of all creation. We have access through Jesus Christ the Son; and just as importantly is the aspect that each of us can come before Him out of need or pleasure. He has made it clear that our visitation can be for the purpose of conquest or communing. Given the privilege afforded us, we must be careful not to resort to worldly measures in time of distress. This temptation was addressed by Jesus in the book of Matthew. In chapter six He encouraged his listeners not to give in to worry and fear resulting in their standing at counters taking the risk of human provision, and in offices of protracted delays. Rather, His advice was to seek God to find the provision for all needs. This option seems a lot more favorable than playing the lottery or taking a number and waiting in line to be called when we can begin immediately to call on Him.