Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Eternity Begins Now

I’m so glad that, as a Christian, I don’t perceive this world as all there is to life. Frankly, if I thought there were nothing more, and this is the best it would ever get, I would be in constant depression. I certainly wouldn’t get up early enough each morning to write a blog in the hope that it would make a difference, however slight, in shaping people’s beliefs and worldviews. Instead, I would see my “activity” as rather worthless and a waste of time.

There’s also the chance that I would decide I don’t really care what happens and, quite selfishly, abandon all concern for others, focusing solely on personal pleasure. I would argue that since nothing really changes for the better anyway, why not live it up?

But when Christ enters a life, one can’t give in to that type of thinking.

First, we are told by Him that the world needs His life, and we are the hands, feet, and voices entrusted with the sacred task of letting everyone know He sees and He cares. He seeks to draw each broken, sinful person to Himself and provide a new life.

Salt & LightSecond, He wants us to take that new life into the world and affect the way it operates. Salvation is not just personal, it’s societal. There should be a ripple effect as His new life in individuals begins to infect—I use that word in a positive sense—everything it touches. We are salt; we are light—through Him.

And finally, He shows us that the current state of this world—fallen, bitter, vicious—is not the ultimate reality. There is an existence awaiting us that is free from the ravages of corruption. We will be in His presence forever.

That’s what it all comes down to—His presence. He is what life is all about; there is no life without Him. Eternity begins now.

Lord, help us today to see beyond the daily grind; give us Your eyes to view every person with whom we come into contact as someone made in Your image; show us how to be Your hands, feet, and voice in every situation we encounter.

Go with His blessing today—and make a difference.

Letter from an Iranian Prison

Saeed AbediniHe is Iranian-born, but now an American citizen. His Christian faith has put him in prison. Pastor Saeed Abedini sought to take the gospel to his homeland, a nation that is vehemently opposed to that message. Sentenced to eight years in prison after being arrested in 2012, he hasn’t seen his wife and children since then. While his wife and concerned Christians worldwide work for his release, he has been subjected to brutal treatment—beatings and other physical abuse—that has now landed him in the prison system’s hospital. Probably the only reason he is receiving any medical aid at all is the pressure from world opinion being brought to bear on his behalf.

Yet, in the midst of this severe trial, his faith remains vibrant and strong. Abedini follows in the footsteps of other Christians throughout history who have been imprisoned for their faith. From his hospital bed, he penned an Easter letter that has recently been made public. The apostle Paul wrote letters from his prison; Pastor Abedini’s letter has Paul-like qualities. Here it is, in its entirety:

Saeed Abedini 2Happy Resurrection Day.

On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.

Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.

We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.

Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.

So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our dead faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.

In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.

A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.

We will start with Christ.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light

Abedini’s Christian witness is extraordinary. May the Lord use this witness to draw people to Himself. And may Abedini be freed and reunited with his family. That is my prayer.

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

The words of this song by Twila Paris, combined with the haunting beauty of the melody, have always affected me greatly. While some may think this is more appropriate for Good Friday, I think it is a proper Easter offering as well, as we consider the new life Jesus promises through His sacrifice. Easter celebrates what He did two days before. Please read these words carefully, meditatively, then play the short video of this song that follows. It should lead you from deep grief over sin to an even deeper appreciation of what God has done for you. May this be your most blessed Easter ever.

Your only Son, no sin to hide
But You have sent Him from Your side
To walk upon this guilty sod
And to become the Lamb of God

Your gift of love, they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King, they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

I was so lost, I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your staff and rod
And to be called a lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Lewis: Flippancy vs. Humor

There’s a world of difference between real humor and cocky snarkiness. I think C. S. Lewis caught that distinction well in The Screwtape Letters as senior devil Screwtape instructs junior devil Wormwood on how to twist the character of the human he is trying to drag into hell:

C. S. Lewis on TimeFlippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.

It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.

We are surrounded by flippancy in our society, but genuine humor seems to be in short supply. There’s nothing wrong with humor; in fact, God created it. We just need to be sure our humor isn’t tinged with the sad trait Lewis describes here.

An Eternal Perspective

There are times when one “goes to church”; then there are times when one enters into a type of worship that provides a taste, even a glimpse, of what eternity may contain. I had that experience last night—one of those moments when the veil of this earthly existence is lifted to some extent, and one can feel what it might be like to be standing in the assembly of the redeemed, pouring out their love, gratitude, and appreciation for the One who rescued them from the pit.

Whenever I experience that sensation, I’m reminded just how short-sighted it is to allow our temporary worries to dominate our thoughts. Besieged as we are at times by the difficulties and cares of this world, we lose perspective. I’m reminded this morning of a passage in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.

For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

There is a real heaven. There is a hope held out before us—not a wish, but a solid hope. I want to live this day in the expectation of that hope and see all present troubles in that context.

While I live in the here and now, I’m still just on the train, so to speak, heading to my destination. There will be some annoying stops along the route; sometimes the track may need to be cleared. Yet I will reach that destination in due time. Further, I have the promise that One goes with me on the journey. What more can I ask?

Heaven

Finney: The Blessings & Pitfalls of Praying Together

Charles Finney 2Charles Finney had many exhortations concerning prayer. That’s because he was a man of deep prayer himself, so he had grounds on which to instruct others. He urged Christians to get together for prayer for many reasons. The first one he lists is this:

One design of assembling several persons together for united prayer is to promote union among Christians. Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.

From experience, I can say that is true. It also helps to break down barriers that might exist for other reasons. When you hear someone genuinely praying from the heart, you know, despite what other concerns you may have about that person, that is still your brother or sister in the Lord.

Finney also knew some of the pitfalls of prayer meetings. One he focuses on occurs far too often:

Commonly, those who pray long in a meeting do so, not because they have the spirit of prayer, but because they have not. Some men will spin out a long prayer in telling God who and what He is, or they pray out a whole system of divinity. Some preach; others exhort the people—till everybody wishes they would stop, and God wishes so, too, most undoubtedly.

It’s easy to want to appear spiritual before others. Instead, we should come together in a spirit of humility and openness to whatever God wants to do in our midst. We need to set aside our fear of what others may think of us and just be real before God and man. Ultimately, that frees us from the burden of trying to appear “spiritual.”

Lewis: The Humble Person

Do we really understand what is meant by the word “humility”? There is a popular misconception about that word that C. S. Lewis identifies well in Mere Christianity. He also paints an alluring portrait of how true humility appears:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

Humility simply means having a realistic view of oneself and a love for God and others that transcends one’s own interests. It can’t be manufactured, and as Lewis correctly notes, a genuinely humble person doesn’t have to strain to create humility. Yes, we should meditate on the true nature of humility and seek to develop it, but when it is fully realized, it will be far more natural than created.

Humility