Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Come On, Blessing-Giver! - "Come Thou Fount" Prosified

Come on, Blessing-Giver, adjust my heart so I can sing about how you show me favor, even though I don't deserve it. The way you just keep being merciful to me deserves to be praised...loud and long.

Teach me one of the heavenly songs that angels sing. I want to praise the name that has totally captured my attention...the name of Jesus, who has lovingly redeemed me!

I'm drawing a line in the sand, Lord. Because of your love, you've blessed me and brought me safely this far, and I know your hands-on involvement will get me all the way Home.

When I was lost and had no idea who God was or that he loved me, Jesus came looking for me. He saved me from the wrong, dangerous path I was on; he spilled his blood to buy my safety.

I owe so much for how you give me all these blessings and allow me a fresh start with each day. My desire is that all the goodness you show me will help me to actually live a better life and permanently affix the core of who I am to you.

Because I can feel the awful truth...that my tendency is to wander away from you, the very God I profess to love so much. Here, Blessing-Giver, take my heart and forever make it part of your heavenly kingdom...label it Yours!

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Truth is...I am prone to wander; Lord, I feel it. Please hold on to me tighter than I hold on to you. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Long Day, Early Morning

It had been a long day for Jesus.

He preached in the local synagogue...and in such a way that people were amazed. ("This man talks like he really knows what he's saying; not like the half-hearted teachers we normally hear!") But he couldn't even get through the sermon without a demon-possessed man standing up and yelling "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

Well...Jesus wasn't wanting that kind of testimony just yet, so he ordered the evil spirit to shut up and move out.

After the Sabbath service, Jesus went to Peter and Andrew's house, where Peter's mother-in-law would have been happy to give them dinner, but she was sick in bed...so Jesus healed her.

After sundown, when the Sabbath was officially over, the house was overrun with townspeople bringing their sick and demon-possessed relatives and friends for Jesus to heal and deliver. He did, of course...for all we know, well into the night.

And yet, Mark records, in chapter 1, verse 35: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."

Truth is...the normal thing to say at this point is "If Jesus needed to get away and pray, how much more do we need to do so?" But the thought strikes me...maybe it wasn't his need that motivated him to pray, but his relationship that made him want to pray.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VeggieTales Creator Writes Adult Book

Assuming you are a human being, currently alive in a section of the world influenced by Western entertainment...and by that, I don't mean guys in leather vests riding horses into the sunset...with a basic knowledge of how human beings spend several years as children before becoming adults, you are probably at least aware of the existence of the Christian entertainment phenomenon called VeggieTales(R). It absolutely changed children's videos forever and practically created direct-to-video Christian entertainment.

I recently read a book by the creator of VeggieTales(R), Phil Vischer, titled Me, Myself, & Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables. It's a very interesting tale of the creation of Big Idea Productions and its rise to near-empire status, rapidly followed by bankruptcy.


Contrary to what The Average Joe Christian might think, the tale of VeggieTales(R) isn't all sunshine and lollipops. Vischer learned some very hard lessons about making plans and striving for success and does a great job at sharing what he learned in the pages of this book. For instance, this quote from the penultimate chapter:

As I write this, I am growing increasingly convinced that if every one of these kids burning with passion to write that hit Christian song or make that hit Christian movie or start that hit Christian ministry to change the world would instead focus their passion on walking with God on a daily basis, the world would change. What is "walking with God?" Simple. Doing what he asks you to do each and every day. Living in active relationship with him. Filling your mind with his Word, and letting that Word penetrate every waking moment.

So why do I believe a thousand kids walking with God will have more impact on the world than one kid making a hit movie? Because the world learns about God not by watching Christian movies, but by watching Christians. We are his hands and feet. What I put in my movies is more or less irrelevant if it isn't coming out in my life. I realized I had become so busy trying to "save the world" with my visionary ministry that I was often too stressed and preoccupied to make eye contact with the girl bagging my groceries at the supermarket. And where does Christianity actually happen? Where does the "rubber meet the road," as it were? Up on the big screen in a movie theater? On TV? No. Across the checkout line at the grocery store, between me and a girl who makes a fraction of what I make and assumes I don't give a rip about her life. That's where it matters. And that's where, I realized, I was blowing it every day.

Truth is...it is far too easy to spend all my time, energy, and emotions on I, me, and mine. How quickly I forget that "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...." (Galatians 2:20)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bound To Come Some Trouble

Stop anyone, anytime, anywhere and ask them if they've got any trouble in their life...I'm pretty sure the answer will be yes.

...with a capital "T" that rhymes with "P", and that stands for "Plenty".

When you've got the opportunity, pass along this bit of wise encouragement to them...and be sure to keep some of it for yourself:

"Reach out to Jesus and hold on tight. He's been there before, and he knows what it's like...and you'll find he's there."

Truth is...being a follower of Christ doesn't take away all the trouble in a person's life, but it guarantees you won't have to go through it alone. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chambers Refuses To Be Condensed

Almost every morning, I post on my personal Facebook timeline a quote from that day's reading in the devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. A few weeks ago, the reading was so rich...so full of exquisite truth...I just couldn't leave anything out in order to create a two-sentence pithy statement.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matthew 5:3)

Beware of thinking of our Lord as only a teacher. If Jesus Christ is only a teacher, then all He can do is frustrate me by setting a standard before me I cannot attain. What is the point of presenting me with such a lofty ideal if I cannot possibly come close to reaching it? I would be happier if I never knew it. What good is there in telling me to be what I can never be - to be "pure in heart" (5:8), to do more than my duty, or to be completely devoted to God? I must know Jesus Christ as my Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of a lofty ideal which only leads to despair. But when I am born again by the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come only to teach - He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The redemption means that Jesus Christ can place within anyone the same nature that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives us are based on that nature.

The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces a sense of despair in the natural man - exactly what Jesus means for it to do. As long as we have some self-righteous idea that we can carry out our Lord's teaching, God will allow us to continue until we expose our own ignorance by stumbling over some obstacle in our way. Only then are we willing to come to Him as paupers and receive the first principle in the kingdom of God. The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ's kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, "Lord, I cannot even begin to do it." Then Jesus says, "Blessed are you..." (5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.

Truth is...while we talk in terms of submitting to Jesus and humbling ourselves under his Lordship, there's an awful lot of getting-from-him-what-we-really-need involved...could almost be considered selfish on our part.