Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why the Cross?

A Cross

Today we find them posted on churches and hospitals. They are a statement to the world of what Messiah sacrificed to give us life, and to remind us that there is hope for our dark world. But in reality, a cross means anything but hope, redemption, or life. If you had walked down the dusty roads to Jerusalem in the first century and saw a cross, hope would not even be on the radar. Where a cross on a hospital or church today means life and healing, a cross on a structure then would have been the symbol used for a torture chamber. A cross is not a beautiful thing. It is the symbol of ultimate suffering and death.

Death. The Romans used the cross as their torture and death machine. When they came conquering, they lined the main roads with crosses, holding the bodies of rebels and criminals, both dead and dying. It was the most painful, humiliating way to die in the first century. The victim was stripped of all dignity, beat to a pulp, nailed fast like a piece of wood, and left to die alone and in unimaginable pain. The worse part is, it wasn't the pain that killed them, they died of suffocation. 

Subjection. So as the first century Jew traveled up the main road to Jerusalem, they had to walk by these horrors. They shielded their eyes and turned away from the sight. It caused their stomach to turn and their hearts to melt with sorrow.  It brought to mind all of the atrocities Rome had committed against them. It reminded them that they were still under Roman rule. To them, a cross was a statement, but not one of hope. It reminded them that the Messiah still had not come and delivered them from their oppressors and they were still left waiting. The cross mocked them. 

Cursed. This is what a cross meant. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, "...he that is hanged is accursed of God." No one sent from God hangs on a cross. Messiah's do not die on crosses, because the cross means they are cursed of God. When Jesus hung on that cross, it signaled to all Israel the end of their hope, the hope that He was the Anointed One. 

A Cross. Utter disgrace. Ultimate suffering. Ugly. Hopeless. Despair. 

A cross meant darkness had won. 
Freedom was only a joke.
God had turned His back. 

It was the absolute worst way Jesus could have died. 
But it was the best way He could have died. 

Because when Jesus walked this earth, it was a world of political unrest, sickness, pain, and death. Kinda like today. Maybe, the same as today. When the Messiah was to come, He was supposed to bring peace, healing, and wholeness to this broken world. He was supposed to make everything right with the world. That day he stood up in the synagogue and read Isaiah 61 proclaiming that He was the Anointed One, He was making a statement.

But His statement only received blank stares, and I can imagine why. They had been through this before. They were thinking, "The world is broken, everything is hopeless, people are dying, and you are not the first one to promise us redemption. Are you going to disappoint our hopes just like everyone else has?"

And and He did heal, save, set free, and preached the coming Kingdom of God, but it seemed like He did disappoint them in the end. He died like every other rebel had died. That day when the Romans nailed Jesus to a cross, they were making a statement. "Rome is still the winner." Death struck its final blow, and the grave received its prize.

But, He didn't stay that way.
He rose, and right there, right at that moment, the statement was made, He paid the price, and we know the payment went through because He walked out of the tomb. He was the One making a statement.
"You see that cross, the worst, ugliest, most painful thing you can imagine?  No more. 
Because death has become life."
The curse has become a blessing
Heartache has been turned to joy
Despair into hope.
Pain into healing
Brokenness into beauty

So why the Cross? Because the Cross is the icon of death turned the symbol of life.  It means that defeat can become victory. It means there is nothing to hard. It is never too late.  Every situation can be turned around, every broken heart can be healed, every captive can be set free, the blind can see, every hopeless situation can be worked out, just as Isaiah 61 has promised. The end is not the end.

I'm not saying it will be easy and that everything will be the same. I'm not saying that the solution is simple. There are times when you feel like you are completely alone, barely holding on. Your faith is shaken, and all hope is gone. It seems impossible to believe that the promise of Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He hath made everything beautiful in His time," can possibly come to pass in your situation, and that its not worth going on. But, in this dark time, remember the Cross, because with the Cross, its not the end,
And if its not the end, 
The story isn't over,
And if the story isn't over
There's no reason to close the book 

So don't give up. There is hope, and that hope is in the Cross.  He will make everything beautiful in His time. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Over and across: Missions Trip South Korea 2013

I'm going on a missions trip!

I will be leaving in less than 2 weeks for South Korea!

OK, this is going to be a lot of firsts for me. First time to fly, first time to go to another continent, and first time to minister to a group of individuals that speak a totally different language! *Whew!

But, I am extremely excited! I thank the Lord for giving me this amazing opportunity, and for providing the funds needed! 

Specifics about Trip:

Going with: Ozark Christian Missions

Duration: 8 days

Purpose: To assist and encourage a small church in its annual conference. The church hopes to bring in new people to the church through this conference, as well as new children and youth.

What we will be doing: More thank half of our six member team will be conducting Children's Services in the morning and Youth Group in the afternoon. Some other members of our team will be teaching and preaching in the main part of the conference. Most of the children will be from the nearby neighborhood, many which have never heard the name, "Jesus." We will be "teaching them English" using Bible stories, songs, and games. The youth will probably be from the church.

Please pray!

1. Pray that each team member will be able to effectively communicate the Gospel to those to which we will minster.
2. Pray the hearts of the people and children will be prepared to hear and learn the material we will teach.
3. Pray that we will be able to present the Word of God in a way that breaks through the language and cultural barriers to speaks into the hearts of the children and youth, making an impact on their lives.
4. Protection

The last preparations are being made. Ministry tools are being gathered, lessons being completed, bags being packed. We are going to South Korea!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Are Filler Words Meaningful Words?

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 How many of you have ever started off your prayer with the phrase, "Thank you Lord, for this day."? I know I have! In fact, I do it almost every time I pray.
     A few months ago in class we were discussing the different words we say as "filler" words. Those are words that we just say to fill in the spaces when we're not sure what to say, or if we are just used to saying them. It's kinda like when like, people like, say, "like," all the like, time! These little habits are like, so annoying, right? The person saying them doesn't even realize it, but its all we can hear!  

Here is the question I want to ask today: Are filler words meaningful words?

As Christians, the Bible teaches us to use our words wisely and to speak only words of life. The tongue is powerful and can be used for good or evil. But what about when we use our tongues to speak things that are not evil words, but they're just...well, meaningless? Not because the specific words we are saying are do not have meaning, but because we do not mean them when we do say them.

Mindless words. Clanging cymbals.

After analyzing my own words, I realized that a lot of what I was saying was the same old things. Especially in my prayers. I was saying words to God without even thinking about it! I realized my heart, and sometimes, even my mind, was not in my prayers. My reason simply was...I had used these "filler words" out of habit so many times, therefore allowing my mind to wander.

We all do this at times. For example, how many of us say the various names of God about 20 times? If we don't mean it, could this habit be as irritating to God as someone using the word "like" endlessly? Does God really need to be reminded that we are talking to Him every few seconds? Does He want to hear us mindlessly say meaningless words?

People can tell when you don't mean what you say. How much more does God know whether or not we mean it when we say, "Thank you for this day."? How does He feel if we take some time out of our day to say thank you, but we don't even mean it?

As I'm writing this I'm thinking, "Ouch. These are harsh words." I hope you realize I'm not ranting, dissing the way you pray, or pointing out your conversation habits. However, the Word of God encourages us to mean what we way, to "let our yay be yay, and our nay be nay." To avoid speaking idle words, because one day, we will give account to God. 

So, as you go about your day, endeavor to think about what you say. If you don't mean it, there is no one that wants to hear it. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

7000 Second Chances

 We all have those days, the days we feel like we've completely blown it. You slept in way longer than you should have, you ate the WHOLE bag of chips, your to-do checklist is practically check-less. Yeah, we've all had those days.

On a more serious note, what about the days when we REALLY mess up? I am talking about those days when the consequences of our actions are a little more weightier than an added pound to your waistline. What about the times you feel like you've deeply disappointed someone you love, like your spouse or your best friend?

But what about when we feel like we have disappointed God? What do we do then? It is in those times we wonder, "Will we get a second chance this time?" We are tempted to just give up and throw in the towel. 

But, I've got encouraging news for you. God only gives us a second chance once.

"What?" You may say, "That's not encouraging!"

 Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "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." 

If you are over 2 days old, you passed up your second chance a long time ago. Every day you wake up you have a new "second" chance. At my age right now, I am on my 7400th chance (give for take a few days)! Isn't that amazing?

 Unless you are a new and improved edition of human species, you tend to mess up a lot.God knows that, and He is ready to forgive and give you a new start every day! That does not give you license to mess up, but it does give you the ability to get up and move forward. He has the strength and courage you need to help you do what's right.

So, tomorrow morning when you get up, remember Lamentations 3:22-23, and be encouraged, because if He woke you up this morning, you have a another chance, and His mercy to go along with it.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

-Thomas O. Chisholm

Saturday, February 2, 2013

There Are No Detours

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    There is nothing more frustrating than driving down a highway and seeing that orange sign, "Detour Ahead."   It totally throws off my sense of direction and takes time to get back onto the right road. And even with all those orange signs, I'm still afraid of getting lost.

Have you ever felt like you've had to take detour in your life? Like, say, spiritual detours? How about in your path following the call of God on your life?

     I've been really thinking very deeply about this subject lately. There have been a lot of people that have heard God's call: Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah to name just a few. They did great, hard things throughout their lives. God's call is as real to us today as it was to them: go and do.

     But what is really God's call? The very cliche brings up mainly one definition to our minds: the voice of God speaking to our hearts to do a specific thing with our lives. Its a deep unction from within that urges us to do what we otherwise would have not had a mind to do, such as missions, preaching, or teaching. 

     However, I would like to present a different idea of God's call today. Back last summer I blogged about how we so often live in the future and forget about the present. When we think about God's call we usually think about a specific thing. Don't get me wrong, God definitely calls people to very specific things! But what about your normal, everyday tasks that must be done? What about the "little ministries" that seem to have no bearing on what God has "really called you to do?" If God has called you to be a preacher/missionary/teacher, then why in the world am I ______? Fill in the blank. Life seems to be filled with these "detours."

When we feel like God has called us to do a certain thing with our lives, we often put that calling into our ministry compartment in our mind. Then, we shrink that box until the only thing that will fit in our "ministry box" is that one certain ministry we filled like we are called to do. We have no room for anything else so that if we are given an opportunity that may not be "what we are called to do," we either turn it down or treat it with lesser importance.

But what if God's call is not so limited to one certain thing? We think of life's journey as a Point A to Point B. But what about life in between? Are all those other things between A and B just detours to the real thing? No. They are the tasks God has placed on your path. This is the road He has chosen for YOU to walk; with God, there are no detours. They are all things God has placed on your path for a reason; He has something for you to do; some life to touch, some lesson to learn.Hebrews 12:1 says, "...Let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Its all part of the same race: your path, your journey, and the task He has placed in your hands today is just as important as that "great thing" that He has called you to do sometime in the future. And aren't they all great things? Would you pray and prepare any less for a nursing home devotion than you would for a Youth Rally message? Isn't this why Colossions 3:23 says, "Whatsoever ye do do it heartily..."?

There are no detours. The road may be rough where you are right now, but its the path God has laid before you. You may have to take a sudden turn, but He preparing the way before you. If God places a task before you, then He is calling you to do it. So, run with patience, and enjoy the journey. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This is the BEST of times!

    I just have to blog about this. Everyone has been talking, or rather, mourning over the outcome of the election Tuesday. I have to admit I was, and still am, very disappointed myself. It was my first time to vote, and I watched fox news like a hawk while I was at work. Then, the news came, we have a new President. Or rather, the old one.

     So, what about all this? I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, right? Honestly, now that the election is over, I'm ready to go on with my life. Regardless of who is President of the United States, who has majority in the Senate, if I'm going to have free time this weekend, or if they still have pumpkin flavored ice-cream at Braums, I'm going to do what I have been doing. That is, trying to fulfill God's purposes in my life and in my world. MY world: the people I am surrounded by, the job I go to everyday, and the schoolwork assignment I'm faced with when I get home. I will still strive with all my heart to serve and obey my King, who, by the way, is not the President.

    We are living in perilous time, as the Bible says, but we are in the best of times! I am living in the best time period in the history of the world! You know how I know that? Because I am! God put me here in this time and in the US for a specific purpose. He has something for me to do, something for me to learn. He has people for me to meet and influence. The same is true for you as well.

   I am not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses at all, but I do want to remind each of us that even though we are living in hard, trying times, we are truly living in the best of times. We are going to see things that our grandparents never saw, and most likely we will be part of the Rapture! Yes, this is truly the best of times.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Looking for the Harvest....Now Where's My Binoculars?

     I had a certain thought the other day. Lately I have been reminded over and over how we are the light of the world as Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:14.

      I've stocked shelves at my job so many times I can do it without thinking about it.So, a lot of times I kinda forget where I am and accidentally loose myself in the world of my own thoughts.

     That's where I was a few weeks ago, absentmindedly putting ace bandages and cough syrup on the shelf, my mind lost to the world around me: the people walking past, talking it up on their cell phones as they shop at their favorite pharmacy. My coworker a few isles down stocking the pet supplies. But, I don't realize things are going on. I'm in another world. And the bad part about it is I find myself here an awful lot.

     Where I should be is a totally different world for me. Kansas City is another world, another culture. I don't fit in around here. I look different, I talk different, (I say, "Thirty cents is your change," not "thirty cent."), and I act different. I'm not into rap music or shiny, chrome rims on my car. I think I have culture shock every summer when I come home from college for the summer. But, this is where I am. This is where I need to be. This is where the darkness is. I'm not by any means saying that I'm any better than anyone, its just not my culture. So, why am I here?

     Here was my thought. Jesus taught that we are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. When I think of the harvest as Jesus spoke of it, I often find myself picturing a mission field far, far away. I get out my "spiritual binoculars" and try to focus on that field that is hundreds of miles away and could be years in the future. It's white and its ready, but there's one problem: I'm not there yet.

     But these past few weeks have really changed the way I think of this. I've had so many opportunities to be a witness for my Savior, and it seems like I did not even have to go looking for them. In fact, they came to me! They knocked me out of my dream world and into the present. It's always like that; many times you have to approach people, but this time I was in the right place, at the right time, doing my job, being where I was. I have learned that if I am always "living in the future" and constantly thinking about it, I forget that the harvest is right where I am. They are my coworkers, they are my customers. They are all around me. I am in the harvest field.

      So, today is where I am. Yes, there are times when we need to look and plan for the future. By all means, plan for the future! But today the world looks at me, they look at you, and they see that you are different. Will you choose to lay down your binoculars and get to work in the field in which you're standing?

It's ready...they're ready.

"Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." Luke 10:2