Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Poem: It is titled Called

came across this poem and thought it was very moving.
Five miles southeast of Nazareth
A young man drew his final breath,
And perished in his mother's arms.
She stared across the olive farms
South to the Plain of Esdraelon;
And back and forth she rocked her son,
Her only son, and held his head
Against the breast where she had fed
Him with her bitter milk and tears.
For dark and bitter were the years
When he was born. His father died
Before the child could walk. His bride
Of twenty months had buried him,
With help from friends, out on the rim
That falls steep toward Samaria.
And spices from Arabia
Were given by the neighborhood,
As everyone agreed they should,
Because she had no other family.
But yet there was the son, and he
The widow's only hope.
Twelve years
They lived together, and her fears
Grew less as he became a man.
And then the dread disease began:
At first the intermittent cough;
And then the puzzling fever off
And on; and then the constant wheeze;
And then the nights upon her knees:
"Almighty God of Abraham,
Take pity on me, Lord, I am
A widow; he's my only son.
If he should die I am undone!"
And then the purple spit appeared,
And all the worst that she had feared.
To fight his final fears she tried
To hold him tight until he died.
And back and forth she rocked her son
Above the Plain of Esdraelon.
Her friends made fit the burial place
Out on the rim, and made a space
Beside his father, and prepared
The body while his mother stared
Across the Plain, too stunned and weak
To work or cry or even speak.
But then, come burial day, at length
She summoned up her little strength,
And with the child and crowd and pain
She led them out the gates of Nain.
And now, behold, the Word of God!
The rock- and ocean-splitting rod!
Along that very road there came
A band of men, and One whose name
Is Jesus Christ the Lord. They bowed
Politely to the grieving crowd,
But one: the Lord had fixed his eyes,
As though he heard a thousand cries,
On her. And when she saw his face
She stopped, and silence filled the place.
A strange and awesome feeling fell
Upon that crowd, and they could tell
That this exchange was very deep.
And then he spoke and said, "Don't weep."
And something happened in her heart
That made the heaviness depart.
And then he motioned to the men
Who held the box, and when
They looked at her and saw her hope,
They set it down and loosed the rope.
As gentle as a hand could be,
He made the coffin cover free,
And then with father-fingers lay
The strips of facial shroud away,
And spoke with passion in his eyes:
"Young man, I say to you, arise."
And he arose. And Jesus placed
Him in his mother's arms, and faced
Her one last time. Perhaps the two
Of them alone were all who knew:
Two short commands were all he said—
Two people quickened from the dead.
Who can withstand the word of Christ!
It has for ages now sufficed
To bear the universe it made!
Come let the glory be displayed
Of Jesus Christ's triumphant voice!
The dead rise not by their own choice,
And none of us would live at all
But by the Lord's triumphant call!
This is the truth of candle two:
The call of God makes all things new.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

D.L. Moody: The Secret of Joy

Remember, then, that love is power, and peace is power; but now I will call attention to another fruit of the Spirit, and this too is power - the grace of joy. It is the privilege, I believe, of every Christian to walk in the light, as God is in the light, and to have that peace which will be flowing unceasingly as we keep busy about His work. And it is our privilege to be full of the joy of the Lord. We read, that when Philip went down to Samaria and preached, there was great joy in the city. Why? Because they believed the glad tidings. And that is the natural order, joy in believing. When we believe the glad tidings, there comes a joy into our souls. Also we are told that our Lord sent the seventy out, and that they went forth preaching salvation in the name of Jesus Christ, and the result was that there were a great many who were blessed; and the seventy returned, it says, with great joy, and when they came back they said that the very devils were subject to them, through His name. The Lord seemed to just correct them in this one thing when He said, "Rejoice not that the devils are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." There is assurance for you. They had something to rejoice in now. God don’t ask us to rejoice over nothing, but He gives us some ground for our joy. What would you think of man or woman who seemed very happy today and full of joy, and couldn’t tell you what made them so? Suppose I should meet a man on the street, and he was so full of joy that he should get hold of both my hands and say, "Bless the Lord, I am so full of joy!" "What makes you so full of joy?" "Well, I don’t know." "you don’t know?" "No, I don’t; but I am so joyful that I just want to get out of the flesh." Would we not think such a person unreasonable? But there are a great many people who feel - who want to feel - that they are Christians before they are Christians; they want the Christian’s experience before they become Christians; they want to have the joy of the Lord before they receive Jesus Christ. But this is not the Gospel order. he brings joy when He comes, and we can not have joy apart from Him; there is no joy away from Him; He is the author of it, and we find our joy in Him.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflecting on Life

And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ (Lu 5:39)

In September I celebrate 41 years of attempting to study and teach the Bible. I must say that upon reflection, I must confess that I have so much further to go in my understanding of God's Word, and that there are many portions that to this day remain in many way obscure, even opaque. I more deeply realize that at this time I am looking through a glass, darkly (1 Co 13:12) and need more illumination of the Spirit then ever before.

So much of what I read is difficult to truly understand in the deepest portion of my soul. I truly want to, and seek God to impart to me not only understanding, but depth of experience and I grieve at my own inability to completely practice all that the Lord has given to me to preach. In a similar but not identical way, like Isaiah of old, I realize that I have a message that I give that is beyond my understanding and experience. I remember him preaching "woes" to Israel, and then when he himself sees the Lord in His Temple can only say "woe is me!" I would assume that personal revelation to be the real foundation of a proclaimer of God's truth, a personal knowledge of one's own sinfulness and a revelation of God's holiness.

Over the years, God has been increasingly good to me, for which I stand truly humbled and thankful. A faithful and loving wife, children that follow the Lord (even if imperfectly, like me), grandchildren that make up my very heartbeat, friends that are very special to me, and a church that contains many who actually love me, warts and all. Amazing.

After 41 years, I desire to remain fresh and open to what the Spirit wants to do today. Being a veteran of the Jesus Movement brings with it a certain sentimental love for what God did in my and so many other lives in our early days. I have fond memories of fellowship with other believers that was daily, and of times that we would gather after bible studies to just share and think about what God spoke to our hearts that night, and how we could put the truths we received into practice. It was new wine deposited in new wineskins.

I want to have a heart that appreciates the new wine, and do not want to become an old wineskin.

This is something that we older believers need to be on guard against. Especially as we look at a younger generation that is being entrusted with the eternal truths of the gospel. We forget where we ourselves came from, and how long it has taken for Jesus to break us of sinful habits and un-Christlike attitudes. We see younger people and think that they somehow are supposed to act like older and more mature saints, and grow frustrated when we don't see maturity in them, a maturity that sometimes is sadly lacking even in our own lives.

Amazing isn't it, how we can point fingers at others about things we ourselves have been guilty of in the past?

I think of my friend Raul's son, Ryan. Raul has been a faithful messenger of Jesus for many years, and to his heartbreak had a son who rejected the gospel and lived a terribly sinful life. For many years Ryan has been dear to Marie and me, and we prayed for him without knowing how deeply lost he had become. It was our great joy to hear that God grabbed his heart, and to see him today preaching and sharing the love of God is a blessing to our hearts that causes tears to form in our eyes.

I wonder how many "mature saints" prayed for him during his difficult years? I wonder how many judged Raul and Sharon as ungodly, or unqualified to serve the Lord based on their view of what "holiness" is and their personal view of properly raising children? Perhaps they could have remembered their own sinful past, which would have provided a platform of mercy that could have been extended to the son who was breaking his parent's hearts. It is always good to remember that Jesus did not come for the well, but for the sick. He did not come for the righteous, but the sinners and His desire for us is to learn what it means when God says "I desire mercy and not sacrifice". This applies to all people, and I for one thank God for those who did not give up on Ryan, and who did not give up on Raul.

Old wineskins.

May God move on the older generation to patiently love and lead the younger. They need our love and our guidance, and they look at the way we treat each other and them and come to conclusions about the goodness and mercy of God. No, we do not condone and accept sin. Sin put our Savior on a cross, a most painful and shameful death. But at the same time, we must seek God to enable us to care for others, pray for others, receive our brothers and sisters, and to be available to help them to see how good our God really is.

May we love Jesus more then we love our own opinions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Grief Revisited:Thoughts on the Death of a Friend

Ps 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.

As I write this, I am saddened and even a bit shocked over the death of my friend and fellow Pastor Steve Mays. Steve was an anchor in the Calvary Chapel movement for over 4 decades, and his home going, though something all can rejoice in, is still a huge loss for the fellowship of Calvary Chapel of South Bay, the fellowship of Calvary Chapels worldwide, and the body of Christ at large.

I don't remember exactly when I first met Steve, as it was over 30 years ago but I do remember that even then he had a very sober attitude towards ministry and God's word. I met, in him, a fellow lover of God and from that point on my respect for him continued to grow.

I will miss him deeply.

I still remember being asked to speak at his church services when he met in a smaller building around a mile from its present location. Steve had taken over the church in 1980, and began ministering at that time to around 50 or so members. When I went to teach his Sunday services the sanctuary at that time held around 700 and he held two services, with neither one heavily attended. Over the years Steve faithfully delivered God's word and the church continued to grow. I remember when they bought their present location. Steve asked me to come and see what the Lord was doing, and I was so blessed to see their new place, and as the years progressed I was able to see the Lord add to the church until it reached its present 9,000 members.

O the amazing grace of God.

Over the years Marie and I had opportunity to become friends with Steve and his wife Gail. We went to Alaska on a cruise, went to Washington, DC, and I had the blessing of teaching his fellowship and speaking at conferences on several occasions over the years. As recently as April Steve, though not physically well, came and blessed our church by teaching my midweek study. My daughter Anna told me that she really loved Steve and appreciated his messages, and to hear her say this blessed my heart because I did too.

In June, I saw Steve at the pastor's conference. I was visiting with friends when I heard him call my name, and I excused myself from my friends and spoke to him. After visiting for a few minutes, he said to me that he was going in for another surgery, and that he would be calling on me to teach while he was recuperating. My last words to Steve were, "Just give me a call. I love you, man".

Well, yesterday we got the call but it wasn't to come share at his church. It was to remember his life.

I will remember.

We served together on the Calvary Chapel Association board, a board that was set up before our beloved pastor Chuck moved to heaven. It is made up of men chosen by Chuck with the intent of shepherding the Movement that many of us are veterans of. One of the men said to me yesterday, "Well, this is the first one of us to go to heaven". Those words struck a chord in my heart, and it reminds me to keep my hand to the plow, and to keep my eyes on the prize, and to stretch for the tape so that I, like my beloved Pastor Chuck (today marks the anniversary of his going to heaven) and my friend Steve may one day hear the words "well done" from our beloved Savior Jesus.

I will miss my friend, but as a Christian I know that we never really say "good-bye". For us, it is always, "I'll see you later!"

Though these words are really for me in that Steve can't hear me say this, still I will say "Steve, I love you man. See you later".