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Archive for September, 2015

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a small child he stood looking out the window at the old lamplighter at work. As he made his way down the street, he would light one lamp after another. This was fascinating and intriguing to young Stevenson. Thinking that his quietness could possibly mean he was up to some mischief, the family’s maid called out to him, “Robert, what are you doing?”

Young Stevenson replied, “I’m watching a man make holes in the darkness.” It would be difficult to find a better or more accurate description of the Christian life than that. Jesus said to His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). He described His followers in this way for a reason. He knew that a light is used primarily for the following three reasons:

A light is to be seen. You do not hide a light under a basket. Rather, you put it on a candlestick so it can give light to everyone in the house. The average house in Palestine two thousand years ago was very dark, and possibly contained only one window. A lamp would be lighted so that family members could see their way around the darkened house. Once the lamp went out, it was not easy to rekindle, for there were no matches then as we have today. Therefore, the lamp would be left burning hour after hour.

When the family left the house, for safety sake, they would take the lamp from its stand and put it under an earthen bushel. When they returned, the lamp would be put back on the stand. Why is this true? The primary purpose of the lamp was to be seen, not to be hidden. The point Jesus was making is that we should make Him visible to everyone around us. If you are a follower of Christ no one should ever have to ask, “Is he (or she) a Christian?” The life you live is a light to be seen by others.

A light is to guide. As an airplane approaches a landing strip at an airport, the pilot sees a line of lights marking the path which the plane must take in order to land safely. Along the shoreline of continents around the world are lighthouses casting a beam far and wide that guide ships safely to the harbor. Along the inland waterway extending up and down our country’s east coast are strategically placed concrete markers containing lights that help those traveling the waterway at night to stay in the proper channel.

The greatest challenge Christians have in life is to help those who walk in darkness to find Christ. Our world needs guiding lights. It is not enough that we merely tell others how to find Jesus Christ. We must demonstrate by the way we live what it means to know Him and to follow Him.

A light is to warn. A flashing light at a railroad crossing is a warning that a train is approaching. In the same way it is our duty as Christians to warn others when we know the road they are traveling leads to danger. It is not always an easy or popular thing to do, but it is our duty nevertheless. If our warnings are given, not in criticism, or condemnation, or anger, but in love, they have a better chance of being effective.

Several decades ago a Christian doctor in China had built an efficient hospital through many years of hard work. When the communist wing of the national army swept northward, they looted this hospital and left it in shambles. The work of many years went down the drain. It was not an easy thing to forget or to forgive. But the Christian doctor followed the army and attended to its sick.

When General Chiang Kai-shek saw this, he asked, “What makes this doctor tend to the sick and wounded when these very men destroyed his hospital?” His wife, who was a Christian, replied, “It is because he is a Christian.” General Kai-shek said, “Then I must become a Christian too.” The doctor had taken seriously the command of Jesus to His followers, “You are the light of the world.”

 

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Jesus: Savior and Lord

There are only two things Jesus Christ wants to be, and asks to be, in the life of any individual: one is Savior, and the other is Lord. Savior is what He does for us that we cannot do for ourselves. Lord is what He becomes by virtue of our decision to totally surrender ourselves to His leadership.

Unfortunately, not everyone who professes to have accepted Him as Savior is willing for Him to be their Lord. His Lordship requires and deserves full obedience. Where the rub comes is that our old sinful nature still wants to sit on the throne and be in control of our lives.

In My Name Is Legion, Edward Sanford Martin expresses it this way:

                       “Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;

                        There’s one of us that’s humble, one that’s proud,

                        There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,

                        There’s one that unrepentant sits and grins;

                        There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself,

                        And one that cares for naught but fame and pelf.

                        From much corroding care I should be free

                        If I could once determine which is me.”

Do you ever feel that way? Defeated by your own nature? Revolted by your thoughts, fantasies, actions, and reactions? Do you ever wonder why there is so little of Christ’s peace, power, and love in your life? If so, you are in good company.

The Apostle Paul’s honesty and vulnerability at this point concerning his personal tensions is worth noting. As he examined his life, he openly admitted his ongoing inner struggle. He was having difficulty accomplishing the good that he wanted to do. And he was also doing things that he did not really want to do (Romans 7:18-24).

The many pronouns in this section indicate that Paul is having trouble with self. This does not mean that Christians have a split personality, because we do not. But it does indicate that our mind, will, and body either by the old nature or the new nature, either by the flesh or by the Spirit, still battles one another.

What Paul is describing with total honesty is the downside of a partially-blessed life. In doing this, he identifies for us the difference between having religion and having a deep relationship with the indwelling Christ. The difference between the two is huge.

Knowing that Christ had called him to a special ministry, was Paul experiencing a power failure in his life? If so, he knew that the only way he could accomplish the work to which he had been called was to live every day under Christ’s Lordship. The same is true in the life of any Christian today.

As professing Christians we should periodically examine our hearts, as Paul did, so that we will have no doubt about the fact that we have chosen for Christ to be both Savior and Lord of our lives. Only through obedience to His Lordship can we become fully useful vessels in His service.

It is my prayer that every Christian who reads these words will ask himself (herself) this question: “Is Jesus Christ genuinely the Lord of my life?” If not, you need to know this: nothing can happen THROUGH you that has not happened TO you and WITHIN you. You cannot give to others what you do not possess.

Our initial commitment to Christ is only the beginning of a continually growing relationship with Christ. It is God’s will that our minds, emotions, and wills be the post-resurrection home of His Son, the immanent, intimate, indwelling Christ. That is what happens when Christ genuinely becomes the Lord of your life.

Accepting Christ as Savior provides ETERNAL life; conscious, willful, and consistent obedience to His Lordship provides ABUNDANT life.

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Has there ever been a time when the gauge on your spiritual gas tank was sitting on empty? Has the fire of joy and peace that once burned within your soul dwindled to just an ember? As the common expression puts it, “Has your get-up-and-go got-up-and-went? If so, you are not alone. In fact, you are in some very good company. Some of the leading personalities in Bible and throughout history have experienced the same weariness and loss of zeal.

King David cried out in moments of serious inflection, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:11-12).

King Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).

Job lamented, “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived’” (Job 3:3).

Old Testament character Moses cried out to God when he was trying to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If you treat me like this, please kill me here and now” (Numbers 11:14-15). History’s greatest Christian missionary Paul explained to Christians in the city of Corinth, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure above strength, so that we despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).

What is the source of spiritual weariness? Often spiritual weariness robs our days of joy because we have unconfessed and unrepented sin in our lives. We also become weary when we become slack in our worship attendance, when we forget to spend regular time reading God’s Word and in prayer, or as someone once expressed it, “We are not prayed up to date.” Do you have unconfessed sin in your life weighing you down and robbing you of joy?

We grow spiritually weary when we lead hurried lives. We become so busy in our vocations and in multitudes of other activities that we have less and less time to spend in private devotions. Every Christian needs times of spiritual rejuvenation. It is easy to become like the bottom of a soft drink sucked dry through a straw. God through His Word tells us to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Can any of us honestly say, “I simply do not have any time to rest in the arms of a loving God?”

Ultimately we learn that the reason for having an empty spiritual gas tank is that we have taken our eyes off our Savior and Lord. Like Simon Peter who wanted to walk out on the Sea of Galilee toward Jesus and began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus, the same can happen to any Christian who takes his or her eyes off Jesus. When we focus on our problems rather than on the Problem Solver we lose sight of our available resources. Weariness sets in and blessings are turned into burdens.

Do you need to refocus your sights on the Savior again? Is your spiritual gas tank sitting dangerously close to empty? Would you like to once again return to prior days when your relationship with Christ filled every day with a sense of joy and achievement? Just as Olympic weight lifters need the right food and exercise to build strength, Christians grow by taking in the spiritual food of God’s Word, by spending time in prayer, and by setting aside consistent times for fellowship with the Lord.

If you are not as close to God as you once were, guess who moved.

 

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Seventeen centuries after Mt. Vesuvius cataclysmically erupted, raining ash and lava upon the terrified citizens of ancient Pompeii, archaeologists began digging their way through the layers of ash to uncover history’s most famous ghost town. As they continued digging, they came across the first of many skeletons. What they found is both interesting and very informative.

Because they were quickly buried under tons of fine ash, researchers were able to create plaster casts which showed the people virtually “flash frozen” in their last seconds of panic. One cast showed a woman clutching jewels. Some priests were found who, in their final moments of life, had collected statues and temple treasures in a cloth sack. A couple died with their gold, jewels, and silver amassed beside them.

The polytheistic religion of the Pompeiians celebrated health, wealth, and affluence. It would be difficult to find a more accurate picture of such a system than those skeletons clutching their coins and jewels. The people of Pompeii, realizing they would likely die, grabbed hold of that which they considered most valuable.

It needs to be said that possessions are necessary in today’s world. Therefore, it is not sinful to own things, even lots of things – providing what we own does not own us. Sin enters our heart not because we desire things, but because we desire them out of proportion to their true worth. It is when an inordinate desire for that which is created eclipses our desire for the Creator that the Bible calls blatant idolatry. Nothing is wrong when things become for us a means to worthy ends; it is when they become an end within themselves. So, how can we let go of an unhealthy grip on finances and possessions? Try these suggestions:

First, realize that possessions over-promise and under-deliver. Our souls hunger for meaning, and meaning is not found in self-centered living. Materialism promises more than it can deliver because joy and contentment are inner realities. I know independently wealthy people who live meaningful lives, but their meaning comes from things like faith and family, not from what they own. I’ve also met some very wealthy people who are miserable and unfulfilled. You cannot buy your way out of emptiness or into fulfillment.

Second, consider the temptations that come with being wealthy. Wealth can create new temptations, new challenges, and new trials in life. Money can also cause you to become proud and to push God to the periphery of your life. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:9) – even though multitudes of people try to do this. The apostle Paul reminds us that, “The love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10).

Third, adopt an eternal perspective. Money is a good servant, but a poor master. It can buy lots of things, but it cannot purchase happiness or joy. However much you may gain by being industrious and applying your ingenuity, it only goes so far and lasts so long. However much money you have, or however many things you own, you will one day leave it behind – all of it. Invest in that which lasts forever.

Fourth, experience the joy of giving. The book of Proverbs states, “A generous man will himself be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9). Some people say that does not make sense, but it is the way that God made life to work best. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). The joy of giving comes from taking on the attitude of Christ. But giving involves far more than giving money. It is a matter of character.

If you will let go of what you own, and let God have complete control of your life, you will have the kind of treasure that lasts forever. You have to first “let go” before you can “let God.”

 

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