Friday, January 24, 2014

Three Signs Personal Revival is Needed

Here are 3 signs that personal revival is needed:

1) You struggle to be merciful and forgiving toward others.

2) You cannot be still in silence or solitude.

3) You do not want to be with other followers of Jesus.

A bit of an explanation and some remedies:

#1: If you are harboring anger or resentment toward another person, it is because you feel they owe you something. It may be as simple as an apology or as serious as a prison sentence. Regardless, this sense of "deserving justice" reveals that in your own heart you believe you are worthy of due payment. 
     On the contrary, the person in a vibrant walk with Jesus Christ doesn't feel like they deserve a thing. Instead, their heart is overwhelmed at two things: (1) The ugliness of their many sins and (2) The extravagance of God's free grace. We accept our poverty of spirit as something we deserve, and yet marvel that God would fill us with the treasures of His grace. The result of this is not a sense of others owing us, but rather as Romans 13 describes, we respond by paying what we owe: the obligation to love one another. We possess the treasury of forgiveness and can freely dispense it to others. We see the multitude of our sins and see ourselves as the chief of sinners. Others' sins pale in comparison to our heinous actions before a Holy God. 
    If you are struggling with mercy and forgiveness, take inventory of your own soul before a Holy God. Which of the commandments have you disobeyed (hint: it's most/all of them)? What would you owe God apart from Jesus' payment on the Cross? Then pray for and receive God's grace. May this grace revive your heart to forgive whoever has a much smaller debt against you than you ever did before the LORD.

#2: If you cannot turn your phone off, avoid social media for a few days, or allow an hour or two each day with no music, movies, or gadgets, freedom is needed. You are enslaved to relationships. You are dependent on distraction. Most likely, this means your own heart is empty, depleted, and dry. 
    The remedy, according to John 4 (which is a tale of a needy woman who needed a man to be satisfied), is to have a fresh encounter with Jesus. Find a place where no-one else is around. Listen again to His voice (the Word of God). Believe once again that he alone is the spring of living water that satisfies the soul. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill the emptiness. Pray that the Father would remind you of his tender mercy. And here's the kicker, keep the gadgets away until you experience the peace that passes understanding. It may be hours before you can detox from the frenzy, but Christ is worthy of our devotion. We either believe Christ is sufficient or we believe something else is. One response brings salvation, the other, death.

#3: If you dislike worshipping with other Christians, constantly prefer any activity besides Bible study, or have 10 reasons why non-Christians are better to hang with than Christ-followers, something is wrong with you (not them). Because I already know (and so do you) that every Christian is a sinner. Every Christian is a hypocrite at some point during the day. Every Christian will hurt you and fail you in some way. BUT (and notice that it was a big but), only Christians will help you keep Christ at the center of your life. Only Christians will say Jesus Christ is the due north that guides all our travels. When you are ready to roll with those who won't challenge you to run after Jesus, you are in need of revival.
   The remedy probably starts with 2 things. First, you will probably need to identify how other Christians have failed you and sinned against you. Then you'll need to work toward forgiveness (see #1 for help there). Second, you'll need to probably confess your own sins. When I've struggled with this sort of thing, I've often discovered an unforgiving spirit, pride and judgmentalism to be the leading culprits. I confess  my sin before God, and then ask the Holy Spirit to give me a deep love for fellow sinners/saints who He has put in my life and church to help me become more like Jesus. The love that is called for in 1 Corinthians 13 is the kind of love the occurs when I'm dealing with difficult and sinful people. Thanks be to God, I can love because Christ first loved me.
   And one bonus idea...the goal of life is not to be happy and free from pain. Rather, the goal is conformity to Christ in Word and Deed. Suffering (even at the hands of Christians) is God's school for transformation...even Christ learned obedience through what he suffered (and often through those fellow believers who said they loved him and would never leave him). Like Paul in Philippians 3, may the Spirit move us to want to know Christ even through the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. All efforts at love and obedience will be rewarded at the resurrection.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Type-Writer Vs. the I-Pad

Two writers who had never met found themselves sharing the same table at an over-crowded coffee shop one Thursday afternoon. The first writer was a fifty-four year old gentleman, wearing a nice cardigan sweater and khaki pants. The second writer was a twenty-nine year old, female college professor. She wore blue jeans under a white spring dress. Both had an air of confidence and composure.

The gentleman typed on his keypad with his I-pad turned horizontal upon the table.

The young lady typed on a manual type-writer of a more recent vintage.

Within minutes the noise of the manual type-writer got on the nerves of the man. Eventually, he felt compelled to speak, "Ma'am, is there anyway you could conduct your business with a bit more quiescence?"

The young lady raised her head with a clear expression of annoyance. She responded, "I'm sorry sir, but this is how my device works. I'd move to another place in the shop, but all the tables are full. Do you mind if I continue?"

"No, not at all," replied the man, though with a tone that expressed that he did mind quite a bit.

A few minute interlude commenced where the woman continued to type. The man's nerves reacted again to the pounding of the keys. Finally, he said, "Ma'am, might I ask you what provoked you to use such an ancient writing device?"

Her keying stopped momentarily, with her fingers suspended over the keys, demonstrating a clear displeasure for a second interruption, she replied, "I find I am generally less distracted when I use devices not connected to the internet." She quickly went back to her work.

"Oh...I see," said the man. "But do you find it an inconvenience to not be able to save your work or easily edit your pages?"

The woman made a resolution to desist from work and engage in the conversation. She turned and answered, "There are definitely drawbacks to this different technology, but I find many of the perks quite rewarding."

"Oh, do explain, please," petitioned the man.

"Well," the woman pointing now to the I-Pad, "My device doesn't need an outlet or a battery. I don't have to search high and low for a wi-fi cafe. I don't need a printer. I am never interrupted by an email or a request to update my software. I don't get sidetracked checking Twitter or Facebook. And when I want to use an intentionally eye-catching grammatical error, it is not corrected by auto-correct. There are just a few. Do you mind if I get back to work now?"

"Certainly, certainly," hinted the man, but he couldn't stop from speaking, "I bet for a girl your age the type-writer is a bit of a novelty. But I grew up learning to type on those things with all my classmates. I remember the ink getting on my clothes. I remember the mechanical glitches. I'm thankful to be done with that ol' fashioned toy and to have now moved onto the height of 21st century ingenuity."

"Yes," remarked the girl (with a sassy air to be sure), "I find most people in your generation ready to throw out the old and move onto the new without much hesitation."

The man cleared his voice, "Excuse me, young lady..."

"Yeah, my dad moved on from my mom when she got a bit too old too. Then also, he raised me on church, integrity, and faithfulness. But it seems those three things got ol' fashioned too and he's moved on to bigger and better things. Now, Sunday is for golf, integrity is history, and faithfulness lasts as long as his 3-month long relationships with his 35 year-old girlfriends."

"Now, you just wait a minute, missy. Just because you have some unfortunate experiences with your father, doesn't mean you can just go around accusing every person in his generation you meet."

"True enough Mister. I'm just sick of every person I meet thinking something that is new, flashy, and fashionable is of greater value than something that has gone before. It is the old ideas and old inventions that have stood the test of time. Just because something works for now or is accepted now doesn't mean it's not another 'advance' in humanity's devolution. I'll take my grandparents type-writer and their ol' fashioned morals, not because they are popular, but because they seem to bring about a deeper joy and livelihood than the 2.0 models and ideas of the 21st century."