Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Never-ending Points of Light

... Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their labors; for their good deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:13b NASB)
           The voice in the book of Revelation tells us that the good deeds in this life follow us into the next.  A good deed is like a point of light created in the universe, it continues to shine through eons of time.
    Of course we know that our right standing with God is not dependent on weighing our good works against our bad.  It is a free gift.  But the Bible does speak about eternal rewards.  In 2 Corinthians 5: 10 (NASB) it says, “ that one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” There is a day coming where God will set the record straight and rewards will be given based on divine justice.
    Yes, it does seem like in this world that the righteous sometimes seem to end up on the short end of the stick.  In Psalms 73 the psalmist seems to get tripped up a bit about this.  He laments over the prosperity of the wicked and the chastisement of the innocent, until he sees the big picture, “Then I perceived their end” (v7b).   There is a day of reckoning approaching when God will judge our actions based on the thoughts and the intentions of our hearts.  Then all those with servant hearts will receive their imperishable crowns.
       There is one difference between the luminosity created in the universe and the glow of God's approval.  Physical illumination from the moment of creation starts to dim, but God's luminescence never diminishes.  So look up my dear servants of Christ and see your good deeds as never-ending points of light.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Great Engima

Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.  (Jude 1: 23b NLT)

      An enigma is something that is puzzling or difficult to understand.  How do we love people as God’s creation and yet hate the sin that mars their existence.  It is like trying to separate dirt from muddy water.  Yet for Christians, in the culture in which we live, it is a skill that is absolutely necessary to reach the world around us.
      Trying to accomplish this feat is like walking on a type rope. If you lean too much to the side of mercy, we risk appearing to condone sinful actions. On the other hand, if we overly emphasize truth and judgment we fall off of that rope into the pitfalls of legalism.  So how do we navigate this bumpy road?
      First, there are no magical formulas, other than the life of Christ, “ full of grace and truth.”  On one occasion he drove out the moneychangers, in another he ate with sinners.  At times he was like a lion and others like a lamb.  With Jesus, one size did not fit all.
        What should we do when we find ourselves between the rock and the hard place of choosing between mercy and truth?  Jesus only did what she saw the Father doing. We in turn, should do only what we see Jesus doing. We should neither look to right nor the left, but up to God to lead us.  Doing this will not bring the approval of the legalist or the liberals, but it will please the one who really counts, the Son of God our example. So keep looking up and he will teach you how to love people and yet hate their sin.

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing
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Friday, November 27, 2015

Serving God's Way

Image used with permission by Microsoft
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use it well to serve one another….  Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ….. (I Peter 4: 10-11 NLT).

   There is a definite order of service delineated in this portion of scripture. It’s God, then others and self. Unfortunately, we sometimes invert that order to ourselves, people, and then the Lord.  In this hierarchy of service, due to our tendency to look out for number one, it is very easy to keep ourselves on top and let God and man compete for everything 
    It is very clear that our motivation to serve comes first and foremost from God. But even though God is first, it is never just me and Jesus.  Our love for him (God) is always displayed for those created in his image.  There is a vertical and horizontal aspect to our service.  It is upward toward the Lord and outward to those around us. When we combine the vertical and horizontal we form the sign of the cross. Jesus was the perfect servant. He came to serve and not be served.
    If we quit serving because whom we serve doesn’t affirm our efforts, it shows we are endeavoring to please man instead of God. If our priorities are right, it does not matter if we are treated fairly, we continue to be faithful in our duties because we ultimately are doing it for God and not flesh and blood.  The litmus test of a servant’s heart comes when we do the lion’s share of the work and get very little credit for the results.  This will reveal whether are life is in divine order, God, then others and self.    

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Honor Of Humility

And before honor comes humility
(Proverbs 15: 33b NASB)

I wonder what they think about me now?
I worked for a mission’s organization called Youth With A Mission, referred to as YWAM.  I was a recruiter and I set up missions meetings in 35 cities east of the Mississippi River.   I had wonderful people in each city working with me. Knowing that missionaries were just ordinary people who had the privilege of working with an extraordinary God, I sometimes felt these people had a little higher view of missionaries then we deserved.
One weekend a couple that organized meetings for me in South Carolina came to the YWAM center in Virginia where I lived. This couple really loved missions and they appreciated the work of our mission.  But that weekend I was a little surprised when I found out why they really liked us so much.
Sunday morning we planned on having them over to our apartment for breakfast before going to church. That morning I was running between the dining area and the bedroom. I was trying to entertain my guests and also to help my youngest daughter get dressed for church.  I felt a little stressed. My little one who usually was the picture of submission was having a hard time listening to her Dad. I think she may have been influenced by the Sunday morning demon.  Finally, I lost it and let her have it verbally in a very unloving fashion. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was wrong and I apologized to her.  She forgave me as kids usually do. But we were in the room right next to where my guests we're waiting, and I thought to myself; did they hear what I said?  A little embarrassed terror hit my heart.  Again I thought, I wonder what they think about me now.  At the breakfast table I felt like a little child who didn't want to look into his parents eyes when he knows he's done something wrong. Needless to say it was a very awkward breakfast for me.
          After breakfast I realized that not making eye contact with them was not going to work all day. After church at a restaurant before we prayed for the food I decided to get this thing off my chest. It didn't matter whether they had heard me or not, I needed to be known in my weakness and ask them to pray that I would be better at handling stress. I told them the story and the husband got a huge smile on his face and said, “that's what we like about you YWAMERS, you have the rhema in this area of openness.”  Wow! I saw more clearly than ever that I had been believing a lie. I thought that if I let myself be known for who I really was I would lose their acceptance. What made me so susceptible to this deception?  It was my pride.  I cared more than I should about what my friends thought about me.  What I wanted to hide, when revealed, didn’t bring shame but respect   In God's Kingdom honor is always preceded by humility.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Image used with permission by Microsoft