Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keep Up Your Zeal!

When I was in high school the Lord put on my heart a message to share with our youth group.  I asked my youth leader if I could share and he allowed me to be the speaker during our usual Wednesday night service.  I don't remember exactly what I spoke on.  I do remember asking the Lord that if my "word" was truly from him that lots of people would show up.  When I got up to speak we had one of the largest crowds I ever remember having.  About 30 people, maybe, which was pretty big for our small church.

When I got up to speak I began to weep.  I couldn't help it.  The tears just began to flow.  I think that also got everyone's attention.  When I finished weeping I shared my message and then gave an altar call.  I think perhaps 2-3 people responded.  That wasn't good enough for me.  I began to passionately exhort my peers.  Again, I don't remember everything I said, but I called out some of them, "Henry, God wants to do something in your life!"  After I got done exhorting many of my friends came forward and I prayed for them.

Before everyone left to go home, the pastor's daughter and some of her friends came up to me with tears, wanting me to pray for them.  I believe they had not really been serving the Lord and wanted to repent and give their lives back to the Lord.  The Lord had been moving on their hearts.

Interestingly enough, not everyone was thrilled with how God moved that evening.  Sometime that next week one of the girls in the youth group called to tell me she was offended.  I appreciated that she at least called and spoke to me and didn't just talk about me behind my back.  I think she was okay with everything up to the point where I began to exhort and call people by name in the youth group.

It's been at least 14 or 15 years since that happened, so I may not have gotten all of the details of the story right.  Nevertheless, I find it interesting how there are different reactions from people when God moves.  People who may have not been right with God are drawn to him with tears of repentance.  Religious people are offended.  It was the same way in Jesus' day.  When we live out our walk with God inevitably it will rub some people the wrong way.  

As a teenager I was pretty passionate for God.  Perhaps a bit outspoken.  Perhaps a little brash.  Maybe not very humble.  I don't know.    

Romans 12:11 says, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."  I think, as we get older, life tends to wear on us, and can wear us out.  It's easy to lose the passion we once had for the Lord.  We can become discouraged, feel defeated, or just plain tired.  But we are encouraged to keep up our spiritual fervor.  Zeal, my friends, is not just for youth.  Certainly, often youthful zeal needs to be tempered with Godly wisdom.  But not so hardened that the heart is no longer sensitive to the moving of the Spirit.

I want to live out my days passionately in love with the Lord and serving Him with all my heart.  I hope, as I continue to grow in the Lord, I continually care less about what others think of my walk with God and more about simply loving and pleasing Him.  That's not to say we go around trying to offend people.  But that doesn't mean that we should hide our love for Him either.  Keep up your zeal!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Far as the Curse is Found

Mom’s stroke in November of 2007 is one of the most difficult things my family has gone through. Thankfully, she survived the stroke. But the effects of the stroke have been hard to deal with. When she tries to speak it often comes out garbled. Sometimes we understand her; often we do not. Though she can still hear, she cannot understand anything we say. We communicate with her through gestures or by writing in a notebook.

One good thing that has come from this is that the reality of heaven has become even more special to me. In my mind’s eye I can see mom restored to a healthy, youthful state; her joyful face aglow with the glory of God.

I see heaven as a very real place where God will restore all things. I am confident that one day He will make all things new. We will trade in our frail, failing earthly bodies for spiritual bodies that never age, never become sick, and never grow weary.

A couple of years ago at Christmas, before opening presents, my sister Becky, dad and mom, and me, sang a few Christmas carols. I believe one of the songs we sang was Joy to the World. Mom tried to sing along with a hymnal. Because of the stroke much of the song didn’t come out quite right. But there was an innocence and purity in the way she sang that was childlike. Dad and I couldn’t hold back the tears.

One part of the song says,

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

I recognize that mom’s stroke, and all of the many ills that face humanity, are ultimate results of the curse of sin. But the greater reality is that God sent His Son, about 2,000 years ago as a baby in a manger, to break the power of every curse.

The effects of the curse are far-reaching. Each of us, in some way, have felt the scar of sin and experienced its ravages. We see it in sickness and disease, financial struggles, relationship problems, depression, anxiety, or fear. But here, in the midst of our pain, God introduces His Son.

The Bible says in Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) It was necessary for Jesus to come to earth as a man born of woman, to have the legal right to undo the curse. That little baby would one day finish completely the work of our redemption on a cross, setting us free from the power of sin and death. By becoming a curse for us, he redeemed us from the curse. (Galatians 3:13)

Still, on this side of heaven, we do not see everything completely restored. We claim the power of Christ’s redemption by faith. We look forward in hope to the place He is preparing for us. We look to the day when God will literally make all things new. That which is not fully restored in this life will be fully restored in the next.

It all began with a tiny baby, born in a manger.

In heaven God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There shall be no more death. No more sorrow. No more crying. No more pain. No more curse. The former things will have passed away. The one who sits on the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” (see Revelation 21:4 and 22:3)

The effects of the curse may be far reaching, but the power of God’s blessing reaches farther still. His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...