July 28, 2021

My Statement of Faith

 


I confess my faith in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I confess that the Lord is God, the Lord alone. I love the Lord, my God, with all my body, soul, mind and spirit. I confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, He died on the cross for my sins and the sins of the whole world, He was buried, and He arose from the dead on the third day. 

I testify to the personal reality of being buried with Christ by baptism into His death, so that as He arose from the dead to the glory of the Father. I also might walk in newness of life. I personally experience the fulfillment of Christ's promise, that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends in Jesus' name, is teaching His church everything and reminding them of all He has said to them. I have been filled with the Spirit, and preach and teach His work in the church. 

I believe the church of God is to lead a life worthy of its calling, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with  one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I firmly believe that there is one body and one Spirit, to which I, as a part of God's church, have been called - to the one hope of the church's calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all - and that each member of God's church is given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. I agree that all gifts of the Spirit are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until all in God's church come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son Of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of Christ. 

I experience the divine blessing of the God of peace Himself, who has sanctified me entirely, that my sprit and soul and body may be kept sound and blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. With awareness of the divine call I understand my own ministry in the light of our Lord's ministry, who said through the ancient prophet that the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release of the captives and recovery of sight to the bland, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 

I am committed to the gospel of the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. I boldly accept my part of the church's worldwide mission to make disciples of all nations of people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commands us to do. I humbly seek to be a part of the answer to Lord's prayer that all in His church may be one, that as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, they may also be in them so the world may believe the Father sent Jesus. I hope and pray for the time with the church will live out the reality it has in Christ that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, and all are one in Christ Jesus.

I anticipate with great joy that time when the Lord Himself, with a cry of command and with the archangels' call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then all His church will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so forever be with the Lord. 

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Bible References: Dt 6:4-5; Mt 28:19-20; Lk 4:18-19; Jn 14:26; 17:21; Rom 6:4; 14:17; 1 Cor 12:3; 15:3-4; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:1-3, 4-7, 12-13; 5:18; 1 Thess 4:16-17; 5:23 

January 18, 2021

Suffering and the Way of the Cross

 Suffering and the Way of the Cross*

Why are there so many who fear to take up the cross, which leads to the heavenly kingdom? For those in Christ who hear the word of the Cross and follow it, there is health, life, protection from enemies, heavenly sweetness, strength of mind, joy of spirit, the height of virtue, and perfection of holiness. In fact, there is no health of one's soul, no hope of eternal life, accept in the Cross of Christ. So, why not deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus? He gave everything for us. He went before us, bearing His cross, and died for us upon the cross, that we might also bear our cross and willingly be crucified with Him upon it. For if we are dead with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we partake of His suffering in this world, we shall also partake of His eternal glory in heaven. 

Everything depends upon the cross and dying to ourselves. There's no other way to life and true inward peace, except daily dying to ourselves and taking up our cross. We can go where we want, seek whatever we want, and we shall find no higher way above, nor safer way below, than the way of the Cross. If we order our lives according to our own will and judgment, we shall always find suffering, either willingly or unwillingly. So shall we always find our cross, feeling either the pain of body or the tribulation of spirit within our soul.

Sometimes we will feel forsaken by God. Sometimes we will be tried by our neighbor. Sometimes we will even be wearisome to ourselves. Still we can't be delivered or eased by any remedy of consolation, but must bear it as long as God wills. For God will have us learn to suffer without consolation and submit ourselves fully to our suffering, so we'll be made more humble. No one understands completely the passion of Christ and His suffering on the way to the Cross. But as we bear our cross, we can begin to know in our hearts something of His suffering for us. The cross is always ready and waits everywhere for us. We cannot flee from it. Wherever we hurry to get away and wherever we end up, we always take ourselves with us. Whether we turn above, turn below, turn without or turn within, we shall find the cross. Our need is for patience in every situation, if we will have inward peace and finally gain the everlasting crown. 

If we willingly bear our cross, it will bear us and will bring us to the end of this life's suffering with Jesus. If we bear it unwillingly, we make a burden for ourselves and greatly increase the load, yet we must bear it still. If we cast away our cross, we shall find another and maybe a heavier one. Do we think we can escape what no one has ever been able to avoid? Which of the saints of God in this world lived without the cross and much tribulation? Not even Jesus, our Lord, lived one hour on this earth without the anguish of His Passion before Him. It behooved Him, He said, to suffer and die on the Cross, rise from the dead, and so enter into His glory. (Luke 24:46) So, why do we seek another way than this royal way, the way of the Holy Cross?

All of Jesus' life was a cross and martyrdom. And yet do we seek rest and joy for ourselves? We are wrong, very wrong, if we seek anything but to suffer tribulations. For this earthly life is full of miseries and crosses everywhere. The more we advance in our spiritual lives, the heavier will be our crosses. For as our love of God increases, so our sorrows increase. Yet we're not without consolation. We find abundant fruit growing within us by bearing our cross. When we willingly submit to it, every burden of tribulation is turned into an assurance of divine comfort. The more our bodies are wasting away by afflictions, the more our spirits are strengthened by inward grace. This is not by our virtues, but only by the grace of God. It is Jesus only who gives us great power and energy through conforming our lives to the Cross of Christ. 

It's not in our nature to bear the cross, to love the cross, to keep our bodies in subjection, to flee many honors, to bear reproaches meekly, to despise self and desire to be despised, to bear all adversities and losses, and to desire no prosperity in this world. If we only look to ourselves, we will not be able to do any of these things. But if we trust wholly in the Lord, heavenly endurance shall be given us. The world and the flesh shall be subject to our command. Yes, we shall not even fear the devil, if we are armed with faith and signed with the Cross of Christ. 

We must set ourselves, then, like good and faithful servants of Christ, to bravely bear the cross of our Lord, who out of love was crucified for us. Let's prepare ourselves for the bearing of many adversities and troubles in this wretched life, for there is no means of escaping from tribulation and sorrow, except to patiently bear the cross. If we desire to follow Jesus as His disciples, then we must obediently and lovingly drink our Lord's cup of suffering. Leave consolations to God. He will do whatever seems best to Him. For the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory which shall be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

When we've come to accept our tribulations as pleasant for Christ's sake, it will be well with our souls. For we will have found paradise on earth. So long as it's hard for us to accept our sufferings, so long as we tend only to escape them, it will not be well with us and tribulations will follow us everywhere. But if we become willing to suffer and die for Christ, it will go better with us and we shall find peace. Even if we should be caught up with Paul into the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2), we will not be on that account safe from suffering evil. Jesus said of Paul, "I will show him what great things he must suffer for My Name's sake. (Acts 9:16) It remains, therefore, for us to suffer, if we love Jesus and continually serve Him.

In summary, we ought to lead a life of dying to ourselves. The more we die to ourselves, the more we live towards God. We cannot understand heavenly things without submitting ourselves to bearing our adversities for Christ.  There is nothing more acceptable to God, nor more healthful for us in this world, than to willingly suffering for Christ. Our worthiness as servants of Christ, and our growth in God's grace, aren't found in delights and consolations, but rather in bearing many troubles and adversities.  

If, indeed, there had been anything better and more profitable to our overall health than to suffer, Christ would surely have shown it by His word and example. For the disciples who followed Him during His earthly life, and all who desire to follow Him now, He plainly exhorts to deny themselves and bear their cross, saying, "If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23) 

Now that we've thought about these things, this is the conclusion of the whole matter: We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22) 

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*My comments are a summary of Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, "Of the Royal Way of the Holy Cross" (Book 2, Number 12)

April 6, 2020

Choosing to See Through The Pandemic Pandemonium


As I write this, the world is caught up in the coronavirus pandemic. What to say about it is anybody's question and nobody's answer. So many words, mostly coming out of anxious times of government-mandated social isolation and a reported major spreading of the virus. "The suffering is great!" "There is no end in sight!" And on ... and on! Communications in social media and news reports all say, "It is very hard to ....." There are no words to state what may be known, because what is known is not really known at all. Government, economy, health systems, every thing in this world that people trust is at some level of ineptitude. Everyone, and all things, are caught up in the pandemic. What's left is a longing for a freedom that no one knows how to describe.

This pandemic has brought upon us such a discouraging view of the world we're living in now. It's a view that dominates the news and social media, a picture of all that's wrong with life as we know it. It's dark and depressing! It's how life appears, it turns out, when God is removed from the picture. It's what happens when we choose to live in the shadows of our own "wisdom" and by the selfishness of our own shortsighted agendas. Without God, we deny any ultimate reality. We're left to wallow in our own limited and perverted realities. It's such a discouraging view of life!  And whether we admit it or not, we're all caught up in it to one degree or another.

This destressing picture of pandemic life revolves around a simple plot. We want to be free, but there seems to be no such thing as true freedom. It's really an inescapable paradox. God offers refuge from the burden of pandemic realities by asking us to share His burden. It turns out that true freedom is not the absence of the pandemic, but rather the acceptance of its limitations.  We tend to get this backwards. We work to get all we can out of the situation at hand when, in fact, we are made to give all we can in lieu of it. We consume constantly, when sacrifice is the path to true joy. We find it hard to believe that we're most free when we are yielded to God and share His suffering in this troubled pandemic world. One thing is sure! Without God, things finally have no meaning and nothing can remove the fear and anxieties in our lives. We find the answer to being caught in this pandemic when we end our frantic pursuit of happiness and security and, instead, seek God with all our hearts.

So, what are we to do during these days and months of being caught in the pandemic and quarantined or "sheltered in place?"  We can choose anxiety and fear, or we can live for the moment, enjoy what little we can, and quit looking blankly at the distressing news reports of our "terrible situation." What we have to do is come to terms with life as it really is - scary, fragile, frustrating, and yet yielding flickers of hope. Being alive during the pandemic and believing in God requires being caught in paradox. The two realities are side-by-side, sometimes colliding and sometimes turning away from each other. On the one hand, the world is a mess! The "invisible enemy" is everywhere and nowhere. It seems like there will be no end to it. On the other hand, there's a mystery to the working of God in the world, one, like the virus, we cannot easily see. Unlike the virus, God rules absolutely. But He grants us the freedom to choose, which introduces the possibility of bad choices bringing evil into the picture. Keeping balance in this paradox is the challenge for these trying days.

What we hopefully will learn, through all of this, is that any life we will ever have is a gift. God's favor cannot be earned, but it's possible to receive it. The receiving is called grace. Joy can exist with distress. The gift is being able to look at this pandemic world, see it all, deny nothing, and still look up, trust, and smile with a vibrant hope in God. We're much more than the news of the day. We're made to share in God's life and work, and at the end of our days to rest in God's goodness and grace. Knowing this takes faith, patience and eyes to see through the pandemonium of the pandemic. As we do, we finally come to see that we're not caught in it all, but free of it through faith in the wonderful presence of God.

December 8, 2019

What's Next, Papa?



This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, "What's next, Papa?" (Romans 8:15, MSG)

I was out last week celebrating my daughter-in-law's birthday. She had worked all day and needed a break, especially from cooking for the children. So, my wife and I met her and our three grandchildren at a restaurant. There's always much expectancy while waiting on a meal of Mexican food, getting ready to sit together and eat with those you love.  

While waiting for a table to seat the six of us, five-year-old Mason, came to sit by me. After we greeted and hugged, I began to point out the things to him which were around us in the waiting area - like the flower etched into the wooden bench we were sitting on and it's lack of roots. I then pointed out a potted plant nearby and mentioned that it had roots. Mason responded, "Or it couldn't grow."  I shared how Jesus' love is "planted" into our hearts to make us grow. I then asked what he wanted for Christmas. He showed me how he would operate a WE Game that he was hoping to get. I always have as much to learn from my grandchildren as they do from me.

We finally got seated, ordered and ate our meals. It was such a blessing to spend time with my family. The table conversation was generally about the issues of the day and how things were going at work and school. After the dinner was complete and the bill paid, we got up to leave. As I was putting on my coat, I overheard Mason say to his mom, "I want to go home with grandpa." My heart melted right then and there. It was like God tapping on the shoulder to get my attention. Mason's words rang in my ears the glad joy of little children and their simple faith. I hugged him and said, "We'll be getting together soon at Christmas." His eyes gleamed at the prospect of that day. So did mine!

Today I have been especially happy in the Lord. My love relationship with my heavenly Father is growing and showing. My roots are deep in God's love. The hard times I've been going through lately, in my prayerful search to better understand and accept the importance of the cross of Christ in my life, are beginning to meld into joyful realities. It is all about the resurrection life made possible by Jesus' death on the cross, new life growing up from the roots of God's love in my heart. It's adventurous and expectant! It's a childlike questing for more of Jesus, like my grandson, Mason, asking "What's next, Papa?" 

The best part is knowing that there is more to come, that my heavenly Father has such wonderful things ahead for me. He's really looking forward to my time with Him. He promises He's going to give me the most incredible, unbelievable inheritance, all coming by His grace through my faith in Jesus. And even better - I get to share it with Mason!




November 17, 2019

When the Dark Days Come




Dark days are hard to bear, but I'm learning that they're an important part of the cross-bearing life. The times of testing continue to come. Just when everything seems on the up-and-up and almost as a surprise, the bottom to falls out and whatever understandings I had experienced of God's goodness and grace go with it. My ego is purged and my heart purified. And it hurts! I'm learning that this is the interior life of a disciple. It is, for me, a hidden and invisible experience. It's the Spirit of Christ calling me from the shallows to the deep. 

I'm thankful the dark days don't happen very often. There have been many who have gone down the dark path before me. I'm not alone!  It's also reassuring to learn that growth-in-faith is not far away. The clouds may cover in darkness, but the sun shines through. Praise God! His mercy never fails and His steadfast love endures forever. 

God is working in the darkness. If I surrender in trust to this truth, I will find Jesus in a new way. It marks the beginning of a deeper life of faith, where joy and peace abound even in the darkness - the deeper life of faith that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The new way of finding Jesus is realizing that God is in the darkness. It is there I go to meet Him. It is there I pray in peace, silent and attentive to Him whose love knows no shadow of change. It is there I celebrate the darkness in the quiet certainty of my maturing faith. 

What happens to me in the dark day is simple. God strips me of my current understandings of His grace, so He can enter more fully into my heart. Maturing faith in Christ comes when I allow God the freedom to work His sovereign will within me, neither letting go of my attained life of prayer in frustration nor giving in to the distractions of the world. Prayer, humility, detachment and faith are beautiful graces, but I can only have them through the purging of God's grace. It's in this purifying process that I'm prepared to more fully receive God's gifts. 

I know, but often forget that the humility of Jesus is most clearly seen in His forgiveness and acceptance of others - even His enemies. In contrast, continuing resentments show that the cross-bearing life is not fully mine yet. The surest sign of union with Christ is my forgiveness and acceptance of others. Without this action on my part the dark day moves into the dark night, resulting in my troubled heart. Forgiveness is the key to everything.* Through my forgiveness the mind of Christ is formed within me and the darkness is prevented from becoming an ego trip. Forgiveness guards me from feeling so spiritually advanced that I look down on my struggling brothers and sisters. It's in humble forgiveness that we have the mind of Christ. 

The final repudiation of the ego is the surrender of our need for vindication, the handing over of the kingdom of self to the Father, and the forgiving in our heart of others. When we do this faithfully, we're not being afraid of the dark, but celebrating the light that shines though it and give us all life in Christ.
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* From The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

July 30, 2019

Thinking About the Cross-Bearing Life




Jesus says that to be His disciple, we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. That means we accept our own wounds and limitations as being nailed to the cross of Christ and fully surrendered to Him. Jesus completely takes on Himself all our pain and suffering. So, we completely identify our lives with Jesus - what He stands for and what He wants to accomplish through us. Our human frailties, which have caused us many painful experiences, we now fully accept and surrender to Christ. He has experienced our pain and suffering and made it His pain and suffering. Our lives are made fully complete through faith in Jesus - and in Him alone. 

In identifying with the crucified Christ, we enter into the work that He finished on the cross for us - His taking upon Himself all our sins and transgressions. It was all included in His cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsakened me?" (Mt 27:46) This was the moment of our redemption. His cry upon the Cross was our cry of alienation from God. And now, by completely surrendering to Him, our cry is taken up into His cry and transformed by His resurrection. Rather than condemning ourselves for our weaknesses and making self-conscious efforts to try to be better, we surrender ourselves completely to the crucified Christ who shed His blood on the cross for us. There is no way of healing from our pain and suffering except through the love of Jesus that forgives seventy times seven and keeps no score of wrongdoings. 

The unmistakable sign of Christian disciples who have actually experienced the forgiveness of Jesus is the Spirit-given capacity to forgive their enemies. Jesus says, "Love your enemies and do good, then you will have great reward and be a child of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and to the selfish." (Lk 6:35) Jesus, the crucified Christ, is not only an example to the people of God. He is the living power and wisdom of God who empowers them to reach out hands of healing to those who have hurt them. As we more clearly hear Him pray for His murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34), He will turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. At the foot of the cross of Jesus we are all forgiven enemies of God, who are empowered by His love to extend forgiveness to others. 

In the agony of the cross Jesus said: "I know every moment of the sin, selfishness, dishonesty and degraded love that has disfigured your life. Yet I do not judge you unworthy of compassion, forgiveness and salvation. Now be like that with others. Judge no one." It's only when we claim with heartfelt conviction the love of the crucified Christ and risen Lord, that we can overcome all fear of judgement. As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, as if we are what we have, as if we are what other people think of us, we will remain filled with judgments, evaluations and condemnations. We will continue to feel the need to "put people in their place." To the extent that we embrace the truth that our core identity is not rooted in our successes nor our popularity but in the passionate, pursuing, "reckless" love of God embodied in His crucified Son - to that degree we let go of our need to judge others. We become free from the need to judge others by claiming for ourselves this foundational truth: "I am a child of God." We are loved by our heavenly Father. This is what Jesus means when He says, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged." (Mt 7:1) John says it this way, "In love there is no room for fear." (1 Jn 4:18)

The only true wisdom we have is our own experience of the love of the crucified Christ. It's our awareness that nothing - not the negative judgments of others, not our wrongful perception of ourselves, not our scandalous past, nor our fear, guilt, and self-loathing, not even death - can separate us from the love God made visible to us on the cross of Calvary. This awareness is where our true wisdom resides. There is no substitute for the gospel. It is the power and wisdom of the crucified Christ. When we are dying, we shouldn't want some trendy words given by someone for our comfort. Instead, we should want a priestly minister of God. We should want one who has struggled with his or her faith and still clings to Jesus. We should want somebody who has looked long and lovingly at the crucified Christ and experienced the healing only found in our risen Savior and Lord. 

It's the suffering Christ who "loved us and gave Himself up for us" (Eph 5:2) on the cross. The love of Jesus Christ on the cross is the divine reality. Our true lives are utterly incomprehensible except in terms of Jesus' love. Would we have remained with Mary Magdalene and John at the foot of the Cross as Jesus was murdered in the most brutal and dehumanizing way? And if we would've spoken to Mary and John of Christian life, ministry, prayer or discipleship, we would've surely spoken of Jesus nailed to the cross and now risen in glory - or not at all. We wouldn't have burdened them with our theological insights, or bored them with our ministerial successes or our gifts or anything else. We would be certain that they would've had only one question for us: Do you know Jesus? 

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* As a faithful Protestant, I'm coming to terms with Brennan Manning's The Signature of Jesus. I believe that many of Jesus' disciples don't have a clear understanding of the crucified Christ. I'm  thankful for clarifications made by Robin Riggs in The Lifestyle of the Cross and Rankin Wilbourne in The Cross Before Me.

December 1, 2018

Concentrating on the Cross of Christ




Oswald Chambers writes about knowing the "energy of God." He says that to know this energy we have to "brood on the tragedy of God" - the tragedy of Calvary and the meaning of Redemption.*  Instead, we choose to focus our preaching and witnessing interests on the spiritual trappings of the faith. How to live the Christian life is important, but it's not what is central to our faith. The central focus of our faith is the Cross of Jesus. When we concentrate on the results of our faith in Jesus' Cross, we lose the energy of God in our lives - the resurrection life of Jesus. We lose the power of God when we don't concentrate on the Cross. Chambers goes on to say that if we pay attention to the objective Source, the Cross of the crucified Christ, then the subjective results of our faith in Jesus' Cross will be realized in our daily lives. 

The effects of the Cross are salvation, sanctification, healing, wholeness of life, etc. But we are not to focus on any of these. These are not where the energy of our faith comes from. We are to focus upon and witness to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5) The power of God's love is only released in our lives by focusing on the Cross. When we proclaim the love of God, revealed most clearly by His death upon the Cross, the Holy Spirit will bring His desired results.  We're to concentrate our preaching/teaching on the Cross of Christ. And those who hear, though they may appear to not be paying any attention, will never be the same again. The Spirit of God will do His work in them, drawing them closer to God through the redemptive work of Christ crucified. 

If we talk our own talk, it's of no more importance to those who hear us than their talk is to us.  But if we talk the truth of God - the Cross of Jesus - the results will be God's will. We have to concentrate on the great point of spiritual energy - the Cross. If we keep in contact with that center, where all the power lies, the energy of God will be let loose for all to see and hear. Then God will save and transform lives, and all the effects of saving faith in Jesus will be evident - but only through Christ and Him crucified. 

In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings the concentration is often put not on the Cross of Christ, but on the effects of believing in the crucified Christ. Such churches become weak and feeble. The main reason for the feebleness is lack of focus upon the source of spiritual energy - the tragedy of God upon the Cross. The biblical focus is on the Cross of Christ and the redemptive power of God's love in Christ crucified. 

Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? 
Would He devote that sacred head For such a one as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut His glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature's sin.

But drops of grief can never repay The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away, 'Tis all that I can do!

At the Cross, at the Cross, Where I first saw the light, 
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight, 
And now I am happy all the day!+

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* In his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest, "The Concentration of Spiritual Energy"
+ Hymn by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), "At the Cross"

October 6, 2018

Being Made New in God's Image





A main goal in life is being made new in God's image. The way to become the man God has created me to be is to be made new in His image. This happens by recognizing and celebrating God's holiness, which leads me to yearn for His holiness reflected in my life. It's a life-long realization and pursuit. And though it is the greatest of all privileges to become the man God wants me to be, it's pursuit is fraught with avoidance and excuse.

The whole idea of a holy life seems so unreal. It seems like an outdated religious ideal, made for those who have dreams of an impossible perfection or who want to appear better than they really are. We've all seen the disgraced ministers and priests in the news. It seems sometimes that we're just asking for trouble when we claim to be like Jesus! Besides, no one wants to be a marginalized prude. And on and on goes the reasons for resisting holiness. But the call of the Lord to holiness also goes on and on, as well. 

Jesus calls us to resist the usual reasons and questions we have about holiness and make up our minds to reverence and live in awe of God's holy name. In the prayer He taught us, Jesus says, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'" To hallow God's name goes beyond being respectful or showing reference for it. Hallowing God's name means we are transformed as we do it. It means we are being made new in God's image. In the process of hallowing His name, we become hallowed by the transforming grace of God. Sinful resistance, of course, is there, and it is strong at times. But God's grace is stronger!

I've been reading and lately from Dr. Barry L. Callen's book, The Prayer of Holiness - Hungry People. In it Dr. Callen says that sin is "insisting on doing my things my way for my own pleasure by myself." (p. 46)  That pretty well sums it up. Living in sin defies God and leads to self destruction. It's the opposite of what God intends for me. I am created by God to live in loving relationship with Him, with my spouse and with others. If I focus on myself and my pleasure, instead of looking to Jesus and seeking God's will for my life, then I destroy the hope of having a future worth living. It's as simple as that! 

Life isn't about me; it's about God's only Son, Jesus Christ. It's about the life He lived, the death He died on the cross, and the hope He gave us through His resurrection. Jesus is the One who sits at the right hand of the Father and comes to live with us, and in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is with us right where we are. I drop to my knees in amazement and adoration of the holy One, then rise to my feet fully embraced by that same One who has chosen to walk with me through life. I am being made new in God's image. Hallelujah! Amen!




June 18, 2018

A Pardoning God



I know God as a pardoning God. My God never let's me go. He waits for me when I wander from His love. He's like a Father waiting for His son to return to Him. (Luke 15) Wherever I wander, sometimes far and other times not so far, He's there. He is there beckoning me to come home to Him. (Psalm 139) God is there. He's there for me. He holds my spirit close to His heart. His love will never let me go. He waits for me.

I constantly pray: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy Upon Me, A Sinner." For I have sinned "against heaven and You." I don't have to sin, now, but I still make errors in judgment and mistakes in my choices. I still live in sinful flesh. So, I need a forgiving heavenly Father, whose love will not let me go and who is waiting for me - no matter what trouble I get into by my sometimes wandering ways.

My God is a pardoning God.

May 26, 2018

God Tests Us Through Difficult Decisions


Of all the decisions I've made through out the years, and many of them have been life-changing, the one to surrender to God's will for ministry has been the most difficult. I've walked that way before. I've struggled with the choices before me. I've agonized in prayer. I've reviewed all the options facing me a thousand times. And it always comes down to taking that simple step of faith, the one God has given me to at the time. God tests us! Never easy, it's all about allowing Jesus to work His will out in my life. It's all about saying "Yes" to the Lord, then acting on our faith.

About a year ago I came back to the Church of God (Anderson), the "prodigal son" coming home (from the United Methodist Church) to his roots in God's church. Such a blessing it was for me to be welcomed back into the fellowship, completely forgiven and joyfully recognized by my brothers and sisters in the faith. I've been so blessed during this time to have a pastoral visitation and discipleship teaching ministry almost immediately supplied by my home church (Shartel Church of God, Oklahoma City), as if I had never left in the first place. I am happy in the ministries I have now. 

But there remained a question in my mind - the possibility of serving another church. Having had various vocational ministries in the Church of God (Home Missionary, Senior Pastor, U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain), and still having some strength and presence of mind in this 70-year-old body to offer the Lord and His church, I had been thinking about another stint as a Senior Pastor or Interim Pastor. I make all my ministry decisions with my wife, Barbara. She has always been a main-stay in my ministry decisions. Without her, I simply wouldn't have made it at all in any ministry. So, we were thinking about it.

The decision to act on faith is what Jesus has always wanted from me. The Gospels are full of instances when Jesus marveled at the faith of those who came to Him. Time and again Jesus asked His disciples, "Where is your faith?" In every situation, and through out Jesus' life on earth, His question for us is always "And when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" My answer is still,"Yes Lord, Yes!" Here I am! I will go wherever You want me to go and do whatever You want me to do. The further test, though, is whether or not we will actually do His will.

A time of prayer ensued after Barbara and I decided to go. Then, just as we were ready to call the realtor and put our house up for sale - to actually do what the Lord was calling us to do - He opened our mind to remember father Abraham and Isaac. God tested Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice. He bound his son, placed him on the altar, and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord stopped him from killing the boy and said, "Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son from me." (Genesis 22)

Barbara and I looked at each other and realized together that what the Lord has always wanted from us is still what He wants today. More than anything, God wants to know that we "fear" Him and will hold nothing back from following His will for our lives. That's the most difficult decision. The test, though, is whether we're willing to act on the decision. It's not until God knows that you will act, that He will give you His blessing. And I am thankful to say today that Barbara and I are blessed!