Good Times and Bad

Acts 6

 6 But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. 7 ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’

The walk of nations is never a straight line up. It is a meandering among hills and valleys.  It is a journey led by leaders, some wise and some not.  Every nation’s history plays itself out under the eyes of God.  Whether I find myself living in a declining or ascending culture, the knowledge that God has a purpose for this time, helps me keep everything  in perspective.  When I lay down to rest at night, I often think with pity on those in lands impoverished by corruption and war.  As concern fills my mind, I pray for them and remember that God’s eyes are on all and He is faithful to those in want as well as those in plenty. They must trust and I must share. Perhaps God is watching to see what we both will do.

Christ’s Fervent Desire

Luke 22

 14When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

What a touching passage.  To hear my Savior speak of His “fervent desire” to sup with us, of his “body given for [us]”, and His “blood shed for [us]”, is amazing.  Christ truly loves us! He is even waiting until the end of days before He drinks wine again.  Wine is for a man at repose or in celebration—not for man while he works.  Christ, too, is working, preparing a place for us.  He is waiting with great anticipation on the Father’s timing to bring His kingdom to earth, renew it, and, once and for all, cast Satan into the hell created for him. Mediating on these thoughts is heart-warming…so I will bring myself to the fire of His love and warm my soul.

Prayer and Love

Acts 5

27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

These sentences are so full a meaning for me.  Verse 31 reminds me that it is Christ who gives repentance as well as forgiveness of sins.  His work, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is essential for the soul to understand what God’s Word says and promises.  Suddenly prayer for those I love becomes more important—the place where I do my best work for them.  And why shouldn’t it be so, when God is all-powerful, everywhere, and all-knowing?  If I neglect praying for those I love, I love them poorly.

When the Spirit Moves

Acts 2:1-21
1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs-we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.”

 

Vision statements are great.  They are necessary to any church.  Christ gave us His vision for our work when He said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”  How He empowers us to accomplish that task is something no one can predict.  When the power of the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost, I’m sure there were a few surprises.  It seems to me that the great challenge of our churches is to have enough structure to keep us efficient and yet enough flexibility to adjust our ministries when the Holy Spirit empowers and calls the layman to specific works.

Church Drama

Acts 1:23-26

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. — NKJV

Reviewing Church history is an enlightening and sometimes surprising experience.  In it one sees the concurrent motions of sinful man, striving and often missing the mark, and the Holy Spirit correcting and guiding.  The wonder of it all is that Christ’s work has continued despite man’s failings and will even beyond our day.  Jesus promised that the “gates of hell will not prevail against it [the church].”  That includes the forces of sin within as well as without her walls.

Facing Death

Ecclesiastes 6:1

“A good name is better than precious oil; and the day of death, than the day of one’s birth.”

Psalms 116:5

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Getting the “whole picture” on death has been helpful to me.   Grieving the imminent lose of someone I hold dear is a no-brainer.   But choosing to remember that this person is close to entering a new life with Christ and to join others who have gone before her, is a conscious decision I have to make over and over again.  God has numbered each day of our lives and marks the day of death as precious, in fact, more so, than the day of our birth.  Remembering this truth is more than ‘spiritualizing” a painful reality; it is grasping the one reality and not letting go of the other.  As I walk through these next months with my family, I am not going to just sing one tune.  I’m going to remember the other one—the one Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection gives me the confidence to sing.

Kim Jong Il, Lincoln, and Others

Psalm 75

2“When I choose the proper time,
I will judge uprightly…

6For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.

7But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.

8For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup,
And the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down.

9But I will declare forever,
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

10“All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off,
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”
NKJV

History seems to be a parade of terrible and wonderful personalities.  There are ones that inspire and others that are infamous for the sheer destructiveness of their lives.  Yet, each “struts upon the stage” under the eyes of an all-powerful God who has set a time for each performance.  We wait and watch the rise and fall of these individuals, do our part to be a force for Good, and leave the rest to our Lord who “puts down one and exalts another.”  What a thought…to think of the Day when the righteous will be exalted and evil cut off…not just for a while, but forever!  It’s a promise to bank on…and God’s recession-proof.