What do you see? SHEEP!

Many people look at the people around them in their church and see:

often confused,

easily wandering,

mostly dirty, 

sometimes gullible,

always needing to be hand-fed,

SHEEP.

This is more like what I see…

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If all you see when you look at your brethren in Christ is their mistakes and missteps – then you are not looking at them as God looks at them; through the soul-cleansing blood of Christ.

From God’s perspective His children are clean, colorfully unique and on their way to heaven.  Not because of anything that we have done in order to earn heaven, but rather because of what God has done through His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ (see Acts 4:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10; 1 John 5:10-13).

The Apostle Paul, speaking to and about the PEOPLE in Thessalonica, said: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not YOU? For YOU are our glory and joy.” 1 Thess. 2:19 (emphasis added)

Are you kidding me, Paul?  People should be our glory and joy?

Yes.

The only thing we can take with us into eternity are other sinners – by grace alone, through faith alone (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

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A Poem for Difficult Days

3053Lord, Just today I read
That Paul and Silas were
Stripped and beaten
With wooden whips.
“Again and again the rods
Slashed across their bared backs”
But in their desolate dungeon
Their feet clamped in stocks
They prayed.
They sang.
They praised.
In this musty midnight of my life
Imprisoned in the dungeon of confusion
Bound by chains of anguish
Help me, please help me
To pray
To sing
To praise
Until the foundation shakes
Until the gates fling open
Until the chains fall off
Until I am free
To share the Good News
With other chain-bound prisoners.

—Ruth Harms Calkin,
Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget

I am a minister.

preacher-black-and-white-silhouetteMy challenge is big.  My vision is clear.  My desire is strong.  My influence is eternal.  My impact is critical.  My values are solid.  My faith is tough.  My mission is urgent.  My purpose is unmistakable.  My direction is forward.  My heart is genuine.  My strength is supernatural.  My reward is promised.

And my God is real.

I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged, or distracted.  Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back.  I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature or veneration.  I have no time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes or low vision.  I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender.

I am a minister.  That is what I do.

 Author Unknown

Got Issues?

no whiningIt just so happens that I was standing in the perfect position to overhear myself talking the other day.  What I heard was shocking!  I still can’t believe it.  It sounded just like, gulp, whining!  Whining?  Me?  Whining? Yes.  What’s worse I was whining about something from a situation so long ago, I’m certain few if any of the people involved would even remember it.  Incredibly I discovered myself indulging in our modern self-justifying rabble of: “You must excuse my current sour attitude.  My personal issues provide me with a much needed pass on responsibility.”

Is this not the attitude that so many people have today?  We find it easy to complain, easy to express self-pity, easy to self-justify.  So many people today see their life as full of loss, hurt, or betrayal that they honestly believe they have the right to whine.  Like some kind of spiritual entitlement that says, “You don’t get to hold me accountable because someone hurt me.”  It’s amazing how many people are held prisoner by the memory of those who may (or may not) have sinned against them.  What’s more incredible are how many people who sincerely believe that their issue(s) free them from fulfilling basic personal duties.

It should be no surprise that the antidote for our narcissistic sour-grapes is not personal therapy.  What is needed most is sound Theology.  Seriously, what makes more sense to you, focusing time and attention on you and your own “issues”?  Or concentrating on something, Someone, who is Himself far greater than you?  I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the single most theologically sound reasoning that I can offer.  Whether you have experienced mom-issues, dad-issues, sibling issues, financial issues, abuse issues, neglect issues, whatever your issues, past or even present.  The single most theologically sound response I can muster is this:  So what?  Get in line.

My lovely wife and I have seven wonderful little children.  We would not trade any of them for anything in the world.  I’ve seen firsthand that each one of our children, adorable as they are, was born just like every other human being on the planet.  They are selfish, mean, depraved little sinners.  My point is this: people do dumb things because people are sinners.  It’s in their very nature to do dumb.  Whenever we do dumb things, others are affected and others feel the impact of our sin.  In other words, you and I can cause others to have personal “issues” as well.  (If you are uncertain at this point, just ask your wife or your kids.)

What we need most is a good healthy dose of humility.  You are a sinner.  I am a sinner.  Was it not for the grace of God we would be utterly consumed with our own selfish desires and eagerly satisfying our fleshly lusts.  And every time we do that, other people feel the devastating effects.  Remember Achan?

Let’s be brutally honest here, it is time for Christian people to realize that there is no place for a victim mentality in the church.  Our circumstances, however hard they may be, do not compare to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and the wrath He bore there.  The cross of Christ forever stands at the center of all things crying out: “We are all guilty.”  “We are all bad people.”  “Get over yourself.”  “You can do nothing to improve you or others.”  But “God, in Christ, can!”

Remember friends, it is the preaching of the cross that is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  When your emotions need to be reminded of what you know is true – preach the Gospel to your own heart!  Don’t allow your heart to feed the Me-Monster.  Don’t listen to the wisdom of the world (which is foolishness).  Unleash the power of God in your own life.  Like David remind your emotions of what you know is true (Psalm 27).  Get over yourself and confess with Paul, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, (or issue, or church member, or whatever) shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 italics added).

(Originally published in a recent edition of IFCA NEWS)