Grand-daughter Discipleship (via email!)

October 28, 2014

At Dick’s Memorial Celebration his grand-daughter shared a moving tribute. Be blessed and challenged today by Morgan’s words & ‘inbox discipleship.’

“Granddaddy was, and still is, my hero. He was so compassionate… He was always there for me – loving me so well, exactly where I was, providing endless affirmation.  When I was 18 and wrestling with my faith, Granddad was there to disciple me. I may have gone to a ‘missionary school,’ but the true discipleship in my life took place in my e-mail inbox.  I would ask the most difficult theological questions you can imagine and he would take the time to answer them in full.  One of my favorite responses he gave is this:

Precious Granddaughter, do not judge too quickly about the context in which you find yourself.  It is easier to move to a consistent and problem-free extreme than to remain at the center of tension on any biblical issue; but the truth is found at the center.  One of the greatest things you will learn in this adventure out there is that God can use you.  That truth is on a need to know basis.  When we place ourselves between the love of Christ and the pain of hurting people, we discover that He loves to turn us into conduits of His love (I John 4:16.)  When that happens we find out where He is and where we want to be for the rest of our lives.  You know my four spiritual secrets.  We learn them best when we are in over our heads and He is using us to do what only He can do.  The miracle is that He does work through us.  Looking back, standing on the finish line, I see clearly that His plan for me was perfect and wonderful!  What He gave me or did not give me shaped me into the person, the unique person He wanted me to be for His glory, not my own. He is doing the same thing in your life, precious granddaughter.

“…And the Lord is doing that for us all.  Let us all pick up the baton today and follow Granddad’s legacy as we lean in to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – that we may all be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Morgan Perry  (15 March 2014)


Shibboleths

January 21, 2014

“… ‘Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.”  (Judges 12:6)

Although we Americans have a common language we all have accents that show our origins to a discerning ear.  The above incident demonstrates how thousands of years ago different regional accents caused the death of 42,000 people.

There had been a civil war among people of the same ethnicity.  As the victors captured survivors, the only way to tell if they were the enemy was to force them to say “Shiboleth.”  When prisoners could not pronounce the “sh” sound because of their regional accents, 42,000 of them were executed.

What does all this have to do with us today?  Metaphorically speaking, when we meet people we often have a hidden theological agenda.  If they do not say that which agrees with our hidden agenda we hit the reject button.  The sad thing is that they never even know why we have rejected them.

As a pastor since 1956, I have been greatly blessed by people who did not have the same precise theological agenda as mine.  While meeting recently with two of the founders of the church where I am now Pastor Emeritus, we thanked God that we did not miss the blessings of our relationships over the past 35 years.  Coming from diverse theological backgrounds, we could have hit the reject button when we met in 1979 if we each had tried to push our theological agendas.

As Christ prayed that we might be one as He is one with the Father, may we watch out for Shibboleths that divide us.  Instead, let’s focus on Jesus Christ and the supernatural unity we have in  Him.


What does it mean to be in Christ?

October 9, 2013

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I’m indebted to E. Stanley Jones, a missionary who served in India for 50 years, and his superb daily devotional, In Christ, for showing me the importance of this phrase in the New Testament.  I highly recommend his book which highlights the use of this phrase by all the New Testament authors.

According to Dr. Jones, when we think about being “in Christ,” we should realize that Paul was not talking about being in religion.  Few people have been more into religion than Paul before he met Jesus.  Paul was so religious he fervently persecuted followers of Jesus, sure that he was pleasing God by trying to snuff them out.

It is possible to be in religion, but not be in Christ.  It is possible to be in church, and not be in Christ.  We can be in doctrine, or theology, and not be in Christ.  We can be in the ministry and not be in Christ.  We can be committed to Christ, and believe a lot of things about Christ, and still not be in Christ.

To be in Christ locates us in a Person, right now.

Unless we are ‘in Christ’ it’s like we have a powerful engine in our automobile but we cannot find our ignition key that turns the engine on.  Being ‘in Christ’ is the ignition key, opening us up to experience “all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)  Paul essentially writes: I live because Christ lives in me and I live in Christ.

Just as you sometimes cannot find the keys to your automobile, have you misplaced this critical spiritual key – are you living by and in Christ?

 


The Remedy for the Wrath of God

September 27, 2013

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

The gospel Paul proclaimed was the good news that God will not only pardon and forgive our sins, but through our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ God will make it just as if we had never sinned.  God will also declare us to be as righteous as if we had never sinned.

In Psalm 51 David literally asked God to un-sin his sin.  David was a prophet and when he prayed that petition he knew the fulfillment of the answer would be in the word “justified.“  It literally means that God makes it as if our sin never happened and He declares us to be righteous.  If you have ever grievously sinned, you know that the cry of your heart is wishing your sin had never happened!

That is precisely what the good news of the gospel proclaims.  Imagine two men convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.  After 25 years one of them is pardoned by the governor.  Evidence is discovered that proves the other man is innocent of his crime.  He cannot be pardoned, he needs to be exonerated as if he never committed the crime.

Man’s law can do that.  Only God, however, can declare a guilty man as innocent as if he never committed a crime for which he is in fact guilty.  That is what God has done and is God’s only remedy for His wrath.

If you believe the Good News of the Gospel, then open your heart to receive this remedy.


When You Don’t Know What to Do

September 18, 2013

“We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”  (2Chronicles 20:12 NLT)

Have you ever faced problems that confronted you with the intolerable, the undeniable, the unthinkable and the impossible?  Throughout Hebrew and church history the people of God have often been confronted with these overwhelming realities.  Scripture supports the thought that God sometimes not only permits but creates these circumstances (Isaiah 45: 7).  According to Isaiah He does this because He wants us to learn that He is our only hope and our only help as we live for Him in this world.

The Word of God teaches that God is our Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when we are coping with calamities and trials of every possible description.  The confession quoted above is proclaiming that the people of God have two problems.  They do not know what to do and they do not have the power to do it when they know it.

Scripture tells us God will give us all the wisdom we need when we confess that we do not know what to do (James 1:5).  And Scripture teaches that God will give us the power to do what He wants us to do because He is God and He always completes what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6; 2:13).

There are times when it is wrong for us to put God to the test.  Then there are times when God invites us to prove Him.  God wants to give us the gift of faith.  He also wants to give us immeasurable degrees of the grace to overcome the greatest possible obstacles.  That’s why He permits and designs calamities or trials that force us to access His all sufficient grace.


Prescription for a Comeback

September 12, 2013

“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness…”  (Psalm 23: 3)

What is considered by some to be the greatest chapter in the Bible is the best description ever written of what the relationship of a human being with God can be.  I call this psalm “Sheep Talk” because it’s like a sheep is telling us what a great Shepherd he has.  The opening statement of the sheep is the key to the relationship.  When the Lord is his Shepherd he has multiple blessings.  According to the second verse this relationship is established when his Shepherd makes him lie down. When he gets up again he loses those blessings.

He is telling us this has happened and he needs a spiritual comeback.  The prescription for his comeback is that his Shepherd leads him in the paths of righteousness.  This is the second time he uses the word “leads.” His Shepherd not only leads him beside still waters but when he needs restoration he is led in the paths of righteousness.  The second time he uses this word it is a Hebrew word for “drives me” into what is right.

By application, when we need a comeback we should not seek a cheap one.  We should cooperate with our Shepherd as He drives us into the paths of what is right, perhaps for several years, until He restores our soul.  I personally experienced this kind of comeback in the early eighties that lasted nearly a decade.

Rick Warren said “We’re all in recovery.  What do you think the word ‘salvation’ means?”  Do you need a spiritual comeback?  Don’t look for a cheap one.  Ask God to show you the paths of righteousness that will restore your soul.


The Defense of the Gospel

August 27, 2013

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you…  That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”  (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he defended the gospel.  He wrote that when he came to them he determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified.  He did not use enticing words of man’s wisdom because he did not want their faith to be rooted in the wisdom of man but in the power of God (1Corinthians 2).

When he brought his letter to a conclusion he reminded them of the gospel he had preached in a very clear summary.  It is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died, and He was raised from the dead for our sins.  That was what Paul preached, that was what they believed, that was what saved them, and that was the foundation upon which their faith was to stand.  Furthermore, if they believed anything else they were lost (Chapter 15).

We who are preachers often go beyond the gospel Paul proclaimed.  Perhaps we are trying to make it more interesting for ourselves.  We may be preaching to each other.  Whatever our reasons may be we need to return to the simple presentation of the gospel Paul preached in Corinth and all over the world.

I know of no one who did that in my generation like Billy Graham.  He wrote that early in his preaching when a meeting was not right, in prayer the Lord showed him that he was making it too complex.  He then returned to an uncomplicated gospel and never wavered from that clear gospel message.