Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Alien Place

“...Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind” (Jeremiah 19:3-5).

The Bible speaks of Jerusalem as the “holy city.” It is so designated because it had been set apart by God for special purposes. It was home to the Temple, the location God had chosen for His name and presence to dwell. It was recognized as the center of worship and government for the people of God. But by the time Jeremiah spoke the words of God recorded above, Jerusalem had become spiritually unrecognizable. As the prophet and some of the leaders of Judah stood in the southern part of the city overlooking the Hinnom valley, an strange landscape filled their eyes. Perhaps the acrid smoke of idolatrous sacrifices rose to fill their nostrils. Perhaps chants of devotion to false gods rose to fill their ears. The holy city had become “an alien place”, something far removed from the original plans and purposes of God.

What happened to Jerusalem can also happen to human hearts. A heart devoted to the service of God is a “holy place.” It is a dwelling place of the Father. But when wickedness is allowed to enter and grow, the landscape begins to change. Bit by bit, God is forced out. And before long, a heart once devoted to God becomes “an alien place.”

Lord, please help me never to let my own heart become a place that You would not recognize.

God loves you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The "Hughes" Approach

“In April 2003, National Public Radio aired a news story about a standoff between an angry mob of Iraqi Shiites and a heavily armored patrol from the American 101st Airborne Division. Fearing that the soldiers were about to desecrate their holy shrine, hundreds of unarmed civilians pressed in toward the soldiers, waving their hands and shouting defiantly. Although the patrol’s intentions were peaceful, the standoff would most likely have ended in tragedy – had it not been for the quick thinking of U.S. Lt. Col. Christopher Hughes. The commanding officer that day, Hughes picked up a loudspeaker and barked three simple commands to his group. First, he told them to take a knee; second, to point their weapons toward the ground; and finally, to look up and give everyone in the hostile crowd a friendly smile. Within moments of obeying his orders, NPR reported, the troops saw the crowd’s demeanor transform. Hostility and defiance melted away, as smiles and friendly pats on the back replaced shaking fists and screaming voices” (Doug Pollock, Outreach, July\August 2005).

What a great model for interacting with those who need to hear about Jesus! Our efforts to share the good news with unbelievers can get off on the wrong foot when we approach them in a “hostile” way. No, I’m not talking about threatening anyone with physical violence if they don’t listen. That would obviously be ungodly as well as unproductive. But “hostility” can be conveyed in less overt ways. Such as refusing to listen. Such as assuming an “I’m right and your wrong” attitude. Such as using the Bible as a club. Such as ridiculing cherished religious traditions. These kinds of tactics just close minds and close doors.

Why not try the “Hughes” approach of outreach? Approach others with a sense of humility (kneel down). Don’t interact as if you are looking for a fight (lower your weapons). And look for opportunities to share how God has made a difference in your life (smile). You may be surprised just how well it works!

God loves you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2).

Right away, in the first two verses of Scripture, we begin to learn something very important about the God of the universe. We learn that God is interested in bringing order to chaos. When God set out to fashion our world, did you notice what He started with? It is described as formless, empty, and dark. The rest of Genesis chapter one speaks of how God took that chaotic turmoil and set it in order. He took the formless and gave it form. He filled the emptiness. He brought light to the darkness. And by the time He was finished, the final product bore no resemblance to the starting point. The world God provided for the human race to fill and govern was “very good” in every way.

May I suggest that what God did with our physical world in the beginning is also what He desires to do in our personal lives? He wants to bring order to the chaos. The ravages of sin make a real mess in human lives. We suffer from the emptiness and darkness that come when we are alienated from our Creator. We struggle to bring some sense of order to our fractured lives but soon realize that our best efforts are futile.

Only God has the ability to straighten out the mess we have made. Only God can take the chaos and transform it into something beautiful. When we choose to become a child of God by grace through a living faith, we receive forgiveness and the gift of God’s Spirit. And that same Spirit “hovers” over our lives from that point on, as the Instrument of God’s re-creative and transforming power. “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

God loves you!

Monday, January 3, 2011

This Isn't Mr Roger's Neighborhood

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

During a bible study, a friend shared this reading of John 1:14 from The Message, a modern paraphrase of the Bible. While not a literal translation of the words of the original text, this version often does a pretty good job of putting the message of the Scriptures into a modern way of speaking.

One particular phrase captured our attention. The verse speaks of how the Word of God took on human form and “…moved into the neighborhood.” Think about that for a moment. Why didn’t the Son of God just remain in the heavenly realms and invite mankind to come to His neighborhood? Property values are obviously much better there. Crime is non-existent. There are no taxes. You will find no potholes in golden streets. On the other hand, why would Jesus leave the splendor of heaven to move to our side of the tracks? Talk about moving to the slums! Talk about the need for urban renewal! Our neighborhood is a good place to get mugged. Just ask Jesus!

Why did Jesus leave his neighborhood? Because it was our only hope of ever getting out of our neighborhood. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Left to our own devices, we could not even dream of living in God’s part of town. But because Jesus came to live with us, we can live with God (John 14:2-3). From the projects to Park Avenue! From the ghetto to a gated community (Revelation 21)! To borrow the words of Paul in another context: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God loves you!