Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Yesterday I lowered the price of my book Our Spiritual Inheritance on Smashwords.com from $5.99 to $1.99. I also initiated a 50% off coupon that can be used on Smashwords.com at the checkout to further reduce the price to $.99 from now through September 30, 2014. The coupon code is VD45M.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I was certainly seeing the world, and enjoying the experiences of my travels, but I also realized how immense the world is, and how small an impact I can make upon it. While visiting Russia, I mentioned to my co-workers that Jesus had sent me there to be "a sunbeam for Jesus" (words from a song I learned in church back in the '50's). I was partially speaking with tongue in cheek, but came to understand that my contributions there were like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark place. I became content with being a glint of light. It wasn't much, but it was enough.
Now, in my 60's I can see that the bulk of my time in productive ministry is behind me, but perhaps I can still contribute a glint of light in some dark places. I doubt that it will rattle the world, but if it brightens my part of the world, that would be enough.
A Place at My Father’s Table
The shepherd’s psalm has been the most memorized and most beloved poetry in the Bible because of the rich metaphor we find there. Being a lover of food myself, I appreciate anything to do with eating. Therefore, I am drawn to the words, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (vs. 5, NIV) I am able to eat in peace even though a wolf, or bear, or lion may be in the vicinity because the shepherd is watchful. This particular phrase is a mixed metaphor because we know that sheep don’t eat from tables. But humans can appreciate the fact that a place at the table has been reserved for them. For us, the one in charge is more than a shepherd. He is the one who has adopted us into his heavenly family.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16, NIV)
Thinking back to childhood days, I have fond memories of meals with the extended family, but at those larger gatherings with cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, I was often relegated to the children’s table with the younger cousins. Therefore I missed out on the conversation enjoyed by the adults at the main table. Thankfully, the table at home was just the right size so that I could sit at the same table with my parents and enjoy the status of a full-fledged member of the family. In fact, I remember that generally my father would fix a hot breakfast for me, and he and I would eat together at the table. Though I don’t remember our conversations, I consider that to have been a high point in my day. More recently, I enjoyed role reversal when my daughter’s family lived with us for a while. My one year old grandson would get up and share breakfast with me. Though he could barely talk, we had such pleasant times at the table sharing a hot breakfast together. (He had a fondness for bacon.)
There is something powerful about time spent together at the table. Therefore, I am grateful to know that my Father’s table has a place set exclusively for me, and I am able to dine there regularly at the Father’s invitation.
Friday, June 6, 2014
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus preached to the crowds about a Gate and a Way. He said, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) This short statement is full of profound meaning. Jesus gave twin truths that describe the whole of the Christian experience in this world. Later Jesus would also say that He is the Gate...and He is the Way! It is through Jesus that God has put both a Gate and a Way before us.
The Gate represents something of a crisis event. This is something we pass through, and once we do so, we are in a new place. Many of the cities in Jesus' day were walled and gated. To be allowed to pass through a gate was a privilege as well as a benefit. Think of the gate-type events in your life. Being born is the gate into life on this planet. Walking for the first time, going to school for the first time, graduation, marriage...these are all gateways into a new identity and experience.
In the spiritual realm, being born again is the most significant gateway event for any person. When we are saved, all things become new. Entering the gate of salvation is a glorious, amazing, and eternal change. But it is not the end. There are some churches that give so much emphasis to trying to get people through that gate, that they don't teach much of anything else. So much attention is focused on "getting saved" praying the sinner's prayer, sign on the dotted line, as if that is the be all and end all of the Christian life. The end result of such narrowly focused teaching can often be frustrated (and frustrating) baby Christians wondering why their new life doesn't seem much different from their old life before their commitment. Sadly, the American church sometimes seems to be 8 miles wide and half an inch deep due to omitting important Biblical teachings about our connection to God through Christ.
The Gate matters, but the Gate is not the end of the story. It is the beginning point of walking the Way. As Jesus taught, those coming to God through Christ are entering a narrow gate and afterward they will walk a narrow way. Jesus taught the Gate...and he also taught the Way. To concentrate only on the Gate and ignore instruction on the Way is to tell only half the story.
Who would want to walk through a gate and then just stand there? Imagine a boy entering the gate into Disney World and then just hanging around the entrance area for the whole day. What a waste that would be. When you enter the gate at Disney World you will no doubt do a lot of walking afterward and explore every area of the park.
In our spiritual lifves, after we enter the Gate, we must start Walking the Way. There is plenty to see and do ...more than enough for a lifetime of walking. And walking is always done the same way - one step at a time.
Jesus taught the gate and the way. Entering the Gate may be enough to bring a person into the blessed condition of being saved, but the post salvation walk is all about making progress in our spiritual growth and development. We don't want to stay spiritual babies forever so we walk...daily, and we grow...continually so that the beauty of Jesus can be seen within us, and the aroma of Christ will waft from us. There is a gate...and a way that is narrow and leads to life. Jesus taught them both. Let us follow his lead and do likewise.