Choosing the Eternal

2 Corinthians 4:18 “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

The tendency of humans to place too much importance on the things which affect their senses and feelings has been a problem from the beginning. When Eve looked at the fruit on the tree of knowledge she considered not the command of the eternal God but “that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…” It appealed to her senses and in that moment she valued that temporal momentary gratification more than the eternal benefits of obedience. And the whole world has suffered for it.

It can be easy for us as believers to avoid those things that are clearly sinful. However, there are many things in this world that are not evil in and of themselves, but they are merely temporal. We can give time and attention to them without it necessarily being a matter of sin…except that it takes our focus from the eternal things and dulls the spiritual senses. Daily we are faced with choices….the temporal or the eternal. This material world so often casts a shadow over our life…a veil over our mind. And so we live in a fog, unable to see those things which are truly important. Meanwhile a world perishes without Jesus. The cost of temporal living is far too high.

Stories from the streets – May 16-17, 2014

Live after Five – May 16, 2014

After handing out tracts for a while, I sat down for a few minutes to pray and rest. A man passing by made a comment about the loud music and I saw this as an excellent opportunity to tell him that I wasn’t there for the music, but to tell people about Jesus. At first his face twisted in anger and he began to walk off. But I called out after him and asked him to tell me why that made him so angry. And surprisingly, he did. He had been in church for 30 years. When his marriage ended, he felt judged and rejected by the church. So 10 years ago he walked away….from church, from salvation, from Jesus. There was a hardness to his face as he said “I know what the book says and I’m not gonna do it and I’m not gonna be a hypocrite about it.” Throughout our conversation he was polite but there seemed to be a boiling anger just beneath the surface. I asked him if he understood what his decision to walk away from Jesus meant in terms of eternal consequences. He said he knew he was going to hell but he wasn’t worried about that right now. But I know there will be a day when it will matter to him more than anything. He wouldn’t give me his name but God knows who he is. Please pray that he would come to repentance and faith in Christ and that his heart would be healed from the wounds of the past.

 

Third Street Outreach – May 16, 2014

Last night on Third Street I talked to a man named Lee. He introduced himself as a Christian wanna-be. He said that he wanted to be a Christian but just could not do what Jesus required. I asked what things he was talking about and he responded that he couldn’t sell everything he had and give it away to follow Jesus. Somehow in his mind, he was convinced that the only way to be a Christian was to own nothing. I shared verse after verse from the Bible with him , but he refused to accept what was plainly stated in the word of God. When I finished talking to Lee I leaned up against a building and took a few minutes to pray for him. Looking up at the patches of beautiful night sky that I could see between the downtown buildings, my heart filled with great joy as I thanked The Lord for grace. Wonderful grace! What peace it brings to know that it is all of grace. Please pray that Lee would realize that his own works will never be enough and that only the work of Jesus on the cross is sufficient to save.

 

Bus Station – May 17, 2014

Today at the bus station I met Justin. He has traveled all over the country working as a contractor, but when he got to Baton Rouge last week he found out that he couldn’t work without a TWIC card. Now he finds himself without a place to stay and was forced to pawn the few belongings he brought with him in order to pay for a bed in the local homeless shelter. He has been brought for a moment to a place in life he never thought he would be and it has humbled him. Earlier in his life he had made a profession of faith in Christ but admitted that he had strayed away from that. As we talked he seemed to understand that there was nothing random in the seeming randomness of somebody coming up to him to talk about Jesus at this particular point in his life. Please pray that Justin would respond to God’s call to come to a place of full commitment of his life to Christ.

As I was driving home from the bus station, I passed an Islamic mosque and a Buddhist temple. And it was yet another reminder, on this beautiful sunshiny day, of how much darkness, confusion and deception there is in our city. They will live and die in that darkness unless we bring them the light of the gospel. It is their only hope.

Don’t accept the enemy’s substitute

“Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make peace with me by a present and come out to me; and every one of you eat from his own vine and every one from his own fig tree, and every one of you drink the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Isaiah 36:16-17

The king of Assyria had already conquered the fortified cities of Judah. Now this great army is approaching Jerusalem. The enemy, who began by threatening, now tries another tactic. He attempts to convince the people that what he has to offer them is just as good as what they have now. His promise to them is that if they will just agree to his terms of surrender, they can continue in the lifestyle they currently enjoy in their own land until he comes to take them away to a foreign land where they will still enjoy the same things.

War is difficult. War is costly. War is inconvenient. Surrender without really losing anything doesn’t sound so bad….

Except that this land which is like your land, isn’t your land. Nothing in this land belongs to you. And what the enemy has failed to mention is that there will be no freedom for you there.

The enemy is an expert in counterfeit. Our nation is filled with a counterfeit gospel that sounds good. It speaks of Jesus and faith and spiritual things. But there is no altar, there is no repentance, there is no holiness. This false gospel knows nothing of obedience, a consecrated life, or a life of prayer. And those who surrender themselves to such a message might enjoy some benefit of spiritual things, but they possess nothing. Christ is not their life but merely an accessory. They live in the kingdom of this world which has been altered to resemble the kingdom of God….but it isn’t. We have been warned that this would happen.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

It is so much easier to redefine sin than to wrestle in prayer until a besetting sin is overcome. It is easier to be moral than holy. It is easier to simply enjoy a Sunday sermon than to get in the altar and die to everything of the self life. It’s easier to be religious than to engage in the warfare of this spiritual life.

Because war is difficult. War is costly. War is inconvenient. And thus many surrender to a false gospel that doesn’t cost them anything. But there will never be any freedom there.

Hold fast, people of God, to the true gospel of Jesus Christ! It is a glorious message of life and power! It is the only hope this world will ever have. For the sake of those who do not yet know, and for the honor of the Lord Jesus, we must not compromise the message. Ever!

Preparation of the inward life

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use]. So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 amplified

The passage above tells us that the use of the vessel is in proportion to the preparation of the vessel. So as we desire to be useful and profitable to the Lord Jesus, we must prepare ourselves to be suitable for those things He has prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Part 1 will focus on the preparation of the inward life

The inward life is really all about the condition of the heart. The great danger for us as believers is developing a hardened or calloused heart. Each time we come into the house of God, He desires to speak to us. But if we are not careful, the ministry of the Word of God into our lives can become to us nothing more than a form of entertainment as it was for the people in Ezekiel’s day. “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. (Ezekiel 33:30-33)

It is when we come to the Word of God with a humble and teachable spirit (whether in a church service or in our own personal reading and studying) that we will experience the full benefit of its work of preparing our life for useful service to Jesus.

The Word of God reveals ourselves to us. Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Every motive, attitude, all the hidden things that no one can see, and that we often aren’t aware of, all of these things are revealed by the powerful working of the Word of God in our hearts, but only as we make ourselves open and vulnerable to the Word and do not close our hearts to the Spirit’s correction. It can be very painful to experience revelation of ourselves, but it is necessary.

The Word of God renews our perspective. Romans 12:1-3 tells us: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

Not only does it help us to relate rightly to this world, but it helps us to think rightly about ourselves. In 10,000 different ways pride will attempt to find a home in our hearts, but the Word of God will successfully expose this deadly enemy and keep us in a proper attitude of humility. Without humility, ministry can be destructive.

Not only is the inward life prepared by the Word of God, but also by prayer. Nothing of kingdom significance will be done without prayer, either in the world or in our own lives. It was as the early church was set apart in the upper room in prayer that the Holy Spirit was poured out. In prayer our desires to draw near to God are stirred. Through prayer, Jesus promised we could receive what we ask for. Mark 11:24 states: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

The word “desire” in this verse is a strong word. It means to crave, beg or require. It is more than a casual asking and then moving on to the next thing. There is something of a desperation and urgency that just can’t let go of the need being presented until heaven answers. There is far too little of this in our day. We often come to God in prayer, yet our desire to have that which we’ve asked for is not strong enough for us to continue until the answer comes. We aren’t engaged in our own prayer lives and then wonder why our prayers aren’t answered.

The preparation of a life is a call to fervent, intense prayer. No longer is there the option of “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers. It is a life that travails before the throne of God, often with tears and sleepless nights, pacing the floor….not willing to see prayers continue to go unanswered.

There are many accounts in the gospels when whole cities would line up to see Jesus.   Can you imagine how long all those people must have had to stand there and wait for a chance to get close enough to Jesus to get their need met? But in each account it tells us that ALL were healed. Everybody got their need met……except those that got tired of waiting and went home.

Today you can purpose to be inwardly prepared – a man or woman of the Word and prayer.

 

 

A life laid down

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I received from My Father. John 10:17-18

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

At any point during the night of His betrayal, Jesus could have escaped from the control of His captors and avoided the cross. He had the power to free Himself as He had demonstrated in previous encounters with crowds that wanted to take Him by force. But this night He used an even greater power…..the power to lay His life down. And because we are in Him, we have this same power.

Many in the church today are seeking after power…..the power to preach, the power to heal, the power to move in the spiritual gifts. And I say yes! Let us, by all means, have these things. But where are those who are seeking, earnestly seeking, the power to lay their lives down?

Generally speaking, we are a selfish people. The new nature that Jesus has given us is many times crowded out by the self-centered demands of an un-crucified flesh. Comfort…convenience…..leisure…ease. And the words of the Lord Jesus are drowned out – “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

In the cross was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love. Jesus took up His cross. He laid His life down. Oh that we would long to follow Him in this! Can you imagine how our cities would be shaken by a people who exerted the full force of their power to lay their lives down!

Lay your life down to preach the gospel….lay your life down to pray earnestly for a move of God….lay your life down to actually demonstrate the love of God to those in need. It’s only a temporary life anyway. What a waste to use it all up on ourselves. Why not pour it out lavishly in anticipation of the glories of that eternal life that awaits us?

Imagine the pleasure of Jesus to have a people who live to give their lives away…..just like He did.

A worthy life

I wonder how many things which we occupy our time with in this life, things that seem so very important and necessary now, will seem trivial and meaningless when we stand before the Lord Jesus. Life is short and these few years of our pilgrimage here are all we have been given to make Jesus known to a world that perishes without Him. It seems only fitting that no other task should so occupy our time, our attention and our prayers as this great work of spreading the gospel.

 

“What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts. “ Amy Carmichael

Commissioned as couriers

“The couriers who rode on royal horses, went out, hastened and pressed on by the kings command” Esther 8:14

BACKGROUND: That wicked Haman had persuaded the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of the Jews. Queen Esther successfully exposed Haman’s plot against her people and a new decree was written, counteracting the previous one. So at the king’s command the order was given to send the decree by means of couriers to make it known through the entirety of the land. And so they went out, they hastened, they pressed on.

They went out….no easy thing in those days. It involved exposure to the elements and to the dangers associated with travel. But the message had to be taken and they were the ones commissioned to do it.

They hastened….this caught my attention. It is a word that means much more than might be thought at first glance. Much more than hurry……….it means to tremble inwardly, be alarmed or agitated. The lives of many people were on the line. Disaster loomed over their heads until the decree was delivered. The couriers understood this and trembled at the importance and magnitude of the task they had been given.

They pressed on……in the face of weariness and hardship, maybe wanting to give up and just go back home, yet they relentlessly persisted until their task had been accomplished. So many reasons to quit, but one over-riding reason to press on – the king’s command.

A command has been given in our day as well, by an infinitely more glorious and powerful King: “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” Mark 16:15. Perhaps we should consider how we are responding to such a command.
Are we going out? Has the gospel of the Lord Jesus moved us out of our comfort zones and propelled us into the harvest – the harvest in the nations, the harvest in our city, the harvest in the workplace, the harvest in our own homes? Are we content to just let someone else do it, hoping the message will get there somehow, preferring the comfort, safety and routineness of life as usual?

Do we have a proper sense of the urgency and importance of the message? Men perish eternally without the gospel. Souls are lost forever. There is no remedy for them once they step into eternity apart from the saving blood of Christ….only the certainty of eternal separation from God in a place of eternal suffering. Do we tremble over their fate? Does it ever cost us tears or sleepless nights? Doesn’t it just seem like it should?

We have been entrusted with delivery of the message to them that their destruction has been counteracted by the decree made on Calvary…”It is finished.” No longer must they live with wrath lingering just beyond their final breath. No longer must they live separated from the God who wants to be known as Father. The invitation has been issued from heaven for all to come.

But those who do not hear, cannot come.

Are we serving the Lord with endurance? I think often of the Apostle Paul’s command to Timothy – “you therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). We must. Adversity and opposition will come as we go forward to take the message of grace to a world that insists on being offended at the cross. But we must press on. Retreat is not an option. And how can those of us who have tasted of this abundant life refuse to endure any difficulties necessary that we may bring others into this life?

My brothers and sisters who read this…..I have read over this multiple times seeking to remove any harshness from it. I have no desire to cause guilt or shame to anyone. But in my own life I find myself often needing a reminder of what is at stake. So many things crowd into our lives to distract us…..but the souls……let us not forget about the souls…….

They are waiting for the gospel.

And after the outreach was over………

Sunday afternoon was my city’s annual Earth Day celebration.  Mostly it’s just another excuse for a festival with live music, beer and carnival food.  After church I went with a small group of people to share the gospel of Jesus.  There were some memorable moments during the day when I felt like it was a God ordained moment for me to speak to certain people…..a man who was weighed down by the guilt of his alcohol addiction…..the 20-something pastor’s son who was dabbling in the world and trying unsuccessfully to justify it to himself….so many stories.   So many people in need of the freedom that only Jesus can bring.   After several hours, the outreach was over and it was time to make my way back to church for prayer meeting.   Arriving at my car, I began to unload my backpack into the trunk when I noticed that a lady was opening the trunk of the car next to me.  Just being polite, I turned towards her with a very generic, “How are you today?”    When she turned towards me I could see the pain on her face as she answered, “I”m having a really bad day.”  I offered to pray for her but she seemed hesitant to reveal any details of her trouble, yet my heart was moved with compassion for her and I knew I couldn’t just leave.   I began to tell her of the One who loves with a faithful love, watching as her face softened.  There were only a few moments that I had to speak to her before her companion joined her at the car, so I spoke all that was on my heart, threw my arms around her and prayed a brief prayer in her ear.  Her name is Keisha.  And as I drove away, I told her once again, “I will pray for you Keisha.”

I had thought the outreach was over.  In reality, it never is.

Cisterns and fountains

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

Why is it that men will forsake the fountain in favor of the cistern?

With the fountain there is an endless supply, not just of water, but of living water.  A never ending source and an unmatched quality.  There is no effort to be expended in order to drink your fill, except that which is necessary to come to the fountain.

Yet we humans, always desiring to attain by the works of our own hands, reject that which is freely offered in favor of that which we can produce by the sweat of our brow……even when the quality is so terribly inferior and the end result imminently unsatisfying.  At the fountain we are offered water of life.  All the cistern can offer is something stale and stagnant.

So how are those cisterns working out for you?  What cisterns, you ask?

How about the cistern of religious activity that we choose instead of the fountain of encountering God?

How about the cistern of saying prayers that replaces the fountain of real soul travail that touches heaven?

How about the cistern of singing worship songs instead of the fountain of true worship in spirit and truth that pours itself out at the feet of Jesus?

Dig with all your might the cistern of your choice.  Meanwhile all of heaven is astonished at our foolishness.  Will we never learn that only at the fountain of our precious Lord Jesus will we ever find satisfaction?  Or will we go on ever building cisterns….and ever thirsting?

Why Preach the Gospel?

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL??? God desires it.

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Timothy 2:4-6

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL??? Men are saved through it.

“It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL??? God takes pleasure in the salvation of souls.

“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” Ezekiel 18:23

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL??? God expects it.

“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” Proverbs 24:11-12

WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL???

How can we not preach the gospel?