Wednesday, April 23, 2014

At Calvary

There is an old hymn that we used to sing in church when I was growing up. It was called "At Calvary". There is just something about that hymn that speaks to me and gives me a reminder of just how amazing God's love really is.

"Years I spent in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified, knowing not it was for me He died at Calvary."

This first verse relates how someone might know about God, the stories in the Bible, or even be active in their church, yet not value the sacrifice of Jesus for them individually. Jesus laid aside the full expression of His deity, lived a sinless life, and submitted Himself to the plan of salvation which ended in His eventual crucifixion. More than this, He did it all for you to show the glory of His love and forgiveness.

"By God's word, at lat, my sin I learned. Then I trembled at the Law I'd spurned, 'til my guilty soul, imploring, turned to Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary."

An honest reading of God's word opens the eyes of the reader to the holiness of God's character. In light of that holiness, we see ourselves as falling far short of God's glory. Yet, at the cross God's mercy was plainly seen as the required payment for our sin was payed by God Himself. Forgiveness is offered as a free gift!

"Now I've given to Jesus everything. Now I gladly own Him as my king. Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary".

This verse speaks of a life that is totally surrendered to the Lord. Surrender like this is not a matter of begrudging submission, but rather a joyful handing over of the keys to your life to the God who created you and cares deeply for your very best.

"Oh the love that drew salvation's plan, oh the grace that brought it down to man. Oh the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary."

We find salvation, forgiveness, and God's grace at the foot of the cross.   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lamp and Light

Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

The word of God, the Bible, is a precious gift. It is most likely that in your home, you have at least one copy of the Bible, perhaps even more than one. More than a collection of interesting stories and spiritual proverbs, the Bible is a beautiful telling of God's story working throughout history in the lives of individuals, families, and nations. It is filled with stories of intrigue, romance, vengeance, conquest, defeat, sorrow, joy, wisdom and ultimate victory.

This verse says that God's word is "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". I thought of this just the other night when I walked out of the house to go to the shop in total darkness. The clouds covered the sky, as wind and cold rain blew across the yard. With no light from moon or stars, and without a flashlight, I had to take my time to get there, being careful not to run into a tree or other obstacles. But on the way back to the house, with a little light in one of the windows, it seemed easier to navigate the darkness, because it provided me a clue as to where I should go. When I returned to the shop a little later on, I grabbed a flashlight to help light my way, and walked with ease.

God's word is like that when we are facing even daily decisions and looking for the direction we should go. We can find wisdom in the things God has said in His word. We can find hope, forgiveness, and a sense of mission as we get to know God through the pages of His word.

Nestled within the pages of scripture, , are these words from Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." What an incredible promise!

God, the creator of the universe, cares enough about humanity to bless us in very real and tangible ways. He forgives sin, offers healing, restores broken lives, and raises us to a place of honor, where He gives us a crown made of His love and mercy. Like a mother or father who feeds their children with good food that will help them become strong and healthy, God satisfies our spiritual need with Himself. As pastor and author John Piper has said, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him".

How is your relationship with God? Is it strong and healthy, struggling to grow, weak and failing? You will do yourself a great favor just by opening up His word to learn of Him, who loves you and desires His very best for you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring to Life

This is a beautiful time of year. In our corner of North Dakota, it has been a long and cold winter and I know that many of us are glad for the change in weather. Farmers and gardeners alike get visibly excited to finally be able to get into that field or garden, till up that dirt and start planting. Students in school start to come alive again with anticipation of summer and the completion of another school year. The streets get cleaned up, the grass turns green and soon leaves will begin to bud on the trees.

More than just a change in weather, the arrival of spring reminds us of a very real and very important truth. It signals to us the revival of LIFE! The world simply seems to be more alive and full of adventure and promise when we see it coming alive. Spring is the time to plant seeds, and we do so with the hope and expectation that those seeds will do as they ought. We plant with the expectation that we will one day reap a harvest.

In the same way, God tells us in His word that we can have a spiritual "spring time" within our hearts, and that He plants "seeds" within us in order to watch them grow in our lives. First, let me say something about new life. In 1 Corinthians 5:17, the Bible says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." There is a time in a person's life where they may have opportunity to see the cold hard ground of their heart in the warm sunlight of God as He begins to work within them. The one who responds to God by calling out to Him, asking for forgiveness and putting their faith and trust in Jesus, is then brought into a time of spiritual Spring, where new life begins.

The verse above contains a precious promise that I think many readers will appreciate. It says that "the old has passed away". That means that former sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean, and a person is literally able to begin a new life- in Jesus Christ. So many people feel a sense of overwhelming guilt because they know that there are issues in their past that separate them from a clean relationship with God. When we call out to God for help and forgiveness, God promises in His word that He will forgive those sins, and "remove them as far as the east is from the west." (Ps. 103:12) You are offered a new life, where the old life is wiped away! And while a person may have to deal with earthly consequences, there is a real sense of hope that all may be made well.

That verse also contains a second precious promise. Just like a farmer or gardener plants a seed in the ground with the hopeful expectation of a bountiful harvest, God has planned a lifetime of wonderful works to do in us and through us. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God desires to reveal Himself to us, and one of the ways He does so is to lead us through many different experiences and opportunities for service. God has a plan of opportunity for you to take in life, and because He is with you, He will help you lay aside the things that slow you down and cause you to stumble. He will also give you the strength to do exactly what He wants you to do.

These are precious and hopeful promises from God. He truly cares for you and loves you deeply. He invites you to have a spiritual "spring time". Will you call out to Him?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Haiti- a Lesson in Missions

I recently had the privilege of participating in a missions trip to Haiti. Our church has been sending teams to Haiti in the last couple of years as we have had an opportunity to partner with Full Life Crusade, a ministry based in New York state. The overall goal of our mission has been to serve the people of Haiti, particularly in the city of Jeremie, by partnering with Full Life ministries in their activities and by developing our own areas of ministry in the area.

It is difficult to go to a third-world nation, see the difference in living conditions compared to home, and come away with your worldview intact. Seeing how others live in a poor nation, one that was very recently rocked by a massive earthquake, brings a sharp sense of contrast to the plentiful provisions and relative safety of home. This was most obvious to me as my family and I walked into a Wal-Mart in Fargo upon returning home from the trip. It was a little overwhelming to see that from one open spot on the sales floor, I could see the grocery department, clothing, pharmacy, auto parts and toys just by scanning across the store. Finding items such as these in Jeremie would have taken more than half of the day and a long walk around different parts of town. When we went to the cashier with our items, she asked, "Did you find everything today?" I simply looked her in the eye and choked out, "Yes, I found everything". We truly live in a country that has been blessed by God!

While in Haiti, we celebrated with a small church as they marked the first anniversary of their ministry in Jeremie. A year ago, we had taken the opportunity to help this church get started, and now we were able to see the results of a year of diligent hard work and reliance upon God for daily provision. In addition to weekly church services reaching people with the gospel, the church also hosts various "schools" to reach the people in the area with very practical, marketable and helpful skills. These skills include training in electrical, culinary, and interior design trades. Students come to receive training in the various skills, a certificate upon successful completion, and the empowerment to go out, start a business or get a job with a larger business. It is one of the most effective means of helping the people of Haiti, many of whom are facing a poverty that is difficult for many of us to imagine.

The lesson in missions that I think we take away every time we go to Haiti is this: God has blessed us tremendously so that we might be a blessing to others. It is not only a chance for us to share from the bounty we enjoy, but it is also an opportunity for our lives and priorities to be changed. Many of our team members have related the experience of having their eyes opened to the worth of family, home, health, safety and provision that we experience as a gift from God every day. It is a privilege to participate in what God is doing there, and He continues to call us to follow Him in reaching out to the world.