Markings

What mark will your life leave?

Every life makes a mark on the lives of others. Some lives mark many other lives, some lives mark few. What is even more important than the number of lives marked by yours is the type of mark you leave. Some people mark others with their own personal mark, leaving an impression that lasts a lifetime and seldom much more. Some people mark others with the mark of Christ, hiding behind the cross as the love of Jesus shines through them. They are often forgotten in death and even overlooked in life, but the mark that they leave last for an eternity.

What mark will you make on others? Your mark or His?

He must increase, but I must decrease.

photo credit: Twistiti via photo pin cc

Becoming A Slave

During my first trip to Ghana, West Africa in the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to visit Elmina Castle. It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, so is the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. First established as a trade settlement, the castle later became one of the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. Slaves were held captive in the castle before exiting through the castle’s infamous “Door of No Return” to be transported and resold in newly colonized Brazil and other Portuguese colonies.

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During the tour of the castle, our tour guide mentioned in passing the three ways a person became a slave:

  1. Crimes committed
  2. Debt that could not be paid
  3. Born into it

We fit all three conditions of slavery to sin.

  1. We have committed crimes. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
  2. We all have a debt that we cannot pay. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
  3. We were all born into sin. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

We are all slaves to sin and unrighteousness. But this was not God’s plan for us. He desires for us to enjoy the pleasure of freedom. He will set us free by taking us captive in His mercy.

We have committed crimes. But He cleared our record.

“Blotting out the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us… and took it our of the way, nailing it to His cross” (Col. 2:14).

We all have a debt that we cannot pay. But He paid it for us.

“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

We were all born into sin. But we can be born again.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Once I was “free” in shackles of sin:
Free to be tempted, bound to give in;
Free to be captive to any desire;
Free to eternally burn in hell fire.
But Jesus bought me, now I’m a “slave,”
Bound by commands, free to obey;
Captive by beauty, free to adore,
Sentenced to sit at His feet evermore!
-Unknown 

The Freedom Illusion

There is a great illusion in the world today which is the cause of confusion in believers and non-believers alike. This dark magic from the devil has caused many Christians to believe that once they have “accepted Christ as their savior” they are free to live as they please, resting in the security of their salvation. The same sorcery is used as an excuse by sinners to claim that Christianity has people bound, keeping them from doing what they want to do. This lie is The Freedom Illusion. And this is exactly what Paul was dealing with in this sixth chapter to the Romans. The truth is that every person in this world is a captive. They are either servants of Jesus Christ, or they are slaves to sin.

“Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are….whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

In order to understand the truth about freedom we first must understand this truth of captivity. We must see clearly that we are either a captive of Christ (captive by His will, captive by His laws, captive by His love) or a captive of sin (captive by the lusts of our flesh, captive by the ways of this world). Every man has a master!

Once we understand this, we can understand the Truth about Freedom. Every man is both free and captive at the same time.

“Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

“For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness” (Romans 6:20).

You are either free from sin and captive by Christ or you are free from Christ and captive by sin. The only difference is what your end will be: death or eternal life?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

When God Writes Your Story

I’ve heard it said, and perhaps you have too, that we shouldn’t plan our lives because we will under plan them. Rather, in order to realize your full potential and fulfill your purpose, allow God to plan your life. This simply stated, not easily practiced principle, has proven true over and again in my life. There have been times that I have shot for the moon hoping to hit a star, not realizing that God wanted to give me the sun. I only had to wait for Him to write the story.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:(Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It’s not always easy to give up the pen and allow Him to write. I think I know what’s best for me. I need to know the plan. I don’t have time to wait. And I have found that when He is writing, I often don’t see much more than the next step of faith. When He is writing, there are often unexpected plot twists and turns in the road that leave me overwhelmed and saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” When He is writing, I’m not in control, I’m under His control. And I have to constantly fight the urge to take the pen from His hand and write in characters and scenes where I think they should be.

So I fight every fleshly urge to know the future, to be in control, to speed up the story, and I allow Him to write.

Because when He is writing and unfolding His masterpiece I find true peace. When He is writing I realize that I have every thing that I need. When He is writing I face and overcome all of my fears. When He is writing, everything in me that I am ashamed of rises to the surface and He takes it out. When He is writing, I become the man He wants me to be.

I am just learning to allow Him to write the story. And over the last few months He has written exciting adventures that I could have never planned and He has penned in beautiful people who have changed my world forever. He has filled my story with a love that exceeds every expectation that I ever had for human love and companionship. In doing so, He has answered prayer requests that I have prayed for years and given me my greatest earthly blessing.

And I can truly say, it was worth waiting for the story to unfold. I wouldn’t change a thing. And I am full of anticipation for the chapters ahead.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalm 37:4).

Ashamed and Troubled?

I know exactly what you are felling. Half a lifetime and not so long ago I fidgeted in seat, palms sweaty and heart racing. I looked for any excuse to dismiss myself from the service as the preacher preached about the last days and described the soon to come events that left an already anxious teenager feeling the weight of uncertainty and the fear of being lost and alone. I was troubled by the signs of the times.

Uncertainty remains. I’m not sure exactly how or when everything is going to unfold in these last days. Men who have given much more time to the study of these things often disagree. I don’t rejoice when I hear of earthquakes and famines. My mind still explores the fearful possibilities when I hear of wars and rumors of wars. Yet despite all of these things, the trouble is gone.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8).

It is not God’s will for you to be fearful and troubled as the end draws near. In fact, His Word teaches us to comfort each other by talking about His return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). We should be confident concerning the appearing of Jesus Christ, not fearful and ashamed (1 John 2:28, 4:17,18). It may be that the fear you are feeling is evidence of your need to make your heart right in repentance and trust the Lord for salvation.

Jesus gave the ultimate reason for us to banish trouble from our hearts:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Esau’s Trade

Hunger gnaws at Esau, pain eating him from the inside out. He can’t remember ever being this hungry. He staggers, exhausted, into the room where his brother, Jacob, is preparing a warm meal.

“I’m starving! Give me some of that red stew.”

“Sure,” Jacob replied, “but first you will have to trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”

Caught up in the heat of the moment, seeking only to satisfy the immediate needs of his flesh, Esau concedes. “I’m dying of starvation! What good is my birthright now?”

Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.

I know what you are thinking. That is stupid. You would never do something like that, not for a meal. After all, how can you compare a bowl of soup to life’s pleasures, trials, and cares that people currently take in place of salvation. Certainly Esau’s trade is MUCH sillier than anything people trade today.

As long as we are making comparisons, I ask you to consider: How can you compare an earthly inheritance with a heavenly inheritance? An earthly inheritance, as great as it could be, is still just a bowl of soup compared to all that the Lord has for His children!

Anything you could take in place of your inheritance is like a bowl of beans in comparison!

Don’t make Esau’s trade. Treasure your inheritance.

Learn From The Devil

In January 1548, Hugh Latimer confronted preachers who were more engaged in business and pleasure than in preaching. He preached a famous sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in which he named the most diligent preacher in England:

And now I would ask a strange question: who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passes all the rest in doing his office? I can tell, for I know him who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passes all the other, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil.

He is the most diligent preacher of all other; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keeps residence at all times; ye shall never find him out of the way, call for him when you will he is ever at home; the most diligent preacher in all the realm; he is ever at his plough: no lording nor loitering can hinder him; he is ever applying his business, ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you…

Oh that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine…

Therefore, ye unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil: to be diligent in doing of your office, learn of the devil: and if you will not learn of God, nor good men; for shame learn of the devil.

We all have a thing or two to learn from the devil when it comes to the matter of diligence. He works tirelessly to the damnation of souls. Let us work tirelessly to the saving of souls.

Pray diligently.
Fast diligently.
Worship diligently.
Watch diligently.
Witness diligently.
Preach diligently.
Teach diligently.

Souls depend upon it. Souls that the devil seeks to destroy. He is working diligently. Are you?

Powers of Attorney

Over the last few weeks I have endured the arduous process of sifting through important documents as I prepared to file my taxes. Somewhere in the stack, about halfway down, was a folder containing the power of attorney documents which had been filed prior to my 2011 missions trip to Ghana.

A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. -Wikipedia

Due to the length of my stay in Ghana, I thought that it would be wise to give my father access to my personal bank accounts and check signing authority should a need arise during my absence. By establishing a POA, I could give him full access to all of my resources, meager though they may be. At any time he could legally write a check or withdraw money from my accounts, just as if he was me. I gave him the power of my name.

The Gospel of John is our spiritual POA document.

  • “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do [it]” (John 14:13-14).
  • “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).
  • “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give [it] you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).

He has given us the power of His name. We are agents of all of His resources. Whatever we ask in His name, if we ask according to His will and not according to our own desires (James 4:3), He will do it.

Peter proclaimed his right to act as an agent of Christ’s resources when he was brought before the high priest, rulers, elders and scribes in Acts 4. They wanted to know how the lame man at the gate Beautiful had been healed. “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this” (Acts 4:7)? Peter made his answer very clear.

“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…Neither is that salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10,12).

Obligated, Eager, and Unashamed

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:14-16).

The Apostle Paul makes three statements here that sum up his attitude towards evangelism and spreading the Gospel:

1. I am obligated (I am debtor).
2. I am eager (I am ready).
3. I am not ashamed.

Sad to say, our attitude towards evangelism can often be summarized in opposite terms. When it comes to the difficult work of real evangelism, we seemingly have little sense of obligation, no enthusiasm, and considerable embarrassment. In fact, those of us in Western society may even feel like it is our obligation to keep quite unless we cross the lines of the politically correct.

If you no longer feel obligated, eager, and unashamed about sharing the Gospel, try to remember back to the time you were first saved. You know exactly where I am going with this. These three words describe the new convert perfectly. And they should always remain our attitude toward evangelism.

Obligated:

Why am I obligated? Allow me, in this short space, not to get too theologically deep. Let’s just answer this question using simple logic. We are obligated to share the Gospel because Jesus told us to. Every child of God is called to be a witness and is given power to fulfill this calling (Acts 1:8). We have a duty and an obligation to our Savior.

We are obligated to share the Gospel in every nation (Matthew 28:19). Everybody needs to hear this message at least once. If you believe the consequences of rejecting or accepting this Gospel, then your burning desire should be that all would hear the name Jesus and come to know Him.

Eager:

Paul said “I am ready.” My guess is that this is were the breakdown comes for many Christians. We love the Gospel and we may even feel obligated to share the Gospel, we just don’t feel very eager. Instead of sharing, we allow fear, doubt, and worry to hinder us and we carry around the guilt of feeling obligated but not acting. We live in a fast-paced, busy world. If we are looking for excuses to not share the Gospel, we will find them in abundance. But if we ever cast off our complacency and see one soul led to Christ with our help, we will forever be eager to share and share again.

Unashamed:

Paul was not speaking here of his confidence in his ability to communicate or convince. He was speaking of the Gospel’s ability to save. We certainly have nothing to be ashamed of. This Gospel works! It is the power of God unto salvation. It has never failed someone who has believed.

Open Door Doesn’t Mean Easy

Studies in First Corinthians – XXIX

1 Corinthians 16:7-9

“For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

In the closing chapter of First Corinthians, Paul begins to write of his future plans, especially his desire to visit Corinth once again. When this is possible, he does not know because he is certain that he is presently in God’s will at Ephesus.

He gives two reason for his assurance: because God has opened a door of opportunity, and there are many adversaries. He didn’t say, “But there are many adversaries, so I think I will give up soon.” He said, “And there are many adversaries, so I will stay.” In other words, Paul saw the adversaries as an opportunity and just as much a reason for staying as God’s open door.

I trust that our mediation on this may put courage into some faltering life, strength into some soldier of the cross, and insight into all our hearts as to what an open door is, and what it demands of us. – Alan Redpath

It is important to remember that the door to Ephesus had not always been open. Just a few years ago, Paul was forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach in Asia. Many things happened before this door was finally opened. Before Paul arrived, God was going to send another preacher to break up the stoney ground. And that is exactly what He did with Apollos. Paul was ready, but he had to wait for the perfect timing of God. Ephesus was shut to Paul because Ephesus was not ready for him.

Not only did Ephesus need prepared, Paul needed some toughening up for the trials that he would face when the door was finally opened. He first had to go to a prison at Philippi and a riot in Thessalonica. Both of these experiences were needed to put spiritual courage in him for the road ahead.

Now Ephesus is ready, and Paul is ready. It is a prepared man and a prepared place. It is always a thrill to step into the place of service which is prepared for you. But when the door finally opens, what will it be like? Will it be overwhelming blessing and a life of mountain top experiences? No! In fact, for Paul, Ephesus was a trial from beginning to end. You can read about all of his adversaries in Ephesus in Acts nineteen and twenty, but he sums it up nicely for us in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “I have fought with beast at Ephesus.”

This is not really what we think of as an open door. For Paul, an open door was not synonymous with ease. It was not ease that Paul was looking for, it was opportunity: opportunity to share the Gospel and opportunity to serve the Kingdom of God.

Look for open doors, not easy doors. Never doubt that God has opened the door because you see adversaries on the other side. He never promised an easy road, but He did promise that when He opens the door, no man can shut it. Walk through the door. Trust in His plan. Seize your God-given opportunity.