Stand Up!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Bonhoefferwas a Lutheran Pastor and Theologian in during the reign of Adolf Hitler. While many Pastors in his country were keeping silent, and ‘going along in order to get along’, he would not. He believed that it was the responsibility of those who knew Jesus to stand up to tyranny and oppression.

He said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In other words, when we–as Christ followers–see injustice, tyranny and evil happening in our world, it is our responsibility–as followers of Jesus–to do what we can to stop it. Not doing so is a decision we’ll have to answer for.

In 1947, Peter MarshallPeter Marshall, Chaplain of the US Senate, said “If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything”. 

In other words, we must–especially as Christians–stand for those things which reflect the Word and heart of God.

 

So, the question is, ‘What do we stand for, and why?’

In our culture today, the teaching and values of the Word of God are being increasingly mocked and marginalized.

As Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy…” (John 10:10), and he is clearly very busy in our world!

It’s almost as if our culture is daring Christians to stand up and say something.

This is really nothing new, however.

Back in the book of Acts, when the Church was just getting started, opposition arose. Many voices of the culture–especially the religious culture–wanted to quiet this new message–the message about Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Savior and Lord of all.

Stephen, a ‘Deacon’ in the Church, was challenged. He was confronted with a choice. He could either stand up for Jesus, or try to compromise–to ‘go along’, to minimize the differences between those who worshiped Jesus and those who rejected Jesus–in order to survive.

Note–this wasn’t just about some vague pressure to conform. This was a situation that threatened his very life!

If he ‘made nice’, he might survive. If he stuck with Jesus as risen Savior and Lord, he may die!

Fortunately, Stephen’s faith was strong. He stuck with the Lord…and he was stoned to death because of it. However, he knew that eternity was awaiting him. God gave him a vision in the midst of this opposition: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) 

All this did was make his opponents more angry, so they rushed forward as one mob and took him out of the city and began to stone him, in order to silence and kill him.

Stephen knew that death was not the end. He knew that Jesus had conquered death–therefore, their threats meant nothing to him! While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)

Stephen’s faith enabled him to stand against opposition.Stoning Stephen

May we–all who claim to be Christ followers–have the strength to stand up against opposition, even if we have to stand alone.

 

 

 

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Bust Through! (Part 2) The Ceiling!

glass ceiling

The messages we are given by this world, by well-meaning family members or authority figures, even by fellow Christians can make it seem as though God could never do anything impactful through us.

‘You? Who are you? You’re nothing special!’

Those messages can get ingrained within us to the extent that, even when the Word of God and the Spirit of God try to tell us differently, we can’t get it. We can’t seem to ‘bust through’.

It’s almost like there a plexi-glass ceiling above us…we can see beyond it, but we can’t get through it.

So, what do we do?

Many of us just accept the message–‘They must be right–they know me better than I know myself, and they’re saying I’m nothing special…maybe they’re right. I give up.’

Others try with all our might to bust through the ceiling. We try to tell ourselves ‘We’re ‘better’ than they know’, or ‘stronger‘, or ‘more special‘. In other words, we try to counter act their negatives with our own positives, hoping that that will crack the ceiling. We pound on it with determined fists…but all we get is bruised and bloody knuckles.

So, what are we to do?

What is the hope for us?

We don’t need to ‘Crack the Ceiling’…it’s already been cracked and even obliterated!

We simply need to stand by faith on the Truth of the Word of God. HE is the One who has ‘broken through’, and He is the One who can do ‘something special’ with us. HE is the only one!

The Word of God declares, for example, that we are…

Justified and Righteous in Christ:

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

Freed from Condemnation: 

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

Secure In His Love:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Empowered by The Spirit:

 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a]in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Of course, I could go on and on…but the bottom line is this:

If GOD declares that we are ‘Righteous, Freed, Secure, and Empowered’, then those are the words and the truths we should believe–not the lies that the others are trying to hold us down with.

God wants to take us further. He wants us to break through the limits, obstacles, and negative half-truths that we may have heard.

He wants to tell us that, In Jesus, we are ‘Limitless’!

Bust Through, Part 1– Listen!

Have you ever felt as though you’re facing a wall…

…too high to get over,

…too wide to get around,

…too thick to push through?

 

How do you react when you hit that wall?

For many of us, we simply give up.

 

…but maybe we shouldn’t.

 

God sometimes puts a message in our hearts… a calling.

It may seem like a whisper, but it’s from Him.

Remember, He doesn’t always come in the thunder or an earthquake, sometimes it’s just a “still, small voice”

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

 

Sometimes God appears in big, attention-grabbing, hard-to-miss ways, and directs you accordingly.

Sometimes He whispers.

You must be listening closely, if you’re going to hear.listening

 

In order to do that, we have to quiet ourselves, find a place to communicate with Him, and listen.

Bring His Word along, bring–as a friend of mine says–‘something to write with, and something to write on‘–so that you can jot down things you think He might be saying to you.

Pray through those things. Search the Scriptures. Check with spiritually-tuned-in, mature believers.

But first…listen.

 

I believe with all my heart that God wants to speak to us, TODAY.

We’re simply too busy and surrounded by too much noise, to LISTEN and Hear.

I think He’s looking for Listeners. He’ll communicate with them.

 

I’m listening…are you?

As You Wish!

If you’re a fan of a certain movie, the minute you read the title of this blog, you read it in a ‘certain’ way, and your mind went to the movie.

 

The movie? The Princess Bride.

In that movie, Wesley–the ‘Farm boy’ falls in love with Buttercup–the Princess. Whenever Buttercup asks Wesley to do something–no matter how ridiculous–he always answers “As You Wish”, and does it. One day it dawns on Buttercup that she is in love with Wesley, and that he’s in love with her–and that, every time he says “As You Wish”, what he’s really saying is “I love you”. (At this point, if you’re a fan of the movie, you can hear the music in the background…

You can watch the clip here:

As You Wish…I love you.

In other words, Because I love you, I am willing to give up my own preferences, agenda, etc., and serve you.

Not a bad example of ‘love’.

Maybe ‘The Princess Bride’ is on to something!

 

QUESTION: Who are those you ‘love’ in life?

Do you show them by an attitude of sacrificial service–an ‘As You Wish’ mentality?

 

What about God?

Last week at Kalamazoo Community Church (www.mykcc.org), we started a series called BOLD Faith, in which we look at some people in the Scriptures who demonstrated their faith–not only in the words they said, but in a willingness to step out and follow when they were called upon by God.

Last Sunday, we looked at Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As a young woman who was betrothed to Joseph, and as a conservative, observant Jew, she had her life pretty well mapped out. She was making plans for the wedding and their marriage.

Then God stepped in and sent the angel, Gabriel to her with a message: (See Luke 1)

“Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings,[d] favored woman! The Lord is with you![e]

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.33 And he will reign over Israel[f] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Whoa!

This was major–for her family and her people (who’d been looking for and dreaming of the Messiah’s coming for centuries), but also for her!

HOW could it happen?

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”

Mary knew this would be miraculous. A work of God that ONLY God could do!

She had to be amazed…floored…blown away!

She had to think of the cost…and it would cost her, dearly.

It would definitely ‘cost’ her reputation, some friends, her standing in the community…maybe it would cost her closest friends, and even her engagement. It might even ‘cost’ her family!

Her response: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:26-38)

Essentially, she says, “As You Wish!”

She believes in God, she loves God, she wants to obey God and honor Him, so she says “As You Wish“.

That is BOLD Faith!

Mary–the young woman who became the mother of Jesus–had it.

Do we?

Do you?

Are you willing to say to God–no matter what He asks you to go through–‘As You Wish’?

Are you willing to do so, not begrudgingly, but joyfully and enthusiastically, as an act of WORSHIP?

I hope so.

I hope we all are.

Sometimes God might have us go through really cool, bold things–that others will be inspired by.

Other times, He may have us go through something that no one in their right mind would sign up for. Are you willing to do so?

As YOU Wish, Lord!

I will trust in You!

 

 

Taking Steps

Have you ever seen a baby learn to take their first steps?Baby Steps

No matter who you are–how strong, how ‘tough’, etc.–it melts your heart.

Why?

Why would the act of watching a baby take steps–wobbly, unsure, few in number–seem like such a ‘magical’ thing?

I think it’s because the innocence of that baby–the newness of what they are learning–is so pure, so simple, so ‘natural’, that it reminds us of the pure simplicity of natural growth. Growth is wonderful to see!

Not long ago I had the experience of having a discussion while sitting around a campfire with my kids. In the middle of that conversation, it struck me (again): These kids are not ‘little kids’ anymore! They are young adults with lots of intelligence and deep, meaningful points to make! There, in the midst of that conversation I silently thanked the Lord (again) for blessing me with young men and women who are growing and changing, and following Him throughout their lives.

When you see ‘growth’ in your kids–no matter their age–it is a great moment!

 

I think God has that same feeling–but in a still more ‘pure and holy’ sense–when He sees His children taking steps of growth and faith.

Last Sunday @ KCC, we had a service that must have brought lots of ‘smiles’ to the Heavenly Father’s ‘face’. We had almost 15 people get baptized, each giving their testimony of faith, the grace of God, and their desire to follow Him in all of their lives.

Many others wrote things they were thankful for on cards and brought them to the front: Answered prayer, God’s grace and faithfulness; Blessings of family, church, etc.

Accompanied by the opportunity to sing songs of praise and worship, it was a great service!

Yet, I am sure that the Lord would like to ‘cheer on’ the growth of His children every day–not just at an occasional church service!

Jeff brought up a great Psalm–Psalm 34 (NASB)

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.” 

The Psalmist then goes on to say Why he will ‘bless the Lord’:

Deliverance from fears (v. 4)

Elevation of spirit (5)

Salvation from troubles (6)

Protection (7)

His response?

He encourages others: “Taste and see that the Lord is good! How blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him!” (8)

Jeff encouraged us to remember that we need to ‘bless the Lord…at all times!’

It is contagious!

As we do so–if genuine– we will also bring a ‘smile’ to God’s face.

…and we just might grow in the process!