Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Stones Will Cry Out!

Celebrating Palm Sunday

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the King of Israel!’

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

‘Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
See, your king is coming,
Seated on a donkey’s colt.’”

John 12:12-13 NIV

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.’”

Luke 19:39-40 NIV

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Words of Encouragement

By Mildred Mungan

I wanted to share a word of encouragement:

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22, 23

These verses were part of my devotional this morning, and I wanted to share them. May they encourage you as they encouraged me this day.

He is faithful even when we are not, or even when we don’t feel like being so.

Rest in His peace.

We Are the Dot on God's Timeline of History

In our small group, we have the privilege to study Beth Moore’s amazing video series on the book of Daniel. The second half of the 12-week course focuses on the prophetic chapters of Daniel.

Through history, we know that Daniel's prophecies have come to pass as the world moved from the golden age of Babylon, to the silver age of the Medo-Persian empire, to the bronze age of the Grecian empire, and then to the iron-and-clay Roman empire. And now, we are in Church Age as we wait for the remainder of Daniel’s vision to be fulfilled.

This short history recap may sound innocuous.

In fact, you may be yawning.

But as Beth Moore points out with stunning urgency:

WE are the current dot on God’s timeline of history.

There are no more empires waiting in the wings--only the end times await us.

Stifle the yawn because this means that:

  • This is the age.

  • This is the time.

  • This is the hour.

  • This is the moment to shine for Christ.

We are literally the Light of the World that Jesus spoke of.

That means you.
That means me.
Right here.
Right now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rock Our World

By Charlotte Lowrie

How far removed are Christians today from Christians of the first century? I’ve often wondered about that question, so I went to Acts 3 and 4 to learn more. In these chapters, Peter and John call on the power of Jesus’ name and heal a crippled man. The healed man, joyous with his new mobility, walks to the temple courts with the disciples. Actually, he alternately walks and jumps—praising God the entire time. People recognize the crippled beggar, and they are stunned to see him walking and jumping.

Soon a crowd gathered around the three men at Solomon’s Colonnade, a raised porch at the outermost part of the temple.

Peter saw the surprise of the people, and he quickly and powerfully told them that they had not healed the man through their own power or goodness but through the name and power of Jesus. Peter reminded them that in ignorance, they and others had handed over Jesus to the authorities, and ultimately they had “killed the author of life.” (Acts 3:15 NIV) But Peter told them that God raised Jesus from the dead. And in the name of Jesus, Peter and John were able to heal the crippled man. Many in the crowd believed in Jesus that afternoon, but the temple guards, priests, and Saducees were quick to quell the disciples’ teachings. They took Peter and John into custody and threw them into jail for the night.

Interrogation before the Sanhedrin

The next day, Peter and John were taken before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The 71-member Sanhedrin, presided over by the high priest, was the highest Jewish council, something like a Supreme Court for Jews. Peter and John had every reason to be concerned. After all, the Sanhedrin was the governing body that plotted to have Jesus arrested and killed. With Jesus’ persecution and crucifixion still fresh in mind, Peter and John were doubtless aware of the potential consequences of preaching the name of Jesus and answering to the Sanhedrin for it.

Yet, during the questioning by the religious leaders, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly. They told the council, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10) Peter quoted Psalm 118:22: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” pointing out that the stone refers to Jesus. Then Peter told them, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 3:12)

The religious council members were cornered. Standing in front of them was the healed man. Many people on the temple grounds had seen the healed man enjoying his newly found mobility and praising God. Clearly, the religious leaders were in no position to publicly discredit or punish Peter and John. So they ordered Peter and John to stop teaching in the name of Jesus.

Peter responded, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 3: 19-20)

Then the disciples went back to their group of believers and told them what had happened. Without hesitation, the new Christian congregation responded with prayer. They based their prayer on Psalm 2, a powerful Psalm prophesying of Jesus and His ultimate authority over all nations on earth. The Psalm asks why nations conspire and people plot against the Lord and His Anointed One? It says that when rulers conspire to ignore or depose God, God not only laughs, but also makes rulers the focus of His righteous anger. In this Psalm, God sets His Son over all nations, making it clear that nations are to serve Him with fear and trembling. In their prayer, the early Christians remind God how rulers conspired against Jesus to bring to pass all that God had ordained beforehand for His Son.

Rocking the World for Jesus

Theirs was a powerful prayer, to be sure. But as the prayer continues, it is important to note what the believers did not pray for, and to consider what we would pray for if we were in similar circumstances today. They, or we, could ask God:

· For protection from harsh actions from the Sanhedrin including jail,
banishment from the temple, and other sanctions
· To escape to a safer city to spread the Gospel
· For religious tolerance
· For freedom of speech

But they didn’t ask for protection or fairness. Instead they prayed to speak with the Lord’s word with “great boldness.” In effect, they did not pray to be spared, but they prayed to be placed in the thick of the battle: To speak louder, to speak more eloquently, to speak more powerfully for the Lord. They showed no fear, and they had no hesitation. They wanted even greater power to rock the world for Jesus.

The believers realized that the religious leaders showed restraint only because of the miracle of healing the crippled man. So they also prayed, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29) And with the backing of irrefutable miracles and signs, they wrapped themselves with the mantel of the Lord—impervious to harassment and threats. They prayed for the power to do more in the name of Jesus.

God responded to their prayer immediately. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 4:31) And, indeed, they spoke the word of God boldly. As Christians today, we are a living testament to their boldness and to their courage.

What a great lesson in prayer! How many times are our prayers skewed toward not having our world rocked? How often do we resist having our tidy world rocked, rearranged, threatened, or changed in any way. What would we have done if we had been in the same situation? Would we have prayed for greater boldness, or would we have wanted to avoid trouble with the authorities? The early Christians prayed to create more ‘trouble,’ regardless of the consequences. They claimed the promise of Psalm 2:12, “…Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

The early Christians realized—far more intimately than those of us who live in a safe Christian nation—how important it was to keep spreading the Gospel at all costs. Thinking through this story in Acts, I had to take a long and hard look at my courage to speak out for Jesus. And since that long hard look, my perspective, and my prayers have changed. Today, my prayer is that God will rock my world and let me speak the Word of the Lord boldly. And like the early Christians, I pray that He will stretch out His hand to rock the entire world with His healing, and miraculous signs and wonders.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrating His Presence

His voice whispers in every living thing.
In every seed that breaks forth,
In every wind that blows,
In every mountain pushing up to the sky,
His signature is beauty and majesty.
From Him all beauty, purity, and knowledge flow.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lessons from the Blind Man

Charlotte Lowrie

Recently my daughter wanted a framed picture to put in her new office. I knew that I had a picture like the one she described, so we set off to my upstairs “junk” room, to find it. We looked though several stacks of framed prints and photographs, but it wasn’t there. So we fanned out, looking through other rooms and closets. Eventually, we regrouped in the junk room, both of us ready to give up. Then my daughter said, “Turn around.” There on the wall behind me was the picture we were looking for. It had been in hanging front of us the entire time.

We went downstairs laughing that we had missed what was right before our eyes. Our encounter with “blindness” reminded me of the story in John 9. Here is a recap of that story.

One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples encountered a man blind from birth. Jesus spit on the ground and made enough mud to cover the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man went and washed, and he could see for the first time. The dismayed neighbors took the healed man to the Pharisees where the man began a long interrogation process. The judges, however, refused to believe the man, and called in additional witnesses; in this case, the man’s parents. Sure enough, the parents testified, this was their son, and he had been blind since birth.

But that wasn’t good enough. The Pharisees called the healed man in again, this time warning him to give the glory to God because they “knew” that this man Jesus was a sinner. The healed man replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”

But the court still wasn’t satisfied. They asked the man to repeat the story of his healing, this time accusing the man of being a disciple of Jesus, and reminding the man that they didn’t even know where this fellow Jesus came from.

Clearly exasperated, the healed man said, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Predictably, the Pharisees were enraged at this lecture and threw the man out, telling him that he’d been a sinner since birth.

Jesus heard what happened to the formerly blind man. Jesus talked to the man, and the man became a follower of Jesus. Pharisees, who were hanging around nearby, overhead the conversation between Jesus and the healed man. They asked Jesus, “What? Are we blind too?”

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
(Recounted from John 9:1-41 NIV)

Like the picture that my daughter and I searched for, the Pharisees, men of "vision," missed what was right in front of their eyes--Jesus, the very Savior that they were waiting for.

On the other hand, the man who had no vision, allowed a stranger to pack mud on his eyes. Then by faith, he walked to the pool, washed off the mud, and he could see--for the first time in his life.

Then, the time that should have been a wonderful celebration for the healed man turned into an ugly court hearing. But the healed man’s testimony is absolutely classic. With the eloquence of a man whose entire life changed by Jesus, the healed man says simply, “One thing I do know, I was blind, but now I see!”

And don’t those words from the blind man encapsulate our own testimony about Jesus?

Sometimes, I 'envision' the grand things I want to do for Jesus. That's when He reminds me to keep it simple: “I didn’t call you to be great. I called you to follow Me.”

Jesus doesn’t call most of us to be great. He calls us to simply testify of His life-changing presence in our lives.

Nothing fancy. Nothing difficult. He calls us to tell what He has done for us—to simply tell our story to one person, then another, and another.

And in that way, we spread His light; and in that way, He continues to open the eyes of the blind.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Plugged in to His Promises

It’s amazing to me how the Lord is there for us just when we need Him. I recently sent my tax information to my accountant—tax time is always a dicey time of the year. A week later, the accountant called with devastating news. While the Lord had blessed me last year, the Federal Government wanted a huge chunk of money, not the least of which resulted from a doubling in the self-employment tax.

Unlike my reaction in years before accepting the Lord as my Savior, I remained calm throughout the conversation with my accountant and afterward. Still, I knew that this tax bill would set me back and make it very hard to keep up with monthly bills this year.

I went to the table to eat breakfast, study the Bible, and pray. I’d been reading through Isaiah again, so I opened to the chapter for the day, Isaiah: 59. These are the first words that I read.

“Surely the arm of the Lord
is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.”

I read the first verse, and then I read it again. Then I read further to see what the context was. The context was that Israel’s sin separated them from God.

Despite the context, the Lord kept bringing me back to that first verse. He reminded me that we live under His new covenant, and that I should trust this promise. From past experience, I know that the arm of the Lord is long, strong, and faithful. So I trust His promise, knowing that He will work this situation, and everything else in life, to His glory.

Rumor has it that there are no taxes in heaven. . .