Grace In An Unlikely Place (2)

“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry”    (2 Timothy 4:11) 

            All Christians are called to use the gifts that God has given them for works of ministry.  We might not all preach on Sundays, but we are all ministers.  There are many instances in which Christians fail in carrying out their ministries.  Perhaps your failure is from a loss of will, shame due to sin or maybe even discouragement because of criticism from others.  Whatever the case, failure often results in questioning our usefulness for future works of ministry.  If what I have described above has been your experience, be encouraged. 

            “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” As Paul wrote his last letter before his death, one of the requests he made of Timothy was to come and see him, and to bring Mark with him.  Paul viewed Mark as useful, both personally and in ministry.  This is a much different view than Paul had some years earlier as he prepared for his second missionary journey.  As the apostle Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark went along to assist them.  Mark knew most of the apostles, and he and Barnabas were cousins.  He seemed a perfect fit to join the team.  Well, maybe not.  For some reason, not explained in the biblical account, Mark left and returned to Jerusalem.  What is explained is that as Paul and Barnabas prepared to set out on their second missionary journey, Barnabas’s suggestion that Mark accompany them was met with sharp resistance from Paul.  Paul considered Mark a deserter for leaving them during the previous journey.  Their disagreement was so strong that it led to them going their separate ways with different people; Barnabas took Mark with him while Paul was joined by Silas.  Whether Paul or Barnabas was right in their dispute, Scripture doesn’t say, but what it does make clear is that though Mark may have failed early in his ministry, he was found more than useful in the long term.  The time with Barnabas must have been a time of growth and healing for Mark.  Even before this final letter of Paul’s life, he had seen Mark as a useful partner and “fellow worker” for the gospel (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24). 

            Do not let the title Grace In An Unlikely Place mislead you.  Grace doesn’t hide from us in God’s Word as all of Scripture is a testimony to God’s grace.  The title is meant as encouragement to look for grace where you may not expect it.  Mark’s testimony is of a ministry redeemed.  After past failure, he was used immensely by God, including writing the gospel that bears his name.  Additionally, in God’s providence, this early ministry failure created two missionary teams as opposed to just one.  This is how ministry always works; under God’s providential hand and always in His timing.  Our role is submission to His leading.  I hope Mark’s story encourages you as you minister.  I hope that it also encourages you in knowing that if you fail, lose your will or doubt, the Lord is never done with you.  Just as in the case of Mark, these things can be used to better prepare you for future ministry.  If that happens, your ministry will be used in just the same way as Mark’s, for God’s glory.     

Prayer

Father God, thank you for the grace that is found all throughout your Word.  Thank you that I can see an example of that grace in the life of Mark.  Through the testimony of your Word, we can be encouraged that failure doesn’t have to end our useful service to the gospel.  Help me to stay close to you Father and to rely on you each day to do what you have called me to do.  Amen!   

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Obama And Same-Sex Marriage: A Unique Perspective

            Differences in our society are not hard to see.  They may be economic, political, social or racial.  Too often, our differences are exploited for personal and/or political gain.  God however doesn’t see these differences.  He sees our hearts.  Regardless of the differences, we are all created in the image of God.  That makes us alike.  Below is a link to an article written by Eric C. Redmond, senior pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD.  As an African American, he offers a unique perspective on President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.  While rightly expressing pride in his racial heritage, celebrating the election of our first black president, Pastor Redmond recognizes that in no way, does race supersede godly heritage.  Nor does it make an unbiblical view of marriage any less wrong.  Our likeness “in Christ” should be what we celebrate the most, and as such, mutual submission to the authority of the Word of God and obedience to His will should be our greatest priority.     

http://baptistpress.com/printerfriendly.asp?ID=37831

To My Graduate

            A week from today, Kristin will officially be a high school graduate. One more summer is all that’s left before she goes off to college to begin a new chapter in her life. She has been a wonderful child and I know her time in college will be a great experience. Like most parents, I could see this day coming, but as it approaches, there are so many things running through my mind that I want her to know. Naturally, I want her to know how much Karen, Logan and I love her, how proud we are of her, and how much we will miss her being away from us. I’m sure as a parent, you share the same feelings about your graduate. As we get ready to let them go, I believe it’s normal to ask if we’ve done enough to prepare them. What more can be said that will serve to make this part of their lives as fruitful as it can be? I’m sure in all the advice I’ve given, I’ve left something out. I’m equally sure that Kristin had rather me keep some of it to myself, but there are a few more things I need to tell her. I would love to tell her that a college experience comes without any challenges. Sure, we know the typical challenges of time management, difficult classes and the usual distractions a college student faces. They’re a given. But there are other challenges as well, challenges that will test her faith in God. This is the purpose for the list below. Spiritual challenges are the most important challenges that Kristin needs to be prepared for. All of our children will face these same challenges. It’s not that their faith hasn’t been tested before,  it’s just that now, as a Christian parent you are not there to guide them as you have been. As parents, we are now at a point where we have to trust like never before and pray that they remain committed to the things they’ve been taught. With that said, here’s my list of things I’ve been thinking about and want Kristin to know. Maybe you want to share it with your graduate as well. 

  1. Be firm in what you believe about God because what you believe is likely to be challenged more than it has ever been before. 
  2. With newfound freedom sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are. Remember not only who you are, but also who God created you to be.  
  3. Influence can be a good thing, but it can also be harmful. God’s Word says there are things to run to and things to run from. Choose wisely. 
  4. You were made to worship, both personally and corporately. Make finding a good Bible believing church a priority.  
  5. Never will your temptation to stray from God’s will be greater than over these next years. 
  6. It will take more than your best effort and self determination to fight against temptation. It will take the power of the Holy Spirit in you.  
  7. Of all the books you read and study in college, the book that needs your greatest attention each day is the one written by God.  
  8. Though I will not always be there to watch over you, your heavenly Father will be (Psalm 121:4). 
  9. Prayer will be a powerful weapon for you to carry. Use it daily.   
  10. Respect all people and be kind to them, but never let anyone tell you that a relationship with God comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6). 
  11. As much as I love you, it pales in comparison to how much your heavenly Father loves you.
  12. Remember that God is faithful. Trust Him, seek Him and love Him. After all, He loved you first.

When Your Light Shines

“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at thing that shine, and life makes love look hard.”   – Taylor Swift –

            Sometimes simple lyrics tell a Biblical truth.  Such is the case with Taylor Swift’s recent hit song, entitled Ours.  A star in the world of country music, at only twenty two, she has had numerous hits.  Ours is a song about being in love and being true to the relationship in spite of having people criticize it.  Though I assume unintended, part of the lyrics of this song are striking in that they possess a truth that is taught in Scripture.  Basically singing a letter to the guy she loves, she tells him not to worry, and that “people throw rocks at things that shine”.  She is of course talking about their relationship.  And it’s true.  People do throw rocks at things that shine.  This doesn’t happen only in the context of living out Christian faith, but as a Christian, it will happen:  

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12)

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

            Persecution, often in the form of criticism, is indeed part of living separate from the world while at the same time, being in it.  Several public examples come to mind:  First, Tim Tebow, a star football player at the University of Florida and current NFL player.  For all who love him, many see him as a polarizing figure, criticizing him for his public displays of faith in Jesus Christ.  Second, Rick Santorum, a former presidential candidate who dared to stand for Biblical principles in the midst of the campaign.  Finally, Kirk Cameron, an actor who drew sharp criticism for expressing his belief in the Biblical view of marriage and homosexuality in spite of the unpopularity of those views among his peers.  These people, though certainly not sinless are living in the world, yet living differently by living a life that honors Christ.  Their lights are shining and because they are, people who prefer darkness are offended, demonstrating it by their criticism.  In Scripture, “light” correlates to holiness and purity whereas “darkness” refers to sin and wrongdoing. 

            The Bible gives numerous examples in which Christians are told to be lights in the world and to shine.  Paul told those in the church at Philippi to shine by living in a way that accords with faith in Christ (Philippians 2:15).  To those at Ephesus, he said, “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).  More importantly, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).  He also said, “Let your light shine before others…” that your good works that flow from living faith will bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16).  Never has a light shined brighter, exposing the darkness more than Jesus Christ.  That’s why He was and is hated so.  As your light shines, it may be costly.  People may hate you (John 15:18).  Suffering and persecution can be great or it may be very subtle, but sharing in the fellowship of Christ’ suffering is part of the Christian calling.  Trust God to provide the necessary grace.  Taylor’s lyrics are profound in another way.  Life does make love look hard.  Outward expression of love for God and for Jesus Christ can be hard under the influence of a dark world.  But there’s hope.  Jesus’ light still shines.  It shines so bright that the darkness can’t overcome it (John1:5).  So wherever you are, live as a child of God and let your light shine that it may point the way so that others may know Christ.

At His Word

“But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5) 

            I have a dear Christian brother who claims Luke 5:5 as one of his life verses.  Through his knowledge of the Word, but mostly by his life, he has taught me a lot.  Like all of us, struggling through periods of discouragement, there is a pattern to his life that is marked by obedience to the will of God.  Often perceived as weakness, obedience of any sort is not a very popular word in our culture today.  It is made more difficult especially when you’re not sure where the road leads.  It requires walking by faith.  But obedience gives testimony to God being at work in a person’s life and with it comes proof of one’s love for God and usefulness in His service.  The apostle Peter demonstrated both. 

            “But at your word I will let down the nets” Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade.  After an unsuccessful night of fishing, Jesus approached him and said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).  Peter expressed his previous failure, but he obeyed and this time caught an abundance of fish.  The purpose of Jesus’ encounter with Peter was not to teach him how to fish, but to show him that He was Lord.  Jesus would, however, spend the next three years teaching Peter and the other disciples how to fish.  They would become fishers of men.  Had you and I spent all night fishing and caught nothing, what might our response have been?  Peter’s response is both striking and instructional.  First, note that Peter’s past result didn’t influence his willingness to present obedience.  He obeyed at that moment.  Secondly, Peter obeyed in faith, though unsure of what the result might be. 

            Too often, we prefer to be able to see the road ahead before walking in faith and obedience.  The problem is that when you can see where the road leads, it’s not really walking by faith.  Peter could not have imagined where his road would lead and neither can you.  But you can trust that wherever it leads, the Lord will be walking it with you.  He will bless your obedience, even though challenges may result because it.  If you knew my friend, and some of the circumstances he has faced, had he lessened his commitment to heartfelt obedience to Christ, perhaps certain aspects of his life might have been a bit easier.  But that’s not my friend.  His obedience to God’s will is proof of his love for Him.  It brought Jesus great joy in obeying His Father and as a Christian obedience will bring you joy.  Your obedience will never be perfect, but it will be the default position of your heart.  Where in your past you chose not to obey, let it go.  It’s in the past.  A past paid for by the blood of Christ.  God’s desire is that you just take the next step.  Ask for God’s grace to obey His will.  You needed grace for salvation and you’ll need it throughout your life.  Trust that He will provide it because He will.  “Lord, at your word, I       will ……” 

 Prayer 

Dear God, thank you for the testimony of people who obey your will in spite of the consequences.  I pray that as the Holy Spirit works in my life; I will grow in obedience each day.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who was perfect in obedience and found joy in doing your will.  Because of that obedience, I can stand before you.  Thank you for your love.  Let my obedience to your will be my “thank you” to that love.