Some Lenten Reality For The Win
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Luke 4:1
Recently an American public school was forced by a threatened law suit brought by atheists to remove or greatly alter a monument to a beloved teacher of over 26 years who had been killed in a tragic car accident. This teacher was a devoted evangelical Christian who had just left a Bible Study when the deadly accident occurred which ushered her into the courts of heaven. The atheists objected to several crosses and etched depictions of angels which were a part of the memorial on school grounds. Interestingly the atheists were not the least concerned that the mascot of the school is Red Devils. If Christians do not appear to take Satan seriously, neither do their detractors, which suits Satan just fine.
Lent has a lot more to do with Satan than the observers of Lent appear to mention or appreciate as they carry out their idea of Lenten observation. But consider the origination of this season of the Christian Year. Lent specifically observes the 40 days prior to the crucifixion of the Lord and His glorious Resurrection very soon after. The 40 days are taken from the 40 days of fasting and testing of the Lord by his chief protagonist, Satan. Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, focuses in most practices upon personal sin and repentance; certainly, a spiritually necessary and healthy exercise for all of us redeemed sinners. Little attention is given to the one whom our Lord battled in those 40 days and nights and the main reason He was there. Of course, Jesus is sinless, and we are so the opposite. So what was Jesus’ purpose in these 40 days in the wilderness? Namely, to expose for our benefit His and our great enemy, and his universally applied schemes. Those schemes change clothes but never character. They are the same, and we continue to be perennially deceived by them. Apart from Christ we lose. His battle secured a victory for the taking.
Lent should provide a personal reassessment time to consider how well you deflect the darts of the evil one. How aware are you of Satan’s schemes personally tailored to you? What is his win-lost record in your daily life? How are you applying the Lord’s prescription in your battle? Right now in current political life, many Americans are upset with the President and his administration for not naming America’s enemy accurately. Are you guilty of the same thing in the most important battle in your own life? Do you recognize your true enemy, name him, and command him in the name of Christ to get lost? Is he so real in your world that you might imitate Martin Luther and throw something at him? If you claim his real and threatening existence do you endeavor to put on the Christian armor provided by God piece by piece for your necessary protection? Paul didn’t think that cheesy. It was as essential as breathing.
It would be well for all who claim Christ to get real about what you are about. Church year observer or not ( you observe Christmas and Easter do you not?) try taking some time leading up to Good Friday and Easter to review your world-view as it relates to the Arch-Enemy of Jesus and you. If Jesus personally authenticated his very real existence and purpose, do you think it very wise to “blow off” his presence around you? Satan is not a person to trivialize or ignore. To paraphrase C.S Lewis you needn’t be paralyzed by abject fear, but you trivialize him to your peril. After all, Lewis wrote a whole book about his shrewd strategies.
Review how Satan tempts you with relative success in getting in your head. And heart. Where are you most susceptible in interaction with others, the world around you, and the disciplines of the Christian life. How does “stuff” impact your walk with Christ? How fearful are you of your security, health, and well being? Notice that these concerns relate to Satan’s tempting of the Lord in Matthew and Luke 4. See the nature of those categories in your own life and how you are responding to them. You can be sure your enemy is shooting those same arrows at you. All the more reason to cling to the Victor for His strength to fight and win. Remember His promises to the overcomers in His letters to “the seven” in Revelation 2-3.
This is a worthy use of your thought life and devotions leading up to Holy Week and the celebration of His past and your future resurrection. Jesus pulled him out in the open and exposed him for your sake. Don’t put him back where he is ignored. Crush him in the strength of the Lord.
“And though this world with Devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”
(3rd verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, 1529)
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Food for Thought
Teenage boys eat a lot of food! Here at the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH), food has always been a major part of how we provide security and teach the boys. Given we serve over 21,900 meals a year, our food program is a critical part of what we do. Being in the kitchen together, cooking for each other, serving one another, is part of the activity of any other family. For our staff, it represents a great time to instruct and teach life skills to our young men while providing a sense of home.
Our food program is a key ingredient in their physical well-being and a part of giving them a sense of home. Let’s do the math…
$3.52 a meal X 20 young men X 3 meals X 365 days = $77,000 a year—Quite a grocery bill!
While that’s about how much it will cost to feed the young men this year at the PAYH—that is not all we feed them. We feed them knowledge and give them experience. We show them a home. Like other homes, the kitchen is the communal room, where spontaneous conversations begin, sneaking a taste of something before it’s been served, and laughter takes place. Home, family, and life…we do this all together, often in the kitchen.
It is here, often in the kitchen, our young men gain a new perspective. Most of them have never really thought about the cost of food nor have they thought much of who prepared it. They have certainly never thought of how much time it takes to prepare a meal.
As part of the PAYH Food Program, young men plant all sorts of fruits and vegetables in our garden, harvest eggs from the chickens that are fed with the left-overs we take out of the kitchen. It is our young men who are responsible for maintaining the gardens and the chickens, ensuring that both the plants and animals stay alive. The boys plan the meals, help create a budget to purchase needed items and then prepare the food for themselves, the other young men, and the staff. They learn to serve their second family, express gratitude, and manners. All of which are tools they can pass on in their own family one day. They begin to value work and time that goes into cooking. They also experience the importance of eating as a family—Talking, sharing the ups and downs about the day.
They…we, are doing life together.
Transforming lives spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.
Our goal is to raise $77,000 for our 2015 Food Program. Your support is critical for the PAYH Food Program to succeed. Please help us continue to engage our young men teaching them life skills and appreciation for what has been given to them. Click here to help us take the classroom to the kitchen.
Yours In Christ,
Drew S. Read
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Everyone A Seeker
“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:7-8
Stephen Hawking is one of the biggest celebrity scientists of our day, and some say among the most brilliant ever. I have been interested in a number of his hypotheses within his study of the universe during his life time of seeking out its truth. His musing about the nature of time is especially fascinating and has stimulated my own thinking in terms of time-bound life, which we know, and life in a time-less state, which we don’t, yet. A second is the possibility of another whole sphere of existence unseen right in our midst removed only by a slight “shifting of the molecular structure of existence (A cloud of witnesses possibly?…..Hebrews 12:1).
Until recently Hawking was primarily agnostic (unknowing) in his research as it pertained to “finding evidence for God or the existence of an Intelligent Designer as he observed the wonders and order of the universe and tried to explain it. Do we live in a self-beginning universe with nothing outside of it to imprint and design its magnificent order, or is there unmistakable proof God, the Intelligent Designer, exists? Just as Hawking suddenly announced recently that “black holes now do not exist, reversing his earlier work on black holes in the galaxies, he has also announced recently that no God exists, presumably because he hasn’t found him, and believes his science renders Him non-existent. Of course, he gives no “proof or universally accepted rationale for either prognostication of no black holes and no God. His celebrity will have to carry the day with his listening and admiring public. While God’s existence cannot be proved to everyone’s satisfaction, neither can it be disproved. And what will you do with your rejection, lackadaisical ignorance, or outright mocking of God if He is? In any case, Hawking is a seeker, a thoroughly self-seeking one so far.
Everyone seeks. It is the nature of being human. But in terms of ultimate seeking and ultimate ramifications of the search there are basically only two types: self-seeking or seeking out the one true God; nothing in-between. The Bible explains that seeking after other gods, other than the God who is; i.e. being devoted to another “god among the myriad of world religions such as, Buddha, Allah, the assorted paths of Hinduism, etc., or seeking what substitutes as your “god, science, atheism, hedonism, and the like, boils down to one and only one description: self-seeking. Self predominates in worshiping a false god or something equal as atheism, agnosticism, science, or what have you, because you reject with your own mind and heart the God who is, and in this rejection choose a god who pleases you; in essence, yourself.
The opposite of self-seeking is searching out the God who is responsible for your being and your world; the God who is, who calls Himself, I Am. You are either your own god, determining your own course and values, and consequently responsible for your own end; OR you seek out and find the God who is, and adhere to Him; two and only two type of seekers, one which will ultimately determine your final outcome.
It is stupefying that so many from youth into adulthood never come to grips with this truth: which right now no matter where or what you are doing you are already immersed in a personal search determining what you will be and your eventual end. Few think what you are doing right now is so seminal, so all-important; what you are doing in this present is determining your future. It is too often, “I’m treading water waiting for the really important things to come sometime later. Wrong! Today is most important in laying the path of where you are going and what you will be! Do not forfeit today thinking it is pretty non-consequential. It never is, no matter the circumstances. The Word of God says “Today is the day of salvation; which also means today is mighty important, even if you don’t think it is.
The promise of success in your search if it is seeking the right one of the two types is repeated so many times over and over in Scripture, “If you seek me, God promises, “you will find me. Check a complete concordance and see the repetition of this promise. “Seek is not a trivial word like playing a child’s game of hide and seek with little consequence in the prize. Seeking with faith is defined as an earnest search as though your life depends on finding the God for whom you seek, which it does. If you are only a self-seeker, you will find what you are looking for, you just won’t like or be satisfied with what you find, and at some future time you will not be able to reverse course to get a better result. God says if that is what you want enough to give your life repeatedly to it, I will let you have yourself; basically, as Paul describes a life apart from Christ, genuine rubbish.
The common seeking which defines life, if it hasn’t yet involved a serious search for God and experiencing Him as a serious life-changer, is seeking to acquire your appetites demands, everything basic and required, and, of course, beyond; anything which makes you feel good, provides a sense of happiness, even if sporadically. Then at some time you may expand the search into seeking your own identity and with it what meaning there is to your life and where you hope your life is headed; however, wishes do not always materialize. Real life can be cruel to wishes and what is viewed as “popular does not satisfy you in the end.
How does seeking God change a meandering search for meaning and happiness in life? Just this, He makes the meandering crooked paths straight. God knows the meaning of your life already and He knows its purpose and conveys it to you (see Psalm 23 and 139). Before finding Him you were enslaved to your own nature and uncontrollable appetites. He has the power to remove guilt, eliminate shame, conquer fear, and open your eyes to who you really are and can be. He gives you the markers to get through the mine-field of this world. It is really stupid to not choose the truly best and instead choose the quick-sand of self-seeking and being your own god. Find the God who is really God, and delight in the strength and gifts which you can never replicate yourself.
Everyone is a seeker, and every thought and action in life is part of a search. Those who seek the true God find Him and all that comes with Him; satisfaction, true knowledge of who you are, contentment, worthy purpose, direction, and a home, where you know “I am home! and no one can take it away.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (what you will eat, drink, wear, and all things pertaining to needful life) will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
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The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:2-3
The catchy song from the beloved musical “Annie captures the instinctive hope within the heart of most of humanity: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you’re only a day away. Today may be a bummer, rainy, dark, and dreary, but the sun will come out tomorrow, and things can only be better than today. The famous last lines of the classic movie, Gone with the Wind, elicits the hope of tomorrow which rings eternal in the human spirit; Scarlett O’Hara: “I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all…tomorrow is another day. It is as though such thinking offers a perpetual “free play card in your pocket, or a “Get out of Jail Free Monopoly card always hidden away; a card called “tomorrow. L.M. Montgomery the author of “Anne of Green Gables puts these words into the mouth of indefatigable Anne Shirley the eternal optimist and chief character of this much loved novel series, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
It is a view of life which is hard to escape; most likely because it is so natural to the creature you have been made to be. Tomorrow is a reprieve of today. Yet while it is an overflowing hope which often gets us through the burdens of today, real life has a way of throwing cold water on the idea, though never quite quenching the last drop of hope from it. James McKay may be a spoil sport, but his words prove to be true to the experience of many: “Tomorrow you promise yourself will be different, yet tomorrow is too often a repetition of today. If today your life is a “prison why is there hope that tomorrow you will somehow be freed from it?
The Bible has a different perspective of tomorrow than the natural hope that it will somehow bring something better. Proverbs 27:1 warns: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. And James adds to it: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins (James 4:13-14).
The only promised hope of “tomorrow lies in your spiritual transformation out of darkness (spiritual ignorance) into light (the spiritual blinders come off), out of prison into freedom (freedom to obey). In terms of tomorrow your life is still a mist even after transformation, and tomorrow has no assurance in it of what you define as “better things, other than a powerful life’s Companion who promises “good to you (Romans 8:28) and an eternal home. Your definition of “good does not equate with His because you cannot see the end from the beginning. Tomorrow may still bring cancer, death, misfortune, pain, or, it may bring answered prayer, temporary physical healing or restoration, even joy in the Lord in the midst of felt pain. Other than the assurance of a Divine Companion and the hope of eternity, your tomorrow is a mystery not to be treated lightly for what it may produce. Your prayer life today needs to acknowledge such. Perhaps this godly perspective will elicit from you more thoughtful and earnest prayer in being prepared for whatever the morrow brings. Never succumb to the pernicious habit it will merely be a repetition of today. The process of sanctification in your life ought to be an upward trajectory which refuses the status quo. Or are you good with remaining where you are today?
There is only one worthy goal today which impacts your tomorrow. It is in today’s text: your work of pursuing personal righteousness, the same righteousness or purity which Jesus bestowed on you as a gift when you committed your life to Him. It is your goal today to be about putting on more of His likeness, so what you see in the mirror tomorrow reflects more of Him. Any pursuit today of this preeminent goal and what it accomplishes in you can never be taken away tomorrow, no matter what tomorrow brings. You need to change the “Annie lyrics in thought and in deed: The SON will come out tomorrow in me!
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose…your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
(The Apostle Paul, Philippians 2:1-2)
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The Foolishness Conundrum
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
Personal evangelism isn’t easy; God didn’t intend for it to be. It requires courage and especially persistent commitment to Jesus and His commands. You already know from your own experience that obedience to Jesus is an unceasing endeavor in which perfection escapes us. There are not only a few stumbles; they are daily occurrences. Personal evangelism is part of that obedience. “If you love me, you will do what I command, Jesus said. “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown Him before my Father in heaven. The task is even more demanding in that Jesus commanded those who love Him to “make disciples, not professors. There are many who profess to know Jesus, but whose lives show no fruit. The definition of “making disciples found in the Great Commission is “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:20). The harder work of personal evangelism is not just telling the good news to others; it is implanting in lives the marks of a disciple.
The conundrum in this task is that many hearers of your narrative of the Gospel, even hearing your own testimony of God’s genuine transformation in you, may well find your message to be foolishness which is defined as silliness, folly, stupidity, imbecilic, imprudent, nonsense; which in our increasingly secular world is becoming fairly universal. In addition to this, God tells us he has blinded the eyes of the world to the truth of the Gospel, He has put a scale over their eyes, and He has deadened their hearts. So isn’t it a “foolish proposition to obey Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to every creature? Especially, when their state is futile to receiving what the cross means for the world and for them?
At the Paul Anderson Youth Home we are able to witness to, evangelize, disciple young men for an average of a year to a year and a half. For those who profess to become a Christian we observe their life at the Home and we wait with anticipation after they graduate to see the fruit of their profession in the world. Some young men refuse to respond to the Gospel in those 14-18 months. The experience for the staff covers the whole gamut of frustration, weariness, questioning their ability to rightly articulate the faith to varying individuals, joyful in seeing growth, sad in seeing none, perplexed in seeing no apparent sign of spiritual heart penetration after months of concerted effort, blessed when seeing authentic transformation. Whose fault is it? The staff reevaluates always thinking they can improve; there is a constant need to sharpen skills in evangelism and discipleship, and in living the faith day in and day out. But you can never leave out what God is about in this whole process. This is always the transformative factor; and it is your encouragement to never give up.
This foolishness conundrum strikes fear in your mind to begin a conversation with just any unbeliever in your world when considering acknowledging your love for Christ and explaining the gospel message. Will this person ridicule the foolishness of the message of the cross? Will he be in a state of blindness, impenetrable to the truth of the Bible? Will her heart be dead to spiritual realities? Fear is a real factor. And so is pride, because we do not want to be ridiculed or labeled as stupid or extreme. These are two of the enemy’s most effective weapons to thwart personal evangelism: fear and pride. It is the very reason you draw back. If it all rested on you, your charm, your personality, your knowledge, eloquence, and persuasiveness, of which you have questions anyway, it isn’t going to work. You alone have no ability to open blind eyes, revive a deadened heart, or penetrate a defensive mind convinced none of this is true.
You must specifically engage the power of the Spirit of God through ongoing prayer and study of the Word. Just as your body requires regular fuel, food, or your car, gasoline, every so many miles, you cannot survive spiritually without prayer and the Word. The Bible says to be ready at any moment to give a reason for the hope that is in you. Readiness arises from prayer, Bible study, and meditation and anticipating those unknown moments that can slide by before you think to get a word out. It also involves prayerfully focusing on a known person the Spirit has put on your heart to speak to or to build a relationship with the object of reaching their soul. You can have no greater love for another than this. Asking regularly and sincerely for the guidance of the Spirit will give you all you can handle in terms of your time. None of us are omnipresent or weary-free. God is your link to being everywhere at any moment and He never sleeps.
Do not be stifled by a response you already know is probable, because God has told you in advance. Never think that blindness, a deadened heart, or a closed mind is an impenetrable fortress. Lack of perceived success should never deter your efforts. Keep on keeping on because of the God who stands behind His promises and who will reward every effort to “make disciples.
“The warning bell of judgment tolls, above us looms the cross; around are ever dying souls—how great, how great the loss! O Lord, constrain and move thy church the glad news to impart! And Lord, as thou dost stir thy church, begin within my heart.
(4th verse of Anne Ortlund’s hymn, “Macedonia, 1966)
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