No and Yes

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“No” is a closed door. “No” takes away hope, cancels plans and dashes dreams. It is the end of a dead-end street, and blurs our vision for the future. “No” is the final period at the end of an obituary, extinguishing inspiration and introducing doubt.

“Yes” is a blue sky. It is a flowing river, unstoppable and powerful. “Yes” is the beginning of inspiration, the birthplace of hope. It is the fuel that gives energy to our dreams. “Yes” is sweet music to ears that have only heard discouraging comments.

But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silvanus and Timothy – was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:18-20)

Yes!

 

Encourage someone – today

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I need encouragement. You need encouragement. We need it every day. Encouragement is oxygen for our fire. 

In chapter 3 of Hebrews, we are instructed to encourage one another daily. We read in verse 15, Today, if you hear His voice… It doesn’t say, if He speaks to you today… I believe that God speaks to us every day.We need to be listening – that depends on us! And if we are going to act on what we hear from Him each day, we need to be encouraged each day. 

This passage identifies unbelief as evil (verse 12). We have the ability to help others to stay out of unbelief by helping them to believe. It is amazing what a few words can accomplish to kindle someone’s fire. 

Are we waiting for one special day a week to encourage someone else’s faith? We need to do it daily. We have so many means to do it: a phone call, text, email, social networks, even a personal visit, a cup of coffee… Let’s ask ourselves:

Who can I encourage today? How am I going to do it?

 

Torn pages

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I read it somewhere again.

The reference to the Chinese believers who pass around pages torn out of a Bible, who would give anything to be able to have a complete Bible in their hands. Mentioned, of course, to make us feel grateful for the privilege of having a Bible, or a few Bibles, and the opportunity to buy one whenever we want to. Not only that, but we can read it anywhere, talk about it to anyone, and live what it says without fear of punishment or persecution.

But this time I am really thinking about it, as I sit here reading the Bible on my tablet, trying to decide which of the dozens of versions I want to read from today. Trying to focus on what I am doing, not getting distracted by everything that my day has in store for me. 

But this time I am thinking about this a little differently; if I, like some persecuted believers, only had a page or two to read, and if I knew the great value of those pieces of paper, what would I do with the information that they contained? Wouldn’t I devour the meaning of them and strive to live each thought that they contained? Wouldn’t I also try to find others that valued these precious words as much as I, and meet with them as often as possible to discuss their meaning for our lives?

This morning I read a little bit. Not too much, because today I want to put into practice what I have read. I want to put the same value on these precious words of life as those who possess so few of them, instead of just reading and forgetting their meaning for the life I must live today. 

Help me, Lord, to value this treasure that I have so freely received!

The Gospel vaccine

This morning I read a phrase that sums up nicely how vaccines work:

Image“Vaccines work by mimicking disease agents and stimulating the immune system to build up defenses against them.”

Now, we may have differing opinions as to whether or not we should go get the latest flu vaccine – that depends on how you want to Google the side effects – but I am seeing another vaccine that works very powerfully to prevent a certain condition from taking place.

 I live in Guatemala, a land of abundant churches. Our statistics show that somewhere around 40-50% of the population consider themselves to be born-again Christians. I used to ask God why he keeps me here when there are so many other places where the Gospel is not so available.

 I don’t ask that question any more. When I really opened my eyes to see the situation, I began to seriously question these statistics. If half of the population is following the teachings of Jesus, desiring to please him, praying and searching the scriptures for truth to guide their lives, then why is corruption and violence so common here that nobody even questions it? I know few people, if anyone, that haven’t been robbed at some time in their lives. Even within the churches, adultery, fornication, and domestic violence of all types is not uncommon.  I could go on and on but I will save you from having to read more; you can imagine.

 Yet at every traffic signal you will find banners advertising this and that church event, conference, prophetic convocation, Christian concert, etc… right next to the banners for some club’s drinking bash with half-naked girls all over it. What a contrast.

 These days you hear the word “viral” frequently, especially referring to some YouTube video. In the first-century church faith was viral. People were “infected” with the Good News and went on to show all of the genuine symptoms of the condition. But what I am finding here is that many people are vaccinated against the Gospel – back to the description of a vaccine – with a message that “…mimics disease agents and stimulates the immune system to build up defenses against them.”

 This is already getting long so I won’t go into how I believe this has happened. Maybe next time. But the point is, it is downright dangerous to build up immunity to the only medicine that will save your life.

 So what can we do to infect people with the good news of peace? How can we shake people out of their comfortable, convenient religion to see the living God? I seek God about these questions every day. I am getting some ideas but I would love to hear your opinion too…

Multiple choice, 2 questions:

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1. We who are strong ought to _______ the weaknesses of others and not _______ ourselves.

a) correct, grow

b) publicize, identify

c) bear, please

d) criticize, change

 

2. Each of us is to _______ his neighbor for his good, to his edification.

a) teach

b) evangelize

c) judge

d) please

 

Enough said. (Answer key: Romans 15:1-2)

In spite of a mother’s dreams…

Early this morning as I returned home from a school run, I was thanking God for the location of the apartment where I live; it is centrally located in a busy commercial area of the city. Almost anything I need day to day is within walking distance. My place is easy to find and not intimidating for anyone to visit, without the gates and armed guards that many other residences have here in Guatemala.

I also appreciate not being so insulated from contact with people from all walks of life. Here, contrasts abound; a block away is one of the most elegant restaurants in the city, but on the way there you walk by a house of prostitution, complete with its neon sign. Image

God used this setting this morning to break my heart with a sight that is unfortunately very common here, but this time it struck me differently; across the street from where I parked my car there sat a middle aged man on the sidewalk, drunk and sleeping (I hope!). He sat in a pool of urine. What broke my heart was that God sparked in my imagination a day some decades ago when a woman gave birth to a precious baby boy, the love of her life. I imagined this woman’s hopes and dreams for her son as she held him to her breast and rocked him to sleep. In her mind he would be a doctor, a scientist, or even president… never did she imagine that he would end up ruining his life with alcohol and find himself at the very bottom of society.

I type this with tears. We must realize that God loves each of us, even more than the most devoted mother; his opinion of us never changes. His purposes for our lives remain. He is always ready to lift anybody out of whatever pit they have allowed themself to end up in; by his great grace and mercy he is willing and able to restore anyone to the place that he intended for them.

God help us to see each human being this way, and allow ourselves to be used by him to restore to people the dignity and purpose that he has always desired for them. 

Nobody needs money.

Nobody needs money. Whether it is money in the form of currency or figures in a bank account, in itself the money is not what we need. We only need what we perceive that we could use the money for, but in every case, the need is not the money in itself.

If you really think about it, the substance of money has little value; at best it consists in pieces of metal or paper and ink, or more commonly our stored money exists in digital data on some bank’s computer.  Rather than in its substance, the power of money rests in the value that people place on it, which reduces it to an idea. The economy of a nation depends most of all on the attitude and actions of the people. The value of a nation’s currency changes every day, and in many situations throughout history this change has been drastic and sudden. Those of us living in developing nations are quite aware of this possibility.

What we really need is the actual solution to our situation, the provision for the need. Even if we are in debt and feel we need the money to pay it off, forgiveness of that debt would serve the same purpose. Whether it be food, clothing, housing, transportation, supplies, equipment or personnel, the direct provision for the situation would circumvent the need for cash.

Now, I realize that the most common way for us to take care of these needs is with money. There’s nothing wrong with that! But I think that many times we limit ourselves in our faith when we only think in terms of money.  I know that I need to open myself up to see other ways that God could meet my perceived need. Somehow I feel that if we could focus less on the money, and more on on the actual provision, it may be free us to see God’s hand move even more in our life.

I am thankful to God for the money he has provided me with to move forward in my life and in ministry. But I am even more thankful that He is not limited to that form of provision.

How has God moved in your life in terms of provision?

What changes have you seen in your attitude about money?