What it is…

Lately articles about “why people don’t come to church” seem to appear in all forms of media. They are critical and disparaging. We use the word “church” in such broad senses today and as various parts of speech. Depending on the sentence, church can be a noun (a building or a group of people), an adjective (church clothes) or a verb (let’s do church). All of these leave people with an emptiness at some point that makes them search for another “church”.

Let me encourage you with what I have learned in painful circumstances over the past years. A church is not a building; it is not a congregation; it is not a thing you do; and it is not a way to act, sing, or dress. Church is the body of Christ. The body of Christ is made up of saved souls. Therefore, church is people with faces. It’s the voice of the one calling to check on my injured child.  It is the arms of the young child around my waist squeezing ever so tight. It is the hands of the dear one who knitted me a hat and scarf. It is the brother who asks me how I am doing because he genuinely wants to know. It is the sister praying for my lost loved ones.  Church is a family of people related by the blood of Christ.  He said, “They will know you by your love for one another.” (John 13:35) In the fellowship where I meet each week, there is love. It’s not about the style of worship nor is it about the dress of the pastor or shouts from the congregation. It is about the presence of Jesus as you sit among those who are indwelt with His Spirit. In His presence is peace and fullness of joy. It isn’t in the building; it isn’t in what we are doing; it’s in the people God is indwelling. That is His church.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Weeping, sowing, shouting

As the news portrays beheadings and kidnappings, wars and broken treaties, are you concerned about your loved ones? Are you praying daily for the salvation of souls? What if the persecution occurring in the Middle East increases here? Will those who know you be ready? Psalms 125:5-6 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Jeremiah and Isaiah warned God’s people, along with contemporary prophets who weren’t so wordy, that judgment was at hand. The events of our day should warn us that God’s “day of wrath” is on the horizon. We don’t want anyone who is acquainted with us to not have our witness and our prayers (seed and tears). We want to bring “sheaves” with us into the new Jerusalem; it is taught the only thing a saint can bring with him to the new earth is other saints.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Every person’s life is a fairy tale

Hans Christian Anderson, the author of such fairy tales as “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Ugly Duckling”, stated, “Every person’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” Fairy tales have grim or glorious endings. Consider Hansel and Gretel. The wicked witch met her demise in an oven. The children, however, were reunited with their father, and the unloving stepmother in the sweet finale is gone. Real lives have those who wish us harm, step siblings and parents that may wish we didn’t exist and fathers who don’t know how to navigate the maze of the family he has created. I am going to give you the key (the castle key if you will) to which sort of ending your life’s tale will have. Those who choose Christ have a home awaiting them in glory. He promised, “If I go and prepare a place for you then I will come again and take you to be where I am.” What does choosing him mean? First, it means recognizing your sin keeps you from him. The King of glory cannot abide sin. He is pure and holy. Therefore, you must renounce your sin (anything we do, think or say that is unpleasing to God). Sin has a cost, and like any prince who loves the damsel, he paid the cost. It was a high one that demanded his life blood. Ah, but being the Prince of glory, His father could bring Him back to life again. And He did. He asks that you believe in His death and resurrection and put your faith in that payment plan. This, however, isn’t fiction. It is written in God’s Word and in history. Choosing His path of redemption by His blood, gains you entrance into the place He is preparing. There is an alternate ending. This isn’t fiction either. God’s Word warns us that rejecting His Son leads to eternal damnation. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:36) We can, like in the story of Hansel and Gretel, be reunited with our heavenly Father. We can choose to live wickedly in our sin and end up in the fire like the witch. Your fairy tale ending is up to you. Have you chosen? You don’t want to wait too late. At the midnight hour (when Christ comes for His bride), the option of choice closes, and your ending is made.

Burning within me,

JOY!

“Decision determines destiny.”  Adrian Rogers

There’s a rumor going around

C.S. Lewis’ wit and humor are obviously God-given and inspired. To charge your day with a smile, I quote him below in regards to the future of God’s children.

“This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues, and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life.”

Beloved, I encourage you with the great news that one day we are going to come to life – life eternal!

Burning within me,

JOY!

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly”. – Jesus of Nazareth (John 10:10)

Judgment versus redemption

The Middle East is rife with war and persecution. The world is visibly against the Christian and the Jew. What a prophetic time we live in. Today, a post by 8thirty8 poignantly said and addressed what many are feeling. I quote from it below:

“”ISIS is raping, enslaving, beheading, crucifying our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as other innocent people. For us, this isn’t a matter of “they;” it’s a matter of “us.” … praying for the salvation of our enemies, even those committing the most horrific of crimes, is not a call to stop praying for justice against them. The cross, after all, is not forgiveness in a contemporary therapeutic sense – in which one is merely absolved of wrongdoing as though it were all a misunderstanding. The gospel does not say, “Don’t worry about it; it’s okay.” The gospel points us to the cross where sin is absorbed in a substitute. God’s righteous condemnation of sin is there. And God’s mercy is there in that He is the One who sends His Son as the propitiation of sin. The gospel doesn’t leave sin unpunished. We ought, indeed to pray for the gospel to go forward, and that there might be a new Saul of Tarsus turned away from murdering to gospel witness. At the same time, we ought to pray, with the martyrs in heaven, for justice against those who do such wickedness. We can pray for gospel rootedness in the Middle East, and we can pray to light up their world like the Fourth of July, at the same time. We are, after all, the people of the cross.”

The above quote is a stripped version of what was posted on their Facebook page (Feb. 21, 2015), yet, it hits the high points of the writing. It speaks to those who aren’t sure what to pray as Christians, full of mercy and grace as well as indignation at the suffering of God’s saints. I pray these words stir you to pray for the body of Christ in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Iran and the list goes on. Anita Ditman, Holocaust survivor wrote in her book, “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell”, we just knew Christians around the world had callouses on their knees asking God for this nightmare to end. Pray saint. This is our family.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Romans 3

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Night watches

Psalms 119:48 states, “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” A young friend shared of her struggle to sleep tonight. She lamented how difficult it is to shut off her mind. I advised her to keep Scripture close to her bed that will grant the mind and heart rest. She thoughtfully nodded as I described chewing or nursing on His words. (Psalms is a great book to just start reading.)

Do you use the night hours to focus on your Father? It is a perfect time to re-center your thoughts and will on the One who is truly on the throne. All the problems and all the fears that whirl through your head when your body stops can be laid at the feet of our Sovereign God. Discipline yourself to meditate on His truth in the night watches.

Burning within me,

JOY!

A rich dark passage

Rich dark chocolate is a description for candies and cocoas and delicacies of various kinds. I want to tell you of a rich, dark passage in God’s Word. These few verses contain such promise and part of that promise is the setting of us captives of sin free from spiritual darkness.

Isaiah 61 (NIV)
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
a
nd a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Thank you Jesus for coming into our dark world and shining Your light.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Ash Wednesday

As men and women around the world begin to observe lent, I think of today’s designation: Ash Wednesday. Do you realize he came to give us His beauty for our ashes?

Isaiah 61 (NIV)
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.


Burning within me,

JOY!

Closer than we have ever been

“No matter how intense the opposition you face, no matter how difficult the obstacles in your path, if you keep your eyes fixed on heaven, you will always be moving in God’s direction.” – Michael Youssef

“Decline is a choice of direction.” – Michael Youssef

Keep your eyes on the prize beloved, we are closer to home than we have ever been.

Burning within me,

JOY!

Hebrews 11:14-16 (NASB)

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

12 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Presidential prayer

The current U.S. president offended many at a recent prayer breakfast. His approval rating was low already, and I am entirely convinced he doesn’t care. I venture to say the approval rating of any government agency is low at this point. I am guilty of accepting it. The Bible states I should pray for those in authority, yet I am more apt to accept the ungodliness as a sign of the times than pray.

1 Timothy 2 (NLT)
1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Are you praying for the salvation of those in leadership positions? Are you praying for the actions and decisions of our nation’s leaders? (To these questions, no, I don’t pray for these on a regular basis – confession of the blogger!) I want to pray if they are not going to be God-fearing leaders that God remove them and replace them with men and women who will be. I am inclined to pray that God replace all our leaders with men and women who have integrity. (Imagine that!) At the same time, I know God has a plan that is in work. America is not a player in end time prophecies. Well, then, what do I pray? I believe we pray according to the Spirit. The Bible teaches us when we don’t know what to pray the Spirit makes intercession for us. At the same time, I believe as Jesus’ model prayer taught us, we pray God’s will be done. Pray for their salvation. Pray God use them as He sees fit. Most important, we pray. Regardless of what is to unfold, we pray. In anticipation, we pray. With an eye on the Eastern sky, we pray.

Burning within me,

JOY!

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