Friday, October 30, 2009

Looking back on a year of weekly mission quotes

“Most Christian ministries would like to send their recruits to Bible college for five years. I would like to send our recruits to hell for five minutes. That would do more than anything else to prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army in 1865

“The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred German pastor

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages." To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here."

“I have but one passion -- it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field, and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.”
Count Nikolus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, German nobleman and leader of the Moravian Church

“That the Lamb who was slain would receive the reward of His suffering.”
The mission statement of the Moravian Church

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa... Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”
David Livingstone, pioneer missionary explorer to Africa, 1840-1873 (an appeal to the students of
Cambridge University, December 4, 1857)

"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done in China... I don't know who it was... It must have been a man... a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing... and God looked down... and saw Gladys Aylward... and God said, 'Well, she's willing.'"
Gladys Aylward, missionary to China from 1932 to 1949. One of the most remembered single woman missionaries even though a mission board had turned her down due to "poor academic showing."

"There are grave difficulties on every hand, and more are looming ahead -- therefore, we must go forward."
William Carey, missionary to India, 1761-1834

"It is always helpful to us to fix our attention on the God-ward aspect of Christian work; to realize that the work of God does not mean so much man's work for God, as God's own work through man.”
James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, 1853-1905, and founder of the China Inland Mission, which is now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship or OMF

“No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into worship where there is no passion for worship.”
John Piper, author of Let the Nations be Glad!

“The plea of inability is the worst excuse. It slanders God so, charging Him with infinite tyranny in commanding men to do that which they have no power to do. All pleas and excuses for not submitting to God are acts of rebellion. It is not because they cannot do what God commands, but because they are unwilling.”
Charles Finney (1792-1875), an evangelistic preacher and revivalist during what came to be known as the Second Great Awakening in the United States

“Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. I challenge you to pray this prayer: ‘Lord, be ruthless with me in revealing my selfish ambition and my lack of willingness to die to myself.’ I guarantee that He will answer your prayer – and quickly.”
Floyd McClung, author and missions spokesman

"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become!"
Henry Martyn, a missionary to the Muslims of Persia and India, 1805-1812; he translated the New Testament into Urdu before dying at 31 years of age.

"To focus our attention outward, to grow as world Christians, is really not an option at all. Looking to the needs, concerns, and opportunities of our world in the same way that our Lord would is a basic part of identifying ourselves with Him."
Paul Borthwick, author of A Mind for Missions and speaker at Missionfest Manitoba 2009

“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer... It is the key to the whole mission problem. All human means are secondary.”
Samuel Zwemer, became known as the "Apostle to Islam" in his pioneer work among the Muslims of Arabia and Egypt, 1890-1929

“We seem to have a strange idea of Christian service. We will buy books, travel miles to hear a speaker on blessings, pay large sums to hear a group singing the latest Christian songs – but we forget that we are soldiers.”
George Verwer, speaker at Missionfest Manitoba 2009, and the
founder and international director of Operation Mobilisation (OM), a mission agency in which over 5,400 OMers are working in over 110 countries to bring the Gospel to literally millions of people.

"There are three stages in the work of God: Impossible, Difficult, Done."
James Hudson Taylor, missionary to
China, 1853-1905, and founder of the China Inland Mission, which is now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship or OMF

“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for 55 years, from 1895 until her death in 1951, and founder of Dohnavur Fellowship, a ministry that primarily reached out to children who were child widows, temple prostitutes or orphans.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot, honour student and all-star athlete, and on January 8, 1956, five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to."
Elisabeth Elliot, widow of Jim Elliot who was martyred as a missionary in 1956 (see last week's quote of Jim Elliot)

"Christians spend more money on dog food than missions."
Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), author and evangelist

“There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams – all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun.”
Floyd McClung, author and missions spokesman

“There are no closed doors to the gospel - provided that, once you get inside, you don't care if you ever come out.”
Brother Andrew, author of God's Smuggler and
founder of Open Doors, an agency devoted to serving persecuted Christians throughout the world

“As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”
David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in New England from 1743 to 1746. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 in 1747

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
C. T. Studd, an illustrious and wealthy college student and athlete who gave up a life of certain affluence and prestige to become a missionary to China, India, and Africa, 1885-1931

“It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions.”
John R. Mott, one of the most influential figures of the Student Volunteer Movement, which was a revival of missions involvement that saw at least 20,500 students volunteer sent out to foreign mission fields throughout a fifty year time period (beginning in 1886), which during that time, represented about half of the total Protestant overseas missions force. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his efforts to mobilize students to better the world, and is known as "one of the most influential world religious leaders of the twentieth century." (as per historian, Ruth A. Tucker)

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
William Carey, missionary to India, 1761-1834

"'Not called!' did you say? ‘Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army in 1865

"We should not ask, 'What is wrong with the world?' for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, 'What has happened to the salt and light?'"
John R.W. Stott, author and theologian

"God only uses dead people."
Bishop George Gichana, church planter and pastor in western Kenya

"We talk of the second coming. Half the world has never heard of the first!"
Oswald J. Smith, a pastor, evangelist and missionary statesman who founded the People's Church in Toronto in 1928, a church that is currently supporting 153 nationals and over 300 missionaries around the world.

"To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of this world as well. They are at ease while the world burns; and they can furnish many convincing reasons for their conduct, even quoting Scripture if you press them a bit. I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the Fall of Man."
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), pastor, preacher and author

"There really is no cost -- only the privilege of serving the King of Kings."
Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary doctor to the Congo from 1953 to 1973, and who stayed there through Congo's civil war of the 1960's during which she was taken prisoner, beaten and raped, and frequently threatened with death. She was eventually rescued, but after the war, she returned to the Congo to help the nation rebuild.

"God will reveal the glory of His kingdom among all peoples. We are within range of finishing the task, with more momentum than ever before in history. Be a part of it – 'Declare His glory among the nations!'”
Ralph Winter (1924-2009), founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and writer of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

"Make no mistake. God honours those who seek His work above their worries.”
Ralph Winter (1924-2009), founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and writer of
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

"It is not enough to have a Christian presence in every place, but also to have followers of Jesus in every people.”
Patrick Johnstone, co-compiler and co-writer of Operation World, a book that chronicles what God is doing in every country of the world and lists how we can pray for each country

"True evangelical faith cannot be dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people.”
Menno Simons (1496-1561), an anabaptist leader whose followers became known as Mennonites

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and together, we can change the world."
Ron Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

"God had an only Son and He made Him a missionary."
David Livingstone, pioneer missionary explorer to Africa, 1840-1873

"Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can't commend what you don't cherish."
John Piper, author of Let the Nations be Glad!

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell."
C.T. Studd, an illustrious and wealthy college student and athelete who gave up a life of certain affluence and prestige to become a missionary to China, India and Africa, 1885-1931

"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light."
John Keith Falconer (1856-1887), Arabic scholar at Cambridge University who became a missionary to Yemen for the last two years of his life before he died of malaria at 32 years of age

"We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own. Yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don't wonder that apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has."
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for 55 years, from 1895 until her death in 1951, and founder of Dohnavur Fellowship, a ministry that primarily reached out to children who were child widows, temple prostitutes or orphans.

"God is a missionary God. The Bible is a missionary book. The Gospel is a missionary message. The church is a missionary institution. And when the church ceases to be missionary minded, it has denied its faith and betrayed its trust.
J. Herbert Kane, author and mission historian

"The way I see it, we ought to be willing to die. In the military, we are taught that to obtain our objectives, we have to be willing to be expendable. Missionaries must face that same expendability."
Nate Saint, missionary pilot who was martyred on January 8, 1956 when five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and three other missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus."
Jim Elliot, honour student and all-star athlete, and on January 8, 1956, five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"Prayer is the greatest power God has put into our hands for service — praying is harder than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom."
Mary Slessor, missionary pioneer to tribal peoples in the rain forests of present day Nigeria from 1876 to 1915. She brought the Gospel and addressed significant justice issues among previously unreached peoples.

"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity."
Mike Stachura, pastor and former president of Operation Mobilization USA

"I never care for a crowd, only for one person. If I visualized a crowd I would never get started. The important thing is the individual. I believe in a person to person approach.... The greatest illness is not leprosy, but rather the feeling of not being accepted. The greatest scourge is indeed to forget the next person, above all when the next person is Christ Himself."
Mother Teresa (1910-1997), missionary to Kolkata, India and founder of the Missionaries of Charity

“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.”
Frank Mead, author

"Only if significant numbers of dedicated Christians will think small will anything come of the big plans that our missions, our churches, and our schools might have for the rest of the world. What would have come of God's plans to save the world if Jesus had succumbed to the temptation to think on such a grand scale as to have no time for the blind, the crippled, the little children, the gawking crowds?"
Jonathan Bonk, past missionary, missiologist and author

"We can either try to convince others in the arena of the mind or we can approach people in the arena of the heart. For the most part, traditional approaches to evangelism go head-to-head instead of heart-to-heart... [but] we truly enter the lives of others in evangelism when we touch their hearts."
Steve Sjogren, pastor, evangelist and author

"The whole history of the Church is one long story of this tendency to settle down on this earth and to become conformed to this world, to find acceptance and popularity here and to eliminate the element of conflict and of pilgrimage. That is the trend and the tendency of everything. Therefore outwardly, as well as inwardly, pioneering is a costly thing."
T. Austin-Sparks (1888-1971), evangelist and author

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
"As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you." (John 20:21)
Jesus Christ, Son of God, the same yesterday, today and forever!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walking the Word (church bulletin cover)

I've heard people described as being a man or woman "of the Word." Of course, I know that to mean that such people are "in the Word" a lot -- reading God's Word, the Bible, a great deal. It must also mean that they know the Word of God very well, remembering what they've read. But if someone can be described as a person "of the Word," it must also mean that they live according to what God's Word says.

Psalm 119, a long psalm written entirely about the importance of God's Word in our lives, begins with a verse that says, "How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord." As I read that, I'm struck with a question: How much of my life is actually spent living according to what I've read and remember from God's Word? In other words, how much of my "walk" reflects the Word of God?

I'm not talking about being some legalist who introspectively measures every moment of every day and beats myself up for straying the tiniest bit from what I know the Bible to teach. I simply mean, how conscious am I of God's Word throughout each day that God gives me to live for Him? How mindful am I to deliberately love the people I meet, to be thankful for every circumstance, to rejoice always and to share the Gospel with others just as God's Word commands me to? Yes, all of those things are commands in God's Word. Commands I'm meant to obey by the grace and strength God promises to those who know Him. That's how I can truly be a man of the Word -- by walking in the law of the Lord. It's only by walking the words I read in God's Word that I will truly be a man of the Word.

So please join me in seeking God's abundant help to live each day according to what we learn from His Word. After all, that is the exercise we need to grow stronger in walking God's Word.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, October 19, 2009

Remembering that I'm beyond reproach!

I've had a few moments in the last couple days where I really overreacted to people who meant me no harm and I had to go back and humbly apologize to them. I felt terrible for how I'd treated people who are my friends. It's left my soul feeling low today, and I could feel our enemy creeping at my door accusing me of being all kinds of nasty things. I even went so far as to start talking down to myself -- you might know the kinds of childish things some of us choose to call ourselves when we blow it and our pride gets touched. And as the day drew to a close, I had to ask myself, is this a road I want to continue down tomorrow? No.

So I looked back to something I wrote in a journal I keep as I read my Bible. It was an entry regarding a chapter of what has become my favourite book in the Bible. The verse I had focused on says this: "yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through [His] death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Colossians 1:22).

It's not uncommon for me to struggle to see myself the way God declares me to be. When I mess up, my pride wants to put me down. Mistakes are not allowed, and pride wants to call every fender-bender a write-off. And then if someone offers me a compliment, I want to dismiss it as I magnify my failings enough to cancel out anything good I might have done. What a case. But the truth is -- I actually am a failure! And no compliment can compensate for the sins I've committed against God, and I deserve God's punishment! And that is exactly where Jesus Christ enters the picture. And that is why Colossians 1:22 is such a great encouragement to me.

Paul made it extremely clear in Colossians 1:22 that it's because of Christ's death on the cross that God can declare me "holy and blameless and beyond reproach"! Me! I'm all those things! But not because of anything good that I've done. It's all because of Jesus. Through His death, He rescued me (1:13), redeemed me (1:14), has forgiven me (1:14) and has reconciled me (1:20). And the reason Christ's death on the cross can accomplish all this for someone who blows it all the time (the way I know I can do) is because the shedding of Jesus' blood "made peace" (1:20) between God and those who put their faith in Jesus. God says, "You may mess up, but I've paid the penalty for every mess you've ever made so that there can now be peace between you and Me, and I can call you holy, blameless and beyond reproach any moment of any day!" Wow.

And because such a statement is based on what Jesus did on the cross rather than on my performance, it means that such wonderful declarations are no divine whim that could change back to wrath without warning the next time I mess up! They're as true for me today as they are every day, even though today was yet another unpleasant reminder of how much I need this wonderful gift of forgiveness God offers us. And if I have faith in that (which I do)... to stay discouraged because of today's failings is to minimize the infinite value of what Jesus did for me on the cross. I'm not going to do that. I'm encouraged now!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And one more thing! (church bulletin cover)

Imagine that you're giving instructions on how to live for God-- a quick list of bullet points -- to a group of people you care a great deal about. You mention compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience and peace, forgiveness and forbearance, and of course, love. And before you move on to other thoughts, you find there's one more thing you want to mention. What would be the item you'd want to make sure you added?

I find it interesting that the apostle Paul appeared to be in such a position as he wrote to the Colossians. He lists all those qualities one after another, and not as bullet points, but in flowing sentences with caring explanations for some of those items (see Colossians 3:12-15). And then there was one more item he wanted to add -- an instruction that stands alone, emphasized by its singularity: "And be thankful" (Col. 3:15).

That's what Paul wanted to make sure he included. Nothing else he mentions in this passage sounds quite so blunt and forceful. "And be thankful." And though none of the other qualities he had just listed are repeated before he quickly concludes this paragraph, he mentions thankfulness two more times before he's ready to move on to other thoughts: "...singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (3:16), and in verse 17 he says, "And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Gratitude mattered to Paul when he considered how we're to live for God. When he said, "And be thankful", I don't believe it was an idle afterthought. It was an emphasis. It was important enough to him to mention it three times. It's as though Paul was saying, "Whatever isn't taken care of by all the above items I've listed will certainly be covered if you're thankful in whatever circumstances you face!"

So if you're ever talking to yourself about something you're going through -- speaking to your soul to get yourself back on track -- make a point of always adding one last thought to whatever you're thinking: And be thankful! It's an expression of faith and trust in God that helps us to see whatever we're going through in its proper perspective. It acknowledges that God is above anything we're facing. Anything. It's a command that is always relevant: And be thankful!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Friday, October 9, 2009

For the love of fonts!

I'm known as the Document Guy at the office. Or sometimes Captain Document. It's because I'm the only one who seems to care at all about a million itty-bitty picky little details when creating a document for distribution (I wrote a post about how I was actually convicted about this recently).

I'm picky about what grade of paper we use. I pay attention to whether there's a space of four one hundredths of an inch or six one hundredths of an inch between an inserted photo and the text that appears next to it. I generally shun clip art as overly desktoppish. And I may be a bit of a font snob. I tend to find many of the Windows default fonts as too old and stale to use, so I download newer ones for a fresher look. Perhaps that's why I find the following video so amusing.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Dad!

My dad turned 75 today. Three-quarters of a century and going strong. It makes me feel like the son of a patriarch when I put it that way. In fact, I'm as proud of my dad as if he were a patriarch. He's a godly example to both his kids and his grandkids. He loves Jesus and loves to live for Him.

I didn't always get along that great with my dad, but somewhere along the way, I grew up enough to appreciate him. And somewhere along the way, he met Jesus in a way that changed him forever. I don't mean changed all at once into some perfect guy. I mean continually changing -- growing in God year after year -- and still growing now! He's become an example to me in how he shares the love of Jesus with his friends. He's an example to me in his incredible generosity to his family. He's a challenge to me in how he stands up for what he believes is right.

And despite my reluctance to listen to a word he said in those crazy childhood and adolescent days, my dad somehow managed to impart many valuable lessons to me that are still a help to me today. Though I didn't even realize it at the time, his values were shaping mine, becoming a part of who I grew up to be, and I'll always be grateful for that.

Simple things. Like I still remember the day he taught a little boy named Kenny how to sweep a garage floor without creating a cloud of dust. "Keep the broom nice and close to the floor after you push," he instructed me. Sure enough, that kept the dust down.

Insightful things. Like when he sent me downstairs to get a tool, and I came back saying it was too high for me to reach. Though I was quite young when this happened, I still remember his response: "If that had been a candy I'd sent you down for, you'd have found a way to reach it!" As he went downstairs to get his tool, I sat there guiltily thinking how right he was!

Personal things. I can recall how he helped me to face up to how prone I was to being defensive (as I still can be). He'd overheard me talking with some friends and later told me privately how unfriendly I sounded due to how defensive I'd been with them. As he walked away, I remember thinking about defensive players in football and wondering how on earth I was behaving like them. It was somewhat later when I finally realized what he'd meant!

Deeply meaningful things. As long as I remember earning money in jobs outside our home, which I began to do when I was about 10 or 11, I remember tithing. I don't remember my Dad teaching me about tithing, but I do remember that he tithed. I don't even know how I know that he did. He must have told me. But however he communicated that value to me, it led me to want to follow his example, and it's been a reflex ever since. And I'm sure that it's the main reason why God has blessed me in the area of provision as much as He has to this day. Check out Malachi 3:10 if you don't believe me.

God has given us His teachings "which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments" (Psalm 78:5-7).

My Dad and I may not have always gotten along in those early days, but I still looked to him for many cues and learned many good things from him. I'm especially thankful that he raised me to know God and to follow God, and that I can now teach my children to do the same. And now, as he turns 75 today, I truly consider him a friend and thank him for his influence on my life as the patriarch of the Peters clan.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking through the right lenses

I'm reading a book called Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell W. Johnson. Johnson describes the book as an expository journey through the Book of Revelation. If you're looking for an uplifting book that unpacks how applicable the apocalypse is to our everyday lives, try this one! I was greatly encouraged today as I read what he had gleaned from Revelation, chapter 4. Here's a sample that I hope will turn you gaze upward and place God in the center of your vision and at the center of your world!

Scripture never promises that the visible circumstances of life will proclaim the sovereignty of God. The visible circumstances often call the sovereignty of God into question. That is when we need to put on Revelation 4 glasses!...

"From the throne proceed flashes of lightening and rumblings and peals of thunder"... The imagery tells us that we are, after all, dealing with Someone terribly awesome. The God who calls us into his presence, who calls us to himself, who invites us into tender intimacy is, after all, bigger than the whole universe, more massively powerful than anything we have ever known. And the imagery tells us why we must pay attention. The imagery tells us why we dare not play games with God. We are dealing with sheer greatness...

"And there was a rainbow around the throne"... The rainbow is the symbol of God's mercy and faithfulness. We need it to be there after seeing
[the thunder and lightening that] comes from the throne! The rainbow declares that the holy One welcomes the unholy -- it is "safe to come." The rainbow declares that we can trust the living One when he judges. His judgments are merciful and his mercy is just. The rainbow declares that we can dare to dream of a new creation, for the One who promises keeps his promise...

Looking through the lenses of Revelation 4 we realize that the great end of life is knowing, and loving, and serving, and enjoying the great King... ...The single, most reliable indication that our vision is clear is that we are a worshipping people. People who worship with their lips and hearts, with their minds and bodies. People who worship with their words and deeds. People who surrender everything to the One who sits on the throne.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What I can miss in my diligence

I can be pretty diligent in my service to God. So much so that I can end up, for example, working late into the night, strenuously pecking at a keyboard and masterfully maneuvering my mouse to make sure some document I'm creating has the just the right font and everything is properly spaced and formatted. And while there's nothing wrong with striving for excellence, I can't help but wonder if I'm overdoing it just a tad as I read what Jesus said to the pharisees in Luke 11:42. They too were trying to be very diligent in their service to God as they paid their "tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb". They didn't miss much in their commitment to God. They even made sure that their tithe included "every kind of garden herb". They weren't gonna miss one leaf.

But Jesus was concerned with much larger things that the pharisees had missed. He said that they "neglect justice and the love of God." Jesus wasn't opposed to diligence or to giving God a full tithe. In fact, He said in verse 43 that they should have brought their tithes without neglecting the other things. But woe to anyone who thinks that hyper-diligence or accurate tithing (or the perfect font) will be good enough to cancel out a lack of concern for justice or a lack of affection for God. What Jesus is after is a transformed heart rather than what I call selective obedience. Selective obedience strives hard at what I want to do well at for God. But a transformed heart is filled with a motivating concern for the things that concern God, such as my relationship with Him and the plight of the vulnerable around me.

Speaking of vulnerable, that's how I feel as I consider this. Vulnerable to being so busy with picky-little-details that I don't have time for a poor refugee family in need of assistance -- or of simple friendship -- or to have time for a meaningful relationship with the God who called me to the very work I'm so busy with. The solution is simply making sure that what I do throughout each day -- and how much time I spend at what I do -- is in fact precisely what God actually calls me to do. And I know that will always include time spent with the God I love and time spent expressing that love to others.

© 2009 by Ken Peters