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A ‘Screwtape’ Letter to the Christian Teacher

Inspired by C.S Lewis and a writing prompt…
My dearest Abaddon,

It is my absolute honor to share with you that we have acquired a new target to torment at Greater Grace Christian Academy. He is young, and full of useless knowledge, so we have many avenues to work on him through. If we encounter an area where he may be less reliant on himself, and more reliant on our Adversary, then we will simply steer clear of it for the time being. We must weaken the boy first before we recklessly attack any of those strongholds…

Now remember Abaddon, I have been manipulating the minds of these ‘teachers’ for centuries, warping them into some of the most disgraceful of their kind, ruining them one seemingly harmless day at a time. So as you read these words, consider them and understand that these ideas have worked for the past 6,000 years, and will still work today. The hearts of these abominable creatures always beat to the same rhythm.

Phase one can be handled a number of ways, but I highly recommend that you start by making sure he focuses on the subject he is teaching rather than the pupils he is teaching. These vermin cling to those who are roughly 10-15 years older than they, so keep the boy as impersonal as possible. Fill his mind with the quirky annoyances that accompany each rat, rather than letting him see them as a part of the Adversary’s creation after His image. The more our subject focuses on the content of which he’s teaching, the less time he’ll have to consider his constituents; and they will begin to resent not only him, but the subject, and ultimately the environment in which they all had this unpleasant experience.

Phases two and three become a breeze if you spend enough time laying down the foundation in phase one. For phase two, you must closely follow the subject to his dwelling place and study his habits. Once you are familiar with the territory, you must make all of his routines seem like a hassle and a chore, and turn all of his leisure times into a bombardment of stimuli. Do not allow his mind to rest. By doing this, you’ll keep him out of the powerful grasp of the Adversary’s Word and Presence. The less he is being quickened by our Opponent, the less effective he’ll be in front of others. The less he willingly learns on a daily basis, the less he’ll pass on to those who desperately need it. Occupy him with his finances, sinful tendencies, and past, and you’ll cripple him for the present. I’m salivating just thinking about the possibilities of what you’ll be able to do with his mind and soul!

Now, once everything falls into place, and he’s filled with the knowledge of his subject content only, constantly reminding himself of his past rather than thinking with the Adversary in refreshment and forgiveness, charge the atmosphere in his classroom each day about five minutes before he walks through the door.  Those insects won’t have any idea what they’re walking into. And even if our subject catches on to what we’re doing, he won’t be able to shift the atmosphere with his illegitimate faith. Make sure there’s enough static in the room to get those buggers speaking out and shifting around constantly. That way every single one of his responses or lack thereof is being closely watched. The more he fails ungracefully in front of them, the more he is playing right into our hands.

So, Abaddon, with these words I commit unto you all power and subtlety as given to me by our Most Evil Father. The more worms we send to the unquenchable fire, the more pleased He will be.

                                                                   To death eternal in the great abyss,

Yours truly,

Crucio Magnifico

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An Undeserved Gift

        It was 9:00 p.m. on a Thursday night, and I was sulking in my room after a loss to our cross-town rivals in basketball.  I was mad at the world and coping the way I always did, listening  to an old Matchbox Twenty soundtrack, Yourself or Someone Like You (cause I’m a 90’s kid).  Life wasn’t special, there was nothing glamorous about it, and I was fed up with a series of events that didn’t go my way.  My dad came in to try and talk to me, but I shut him out completely.  A few minutes later, when I was left alone in my misery, I defiantly told God that I didn’t believe in Him (ironic I’m talking to someone whom I no longer believed in); that He couldn’t be real with the way my life was going, I was in 9th grade.

        Three years later it was Christmas break and my two oldest siblings were home from college.  Life had become different since they left, the house was quieter, and my parents had talked less and less to each other over time.  I didn’t find much enjoyment in my day-to-day  besides playing sports and watching movies, so I was watching Idlewild with Lauren (the oldest) in the basement when I heard my mom yell down, “Mat, Lauren, can you come upstairs?  We need to have a family talk.”  I didn’t really know what was coming, but looking back it should have been glaringly apparent.  My parents were getting a divorce.

        I grew up knowing a little bit about God, not enough to believe He existed though.  What I did know, or at least thought I did prior to the night of our “family talk”, was that my parents were good people and that they loved each other.  That’s all I needed to know in order to make some sense out of life.  But, when the truth that my parents loved each other was shattered, and one or both of them could have been a bad person underneath, my fragile concept of life shattered with it.  And so, I began searching for a shatter-proof concept, the name of which I did not know.  Much later now, I realize, I began searching for Truth.

        After about a year had passed, I was invited by my younger brother’s friends to this thing called “Club” run by an organization called Young Life.  It had never intrigued me before, and I had said no many times to other invites in previous years.  But life was different now, and a searching heart needs something to occupy itself with. At these clubs we did all sorts of fun, stupid things, like eating chocolate covered mystery foods (I got a garlic clove once, it was horrible but great all at the same time), singing random songs at the top of our lungs, and playing ice breaker games to relieve all that awkward teenage angst.  Then, at the end, one of the guys leading songs would get up and speak about something that happened in their lives.  I thought it was odd how they always managed to relate it to something in the Bible.

        It was during one of these five minute messages I heard a young guy named Ben say something personal about his life and his walk with Jesus.  I had always heard about Jesus going to church, but never like this.  Ben talked about all the crazy ups and downs life had thrown at him, and how Jesus stayed the same through all of it.  It intrigued me, to say the least.  A few months later, after being totally hooked on going to Club every Monday night, I went to a week-long summer camp sponsored by Young Life in Lake Champion, New York.  It was here my life would change forever.

        Every day was like a Monday night Club amplified to the thousandth degree.  We played sports, we sang songs, we ate tons of food, and we met lots of people from all over the Northeastern United States.  And yes, every night we listened to a guest speaker talk to us about the Bible and Jesus Christ, too.  By day four, I knew I needed to talk to Ben about the stuff I had been hearing.  He seemed to know it too, as he asked me to accompany him to go pick up some mail over at the office cabin.  He asked me questions about my church background, about my parents divorce (I had mentioned it to him before), and finally about the messages each night.

        So I flat out asked him, “How can I earn it?  How can I get Jesus in my life?”  and he laughed.  This was not the response I was expecting.  We sat down on a rock next to the climbing wall, and he clarified that there was nothing I could do to earn Jesus in my life.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  All my life I had earned things; a spot on a sports team, my grades in school, the admiration of my peers by being kind and listening to them, how could I not earn this?  I knew what he was saying was true, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept it.

        In less than a moment, I found myself strangely hating Ben and what he was saying, arguing with him and becoming more and more upset that I couldn’t understand how it worked.  At some point in the conversation I started crying and yelling at him saying, “I don’t deserve it, I don’t deserve it, I can’t earn it so I don’t deserve it!”  Unperturbed by my outbursts and hostility, Ben simply smiled at me and said,

“Exactly.  It’s a gift, none of us deserve it, we can only accept it.”

        Suddenly it clicked, and as simple as it sounds, we prayed for Jesus to be a part of my life on the spot.  All the feelings of hate and inadequacy I had just moments before had completely vanished, and I was at peace.  I can’t attribute this to anything other than the Holy Spirit.  A few days later, along with many other campers, I got to pronounce my decision to follow Christ and was given a Bible.  I left that camp knowing that something was different in my life, that something had changed forever.  Life had started fresh for me, and I figured out what Truth really was/is; Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

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Shards of Glass

broken-mirror

Picture a mirror in front of you.

What do you see?

How would you describe yourself?

Do you first glance at all the imperfections you’ve become well acquainted with over the years?  Or do you look yourself in the eye, attempting to search for what’s within?

The reflection of man is possibly the most scrutinized concept across the world (apart from God), and it never seems to end with us feeling good about ourselves.  We immediately point out our flaws and shortcomings.  We cover up or groom over those spots that no one else should see.  And we seldom look ourselves in the eye out of fear of what we know lurks in that great abyss called the soul.

This critical attitude we harbor against ourselves has been prevalent since just after the dawn of time, when Adam and Eve realized they were naked in the garden (Gen. 3:10), and covered themselves out of shame.

We see it in the life of Moses at the beginning of Exodus.  As the former Prince of
Egypt speaks with God (the burning bush);  the insecurity he may have acquired over 40 years of thinking about how his own people rejected him shows itself in chapter 3 verse 11,

“Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

and again at the end of verse 13 as he excuses himself with, “…what shall I say to them?”

We find it in the context of focusing on weakness in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians.  In chapter 12 verse 8 Paul asked the Lord three times to have the thorn in his flesh removed.

And we notice it one more time in John 8 as the woman caught in adultery can’t bear to look at her accusers while her sinful life has been opened up to public ridicule and condemnation.

All of these instances can be seen as examples of what happens when we look into the mirror and focus on our flaws and shortcomings.  Can you relate to being insecure about your position in the workplace, the home, the church?  Do you often think of your weaknesses and imagine how much better life would be without them dragging you down?  Do you groom over or cover up those spots of sin in your life, afraid to bring them to the light of your relationship with God (confesion) or other people (transparency)? I think we all can relate somehow, if we’re honest.

So then what’s the solution?  How do we get past focusing on those aspects of our lives?  What can we do with that mirror that’s constantly magnifying our deficiencies in life?

I believe the answer is in the Lord’s response to each one of the cases presented above.

As Moses excuses himself time after time, God exclaims, “I AM THAT I AM…I AM has sent me unto you,” letting Moses know that it has nothing to do with his own name, his own effort, and his own status in the world, but God’s. (Exodus 3:14) A large crack suddenly appears in the mirror, splitting it in two

While Paul is begging for the thorn to be done away with Christ answers him and says, “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” again taking the focus off of Paul’s weakness and putting it all on God’s strength. (2 Cor. 12:9) Another crack forms sideways across the mirror

And as the woman sulks on the ground thinking her life is about to end, Jesus asks her to look up and see who is left to accuse her.  When she sees that He’s the only one still there, and realizes that He’s the only one qualified to accuse her of sinning, Christ says, “Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more,” to tell us it’s not about our sin, but about His love and mercy towards us. (John 8:11) Two more cracks make an ‘X’ on the mirror

God is in the business of shattering the concepts we have of ourselves and our lives. He wants to break the mirror in front of us, and have it fall to the ground so that we can see Him and who He is.  While our former identity lay on the ground in shambles, God’s awe-inspiring glory reflects off of us, and His Spirit changes us (2 Cor. 3:18).

God has given us a new identity and the former things have passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). So let’s allow what God says to be our focus, and let’s watch the shards of glass on the ground turn back into sand and blow away forever. (Col. 3:1, Hebrews 12:1-2, Matthew 6:33)

 

 

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How to Survive Bible College

booksgirlStudents:  Every single one of you has a story.  That story started from the day you were conceived up until this very moment.  Although all of your stories are unique, they all somehow brought you to this irregular place in life, attending Maryland Bible College and Seminary.  Maybe you’ve just arrived, and you’re not even sure why you came; or maybe you’ve been here for a few years and you’re just trying to hold on until graduation.  

Whatever the case may be, I thought it would be nice to let you in on a few secrets that I’ve learned over the past three years I’ve been enrolled.  Before I begin, here’s a little disclaimer:  Your time here will be a struggle, and there’s no real “how-to” formula to keep you from leaving.  So take these thoughts as coming from a student who is always struggling, always wrestling, and always wondering why he’s still here.

 

Step 1:  Just show up.  I’m not sure if you realize it yet, but you’re an adult now.  As an adult, you are in charge of prioritizing your time.  It’s not up to Mom and Dad, it’s up to you.  If you just show up for class on the nights you scheduled it, you’ve already won half the battle.   Believe me when I say that the devil will you give every reason not to show up. It’s the nights we least expect it that we hear something that changes our lives.  Ephesians 6:12

 

Step 2:  Take notes that mean something to you.  Is this secular college?  N, O, NO!  But don’t let that fool you, even though we’re unaccredited, the classes you’re taking are filled with academic information.  Please do not write all of it down.  You’re not just listening to the teacher up in front of the classroom, you’re listening to what the Spirit of God is saying to you as you listen.  By all means take notes, but help yourself out and write notes that you’ll want to look over again one day.  1 John 2:20, 27

 

Step 3:  Keep a personal walk with God.  Life is extremely busy.  I know what you’re thinking, there are classes, raps, student events, and church services, there’s dorm life, chill time, grocery shopping (or food bank), and SLEEP, aren’t the hours I spend in class just as good as personal time with God?  I don’t know how else to say this to you, but no, nothing can replace one on one quiet time with God.  Classes aren’t going to get you through the struggles of day to day life, God will.  Your friends can be there for you and bear your burdens, but God bears our biggest burden, our sin nature.  Somehow He got you here, don’t leave Him behind in the process.  

Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33, 11:28-30

 

Step 4:  Be a Berean.  Like I said earlier, you’re going to hear a ton of academic and spiritual information while you’re at Greater Grace and in Bible College.  Unfortunately, not all of it will be correct.  The Bereans are a people who heard the word of God directly from Paul the Apostle’s mouth.  Do you know what they did with the man whom Jesus called personally after His death?  They checked every single word he spoke to see if it lined up with the whole canon of Scripture!  Pastors are going to offend you.  Sometime’s it’s your flesh, and other times it’s theirs.  Check to see if what is being preached and taught is accurate before you get offended.  No one wants you to leave because you’re offended.  On the contrary, God may be provoking you to find an answer for yourself.  Dig deep!  

Acts 17:10-11, Isaiah 28:10, Genesis 28: 18-24

 

Step 5:  Learn to pray.  This is still a mystery to me.  I’m probably one of the worst students of prayer at the school.  I’ll find every excuse in the world not to, but as I write this paper, I can’t help but put it on the page as an essential survival tip.  You don’t know how to pray?  Be around people who do.  You’re not sure what the point of it is?  Just look at the lives of the mighty men and women in front of you on a day to day basis and explain to me how they got there without prayer!  I’m not saying you have to pray, otherwise I’d be condemning myself along with you.  What I am saying is that there’s something important about it, and if you’re open to it, God will make it work in your life.  Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thess. 5: 17, 24

 

Step 6: Don’t give up, don’t quit.  If there’s something I genuinely do appreciate about the man I never knew who started this ministry, it’s all the times I’ve ever heard him scream, “DON’T QUIT, DON’T QUIT, DON’T QUIT!!!”  We all think about it from time to time, there’s no shame in admitting it.  But Paul’s words come to mind in Philippians 3:13-14:  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  No matter how far you think you’ve come, or how much you think you’ve gained, there’s always something more to be had.  

1 Corinthians 8:2, Romans 12:3, Philippians 3:13-14

 

Step 7: Learn to rebound.  In basketball, the term rebound can literally mean “to clean up a missed shot.”  Interestingly enough, one of the words for “sin” in the Greek literally means “to miss the mark (think of an arrow missing the bullseye).”  So the idea of rebounding in Christianity is as simple as cleaning up the stray arrows that missed the target.  You simply can’t move forward in your walk until you stop looking back at your mistakes.  Do you forget them?  No.  Do you learn from them?  If you want.  Can you repent, put them behind you and know they are covered by the blood of Christ shed for you on the cross?  Absolutely.  

Proverbs 24:16, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 9:14 & 10:22  

 

Step 8: God.  In closing, I’ve already said it before, but I’ll say it again.  Nothing and no one will get you through your day to day life better than God.  He is a rewarder to them that diligently seek Him.  He is faithful and true, He is not a man that He should lie, and He does not change.  You want to make it through Bible College?  Get to know who God is.  He is love, the way, the truth, the life, in Him is light and no variableness or shadow of turning; He is the comforter, teacher, healer, I AM THAT I AM.  He’s full of grace, mercy, loving kindess, forgiveness, faith, and so much more.  He is the alpha and omega, beginning and end, first and last.  You are because He is.  Get preoccupied with your Creator, and you won’t have time to contemplate the decision to give up or quit.  I know God will bless your time here and remember, when we are faithless, He remains faithful, amen.  Too many verses to label

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Beyond our Faults

Imagine a blank canvas in front of you.  As you look upon it, thoughts come to life and a disheveled man appears in the bottom corner of the frame.  His clothes are worn, his face is splattered with mud, and his eyes stare blankly off the edge of the page, wondering what’s happened with his life.  There’s a very dim light in the background, but it’s unclear as to what the source is.  We’ll call this man, John.

John has been beaten down by guilt.  He can’t get over all the things he’s done wrong in life; he can’t look past all the people that he’s hurt, all the promises he never kept, and all the times he lied to take advantage of a situation or promote himself over others.

John’s scared that the end of his life is near, and the looming thought of Death’s cold sickle sends shivers down his back.  There is no hope for John, at least in his mind. Yet, this strange light appears to grow brighter behind him as you scan your eyes towards the center of the canvas.  It’s all a blur, though, as you’re stuck thinking about John’s faults and shortcomings.  

As you remind yourself that this is only a small piece of the portrait, you take a step back, and refocus your eyes on the whole canvas.  And again, your imagination starts spinning and recalls a scene you once heard about as a young child.  Two bloodied, tattered men appear on the left and right, dying, with heads hung low.  They are hanging in the air on what appear to be trees.  Still the strange light grows brighter.

Finally, in the middle of the frame, a considerably more bloodied and tattered man appears glowing bright.  He’s hanging from a cross with his head held high, exclaiming something into the ominous sky.  “It is Finished!” He says, and it all becomes clear.  

We are all in some way or another, John.  Having been beaten up by life and let ourselves and others down over and over again.  But God doesn’t see that in the bigger picture of life and creation.  All He sees is His Son on the cross, having paid for our sins, yelling out to every demon in the atmosphere, “It is Finished!”  We only need to turn towards the light, and our lives are changed forever.

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A Wee Thought from Ireland

As I look back on my ten short days in Ireland and Northern Ireland, I can’t help but to compare the amount of vast untouched beauty the island holds to the amount of structure and intricacy that the people have brought to the land.  The larger cities were full of people from all over the world and structures (like the Spire) which I’ve never seen before; the smaller towns were full of character and a unity I haven’t seen in a long time; and nature was just that, natural, green, and full of God’s fingerprints.

Not all man-made structure is beneficial to society though, as religion is one of those constructs.  It seemed both Dublin and Belfast, though open to conversations about God, had no real grasp on the character and love God has for them because of the religious concepts they were taught growing up.

       Maybe as a subconscious way of countering that attitude, the prevailing thought amongst the team in our devotional times was the intimacy that our relationship in Christ can be filled with.  Paul describes Him as the bridegroom and us the bride in Ephesians, marriage being the most intimate relationship humans can comprehend while on the Earth.  And again in 1 Corinthians 6:17, we are joined unto the Lord as one spirit.
       Religion is a trap we set for God that we always get caught up in ourselves.  It’s an easy way to put finite brackets around an infinite God.  But in Psalm 91:3, the psalmist tells us that God will surely deliver us from the snare of the fowler (even if we are the fowler).  He’s waiting to show people caught up in religion just how intimate He can be in their lives, to give them mercy in Proverbs 28:13 and Jeremiah 3:13-16, to convince them they are the children of promise in Galatians 4:31, and to fill their longing hearts with love in Romans 5:5.
       So, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and every saint belonging to the body of Christ, I’ll leave you with one provoking question to see if God stirs your heart (I pose this question to myself as well).  How can men and women of Ireland and Northern Ireland understand the true nature and character of God and what they read about Him unless someone should guide them?  Lost people desire that you would come up and sit with them in Acts 8:31, so what are you waiting for?
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Batman

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The Dark Knight is one of my favorite characters ever to pop up in DC Universe.  I can’t say that I’m an avid comic book reader, but I’ve been watching the cartoons, television shows, and movies since I was a little boy.  The fictional Bruce Wayne went through some amazingly horrific times as a child to become the Caped Crusader.  And though these trials were all figments of many writers’ gifted imaginations, we all can relate and connect to them on a personal level.

In Batman Begins, as he’s exploring the vast property of Wayne Manor, young Bruce falls down into a deep, dark well and breaks something in his leg.  While being hoisted out by his father, bats go flying everywhere, surrounding Bruce in even greater darkness and calamity.  This event is seared into his subconscious so that every time he sees a bat, the same terror and dread Bruce felt that day swells up inside of him. Do you have any sight, sound, or smell in your life that does something similar?

I’m sure you do, but If not, then I think everyone can relate to the next concept.  In probably the most defining moment of his life, Bruce not only loses that which he loves most, but also watches the heartless brutality of the world manifest itself right in front of him as he loses it.  The story line goes like this: The wealthy Wayne family spends a night out together going to see a show.  As the family leaves the theater, they take a shortcut down a back alley and are approached by a masked man. The mugger first demands of them their money, then their possessions, and finishes by taking their lives.

Loss is so real in life, so real. It’s completely unavoidable, and absolutely life-shattering.  In many cases, such as the story above, we lose something close to our hearts, and with it we lose any concept we have of life and the way it works.  Bruce loses his parents. And with that loss, concepts like life is fair, the world is just, and good personal decisions produce good karma disappear.  Divorce shatters the idea of true love. Losing a job shatters the idea that hard work pays off, the list goes on and on.  What have you lost that shattered concepts you once had about life?

When I wonder why we have loss, I think about the manifestation of the world’s heartless brutality (the mugger), and I give him a name, Death.  And when I wonder why loss is unavoidable and life-shattering, I think of these things as the description of Death’s effects on humanity.  The Joker defines this relationship between Death and humanity best when he says, “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”

Death really is unstoppable.  First, like the mugger he demands our money, so we rebel and spend it on things that give us temporary life or pleasure.  Then he takes away our possessions and we rebel by getting more or holding onto things we don’t really need.  But in the end, at the last, Death comes for what he really wants, our lives.  He takes it and we can do nothing to stop him.

Now although this all seems terribly negative, I’d encourage you all to remember the words of Jim Gordon, “The night is always darkest before the dawn.” Death may be unstoppable, but it is not unconquerable.

In regards to the story, let’s remember that young Bruce Wayne never has an image bearer to rally behind without his phobia of bats.  And without suffering loss, he never has a reason to become Batman, something greater than himself.  In real-life, we have a phobia for the effects of Death and we suffer loss, but no one knows what image bearer to rally behind.

Some say Buddha, because he tried to numb his mind from the suffering associated with loss.  Others say the prophet Muhammad, but Death still got the best of him.  And more and more say there’s nothing to rally behind, maybe because they’ve suffered so much loss and never received a satisfactory answer amongst their trials.

But a guy named Peter in the Bible talked about suffering like this, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory…”  And another guy in the same book named James said, “…count it all joy when you fall into diverse trials and temptations; knowing, that the trying of your faith works patience,” while yet another guy named Paul adds that, “…tribulation works patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed…”

All three of these guys had an image bearer whom they believed in, and His name was Jesus Christ.  He actually lived, he actually died, and most importantly, he actually conquered Death by being resurrected and later ascending into heaven. When I look at Peter, James, and Paul’s outlooks on the effects of Death, and how they wrote about their experiences with pain, loss, and suffering, I see the dawn coming even though everything around me is pitch black.  You can too, just tell Christ you believe in what He did for you, and He’ll fill you with his light.  You’ll become something greater than yourself.  Death will lose it’s sting, and the grave will lose its victory.

Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 27:32-61, Luke 24 (all of it), 1 Corinthians 15:57

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Telephone Poles

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So I was driving around Baltimore with this Polish guy, we call him Polish Dynamite, but he prefers Dawid, and we were talking about the most random things on the way to our destination.  Then, out of nowhere, we came to a screeching stop!

Baltimore drivers have a way of making that happen no matter what situation is unraveling on the road, but this time, there was a just cause.  Our regular two lane street was, all of a sudden, one lane.  You know, the kind where a man with a Slow/Stop sign is monitoring one way, and another man or woman is monitoring the other way, and everywhere in between is marked off with cones and a construction truck of some type is forcing cars going in both directions to only use the single lane they haven’t blocked off?  YEAH, THAT!

Normally, the construction truck would be fixing a pot hole, or blocking off work on the sidewalk, but this time there was a man hanging high in the air working on a phone line.

And it prompted our conversation thus:

“Polish Dynamite, when’s the last time you ever noticed the telephone poles?  They are everywhere, literally everywhere, but somehow we go through our day never taking any notice of them.  Isn’t that kind of weird?”

“Yes, that’s actually kind of profound when you think of it in the spiritual realm!”

“How so?”

“Well, it’s kind of how we treat God.  We don’t notice Him even though He’s there all the time, everywhere we go.  But as soon as something goes wrong, He’s very noticeable and we look up and blame Him for the inconvenience of having to come to a screeching halt. Sometimes it’s the only reason we acknowledge Him.”

So let me ask you the same question, when’s the last time you were driving around, or even walking around for that matter, and took notice of the telephone poles all around you?

But really, I’m asking you this, when’s the last time you acknowledged God’s presence, and not just because something bad caused you to come to a screeching halt?

EuroConic

Who:  Sinners, Saints, Missionaries, and Preachers

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What:  Worldwide Missions Conference

 

Where:  Budapest, Hungary

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When:  March 14-18, 2017

Why:  A Time of Love

Esther 4:14 ends with an amazing question.

“Who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

After being back in the United States for almost two full weeks now, I find myself asking that question about our ministry’s time in Hungary.  Except I’m not asking it as a sincere question, but rather as an affirmation of God’s timing in the way that He works in us collectively and individually.

I’ve never been a part of something that was more united from the onset.  People from every part of the world were conversing, laughing, crying, and fellow-shipping over the Word of God.  When this happens, there is no doubt in my mind that anyone who was there, “came to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

The theme of the conference was theologically based on Ezekiel 16:8.  It’s a special verse inside a poignant chapter of the Bible.  It speaks particularly of God’s care for Israel during a time when no one else pitied the nation. It’s a great picture for the start of a believer’s relationship with God. He covers us and calls us his own.

On a personal level, I feel like I’ve heard and am still hearing so much about God’s love as an action towards me.  For instance, Pastor Dennis Hulett (Albania) pointed out in Ezekiel 16:6 that when God passes by us and sees us polluted in our own blood, He tells us to “Live, live.”  To put it in a New Testament perspective, it’s like God is the Good Samaritan saving us from circumstances that put us in a ditch (Luke 10:30-35).

I also heard Pastor Boyce (England) elaborate on the word “somewhat,” in Revelation 2:4 as it refers to the church of Ephesus leaving its first love.  He said something to the affect of ‘Love isn’t just another word on our checklist of concepts to live life by, it is the way we live.’  We can build our house on wisdom and understanding and we can fill its chambers with knowledge, but if we forget to start our building with a cornerstone of Christ, who is God (John 1:1), who is Love (1 John 4:8, 16), then the whole building is going to come crashing down around us.

Lastly, in a session with young adults, Pastor Westera (Baltimore) elaborated on the nitty-gritty side of love and its basis being in the principles that Christ teaches us as He went to the Cross.  He was submitted to those He loved (sinners everywhere through time); He expressed His love toward us in the act of all acts, laying down His life for ours (John 15:13); and despite our inherent ability to disappoint, much like the Jewish nation in the rest of Ezekiel 16, Jesus chooses to love us anyway (Romans 5:8), and God remembers his covenant with His chosen nation (Ezekiel 16:60).

I feel like there’s a lot more to say and to share, but let’s keep in mind one last thing.  With a God as loving and gracious as our God, we can always be living in a “Time of Love.”  When we’re caught up in sin, He tells us to boldly approach Him (Heb. 4:12).  When we’re ready to see wrong things made right, He says to love mercy (Micah 6:8).  And when we’re ready to react to our enemies insults and attacks, Christ says to feed them (Rom. 12:19).

Love is always a choice, and time here on earth is only a moment in heaven.  Let’s choose to take a heavenly moment and love someone today.