SOMETIMES THE FIRE DIES

Sometimes The Fire Dies

 

The Scriptures frequently comment on living the Christian faith with passion

It is very clear that as believers we cannot be passive

We must embrace the truth and engage with the world for that truth

Jude 3b “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” 

TPT “(I) felt the need … to challenge you to vigorously defend and contend for the beliefs that we cherish. For God, through the apostles, has once for all entrusted these truths to his holy believers.”

“vigorously defend and contend…”

My personal favourite Scripture regarding living the faith with passion – serving Jesus with my heart and soul 

God spoke it to me … planted it deeply in my heart in July of 2007

Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” Read more

Retire? You Must Be Joking!

Paul the apostle said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished well and was ready to face those who were about to put him to death. 

I am planning on finishing well. To do so I have had to decide the retire with resilience — and with some sanctified resistance. Someone asked the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar if he was thinking about retiring. He laughed and said, “Retiring? No! I’m re-firing.”

There is someone I recently read about who is still active in his mid-nineties. For the last twenty or so years, people have asked him is he was retired. His rely: “Yes, I retire every night to go to bed so that I can get up the next morning to find out what God has for me to do.”

When psychologist Michael Longhurst left his high-level management position in the corporate world, he undertook a major research project on the subject of retirement. He interviewed over two hundred retirees and discovered that too many are unprepared for retirement — especially mentally and emotionally. 

One man summed up the problem when he wrote, “I feel so lonely and depressed. I miss my job, the office, my lunch buddies, and friends at work. I used to be very busy at work, and now suddenly there is nothing to do, no deadlines, etc. So, this is what retirement is — boring and lonely. I wish I [could] be happy again like the good old days.”

A wife said to her retired husband, “What are you planning to do today?” He replied, “Nothing.” She responded, “But you did that yesterday.” “I know,” he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

Many people have followed the general expectation in North America and the western world that when we reach a certain age, we retire. It’s just what you do. Retirement has become the final rotation in the cycle of life. Just as we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask adults, “What do you plan to do when you retire?” Seldom do we hear the value of typical retirement plans questioned, and certainly not the value of retirement itself. 

But retirement as we know it today was virtually nonexistent throughout history. Retirement made little sense when the average age expectancy was only thirty to forty years. It has its roots in the early 1900’s, when many large industries, including railroads, banks, and oil companies began offering pensions.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act. An employee’s income was taxed throughout his or her working life to fund a retirement income beginning at age sixty-five. In North America today, most workers expect to retire, and the culture is geared to accommodate it.

Interestingly, the Bible records only one example of retirement: “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties” (Numbers 8:24-26).

While the Levite tabernacle workers were instructed to retire at age fifty, they were not put out to pasture to spend the rest of their lives twiddling their thumbs and gazing at the sundial. They were charged to minister to the younger Levites who took over their jobs. They became mentors and advisors. Today they would probably hand out business cards and call themselves consultants.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of your retirement income or pension benefits. But you might want to avoid the word retirement. You don’t have to continue in your profession until you are just about to drop dead. But if you do leave your job, remember — retirement is simply God’s way of freeing you up for further service. God always has a plan for you next day. 

RIP … Maybe

You have seen it a thousand times. Well, I have seen it a thousand times. Especially when a celebrity athlete, musician, or actor “passes”. You know, dies. I hate that word “passes.” I prefer to face the reality of the fact that they did not pass ( I pass cars on the highway, pass gas on occasion, past the salt to the other end of the table.) Let’s just say it – they “died.” 

When someone dies – immediately, a barrage of epitaphs are posted on social media with the acronym RIP. Which, of course, means “rest in peace.” I’m always amazed at how many Christians post this without really considering what they’re saying or what their friends and coworkers will read in their sentiment. Now, we all know that no one can truly see what is in another person’s heart. It is very possible that a particular celebrity did have a relationships with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. However, I can think of rimes when an athlete passed away who was a very outspoken follower of a religion other than Christianity, or a musician dies whose lifestyle was the opposite of how the Bible describes an authentic follower of Jesus. Yet even from Christians, the RIP statements were ever flowing.

But if we’re going to commit to the truth, then we’ve got to be all in. The whole truth and nothing but the truth, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Especially in difficult moments of sadness and grief, people often check their faith at the door. However, it’s in these moments when we need the truth of Scripture and the freedom it provides.

Truthfully, according to the Bible, the only ones who will get to rest in peace are those who have an authentic relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Sadly, for those who have lived life without knowing Jesus as Lord and never had His Spirit dwell inside them, there will be no eternal rest. As gut wrenching as it is to write, their eternity will be marked by the very opposite of rest. Just as heaven is real, so also is hell.

Jesus Himself often used the word Gehenna to describe hell. The word literally meant “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.” It is just south of Jerusalem. It is known as a cursed place. Some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to false gods by burning them alive in this valley (see 2 Chronicles 28:33; Jeremiah 19). In Jesus’s day, it continued to be an unclean place used as the city dump. Gehenna was always on fire from the burning of trash. It was a place that people didn’t even like to discuss because it was marked by sadness, maggots, fire, and curses. 

One day, Jesus used an extreme illustration to show how serious sin is and how we must do everything necessary to avoid hell: “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Of course, Jesus is not asking you to literally cut your hand off to keep from sinning. Besides, sin is a heart issue, not a hand issue. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). However, He is so serious about sin that you also must take sin seriously enough to turn your heart over to Him.

Jesus also described hell as “outer darkness,” a place of extreme sadness and torment. “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). The worst thing about this place is the separation from anything good. For all eternity, there is now a chasm between God and everyone in this “outer darkness.” It wasn’t created for humans. It was created and reserved for the devil and his fallen angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). 

As heartbreaking as it is, hell will be the eternal home for all those whose name is not found in the Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). If you live your whole God-given life and exhale your last breath without ever turning to Him as the Saviour from your sins, you’ll miss out on His saving grace, be left out of His Book of Life, and be trapped in an eternity of separation. 

The irony of life is that you can have a great name here on earth. Your name can be on the sides of buildings and in history books, but the only thing that matters is whether your name is in the Book of Life. Arrogantly, some say, “I don’t care if I end up in hell, because all my friends will be there anyway. We’ll have a heck of a party.” How stupid. There is nothing fun about this place. There is nothing to celebrate there. Nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and never-ending loneliness. People in hell endure constant suffering and remorse, knowing they had the opportunity to enter heaven with God but turned it down. There is no exit, no way out, no second chance, no redo, no mulligan. There is absolutely no rest in hell. There is no peace there. Anyone who ends up there will not be resting in peace. RIP does not exist for those there. 

As awful as this place sounds, the good news is that the Lord does not desire any human being to be there. He desires all those made in His image to have their namers in His Book of Life. This means you. Yes, even you. You may say, “You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way He wants me in His Book of Life.” I am telling you in love that you can’t out-sin His power of grace and forgiveness if you turn to Him in faith. His grace is more than sufficient to cover your mistakes. His desire is that none would perish and that all would come to a saving knowledge of truth. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “[He] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). 

Only when you have a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord is your name written in the Book of Life. Only then will you enter heaven when you die. And, in heaven, you will be so busy celebrating and living life to the fullest as it is meant to be lived that you won’t even consider the letters RIP as a description of what you are experiencing. 

Because God Loves Us – Part Six

Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust … You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

So far we have seen the circle of love expand step-by-step. First we love God, then ourselves, then our fellow believers, and then our neighbours. Now Jesus tells us to take one more step and love our enemies. This is where it gets interesting. For many, it is a step too far.

Knowing the difficulty in loving our enemies, Jesus gives us an excellent rationale for the command. He says that if we love only our friends and family, we are no different from unbelievers who don’t know Jesus or His commandments. What we can offer that they cannot is love for our enemies.

If I knew the name of your worst enemy and suggested that you go serve that person in some good way, you might say, “I just can’t!” But Jesus knows it can be done because He did it. He found a way to love that race of enemies known as humanity, and we must be eternally grateful that He did.

Christ could have said, “Those men are driving nails into My hands. They’ve beaten Me, gambled for My clothing, and deeply grieved those who love Me. I just can’t love them!” No one would have blamed Him — or remembered Him.

Instead, from the agony of the cross, Christ looked down on those who had brutalized Him and asked Good to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Stephen, the first Christian martyr, did the same (Acts 7:60). Peter points out that Jesus, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Because Jesus loved His enemies, we live forever. Because Jesus loved His enemies, we can love ours.

As Jesus pointed out, God sends sunshine and rain to both the good and the bad — to those who love Him and those who don’t (Matthew 5:45). It’s known as God’s common grace. He does not shut out people who might be deemed unworthy, so we don’t have that right either. We love people not for who they are, but for who they can become — not for the value of their behaviour, but for the value of their souls. That’s when the world knows we are serious.

Paul, who built friendships with his prison guards, wrote: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:14, 20). It may seem that Paul is urging us to be “passive-aggressive,” until we understand a certain custom of the day. As an act of public contrition, some Egyptians wore a pan of burning coals like a hat to express their shame and guilt. Paul is simply urging a bit of human psychology: Return gentleness for aggression, and your persecutor will be shamed into being contrite. It will be as if he is wearing such a hat.

Because God loves us, we can, we must, love our enemies.

  Sometimes I am Not Thankful (Grateful)

Sometimes I am Not Thankful

 

I am bothered by a response that you now hear when you say “thank you” to someone

Instead of “You’re welcome” we now mostly hear “No problem!”

As I checked out with two turkeys yesterday I wanted to scream – “Of course it’s no problem. I am a gentle person, I am not angry, what I have caused you to become involved in is part of your job for which you are paid and is not really that taxing on your abilities….”

But, the real issue is how seldom you even hear people say “thank you”

As I was thinking about this all week – mostly because we were approaching Thanksgiving – God said that this was true even in my relationship with Him

That I am not expressing thanks to Him for who He is and all that He does for me

When I do something for someone I always appreciate it when they thank me for my time, my work, my concern… Read more

Because God Loves Us – Part Four

Clearly Peter and John, as we saw yesterday, came away from that evening meal with Jesus with the impression that love was their lifelong assignment. They were to reach the nations with the message, and love would be the wind that carried it from God to an inattentive world. If we love, it will get people’s attention. If we don’t they  will never listen.

According to John, there is no alternative to love. It is no less than a litmus test for our faith. He who does not love his brother is simply “not of God” (1 John 3:10). Even more clearly, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Twelve verses later, unloving believers are called “liars.” Such people are walking “in darkness” (2:11) and abiding “in death” (1 John 3:14).

Loving one another, in other words, is not a discipline reserved for advanced Christian or a gift belonging to naturally tolerant people. It’s not an option or an extra or a frilly wrapping to make religion more attractive. Love is the heartbeat of our faith; and if we detect no pulse, there is no faith.

In his book, The Mark of a Christian, the late Francis Schaeffer pointed out that Jesus gives the world the right to judge believers by their love for one another:

“Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love towards all Christians.

That’s pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, “I have something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.”

In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because  we have not shown love towards other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.

And we must not get angry. If people say, “You don’t love other Christians,” we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.

This means our number one priority in fulfilling our commission to bring the world to Christ is to love one another.

This can turn out to be a pretty tough task. We can heartily agree with one Christian writer who describes how nothing in the world is more important or more difficult than truly loving other people:

That odorous person with the nasty cough who sat next too you on the plane, shoving his newspaper into your face; those crude louts in the neighbourhood with the barking dog; that smooth liar who took you in so completely last week — by what magic are you supposed to feel towards these people anything but revulsion, distrust and resentment, and justified desire to have nothing to do with them?

Of course it’s possible to put up with people. We can manage to keep our mouths shut, perhaps, when certain folks annoy us. But Christ did not command us to “put up with one another.” He specifies love, and love is not passive or restrained. It’s a powerful, aggressive, positive force that serves, affirms, cares, persists, and gives of itself. We all agree that we should love. But given the presence of all these unlovable people who surround us, how exactly do we get there?

The answer is found in the series of blogs just before this series where we discovered that the Bible tells us:

    • We love one another by encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
    • We love one another by edifying (building up) one another (Ephesians 4:29)
    • We love one another by entertaining one another – being hospitable (1 Peter 4:9)

Take a few minutes and read through them if you have not already done so. 

Because God Loves Us – Part One

The Bible states: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins … We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).

We didn’t love God, but He loved us. We didn’t deserve this gift of love. In fact, we proved by our actions to be God’s enemies. Every gift, every blessing He offered, we threw back in His face. He offered affection; we countered with rebellion. Yet He proved the greatness of His love by continuing to lavish it on us in spite of our rebellion, even sending His Son to take the punishment for our sins.

Just as the sun is our only source of daylight, God is our only course of love. Sun rays reflect from all objects they strike, permeating the air with light and making it possible for us to see. In a similar way, God’s love enters the world and reflects off our hearts, making it possible for us to love Him and others. We have no inborn, innate capacity, no self-originating store of love to give. We can give only what we receive from Him.

When we receive God’s love, it does not merely lie inert on our hearts as a warm, fuzzy feeling. That same Son who gave His life for us also shows us a new way to live. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, He lives within us and makes it possible for us to return love to Him as He originally created us to do. Because He first loved us, we are enabled and empowered to love Him in return. 

Taking this a little further this week we will see…

    • Because God loves us, we can love ourselves
    • Because God loves us, we can love one another
    • Because God loves us, we can  love our neighbour
    • Because God loves us, we can love our enemies

So simple but not easy. So basic and yet we often fail to adequately respond to His love. So foundational as we simply take the love we have encountered and experienced and love others. His love changes everything. And will change the world as we walk in His love and give it away. 

Sometimes I Don’t Walk By Faith

Sometimes I Dont Walk By Faith

 

In this series of teachings I have targeted a number of every day issues – spiritual and life issues – that we, as believers and disciples of Jesus, tend to encounter on a regular basis

Sometimes I Doubt God – Bout With Doubt

Sometimes I Worry – But What If…

Sometimes I Get Angry – Rage Rash

Sometimes I Feel Incredibly Lonely – Seclusion Conclusions

Today: Sometimes I Don’t Walk By Faith – “No More Beyond”

Subtitle: “Don’t Settle In Spain”

I don’t believe that disciples of Jesus – those of us who follow Jesus today – were ever suppose to end up as couch potatoes

Sitting in one spot can feel so comfortable – physically, emotionally, mentally, and relationally

Just coasting in life and accepting things as they are is simply not the call upon the believers today or any day

The early believers we read about in the New Testament did not just sit and accept what was because it was Read more

God’s Love – Part Ten

As we draw our study of John 3:16 to a close … a true story:

In 1912 the Titanic, the largest, most luxurious, and most advanced ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, taking the lives of 1,514 passengers. Though the disaster occurred over one hundred year ago, several movies, documentaries, and books have kept the horror of that night alive in our minds. We’ve all heard of passengers such as “the unsinkable” Molly Brown and the entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV. But one of the most astonishing stories from the Titanic has received little press.

It’s the story of Pastor John Harper, a widower who was travelling with his six-year-old daughter at the invitation of the great Moody Church in Chicago. Not only was he to preach there, he intend to accept the church’s offer to become their next pastor. His hopes were high, and it seemed he had a brilliant future ahead. 

After the ship hit the iceberg and it became apparent that it would sink, Harper got his daughter safely aboard a lifeboat. It’s likely he could have joined her, being her only parent, but he chose to stay aboard the sinking ship because he knew that with this disaster, God had given him an urgent message.

Harper immediately began to go from one person to another, telling them about Christ’s love and urging them to accept Him. He shouted for Christians to let the unsaved fill the lifeboats so that would live to come to belief. When one angry man rejected the message, Harper removed his own life vest and gave it to him, saying, “You need this more than I do.”

Harper was still actively pressing his urgent evangelism when the ship tipped upward, wretched in half, and slipped beneath the frigid North Sea. Even then Harper did not stop. Seeing the many passengers struggling in the water with little chance of rescue, he swam to as many as he could, urging them to accept Christ’s loving offer until hypothermia finally overcame him.

Four years later, at a Titanic survivors meeting in Ontario, one survivor told the story of his own encounter with John Harper. He was clinging to a piece of flotsam when Harper swam to him and urged him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The man rejected the offer and Harper swam away. But soon Harper came around again, and this time, knowing death to be only minutes away, the man gave his life to Christ. Moments afterwards, he watched the near-freezing waters finally take Harper’s life just as a returning lifeboat approached to rescue him. At the conclusion of his story, he said simply, “I am the last convert of John Harper.”

The titanic left England with three classes of passengers aboard. But when accounting for their fate, the White Star Line set up a board listing two classes: KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. These categories provided a fitting analogy for what John Harper already knew. There are only two classes of people in this world: those who have chosen to accept Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven, and those who have not chosen Him and will not.

Which class are you in?

God’s Love – Part Nine

The great playwright Arthur Miller was married to Marilyn Monroe during the 1950’s. In his autobiography, he describes the misery of watching the troubled actress descent into the lowest regions of depression and despair. It seemed there was no way he or anyone else could make her happy. He knew that her very life was on the line — that this could go only so far before she succumbed to her various demons — loneliness, paranoia, addiction to barbiturates.

One evening there was yet another visit from the doctor, who talked Marilyn into taking a sedative that put her to sleep. Miller was pensive as he stood and watched his wife. “I found myself straining to imagine miracles,” he writes. “What if she were to wake and I were able to say, ‘God love you, darling,’ and she were able to believe it! How I wished I still had my religion and she hers.”

What if indeed. If only he had believed — that crucial word in John 3:16. If only he had owned the joy of knowing Christ. If only he had been capable of sharing that joy with his suffering wife, a soul God loved and longed to heal.

John 3:16 could have been their answer. It’s the answer to every human need, to every prayer. In fact, it is even the answer to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, where he implores the Father to grant believers the ability to “comprehend … what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19)). 

It’s an elegant prayer, and Jesus offers the elegant answer in John 3:16, where we see:

    • The width of God’s love: “God so loved the whole world.” His arms are stretched wide to include everyone.
    • The length of God’s love: “He gave His only Son.” That is the length to which God went to save us.
    • The depth of God’s love: “That whoever believes in Him.” God reaches down to the very depths of mankind.
    • The height of God’s love: “Should not perish but have everlasting life.” We will live in heaven with Him forever.

God’s love is enormous in every dimension. The one thing it is not is coercive. We are left with the free option of how to respond. He loves you as intensely as it’s possible to be loved yet never in a way that undermines your freedom to choose. Forced love is not authentic love. It is a gift that accepts the possibility of rejection.

God offers you everything He has to offer. He gives you the perfection and purity of His Son to die for you as atonement, to speak for you at the judgment, to live for you in the present, and to love you for all eternity. I cannot imagine any sane, informed human being turning down such a gift. 

I urge you to say yes to that gift. Open the door to Jesus, and you let in a life of eternal joy now, with eventual delights that the mind cannot presently conceive. Say yes, and you will let in a new kind of life today — one that sets you on the one truly great adventure this earth has to offer.

Nicodemus, the man who first heard this verse, said yes. Not that night, but as John tells us later, he was one of two men who prepared Jesus for His burial and laid Him in His tomb (John 19:38-42). And according to early Christian tradition, Nicodemus was martyred as a Christian in the first century. 

Obviously, saying yes to God’s invitation does not mean that trouble will cease — not yet — but the presence of your Saviour will bear you up until you leave all trouble behind forever. You will let in the Holy Spirit, a loving teacher, guide, and companion. You will let in restored relationships with friends and family. You will let in peace, security, and contentment. 

Why not open that door if you have not already done so?