Abiding in Joy

Speaking of our life in Christ, and His purposes on earth

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Nailed to the Cross!


This weekend we celebrate the greatest event in human history.  That great event is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  He came to earth as a man, lived a sinless life, taught extensively on the Kingdom of God, and then voluntarily went to the Cross to give Himself for the sins of mankind.  Do we really understand the magnitude of this?  What Jesus did at the Cross opens the door for each of us to have eternal life.  That is why this is without doubt the greatest event in human history.

It is sin that keeps us from knowing God and from experiencing eternal life.  Paul gives us the picture of a certificate of debt (Colossians 2:13-14) that has been issued to each of us.  It is a debt of sin that is overwhelmingly condemning us, a debt which we can do nothing about!  It is similar to the servant who owed his Master ten thousand talents and had no way to repay (Matthew 18:23-35, specifically verses 23-25).  Just to put this into perspective, ten thousand talents would be about $7,500,000,000 in today’s currency.  How could a servant owe that much money?  And how could he possibly even begin to repay?  That gives us some idea of what it means to have an impossible certificate of debt that has eternal consequences hanging over our head.

Jesus took the sin of the world on Himself.  He took that certificate of debt for each individual person, that was so hostile to us, and He destroyed it by nailing it to that Cross….. “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)   Or another way to put it, He paid the debt for us!  This is God’s great gift to us, available to everyone of us who believe, no matter what our nationality, race, economic or social status, or anything else.  None of us deserve such a Gift, so it has nothing to do with how good or how bad we have been.  It is grace that has provided such a Gift.

We live in a world that has been terribly corrupted.  Corrie ten Boom, who suffered greatly in a Nazi concentration death camp for following Christ, once said,

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed.

If you look within, you’ll be depressed.

But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”

We live in a world that has been terribly corrupted.  I just returned from Mexico a few days ago where a friend (I have stayed in his home) was kidnaped, robbed, and brutally killed.  While I was in Mexico last week, the family was notified that this had happened to their son/brother.  We were in shock over his untimely brutal death, but also over how fellow humans could do such things.  In this case, however, we could rejoice in the fact that this brother’s certificate of debt had been nailed to the Cross, and that he had received this Gift of God by faith.

What we celebrate this weekend is beautiful, powerful, and life changing.  May we all begin to comprehend at a much greater level the magnitude of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As we do, the result will be joy; and we will have a renewed passion to spread the Good News of what He has done for us to the whole world, beginning with those around us!

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Enter Into the Joy of Your Master

Two parables of Jesus that have been on my mind the last few years are the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19).  Though the parables are different in a number of ways, the primary message is the same in both: We must be faithful with what God has given us, and by doing so, we will therefore assume more responsibility in His Kingdom.

These parables are rather sobering in that they speak not only of the rewards of being faithful, but we see the severe consequences of not being faithful with what God has given us.  In fact, those consequences are incurred by doing absolutely!  Sadly, “doing nothing” may represent the state of most who call themselves Christians.  We have been given so much.  We have been given the glorious gospel. We have been placed “in Christ” and therefore have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).  We have been given a call and set of gifts that no one else on earth possesses.  He has equipped us to do His work through the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer, and the fact that Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Hebrews 7:24-25).  We have been given finances, health, time, and gifts that He desires for us to use for His purposes.  And yet we often continue to serve our own interests and personal agenda.  Too many do nothing or just the minimum when comes to the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

There are many truths found in these parables.  Today, I want to draw our attention to what the Master says to the faithful servants in the Parable of the Talents.  Because they were faithful and multiplied what had been given them, the Master says, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.  You were faithful with a few things.  I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”  In a world starving for true joy, Jesus tells us that being faithful is the road we must walk to obtain true joy.  The enemy has lied to us by suggesting that serving faithfully and sacrificially will rob us of life.  It falls in that same category of deception that says we need to live for ourselves, that we must look after “me” first, and that we must spend excessive time on ourselves.  We see books on 100 things to do before you die or 100 places to go.  In short, in our quest to find happiness and contentment, we miss what Jesus had to say about true joy.  When we are faithful with what God has given us, we will enter into His joy!  Yes, being faithful will mean sacrifice.  It will mean hard work.  It will mean not spending time on ourselves. But the result?   Joy…..both here on this earth, and in the age to come!

Prayer Triggers Divine “Chains of Events”

 In the missions circles that I hang out with, there is much talk about great movements of revival among people groups, cities, or geographical areas.  Often overlooked, however, is the role of prayer.  In our Western culture, it is hard to understand things we don’t see—like the effect of prayer on the people and events that we pray for.  Only heaven knows the extent of how prayer really is the driving force behind so much true spiritual fruit.

I am coming to see more and more how prayer triggers chains of events that accomplish God’s purposes here on this earth.  So often the bigger plans of the Lord are not a single event, but rather a series of events.  The life of Joseph is an excellent example.  When he was just a youth God gave him dreams of rulership.  But it took a chain of events, and many years, before God’s plan for him was established.  And if we look at his life in those in-between years, we see anything else but him ruling.  We see him as a slave, being falsely accused, or even in jail. But God brought about His purpose for Joseph in His time.  All of the things that happen to Joseph in those 13 years of adversity were a chain of events that brought about the fulfillment of God’s plan.  So much of what God does, He does through an intricate and divinely orchestrated chain of events. 

This chain of events might be illustrated by a line of dominoes falling, each triggering the next one to fall.  Or, perhaps it might be described as an avalanche, or a rock slide.  A rock slide usually starts off rather slow, with one or two rocks tumbling down.  But those rocks hit other rocks, and they hit others.  Before long there is a rock slide that is capable of knocking down trees, buildings, and even towns!  It is out of control!  Prayer is what triggers God to move in mighty ways, and it is prayer that sustains movements, which are divine “chains of events.”

We all marvel at the chain of events that took place in the early church, recorded in the book of Acts.  These events shook the status quo and were reported to have “upset the world” (Acts 17:6).  But all this got started with 120 saints praying for many days in an upper room!   A quick look at revivals and awakenings throughout church history would reveal that usually there was a rather small group of prayer warriors that consistently prayed and interceded.

In 1990 I was a part of a church planting team that moved to Mexico City.  At that time, church analysts estimated that under 1% of the population were evangelical Christians.  Yet, by the year 2000, they were saying that probably 15-18% were born again Christians.  That is amazing growth for just ten years!  What most people don’t know is that there was a church in Joppa, Maryland (called Chesapeake Covenant Church at that time) that was seriously praying for Mexico City.  They did so for probably 3-4 years.  We were bombarded with letters, passages, impressions from the Lord from some of these prayer warriors.  They were not just praying for our particular church plant, but also for all of Mexico City.  Only heaven knows the impact of those prayers and intercessions.  Certainly the hundreds of thousands (probably over a million) people who came to know the Lord in those ten years don’t know.  Am I saying that all that happened in Mexico City was a direct result of these prayer warriors?  I don’t know.  There may have been other groups of saints doing the same.  But I know this church had a major part in triggering a chain of events that resulted in revival taking place. 

Just imagine one day when we all gathered around the throne, the appreciation you will feel toward those who prayed YOU  into the Kingdom.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

I just arrived back home from another trip to Paris.  I have been making about three trips there a year to meet with some younger workers and leaders, encouraging them in planting new churches, making disciples, and Biblical church life. We are amazed to see God raising up a generation of young leaders with a fresh vision from God for His Church in their city. This past trip I was astonished by the rapid chain of events that are happening.  This feels very much like the beginning of something much bigger than what I had ever anticipated.  On this trip I began to think back on the chain of events that led to this time. They started shortly after a number of people here at our church in Frisco spent a month in Paris in 2006 and prayed 24 hours day and night for God to move in that city.  Is that a coincidence?  I think not.  And I might add there may well have been others praying in a similar way.  But I do know that our collective prayer triggers chains of events that bring about His purposes on earth.

God delights to use the “small” and the seemingly “insignificant” to accomplish His plans……sometimes in a distant country.  And most often His plans are accomplished more by prayer than lots of activity.  Prayer prepares the ground, the culture, and the hearts of people for God’s work to be done and received.  Prayer is something that all of us can do.  We must put aside our Western thinking that tries to evaluate what we do (such as prayer) by what we can see.  Only heaven knows the impact we are making through prayer!

May God raise up bands of prayer warriors who will dislodge big rocks to get the chain of events moving that will impact peoples and cities around the world!

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