Thursday, December 28, 2006

What Sports Does God Love to Watch?

"He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.
" --
Psalm 147:10-11 (NKJV)

What sports does God watch for enjoyment?

Transposing this passage to our modern cultural context, it might read something like, “God does not enjoy watching Nascar racing. Nor does he get a kick out of the Super Bowl. The Lord loves to watch those who know Him and who draw their strength from Him to do exploits.”

Yes, God seems to be a sports fan after all. When we are weak enough to let Him be strong and thus achieve impossible goals, He has a front-row seat and His cheers make all the effort worthwhile.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Mustard" to Action

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea," and it will obey you.'" -- Luke 17:5-6 (NIV)

The Mustard Seed. Jesus used it as an object lesson at least three times in recorded Scripture. The first is a parable, telling of the man who took that tiny seed and planted it in his field, so it grew and became a sturdy tree.

Twice He spoke of it clearly to His disciples as an analogy to faith. In the above passage, as they were requesting more faith, Jesus responded that their mustard seed faith, if put to use, could uproot a mulberry tree. On another occasion, when they were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus scolded them for lacking faith because, as He said, if they used their mustard seed of faith, they could move an entire mountain.

Jesus has woven this common thread about the mustard seed into a tapestry of truth. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 2, God has dealt to each of us a measure of faith, and the implication is that, although we may not all have the same amount, we definitely have some.

But, the hinge point of the matter is what we do with that faith. “Show me your faith by your works, else it is dead faith,” James declares. Back to the mustard seed, we see the farmer in the parable take his seed and plant it so it grows. We see Jesus encouraging the disciples not to bemoan the smallness of their faith, but to put it to use felling the forests of doubt. And later, he reproves them for still not learning to put their faith to use moving the mountains of the enemy.

Why do God’s people shrink from adversity and box at shadows when, by now, we should be putting to flight the armies of the alien? God has an investment in his children, and He expects a handsome return. As with all things in His universe that speak of potential, He begins with a seed. A mustard seed. If we will but plant that seed–set its potential in action, no matter how initially small–then it will grow in strength and be well rewarded.

Search the Scriptures, and find this principle restated in a dozen ways.

Proverbs 4:18

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day." Start down the path, one step at a time.

Matthew 25:23

"His lord said to him, Well, good and faithful bondman, thou wast faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things." Plant the mustard seed, He will see to the tree.

Matthew 24:46-47

"Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods." Act now, for He is watching and wanting to reward our faith.

Revelation 3:8

"I know your deeds…I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." When the going gets tough, Jesus notices our steadfastness.

It is often said that heroism is not the absence of fear, but the courage to act in spite of that fear. Hebrews chapter 11, Faith’s Hall of Fame, speaks of God’s heroes down through the ages, while chapter 12 tells us that these same heroes are a living “cloud of witnesses” watching to see what we will do, how we will serve the purposes of God in our generation!

These were men and women of like passion as ourselves; that is, they ate their soup one spoonful at a time just as we do. They had the same mustard seed of faith that we do; in fact most of them were handicapped in that they did not have the Holy Spirit anointing that’s available to us.

So what was different about these heroes? What made them achieve where others failed? Hebrews 11 tells us that their “weakness was turned to strength” when they acted. As each hero of faith is introduced, we see a mere human being. Then we see what a great journey of faith that human being realized by taking one step at a time—starting with the first step.

There is a first step ahead of us today.

What is it?

Shall we dare to take it?

Friday, December 1, 2006

Belshazzar's Ways

"But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways." -- Daniel 5:23

As the curtain opens on Daniel 5, we find a merry royal party in progress. But soon a mysterious hand appears and engraves four words on the wall, striking terror into the heart of the emperor-king and all his nobles. End of party. In fact, it was the end of the empire as they knew it, and of the king's life as well.

What was the divine indictment against Belshazzar, ruler of the known world? He had not humbled himself as his father had, and had not honored the God "Who held his life and all his ways."

Good story, but what does it have to do with us modern-day Christians serving God in a Western world, in the twenty-first century? Possibly everything!

Belshazzar's epitaph rings through time, and calls us to awake from our complacent, business-as-usual lives, to the alarm of God's message: "Honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways."

While enjoying our comfortable (if utterly useless) modern lifestyles, we often console--and even convince--ourselves that we are worth a lot to the Master, for we would surely lay down our lives for Him if that should ever be necessary.

Yes, God does hold our lives in His hands. We belong to Him, so it is only natural that he might demand of us the ultimate sacrifice someday, if that should be in the interest of His kingdom. 

But what about our ways?

Ways?? What mystery does the Scripture bespeak? In addition to owning our lives, God is also Lord of our ways! We may not face death today at the hand of wild beasts, or roasted at the stake, but we do face more subtle decisions that are equally weighty. Spending Saturday mowing a lawn for the neighbor who just got out of the hospital. Working that extra half hour to make up for the long lunchtime that just happened. Keeping silent when falsely accused by a "friend".

If Jesus is Lord, then He must be Lord, not only of the last breath we take, but of every day, every hour, every decision we make moment by moment--in thought, word, and deed. Honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways.

In Baroness Orczy's masterpiece The Scarlet Pimpernel, there is one scene where Sir Andrew is telling Lady Marguerite, "There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel if he is in danger!" Her reply is, "There is no need for lives just now, my friend...", as she goes on to describe more practical actions that these devoted men can take to assist with the matter at hand.

At the Last Supper, Peter made a similar proclamation: "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!" But Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

Prison and death? Very romantic, yes. Maybe someday.

How about acknowledging Jesus in everyday situations?

"Who, Him? I don't know Him. I'm not one of those weird religious types."

And in our day...

How about that extra little tax deduction that you're pretty sure Uncle Sam wouldn't approve of? "Come on! I'll never get audited, so what does it really matter?"

How about that banner ad that just appeared on the screen? "Switch pages? Now, wait a minute! She does have clothes on...well, not much...but at least she has her minimal underwear on!"

And...umm...was it really her underwear you were checking out??...Yeah, right! Now, what would Jesus do?

"But you...did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways."

Why does God not move in twenty-first-century America as he did in ages past? Why do we not experience the showers of blessing that were evident during the great awakenings? Perhaps we are too busy enjoying wallowing in the everyday muck and reek of this world, craving the slops that the other pigs are eating.

"NO NEED FOR LIVES JUST NOW", Jesus is saying, "give Me your WAYS!"

In the words of Australian songwriter Reuben Morgan...
Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I'm awake

Lord, have Your way in me!

Here is the key to true revival. What divine power the Church would brandish against the enemy if only Jesus were Lord of our ways!