Tuesday, July 31, 2012
'The steadfast love of the lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness oh Lord.'
Flying over America, I found myself wondering how I would relate to a people who think they have heaven on earth. A people who have replaced God with comfort and pleasure, and yet here it is, this land of plenty, withering away before our eyes.
From Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, we criss-crossed the breadbasket and prairies of this great country, passing field after field of devastation. Burned and scorched ground spread out before us in unending miles of heated dust.
Kari asked me a few days ago what it is that makes me love God more today than when I first loved Him. The answer was instant on my heart, it is His unfailing mercy and grace. It is exaclty Lamentations 3:22, but there is more...
Verse 34: 'to crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice, would not the Lord see such things?' Another version says, 'of these the Lord does not approve.'
What does this mean? It means I am a missionary, I sold everything and set out for Haiti to obey the Lord, and some of you might think that's something, but it's nothing. I am no different than any of you.
It's to remember that I screw up. That I am no better a saint than the day I first believed, and I will never achieve some level of holiness that will constitute a road to my salvation. To think so is heresy. It is a form of pride and self-centeredness that is in truth nothing more than a foothold for my enemy to diminish and dull the work, already accomplished by my Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. It is His mercy and grace, knowing when I fall off my imaginary ladder of sainthood that He is still there to catch me and hold me fast.
So what then is our mission, if that honor and glory is not ours to bestow?
To be road signs. To point to the only One who is worthy of such praise. And why do we need to point?
That corn didn't get that way overnight. It was one day without rain, then another, one day of heat and pressure, then another.
The is a Christian song that ring out these words, 'My heart and flesh cry out, to you the Living God, Your spirit's water to my soul.' But to someone who doesn't know this living god, they are this corn, parched and thirsty, withering for refreshment.
They reach out for that next new thing, that next new event to highlight their lives, but in the end there is no real satisfaction. It's drops of water on the tongue. We watched the rain come across the fields last night, and there was that hope, but it just wasn't enough. It evaporated. Weeks and months of dry have hollowed out that corn.
If the farmer goes out and begins to beat the corn, if he grabs it and shakes it, what will he gain? I asked my uncle this week, "Can your crop come back from this?" He just looked at me with soft eyes and replied, "The corn is already lost. We will lose the beans next, unless things change now. There will be nothing left to do but plow it under.". My heart broke for him, but what was most beautiful to me was that I saw something else in him...Peace in this brewing storm, the love of Jesus in his eyes.
A rock and warm butter. I want you to receive this word picture. Please get those two items in your mind and chew on it for awhile, until you can feel them. Every time you pick up a stone and skip it across the water. Watch it bounce and skip as if it has a life of its own, and then watch the inevitable as it sinks hopelessly to the bottom.
These are the hearts of men. We have no more power in and of ourselves to change the hearts of men as we have the power to change that rock into butter....but God does.
Every time you go to Grandma's and take out that warm butter from the cupboard, every time you butter your toast or slather a hot baked potato, every time your knife slices through that creamy tenderness, remember that stone. This is the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is His alone.
It is only for us to obey. Not "I will follow Lord...but first.". Luke 9:57
'As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good–by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
It is Christ first, or there is no point at all.
To follow Him,we must make our attitude like that of Christ. He 'made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross ...' To serve, wherever we are and to whomever He has placed in our path.
Can we serve in pride? Can we serve if we think we must be justified? Can we serve if we harbor an offense or believe that we deserve some level of respect? We cannot.
Platil? That beautiful French word I heard in Haiti? It means 'For your pleasure. Ive heard you, and I'm awaiting your instructions, Here I am.'. How can this become our own heart cry?
This is only accomplished through love. From unconditional love comes that attitude of Christ, humility.
People don't care what you know until they know that you care.
Isn't that what Jesus showed us while He walked among us?
What God has always shown us?
That even though His creation would spurn Him and sin against Him, reject Him ultimately fillet Him, beat Him, mock Him, nail Him naked in the most horrific form of lethal torture ever devised by the wicked hearts of man...He still loves us? He still came to us? He still seeks us? Drills down to us? Bores into our hearts to have us know Him? Still created us? 'For God SO loved the world....'
We must also be available. He didn't give His son over to that unimaginable death just so we could come to church and keep quiet. To say when He calls us, "I'm too busy, I have my own plans and this isn't in them." To deny ourselves from being completely abandoned to our Rescuer is to say we don't fully appreciate what we were rescued from. To say we don't have the skills or the finances or the time is to say we are content with being our own gods.
It is not in your ability, He does not call those who are equipped, He equips those who are called. When you take that step, proclaiming His name, His promise to us is that He will be with us.
What is your answer to the question you feel in your heart?
Are you weak? Is your prayer life pathetic? Are you in a spiritual desert, are you inept for the work, unskilled, too busy? Is your marriage a wreck? Are you ruled over, tied down by your pets, living for and looking after the very animals that God put on this Earth for YOU to rule OVER? Did someone you love once tell you that you weren't good enough, smart enough? Can you not forget your sins and so you feel you aren't worthy? Can you not forgive, and so you are bitter?
These are nothing more than elaborate excuses designed by your enemy! Perfected instruments of destruction honed and sharpened on the hearts of men for thousands of years. They are every bit the twist of satan, taking what God created and intended for our good, distorting every truth for our ultimate demise. Satan's victory is only to drag you away in his trials. To feed you a spoonful of poison, and see if you swallow. 'Accept this little lie, he says, take your medicine, and take just one more step away from God. Soon enough you'll have left that yellow-brick road, you won't remember your way back, and God and His love for you will be a distant memory, as if it was all a dream that you've awoken from, but can't remember the storyline.'
James 1: 'Each one is tempted, when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. DO NOT BE DECEIVED, brothers and sisters, every good and perfect gift is from above...'
'Who told you that you were naked?' It is nothing more than your enemies tool, causing you to sin, and then point the finger, AHA! To bring to surface such guilt and shame that you might take that first step into the shadows to hide.
Dont be deceived, Christian! The truth your enemy tries to hide is this:
In our weakness, He is made strong!
What breaks the chains and sets us free? What washes away our iniquity? What takes blind eyes and makes them see? What Gives us breath to finish the race? Unending Love, Amazing Grace.
Imagine a simple glass of water. Do you take it for granted? Here, sure! In fact we are picky. I don't just want the tap water! I want filtered. I want bottled please. I want the tastier water. But in Haiti the water from our well is treasure. It is appreciated and sought after. Every drop is precious. And no matter where you go, you must think about water, packing it along, because there may not be any where you're going. A river if you're lucky, but most certainly not a faucet anywhere.
It's the same with the Word of God. There's seven Bibles in every house, filtered in various versions, and a different denomination church on every corner, to accommodate our selection for tastiness. 'They are tulip Calvinists, we are Evangelical, and well you know, the problem with that poor girl is.....she's (gulp) Baptist.'
What if there were only 1 well? What if there were only 1 Church?
My grandma told me a story about her late husband, Merle, who'd suffered a stroke and was bedridden and couldn't speak. One day while sitting with him in the hospital room, she mentioned to the nurse in the room that she wished the nurse could have heard him sing. He had a beautiful voice and he loved to share it. When the nurse asked what song was his most favorite, my grandma told her it was Amazing Grace. "I know that song, how about I sing it for him?" the nurse said. As she began to sing, Merle opened his mouth and sang every word and verse to the song, flawlessly and in perfect tune. The rest of the nursing staff and doctors gathered and were listening, and when he finished, they asked him to please sing it again. He couldn't. He never sang again.
That's how it is with God's Word. It settles deep in our souls where it nourishes, and it never fades away. When we hear it, we are immediately reminded and refreshed.
Isaiah 40: The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
”Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.'
Seek Him. Never forget to run to Him. And when you share with the soul in front of you, love them as if they were you, for you once were lost but now are found.