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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my silver and my gold
Not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose

Take my will and make it Thine
It shall be no longer mine
Take my heart it is Thine own
It shall be Thy royal throne

Take my love my Lord I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store
Take myself and I will be
Ever only all for Thee

- Frances Ridley Havergal, 1874

Flaming Fire or Wet Wood?

I had a pastor one time who was fond of saying, “Now if that don’t light your fire, your wood’s wet.” Grammatical issues aside, the point is that when the glories of God are proclaimed and unveiled from His Word, when testimonies of changed lives are displayed, when the power and the mercy and the grace and the wonders of God’s love are brought into view, how can our hearts not ignite in worship before the Lord?

When we recognize that in His boundless love God sent His Son to save us from our sins, how can we not burst forth in gratitude and praise? When we understand that we’ve been brought from death to life, from darkness into light, from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ, from hopeless despair to unspeakable joy and from the grave to glory, how can we not burn with passion for the Lord? When we think about the promises of the abundant and eternal life Jesus came to give all who follow Him, how can anyone not fall before the King of kings and Lord of lords in wholehearted devotion and glad obedience?

Unless your wood’s wet. Of course it’s possible for anyone to harden his or her heart to the realities and promises of God. The Lord will not force anyone to believe against his own will. He will not twist your arm behind your back until you cry out, “OK, OK, enough already! I believe in You, or whatever. Now get away from me and leave me alone!”

Look at Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. Almighty God was pouring out miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, displaying incredible demonstrations of His omnipotence, and yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

And sadly even God’s own people hardened their hearts against their God. The prophet Jeremiah records the word of the Lord for the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem: “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds” (Jer. 18:11).

Here God was warning the people of what would happen if they did not repent and turn back to Him, though He was pleading with them by His mercy to do so.

Yet God knew what their response would be. “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’” (Jer. 18:12).

Wow! Are you kidding me? To the One who could build up a nation or destroy it with a single word, to the One who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, to the One who had led them through the wilderness, to the One who had brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, His own people said, “Forget it. We’re going to do what we want to do whether You like or not. So get lost.”

Oh, the hardness of man’s heart! Today I ask you – What more could God do to show you how much He loves you than to send His Son to take the penalty for your sins? What more could God do to show His power than to raise Jesus up from the dead? What more could God do to draw you to Him than to promise you eternal life, inexpressible joy, unexplainable peace, unfailing love, unending comfort, undying hope and His continually abiding presence?

Listen, if you want to reject the grace of God available to you through faith and settle for the treasures and pleasures this world has to offer, that’s up to you. But I assure you they will all be gone someday and you’ll have absolutely nothing left. You’ll stand before the Lord God Almighty upon your death in judgment, and you’ll have nothing but regret and utter despair.

Won’t you come to Jesus now, before it’s too late?

The fire has been lit during our revival services this week. At least in my heart. And in every heart yielded to the Lord. If you haven’t experienced it, then you need to let your wood dry out by repenting of your stubborn heart and trusting in Christ Jesus for salvation. Is your life a flaming fire or wet wood?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Boldly Preaching to the Ends of the Earth

Acts 28

You can’t top a good viper story. You can’t outdo a whole island cured of their diseases. You can’t surpass the story of a traveling man finally reaching his destination. And you can’t exceed the witness of a man in chains who’s still preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. This concluding chapter in the book of Acts has it all.

Following such a perilous journey, you can’t help but picture Paul landing in Rome overflowing with gratitude and joy. Yes, he’s still a prisoner, but not of Rome. Paul’s a prisoner of the Lord and, as he wrote during this imprisonment to the church in Philippi, his chains really served to advance the gospel.

And like he wrote to Timothy, Paul knew God’s Word can never be chained. So he keeps enduring this suffering for the sake of the elect. He keeps proclaiming the very truth about Christ which landed him in trouble in the first place. He keeps witnessing for Christ among the Jews as the hope of Israel while taking the message of God’s salvation to the Gentiles.

Never forgetting where he came from. Never getting over God’s mercy and grace. Never tiring of telling his story. Never relying upon his own ability. Never backpedaling on the scandal of the cross. Never losing sight of the empty tomb. Never taking his eyes off Jesus. Never ashamed of the gospel.

No chains can hinder the bold preaching of the gospel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Adventure on the High Seas

Acts 27

Paul could have written the line: “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Indeed, I imagine an ongoing conversation in heaven between the apostle and ex-slave ship captain John Newton concerning which man could give God the greater glory for His grace!

The grace of the Lord permeates this exciting adventure on the high seas. You may recall that the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision assuring him that he would testify about Him in Rome (Acts 23:11). This dramatic voyage probably wasn’t the way Paul envisioned his travel agent to lay out the itinerary, but it was God’s chosen route to Rome nonetheless. And God never shortchanges on the adventure.

By grace God sent an angel to encourage Paul. By grace God confirmed His plans for Paul to stand before Caesar in Rome. By grace God said He would spare the lives of all the men on board. By grace God granted Paul faith to believe His word. By grace God used Paul to encourage and strengthen his shipmates. By grace God caused the centurion and the soldiers to at last heed Paul’s words of wisdom. And by grace God fulfilled His promise in protecting the men’s lives, even though the ship was battered to pieces by the waves.

God’s grace is always sufficient. But who ever said being a witness for Christ to the ends of the earth would be easy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clearing Out the Clutter

Been doing some spring cleaning around the house. If you’re like us, clutter is an issue. Can someone please tell me why we keep kickballs that won’t stay aired up, cracked Frisbees that won’t fly and old grungy hats that nobody wears?

Oh yeah, and broken lawn chairs nobody sits in, broken picture frames nobody wants and broken toys nobody plays with. Cardboard boxes we must have been saving for a special occasion? Worn-out old throw rugs not good enough to use in the house, but for some reason we kept them in the garage?

I don’t really consider myself a pack rat, but it’s amazing how much stuff accumulates. Whether it’s broken-down junk or just odds and ends you know you’ll never need or ever use again, clutter sneaks up on you pretty quickly if you don’t do something about it.

We haven’t had to deal with this yet, but I know many of you have had the unenviable task of going through your parents’ home upon their passing. It seems some, especially those who lived through the Depression era, couldn’t bear the thought of throwing anything away. Even in their older, prosperous age, decades removed from impoverished conditions, many from that generation simply cannot get rid of stuff.

Spring cleaning is refreshing to the soul. It frees up space in your house, your yard, your attic and your garage. And it feels liberating. It helps you loosen your attachment to “things” and frees you to invest your time more productively.

When the Lord called Amy and me to seminary in 2001, we left our modest 3-bedroom home with a basement and garage to move into a 2-bedroom compartment – I mean apartment. Needless to say, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. But in doing so we realized that most of it we didn’t really need anyway. And it actually felt good to live on less. The Lord provided for us in so many ways – but that’s another article for another day. Just don’t ask Amy about the kitchen table.

The arrival of spring is refreshing in itself, but I can’t think of a better way of being refreshed this spring than by being revived spiritually by the Lord. We’ll be hosting Spring Revival Services this Sunday through Wednesday, March 27-30, and would love for you to be our special guests. God wants to do a work of revival in His church, and He wants to bring His work of salvation to this community and throughout the world.

Just like the clutter in and around your house, there’s clutter in your life as well that needs to be removed. Without even realizing it, the clutter of sin sneaks up on you pretty quickly sometimes. And if you don’t deal with it right away, it begins to take up residence, crowd out the spiritual space in your life and ends up enslaving you.

It’s time to do some spiritual spring cleaning! Clean out those cobwebs of anger and jealousy. Wipe away the dust of lust and immorality. Remove the broken toys of bitterness and malicious talk. Discard the old clothes of disunity, dishonesty, despair and doubt. And take the garbage of pride, lies, greed, idolatry, cruelty, impurity, godlessness, drunkenness, arrogance, disobedience and self-sufficiency out to the burn barrel and set them ablaze.

If you’re a believer in Christ Jesus, it’s time to return wholeheartedly to the Lord your God! Remember His great mercy and grace toward you. Remember that His kindness leads you to repentance. Remember the stripes upon His back, the crown upon His brow and the nails piercing His hands and feet. Remember the sins He bore in His body for you upon the cross. Remember that you have been forgiven, redeemed, saved and born again. You are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price. Repent from your sins, return to His mercy and receive His grace.

If you’re not sure about salvation, or if you’ve rejected Jesus, then know today that you are loved by the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth. His offer of eternal life still stands by His grace through faith in Jesus. But if you don’t respond, you will face the day of judgment with no hope and no way out. I plead with you to come to Christ Jesus while you have the opportunity.

You’ll find that His forgiveness is the most liberating, refreshing, joyful and satisfying experience known to man. God’s bringing the revival to Ridgway. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Servants and Witnesses

Acts 26 

As we near the end of the book of Acts, allow me to make some observations from this chapter.

One, the purpose statement from Acts 1:8 flows throughout the entire book. In the power received from the Holy Spirit, the followers of Christ witness for Him throughout the world. Paul had personally proclaimed the gospel of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and beyond, and was now telling the message of Christ in Caesarea.

Two, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead makes all the difference in the world. It is the climax of the gospel. It’s the fulfillment of the prophets. It’s why Paul so boldly preaches, and why he’s now in chains. It’s the hope of every believer for eternal life. It’s the power and victory of God on display.

Three, Paul never lost sight of God’s mercy and grace, nor did he ever miss a chance to tell his story. He remembered what a wasted life he led before Christ saved him, and he recognized God’s overflowing patience, mercy and grace toward him.

Four, the Lord fulfilled His promise to Paul. Indeed, he was God’s chosen instrument to carry the name of Christ before “the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

Five, the call to repent and turn to God is still urgent. And the gospel is still the power of God to save all who believe.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seeing the Signs

Now more than ever we need to turn to the Lord God. The signs are too obvious to ignore, and heaven is so available that only fools would reject God’s offer of salvation.

You’ve seen the coverage of the earthquake and resulting tsunami wreaking havoc on Japan. Does that not lead you to call upon the name of the Lord? Who’s na├»ve enough to think that such a disaster could not happen here? You might recall that we’re living on a pretty hefty fault line already.

You’ve kept up with some of the news concerning uprisings and protests and wars going on in countries scattered throughout the Middle East. Will there ever be a day where our Department of Homeland Security can dissolve because the threat of terrorism in the U.S. has vanquished?

And surely you’re aware of the meteoric rise of human depravity. Let’s start with sexual immorality of every kind – men and women living together apart from marriage, the “normalization” of the homosexual lifestyle, the instant access via the internet to pornography and so much more. What used to be called and commonly known as “sin” whispered about in the back room has now become openly accepted and applauded forms of behavior.

Then there’s the issue of violence. Do you sense there’s more anger and hatred toward each other in our own country than in a long time? We watch politicians fight bitterly. We see young people handle their despondency with weapons. We see television, movies, internet, music and video games feed off of and contribute toward this toxic craving for graphic bloodshed. And no wonder, when we have morally degenerated so far as to devalue human life by legalizing the killing of babies in the womb.

Natural disasters. Numerous wars. Nose-diving morals. Does the Word of God not say that these will be signs of the second coming of Jesus and of the end of the age? “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8). “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:11-12).

If you’re not hearing it by now, I say to you: Wake up! God is demanding your attention. What other signs do you need to persuade you that the time is short. The end of all things is near. You’re not guaranteed another breath on this planet. And if you’re not right with God, then the end for you is eternal judgment “in that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51).

It’s past time to get right with God. And the way to get right with God is to come to Him on His terms, not your own. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re right with God because you’ve made a special deal with Him, because you’re attending church most Sundays or because you got baptized.

Instead, come to Him in repentance, broken for your sin against Him. Quit pretending that you’re good just because you’re at least not as bad as someone else. We’re all sinners in need of salvation. Even your most casual sin is enough to keep you out of heaven and deserving of eternal hell. God’s standard is perfection, and you’re not there.

You need His mercy and grace just as much as I do. But, praise God, He’s made a way for you to be saved from death. God loves you so much, friend, that He gave up His Son, Jesus, to die a torturous death on the cross so that your sins could be completely forgiven. No matter what you’ve done, who you’ve hurt along the way, nor what’s been done to you – the blood of Christ is perfectly able to cleanse you from every stain of sin and make you right with God. He bore all your sins on the cross, taking the brunt of God’s righteous and just wrath against sin, so that you don’t have to.

Won’t you come to Him today? Repent from your sins and put your faith in Jesus today, and you’ll be saved from death and brought to life abundant and eternal. It’s the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). You don’t know when the Lord will return, but His return is near. See the signs, and stay awake!

Monday, March 7, 2011

God's Unfailing Purpose

Acts 25

As you navigate the twists and turns of life, it helps to know that God is sovereign over all. His purposes will not – nor cannot – fail! His wisdom is faultless and His counsel beyond scrutiny. His strength is perfect, His grace sufficient, and His power immeasurable. His love reaches to the heavens, his faithfulness to the clouds. His righteousness is like the mighty mountains and His justice like the great deep.

I’m sure Paul rehearsed these attributes of the Holy One over and over while serving as an ambassador in chains for Christ. While locked in prison, while awaiting trial, how many times, I wonder, did Paul recite the 23rd Psalm? How many times did he remember the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6? How many times did he draw strength from Isaiah 40?

And how often do you suppose he recalled the Lord’s message to him through Ananias: “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16)?

Paul had long desired to go to Rome (Rom. 1:10). Somehow, someway. Now God was making the way. It probably wasn’t how Paul envisioned, but by appealing to Caesar, God granted his request. There was something about the story of this man named Jesus, who was dead, but now alive, that still needed to be told. And it still does.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Resurrection on Trial

Acts 24 

Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It’s a matter of life and death.

If Jesus did not rise from the grave then Christianity is the greatest sham the world has ever seen. Our so-called “faith” is worthless, and we are the sorriest, most misguided, hopeless and gullible people on the face of the planet. You may as well engrave a big “L” on our foreheads – Losers!

On the other hand, if Jesus Christ did rise from the grave, if He truly conquered sin and death forever, as the Bible declares, then the multitudes who reject Jesus are the real losers. The victorious ones are those who believe that Jesus died in their place on the cross, that He rose from the dead, and that by His grace through faith we’ll also live with Him forever!

So did He, or didn’t He? That’s the issue for which Paul stands on trial before Governor Felix. That’s the issue for which he was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, mocked and ultimately killed. That’s the issue for which Jesus’ disciples gave their own lives, as well. It makes all the difference in the world.

Despite far-fetched claims to the contrary, the resurrection of Jesus confirms Him as the Son of God and gives hope and joy and peace to all who trust Him for eternal salvation. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).