Friday, May 23, 2014

Make the Most of Every Gospel Opportunity!



Make  the Most of  Every  Gospel  Opportunity!
Start  with  Prayer

            Opportunity, it is said, only knocks once. True or not, we are to live ready to take advantage of God-given open doors, especially to share the gospel. Paul had this mindset when he wrote the believers in Colossae. They were to be prepared to live and speak in such ways that allow them to share Jesus with all kinds of people in any settings. Such readied-lives flow from prayer.

            “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:2-6 ~ ESV) 

To Stay Gospel-Ready, Pray! 

                Devoted to it  - an imperative.   After the many duties in Col. 3 (put on / off,  wives, husbands, dads, kids, slaves, masters),  they are told to pray.  Much needed!  

Watchful, alert, en guard!  Life with eyes open, aware (4:12, Epaphras)

Thankful:  not just solemn soldiers, but thankful sons & daughters (3:15-17)

Pray for God’s Servants & Yourself:

For Opportunities:   Onesimus - an opportunity came to him

To be Christ-Centered: cf. 1:25-29 & the mystery, Christ’s hope for all!

To Stay Bold – press on, even if in chains  (Acts 16) 

For Clarity:  if Paul needed prayer for this . . .  

ü  Do you pray throughout the day (1 Thess. 5:16, 17; Eph. 6:10-20)?
ü  Is it “battle talk” all the time, or is thanks mixed in too?  See 3:15-17
ü  Pray for other’s spiritual maturity, not just physical well-being? See 1:9-14; 4:12  
ü  Talk to God about everything, all the time! Memorize Phil. 4:6 & 7.
ü  Afraid to witness? Pray for love, boldness and God-given chances.


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Holy Spirit – A Brief Introduction


The Holy Spirit – A Brief  Introduction


He – not  it -  is the oft neglected third Member of the Trinity.  Many of us are guilty of ignorance of who He is and of what He does.  Not knowing these things makes it harder for us to properly relate to, respect, receive from and respond to Him. 


First, we need to understand that He is a PERSON.  He is no mere force or power of the Divine.  His personality is seen in the way He relates to others and the way we are to relate to Him.  We see in Scripture that He can be grieved and lied to. He prays for us, and guides us.  See
John 14:26, 16:13; Acts 5:1-5; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 4:30.


Next, we need to realize that He is DIVINE.  He is fully a member of the Trinity.  He is God just as much as the Father and the Son are God.  Irrefutable evidence of this is seen in the things He can do and the freedoms He has.  For instance, we see that He has all knowledge, and power, and is ever present.  See 1 Corinthians 2:10-11; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Psalm 139:7; John 14:17; Matthew 28:19.


         Seeing some of who He is, let us examine what He does, His roles.  This is seen to be different in two distinct periods.  The dividing point is the Day of Pentecost seen in Acts 2.  Prior to His coming to all that trust in Christ, He operated in a much different way.  Scripture tells us He was present in Creation and in all life giving.  We also see that He dwelt or came upon people as opposed to in people.  This was a temporal ministry for some special task or job that needed to be done.

          Remember the case of Saul and David in 1 Samuel 16?  Here we see God's Spirit leave Saul and then come upon the newly anointed King David.  The Spirit is referred to prophetically in the Old Testament and in the Gospels prior to Jesus' ascension.  Joel 2 gives an example of the promise of the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit to be given.  Peter later shows this is fulfilled in the Day of Pentecost.  See Genesis 1:2, 26, 6:3; Judges 3:10, 11:29, 16:20; Psalm 51:11; John 7:39; Luke 1:15, 41, 57; Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-21; John 13-16. 


What is the present role of the Holy Spirit?  The fact that He is continually called the HOLY Spirit is another clear indication of His deity.  Who alone is inherently holy but God?  His present role is quite different from what we have already seen.  We see that He now comes INTO, not upon, ALL who trust in Jesus alone for salvation, and brings about the new birth.  He dwells in us from the very moment we receive Jesus, and is completely present.  

 He makes us part of the Body of Christ, the Church, and gifts us to serve.  He seals and secures us until Jesus comes for us or we go to be with Him at death.  He longs to control, guide and teach us truth from God's word, which He had written by committed men.  He is ever present in all believers and seeks to develop Christ-likeness in us.  See John 3:5-6, 14:16-17, 26, 16:12-13; 1 Corinthians 2:4-16, 12:13; Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30, 5:18-21; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthian 12-14; Ephesians 4-5.

The Holy Spirit – A  Biblical Investigation


Man and machine differ greatly! Living Beings can do many things inanimate (lifeless) machines cannot do. Read each of these passages and list the things you see the Holy Spirit doing that no machine or mere force could do (no, not even a Mac or PC)? Which attributes or characteristics of person-hood are seen?

v  Ephesians 4:30

v  Acts 5:3-4

v  Romans 8:26-27

v  John 14:26

v  John 16:13

v  1 Corinthians 2:9-12


 

What are some of the things the Holy Spirit does according to these verses?

v  John 16:8

v  John 3:5-6

v  John 14:16-17

v  1 Corinthians 12:13

v  John 14:26

v  John 16:12-13


v  Acts 1:8


Note how we are to relate to the Spirit:

v  He is to continually ___________________________________________.  (Ephesians 5:18)

v  We are to allow his ________________________ to be developed and seen in our lives,

and to __________________________ by His power. (Galatians 5:22-23, 25)


Kerry S. Doyal - Pastor
      Christ
           Community
               Fellowship  (an EFCA)

Sarver, PA   - http://www.ccffriends.org/

N.B.: A Reminder to Be Mindful of God

An oldie...

A Reminder to Be Mindful of God
 Kerry S. Doyal

You never know when or where God will remind you of an important truth. A recent chance encounter at a hotel continental breakfast bar reminded me of God's passion to teach us. It reminded me of the need to be mindful of Him.

Our family was traveling back to Kingsport recently when my son and I met a kind retiree from Oklahoma. Coincidentally, she too who was on her way to Kingsport, to visit a daughter and family.

By the way, it is said that a "coincidence" is when God chooses to work anonymously. Lucky for us - yes, that was a joke - He does this often.

Having noticed that she looked Hispanic or Native American and that she had on a shirt saying "Mexico," I asked if she was Mexican or Cherokee. She was in fact first generation Mexican American and she then relayed an interesting life development.

Our new friend told how she used to think in Spanish as well as she could in English. But, in the past few years, she has noticed that skill slipping. At a recent reception, she was able to speak to someone in Spanish. Yet, much to her chagrin, she got stuck in efforts to communicate.

Having no one to speak Spanish to on a regular basis has made it harder to think in Spanish as easily as she used to. What used to be natural to her now takes effort due to lack of practice, less use.

Hmmm... With a long drive ahead and being a person prone to parabolize, apt to allegorize, this got me to thinking about my thinking. (I will not be offended if you need to re read that sentence.) How fluent do I stay in thinking about God, His word, His truths, His will and ways?

Can I, with Willie Nelson, sing to my sweet Lord, "You were always on my mind?" Being on the road again, I could not outlaw that line of thinking.

How consistently do I meditate on Him, His word, mulling Him over? How well do I think biblically? Have my skills and habits of thinking in God's language - the Bible - stayed strong or have they slipped?

We are to love God with all our minds, as well as our hearts, soul and strength. A lack of use of our language of re-birth can lead to one dimensional living and thinking - a life that is too earthy (see Psalm 1).

To my new friend, I say "mucho gusto, mucho gracias mi amiga y Dios Te bendaga." "Good to meet you, thank you very much my friend and God bless you!" I hope you are duly impressed, that is half of my Spanish. And, yes, I had it double checked!

To my Lord, who has provided cleaner, clearer thoughts for us to think, I say thank you for the reminder. Feel free to keep me mindful to keep you in mind.

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Head over to you local grocery store:

   So many options
So many choices - too many!

If you don't know what you are looking for
(i.e. the wife didn't send you with a specific list),
many things look like viable options:

All brands of toilet paper are in play.
Detergents - what's the difference?
Shampoo, soups & salad dressings: seen one, seen 'em all.

~ NOT HARDLY SO! ~
Don't do it Bucky!
Stick to the approved items on the list.

HORRIBLE analogy, but when's that stooped me...

God's list of Saviors is short: His Son. Period!
His pick of paths away from perdition is particular.

Thus despite all the choices - faith paths, philosophies -
that parade themselves, clamoring for our allegiance,
we must hear what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-15:

"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.
Watch out for false prophets.
They come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves..."

"Narrow, small, few"
Sounds selective, specific...

Glad He warns & informs us!
He further warns us in vs. 21-23:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly,
'I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matt. 7:21-23 - NIV)


The point of distinction?
Those who Know Him.
They live differently.
They do His Father's will.
They are entering God's gate, on His narrow path.
Their fruit is evident (see vs. 16-21).

Do you know HIM?
Jesus is the only way,
the true truth,
the proper path

Know Him?
See John 14:6; 3:16, 36
1 John 5:11-13

Thank You Lord for making the choices obvious.
May I, having chosen YOU, keep choosing You daily.
Help me stay on the straight and narrow.


Monday, September 08, 2008

he will obey my teaching.

Two thots before our verse:
The best test of love for God is . . . ?

Tell me about your ultimate house guest? 

Now read this a few times with thought: 
“Jesus replied,
"If anyone loves me,
he will obey my teaching.
My Father will love him,
and we will come to him
and make our home with him.”
- John 14:23 (NIV)
 
Again: The best test of love for God is . . . ?
Tell me about your ultimate house guest? 

Don't go on about loving God if you do not obey Him.
Talk is cheap, love is not - it costs us our willfulness.

Want to draw in the love and closeness of God?

Love Him - i.e. obey Him.


KSD 

For further study about God being close,
spend some time in Psalms 15 and 24

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Relationships: Sources of Stress & Comfort



Relationships:  Sources  of  Stress  &  Comfort 
More practical life training from 2 Corin. 7:2-7 
Kerry Doyal 
 
Finally, some good news! Titus has returned & told Paul that they are longing for & even zealous for him – what a relief. Paul is still seeking to develop & deepen a mutual relationship with the Corinthians. A one way relationship is not spiritually healthy or safe for these new believers. This is a sad reoccurring theme in this long, pleading, soul-bearing letter.
 
Still building a case of his trust worthiness, Paul is able to point to his behavior when he was among them. He writes of his comfort from hearing Titus’ report & shares his confidence that their relationship will survive this test. Once again, there is so much for us to learn about building, maintaining & repairing relationships that honor God & mutually edify. 
 
2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
 
5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. (ESV)

You can you make this appeal: “Make room in your hearts for us. . . (vs. 2)

When you have lived this way:
We have wronged no one, godly methods
we have corrupted no one, godly message
we have taken advantage of no one.” godly motives
you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. (vs. 3)

Ministry = Making huge deposits in people’s relationship banks.
“I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you…” (vs. 4a)

Our comforting God often uses people to comfort us (vs. 4b-7)
“I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.”
· Through Titus’ return / presence
· By the Corinthians’ treatment of Titus
· In the Corinthians’ attitude towards Paul

· Is your life one that builds trust & confidence in others? Interdependency!
· Are you a source of comfort that God uses to bless & bring joy to others?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who has peace?
Who is steady & sure - unshakable?


“Great peace have they who love your law, 
and nothing can make them stumble.”
  - Psalm 119:165    


Law-lovers live loose
 (i.e. not strung out in anxiety) 
They are sure of foot, on a safe path,
warned about the things that others trip over.


When you know the path, the right way,
when you follow the directions,
it eliminates a lot of getting lost,
being frustrated, and tense.


The Message - Ps. 119:165 
  For those who love what you reveal,
       everything fits—
     no stumbling around in the dark for them.


KSD

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I am... I am... I will... I will...


 "fear not, for I am with you;
  be not dismayed, 
  for I am your God;
  I will strengthen you, 
  I will help you,
  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 
       ~  Is. 41:10  -  ESV 


No need to be fearful
  • Note who is with His people
  • Note who He is
  • Note what He will do
  • Note His holy character

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 
 - Isaiah 41:10   -  NIV


Note to self - do not fear!


KSD 

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

You have exalted above all


The temple was the place of God's presence on earth.  To bow towards it was to bow
before God, it was to seek to completely direct one's heart to God. Such an act would
lead to praise - exalting God's name due to His love and faithfulness.

Thus:

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your
faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.”- Psalm
138:2 (NIV)



His name is who He is, it is His person, His character.
His word expresses His character, reveals His name, nature.
WHAT could be higher than that, higher than HIM?

This truth - His greatness - leads to more praise, more bowing towards His presence, more
seeking His face, of HIM. The holy, exalted King we bow to is loving & faithful. He
alone is God.

KSD / GEFC
www.GetGraced.org


Here is all of Psalm 138 (ESV)

Give Thanks to the LORD
Of David.

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love
and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word. [a]
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased. [b]

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Footnotes:

1. Psalm 138:2 Or you have exalted your word above all your name
2. Psalm 138:3 Hebrew you made me bold in my soul with strength


Monday, June 30, 2008

This verse is required regular reading

    Jesus  said: 

“For whoever wants to save
his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life
for me will find it.”

Matthew 16:25 (NIV)



To live in Christ, we need to die to self
& do so daily.

Jesus calls us to lose our life for Him.
That - HE - is how we find our life.
To avoid Him to try & save your life
is to waste, forfeit your life.

In Him is life.
He is life.
To live is Christ.
Don't worry about getting a life
give yours to Him - that's life.


KSD / GEFC
www.GetGraced.org

Is & will be

Is & will be:

“The LORD will be king
over the whole earth.

On that day there will be one LORD,
and his name the only name.”
- Zechariah 14:9


Jesus IS Lord - no doubt.
Pockets of rebellion, outposts of uprisings exist
- true too.

His reign is unequaled and some day
will be unchallenged.
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess
the lordship of Jesus.

Inaugurated eschatology, some call it.

More than just good practice is the life
that already lives under His kingship.
Better than just avoiding the last minute rush
- make His name your only one.
Name above all names - supreme allegiance.

And He shall reign forever & ever.
Hallelujah!


KSD / GEFC
www.GetGraced.org


Monday, March 17, 2008

Righteousness: A Primer and A Review

Righteousness:   A  Primer, A   Review



      The Righteousness He Requires

        Is the Righteous His Righteousness

            Requires Him to Require 

               (quote by ? ? ?)



This "tricky" phrase is worth some thought.
- go ahead . . . 

It contains some of the essential truths of the gospel.
To help you grasp it better, let’s study the subject of
Righteousness and His Righteous Requirement of Righteousness.



The Problem: God requires us to be righteous to have fellowship with Him.
To be righteous is to be in right standing with God,
to be morally upright, sinless.
None of us are righteous, not even one of us (Romans 2:11, 12; 3:10-18).
Our own efforts to be righteous are as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6).



So, an obvious question is:
 "How then can a man be righteous before God?
 How can one born of a woman be pure?" (Job 25:4).



The Solution: Since God is a holy and just Judge,
He cannot change or lower the standard and remain just (Romans 3:26).
Instead, God provided some one to meet the standard for us
(Isaiah 45:17, 24; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Matthew 3:15).

Jesus is our substitute, our vicar (Vicarious atonement).
God made Him become sin for us and has declared those who receive
Him righteous (Romans 3:21-30; 2 Corinthians 5:21).



The Gospel is the message of God’s righteousness available to man
by faith in Jesus (Romans 1:16, 17; 3:21-14; 4:1-8; Philippians 3:9).
Like Abraham, we can be declared righteous by God through faith.
This is a Righteousness given and not obtained by works of
the law (Romans 4:4-6; 5:6-11; 17:21; Galatians 2:15, 16; 3:6-14).



Having been declared righteous, we are to live a righteous life,
living consistent with who we are (Ephesians 4:1,2; I Peter 1:13-16).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Encouraging Yourself in the Lord

Encouraging Yourself in the Lord
from 1 Samuel 30:1-6


Discouragement is a ruthless thief. It not only robs us of "full steam
ahead" service for the Lord, it also decreases the spiritual goods and
services others receive from us. Despair is a despot who despoils its
servants.

Those faith-filled and faithful souls who press on in the face of fear
and despondency have treasures to share with others. By God's grace,
these God-bolstered bad boys - in the nicest sense of the word - bless
others with booty from life's battles.

When life assaults one's heart and leaves breaches and scars, when
retreat seems the only sensible and survivable option, we need to follow not-yet-king
David's example in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.

"Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the
Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They
had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were
in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but
carried them off and went their way.

"And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with
fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David
and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more
strength to weep. David's two wives also had been taken captive...

"And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him,
because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and
daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (ESV).

How David zapped back at Ziklag - went from cinders to spoils to share - is beyond
inspirational. It is instructional. He models how to move
ahead in the Lord when we would rather just move away.

Charred houses, kidnapped families, despair and near mutiny greet David
when he came home to Ziklag. He had been excused from going to war
alongside the Philistines against Israel. They knew his heart - that he
would turn and fight for his people - God's people (1 Samuel 27-31). A
loyal man.

Relieved at being spared another battle, David and his 600 men returned
to a burnt city and abducted loved ones. What a way to come home!

After intense grieving, David's men considered finding comfort in
stoning him. Note: leadership means wearing a target and leaders often get
too much blame or credit.

David, lonely and discouraged, sought and found comfort and strength in
the LORD. He "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (vs. 6). Instead of 
digging a hole, he fled to the Holy One. He rediscovered resolve in His redeemer.

Like Nehemiah would later tell of those who "repaired" Jerusalem's torn
down walls, so too David found help, repair for his breached soul. David found
fortification in the Father.

The word "strengthened" is often used militaristically - beefed up
troops. It speaks of being strong, courageous, to fasten to. David
fastened his hope in the LORD and it turned this tale around. Read
Psalms 27:14 and 46; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Isaiah 40 and 35:4.

To what or whom do you turn for encouragement, fortification, help,
soul-repair and mind-mending?

Who is your source of inner strength, resolve, courage (see Joshua 1:6,
7, 9, 18)? Friends are great blessings, but when they edge out God, we
rob ourselves of God's help.

Note: such help that David found comes not from gods of our own making.
We idol-crafters need to turn fully to the LORD God (1 Thessalonians
1:8-10). Ask Israel if their dallying with idols gets proven results?
"Judgment," they say?

To recovering, still-stinging freshly spanked idolaters we read: "For I, the LORD 
your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear not, I am the one who helps
you" (Isaiah 41:13). Is the LORD your God? Take a self-test from Jeremiah 2:5, 11-13;
Joshua 23-24.

Finding gumption in God, David seeks His will, then pursues and
whips the bad guys. The Lord blesses him with full recovery of their
wives, children and stuff. In celebration and as a witness, David sends
out gifts from the goodies, perks from the plunder to several cities.

Had he stayed in his funk, sunk into his bog of despair, the story might have a very
different ending. Yet, he allowed God to gird him up for life and the battles ahead. What
circumstances have you hidden behind? What excuses do you need to confess as sin?

For us to have spoils to share from wars won by God's grace, we must
find solace and strength in the LORD (see Jude 20; 1 Peter 1:3- 2:3; Psalm 37). Who has
enjoyed the benefits of your seeking God? Who has been enriched by your encouragement in
the LORD?

Who has gone without - physically or spiritually - because you cling to
your circumstances and not the God of the universe? Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Jeremiah
33:1-8.

What spoils can you share as a testimony of God's greatness? We must
seek strength and comfort from the Lord as if lives depend on it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Merry Christmas Camping to All

Boy Scouts pitch their tents in an area, inhabit it for a few days, hopefully leave no trace - unless they are improvements - and then move on. While there, they get to know the terrain, the water sources, fauna, wildlife and hiding places.


When foot soldiers deploy, they set up their tents, temporarily occupy foreign soil, get acquainted with the "locals” and seek to bring peace and safety. When their mission is accomplished, they pack up and go home.


Nomadic Bedouins live on the move, seeking pasture for their sheep or camels, looking for food for their families. Encampment means setting up their huge tents, settling in for a few weeks or months while ready to head on.



The Jews in the wilderness – after Egypt - had no permanent place to worship God. So, the LORD gave them plans for a mobile worship facility - the Tabernacle, the Tent of meeting. Here they sacrificed to and served the LORD.


When the Cloud or Fire that lead them stopped, they camped. It was God saying: stay here, set up the Tabernacle, My Tent and worship. When the days were complete, they struck the Tent and the Cloud led them along.


How do these Christmas images grab ya? If I threw in some wise men, would it help? How about mutant flying reindeer or a bloated, bearded Senior in slick red P.J.s? "Ho, ho, NO" you say?


If you want the classic Christmas story, turn to Matthew or Luke. If you want tent talk, read John's gospel. Do not expect any angels, mangers or maligned Inn Keepers. John tells us about the eternal Word who was with the Father who took on skin and bones. He speaks of a Life that is light. He - well, read it for yourself from John 1:1-4 & 14:


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men... vs. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (NKJV)


While this offers little to market for the holidays, it makes up for it with some awesome theology. It also takes us back to our bivouac and answers: Who sneaked tents into the already crowed Christmas panoply? The "dwelt among us" in verse 14 is camping talk. It literally means: Jesus tabernacled, pitched His tent, encamped among us.


From John, we learn that the Word, Jesus, is co-eternal with God - not a new part of God's product line for the holidays. No, Jesus, also self-existing, created all of God's product line (see also Colossians 1:14-17). Jesus is called life: the kind of talk reserved for the Divine.


Keep in mind this Christmas that His birth was not His beginning. He was from the beginning and was the beginning, the Creator of all. Yet, He left the Father’s side to be with us. The Word became flesh and moved in our neighborhood.


As if this was not deep enough, the eternal Creator who is life - just like the Father - is also light. When the Light came into the sin-darkened world, He provided illumination, a “show and tell” of the Holy God.


So the spiritual (the Word), became physical. The eternal One became temporal (i.e. "in time", not temporary). God as man with us, or as John put it: He pitched His tent among us.


Did God's ultimate Scout, the firstborn, leave a trace? Yes! Talk about getting to know and fixing up the place!


Jesus, the ultimate Army of One, is our means of peace with God. His mission was accomplished. Remember His powerful "It is finished" battle cry? Can you say simper fi - always faithful? Hooah!


Was He on foreign soil? Yes and no. Though He made it, and came to the ones and place He made, they did not receive Him. The Master of the house returned to be treated like an intruder.


Thankfully, those who do accept Him as the true Owner are given the authority to become God's sons and daughters - all the ones believing in His name (see John 1:11-13). How hospitable to Him are you?


Jesus himself is both God's holy Tabernacle and the lamb offered for our sins. He is the eternal Word who chose to reside in humble, temporary fashion among us to provide a means of fellowship with God.


This homeless Nomad from birth still wants to feed His sheep. He wants to gather all those who are His, be their living water and heavenly food. Jesus invites us into His tent for fellowship, a life relationship. He alone can make us happy campers.


In his first letter, John wrote that this Word was no mythical figure. No, Jesus, the Word of life could be heard, seen, studied carefully and even handled. He reminds us that Jesus' followers - that he - did just that.


John continued: "... that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3 & 4 - NKJV). Jesus, John tells us, is to be experienced, declared and shared with all.


When we look at our new pup-tenting Neighbor, we see glory. This unique One, the Father's Son, is still full of grace and truth. Merry CHRISTmas and happy camping with Him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Looking Up & Looking Ahead

www.GetGraced.org


It was just a short car ride with Uncle Roy, just down the path at Bancroft Bible Camp. Yet, it yielded two great phrases that I’ve been pondering for months.


Though retired, Rev. Roy Thomas is part of the staff of Bancroft Bible Camp. A WWII Vet – he was across the island from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 – Uncle Roy has learned a thing or two in his many and often hard years.


An orphan boy from Chicago’s south side, Roy was a pastor for many years. He and his hard working spouse Evelyn, have faithfully and diligently served the Lord in many roles and places.

Getting out of my car that day to go into chapel and lead singing at camp, Roy cheerfully told me: "Keep looking up." Live with an eye to the sky, anticipating the Lord’s return. Things may be bad down here, but be encouraged, He will return. This is a source of hope and accountability; be ready.


This gentle, playful soul must have sensed the humor of telling someone who was about to drive off to "Keep looking up". So Uncle Roy – as he known by countless campers at Bancroft – added with a smile and twinkle in his eyes: "But keep your eyes on the road."


This was more than just a witty word of driving advice. This in fact completed the encouragement to "Keep looking up." Yes, we must live in light of the blessed hope, the return of Jesus, the setting up of His kingdom, the consummation of the ages. We are also to be faithful and wise servants day by day.


"Keep looking up. Keep your eyes on the road" - not a bad couplet. One could do worse for spur of the moment advice. Live in light of the hope of heaven. Live out your calling while here on earth.


Can one be – as the phrase goes – so heavenly minded you are no earthly good? Yes, if you do not keep your eyes on the road, traveling the path Jesus laid out for you, fulfilling your calling which God sovereignly designed just for you (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 8:28-39; Jeremiah 1:1-11; Psalm 139).

I recently looked through a Hymnal and noted that the first 80 plus songs were about heaven. Not about God per se, but about mansions, streets of gold, rest and the sweet bye and bye. Frankly, the impression I had was one of escapism.

Do not misunderstand: I praise God for His gracious promise of heaven through Christ (John 14; Revelation 20-22). Yet, I somehow sense He did not mean it to be an excuse to just wait out our time here.


Much like the exiled Jews in Babylon, we are told to settle in and serve Him until the time is right (see Jeremiah 29:4-14); an eye on the road, and an eye towards heaven.


With apologies to my Catholic friends, there are more Protestant monks than any other variety. You know them – might be one. People who have so orchestrated their lives that they have all but eliminated life-contact with anyone but other Christians. God warned against such faulty living (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).


Between continual internal church events, having Christian mechanics, grocers, beauticians, these functional Monks rarely have to risk involvement with the lost. Even their dog goes to a Christian Vet, where other Christian dogs congregate. May I add, Christian fleas are the worst.


Such Monk’s quick forays into the world are done holding their spiritual breath: in and out, avoid contamination, minimize risk of compromise. Yet, they also eliminate any chance of helping others, having impact, being salt or light. People who live only looking up will not be found in service to their Master, wasting their talents (Matthew 25:14-30).


We can also be consumed with keeping our eyes on the road. I find that when I am solely looking ahead and not looking up, as I ought – remembering Him and why - I become frazzled and fruitless. Remember Martha (see Luke 10:38-42)?


When we get too busy going and serving, taking care of life’s business every day, in every way, living in overdrive, we need to get back to turning ours eyes towards heaven.


Casting an eye upward helps me remember why I am running so hard (see Colossians 3:1-11). As Twila Paris sang: the warrior is a child, who needs in the midst of life’s battles to drop their sword and look up for a smile.


Wisdom can’t be contained. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. We bring out what we have stashed in. Roy was kind enough to remind me to keep the faith, be hopeful, live with obedience and anticipation: keep looking up.


Roy was also seasoned, sensible and – with all due respect – silly enough to remind me to be alert, take care, fulfill the job that was at hand: keep my eyes on the road.


The Lord took my dad home about three years ago. When an older man is now fatherly to me, I have a new appreciation for it, even at age 46. Young pups, don’t kid yourself: we always need wisdom that comes from those with experience. Especially those like Uncle Roy & Aunt Evelyn who keep looking up and keep their eyes on the road.