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

Love Is The Goal

Studies in First Corinthians – XXIII

“And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Faith. Hope. Love. These three are constantly found together in Scripture. Where one is found, the other two are often found lending support.

“Being justified by faith…we rejoice in hope…because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” (Romans 5:1-5).

“…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4-5).

“…your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Faith is trust that rests upon evidence and leads to action. Hope is confidence in the future. Both are related to love. In fact, it is impossible to separate them. Faith looks back, claiming the saving work of Calvary. Hope looks forward and lays hold of a future glory. Love dominates the present. Faith says Jesus Christ came to save me; hope says He is coming again to take me to be with Him; love says He abides in my heart today.

Faith is nothing but an intellectual conviction without hope and love. Hope is just a dream without faith and love. Love is just a feeling, a temporary emotion, without faith and hope.

Paul says that the greatest of these three is love. Why? Because faith and hope are means to the end, but love is the goal. You cannot rest in faith and hope, but you can rest in love.

Love is greatest of all because God is love. God has no need for faith; He knows everything. God does not hope; He possess everything. But God loves, because He is love.

Love of God, eternal love, shed Thy love through me!
Nothing less than Calvary’s love would I ask of Thee.
Fill me, flood me, overflow me,
Love of God, eternal love, shed Thy love through me!
-Amy Carmichael

Sacrifice and Discipline

Studies in First Corinthians – XIV

In chapter nine, Paul writes about his policy on financial support to teach on discipline and sacrifice, illustrating a mature use of Christian liberty. Paul had every right to accept pay for his labors, but he set aside his rights to reach a higher goal. He waved his rights so that the Gospel wouldn’t be clouded by greed. He was giving up the good for the best; sacrificing the immediate for the eternal.

The sort of discipline of the body and sacrifice of personal rights Paul speaks of throughout this chapter are only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is also evidence to the Christian and to the unbeliever alike of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

Paul vindicates his apostleship by pointing out things that were absolutely legitimate rights, but to which he had said “no” for the Lord’s sake. Within the scope of that test, what counts is not my success, my connections, my blessings, or my skill, but that my heart and life bear the marks of the cross and sacrifice. It will cost you something to follow Jesus.

Paul also speaks of the disciplining of the body. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others I should myself be a castaway” (9:26-27).

I like the way J.B. Phillips paraphrases it in his Letters to Young Churches, “I am no shadow-boxer, I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified.”

While we are saved by grace through faith, we also know that faith without works is dead. True faith gets into our hands, our feet, our tongue, our heart, and our mind. Simply put, faith is expressed in the physical. If faith in Jesus Christ does not begin to make the whole body move in the will of God, there is no evidence of faith at all. Saving faith disciplines the flesh by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Let us all examine our lives for the marks of sacrifice and discipline. Have we left behind certain things to which we are entitled for the sake of the Kingdom? Are we triumphing in our daily walk, not allowing the flesh and its appetites to dominate our life?

Remember, even the Apostle Paul could not do these things if it had not been for the power of the Holy Ghost. Jesus is the only one who could live such a life, and He did. He renounced His rights and brought His body under subjection even unto His death. When we are filled with His Spirit, these same characteristics will begin to work themselves out in us!

In A Pit With A Lion

I recently finished In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC and an excellent writer. If it is your desire to see the purposes of God fulfilled in your life, this book will help you to recognize and pursue your lions (opportunities).

I have picked out a few points that stuck out to me from each chapter. Read a few. If something jumps out at you, it would be well worth your time and money to get a copy for yourself.

Chapter 1

  • God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time.
  • God is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as man-eating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny.
  • There are two types of regrets: regrets of action and regrets of inaction (sins of commission and sis of omission). We often focus much more on regrets of action and sins of commission. However, it is often regrets of inaction and sins of omission that we wish we could change at the end our lives.
  • Do good! Goodness is not the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right.
  • Spiritual maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunity even when it looks like an obstacle.

Chapter 2

  • Too often our prayers resolve around asking God to reduce the odds in our lives. Maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions.
  • A.W. Tozer said, “The most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like…”
  • How you think about God will determine who you become.
  • The more we grow, the bigger God should get. And the bigger God gets, the smaller our lions will become.
  • God wants you to get where God wants you to get more that you want to get where God wants you to get!

Chapter 3

  • “There were a million reasons why I shouldn’t go… But I only needed on reason to go: I was called.” – Young Missions Worker
  • Don’t accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences! – Good advice
  • The way to upgrade your mind is to download the Scripture.
  • Satan has two primary tactics when it comes to neutralizing you spiritually: discouragement and fear.
  • Ask yourself a question – Are you living in a way that is worth telling stories about?

Chapter 4

  • Opportunities often look like insurmountable obstacles. So, if we want to take advantage of these opportunities, we have to learn to see problems in a new way– God’s way. Then our biggest problems may just start looking like our greatest opportunities.
  • Maybe we should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants us to get out of those difficult circumstances.
  • Worship is forgetting about what’s wrong with you and remembering what’s right with God.
  • There are basically two types of people in the world: complainers and worshipers. And there isn’t much circumstantial difference between the two.
  • The outcome of your life will be determined by your outlook on life.

Chapter 5

  • If life is infinitely uncertain and God is infinitely complex, then all we can do is accept our finitude and embrace uncertainty. Faith doesn’t reduce uncertainty. Faith embraces uncertainty.
  • Jesus never promised security. What he promised was uncertainty: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
  • Following Christ reduces spiritual uncertainty, but it doesn’t reduce circumstantial uncertainty.

Chapter 6

  • Everything we change changes everything. Too often we fail to connect the dots between choices and consequences. Every choice has a domino effect that can alter our destiny.
  • Easy answers produce shallow convictions. Jesus was rarely about giving easy answers. The disciples always were needing an explanation after he taught. He wanted them to dig that their spiritual understanding might be opened up.

Chapter 7

  • Dreams are still achieved one opportunity at a time.
  • Think of every opportunity as a gift from God. What you do with that opportunity is your gift to God.

Chapter 8

  • Even though is may seem foolish in the eyes of men, doing God’s will is never foolish.

I received “In a Pit with a Lion On a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive when Opportunity Roars” by Mark Batterson from Blogging for Books / WaterBrookMultnomah Press in exchange for my review, of which there was no pressure one way or the other regarding how I reviewed it.

Jesus Christ, And Him Crucified

Studies in First Corinthians – V

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:2).

Paul had identified a goal for the church at Corinth: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (2:5). He knew this group of Christians could not face the challenge of presenting Christ if their faith was based only on intellectual assent. Their faith must stand on the rock of revelation rather than on the sands of human philosophy.

Corinthians would not be influenced by a well crafted argument. Nothing but the miracle of the grace of God revealed in the lives of those who had been transformed by the Spirit of God would impact this city for the Kingdom.

The same is true today. If we are going to impact our communities and our world, it will not be by winning a theological argument (though we should always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us). The world we live in is far too clever and sinful to be persuaded by a debate that appeals to their intellect alone. What our world needs is the evidence of a life dramatically and completely changed by the power of the cross.

What is the impact of your faith? Do others see in you the miracle of the grace of God? As you live, surrounded by the evil of this world, you have a mission that must be fulfilled, to stand in the power of God. This is possible only as we live in the revelation presented to us at Calvary. We must grasp the futility of anything untouched by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I believe that God is teaching us that nothing less than the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival can ever meet the need of this day. There can be nothing else; no false gods, no misplaced confidence in something or someone, no compromise, no unconfessed sin, no unsurrendered life, no critical spirit, no worldliness, no self can be allowed. For “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

He Sees

I recently read that proportionally the surface of the earth is smoother than a billiard ball. Just think, if we shrunk the whole earth down to a size that rested easily in the palm of our hand, we wouldn’t be able to perceive Mount Everest or the ocean floor! Those differences matter much to those who live on this planet, but from God’s point of view, they are hardly recognized.

Photo by Suzan Marie

Remember this the next time you are in the valley and you can’t find your way. Remember this when you aren’t sure if you can climb that next mountain. Remember this when you are on top of the mountain unless you find yourself soon in the valley of despair. To us these differences matter much, but from God’s view they are not the obstacles that we perceive. He sees you and He is with you.

Remember this when you feel inadequate compared to others. Remember this when your past haunts you. Remember this when the enemy tells you that you have sinned too much to live for God. Remember this when you begin to feel like you are holier than everybody else. To us the difference between the pastor in the pulpit and the sinner in the street matters much, but from the perspective of God’s righteousness, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. He sees His child and He loves you.

When Jesus Stops on the Road to Your Miracle

Sometimes interruptions are beautiful. Interruptions like the one in Mark 5. The crowd pressed and pushed, each one desiring to catch a glimpse of the One whose fame had spread like wildfire. The men and women jockeyed for position; if they were fortunate, they would be able to touch this Man of Miracles.

Not all touches are equal. Not all touches cause an interruption. Something was different about her touch. She had been sick for many years. She had spent every penny she had on the latest tests, treatments, and prescriptions; nothing worked. The doctors were out of ideas. There was only one hope left. She pushed past the crowd, she touched Him, and everything stopped.

Sometimes interruptions are dreadful. Interruptions like the one in Mark 5. He was out of ideas. His baby girl was sick. He couldn’t imagine life without her. Father’s aren’t supposed to bury their children! There was only one hope left. He made his way to the lakeshore. The rumor was that the Man of Miracles was coming and the crowd was swelling. Maybe he could convince Him to come and heal his daughter.

Every other day he was a leader in the synagogue. Today he was just a father with a very sick little girl. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and pleaded with Him to come and heal his daughter. Jesus went with him; so did the crowd. For the first time the father felt a tinge of hope. The crowd was slowing things down but at least they were moving in the right direction. The matter was urgent, they must not delay!  But then everything stopped.

Question’s raced through Jarius’ mind. Why has He stopped? We don’t have time for interruptions! Why is He asking silly questions about who touched Him at a time like this? Has he forgot that my daughter is going to die at any moment?

Jesus lingered. Messengers delivered. Hope died.

Jesus spoke. Jarius believed. Hope stood up and walked around.

What do you do when Jesus stops on the road to your miracle?

“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” -Jesus (Mark 5:36 NLT)