Friday, September 30, 2011

Vijah Sastry and Reaching All Nations

Last night as I was falling asleep, I began thinking about my friend Vijah Sastry who has a ministry in India called Reaching All Nations. This caused me to go to his website this morning to see how he's doing and pray for him and I found a video there that was not there the last time I visited the site. I couldn't figure out how to embed the video here--I am old after all!--but the link is below. If the link doesn't work you can just go to their website at www.reachallnations.org and you'll find it there.

Vijah is actually in the Minneapolis area for a few months making connections and raising support, so please pray for him if you think about it. The Lord is doing great things through this ministry.

http://vimeo.com/19748292

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waking in Worship

Oh how sweet it is to wake up out of a dream in which you're singing praises to God!

I'm walking through the lobby of a hotel in Southern California with Kim and Rachel, we're trying to find a way to get to wherever we're going. And as we were walking through the lobby I'm singing these words out loud with no thought of what people are thinking:


Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him,
All that has life and breath come now with praises before Him,
Let the "Amen" sound from His people again,
Glady for, yes, we adore Him!

I woke up just as the chorus was coming to an end, and though it was early in the morning I had a hard time falling back to sleep because the joy of worshiping our great and gracious God filled my soul. Oh to live in a constant state of worship in waking life, "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] hearts" (Ephesians 5:19). Father, please hear my prayer.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preaching on the Fear of the Lord at Bethlehem Baptist Church

A couple months ago I read Psalm 112 in my daily time alone with God and it touched me very deeply (I have published the full text of the Psalm below). After meditating on it for sometime I said to the Lord, "If I ever get a chance to preach some Psalms this will surely be one of them."

Then about a week or so later my good friend Kenny Stokes, one of the Pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church, asked if I would preach at Bethlehem's north campus this weekend: 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and then 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. They're hosting their annual conference this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center and therefore Pastor John is unable to bring the message. So I'll be covering the north campus, and three other Bethlehem-related church planters will be covering the other two campuses.

As soon as Kenny asked me to preach, and told me I could preach on anything at all, I knew Psalm 112 would be my text. Perhaps in a couple of days I'll post the sermon, I don't know, but one way or the other I do want to post the Psalm today and encourage you to read and savor it. It's delicious but it takes some pondering!

"Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!

"His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.

"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.

"The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Living in a Manner Consistent with our Love of Christ

This morning in my time alone the Lord I read the second half of 2 Corinthians 11. Paul, who wrote the letter to Christians in the city of Corinth, was deeply concerned about the new believers there. Other teachers had come in after Paul and were leading them away from the truth of Jesus Christ. And what is more, they were boasting about their credentials and skills and using this to put Paul down, to place him lower in the pecking order than themselves, so that the Corinthians would believe and submit to them.

Therefore, Paul was compelled to write to these precious souls, whom he called saints (2 Corinthians 1:1), not so much to defend himself but the message about Jesus which he had taught them. However, in order to defend the message he did have to say something about the messenger, himself, and the second half of 2 Corinthians 11 is his self-defense. But it's quite odd because he simultaneously says some things about himself and does so in such a way as to show that boasting in one's self is a kind of madness. Here's what he wrote:

"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one--I am talking like a madman--with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Corinthians 11:22-30).

Putting Paul's self-defense aside for now, the question that sprang to mind as I read this list slowly and let the realities of it sink in was this: Am I living a life that displays my passion for Christ? Or am I naming the name of Christ over my life while essentially living for myself? Most likely I will not be lashed and beaten and stoned and shipwrecked for my love for Christ, but is there any indication that I'm living the kind of radical lifestyle that really does accord with knowing Jesus?

I'm still thinking about this. My suspicion is that I'm going to answer "yes and no," but honestly I'm not satisfied with that. Jesus doesn't live a "yes and no" life for me and I don't want to live one for him. So by his grace I hope to identify the "no's," die to my way of life, and enter more fully into his "yes" for me. Indeed, God has already created good works for me that I have yet to walk in (Ephesians 2:10) and I so want to walk in them. Lord, please help me in this.

So, what about you? Where are you at with the Lord? Being honest, do you think God's job is to make your life comfortable and enjoyable and such? Or are you willing to lose every comfort, if he calls you to do so, so that you might win the superior prize of eternal joy in Christ? I invite you to contemplate these things along with me because, even though it will be hard, in the end it will be good--very good.

I want to get to the end of my life and say what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." And I want to hear those eternally joy-producing words from Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your Master" (Matthew 25:21).

Oh Lord Jesus, grant that we would know your great and lasting joy, even if it means that we have to suffer with you for a little while. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Church of Christ is the Glory of Christ

For the last several years I have had the great privilege of serving a church called Glory of Christ Fellowship in Elk River, MN. We took the name of the church from 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 which speak of the "good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (4:4) and the glory of God that pours through the being and shines on the face of Jesus Christ (4:6), a glory that transforms us into His very image one degree at a time (3:18).

So the vision that grabbed our hearts four or five years ago was to start a church that lived to exalt the glory of the One who is alone glorious, and has manifest His glory to us through his life, death, burial, resurrection, and saving grace.

This morning in my daily time with God I read 2 Corinthians 8, among other things, and I came across this phrase in 8:23. I swear this phrase was not in my Bible before today! I can't believe I haven't seen it before now, but it deeply moved my heart. It's simple but profound: "And as for our brothers [guys Paul had sent from church to church to help with this or that], they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ."

Wow, what did you just say, Paul? Did you just call the church, the Bride of Christ, the glory of Christ? I can hear Paul answer, "Yes I did, and I meant it. It was not a throw away phrase, it points to an eternally profound mystery, one that will make the angels and all the host of heaven praise the Name of the Lord forever and ever."

What does it mean to call the church of Christ "the glory of Christ"? It would take a book to adequately answer that question, but let me briefly summarize how we get from "the glory of God in the face of Christ" to the church as "the glory of Christ."

Paul's words in 8:9 help us here: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." A slight change of words will help us here: Jesus shared in our shame that we might share in his glory. He became sin for us so that we who believe in Him might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

Before Christ, we were lost in our sins and owed God a debt so great that it could never be repaid. But God, in his infinite mercy (Ephesians 2:4), sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever should believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)--true riches! And as it turns out, the reason we believed is not because we chose God but because He chose us. We were predestined to believe, we were chosen by God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

This brings us to Romans 8:30--"And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he justified (made perfectly right with God), and those whom he justified he also glorified." Hmm. God has glorified those who have believed in Jesus Christ.

How so? Back to 2 Cor 3-4: as we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, we are transformed into his very image and beam with His glory. Our glory is like that of the moon: it is borrowed and dependent and reflects the glory of another. The glory of sun is produced by the sun (ultimately by God); the glory of the moon is also produced by the sun and if the sun should cease to shine so would the moon. Again, it's glory is borrowed and dependent.

The church of Jesus Christ is like the moon: we produce no glory of our own, rather, we reflect the glory of Him who has been infinitely gracious to us, who saved us when he rightly could have crushed us. Our glory is borrowed and dependent. We simply reflect the unspeakable beauty of Him who humbled himself to save us from our sins and transform us into a kingdom of priests for our God, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him [shine with the glory of Him] who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:10).

This fact does not give us a cause for boasting in ourselves. Quite the opposite. Since our glory is borrowed and dependent, it gives us cause for boasting in Christ alone who, by His grace, granted us to share in His glory. As Paul said, "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).


Oh church, hear this and marvel at the grace of God: you are the glory of Christ! You are the light of the world that shines by grace! So worship Him for what He's done and live this day to reflect his glory--proclaim his excellencies--everywhere you go!

Praise be to your great and gracious Name, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our Lips Bleed what our Hearts Ponder

This morning in my time alone with God (TAWG) I read, among other things, Proverbs 22:17-19 which says, "Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made them known to you today, even to you."

Solomon is urging us to seek the wisdom of God as if it were treasure--which it is--and then to discipline ourselves to put that wisdom into practice. Therefore, he counsels us to keep wisdom within us so that it's always ready on our lips. In other words, he thinks we should memorize portions of the Bible, in this case Proverbs, so that we'll be ready to apply what we've memorized in real-life situations.

Why? Simply because our lips bleed what our hearts ponder. Think about this. Pay attention to the movies and TV shows you watch, the web-surfing you do, the radio stations you listen to, the MP3s you listen to, the conversations you have, the things you read, and then notice how the things that influence you most are the quickest to leap off your lips as you face various situations.

It is a law: our lips bleed what our hearts ponder. As Jesus said, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). Therefore, Solomon is urging us to ponder the wisdom of God that it might leap off our lips and be applied to various situations, and he promises us that when we do this "it will be pleasant" for us.

That word "pleasant" means "delightful or sweet sounding," so when the wisdom of God is applied to our lives the end result is joy in life, true and lasting joy, the kind of joy that makes you want to sing! It may take some suffering to get to the singing, but the singing will come if we will only listen, ponder, and apply the wisdom of God.

May the wisdom of God affect our heart and pour forth from our lips that we may know His lasting joy.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Ten Ways to Share the Love of Christ this Labor Day


1.  Write your boss a note and tell him or her that you appreciate them and you’re praying for them and the company.
2.     Post a Scripture board at the employee entrance and change it frequently.
3.    Put a note in all your employees’ pay envelopes and let them know you appreciate them and praying for them.
4.    Write a note to a business you frequent to tell them how much you appreciate what they do, and tell them you’ll be praying for them.
5.   Take one of the church’s Bible’s, or go buy one today, and give it away to someone who doesn’t know Jesus.
6.    Have a barbeque and invite one or more of your neighbors—just get to know them and be who you are.
7.     Go to McDonalds play-land with some money in your pocket. Quickly observe the number of children and bigger kids playing (and those watching them) and offer to buy them all a soft-serve ice cream. Tell them, “Jesus longs to have sweet and lasting friendship with you!”
8.     Take a fresh loaf of bread, an apple crisp, or cookies to a new neighbor who just moved in, a neighbor who just had a baby, a neighbor who is without a job, a neighbor who is sick or had a bad day!  Include a hand written prayer from you to them.
9.   Bake something for your child’s new teacher and Principal to bring to school on Tuesday.  Include a card that says you are praying for their school year.
10.  Reach out to a friend or family who is looking for work and pray with them.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A Dream Comes True, or How a Chocolate Bar Opened the Door to Share the Love of Jesus!

It's been a good day but a long one. I started work at 8:00 a.m. and finally finished up at 9:00 p.m., but even though I was tired I had a burning desire to share the love of Jesus with someone before I went to bed. So I walked around the neighborhood near the church office looking for someone to talk to--no luck, it was like a ghost town!

But I did have to go to Walmart on the way home to get some groceries and I figured there would be plenty of people there who needed to hear about Jesus. And sure enough there were, but the question was which one needed to hear it from me. I walked around getting my things, praying for God to open a door so that I'd be sharing out of his heart rather than just my desire and nothing really opened up. I could have forced something but it would have been just that.

And then I got into line. As the young man (he didn't have a name tag and I forgot to ask his name) was putting my groceries into bags, he began to comment on the gourmet chocolate that I bought. I eat just a little dark chocolate every day, usually Lindt, and I just knew that someday it would be used of the Lord! He went on to say that he likes doing special things for his girlfriend, now fiance, on their anniversary but I got a little confused as I listened to him so I asked, "Are you married?"

He answered that they were not, and that they had decided to get married by a justice of the peace. That was a divinely revealed bit of information! I asked him why, and he said that they just weren't sure about the religion piece and had gone back and forth. By now, people are starting to stack up in line behind us, there were three of four people and they were listening intently even if a little impatiently.

So I took out my wallet and handed him one of my cards and said, "Listen, I'm not trying to shove anything down your throat here, but I'm a Pastor so if you change your mind, give me a call and we can talk about it." He said thanks and continued by telling me that he believes in God but doesn't really do anything to pursue God, while his fiance is anti-God. Well, he explained, not really anti, she just thinks that when religion gets organized, it gets corrupt. I told him I understood.

And then I said, "Listen, I'm really not trying to shove anything down your throat, I mean that, but my wife and I are just about to celebrate 20 years of marriage and we're really happy together and still very much in love. And I'm just being honest with you, the reason we're still happy is because of the Lord Jesus and his place in our lives. If it wasn't for him I don't even think we'd be together, so honestly, man, remember the Lord and you guys will make it and be happy, but if you forget the Lord who knows?"

He really received what I was saying and even though the customers behind were getting a little irritated I could tell they were listening pretty well, too. My transaction came to a completion at this moment, so I told him I'd be praying for him and asked him to give me a call sometime. He gave me a sincere smile and said something nice, I don't remember what, and I went on my way.

Oh what a joyous way to end the day! There's just nothing like being on mission with Jesus! Will you join me in praying for my new friend?

Father, thanks so much for using broken people like me to reach broken people like my new friend at Walmart. Please bless his life and cause him to think a lot about what I said, and lead him to call me. Oh Lord, show him how beautiful you are and show him the way to eternal life. Show him that true and lasting happiness is found in Jesus alone and lead him in the way everlasting. Help his fiance to see that although people are corrupt and do crazy and hurtful things in your name, you're not like them. You're so gracious and beautiful and life-giving, Lord, please help her to see you for who you really are. I trust these precious people into your gracious and loving hands, thank you for leading me to him.

In the great and gracious name of Jesus, amen.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Sharing the Love of Christ in my Dreams--Again!

I had another dream about sharing the good news of Jesus with someone last night, only this time it wasn't me who was doing the sharing.

Kim and I were walking down the road with a good friend of ours and off to the right there were a number of kids. Our friend went off toward them and then came back a few minutes later and said, "I used an illustration of water to tell the kids about the Living Water of Jesus, and 84 kids just heard the good news!"

With that, we all smiled with the joy of the Lord, I woke up and the dream was over. Oh praise God for such dreams, and praise him that every day is filled with opportunities to share the Gospel in waking life!

May the Lord Jesus fill us with his Joy today that we might overflow with his joy today!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sharing the Love of Christ on a Plane


Here's a testimony I received from a man in our church today:

"I flew back from Atlanta last night and sat next to these two professional soccer players. I was reading Jerry Bridges book on Grace as well as TABLE TALK was on my lap. Mutanda asked to see the Table Talk as it was a striking cover on 9/11. He read the first article where [R. C.] Sproul was pretty direct about Islam, and the fact that more babies were aborted on 9/11 then people killed in the towers. 

"Mutanda is NOT a Christian and he told me so. We had extended full discussion on Jesus Christ, hell, salvation, is God just, forgiveness. He agreed to read the book of John and look for topics like love and forgiveness. He was VERY open to talking and wanted answers. 

"Andre was next to him, his teammate, and listened in on the whole discussion. I am not opposed to you sending this out, but I prefer to be anonymous. Being used by God is an incredible experience especially when it comes to salvation, which is arguably the most important discussion one will ever have on the face of the earth in their lifetime." 

I praise God for this interaction and pray now that He'll water the seed that was planted so that it comes to fruition. Here are a few links where you can see the soccer team and both players profiles. Please join my friend and me in praying for them.