Monthly Archives: March, 2016

Jesus Be Jesus In Me

Many years ago, Dr. Wayne Barber gave a series of sermons during a spiritual life conference at Bryan College.  I was a student at the time and his words very much encouraged me to grow in my relationship with Christ.  During that week, Wayne taught us a short chorus that has remained with me now decades removed from the event.  It goes like this:

Jesus be Jesus in me
No longer me, but Thee
Resurrection power
Fill me this hour
Jesus be Jesus in me*

If you are familiar with the New Testament, you are probably aware that the truth communicated in those words was penned by the Apostle Paul in Philippians, chapter three.  He shared his heart when he wrote:

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (3:10).

W.A. Criswell once said, “…the blessings of the gospel are not theological opinions.  They are daily the experience of those who have followed the Lord, and who believe in Him, and who trust in Him with their souls and with their lives.”**

Today we found ourselves going about our Monday responsibilities the day after Easter.  Hopefully our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord made a difference today.  It should have.  Our faith is indeed based upon fact.  Jesus truly was the God-man Who lived a perfect life, suffered an efficacious death and rose from the grave three days later.  History.  But His story continued today as believers experienced “the blessings of the gospel.”  One of those great blessings includes Jesus manifesting His presence in us through the Holy Spirit.

That’s resurrection power in action!

Was the resurrection of Jesus Christ evident in our lives today?  I hope it was?  Was HE visible as others looked at us and considered our actions and reactions?  I pray so.

Do you desire for Easter to be fleshed out in your life tomorrow?  Sing with me:

Jesus be Jesus in me
No longer me, but Thee
Resurrection power
Fill me this hour
Jesus be Jesus in me

*This is actually the title of a Jimmy Swaggart album from 1987.  The song also appears on that album.




Rescuing Easter

I need to rescue Easter.  Not for our world.  Not for our nation.  Not for our church.  Not for you.

I need to rescue Easter for me.

Over the past several years, I have become increasing aware that Easter has lost its significance to me.  Honestly, it has proven to be a rather boring holiday.  Church hasn’t been particularly helpful in that process.  We would attend, of course.  Then we would return home for a nice dinner.  Then…nothing.  In reality, for me it was—apart from a bit more candy available and some hyper children—it was just another Sunday.

It’s not always been like this.

I trust that part of my issue is related to the spiritual funk I have been in for years.  While I don’t necessarily see a genuine light at the end of the tunnel, I do believe I can be proactive in my personal rescuing of Easter.

Several plans have been implemented.  First, once I noticed the classic movie The Ten Commandments was playing in the theaters this week, I made plans to go.  My daughter and I went last night.  I grew up watching that movie around Easter.  I enjoyed our discussion about themes presented in the film as we drove home.  Second, I am planning to attend the Good Friday service at our church tomorrow night.  Third, I plan to take at least one of the kids to the Easter sunrise service at a local park.  A friend is sharing the devotional.  I attended these annual services when I was a student in college many years ago.  Fourth, I signed us up for the pancake breakfast at church.  We have not participated in the past because of my anti-social bent, but I reasoned that Christ should be celebrated in community.  Deep down, we all know that is what ought to happen.  Fifth, we’ll be attending church as a family.  In spite of my funk, that is something we do almost every week, attending some 45-48 Sundays a year.  Sixth, we’re hosting Easter dinner at our house for Jodi’s family.  A traditional ham dinner with all the trimmings is planned.  I look forward to feasting together as a family.

These are the proactive steps I am taking to remind me that Easter isn’t just another Sunday; to ensure that this eternally-significant event does not pass me by yet another year.

But I am especially wanting to put concerted effort into the seventh activity on my list.  What is seventh?  I do not know. Everything described above might fall under the category of external activities.  These are things that I do.  What I am lacking, I think, is that which might best be called the existential element.  I guess I am looking not merely to celebrate Easter, but to experience Easter all over again.

Does that make sense?

I want the objective to penetrate the subjective.  I want the historical facts surrounding the resurrection of Christ to transition from my head to my heart.  That’s what used to happen every year when I was a young believer.  Maturity has worn off the edges of my excitement.  The joy I found in Jesus which was once only a couple layers deep is now buried under many scars.  The intimacy with the triune God of Scripture is now barely visible at a distance.

Am I beyond hope?

You know that I am not.  The fact that I want to know Christ more intimately is a sure tell sign of spiritual life.  My desire to fellowship with God is an indication that, even if I am not advancing at a rapid pace, I am facing the correct direction.

I guess the seventh item on my list is prayer.  Seventh, I’ll ask my friends to pray with me.  What I would like to happen—to rescue Easter for me isn’t possible by me.  Try as you might, it’s something you can’t accomplish either.  It’s a task only the Lord Himself can handle.  If you might, please pray for me.  And perhaps some of what I have admitted above resonates with you as well.  I’d be happy to pray for you if you sense that need.

Thanks!  Enjoy your celebration of the risen Christ!

PS–My post Lost in Luminary from August 6, 2014 is written on a similar theme.

What we say when we pray: Psalms 1-20

How do you start your prayers?  I was struck recently with how the Psalms begin.  We can learn a lot about prayer by considering the opening verse from each of these ancient prayers.  Will you join me in this quick survey?

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners (1:1)

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? (2:1)

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me (3:1)

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relived me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer (4:1)

Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my groaning (5:1)

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath (6:1)

O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me (7:1)

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens (8:1)

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders (9:1)

Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? (10:1)

In the Lord I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as the bird to you mountain…?”  (11:1)

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men (12:1)

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? (13:1)

The Fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good (14:1)

O, Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (15:1)

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You” (16:1)

Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry;  Give ear to my prayer, which is not from deceitful lips (17:1)

I love You, O Lord, my strength (18:1)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (19:1)

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble (20:1)

Learn anything?  See any application as it relates to your own prayer life?  Do you plan to make any change today?

God is not Aladdin’s genie

“I hope all my customers are like you today.”

That was the comment a customer service representative said to me recently.  I took a risk with my response.  I said,

“Jesus makes me be this way.  Thanks.”

He decided to be vulnerable as well, admitting going to church every Sunday.  He then indicated that good things began happening to him since he started.

I responded with:

“And bad things even when you are being obedient as God desires to glorify Himself and make His children look more and more like His Son. Sometimes He gives them cancer. Sometimes He does other things. It’s all for great reasons. He is worthy to be trusted in the good and what we would call ‘bad.’ That’s a BIG God. A BIG, GOOD GOD.”

Hopefully that down-to-earth approach to theology isn’t foreign to you. It took a car salesman by surprise many years ago when we lived in Las Vegas.

We were shopping for used car and found one that we liked.  We did the research and entered into negotiation with the salesman and, finally, the sales manager.  We settled on a bottom line price that meant a good deal for us while still allowing them to make a little money.  That’s when I decided to take the test drive.  We started out heading west on Sahara Boulevard in order for the saleman to put gas in the tank.  While it was filling, I decided to open the hood (what I would find, I do not know.  I know nothing about engines).  The salesman then commented that I was getting a very good deal, acting a bit surprised that his boss agreed to our terms.  From our discussion on the lot, he knew I was a pastor.  That’s why he stated, standing in front of the car, looking down into the engine, “Good things happen when go to church and pray.”

He did not expect my response!

I told him that, in fact, my soon-to-be-car might actually turn out to be a lemon (a car with a lot of costly issues).  I said that God may choose to grow me closer to the image of His beloved Son by giving me a car that ends up having a lot of problems.  I stated that all I could was pray, make the best decision based upon the facts available and trust God with the results.

We bought the car.  And–thankfully–it turned out to be an awesome car.  We think fondly of that Hyundai  Sonata to this day.  And our theology has not changed.  Then, as now, we reject the concept that God is Aladdin’s genie.  Sometimes He sends trials when we faithfully attend church.  Sometime He puts us in difficult situations when we maintain an active prayer life.

God doesn’t make life easier on His children simply because they are His children.  In reality, He often makes it more challenging.  Why?  Because that’s how He most effectively accomplishes His mission of glorifying Himself and making Christians more like Christ.  And that is exactly what Christians desire!

Are you a believer going through a particularly hard trial?  Rejoice that the Lord knows exactly what He is doing.  Thank Him that He is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnibenevolent (all-good; always merciful).  Your suffering is not in vain.  Rather than rub Aladdin’s vase, trust the Sovereign God!

My Anchors when sea billows roll

“As I looked,

thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.

11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13 “I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:9-14

I have two important anchors that keep me safe during the sea storms of life:  God’s promises and the truth about His character.

The seas of my emotions rock and roll like the external circumstances of my life but my anchors hold because God is immutable.  I change continuously, but God never does.  Consequently, God always remains faithful to His promises. Furthermore, God always acts consistent to His own character. In regards to His sovereignty, this means that God is always in control.  No matter what I experience or how discombobulated my life or our world appears to be, I rejoice in the truth that the Lord is good and does good (Psalm 119:68).  If you are a Christian, Romans 8:28 probably came to your mind already.  It is a wonderful promise for all of God’s people. Everything our omnipotent God does is for His great glory and our great good.  In other words, nothing just happens to me.  Chance and luck do not exist. Both pleasant and unpleasant events are filtered through the hands of the sovereign Potter.  Isn’t this why we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?  Since everything I am facing is from God and since everything is working together for my good, I am to thank Him.  He is doing exactly what I deeply desire for Him to do.  He is glorifying Himself and making me more glorious, continuing that good work He alone began (Phil. 1:6). Through the difficulties I am facing, and will face in the future, I am comforted to know that I am progressing from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).

Are you encouraged as you think about these biblical truths?  If you know God the Father through God the Son, these facts work wonders in your soul and fuel your faith for persevering during the dark and disturbing days when the  sea billows roll. They serve to keep your small boat from capsizing due to the impressive waves.

Last Sunday, our pastor reminded us of the greatness of God from the passage in Daniel quoted above.  Reread those verses and rejoice in the Ancient of Days.  Truly, Jesus  Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  How thankful we are that theology penetrates our trenches!

Reading Reflections: When Fish Fly

In the last chapter of the book When Fish Fly, authors John Yokoyama and Joseph Michelli include the following quote attributed to President Woodrow Wilson:

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand” (p. 142).*

That quote accurately sums up the content in this short, but helpful book about “World Famous Pike Place Fish Market” in Seattle, WA.  Although I felt that the clear absence of Christ in the ethic promoted by the book was a genuine weakness, I found the quotes below helpful in my desire to be better in my customer service skills as well as my hope to be a God-exalting, people-blessing individual.

“Hundreds of times a day, I ask myself, ‘Who am I being right now?'” (p.38)

“Our staff has truly incorporated ‘listening to make a difference’ into their way of being with one another and with customers. They offer one another and the people they serve a safe environment to have the experience of being known and appreciated” (p.100).

“It is sad how many people are walking around with a deep need and desire to be heard” (p.101).

“Do you typically listen to make a difference, or do you usually listen to defend yourself” (p.103)?

“When people discover what it means to make a difference, it creates for them a new world and gives meaning to their work” (p.138).

*Hyperion, New York, 2004.

PS–If you want to see World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in action, check out the Fish Cam on the bottom of the fish market (keep in mind they operate in the Pacific time zone).