Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Covered Like Chlorophyll

My wife pointed out an interesting article in last Sunday’s Evansville Courier & Press. It was in the Life section. I don’t usually read the Life section. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever read the Life section. If it were possible to subscribe just to the Sports section, and maybe the weather page, and once in a while the opinion page, I’d do it.

Anyway there was a piece on the arrival of autumn, and its beautiful display of fall colors. The interesting thing is something that I learned in this article that I probably should have learned way back in 4th grade, but didn’t. Do you know why leaves change colors?

There’s this stuff called chlorophyll. Webster’s defines it as “the green photosynthetic coloring matter of plants…” (Those dots represent other stuff in the definition that I didn’t understand.) Apparently it’s also a “waxy green chlorophyll-containing substance extracted from green plants and used as a coloring agent or deodorant.” Maybe next time I’m out of Old Spice I’ll grab the nearest green plant and rub it under my arms.

Seriously, I must have been absent the day they covered Chapter 1 in 4th grade science, or maybe I was busy daydreaming about becoming a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. I wanted to be the next Roger Staubach. Still do. Either way, I missed chlorophyll. My 4th grade son, of course, has already learned about it in Chapter 1.

According to the article, the reason the leaves change colors is because their chlorophyll breaks down. The reason the chlorophyll breaks down is because there’s a shortage in food production for the tree. The reason there’s a food shortage is because there’s a decrease in sunlight, which happens when the days get shorter and the nights get longer and cooler.

The breakdown of the leaves’ chlorophyll reveals the colors of brown, yellow and orange which, get this, are already there but are covered by the green chlorophyll in spring and summer! These colors that make for such beautiful fall scenery are always present even through the summer, but are covered over by the green chlorophyll. Mrs. Bush would be so proud that I’m finally getting somewhere.

Now let me take a swing at using this as an illustration (there are a couple of ways to go here – you could probably do better). As long as we stay in the “Son” light, we’re covered like chlorophyll by His life-giving mercy and grace. Our sins are covered by the blood He shed for us upon the cross of Calvary. Our eternal future in heaven is covered by His victory over sin and death and hell. We’re covered by the righteousness of Christ Jesus and the new life He gives to us through faith.

See, unlike the picturesque colors present beneath the chlorophyll of the leaves, there is no beautiful display in us other than Christ Himself. All of our best efforts at righteousness are but filthy rags in the sight of God. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s nothing beautiful in the heart of sinful man that will ever impress a holy God.

Apart from the complete covering of Christ, you and I would be helplessly lost, with no promise of an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance laid up for us in heaven. There would be no sweet anticipation of the glory that is to be given us when Christ Jesus is revealed. There would be no talk of mansion-building in the Father’s house as we await the return of our Savior.

The leaves are beautiful to behold – for short while. But what ends up happening to a leaf when it fails to get the sunlight it needs? It soon falls off the tree and dies. Hmmm. I’ve seen too many “leaves” break down and turn away because they weren’t getting the “Son” light they needed.

We need to stay in the “Son” light! We need to keep feeding daily on the life-giving mercy and grace of our Lord and King by hearing and obeying His Word, by communing with Him in prayer, by uniting in fellowship with His church, by ministering in love to others, and by singing His praises and proclaiming His salvation with a grateful, humble heart day after day.

Fellow leaf, are you covered in the chlorophyll of Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Child-like Faith, Simple Songs of Praise

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.”

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Aren’t these some of the most beautiful songs you’ve ever sung? Go ahead, sing them out loud. If you’re by yourself right now, sing from your heart to the Lord. If you’re sitting there and others are in the room, invite them to sing along with you. It’ll let the light in.

Here’s another one I remember singing: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. The mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His handiwork, too. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.”

There was a book written several years ago entitled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I didn’t read it, and I can’t recommend it. But I’m intrigued by the title. Some of the most helpful lessons in life might just be the things that we learned as small children. Share everything. Play fair. Look both ways before crossing the street.

And some of the simplest songs and most familiar Bible stories we learned as young children might just be the most helpful of all.

Of course, there’s so much more to learn about God than these songs teach. We can’t stay as spiritual infants and toddlers and expect to be able to experience the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. We must grow and mature in the Lord, in wisdom and understanding and knowledge of His will. We must move on to solid food, constantly using the truths of God’s word in to stand strong against sin and to build others up the body of Christ.

But aren’t you thankful for the simple songs that have to please the heart of God when sung from the hearts of His children? Isn’t it a child-like faith that God wants from us?

“And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Let’s not complicate the matter. The only way to experience the kingdom of God is to receive it with the faith of a child. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

You might say it’s all childish stuff but of no value in today’s real world. I’ve got news for you, friend: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). And I’m just foolish enough to believe it, because I’ve seen what the power of God can do. I’ve seen what love the Father has for His people. I know the indescribable joy and supernatural peace that comes from the assurance of His promises. I’ve experienced His goodness, His mercy and His grace.

And even as I grow stronger in Christ Jesus, I’ll continue to sing the songs that helped lay the foundation of my faith all the way to heaven: “Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love. Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Manley Beasley: Man of Faith - Instrument of Revival

If you are pathetically content with your spiritual life, then whatever you do, don’t read the biography Manley Beasley: Man of Faith – Instrument of Revival. This book will challenge you to walk in faith unlike you’ve ever walked before. It will drive you into your prayer closet to commune with God more personally than you’ve ever known. And it will lead you to embrace and triumph through your sufferings with greater power and joy than you could possibly imagine.

I had never heard of Manley Beasley until a pastor friend recently recommended this biography. I’m glad he did. And now I’m recommending this book for anyone who believes there ought to be more to the Christian life than what most people experience.

Here’s what Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, GA, and executive director of Sherwood Films which produced the movies Facing the Giants and Fireproof, had to say: “Manley Beasley was the greatest man of faith I ever knew. While many of us talk about faith and preach about it, Manley was a living example of the faith life. His ministry and message have greatly influenced me to believe God for the impossible.”

In this book biographer Ron Owens effectively blends multiple testimonies and stories about Beasley with Beasley’s own messages preached at various stages in his life.

One such testimony comes from one of Manley’s closest friends and partners in ministry, Jimmy Robertson: “The first time I had Manley in a meeting, after the service he announced that we were going to stay at the church to pray. We prayed until 1 a.m. Next morning at 5:00, I heard a knock on my door and there stood Manley. I said, ‘Is there an emergency?’ He said, ‘There sure is. We need to pray.’ That was the beginning of a glorious revival in our church and community.”

One of the messages Owens records for us from the preaching of Manley Beasley outlines three kinds of faith: Intellectual faith, emotional faith and volitional faith. He spoke about a time when God began teaching him things about faith that would radically shape his life and ministry. The situation involved a desperate financial matter where Beasley found himself needing a certain amount of money. In his words:

“I tried bargaining with God. I even attempted to play on His sympathy – but God doesn’t respond to either of those approaches. You can wish; you can desire; you can anticipate; you can do all kinds of things but still not have ‘substance.’ Sadly, that is about as far in the walk of faith that a lot of people go. They know intellectually. Their emotions desperately desire. But neither of these in or of themselves move God into action.

“I told God that if He would just solve my problem, I would never doubt Him again. As I look back, I realize that I was getting it backwards; I was trying to get God to meet my need so that I could really believe. I did not realize that anyone can believe ‘after’ they have received. That is not real faith.

“I was finally beginning to see that faith was not only intellectual and emotional, but also volitional. God has given us a will. With that will we make choices – choices to either accept something or reject it…

“I began to realize that God was waiting on me to act on His revealed truth because faith is acting on the Word of God. I must not only believe He can meet a need; I must not only want Him to meet a need; I must begin to act as though the need has been met, even though I might not be able to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it or hear it. I must begin acting as if it is so, when it is not so, in order for it to be so, because with God it is already so.

“This now meant that I had to begin acting as though I had the $30,000 I needed to cover the note and the car. I said, ‘Lord, I don’t understand it.’ He said, ‘That’s none of your business.’ I said, ‘How are You going to do it?’ He said, ‘That’s none of your business either.’ I said, ‘But Lord, what if I fail?’ He said: ‘Who said you were a success?’ I already knew that I was a failure, but that moment I decided that sink or swim, live or die, I was going to trust God.”

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happened next. But only if you’re ready to kiss a boring spiritual life good-bye.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living in Victory over Evil

"In war there is no substitute for victory." - Gen. Douglas MacArthur

Just as true in spiritual warfare as on the physical battlefield. And infinitely more so.

The devil is real and wants to devour you. He is an enemy of the good, a liar and a thief who comes to kill, to steal and destroy. He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

But in Christ Jesus the Lord, you who are in Him, you have already been given more than enough firepower, more than enough ammunition to live in victory over evil, victory over sin, victory over Satan, victory over hell and victory over the grave.

There's no substitute for victory in this war. It's time for Christians everywhere to resist the devil, standing firm in the faith we're given in Christ Jesus, and live in victory over evil.

O, for the faith to stand strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might!

To Him be the power and glory for ever and ever. Amen.