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Archive for September, 2016

“It is finished!”

Human history pivoted with the uttering of those words from the mouth of God, Who robed Himself in flesh and shed His own blood for our sins. The closing of one Testament and the opening of another was occurring before the bewildered eyes of His followers and the blinded eyes of those who too soon rejoiced over His apparent demise.

Without taking away from where those words were spoken and by Whom, I’d like to focus on what they may mean to us beyond what they signified on that Day of days. For they will be expressed in some sense by all who have faithfully run our race for God. Paul said, “I have fought a food fight, I have finished my course…” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Here are some thoughts about weighty matters we tend to forget in the daily grind.

During a Sunday service awhile back I was worshiping God to the strains of “Soon and Very Soon”, rejoicing over the promise of “going to see the King”. “No more crying there…” brought such a sweet picture of Jesus physicially touching each face of those who hear Him say,”Well done, thou good and faithful servant” to “wipe away all tears from their eyes”.  

Beyond that image, though, I was struck by the thought that tears won’t follow us into Heaven, not only because Jesus went to prepare a place of rest for the faithful, but also because on the way to the Promised Land, we who serve Him in Spirit and in truth will have finished crying. Scripture teaches that crying itself has a purpose. It is part of faithfully running our race.

Let that sink in.

Saints of God are doing something when we cry — something for the Kingdom. “As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isaiah 66:8)

Children are not born into God’s church by good advertising and wonderful programs. New saints are added because true saints of God wept and travailed and labored in an altar of prayer until a fellow human being was ready to repent and obey the Gospel (Acts 2:38). Sheep beget sheep, and anyone who has given birth or known anything about the process knows children don’t just appear in your arms. There’s sacrifice that accompanies bringing newborns into the world.

Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted…” (Matthew 5:4) and “Blessed are ye that weep now…” (Luke 6:21) James admonished, “Be afflicted, and mourn and weep…” (James 4:9)

Surely there is joy unspeakable in living for God. But as Pastor John Bowen, Jr. preached in that service, “It’s not always harvest time – there is famine, too, and there is a time for sowing…” The Psalmist said, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

Are we to try to have all the good here, avoiding the pain? The Apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name when they had been beaten. Where are they now? Rejoicing and enjoying their eternal reward.

The next verse of the song was “No more dying there, we are going to see the King.” See, the dying has a purpose as well. We are not meant to be here always, although we are natured to linger as long as possible, and fight to do so. That instinct is God-given, but it’s not all there is. Reality is on the other side of death. The “life forever”, and the eternal damnation, are past the river Jordan. We are living on this side only to prepare for that life or death.

We seem to treat that other realm as the surreal — somehow beyond reality. In the eternal scheme of things, this life is actually the surreal. “…For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,” (James 4:14)

Even this earth is only here by His Word: “…by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth…” and “…by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto…the day of judgment…” (2 Peter 3:5,7) The earth, which seems firm and solid beneath our feet, is only temporary and one day it is going to “… melt away with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:10).

The world that is to come after, where the soul of man will live or die with absolutely no time constraints, and no hint of an endpoint to the joy or to the indescribable torment, is the ultimate reality.

How should we then live? To prepare for the other side, the reality of eternity that we were made for. We get a choice — only on this side of Jordan — what we will be on that side.

“It is finished” only applies to what we are living here and now. On that side, we will never be finished worshiping and praising and enjoying the beautiful presence of the Lord, or else weeping and wailing and gnashing our teeth, remembering every instance we were stirred to go beyond what we knew and had in God, to be sure we were obeying what He intended for us to obey and to be faithful to what we had already obeyed.

Jesus will wipe tears from the eyes of those to whom He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”, which is worth shouting and weeping and rejoicing over.

Will you finish well? Beginning today taking steps today do so.

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 Well, by the help of the Lord, I did it.

I hit “Send”.

What sailed off just then was a book — the culmination of three years’ work and thirty years’ preparation — and all the things the publisher requests with manuscripts submitted for publication.

Now it’s in the hands of some dedicated editors who’ll decide if it’s a good fit for their publishing house.  I, for my part, have placed it in the hands of the Lord.

So what’s it all about?

In 1986, I was single, 26, living in a small apartment, working a state job. Though outwardly little was going on, God was using events in my life to bring me to a place of searching for Him, and allowing His search for my heart to come to fruition.

I’ve written about those events elsewhere, but the memory is still precious of how He cleared the slate of anything else that mattered in life and created a willingness to consider what I had overlooked in His Word for the bulk of my years.  I was warming to the idea of taking a chance on obeying it, because He was showing me it was the path to more of Him, and more of Him is what I had begun to realize I was so hungry for.

When by His mercy and grace my eyes were opened to the simplicity of the Gospel, I abandoned any past ideas of what was right or wrong in serving Him, and simply repented, was baptized in the name that is above every name — Jesus Christ — and was soon filled with the powerful gift of the Holy Ghost. Oh, what unspeakable joy began to flow!

There are many who experience this awesome power.  Some who seemingly come in from off the street and are moved by the preaching and the power of God to the point of responding.  God is faithful to do as He promised, and many are filled with the Holy Ghost.  Oh, that all who do so would be still serving Him years down the road!

In my own case, I was blessed to be in the company of women who were obedient to His call to “come alongside” and help me learn the ways of this new life.  I vividly recall being seated between two of them after a Tuesday night prayer meeting we’d had before going on visitation in the community.  It was as if the Lord impressed on my spirit the words, “Here are your examples.  Go to!”

It was clear He was showing me that there was work to be done for the Kingdom, and work to be done in my newly minted heart to become effective in doing it.  The lives and words of these women would help to guide me down the right path.

That time in my life, though actually rather brief on the larger scale of things, cemented concepts in my heart: of the necessity of faithfulness to the house of God, to daily prayer, to Bible study; the nature of submission to the leadership God places in our lives; the power of intercessory prayer and the beauty of holiness. Allowing these truths to be birthed in my heart, and guarding them through life’s ups and downs, has renewed the tender love of my Savior in my soul day by day.

A lot has changed in thirty years, not with God or how He relates to us, but in how we relate to one another.  Though the value of personal relationships in mentoring new Christians has not diminished, lifestyles have become busier. The rise of social media has brought the temptation to give its connections a larger share of our relationship time, threatening to overshadow in-person interactions to an increasing degree. Are young believers getting enough of the hands-on investment that made such a difference in my early days?

A stirring began to develop in my heart a few years back to document some of the wisdom shared with me early on, along with some acquired along the way, as another voice for those just becoming established in the faith to understand the depth of what God has blessed them with, and how to preserve it. In short, I believed the ideas of how we start walking with God affect how we finish, and I wanted to share what has worked for me.

Anyone who’s attempted to write or be published can tell you it’s certainly not a simple straight-line series of events. What I didn’t know five years ago, when I seriously began to pursue writing upon retirement from that state job, was how complex and even tedious the writing process can be (probably best I didn’t know all I know now at that time).

It’s been a long time since January of 2014, when the plans actually  came together on my radar to write Start to Finish. But since then the manuscript has come together, been revised, put out to beta readers, revised again, and by the help of the Lord, sent off to a publisher for consideration.

Mind you, submitting to a publisher in no way guarantees publication, but it does signify something has been written, worked, and reworked, to the point that one is ready to take a deep breath and say, “OK, here we go!”

What happens in the months it takes for the publisher’s consideration to be brought to a conclusion? You guessed it: more writing. Blog posts are always on the table of course, but the pencil (and eraser)  will continue be put to the next project: a collection of previous posts and new thoughts I hope you’ll enjoy. The working title is That’s What You Get. We’ll see how it goes.

What are your thoughts on strengthening believers? On writing? On pursuing your passion for what God has given you to do?

I’d love to hear from you!

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