Sow Some Seeds

Wierd AnimalsI am really looking forward to next week. We get to spend every evening with our great grand. We are volunteering for VBS at Amana and each evening we will pick Kaydence up and watch her have fun and bring her home. We will get to see Jess and Tyler each night, but that’s just a bonus. We will get to have the pleasure of serving with our family at Amana, but that’s just a bonus. We will get to see Pastor Jason do something funny, but that’s just a bonus. We will get to sow some seeds in the lives of some kids, that’s a really great bonus.

It’s not too late to sow some seeds and to have some fun. Join us for VBS at Amana every weeknight starting Monday.

A New Thing

Today marks the 238th anniversary of the Continental Congress approving the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. That fateful day not only sealed the future for those brave men who approved that document but that paper also established the principles by which America became the most successful nation of the past three centuries. Sorry to be politically incorrect but the 56 who signed were all white men. There were no Jews or Muslims or Hindus. There were not even any Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses. They were Christians. They may not have all been religiously so but there were at least culturally so. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

They were brave because by their signing they were declaring themselves to be rebels, some would say traitors. It was a tough thing to do. They had been English for generations and were generally loyal subjects of the crown, until now. They were starting a new thing. It was a bold and brave experiment and it worked. Those who started it knew why. Of the fifty-six men who signed this document, the last to pass away was Charles Carroll, who died at the age of 95. Before his passing, New York City asked him to inscribe his last thoughts on a copy of the Declaration. On it he wrote that he was “Grateful to Almighty God for the blessings which, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, He has conferred on my beloved country in her emancipation.” Significantly, this Founding Father, in looking back over what had occurred as a result of the Declaration, wanted to specifically thank Jesus for what had happened with America.

In 238 years the face of the experiment as changed. Today it is more colorful. It includes women and folks of many religions. The experiment worked not because it originally left out the poor and women and people of color and non-Christians. It worked because it was a new thing entrusted to God. It’s a vitally important point. God loves all those that the experiment now includes. The problem is not all still love and follow Him.

When you toast yourself at the beach or cook outside or just chill, think about that. The success of an experiment isn’t based on how it’s started but how it’s finished.

 

Persecution Faithfulness

 

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

The purpose of a spouse, apparently, is to keep  you straight. I recently discussed the Church at Philadelphia and commented, in error, that it was the only church about which the Lord had nothing negative to say. My wife has pointed out that Smyrna also invoked no negative comment. It’s characteristics were poverty and persecution. Smyrna was one of the most beautiful cities in the empire. It’s loyalty to Rome was famous. It had a small but nasty Jewish population. Both the Roman loyalists and the synagogue of Satan hated the small Christian contingency. One of their most famous was Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. He was burned at the stake after being offered his life  if he would deny Christ. To which he responded: “Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou wilt.”

The Philadelphians were known for their faithfulness, the Christians of Smyrna for their faithfulness in the midst of persecution. We consider ourselves faithful if we have stuck with Jesus after years of his favor and generous blessings. Would we be as faithful after persecution when all we could say is that he has “done me no wrong?” It’s easy to be faithful in the times of plenty; will we stay so when famine comes?

Christian Persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, as a result of one’s identification with Christ.  In the United States we are just beginning to feel isolation from the “mainstream” as Christians. We have NO IDEA. From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, believers in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith.   Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and in employment, and even death are just few examples they experience on the daily basis.

According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions.  Many of these people are Christians.  Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in the person of Jesus Christ.

The very least we can do is pray. As Christians in the free world, we are to take stand for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is a simple matter of compassion and justice to speak up for the suffering (Zechariah 7:9, Luke 11:42, Matthew 25:35-36). In following Christ’s example, we are to show mercy to those who are suffering, especially those in the household of faith (I Corinthians 12:26-27). We can pray for those who are really persecuted and pray to have their strength when our time comes.

Insecurity

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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

We are facing an epidemic of insecurity. 9/11 taught us our skies are not secure. The economy has taught us our money is not secure. Crime has come to middle America and taught us we are not safe in our homes and cars. Televisions reminds us we are not thin enough or pretty enough or strong enough or young enough. We go to church only to learn that we are not good enough or holy enough. Is there any wonder that we are insecure?

Insecurity is uncertainty or anxiety about who we are. Who are you? I used to be a poor kid. I remember growing up feeling very insecure. Our family was poor. My father was sometimes unemployed and almost always underemployed. I was the oldest of nine kids. That’s who I was and it wasn’t very secure. When you have a childhood like that, you can spend your life trying to ensure security. It’s impossible. Look around you; security can not be obtained on our own. No amount of money, fame, power or position will ensure security.

Security can be found in only one place: in Christ. In Christ, who we are is a child of God. There is no other state more secure in this world or in the hereafter. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17. Once we are “in Christ” it’s no longer about us. It’s about Him.It’s no longer an issue of whether we are rich enough or pretty enough or strong enough or good enough. It’s all about Him. 

“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  38“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.  40“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day,” (John 6:37-40).

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand,” (John 10:27-28).

Here is the truth in which you can be secure. You are not pretty enough, thin enough, good enough, rich enough, strong enough or worthy enough. He is. In Him is a safe and secure place. In Him you can be everything He intended you to be, through His goodness and His power.

Satan wants you to worry and be anxious. In that state, you are unable to grow and to share.You will never be able to be His hands and feet. In His arms, let fear and anxiety flee. Let confidence and holiness grow. Let purpose and joy flow.