On Mission

Connecting Points

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Today’s Topic: On Mission

Today’s Text:  Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)   Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What is your mission?

Do you have a personal purpose statement?

What is the ultimate objective of your life?

These questions, and many more like them, haunt us at various times of our lives. I have had my time with the Lord on this issue, and I have reached an absolute conclusion based on absolute truth. For me and everyone like me who is a born again follower of Jesus Christ the mission is the same – make disciples of Jesus Christ.

I’m praying that you do not stop reading. Listen, this is very serious business. We have been declared children of God and joint heirs of all things with Jesus Christ. We have been forgiven of our sins by being washed in His blood shed on Calvary’s cross as the full payment for our sin. We have been set apart as His chosen people and as such will never be judged or condemned for our sin. We have been given the Holy Spirit to reside in us – the very eternal Presence of God the Father in His fullness abiding in us. We have been granted access to the powers and provisions of God to meet every need. Yet daily we tend to choose to live by a culturally dictated and personally defined mission, rather than the mission mandated by the Master.

When Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 28:18-20 to His disciples after He rose from the dead, He spoke them with all the authority of eternity. In His last words to His followers, as He passed the torch of God’s mission for the world to those who loved Him and were committed to follow Him at all cost, He had the authority to tell them anything. He could declare absolutely anything as His final words. As the One and Only earthly representative of God the Father, He chose to declare the Father’s mission statement for the rest of earth’s history. He said one thing and one thing only – go and make disciples of all nations.

It is called the Great Commission, but for so many in the church today it is the Great Omission. I have concluded that one reason is that we have been duped into believing that the Great Commission was given to the church as an organization, not to the church as an organism. As an organization, the church can program and delegate certain responsibilities based on skills, and many in the church claim no skill at making disciples. We don’t believe we are qualified to witness about our faith in public, and we don’t think we have the time or training to get involved in personal mentoring of those who are being saved. So we assign committees, teams, and pastors to do those things, because fundamentally we believe the church is an organization.

But the church is not an organization, it is a living organism – the Body of Christ. As such it carries the spiritual DNA of the One who gave birth to it. For sure there are many parts to the Body, and each one has a specific function. But each cell of each part, no matter what its role, is fundamentally identical. Each cell – you – have the exact same Holy Spirit as any other cell. You have the identical purpose of every other person in the Church – to go and make disciples of all nations. We have all been given the same mission. We may have different functions and methods of accomplishing that mission, but we all agree on one thing – it is our mission!

But we also agree that we must accept the mission, and place the highest priority of our personal life on the accomplishment of that mission. Knowledge of the mission is irrelevant if there is not action to accomplish the mission. After all, to be brutally honest, how can we claim to love Jesus if we do not first serve Him rather than ourselves? Are not our choices and priorities ALWAYS an indicator of what we love most?

As parents, our mission is not to raise children to enjoy life and be successful– our mission is to disciple children to live for Jesus. As employees and employers, our mission is not to become wealthy and have more things – our mission is to make the most of every opportunity to serve others with the unconditional love of God so that they can be made into disciples of Jesus. As members of a church, our mission is not to proclaim self-righteousness through participation in programs – our mission is to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth by accepting His mission and doing it for His glory.

In a few hours I will be joining a group of men and women from our church on the mission of Christ. We are going to be on a roof replacing shingles for a family that needs help. We have bought all the materials. We will provide all the labor. We will pour out God’s love on them. Why? Because it is our mission, and nothing is of higher importance in our lives than serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We will go and make disciples.

Pastor John

Getting Younger

Connecting Points

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today’s Topic: Getting Younger

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:20 (NIV)   “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”

Never say never.

We have been warned to be very careful how we use words that express absolutes – words like never and always. Sometimes these words are added to a statement as an emphatic expression of the truth. But for most of us, they are words that are used to try to make a point and convince others of something that we may not be convinced of ourselves.

For example, after being caught for the third time doing something wrong, little Johnny says to his father as the discipline is being enforced, “Daddy, I’m sorry. I’ll never do that again.”

Or how about the married couple that is in a heated argument, and neither one is staying on point. Soon one or both are saying, “You always…!”

The words never and always are valid words when used to express truth. In fact, the word never is used 315 times in the Bible, and the word always is used 129 times. In Deuteronomy 28:13 we read, If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

God is the God of absolutes. Everything He speaks is absolute truth. Everything He does is absolutely perfect. He never uses never inappropriately. He always means what He says.

As we look ahead to the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth the prophet Isaiah is given insight into its conception and culture.

  • Jerusalem will be a delight to all the nations of the world rather than an enemy. (66:18)
  • The wailing wall will become obsolete as God promises that the sound of weeping and crying will never be heard again. (66:19)
  • Never again will a baby die. (66:20)
  • There will always be prosperity (66:21-23)
  • There will be perfect fellowship with God. (66:24)
  • There will be perfect peace on earth. (66:25)

What a glorious Kingdom that will be, and all of those who by faith in Jesus Christ have been washed of their sin and born of the Spirit into the eternal family of God will be a part of it.

As I ponder the splendor of our eternal glory in Christ, something has become clear to me that is especially meaningful at this stage of my life. It’s in verse 20 which I posted above. In the earthly Kingdom of Christ, an old man will live out his years, and anyone under 100 years of age is still a youth. So here’s the thought that is dominating my mind right now – I’m not getting older, but I’m actually getting younger.

That is totally true if I consider it from God’s perspective. Of course, if all I see and confirm is the flesh, than I am getting older. But I can renew my mind so that I see what God sees – until I am 100 hundred I have not yet reached maturity. The Kingdom of God will be like the first 2000 years of earth’s history when people lived to be over 900 years old. Imagine that. According to Kingdom lifespans, right now I have only lived 6.5% of my projected life expectancy. My dad has lived less than 10% of His Kingdom life expectancy. This is incredible. At the moment of my death I actually become younger.

Now, for you theologians out there – LET IT GO! I know there are so many things wrong with the age arguments because all of us alive now will be raptured into our new glorified bodies before the Kingdom begins. But the point is this – there will be those who will live that long in the Kingdom, and the age we all are right now will be considered youth. So why not change your perspective on how old you really are and recognize that age doesn’t equate to value or usefulness. Come on, start thinking young again, and get busy for God.

Both Eyes Open

Connecting Points

Monday, May 14, 2012

Today’s Topic: Monocular Vision

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:18 (NIV)   “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create”

Ah, the joys of a Monday morning. I love Mondays. I’m still invigorated with inspiration from worshiping God in the company of people whom I love. I’m still basking in the blessing of spending quality time with my wife and family on Sunday. I’m rested and restored because I choose to use Sunday afternoon and evening as a Sabbath day. I’m energized with enthusiasm about the week’s ministry opportunities and waiting with wonder on the work God is going to do.

I know for most people Monday is a drag. But may I suggest that the reason for Mundane Monday is monocular: you know, looking only through one eye rather than two.

When I was first learning to shoot a rifle as a young boy, I was taught something very important by the man who was training me. When I put that .22 caliber rifle up to my shoulder for the first time and looked down the barrel at those sights, I shut my left eye so I could focus completely on the target. Before I could pull the trigger, he stopped me. He told me to open my left eye and learn to focus on the target with both eyes open.

I had a lot of trouble with that at first. By nature, because our eyes are separated by space, we see in stereo, making it possible for us to have depth perception. In addition, one of our eyes is more dominant than the other, and when trying to line up two objects in a straight line we need to use the dominant eye. Trying to line up a rifle on a target is very difficult when both eyes are open.

But I did what he said, and kept practicing. Now, when I hunt, both eyes are always open. In that way, I never become so focused on one target that I miss another potential target that may be just left or right of the first one. On several occasions I have been looking through the scope of my rifle at a deer when out of the other eye I see the movement of a bigger deer to one side. Monocular vision limits potential.

This morning, as I sat on the couch looking down at my laptop computer checking out all the latest news, weather, and sports, I noticed movement through the window on the other side of the house. I looked up and a bluebird had landed on the top of my birdfeeder. I have been trying to get bluebirds to nest at my house for years, yet they never seem interested in the houses I have put up. But this was not about bluebirds nesting, it was about the Lord revealing Himself to me and reminding me not to get so monocular about life that I forget to see His presence around me.

Mundane Mondays are the result of monocular vision. We are so focused on the fun we had over the weekend, or the stresses of life in the week ahead, or the disappointments of life, or any other issue that exists, that we miss the blessings of the Lord’s presence. We have closed the eye that can see the movement of the Lord and we are seeing only the targets visible through the scope of self.  We are so intent on
what we can create for ourselves that we are missing the splendor of what God is creating in and around us.

This is not a Mundane Monday – this is a Magnificent Monday. It is a Marvelous Monday. I rejoice that I enter into this day and this week with both eyes wide open to see the splendor of God’s presence. I have already seen the bluebird of happiness.

Pastor John

Practicing Praise

Connecting Points

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Today’s Topic: Practicing Praise

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:18 (NIV)   But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create…

Since God is in control, and all things are working out exactly as He has planned for His glory and for our ultimate good, then it makes perfect rational sense to not be critical complainers but rather to be filled with hope.

Maybe you missed the preliminaries that led up to that statement. God has spoken directly to the issue of our past and our present and given us a vision of our future. He has declared the past to be forgotten and hidden from His eyes (Isaiah 65:16). He has declared that anything and everything about the past and the present will be wiped away in a new creation so that we will no longer remember the former things (vs. 17). Now, in place of complaining there can be rejoicing: in place of sadness there can be gladness (vs. 18).

Last October, while in the Philippines, I was introduced to the Dean of Men at the Bible College that serves as the headquarters for the Evangelical Christian Outreach Foundation Incorporated (ECOFI), which is the ministry that I am privileged to partner with. His name is Christopher Bocboc. We talked for a few minutes, and then he helped me remember something from nine years earlier. I had been invited to an all-night prayer meeting with the students at the college, and he was one of them. I had spent an extended period of time counseling him about his spiritual life and God’s call on his life to full-time ministry. Now, nine years later, there he was as the Dean of Men at the Bible College.

Yesterday on Facebook, Chris posted this, and I wanted to share it with you to encourage you to become people of praise.

Most of us give praise quite naturally. For example, we love watching our favorite sports heroes perform magnificent feats of athletic brilliance. Then we praise them to our friends as we share in their secret wish, just for a moment, that we could feel what it’s like to be in their spotlight! We also praise musical artists and bands when their music entertains or moves us .Do you praise your friends? How about a boyfriend or a girlfriend? There’s nothing wrong with giving praise to others or even receiving some well earned praise. Yet the one we often forget to praise is the One who is the most deserving of it—God. No person is totally praiseworthy in the same sense that God is praiseworthy. We’re all human. We make mistakes. We let others down. We let ourselves down. But God is faithful. He is always true to Himself and to his word. When was the last time you paused to give praise to God? Is it something you do naturally?

THINK ABOUT IT! David recognized all God had done for Him and paused to praise God for God’s faithfulness. Second Samuel 22:4 says” the Lord should be praised.” The next time you hear a great song, instead of praising the band, praise God, the creator of music. The next time you watch an exciting sporting event, praise God, the giver of all talent. Set aside each day to praise God for who He is and what He has done for you.

Be glad and rejoice in what God has created, and to Him alone be all the praise and glory.

Pastor John

Clean Memory

Connecting Points

Monday, May 07, 2012

Today’s Topic: Clean Memory

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:17 (NIV)   “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

May I begin this morning by asking how it went over the weekend as you intentionally sought to conquer discouragement by forgetting the past? I trust you started to see some victory and a smile is returning to your soul.

But it’s hard to forget, isn’t it? We have been created by God with incredible brains capable of storing countless pieces of information. The human brain consists of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections. The neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes).

For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage. Now just think how long it would take to erase all of those discs.

The process of forgetting is difficult. It starts with a choice to trust God with the outcome of every event that is bothering us. Another choice must follow the first one, and that is to begin to act as if we don’t remember what happened, even though we do. Eventually the event will become so insignificant that it will be as if we don’t remember it unless we choose to resurrect it.

The fact that our brains are incapable of truly forgetting anything is a reminder that we must trust God. We trust Him because He has promised not only to provide us with sufficient grace for each day’s trouble, but that He has promise to one day wipe our memories away.

The other day I was doing some computer work for someone and they wanted the memory wiped clean. I got to thinking about that – clean memories. Actually that’s an oxymoron. You cannot have a memory that doesn’t exist. But you can have clean memory capacity.

Have you ever wondered what it was like for Adam when God created him in the Garden of Eden? Did God create him with any memories, or was the storage capacity of his brain completely clean? Or how about this thought: God created the world yesterday with perfectly accurate archaeological records and created the human race with perfect recall memories of all facts. Can anyone prove that couldn’t be true?

Anyway, I wander from the point, which is this: everything that still haunts us in our minds will one day be wiped away when God reboots the entire system. This earth will be destroyed, along with everything in the universe. Once again there will be absolute nothing apart from the spiritual reality of God and the souls of all human beings.

Then, in a grand and glorious event, God will create new heavens and a new earth. It will be inhabited by all those who were saved by the blood of Jesus Christ while on the old earth, while those who rejected Him will be sent to eternal punishment and have nothing to do with life as we will know it. And as a part of the new eternal bodies that we will possess, we will have clean memories. Nothing of the former things will be remembered. They will not pop into our head unexpectedly. There will be absolutely nothing to recall because God will apply His power to forget the past to our lives as well.

This brings an answer to all those who wonder whether or not we will remember things from this life when the new world is created. The answer is no. For now there may be awareness of things from this life for the people who are already in the presence of the Lord – as is the case for all the martyred saints described in Revelation – but when the current heavens and earth are destroyed in God’s final act of judgment against sin, every single memory of the past will be gone.

What an incredible promise that is from our Great and Glorious God. When in His presence, no earthly thing matters. No earthly thing will ever be allowed to disrupt our perfect fellowship with Him.

Now here’s the application for right now while we are still on this earth. Why are we working so hard to remember all that will someday be wiped clean? And how many of our current memories actually restrict our access to the fullness of the presence of God? I truly believe that God designed us intentionally to more easily forget the things of the past the older we get, so that in our last days of life in this sinful world we can more clearly see Him and enjoy His presence. I know that is true of me, and I’m not that old yet.

Pastor John

Are You Discouraged?

Connecting Points

Friday, May 04, 2012

Today’s Topic: Conquering Discouragement

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:16b (NIV)   “For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

Discouragement happens. But what causes it? Our first impulse is to blame our circumstances. But if we would conquer the very essence of our sin nature which denies personal responsibility and transfers blame (check out Adam and Eve after they sinned in the Garden of Eden), we would see that our circumstances have no real power in and of themselves, and should have no power over us. They do not dictate or control our emotional responses – we do. We are responsible for our responses. We made the choice to be discouraged.

One choice that we make that leads to discouragement is to continually focus on our past, especially the failure parts of it. D. L. Moody once said, “Some people go back into the past and rake up all the troubles they ever had, and then they look into the future and anticipate that they will have still more trouble, and then they go reeling and staggering all through life.”

It has been said that the past is valuable as a guidepost, but dangerous if used as a hitching post. When God’s vision for the future is darkened by our longing for the past, our minds and our hearts become similarly dark. If we are to once again see the light of God’s grace and glory we must recognize the truth that “the past cannot be changed, but our response to it can be.”(Erwin Lutzer)

There are several choices we have when it comes to the past:

  • We can dwell on it and hope to change it by the power of our imagination, leading ultimately to discouragement, despondency, and death.
  • We can hold it in our memory ready to be used at a moment’s notice to manipulate, suppress, or attack another person.
  • OR, we can learn from its mistakes, accept God’s forgiveness for it and look to the future as if it never happened.

Bernard Meltzer, the host of the 1970’s syndicated radio program entitled “What’s Your Problem?” spoke this truth – “When you forgive you in no way change the past—but you sure do change the future.”

In Isaiah 65:13-16, the LORD offers forgiveness of the past and change for the future. Here’s the hope He offers each of us.

  • My servants will eat
  • My servants will drink
  • My servants will rejoice
  • My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts  
  • To His servants He will give another name.

Contrast that with what happens if we stay focused on the past:

  • You will go hungry
  • You will go thirsty
  • You will be put to shame
  • You will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit
  • You will leave your name to my chosen ones as a curse
  • The Sovereign LORD will put you to death

The Apostle Paul said it well when He wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

I pray that today you will allow the Holy Spirit to have access to your heart. As the great writer Oswald Chambers said, “If you. . . begin to find that the Holy Spirit is scrutinizing you, let his searchlight go straight down, and he will not only search you, he will put everything right that is wrong; he will make the past as though it had never been.”

Pastor John

Fortune and Destiny

Connecting Points

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Today’s Topic: Fortune and Destiny

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:11-12 (NIV)   “But as for you who forsake the LORD and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.”

“Good luck.”

“Have a good day.”

“Live long and prosper.”

“It’s Karma.”

“It’s my destiny.”

“My horoscope says…”

All of the above statements are contradictory to faith in God.

Now before you close this blog down and spend the rest of the day fuming about what I just wrote, think about it. God is sovereign. He is always in control of all things. He has a specific purpose for our lives, and that purpose has already been revealed in the command of Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. He has already determined our destiny based on our acceptance of or rejection of His Son Jesus Christ. He has condemned the practice of seeking guidance from the stars because it is the worship of the creation rather than the Creator.

I admire the way the Dr. Woodrow Kroll ends his Back to the Bible radio broadcasts – “Have a good and Godly day; for of what value is a good day if it is not also a Godly day?”

Pay attention to the warning of God in Isaiah 65:11-12. It is entirely possible and most probable that we have forsaken the Lord for the worldly worship of Fortune and Destiny.

Both terms used by God in this passage refer to pagan gods. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,  “the two names Gadh (the Hyades) and Menı̄ (the Pleiades) taken together give the meaning of the “Fortunate Number,” i.e. seven. The spreading of the table and mingling the wine to Gadh and Menı̄̌—at the beginning of the year to secure good fortune throughout its course, were therefore held about the time of the Passover, as if in parody, if indeed they were not a desecration of it: heathen rites added to one of the most solemn services of Yahweh.”

People were actually perverting the Passover – God’s ordained feast to reveal His plan of salvation for people through the shed blood of a Lamb – by seeking the favor and good fortune of false gods. They were throwing the dice as it were hoping to hit seven all the time. They sought the counsel of the stars when the should have sought the Creator of the stars.

It was the propagation of the problem of Eden, when Eve was convinced by Satan that God’s purpose and provision were not sufficient to fully satisfy the human heart. How could the people of Israel, after all God had done for them in delivering them from the bondage of slavery to sin and directing them to the Promised Land, turn their backs on Him and declare that He alone was not sufficient for them? How could they turn instead to the gods that are not gods to seek their fortunes and destinies?

STOP! I cannot condemn in others, past or present, what I do myself. There are things in my life that I trust to add fulfillment, joy, peace, and prosperity that stand in direct contradiction to absolute trust in God. I’m sure you have them too. Bank accounts, retirement plans, recreational activities, vacations, possessions, sports, Facebook, and the list could go on and on. If even one aspect of this list is allowed to become a means of providing personal value and worth to our lives, we are guilty of forsaking the LORD. We spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny every time we use the creation to attempt to fulfill what only the Creator can provide. We are guilty of false worship. We even forsake the worship of God with God’s people to pursue these other gods.

My friends, as we enter into the summer season, we are all excited about the opportunities we will have to finally go have some fun and pursue some long-desired gratification and fulfillment through vacations, recreation, and our family sporting activities. Be very careful that all of it is done in the context of worship to the Creator, not as an attempt to replace what we have chosen to believe God can’t give. Our choices truly do reveal what we love and whom we worship. Do not forsake the LORD, or forget His holy mountain.

Pastor John

Raisin Juice

Connecting Points

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Today’s Topic: Raisin Juice

Today’s Text:  Isaiah 65:8-9 (NIV)   This is what the LORD says: “As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is yet some good in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all.  I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.

Have you ever had raisin juice? Me either. Raisin juice is an oxymoron. You can’t get juice from something that is dried – at least not enough to be practical.

The nation of Israel had dried up spiritually. Not only were they no longer ripe for a harvest of righteousness, but they were also juiceless – the Living Water of God was no longer in them.

But not all of them were spiritually shriveled. There was a remnant of people who had remained juicy with the joy of the Lord. They were justified by their faith in Jesus, the coming Messiah. They were plump with promise. They were fat with faithfulness. They were sweet with servant hearts.

The LORD spoke to Isaiah and said, “At first glance it looks like the grapes are becoming raisins, which are useless to me. But if you squeeze them you will discover there is still juice in them. That juice is good, so I will not destroy those grapes, but will instead use them for their intended purpose of possessing a new Kingdom.”

There are at least two lessons here for us:

  • We are surrounded by people who are shriveling up spiritually. Maybe you are one of them. By your own evaluation or the scrutiny of others, you have determined that there is nothing good left in you. Many people around you have the same belief about themselves. But there’s Good News! God sees good juice in you yet. You are not a raisin. You are a grape plump with promise. God is calling you to an inheritance on His holy mountain. You! Wrinkles and all. You are still valuable to the Savior.
  • We must be squeezed a little for the good to come out. This may hurt a little, but the squeezing of grapes produces wine. Wine is very symbolic in the Bible. Wine is the symbol of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ squeezed out on Calvary for the forgiveness of sins. Wine is the symbol of judgment, as God squeezes sinners in the winepress of His wrath in mankind’s last days on earth. Wine is the symbol of rejoicing, when Jesus again drinks it with all of His faithful followers when the new Kingdom is established. Wine is the symbol of the adultery of mankind in false religions and self-serving spiritualism. So here is the point: when you feel squeezed by the circumstances and hardships of life, what is coming out of you? Is it good, God-honoring juice that will become new wine for the celebration of the King, or is it raisin juice that needs to be destroyed?

Your response to the squeeze is your responsibility. Your response reveals your real character. When God’s people are squeezed, good juice of righteousness comes out.

Pastor John