Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sharing the Love of Christ in my Dreams

Oh how I love it when I have God-glorifying dreams, and especially when I wake up right afterwards and end up remembering all the details!

Here's what I dreamed early this morning: I was walking along a sidewalk and stopped to talk to a friend. There were some rough looking kids right next to us and one of them walked up and asked, "Can I borrow your pocket knife," and simultaneously proceeded to take it off of my shirt. Why I had a clip on pocket knife on my shirt, I'll never know!

As I was keeping a close eye on this young man to ensure that he wouldn't strike out against me or steal my knife, I noticed he had somehow removed my keys from my belt loop without me feeling it. So I said, "Hey, man, give me my keys back," and went ahead and grabbed them in case he wasn't in the mood to surrender them. As soon as I secured my keys it occurred to me that he might have grabbed my wallet, too, so I felt my pocket and sure enough it was missing. We both laughed a little, perhaps for different reasons, and then I got my wallet back.

Then it hit me: I looked him in the eyes and said, "You forgot the most important pocket," and I reached back and grabbed my little pocket Bible out of my rear left pocket--where I do always keep it in real life--and I opened up the Bible and began to share with him.

I said, "Do you know how much Jesus loves you? The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in him should not perish--that means to receive punishment from God--but have eternal life."

I had a huge smile on my face and my heart was filled with joy as I shared and at that moment I woke up. I wish the dream would have lasted just a little longer because I would have loved to hear his response, but alas it was only a dream. The more important thing is that this dream filled my heart with passion and joy to share the hope of Jesus Christ with a real person today in real waking life.

I have done that through a note or two but otherwise I've been glued to my desk all day. However, it's only 3:45 p.m., there's still plenty of time left. Perhaps the Lord would allow my dream to come true today. I guess I better find that clip on pocket knife!

Thank You, Jesus, for being such a mighty and merciful Savior! Use us all this day to spread the joy of your love and life, and thanks so much for inspiring me in a dream, the second one this week!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Learning to Think as God Thinks

Here's a devotional I wrote for our church's e-newsletter this week, and with this one I have my blog readers caught up with my train of thought! Hope the Lord uses this to bless your life, I know the many times with the Lord that produced it blessed mine! 
In last week’s devotional I said that developing a lifestyle of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is all about sharing in the heart of God. We must do the right thing, that’s for sure. But first we must learn to feel the right thing. That is, we must press into our motives and pray for the grace to align them with the motives of God. Lasting joy in sharing the gospel stems from sharing in the heart motives of our Father.
And a vital part of sharing in his motives is learning to think as he thinks. It’s learning to view the world as he views the world. It’s being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that by testing we can discern the will of God in any given situation (Romans 12:1-2). As we learn to think the thoughts of God we will more naturally feel the feelings of God and act according to his will.
So, if we want to develop and sustain a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world we must constantly fill our minds with the truths that make up that good news. We must read the Word of God daily and ponder truths such as the glory of God in the creation of all things; the horror and devastation of sin; the hot anger of God toward sin and the coming judgment; the merciful heart of God that pursued a path by which sinners could be saved from the moment sin entered the world; the ancient plan that began in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and eventually culminated in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world; the perfect righteousness of Christ which is credited toward everyone who believes in him; the shed blood of Christ that forgives all the sin of everyone who believes in him; the resurrection of Christ which proved that, unlike other religious leaders, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, that no one comes to the Father except through him; the coming day of judgment in which God will examine every person’s life and works in light of his holiness; the eternal punishment that will be inflicted upon fallen angels and all who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ; the eternal blessing poured upon those who humble themselves by grace and believe in Jesus Christ, surrendering their lives to him.
As truths like these sink deeper and deeper into our hearts and minds, as our souls are transformed into the image of Jesus who saved us, we will come to think as God thinks, to view the world as he views the world, and to act as he would have us act. A renewed mind gives rise to godly motives, and godly motives propel us to be on mission with Jesus.
So, Beloved, let us pursue the lost and the least of these by first seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. When God is our Treasure, his mission will be our pleasure.

Longing with you to think as God thinks,
      Pastor Charlie

Pursuing the Heart of God--A Summary

In the weeks before I left for vacation, I wrote three devotionals on how Jesus feels about lost people. I may or may not have succeeded at this, but what I was trying to do was press us to think beyond the mere commandment to share the good news with those who don’t know Jesus and tap into the inner motives of the God who saved us.
God sent Jesus into the world because he “so loved the world” and he’s infinitely “rich in mercy” (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4). God Almighty was moved from the heart to send his only begotten Son. He was not heartlessly working out the details of a plan he had concocted, rather, he was overflowing with the love and mercy that characterizes his soul.
When Jesus looked upon the crowds that gathered wherever he went, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus didn’t touch people’s lives because he was supposed to do so but because he was moved from the heart to do so. Jesus felt. He deeply desired to seek and save the lost. He deeply desired to lay down his life for his friends.
When Jesus rises to judge the nations of the world, he will separate us into two camps: those who had compassion on the lost and the “least of these” and those who did not. To those who had compassion Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To those who did not have compassion Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:31-46).
It’s not that the pursuit of the lost and the least will save those who did so but rather that it will display their heart. It will prove the fact that they shared in the heart of their Master, that they, like him, were moved when looked upon the lost and the least. Jesus felt and those who love him will feel, too.
So developing a lifestyle of sharing the good news is all about sharing in the heart of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We must do the right thing, that’s for sure. But first we must learn to feel the right thing. We must press into our motives and pray for the grace to align them with the motives of God. Lasting joy in sharing the gospel stems from sharing in the heart of our Father.
Next week I plan to write a devotional on believing what we believe about things such as the glory of God, the horror of sin and hell, and the joy of salvation and heaven. But for now I want to encourage us once more to pursue the heart of our Father and ask him for the grace to share in it. 

Longing with you to feel as Jesus feels,
      Pastor Charlie

Friday, August 26, 2011

Loving as Jesus Loved

Matthew 25:31-46 is an amazing passage. Here Jesus prophesies the day of judgment and what he pictures is both glorious and horrifying. First, he says that he will come in his glory with all the angels of heaven, and he will sit on his glorious throne. The word “his,” twice repeated, implies that both the glory of Christ and the glory of his throne rightly belong to him. The Bible says elsewhere that we who believed in Christ will be glorified (Rom 8:30), but our glory will be borrowed. The glory of Christ, however, is proper to his being, and in that day every eye will see.
Having sat on his throne, he will then gather all the nations of the earth. Every human being who has ever lived will stand before him and answer for their life. And he will separate them into two categories, even as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The point of this metaphor, I think, is not so much to say that some of us are literally sheep and others are literally goats, or that there’s something wrong with goats! Rather, the point is to say that from the outside the two kinds of humanity living on this earth don’t look very different, but in fact they are. And in that day he will separate them.
To those on his right he will say that they are blessed by the Father and that they are now welcome to enter into his eternal Kingdom where joy everlasting has been prepared from the foundation of the earth. And the reason he gives for granting this breath-taking privilege is that they cared for the hungry and the thirsty and the stranger and the naked and the homeless and the prisoner. In other words, they shared the heart of their Master and had compassion on “the least of these.” They saw suffering and their hearts were moved.
This compassion did not save them, rather, it proved the fact that the Spirit of their Master was in them. As we saw last week, Jesus had great, deep compassion when he saw the crowds, and these, his precious ones, did too. They shared in the heart of their Master, they shared in his work, and now they will share in his joy—forever!
To those on his left he will say that they are cursed and destined for the eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. And the reason he gives for this is that they had no compassion. They may have engaged in activities that looked good but all the while they were out for themselves. They did not share the heart or work of the Master and therefore they would now know his eternal wrath. Horrifying!
I want to be found on his right, and I know you do, too. The key to being found there is humble submission to him who is overflowing with mercy. So may we draw near to him, love him with all we have, and let his compassionate heart overflow to us and through us for the glory of his name and the good of the least of these.
Longing with you to be like Jesus,
      Pastor Charlie

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sharing in the Heart of Jesus

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matthew 9:35-38).
When you’re out and about in the cities and see people who are not walking with God, how do you think and feel about them? Do you feel compassion? Do you feel pity? Do you feel judgmental? Do you feel indifferent? Do you feel compelled to act on their behalf?
As I’ve said in the last couple of devotionals, I really believe that the key to being on mission with Jesus is sharing the heart of Jesus for the lost and the “least of these.” By his grace, God has become our Father and the heart of being a child of God is sharing in our Father’s heart.
When Jesus looked upon crowds of people who were not walking with God, his heart was deeply moved with compassion. He thought to himself, “These people are being battered about by the realities of life and they’re helpless to do anything about it. They’re like a herd of sheep wandering from one place to another without the care and leadership of a shepherd. Their lives are aimless and fruitless.”
And having felt these things so deeply, he then turned to his disciples and said, “Listen, there’s a lot of work to be done and now is the time to do that work but there aren’t enough workers. So pray earnestly, passionately, and persistently to the Lord of the harvest so that he might send more and more laborers into his harvest.”
Beloved, Jesus loved lost people very much. In fact, his heart was so moved when he saw them that he said, in another place, his mission in life was to seek and save them (Luke 19:10). And since this mission was so central to the passions of his heart, he gave this call to his disciples: “pray with all your heart that God would provide workers to minister to the needs of people like this.” In other words, he wants us to share his heart and he wants us to roll up our sleeves and join in his work. He wants us to be like himself: compassionate and willing to act.
So why not set some time aside this very day to obey Jesus’ command and pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest. Pray that we might share his heart. Pray that he might send more workers into our cities. Pray that as we labor in prayer and caring and sharing, that he will allow us to bear the fruit of those who walk with God for the glory of his name, the good of the lost, and the joy of our souls.
Longing with you to enter into our Master’s heart,
      Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Loving Heart of God

Over the next several days I will be posting some devotionals I've written for our church's newsletter. They are all about learning to be on mission with Jesus Christ in the world. I hope they bless and help you, I'd love to hear your feedback.

In John 3:14-17 Jesus famously said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:14-17).
Jesus’ words could not have been clearer: he alone is the way to eternal life, and God the Father made him to be that way. Further, the reason God the Father did this was because he loved the world so much. From the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God has been pursuing his beloved creation and working to make a way for them to be saved from the consequences of their sin. Thus, he put his hand of blessing upon Noah. He made his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He compassionately led the nation of Israel for more than 1,500 years before Christ was born.
And when the time was full, he sent his only Son into the world out of the overflow of love that was in his heart. Now, I know that there is some debate out there about what John means by the word “world” and that’s a valid debate, but it’s not my concern here. Rather, my concern here is to show that it was love and mercy that moved the heart of our Father to work for our salvation.
Beloved, love is something you feel, and God feels very, very deeply. He did not send Christ simply to perform a transaction, rather, he sent Christ to reveal and express the depth and strength of the love in his heart. God really, really loves lost people—let that sink into your heart—God really, really loves lost people. In fact, he loves them so much that he’s moved from the depth of his being to seek and save them.
Therefore, as we seek to engage in the mission of our Father here at Glory of Christ, we must know that tapping into our Father’s heart of love is the key to his mission. We must, by his grace, learn to feel as he feels, to see as he sees, to overflow as he overflows, to act as he acts. Religious people “do their duty.” Children of God join with their Father in acting on the things that move his heart.
How do we do this? Well, a good place to begin is by praying over texts like John 3:14-17 and asking our Father to open our eyes and hearts, and to mold us into his image. If we’ll pray this with sincerity he will answer our prayers and equip us to go on mission with him.

Longing with you to feel as our Father feels,
      Pastor Charlie