Down in Africa

Back in 1982 a group called Toto released the song “Africa.” I was not alone in liking that tune as it rose to #1 on the Billboard top hits early in 1983. I remember one line from that song that has now come full circle in my life. The line was: “I know that I must do what’s right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” While the singer was referring to a personal relationship, for me it refers to the fact that I am actually going to Africa for a much greater purpose. I’m going because I have the privilege of evaluating a mission for our church’s possible support. So, I know I must do what’s right: to see the mission with Jesus’ heart and also with the eyes of a good steward representing many believers here at home.  That can be a tough task, especially in 3rd world countries where there is so much need.

So, I would like to ask you for your help. Before I do let me tell you a little more about my trip.

As I go to represent Northridge Christian here in Milledgeville, several other churches around the country are sending representatives for the same purpose. We are calling it a Vision Trip  to visit the Africa Hope Kenya mission. The mission is led by Tim Mantai, a devoted follower of Jesus and one who loves the Massai people. Tim has served Christ in Narok, Kenya for decades, planting churches, distributing relief and now directs Africa Hope Kenya. If you would like to learn more about Tim and his family you can click HERE. If you would like to learn more about Africa Hope Kenya click HERE.

The Team leaves Friday, July 14, and returns Sunday, July 23rd. We will be visiting the mission that is headquartered in Narok, Kenya but also going out into the bush. If you are interested in the entire itinerary you can click on 2017 AfricaHope Vision trip schedule.

But as I wrote earlier, this is not just about giving you information, but asking for your help. How can you do that?  PRAY. Here’s what I’m asking from those who read this:

  1. Pray for wisdom for the representatives that visit the Africa Hope Kenya mission. You don’t go on a mission trip like this without wanting to support it, but is that the right thing for the church at this time? It can be a hard pull because I’m sure the need is great. As I mentioned earlier, I want to do what is right so I need God’s wisdom to see this endeavor how He sees it.
  2. Pray for Tim and Lorna Manai and their 5 girls. They are the “boots on the ground” in a place that desperately needs the message of Jesus. In fact, more than money or resources (although they need that too), they need God’s strength, courage, and wisdom.
  3. Pray for a safe trip for all concerned.
  4. Pray for loved ones at home. We will be out of touch for some if not much of this trip and our loved ones will be at home constantly wondering about our safety.
  5. Pray that our churches will be open to our reports and if support is what the representatives deem necessary, that they will not hesitate to give generously.

Well, that’s it. The song over and over again said, “Bless the rains down in Africa” I’d like to say and pray, “Bless the trip and Mantai’s down in Africa.”

Thank-you.

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A New Question, for a New Year

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me…?”  John 21:15

Do you remember how miserably Peter failed his Lord?

1. He told Jesus that he would NEVER allow Him to die, right after Jesus had explained that His whole purpose for coming into the world was to do so. Jesus even addressed him as Satan! (Matthew 16:23)
2. As Jesus was voluntarily giving Himself up to His mission, Peter drew a sword and was rebuffed by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Of all the times to use violence.
(John 18:10)

peter-s-denial-posters3. Later, Peter publicly denies that he even knows Jesus, being pressured by a young servant-girl, possibly middle school age. (Mark 14:66)

So, at the time of this breakfast in John 21, I would not be surprised if Peter wondered if he was even capable of being Jesus’ disciple; having been so unfaithful in His most crucial hour.

But I too am Peter.
As I begin 2017, I’m painfully aware of how I’ve failed Jesus in 2016. I’ve had times I didn’t respond well to those I love. I’ve experienced moments this past year when my ministry was not successful because of my own failings. I’ve seen areas in my life where my own expectations and promises to Jesus were not completed. Bottom line? I have sinned. In doing those things, in a very real way, I have denied Him too.

But here’s the encouragement I receive from Jesus’ encounter with my fellow struggler, Peter in John 21.

peter-doyoulovemeDon’t miss how Jesus responds to Peter’s failures. He does not berate Peter, He does not humiliate Peter. He didn’t even ask, as I would: “Okay, Peter what plans do you have so you will not repeat this failure?” -or- “What are your goals to have a better year for me?” No, His question was simply, “Do you love Me?

That question is so encouraging as I start a new year, because I know when I fail Jesus in 2017, and I will, in one way or another, that He will not berate me, nor humiliate me, nor ask for my plans or goals to do better. He will simply ask me, as he did Peter, “Do you love Me?

You see, Jesus does not need our promises to try harder this year or our plans to do better. After all, if your resolve to obey God last year did not help you be faithful in every situation, you can be assured your own effort will not make you successful this year.

So, rather than our resolutions, Jesus asks for a re-commitment of our love to Him.

As I start a new year I hear Jesus ask: “Tim, do you love me?” And to that question I can answer confidently, “Yes Lord, I do!

His question inspires me as I hope it does you. Because when we answer we truly love Jesus, our service for Him in the new year and beyond will be of the quality that He desires.

(Thoughts inspired by Experiencing God Day by Day, Henry and Richard Blackerby)

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This Christmas I remember Jesus – Meek and Humble of Heart

Of all the things that are incredible to me about Jesus’ birth there is one that stands out above all others.

I’m mystified by the Virgin Birth – how exactly did that happen?
I’m in wonder at the way Joseph reacted to Mary’s pregnancy.
I’m astounded by the angelic activity.

But more than anything else it is completely unfathomable to me why God chose to come as a baby. Why not just appear as a full grown man? Marching out of the dessert or just suddenly appearing in the Temple? Why not, if he wanted to come quietly, just appear at the shore of Galilee and call the disciples? Why a baby?

Oh, I think I understand, theologically…
He came as a baby because lineage was so important to Jewish people and He had to come from the line of David.
He came as a baby to fulfill prophecy.

But while I understand that theologically, what does being born as a baby mean to me personally?
Two things:

  1. He was to go through everything we are to go through. Hebrews 4:15 says that he can EMPHATHIZE, not just sympathize, with my  every weakness. He was months in the womb of a woman like me, he came down the birth canal, like me, He was hungry, tired, dependent on other people… like me. He could not have made the claim to empathize with my EVERY weakness had he not been born as a baby.
  2. He came as a humble baby because he wanted us to know how much he valued humility. We needed to learn (I’m still learning) that in order to have a healthy relationship with Him we must get our significance from Him not from anywhere or anyone else. Think about it, an infant is probably the most dependent being on earth. Maybe that’s why a couple of times in scripture – in Proverbs 3:34 and in James 4:6 God tells us that “He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

If there is one thing I am reminded of with the coming of Jesus as a baby – it’s how much I need to be meek and humble in heart and depend on him.  Which is why I identified with I this prayer from Cardinal  Merry Del Val, 1865–1930.

From the desire of being praised by others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored by others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, consulted, & approved, except by You, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being criticized, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being passed over deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, hurt, or of suffering, deliver me, Jesus.

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire that others be loved more than I,
That others be chosen and I set aside,
That others be praised while I serve You unnoticed,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire this.

Oh Jesus, You who came so meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours. strengthen me with your Spirit and teach me your ways.
Oh Jesus, meek and humble of heart, help me this day to put my self-importance aside and if I be known for anything, let me be known for being totally, dependently and completely Yours.
Amen.

 

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Pastor, who are you voting for?

The subject line is a question, as a Pastor, that I hear often. I get it. People within my circle of influence are confused by our current choices, so they want to know where I stand on the election. To be transparent, I am not enamored with either of our main candidates. On one hand you have a man who at times is vulgar, doesn’t sometimes think before he speaks and has a very checkered past. On the other you have a woman who is constantly stands on the very left and is in a constant battle over her credibility and honesty. The unfavorable rating of both of the main candidates has never been higher than in this election.

“Pastor, who are you voting for?” How do I answer that question? I say this:

I am voting for the PLATFORM of the party that most clearly supports LIFE. I don’t mention a name but I do say that I am a “one issue voter.” What do I mean by that? Simply this: I cannot cast a vote for anyone who doesn’t at least espouse the idea that life is sacred and begins at conception. Why do I say that?

Let me say this as clearly as I can. I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN READ SCRIPTURE WITHOUT CONCLUDING THAT GOD CONSIDERS LIFE TO BEGIN AT CONCEPTION! Consider with me the following scriptures:

Exodus 21:22-23 – “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life…” (NIV) The life of both the woman and the unborn child were valuable to God! And the Jews understood this because every man had some reason to think that the Messiah could spring from his family and so they were extremely careful of the unborn child even if an accident had occurred.

Psalms 139:13 -16 -“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV) David says that God  already knew him and had ordained his days while he was still in the womb.

Isaiah 49:1 & 5 -“Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” “And now the Lord says — he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself…” (NIV) God called Isaiah before he was born, he called him in the womb to be his servant.

This is not just an Old Testament principle.
Luke 1:41 – “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (NIV) John the Baptist was 6 months developed in his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit his mother Elizabeth.

Luke 1:44 -“As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy!” (NIV) God moved through the Holy Spirit while John was still in the womb! The word “brethos” used to describe John in the womb is the very same word for the infant Jesus in Luke 2:12 & 16 where you find “a baby (brethos) wrapped in clothes and laying in a manger.” The words are used interchangeably.

You see, to God, birth doesn’t create life! It simply manifests the life that has already been created by God in the womb. And there is no way a serious Bible student can rationalize abortion today.

My wife, Deborah was the fourth of 7 children that my mother-in-law gave birth too. And I know those kids so bless her heart! 🙂 The time gap between my wife and her nearest older sibling was separated by 3 years. But if that was today maybe somebody would have said. “Lorena, you’ve already got three, and this one will be several years younger than your other three, this fourth one doesn’t matter.” Praise God #4 did matter to my mother-in-law! Because it certainly mattered to Deb! And it matters to my children and my grandchildren! And it mattered to me! Where would I be if #4 hadn’t mattered and had been just tossed aside?

The point is, every life matters to God. Whether it’s #1 or #10! Whether it’s perfect or deformed! He’s the one that is the author and Creator of life!

So, I cannot vote for anyone who will say, “I believe it’s the woman’s right to choose whether she gives birth to the baby inside of her.” Really? A woman can do whatever she chooses with her body? Not if she believes scripture because Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
(1 Cor. 6:19-20 NIV)

“Pastor, who are you voting for?” I am voting for the PLATFORM that says this:
We say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”

Which party said that? Look it up! Or better yet, take a look at this guide to where the two major candidates stand 2016vgpresident on a number of issues including abortion.

Oh, and I add one more thing after saying, “I’m a one issue voter – I vote for the candidate who supports life at conception.” I add: “No matter who is elected God is still in control and “…he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
(Acts 17:31 NIV)

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The Gender Neutral Bathroom Controversy

I do not often re-post a Blog but Sam Rainer has given some good thoughts on a very timely and controversial issue. While it is entitled, “What Pastors Can Do…” It’s really, in my opinion, helpful for any believer on how to “speak the truth in love.” Remember while we are not to be OF the world (holding the world’s values and practices) we are IN the world (confronted by the worlds values and practices). This makes it necessary sometimes to think about how we will respond as Christ followers to things like this.
Thanks to Sam Rainer – well said!

What Pastors Can Do about the Gender Neutral Bathroom Controversy http://samrainer.com/2016/05/what-pastors-can-do-about-the-gender-neutral-bathroom-controversy/

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“It’s All About HIM, Not It.”

That subject line was the last line of an apology sent by someone who had walked away from the church I was leading more than a decade ago. What brought on the contrite heart and the statement? To answer that I’ve got to go back some 13 years to 2003.

We were planting a church in Colorado Springs, CO and after the launch I was teaching some new leaders.  In that teaching I said this: “Be careful not to make the Bible your idol. We don’t worship the Bible. In fact, people don’t even have to believe the bible to become Christ followers.” Immediately you could see in this one leader’s eyes a fire that basically heard that statement as hearsay. There was so much shock and anger in his eyes that I thought he was about to say, “Get the torches folks, we’ve got to kill the heretic!”

Before you too think I’ve lost my senses, or at least my theology, my statement was based on two scriptures.
Bible-glasses-notebook

  1. John 5:39 where Jesus basically said the same thing to the religious leaders of his day. He said: “You study the scriptures diligently because you think in them you have eternal life. These scriptures testify about me.” In other words, you are so deep into the Bible that you’ve missed the One that the Bible is telling you about! Studying the scriptures had become more important than the One who had given them the scriptures!
  2. John 17:17 where Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by YOUR truth – YOUR Word is truth.” There’s a great little play on words there by Jesus where he is saying – God is the Truth and His true Word is what is used to reveal Him as Truth. I like the way the Basic English Bible translates that verse: “Set them apart by Your Truth which is revealed in the truth of Your Word.” Once again we find that God is to be honored above the scripture He is revealed in.

God is the Truth. The Bible is simply the conduit by which we learn of that Truth. We dare not get that backwards. Sometimes I see believer’s intent on “digging deeper in the scriptures” when they haven’t even scraped the surface of obeying the scriptures they already know. It’s as if information has become their idol and they fall to worshiping the Bible rather than the One revealed in it. And why not? Isn’t it easier to just pour in more knowledge rather than practically applying the knowledge you already have?

That’s why something that Andy Stanley said at a Drive Conference a few years ago resonated with me so deeply. He said: “’The Bible says…’ is not a good starting point for many people today. The bible doesn’t really say or teach anything. Specific authors in the Bible say things and teach. The Bible is not a book but 66 manuscripts that reveal what God through the Holy Spirit led writers to say.”1  Don’t forget that for the first 250 years or so of the church people did not have a “bible” like we do today. And yet, they turned the world upside down without the “book.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I believe the Bible to be inerrant, God breathed and a book like no other. But, I do not believe it was ever meant to be idolized or used as a substitution for the Author. We must be careful not to lift the Bible so high that it obscures the One the Bible seeks to lift up! For the most part, people must first see the transforming truth of Him who the Bible reveals in us, before they will give the Bible any credibility.

So, I come full circle to the communication from my friend. I’m not sure what prompted it but I received a note from him which at the end eloquently said this: “I was wrong to walk out. I’ve learned that at the time of your teaching I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to receive it. Now, I get it – it’s all about HIM, not it.”

Yeah, I’d say he gets it.

1 You can find a more thorough explanation of Andy’s line of thinking in his book, Deep & Wide, 2016, Zondervan. P.246-252. (Paperback ed)

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The Promise Seen in Darkness

In Genesis 15 we are presented with one of the more remarkable if not mysterious interchanges between a man and God.  In this case it is Abram (later named Abraham) and the way he receives the promise from God that he would be the father of multitudes and would inherit a great deal of land. In 15:4-7 we see God make the promise and then Abraham basically asks for proof. V.8: “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it (the Promise Land)?” What is surprising is not the request, but the way God answers Abraham and the sign he provides. Because it is in this sign where once again I am surprised, startled even, to see Jesus.

God has Abraham bring animals, split them in two and place them in front of him. Then the author writes in v.12- “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.” As Abram experiences this thick darkness, God represents himself as a smoking pot and a flaming torch. The episode ends with the statement, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” (V.18)

For people in the Mideast, when parties entered into a promise it was often dramatized by some enactment of the parties willingness to sacrifice and honor the arrangement. It is easy to see the sacrifice part in the animals that are split in two but what is with the darkness? When you read v.17 you find that during Abram’s darkness this happened: “…a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.” I think God was showing Abram and us three things:

  1. By passing between the pieces He was showing He would pass through the sacrifice so that Abram wouldn’t have to.
    2. By showing a firepot and torch He was demonstrating that He would be the Light that would show clearly He could be trusted.

I thought… there’s Jesus. It is Jesus who passes through death, our Passover if you will, so that we will not have to pay the penalty of our broken promises. It is Jesus who is called the Light of the World.

Butcross_dark the darkness still puzzled me until… It sprang to my mind that the Gospel writers told us that when Jesus died, a thick darkness fell over the land. It was actually one of those times I literally caught my breath when I realized that this “thick and dreadful darkness” in the first book of the Bible is sharing the future moment when another darkness would fall. And it is in the moment of that dreadful darkness that Jesus would become both my sacrifice and light my way home. Jesus experienced the darkness of my sin so that my alienation from Him could not and would not break His covenant of love with me.

God is so brilliant to take an episode thousands of years ago and by showing Abram that He is a covenant keeper, dramatically remind me that His promise to me and you will never, ever be broken.

No wonder God tells Abraham in vs:1 of this chapter: “I am your shield, and your very great reward.”

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Two Partings

I have been studying the life of Moses and came to that very familiar story of The Parting of the Red Sea.

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground,with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Exodus 14:21-22 (NIV)

Maybe you are like me, hearing this story since your childhood. And maybe like me you have always been impressed with how God set this up and then provided so miraculously. But thanks to a devotional thought from Louie Giglio, I was able to put an even greater “parting” with this one.

Matthew 27:50-51 reads: “Then Jesus shouted out again, dismissed his spirit, and died. Look! The curtain secluding the Holiest Place in the Temple was parted, split from top to bottom…” (SEV)

It’s important to understand that the veil was not a small curtain. It was was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, and was about one inch thick.  The veil was so massive and heavy that it took 300 priests to manipulate it.  The fact that the veil was torn from the top down, some 60 feet from the floor (where humans could not reach it), shows that God was the One that caused the parting of the veil – torn from top to bottom. Why? So that we could have safe access to Him.

I began thinking about some of the similarities between these two events.
  1. Moses stretched forth his arms over the sea to begin the act of salvation for the Israelites – Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross to start the act of our salvation.
  2. A path was opened by God for the Israelites – A path was provided for us through the curtain.
  3. The Israelites crossed on dry land to safety because of the Sea parting – We get to cross into the safety of the Holy of Holies because of the curtain parting.
  4. The enemy of Israel was defeated once and for all by the Sea – Our enemy Satan was defeated once and for all by allowing us access to God.
  5. The waters were walled up on either side keeping them from destroying the Israelites – The curtain was torn to wall up our sin keeping it from destroying us.

Amazing!

As Louie Giglio wrote:

“The truth is this: when Christ gave His life in death on the cross He parted something far more significant than the Red Sea as God did for Israel in Exodus. When Jesus cried “It Is Finished,” the curse over your life was shattered into oblivion and the veil of the temple in Jerusalem, that majestic curtain separating the people from God’s very presence, was ripped in two.”

Louie Giglio:The Bright Light of Glory

I want to give my passion and my life to this One who parted the sea and parted the curtain so I would never be parted from Him.
curtain-moses-jesus
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The Real Problem – the “S” word

We_Have_Met_The_EnemyHow many times have you heard a statement like this recently? “Our culture’s values are on a downward slide like never before.” “Our country has lost all it’s moral bearings.” “Political correctness has replaced right and wrong.” I’ve heard those and more especially in light of the ramifications of Roe v Wade (abortion rights) and now Obergefell v. Hodges (same sex marriage). I’ve heard people rant and rave against the supreme court judges, politicians, liberals and the LGBT. Because I am a Pastor most of the complaints I hear are coming from fellow believers. But do we really believe that our current culture’s issues are anything new? In fact, I would dare to say that abortion, same sex marriage, liberal agendas, gun control, racism, or any other cultural malady is not the problem. What is?

An “S” word. It’s small but from one bad seed and subsequent plantings this word is responsible for the downward spiral from all that is perfect. It’s spelled: S-I-N and it has serious ramifications. Our adamant rebellion against God and His ways has tormented us since the beginning of time. I believe that Satan is the Enemy, but his tool that has us hook, line and sinker is sin. We like to cast blame on social ills, and believe me I too shake my head in disbelief at where we’ve come to in this present day. But, but let’s not kid ourselves. There is a root problem to all these things: sin. And, (this is hard to write or maybe read) because we are sinners, we are a huge part of the problem! You see sin is not one act, one court decision or one cultural ill. It’s an insidious, malevolent, sinister virus that we have taken in and allowed to run rampant. It is incurable by any human means or medicine. Sin has had it’s way with us and the consequences are unbelievably harsh. Think what sin does to us.

Sin BLINDS. We think we have control over it. How we have been tricked into seeing sin in the short term without perceiving it’s damage in the long run. That’s why Hebrews tells us that “there is pleasure in sin… but it is fleeting” (Heb. 11:25). We tend to ignore the “fleeting” part. It’s why we are told in Galatians 6:1 to “restore” or “warn” someone “caught in sin,” albeit gently, because if we don’t they will find the “pleasure” has turned into sorrow. Our sin, much like any addiction, take control much faster than we think. Kind of like the 9 year old boy taking his 200 pound St. Bernard for a walk. The dog was pulling him where he didn’t want to go and so he yelled, “Hey, stop! You’re my dog, I’m not your boy!” Yet, when it comes to sin we often blinded by the fact that we only think we have control when the truth is we are its “boy.” Sin blinds and…

Sin BINDS. Because we are blinded we can become dominated by sin. Scripture refers to being “a slave to sin.” From Genesis 3 onward we have been contaminated by sin. Have you ever thought of this? think of the how our world was corrupted when Adam and Eve committed their first sin. From child bearing, to work, to even the ground, all was cursed due to this one sin. Before sin there were no arguments, no abuse, no hurricanes, no sickness… but after, all that began. If they suffered that much due to one sin how corrupt and contaminated is our world after thousands upon thousands of years of sin? When someone asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” the answer is S-I-N. When someone asks, “Why Me?” in regards to storms, mistreatment or immoral decisions the answer is S-I-N. We have stained the perfect and as long as we are in this sinful world we will be bound by sins consequences. No wonder, in Romans 8, even Creation is described as in “the bondage of decay” and groans for redemption. (Romans 8:21-23) Sin binds us but most horribly…

Sin bankrupts us. Sin is what separates us from God. God didn’t do this to us, we did. God didn’t want this for us, we did. Our sinful desires war against our souls. We were not made to be separated from God but we chose to be. Sin is that which God cannot stand. Sin is that which God’s pure eyes cannot look upon. (Habakkuk 1:13) And it doesn’t take a genius to come to the frightening conclusion that since God can’t look upon or stand sin and since we are sinners… that’s right, God can’t stand us! Not when we are contaminated by sin.

Which is exactly why God sent JESUS. He is our only cure, the only way to eradicate this disease. As one who described himself as the chief of sinners once wrote: “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness (reconciled) of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Don’t misunderstand. Jesus, while on the cross, did not become a sinner, but rather He willingly became culpable for our sin. If there had been any other way to rid us of this poison God wouldn’t have had to send His Son. As Billy Graham once said, “The very fact that God sent his one and only Son to the cross to pay for our sins shows how dark and black sin is in the sight of God.” I will forever be grateful but always in awe of the fact that sin, instead of cancelling God’s love for us, motivated him to take extraordinary measures to reconcile us back to what he wanted from the beginning – a perfect relationship. And that perfect relationship can only come through Jesus.

This is why we warn against bad choices, sad decisions and poor rulings. This is why we MUST SHARE JESUS! I don’t believe He’s wagging his finger at the Supreme Court Justices or shaking his head at the LGBT or even shedding tears over aborted babies (after all the babies are with Him). But I think He may be saying to us as believers, maybe even shouting to us: “Beloved, railing against the evil in the world is not what I meant when I gave you my final commission. You talk sports but don’t tell anyone I am the cure for what ails them, even though some don’t even know they are ailing. You share so much on Facebook but don’t share to your sin duped friends that I am the solution to THE Problem. You Tweet 140 characters but don’t spend that many seconds praying for those who are blinded, bound and bankrupt by sin. Please, make a priority of sharing that I am The Way, The Truth, The Life.”

After all, maybe the real problem is our failure to live out the “S” word… SHARE Jesus.

savealife_SHAREjESUS

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Castaway on Mars (With a heaping helping of MacGyver)

The Martian
Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. He was left by accident because of an accident that made everyone think he was dead. Left to his own devices he must somehow stay alive because that’s what our survival instincts tell us to do and we, no matter how unimaginable, hope for rescue. “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.” This is Andy Weir’s first novel plot in a nutshell.

I have to admit that sometimes my eyes glazed over with the meticulous scientific explanations of Watney’s survival techniques, but overall it was worth it. If you are the type of person who likes science and problem solving, you will love this book. However, if you are the type of person who is looking for a great deal of relationship bonding or deep personal interaction than this book is probably not for you.

Bottom line, I enjoyed the book. It had the right amount of science fiction, humor and suspense without any aliens or zombies (thank goodness!). It also buoyed up my belief that when given a choice in a crisis, people will tend to help one another out.

Two small quibbles: Strong language (was it necessary?) is used at times and the technical jargon was a little steep. Overall it was a good read. I understand the book has been purchased for the movie rights. I’ll pay to see it. Mark Wahlberg as Mark Watney? (Actually no, Matt Damon) The movie is scheduled for release November 25, 2015.

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