What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

Baby Steps 4

The third translator came quite surprisingly.  A man I have been working with for over a quarter century, was having a struggle in knowing how the Lord wanted to use him.  He had studied Russian for several years and had made a couple trips to Russia.  He even had worked as a translator in the Russian language but because of a limitation he had, he had never been able to really find the work he fit into.  He was constantly second guessing God’s plan for him and as a result, was never able to settle on any one thing that God had made certain.

Knowing his background as well as his heart, I found myself giving him the same advice over and over again. Somehow he thought that he might miss something so he tried to add credence to everything that came along.  The result was that nothing was ever truly settled.  It is just as the Bible says,  Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

As I listened to him I found a common denominator which was that every conversation revolved around what he could do.  I then attempted to turn his attention  from himself to others.  It was not what he could do for God but how he could enrich the lives of others.  I also advised him that he needs to begin doing what was in his heart to do.  The thing he identified that was the greatest joy to do was Russian translation.  So then  I suggested to him that he simply begin to translate something for the practice to sharpen his skills again.  Lacking confidence, he wanted or needed something more specific so I suggested that he try my book, thinking that it would at least give him a start.  It seemed to be a mountain to him so I suggested that he begin with only one chapter.

Now he is growing more and more rapidly and moving at a faster pace continually.  He talks less of himself and more about others.  He has stated that the more he has translated, the easier it has become.  It is much easier to carry on a conversation with him now and his understanding grows every day.  One of the most outstanding  things that I see in him is his dedication to be precise and accurate in his work.  He is now finishing the third chapter and has every intention of finishing the book.  He has said several times that upon the completion of his work that it then needs to be examined by others for a more perfect translation.

Sometimes all of us needs a helping hand to lift us to a higher level of living.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 3

A second bond came from a pastor in Japan that I met on a trip to visit my son who was living and working in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son, Daniel, in Japan.  While we were there we determined that we wanted to visit a Christian church to have the experience and to aid us in our understanding of their culture.

We asked our daughter-in-law if she knew where on was and she put us in contact with a church.  The church then sent a car to pick us up as we didn’t know our way around the area.  We were so appreciative and wanted to thank them in the right way.  I knew that gifting was a big thing in Japan but we were on our way already so there wasn’t time to buy something.  Then I remembered that I had a copy of my book with me and determined to give that as a gift for their care for us.

Upon arrival, we were directed into the church and introduced to the pastor.  I then presented the pastor with my gift, not knowing if I was doing it right.  He hesitated for a moment and then he got misty and I thought he was going to cry.  I asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, No you don’t understand.  You see, I have been praying that the Lord would send me someone to encourage me and you are him.  Then I felt like crying.  Our bond was immediate as we both felt that this was a divine appointment.  I am not sure what he told the congregation but after the service we were surrounded by everyone and they all wanted to talk with us.  At one point I was talking to four people at the same time, trying to answer their questions and my wife was trying to talk to two more.  All the while the others were crowding around to listen.  This went on for the better part of an hour so we didn’t get any time to speak with the pastor.  He then requested for us to join him for lunch the next day.

Darla, wasn’t feeling well the next day so I went on alone.  I was met with the pastor, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law at a fine restaurant and enjoyed a great meal.  He shared that he had read my entire book and was so impressed that he asked permission to use it in his work and of course I agreed.  He then told me of a member of his church that was impressed by our visit that she had determined to read my book as well.  The pastor challenged her with the question, you don’t speak English nor do you read English, so how do you intend to do that.  She replied that she had considered it and had decided that she would get an English/Japanese dictionary and read it that way. (Note, so far she has read three chapters.)  My immediate thought was, Lord give us this kind of dedication.

Our bond was instantaneous and has continued to this day.  He became my second translator though I wasn’t  even looking for another translator.  He now calls me his mentor though I learn from him continually.  His heart is so big that it includes all of Japan and China.  He has made at least 9 trips to China to train the young pastors there. Because of his schedule, the translation has been going slow but recently the Lord sent him an assistant so the work will gather momentum.  His goal is for all of Japan to read the book and to put their trust in the Lord.

to be continued . . .

First Visits

The women at the tomb

The first to visit the tomb on Easter Sunday morning was Mary Magdalene who came while it was still dark.  She found the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance and concluded that Jesus’ body had been moved so she ran to tell Peter and John.  She joined the other women when the sun was risen.  They came to anoint the body with spices but they were confronted with a shocking revelation from the angles that He had risen from the dead.  They went therefore to tell the disciples.

Peter and John

John was the first to arrive and look in to the tomb but waited outside for Peter to arrive.  When Peter arrived he immediately went in. (Note previous my blog on the grave clothes)  They were confronted with evidence that defied normal explanation.  John believed immediately and Peter left in wonderment.

Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus

Mary was so disturbed by not knowing where Jesus body was and her grief of her loss that she didn’t recognize Jesus and thought he was a gardener.  When Jesus spoke, she recognized Him and reached out to hold Him.  Jesus said don’t cling to me for I am not yet ascended to My Father.  He didn’t say don’t touch me but he used the word haptomai which means attach oneself to another or to cling.  She had lost Him once and she didn’t want to lose Him again.  Remember, Jesus told His disciples the it is expedient for you that I go away for if I go not away, the Holy Spirit would not come.  Jesus intended for us to know Him in another way by being indwelt with the Holy Spirit until we receive our resurrected bodies.   Having then been confronted with Christ Himself, she went again to tell the disciples with a new urgency in her report.

The Two On the Road to Emmaus

Emmaus was a town about 8 miles NE from Jerusalem and was located about 3,000 lower in elevation.  One of the two was Cleopas and the other is unnamed.  They were downtrodden and speculated about the events of the crucifixion as they walked.  Jesus, Himself joined them but was unrecognized.  He then engaged them in their conversation and they restated the events including the morning reports from the women.  Then Jesus chided them in being slow to believe and began at the prophets He interpreted the Scriptures concerning Himself. As they arrived at Emmaus they invited Jesus to stay with them since it was evening.  As they were eating Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them.  As they were confronted with the truth of who Jesus is, He vanished out of their site.

These are not the only sighting of Jesus but they are recorded for us so that we too can come to the truth of who Jesus is and that He is resurrected.  You have now been confronted with the truth.  What does it take to convince you HE IS ALIVE!!!

An Impossible Command

Lu 6:10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

It was a Sabbath Day at the Synagogue and Jesus was teaching. There was a man with a withered right hand present and the Scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus knew their thoughts but still he gave three commands to the man with the withered hand.

First, he was commanded to “rise up”,  This command was not directed to changing posture but to the idea of collecting ones faculties.  It could be translated “Wake Up!”  The man with the withered hand had long been held in obscurity and inactivity with the withered hand that he could not use.  Jesus was calling him into service and he needed to move from cowering in subjection because of the withered hand, to the attitude that with or without the handicap of a withered hand he should not let it determine his ability to function as a whole man.

The second command was to “stand forth” which means to stand and keep standing.  He was to establish this new attitude as his way of thinking and living.  His limitation was not to define him or limit him.  He can function as a whole man with the limitation if God so chose.  The truth is that all of us have limitations of one kind or another.  Some are physical, some are emotional, some are mental, and some are environmental.  We can take a position of limitation or we can assume the position of wholeness.  I already have all I need to become all I can be, and the limitation I have does not define me.

The third command was to “stretch forth thy hand.”  This command was impossible for him.  You see the problem with a withered hand is that you cannot stretch it forth.  The hand is withered, that is, it is shriveled and drawn up and the tendons have lost their flexibility.  Jesus was asking the man to do the impossible.  It was not possible for the man to do it but it was not only possible but necessitated by His command to do it.  Herein is the secret of seeing a miracle.  Contained within every impossible command of God is the promise of power to do it. When we respond to the Lord by faith in His Word, He then opens to us His blessings.  When you are given an impossible command you can trust the Lord that He can and will do it for you.  Such is the miracle of New Life.

Sin or Sins

I remember reading a gospel tract entitled “How to get to heaven from Pineville, Kentucky”  It had a catchy title and got me to reading. The truth is that it would read the same from anywhere on the earth.  There is only one way to get to heaven and that is the way that is specified in the Bible.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)  So that begs the question, how do you come “by me?”

It is at this point that there seems to be confusion.  Does that mean to try hard or is it by doing good things like benevolent acts?  Does it mean that I have to quit doing “something”?  Does it mean that I have to give up fun things?  How does it work?  None of these answers are correct for they are all works of man?  Eph 2:8-9 Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The problem between God and man is not what he does but what he is.  He is a sinner, which is another way of describing rebellion against God’s control on our live.  We cannot earn His favor for as soon as we try that avenue, our true nature takes over and our sin nature is exposed. It is at this point that we need to note the difference between Sin and Sins.  Sin is the self life that we hold naturally.  It is all about me; what I want, what I think, what I do.  I don’t want God directing my life because He won’t let me do my thing.  Sins are what we do  because of this attitude. Sins are the symptoms of the rood cause, sin.  We are incapable of paying for our “sin” so God made a way for us to be accepted and that is by our placing our faith in Jesus instead of ourselves.  When we are willing to do that we repent of our sin (that is turn from it) and place our faith in Jesus to make that payment (turn to Jesus as our way).  It is not two separate actions, but one.  It is like a coin.  It has two sides but it is just one coin.  The act of turning moves you from one thing and unto another.

If we continue to deal with the symptoms (sins) we will fail to treat the problem of sin, itself.  Faith in Jesus as the Lord of our life is the way to heaven.

Walk by Faith

2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

I was meditating on the above verse and I got an insight into its meaning that I have not heard before.  (Though it doesn’t mean that no one else ever thought of it.)  When you consider the act of walking it is a shifting the total weight of the body off of one leg and onto the other leg and then back again and again.  That is how we move around in the physical world

There is a similar analogy in the spiritual sense.  Instead of physical legs, we have two dependable supports to carry us forward in our endeavors.  We have the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  We are able to move forward by utilizing both the Word of God with the Spirit of God.  Our faith in the Lord encompasses our trust in His word coupled with our trust in His Spirit.  In the Word of God we discover spiritual insights and in the Spirit of God we experience that truth in action.  Using them together we are enabled to move on to new truth and experiences and then to repeat that process over and over, hence the term, walking by faith.

Just knowing God’s truth will not bring the excitement of experiencing that truth.  The excitement of seeing God at work is incomplete without some understanding of what God is doing.  We need both the knowledge of His Word and the experience of seeing its fulfillment to bring us to the place of growing into His likeness and image.

Lets go for a walk.  It is good for your health.

If Thou Canst Believe

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

This verse begins with the supposition that “If thou canst believe” then all things are possible.  Since this is the KJV  it may not make sense to you so it can be easily translated to “If you can believe”.  The first question that comes to mind is, Why couldn’t I believe?  What are the qualifiers that limit my believing?

First of all, believing is a spiritual response rather than an emotional or mental response.  It is not based upon anything that lies within us alone but it is based upon our relationship with the Lord Jesus.  No amount of straining or effort will aid us in our believing.  Our predicament  does not necessitate the working of the Lord nor does our desires.  What God will respond to is our faith in Him.  It is our dependence upon His wisdom and ability that produces great results.

In order for us to believe, we must first believe that He is limitless in His power and love.  This comes by our knowing Him.  Experience by experience we grow in our faith in Him.  Time and Time again He has proved his ability to overcome life’s barriers and give what is best for us.  This relationship is built one trust at a time.

The question then becomes, Have you walked with the Lord until you are at rest with Him in charge, against whatever you face?  The possibilities are only limited by your faith in Him.  Do you believe that He has your best interest in His heart?

 

 

The Gospel

On my last post I shared some basics on writing your personal testimony and pointed out that the key to an effective testimony is the gospel.  It is a word that we Christians use a lot and with a lot of different meanings.  I would like to clarify some of the confusion about what the “Gospel of Christ” really is.

There are a lot of gospel messages going around today.  I even saw one that was titled the gospel of the mechanic.  We need to identify what gospel we are addressing.  When we address the gospel of the Bible we are talking about the good news of Jesus Christ.  This is not the good news of the sports world or financial possibilities, but is specifically about what is the good news about Jesus Christ. The word Gospel means “Good News”, so it begs the question, “What is that good news?”  To be the gospel about Jesus Christ it must be good, that is personally beneficial; and second it must be news, that is current.  Sometimes I hear the definition of the gospel as, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However great and wonderful that story is, yet it is not the gospel, but history.  Yet it is not to be dismissed either because it is the foundation of the Gospel of Christ.  Without it the gospel would never have been possible.  So we come back again, What is the gospel of Christ?  It can be summed up in two words, New Life.

It is not a life patched up, it is not a life of doing better, or trying harder.  It is altogether a new kind of existence.  It is the life described in II Cor. 5:17 (the new creation of God).  What was utterly impossible before is now possible when we live our lives by faith in Jesus as Lord of our lives.  I could never live up to the demands of the law but I can follow Jesus by faith in His ability to deliver me spotless and blameless to the Father.  God’s requirement is no longer for me to meet the demands of the law because Jesus has met all those requirements.  God’s requirements for me now is to accept Jesus by faith. He is the provision for the laws requirement and He will then deliver us spotless and without blemish. (Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.)

Provision for a sinner like me has been established that I might be presented spotless to God is indeed, Good News!

Writing your Personal Testimony

In today’s Sunday School class we studied the apostle Paul’s personal testimony and we closed the class with the challenge that if you haven’t written out your personal testimony, then you should.  It is one of the most powerful tools you have as a Christian to share the Gospel with others.  They may disagree with it but they cannot deny it.  Like the song goes, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know.”

There are three essential elements that go into an effective testimony.  The first element is what were you before you were saved.  You are not trying to tell all of the stories of your life, just enough to validate that you were on the wrong track.  Essentially, it will boil down to I was trying to go through life without Jesus to forgive, love and guide me.

The second essential element is What Happened?  What occurred that caused you to see that you were on the wrong road and how did you discover the right road?  The circumstances will probably be unique and different but the outcome will wind up as a personal experience with the one who died in your place and is now alive and you now know who He is, Jesus.  If this had never happened to you then you still don’t know for sure.  If it has, then it caused a life changing direction in your life and you are now dependent upon and a follower of, Jesus, who is the Christ.  (Jn 7:17)

The third essential element is What changes has this experience made in your life?  If there has been no changes and you are living just as you were before this experience then there is a problem with your testimony.  It could be that you did not meet the Lord but were dependent upon an experience or something other than the Lord.  If you meet him then there will be a change.  It may take a while for you to learn to listen to His voice or to know when He is guiding you but change will certainly happen.  If there is no change then it is worth finding out why.  It could also be because you have some doctrine (teachings) that you hold that contradict with the Bible.  If you truly want to know then read you bible and He will show you the error.  It may be painful to discover that what you always thought was so was really tradition or even superstition.  Another possibility is that you have been deceived in some manner and you need a trustworthy source that will aid you in your search.

You should write it out then review it.  Then see if you can improve it.  Then use it and then go over it some more so that you have the document that accurately relays your story.  It is one of your most effective means of sharing the gospel.