Archive for April, 2011
My heart is burdened for the salvation of my children. As I read Scripture, I am convinced of God’s absolute control over the affairs of this life. This control includes the salvation of my children, for it is He who opens and hardens hearts:
Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.
Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
Acts 16:13-15 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Romans 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Does this mean that I give up? Do I despair in my own inability to save my children? The Scripture doesn’t permit me to sit idle; neither does it allow me to hide my light under a basket (Matthew 5:16). As an ambassador of Christ and a steward of His gospel, I must proclaim the good news for in it resides the power of God to open hearts and save sinners (Romans 1:16). I bow my knees in prayer and plead with the God of the universe to open the hearts of the unsaved so that they can understand the gospel. I must not shrink back in shame; rather, I must boldly proclaim God’s solution to man’s most serious problem. Satan hates the gospel and seeks to destroy those who proclaim it. Don’t give him opportunity. Resist the Devil, draw the sword of God’s word (Ephesians 6:17), march triumphantly through the gates of Hell, and proclaim the good news of Christ to those who are held captive to do Satan’s will. For when you do, Satan will flee and you will observe God’s power to save sinners and destroy the works of the devil.
Last year for Christmas my wife bought me a Georgia Tech coffee mug. As expected, it has become my favorite cup. Nate, my 2 year old son, has a favorite cup as well. His cup is a “sippy cup” decorated with various characters from the movie Cars. It is made specifically for kids who would rather spill juice than drink it. I do not expect Nate to drink from my cup; neither does he expect ‘Dad’ to drink from his. I have my cup; Nate has his. Two different cups….two different people.
Let’s suppose that I made Nate drink out of my cup. Better yet, let’s imagine that I bought a Georgia Tech cup for each member of my family and demanded that they only drink from it. Would you label me as “Crazy”, “A Fanatic”, “A Nut”?
I agree. Demanding everyone to drink out of the same container is ludicrous. Which is more important? The container, or the contents which the container holds?
When speaking of “new life,” Jesus often used the metaphor of “water.” While conversing with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, Jesus contrasted physical water from spritual water: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John4:13-14).
Too many churches will only pour the living water into something they like or would pick up. Churches are dying on the vine because they won’t trust the gospel to fit and fill containers with handles they don’t like. Only in Jesus Christ did the container and content become one.
Although Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), the containers used to share Him are always changing. Our task is to pour the living water into anything anyone will pick up. This is the point of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.
If the church is going to reach the growing “unchurched” community, then we must be like the Apostle Paul and be willing to present the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ in different ways. By the way, which is more important? The container? Or the contents which the container holds?
Occasionally on a Sunday afternoon my children will approach me in great excitement with the words, “Dad lets go on a nature walk!” tumbling off their tongue. Like a bear awaken from slumber, I slowly rise from the sofa, yawn, place my shoes on my feet, and stumble out the door. The brisk wind blankets my face, and the sunlight blurs the image of Nate and Abby skipping to the pasture gate.
On this particular walk, I am overwhelmed with the vastness and beauty of God’s creation. The sky is clear as crystal and the sun’s brilliance illuminates the earth below. My children are unaware that the ground which their feet are trotting is moving at a speed 67,000 miles per hour in relation to the sun. The sun, which seems a stones throw away, is a stunning 93 million miles from home; a distance so great that it would take 176 years to travel moving at a speed of 60 miles per hour. This immenseness propelled David to write in Psalm 8, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Our walk leads to the outskirts of the family farm where a creek serves as a boundary. Nate’s walking turns to sprinting when he hears the gurgle of the water and sees the refraction of the sun’s light. Along the way Nate has collected a few stones which he intends to display at the rock throwing contest against his big sister. The excess water from the winter rains provides a sufficient amount of water for a few stones. For a brief period of time I observe my children giggle and laugh as they toss their rocks into the water hoping their rock causes the greatest disturbance.
Apparently, Nate isn’t satisfied with the performance of his rocks, so at the approval of his big sister and the amazement of his dad, he jumps into the chilly waters. In sheer panic, I sprint to the creek’s edge and grab Nate and pull him from the water. I stripped him of his clothes, wrapped him in my coat, and we began our journey back home.
This experience with my children has made me think about the rocks I toss to God. How often do we toss our rocks to God, walk away and assume that He’s pleased with our service? We write our tithe checks, listen to Christian music, read the Scriptures, and faithfully attend services while our hearts are often far from Him. I find it interesting that Jesus’ anger was most often directed to the “religious” people of His day: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). When we read the Scriptures we discover that God isn’t interested in our rocks. He is interested in our hearts. Only when God has our hearts will He be satisfied with our stones.