Thursday, June 23, 2011

You are the Light

You are the Light

Matthew 5:14-16  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

 There is nothing so terrifying as darkness.  I don't know if you have had the opportunity to  be in complete darkness.  If you haven't, I would encourage you to try it.  It is simply one of the most profound events that you can experience.

Imagine yourself in a place  where the darkness surrounds you so utterly that it almost seems like the dark is a physical barrier to the real world.  It limits your vision to the point that it almost feels like it is a fabric.  You must feel around. Touch is muted.  Your hearing seems limited.  Smell is nonexistent. It is hard to breath because the air itself seems thick.  This was your life.  This is the life of  millions who have not had their eyes opened to Jesus.  Who do not believe in His Goodness, Grace and Mercy; Who have not experienced the joy of being loved for who they are; who do not have the Holy Spirit living in them producing light so they can see the Truth.

This is where you and I come in.  See, we have had the opportunity thanks to someone in our lives to see the experience God's forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  They were faithful to what Jesus says here in these familiar words in his Sermon of the Mount.  They did not hide the light within them and they illuminated the path of someone stumbling in the darkness of ignorance.  They set the captive free.

This week you have an opportunity to share the Good News with someone.  Don't tell me you don't...I know you do. :-)  There is not a day that goes the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus presents itself to me.  That could be in a personal contact, or it could be in helping someone or it could be in just writing to someone to tell them about what Jesus is doing in my life...the means are endless.  The focus is singular and the results are God given.  Can't go wrong with that can you?

I appreciate what you are doing in the community and what you will continue to do.  I appreciate the fact that you are willing to "put yourselves out there".  To get involved with helping people...shining your light.  But what is more important I think,  is that by doing these things, you are bringing the light of Jesus to those who are in darkness.  To those who have not seen kindness in so very long and who are thirsting for contact of another soul.

So keep on doing what you are doing.  That is what being a Christ-Follower means,  To risk, to go, to shine, to harvest.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Great among you

Great among you

Matthew 20:24-28

 And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers.  But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Once again Jesus is faced with a crisis that threatens the unity of his struggling band of disciples.  The sons of Zebedee and their mother have just asked Jesus to allow them to sit on the right and left of him when he comes into his kingdom.  As the the Scripture says, "the ten became indignant with the two brothers"

Jesus them proceeds to give the disciples a lesson on humility. I guess they had never heard John the Baptist when he proclaimed that, "He must increase, but I must decrease."  Jesus reminds them what it truly means to be a Christ-follower.

In our own lives, it has been my experience that most of us have character flaws which make it easier for us to go astray in certain ways. Examine your own life and see if this is true or not.  Generally speaking, I would say that tragic human pride is one of the ones at the top. Hubris is pride that leads to sadness and lost dreams.  Although on the surface, it fools you into thinking you have a right to be really don't.  And if you are a Christ-follower...doubly so. I know in my own life this is certainly true and I can give you example after example of when I tumbled over the edge and things ended up badly for me.  If I had only been more humble, this could have all been avoided.  Ask my wife, I am sure she can come up with more examples than I am willing to admit. :-)

The brothers who asked Jesus to sit on his right and left were prideful, but on closer inspection so were the other 10 disciples since they became indignant when they heard the request by the other two.  Hubris is like that,  It multiplies and we all need to be mindful when that is happening.  We need to curb that impulse we all have to want our 15 minutes of fame.

Jesus teaches us that greatness in the kingdom does not depend on you doing great things, but by doing small things and all things with great love and humility. By being a servant, you become a leader; By being humble, you become great;  By dying, you gain life and by giving selflessly, you gain fulfillment.  This is a lesson we all need to hear and take to heart.  This is a lesson we all need to practice everyday.  It is too easy for us to become caught up in what the world is saying and how the rules work here.  In the kingdom it is radically different.

With God, we already have status.  Not based on what we did, but what Jesus did. We do not need to prove ourselves worthy, we are given it to us by Grace.  His Mercy is all we need to achieve. With the world it is not so.  That is why Jesus emphasizes the need for a servant's heart when dealing with people.  The need extends to everyone you encounter, but particularly to the people of God.

Today as you go about doing the things you do, remember this.  Think on this.  Take it to heart and meditate on it.  It is one of the greatest keys we have to unlock the true potential that we have in God's world.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So you are a Disciple...

So You are a Disciple...

Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

In Mark's Gospel, this passage comes just after Jesus rebuked Peter.  The context of that rebuke and the fact that He called all the disciples and the crowd that was there at the time to His side tells us that this is a passage that we need to examine further. Many call ourselves 'Christians' but perhaps we do not understand exactly what that work means.  This passage helps us to flesh in the details a bit.

So what does being a Christ-Follower entail?  Jesus lays it on the line and He mentions 4 things that we need to do in order to be associated with Jesus and His ministry.

1) Deny yourself.  This is not popular in today's culture, is it?  Where we are enticed into going to spas, vacations that are extravagant, eating way too many things that are unhealthy for us, cajoled into watching infomercials on how we can become rich by working only 2 hours a day. We transfer such warped ideas to our own lives and that seeps into our idea of what God should be doing for us.  After all, aren't we worth it?

But Jesus tells us differently. "Deny...", he says. We view that as a suggestion rather than a command.  but that is not the context and that is not the language He uses.  It is much more than a suggestion.  It is a statement of hortatory fact.  He is telling us that we need to deny ourselves and put Him and our mission first. Just as He has done.  Just like Jesus did.  Philippians 2:6-8  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  How about you?  Can you say that? Have you emptied yourself and filled the remainder with Jesus?

2) Take up YOUR cross. This is not a one-time event.  The Greek construction here in Mark is a present durative which suggests that you continually pick up your cross.  The burden of the cross followed Jesus throughout His ministry. The time he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, Luke describe His praying so intense that he sweat blood.  He asked His Father then, if there was any way that this cup could be passed, that it would be, but in the end He had to say, 'Not my will, but Yours'   How about us? Are we making a decision every day to pick up  our cross? To do the work that Jesus has set before us? I pray that we all have the fortitude and resolve to do this.  It is an essential part of being a Christ-Follower.

3) Follow Me.  Not only are we to deny ourselves and pick up our cross, we are to follow Jesus.  When I was young, my Dad took me on a hike in the woods.  I followed him because I knew he knew which way to go. The path was not always easy nor pleasant...but I had the confidence in him because he told me he had walked this same path when he was young and he knew where he was at and he knew where we were going.  Somehow this made the trek just a little more tolerable...a little more enjoyable.  Jesus himself has trod this path we are on.  He has been there and He has done it.  Maybe that does not make it any easier for us, I don't know, but it does give me confidence that since He has done it, somehow I can do it too.  He does not say it will be the next statement He says shows.

4) If you want to save your life...lose it. Wow, if we were worried about the first 3 conditions, this should really make us ponder and take notice.  What Jesus? Lose my life in order to save it?  If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  In order for us to gain eternal life, we must pass from this one.  We must give ourselves fully to the Lord's work. We must die in order to be born again.  This is not the first time Jesus has used such words. Recall that he used the metaphor of a grain that needs to die in order to produce the seed that would become the next generation.  Here He says that if you are not willing to lose your very life, to give God all of yourself, you cannot call yourself a disciple.  You cannot have eternal life.

Now the good news in all this is Jesus has not left us alone.  he has promised to be with us every step of the way...a way that he himself has trod...a way which he has blazed for us.  We will not get lost as long as we follow Him...although from time to time we may get off the path...we will complete the tasks he has set before us. We will persevere because Jesus has done it.  He has called us and His Holy Spirit is in us.  We cannot fail as long as we cling to HIM.

Ponder this today.  Meditate on His Word. Give thanks to His mighty name!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Anyone who loves ME...

Anyone who loves ME...

John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

You woke up this morning by the Grace of God.  You did nothing to earn this day.  It is only fitting that you do the will of your Father in Heaven just as Jesus did.
Jesus taught many things during His time on earth.  This is one of the most important.  The context is just before His death.  Jesus is preparing His disciples for the shock by encouraging them and letting them know that there is HOPE.  There is PURPOSE and MEANING in this life...if you do what the LORD asks of you.
How soon we forget this simple truth! We take life for granted because we just know that the sun will rise tomorrow...we just know that life will go on.  When we are young, we do not even often have thoughts of our own mortality. What a shame.  Jesus can use us everyday and, as I often tell people when they are older, the fact that you are still here bears witness that Jesus still has things for you to do. Amen?
Every morning I wake up and go out side, I hear the birds singing.  I'd like to think that they are singing because they are praising God for another day. Another day to live and enjoy His creation..and for us, it is another opportunity to do the will of the LORD.
So it seems to me, the key to understanding the meaning of what Jesus said in John 24:23-24, is to know what Jesus taught, to know the will of Him who sent Jesus.  If Jesus taught what the Father told Him, then surely this is what we need to do as well.
In the coming days, we will explore exactly what Jesus taught and how we too, MUST do the will of the Father, by following the teachings of His Son!  Today, as you work, work for the LORD.  You will find that it is the most fulfilling, most meaningful you could ever do. 

Sunday Encouragement

Good morning people of God!

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

I just want to write a short note to encourage you.  

I have been praying for you for weeks.  Even though I did not know your names nor did I know exactly what to pray for.  Once I found out that you were going to be having this missions event, I started praying.  And not only for you specifically.

I have been walking a lot lately.  My territory is south of Hwy 95. East of Hwy 169 all the way to the River on the East border of Princeton.  Almost every night I walk these streets and as I walk, I pray. I pray that the LORD will open up hearts; I pray that the LORD will keep hearts faithful and I pray that the Holy Spirit will go out and convict those hearts that do not yet belong to HIM.  

This is where YOU come in!

This week, you get the opportunity to make those prayers a reality.  You have an opportunity to bolldy go before the throne of Grace proclaiming our Risen Lord working in YOUR life.  You get to show other people in our community what a transformation has been taking place.  This is YOUR opportunity.  It is not mine.  God has assigned YOU.  He has called YOU.  He has gifted YOU.

Now what are you going to do with this?  That is as always between you and God.  But let me tell you, what you decide right everyday from now on, WILL affect your life.  It not only will affect your life, but the lives of people you meet along the way.

I don't know about you, but I am EXCITED for what is about to happen.  I am excited that you have this opportunity and that I am praying that the LORD will guide you steps.  Booya!

So go out boldly.  Go out with confidence that the LORD is with you and that the path has already been made smooth for by prayer and supplication.  Go with GOD!

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shine Your Light

Matthew 5:14-15

   14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
 Last Thursday we had the opportunity to be in a parade.  In case you didn't know, it is Rum River Days here in beautiful Princeton, Minnesota (55371...if you use MapQuest).

Our church had a simple float that has colorful blocks that have most of our ministries named.  The task we had was to walk along side the float and hand out candy and some eye-catching pamphlets which had our motto, "Connecting people to God and to each other for the glory of God!"  It had our website and our email address, and phone number 763.389.5715, all listed as well as the name of our Pastor (Calvin Friend) and the address of the church.  How is that for a Pastor's name?  Friend!  Can't think of a better one that that!

I have been walking a lot lately for health reasons and have been praying as I've been walking for every household I come across.  Sometimes you see people on the much effort does it take to say a little silent prayer for them as you walk by?  And last Thursday was a perfect opportunity to pray for a LOT of people.  They were lining the streets all having a good time.  They had no idea I was idea that we all cared for them like we did.  It was a real blessing to be part of that.

So we walked alongside the float, handing out our candy and pamphlets and praying...trying to make connections with people.  Trying to shine our light so people knew who we were and that we weren't so bad a folk.  I think people got the idea.  I think they appreciated us.

Why deny yourself such a blessing?  Jesus tells us to shine our light!  To be a light and to be salt.  It does no good for the Kingdom if you do not engage the world and the people in the world.  None at all.  And what effort does it take?  Very little.

The next time you have an opportunity to shine your light or to be reflect the love of Jesus in a broken world, I hope you would.  These opportunities are all around us and we seldom take Jesus up on the challenge.  It's about time we did.



Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Day!

“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV

I always get up early in the morning. During this time of year, the birds actually start praising God at 1:30 AM. It is only fitting that we do the same, don't you think? Don't we have even more things to be thankful about?

God does not only take care of our physical needs, but he has also take care of our most important need. The need for salvation; the need to be reconciled to Him. He has done this for us through the sacrifice of His son JESUS!

Thank you LORD!

Blessings All!