So don't hog grace.
The Romans 12:13 Life : Pursuing the Love of Strangers
Is the mission moving? Is the mission making real progress in the saving of souls? Does the mission merely have the illusion of movement - the foot-soldiers of God on a treadmill - we're all tired but haven't gained any ground?
What is hindering us in seeking the salvation of the Lost?
We keep remembering.
When we quote the apostle Paul,
Forgetting all that's behind and straining toward what is ahead...
we are often speaking of forgetting all that's negative or disappointing in life and moving forward into victory.
But what if he means we are to forget the good, too?
So many mighty movements of God get stuck at the last great breakthrough. No doubt that the last season of growth, renewal, and revival was likely wonderful - so wonderful that all the energies that follow it are aimed at recreating it in its exact form once again and over and over again. But isn't that still moving backward?
Behold. God does new things.
Perhaps our hindrances to mission aren't caused by holding on to what is sinful or damaging.
Perhaps they are caused by holding on to what was once good in a sinful and damaging way.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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 3:7-14
What did Paul consider loss for the sake of Christ? All things.
Even what was considered GAIN.
Look at your hands - what are they gripping? Drop the good. Press on for the new. Receive the best.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal in fullness - and then forward to the fight!
We're heartsick about the spiritual condition of the world around us.
Ask the Holy Spirit for creative vision for reaching them.
You. Need. To. Talk. To. People. About. Jesus.
Really. You do.
So this project I'm sharing that doesn't require talking or relationship building - well, don't think this is all that heartsickness needs to accomplish in the realm of Gospel-spreading.
Major Steve Justice at The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center here in OKC gave me an opportunity to create prayer boards to minister to folks in our family (thrift) stores.
The best case scenario is that I am in the community engaging people face to face. The best case scenario when that is not physically possible is finding creative ways to engage - with the resources and opportunities that are already connected with people who need Jesus.
- Find a space where the seeking may be found.
- Buy a bulletin board.
- Decorate it.
- Ask to pray for them.
- Pray for them.
Get heartsick. And do something about it.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Psalm 51 (NIV)
Why should we have it? What should it look like?
I sought the Lord to give me a picture of brokenness, and He reminded me of the death of David’s son. (READ 2 Samuel 11-12:23)
Those familiar with God’s Word will easily recall the man after God’s own heart, David, and his great failure in sin through his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her godly husband, Uriah.
The prophet Nathan was inspired by the Lord to deliver a message to David to convict him of his sin. In godly sorrow David repented, and Nathan assured him that the Lord had removed the guilt of his sin.
The consequence of his sin, however, remained. David, without the sacrifice of Christ, still lived under law – where an eye for an eye and a death for a death are the economy.
Suffering under the curse and consequence of sin, his infant son now received a death sentence.
God is holy. Sin cannot come near Him. And the wages of sin is death. Praise God for His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
I won’t speak here about God’s satisfaction through atonement under the law (that alone would take many more words and devoted times of discipleship than this blog will allow). I will, though, exult that we now live under grace – and I want to magnify the backwards sorrow that David displayed for his dying son. His battle for grace exemplifies for us the heart wrenching passions that afflict those aware of others who are dying under the curse of sin.
David’s grief for his son occurred in the time that the child was still living. While there was still hope he wept and grieved from the very depths of his being. He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’” This seems backwards in the context of our modern experience, wouldn’t you say? When we journey through the illness of a loved one, we maintain our hope and grieve following their departure.
It’s unfortunate that this modern form of grieving has translated into our encounter with the Lost. Are you just going along hopeful that those around you dying in sin will magically receive salvation? Are you planning on mourning their spiritual death once we’re all in eternity?
Do you think you will look down from heaven and weep over their pain, their suffering, their complete separation from the God they now desire to love?
Do you see any account in scripture that heaven will be the place of this kind of sorrow?
If we won't weep then, when will we weep?
We weep now.
When we see a child of God condemned to die because of the curse of sin and condemnation of the law apart from Christ -
We wallow on the ground.
We refuse to be lifted up.
We are heartsick.
We plead for grace in the same way David wept for his son.
Until there is no more hope of the curse’s relenting.
The weird cousin in the family of church holidays, right?
What are you giving up for Lent? Like, I lent you a book and I’m giving that up?
It’s something that other people do. For the Salvationist, I’d like to say that it’s something we do for others.
Lent became part of the fabric of Christian culture even before the Church’s first split into Roman and Orthodox Catholicism. The Church itself was notably unified when this observance began. The Council of Nicea references and supports the time of self-denial and reflection, and gives us the understanding that Lent is an ecumenical and ancient part of the journey of the united Bride.
Growing out of what was first likely a 40-hour time of watchfulness in preparation for Easter, (many early Christians believed Christ was in the tomb for that length of time), Lent grew into a 40-day season that was most traditionally a preparation for baptism and a consideration of the need for forgiveness and harmony within the Christian community.
Fasting and self-denial are often markers in the modern-day Church over these days, but why?
If the Holy Spirit equips us every day of the year for the eradication of sin, and by faith through grace we are already whole and equipped with every spiritual blessing, why would we need to remove things from our lives and suffer for the further removal of sin? If we are an Easter people, why would we figuratively lie in sackcloth and ashes for ourselves?
Certainly there are times in our lives for self-reflection and consecration that allows the Holy Spirit to be more clearly heard for the purposes of personal holiness. But I would dare to say that Lent, for the Salvationist, is only self-focused to the point necessary for us to be most thoroughly and victoriously others-focused.
The Salvationist is saved to save. We are not monastic in the sense that we are removed and set apart for our own self-enlightenment. We are living sacrifices – all on the altar – always – for the sake of the advancement of the Kingdom.
I find an odd paradox in this wartime journey. We often think that self-reflection will lead us into deeper holiness. I find the opposite is often true. The enemy lies in wait with shame and guilt that paralyzes the believer who is left with hands empty of mission and purpose for the life that he lives. When we move from saved for self to saved to save – deepening personal holiness is always the result.
So in our challenge to live lives heartsick for the Lost, how will you be self-focused for the sake of being others-focused?
William Booth once cautioned, “Men cannot be turned from Satan to God by gentle phrases and lavender water. To save men is a desperate, agonizing, wounding business.”
Consider this heartsickness. Be desperate. Agonize. Risk the wounding.
He did it for others.
You do it for others.
Of all the spiritual disciplines, Lent is most commonly associated with fasting. Yet there are two areas of our lives that should be marked by great feasting over these next 40 days: study of the Word and prayer.
Despite our desire to be heartsick for the Lost, we find ourselves at a loss for words in moments of intercessory prayer.
The Seek God for the City app is a valuable tool to help us in those moments. Free. (Correction: $.99, which is almost free.)
Find it here:
As we move in preparation for the season of Lent, I want you to consider for a moment - is your weaponry ready for battle?
Even as Jesus was tempted following 40 days in the wilderness, we see and know that the Word of God was and is a source of sustenance, strength, and victory. (Matthew 4:4)
Lent is not merely a time of reflection and pause - it is warfare. And we must make certain our sword is ready for the fight. (Ephesians 6:17)
So many of us shot off the blocks in the New Year with our Bible reading plans check-marked and in place. Where are we now? Fizzled-out? Side-lined? We need to pick up the blade once more.
I want to introduce you to a reading plan that is not bound by timelines, due dates or calendars. It is an abiding Bible study that continues month after month and year after year. This system of study was developed by a man of the Word, Professor Grant Horner. He gives the background and instruction for his reading plan HERE.
Essentially in Professor Horner's plan, the Word is divided into ten sections for reading. Each section is completed in varied numbers of days and is started again upon completion. This allows for continually changing samples of scripture, which begin to come alive together and give the reader a 'big picture' view of the Word. Please don't confuse a Bible reading plan with Bible study. Both are valuable practices of spiritual discipline. With a reading plan, you are able to keep you mind renewed; with weekly Bible study (where you may dissect and digest several consecutive chapters of any given book), you are able to develop a deeper understanding of spiritual truths and gain an anchor for your soul. One is not the other, and yet one is not exclusive of the other.
I created a set of bookmarks that will get you on your way in implementing this plan. Long-time users of Professor Horner's system often use book darts, Post-It notes, or Post-It flags to mark their reading. (Bookmarks can occasionally fall out of your Bible and you might lose your place. Marks with magnets or adhesive help limit that issue.) I'll be using bookmarks and backing my place-marks up with an app designed for the Horner plan : Wordmark. The ad-enabled version is free - lose the ads for only $.99.
If you miss a day of reading, you miss a day of reading. You pick up where you left off. Easy-peasy. And if you're having trouble finding creative ways to make time for a daily quiet time, check out this post from the early days of Practice Hospitality:
There is a strange beauty in the way tragedy binds us together in love.
Very humbled to join in fellowship with my fellow Salvationist friends across the sea as they experience the third anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake. As you reflect upon the hours and days that may still seem frozen in time, my prayers and love are with you.
God's Kingdom is never shaken. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
Here in OKC I get to work alongside a faithful servant of God, Major Margaret Kennell. I love her creativity, admire her artistic giftings, and was inspired by a theme she shared for her Women's and Men's Ministries Annual Dinner - Camo and Lace : Hidden In Christ. Isn't that cool? She plans to make use of some Duck Dynasty finds for the event, and had great ideas for favors (i.e., bandannas, 'tea cups,' etc.).
I created some printables for her - and I'll share them with you! (Click on the images above and below for the higher resolution file.) You can use these graphics for place cards, program covers, framed centerpieces, and favor tags. Comment below on other creative uses!