Sunday, May 22, 2016

Beautiful Gospel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is Godʼs power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 NET_FL)

“Stomp ‘em boys. You’ll win today because they don’t know what’s in here, in your heart. Do this for your team, your school, do it for the whole town.” 

I watched one of those sports movies where the underdogs make their big comeback. The plot is usually the same. At halftime the coach delivers a pivotal speech in the locker room before the players storm the field. However, the pep talks always sound hollow to my ears. No matter how impassioned the coach is, his message is weak. I mean come on, ‘Today is the day to spill your blood for this sport and this game?’ That’s pretty thin compared to the truly inspiring message in the gospel.

In my business days I traveled annually to Washington DC to lobby for our industry. I dreaded it when I was called on to speak to Congressmen and their aides. My voice trembled and I could barely get the facts out. 

Now I eagerly stand on a festival stage before thousands of skeptical foreigners and confidently tell them about my Lord. What makes the difference is the message. There is soul-rending, heart exploding power in the message of the gospel, and the delivery can come from any fumbler such as me. 

When people are enabled by the Holy Spirit to grasp the truth of the salvation offer, they beg to be told what to do. That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost, and it still happens when the gospel is explained.

To tell someone God loves you and sent his Son to die for you is by far the best possible news to deliver. It’s the message of ultimate love demonstrated through action. No other faith, empowerment seminar, or locker room rally is even in the same league.

Prayer: Holy Lord, allow my voice to spread your golden message.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Part of the Plan

Even some of the wise will stumble, resulting in their refinement, purification, and cleansing until the time of the end, for it is still for the appointed time. (Daniel 11:35 NET_FL)

Tambudzai, with her beautiful white smile, was from the Shona tribe. She worked as a housemother in the orphanage where we served in Zimbabwe. Dani gave Tambudzai yarn and discovered she could knit like no one we have ever known. She did it without written directions. Regardless of interruptions—fighting children, yammering coworkers, singing songs—Tambudzai never lost track. If she changed one stitch in the row, it was the beginning of a pattern that would crisscross other cables to end at the shoulder.

The details of our lives are part of a pattern God weaves into history. Every event loops another interlocking thread where it belongs. Life may appear random with its many disruptions, but God is sovereign, and he never misses a stitch. Human failings and demonic mutinies become contrast rows to raise up his beautiful purposes. The garment he is working has a predetermined shape and length.

Today, when I encounter difficulty, I need to remember I have a part in eternal history. The difficulty will not be an obscure error without meaning. It will be a refining stitch dropped on cue so my response can be included in the grand design. I pray my reaction will be one of trust and obedience. Today’s test is already on its way, and I set my intentions to bring glory to Jesus.

Prayer: Sovereign, I celebrate your artistry in weaving my life into history.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Worthy-to-Suffer Buzz

So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. (Acts 5:41 NET_FL)

As we ate breakfast in the predawn darkness, the cloud of sleep evaporated from my eight-year-old mind. I would spend the day on Grandpa’s construction site and I was giddy as a moth at a light bulb. I had my own lunch like Grandpa, and I would share his milky-brown sweet coffee from his thermos. 

“What are we building today, Grandpa? I can pound nails all the way in. Why do your teeth go into a glass at night?” I chattered a mockingbird’s repertoire inside his pickup truck.

Grandpa nodded his tired head and smirked at my enthusiasm. After all, we were only going to the muddy worksite he labored at six days a week.

How blessed I would be if I could bring some of my childhood excitement to the trials I now endure. God permits affliction so I might glorify Jesus by how I face it. Nothing exposes allegiance like hardship. A gracious Father hands me the opportunity to strike my mark into the tablet of eternity. I can be counted among those who did not crumble under suffering, who found strength in grace, and who would see only hope. My illnesses, disappointments, and temptations are fights as holy as anything the apostles faced.

Why not live enthused about what others dread? Why not do the unthinkable and look trials in the face, then choose joy by the power of the Spirit? Not a stiff-upper-lip-grind-it-out endurance, but a get-up-and-go-to-work-with-grandpa buzz because I’m glorifying Jesus.

Prayer: All-wise King, make me excited about what my trials can accomplish.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Enter That Rest

Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest… (Hebrews 4:11 NET_FL)

Trash, tumbleweeds, and the smell of excrement blew across the new foundation. It was the end of the first day, and the cement-encrusted teens admired their work. This would be the hardest of the four workdays, I knew because it was my 17th trip to build homes for poor families in Mexico. We were bone-tired with no prospects for a real shower for another week. So why did I return each year? Because it was the one place where my soul rested.

Real rest does not come from sleep, entertainment, or vacation. Those things may rest the body and never reach the mind and spirit. I only find deep peace when responsibility for life has been transferred to Jesus—Salvation, sanctification, protection, and direction. In spite of the mayhem in this world, we can trust God’s provision.

Each year, for the week I spent in Mexico, my agenda was shelved and knew I was where God wanted me—seven back-to-back days of dependence on him and release from me. There was finally some quiet in my heart.

It’s a nervy step to shut down the chugging of my self-reliance generator and switch onto God’s grid of unlimited resource. I’ve known the racket of that tired machine all my life. Once the motor is killed, the silence of a hundred now absent worries is shocking. As the fumes from my effort clear out, the fragrant peace of God blows in.

After creating the universe, God sat back and said, “It is very good.” Then he blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Through trust in Christ Jesus, I’m invited to enter his blessed, holy Sabbath, and join him in deep rest.

Prayer: Sovereign King, let me enter your Sabbath rest.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Inhale the Cure

So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living person”; the last Adam became a life- giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45 NET_FL)
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22 NET_FL)

I turned 360 degrees, analyzing each piece in the modern and contemporary art pavilion of the Seattle Art Museum. Above me cars tumbled through the air, beside me boxes of breakfast cereal rested on silk inside a glass case, and around me thought-fragments were regurgitated onto canvas then hung under lights for examination.

Art touches our emotions and the effect that room had on my feelings was shock. I was shocked how easily I identified with chaos, and sickened that we put a frame around our fractured reality and extol it. It didn’t matter that the collection was housed in a bedazzling skyscraper, or that the expenses were underwritten by the richest man on the planet (Gates), it was a brazen display of mankind’s brokenness, and without a remedy in sight.

No human or institution can return what we've forfeited since Eden. Only Jesus will do that. The first Adam received life when God breathed into him, now the last Adam breathes a second chance at life into us. Jesus breathes out, and I breathe in with childlike faith. When we both do our part, peace floods my squirming mind, my world makes sense, I know why I’m here, I’m ready to be sent out.

The choice is re-made with each new day. I can join the world’s homage of our disfunction, or inhale the breath, words, and life of Jesus. What will it be for today?

Prayer: Spirit of Jesus, breathe your cure into me.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Radical Trust

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11 NET_FL)

The biographies of Hudson Taylor and George Muller planted a bomb in my heart. These revolutionary Christians took God literally about depending on him for daily bread. I couldn’t ignore the ticking—I had to confront my own lack of trust.

Transportation was a good place to start. For thirty years, when I wanted to go somewhere, I never depended on supernatural intervention. I jumped in my car and went. This would be my experiment of radical trust.

I sold my snazzy yellow truck and bought a bicycle. Whenever I needed to go beyond the range of my bike, I prayed. God answered, and with bonuses.

An arranged ride left me waiting in front of the church. Then a family confrontation exploded around a dear friend and he randomly fled to the church. There I was sitting on the curb. We prayed. He healed. With a car I would have missed that divine appointment. My ride came and we got to our destination to find the people there were behind schedule. So we were right on time.

A few days later, I realized there was an important meeting the following day.

“Well, Lord, I guess this is your sign I need to get wheels of my own,” I prayed.

Not ten minutes after the amen, I discovered a note from my wife. If you need my car tomorrow you can use it because I’m working from home.

Every time I pray I get one of two results. Either A) I don’t really need the trip or, B) a means of transportation is available.

Rather than defuse the bomb, my transportation experiment made it tick louder. What other areas in my life have I missed seeing God’s provision? Now that I know it’s possible, I have to find new ways to trust.

Prayer: Father, lead me to the next level with you.