Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rescue the Perishing

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When you are burdened for the lost, you never know how the Lord may use you. The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby was speaking to a crowd in Cincinnati many years ago. She felt an overwhelming burden that some young man in the audience needed to be saved. She felt the Spirit urging her to make a plea, “Speak what I tell you, it’s now or never!”

Fanny announced to the crowd, “If there is a dear boy here tonight who has wandered from God and his mother’s teaching, would he please come to see me at the end of the service?”

Afterward, a teenage boy approached her. “Did you mean me?” he asked. “Before she died, I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but the way I have been living, I don’t think God will accept me.” Fanny presented the Gospel and had the joy of leading the young man to Christ. Returning to her room that night, all she could think about was the theme, “rescue the perishing.” That night she was inspired to pen the words to the classic hymn.   

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Many years later, while speaking in Lynn, Massachusetts, Fanny recounted the story behind her hymn “Rescue the Perishing.” After the service, a man approached her. “Miss Crosby,” he said, “I was that boy who told you more than thirty-five years ago that I had wandered from my mother’s God. I am grateful that you showed me Jesus. Since that night, I have found peace and have tried to live a consistent Christian life. If we never meet again on earth, we will meet up yonder and I will introduce you to Mama.” Choked up with emotion, the man turned away, unable to say another word.[1]   

If I could set this article to music I would, “Rescue the perishing/care for the dying/Jesus is merciful/Jesus will save.” When was the last time you shared your faith? We’re not responsible for who grabs on to the life saver and who doesn’t, but we are responsible for casting it out into the sea of lost humanity. Are you burdened for the lost? Are you concerned for the soul of someone you love?

If not, there are two ways to change that—prayer and proximity. Evangelism begins on your knees. Talk to Jesus about your friends before you talk to your friends about Jesus. When you spend quality time with Jesus, His burdens will become your burdens. Jesus declared His life's mission in Luke 19:10: “Indeed, the Son of Man has come to seek and to save people who are lost.” Jesus was all about people, and the closer you get to Him, the more His passion for souls will consume you and become the driving force in your life.

The second key ingredient to developing a passion for souls is proximity. Jesus was always around sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and poor. Closeness with people releases compassion for people. Jesus had such a great impact on unbelievers because He was a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). The closer you get to people, the greater your impact on them will be. As Rick Warren explains, “You build a bridge of love between your heart and theirs, then you let Jesus walk across.” -DM     

[1] David Jeremiah, “Perhaps Today Is the Day to Reach Out,” Turning Points, November 2014, p. 19.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Syria and Bible Prophecy

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Recently, we have watched with horror as video footage came out of Syria linking the Assad regime with the use of chemical weapons once again. On April 7, 2018 Assad attacked the rebel stronghold of Douma, killing about 75 people, including children, and left another 500 in need of treatment for symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure. In response, The U.S.  along with the U.K. and France, launched airstrikes in the wee hours April 14, 2018. The Syrian plant where the chemical weapons were developed was completely obliterated in the strike.[1]

These headlines reminded me of a prophecy in Isaiah 17 which foretells the destiny of Damascus, Syria’s capital city. “1 An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins. 2 The cities of Aroer are deserted; they will be for flocks, which will lie down, and none will make them afraid. 3 The fortress will disappear from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus; and the remnant of Syria will be like the glory of the children of Israel, declares the Lord of hosts.” (Is. 17:1-3).

Considering the current international conflict, this is obviously attention-grabbing. However, some critics dismiss this prophecy, arguing that Damascus has been attacked numerous times throughout its history. Thus, they believe this prophecy has already been fulfilled, specifically in 732 BC when the Assyrians sacked Damascus and eventually Samaria in 722 BC.

While this is true, we should consider that Damascus is described by historians as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet. Today, it boasts some 1.6 million residents, and a greater metropolitan area of about five million people. The fact that it’s still occupied today, shows that that Isaiah’s words of woe and wrath have not been completely fulfilled.

Could the current events in Syria be leading to the destruction of Damascus sooner than later? The long and the short is that we can’t tell from the Bible, because Isaiah doesn’t give any precise timeline as to when this word will be fulfilled. However, it will happen because Jesus said in Matt. 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Prophecy buff, Joel Rosenberg adds this insight, “Because the text doesn’t give us precise timing, we should be cautious in our interpretation. The destruction of Damascus could occur during the Tribulation, or near the end of the Tribulation, close to the Second Coming of Christ. But it is also possible that the destruction of Damascus occurs in the “last days” leading up to the Tribulation. It could happen in our lifetime, even soon. That’s not to say it will, but it could. Indeed, should the destruction of Damascus happen in the not-too-distant future, it would be an ominous sign that the destruction of much of Israel (which the Bible says will happen during the Tribulation, the “times of Jacob’s trouble”) is rapidly approaching, too.”[2]

Perhaps, much of what is going on in Syria today is merely, “the beginning of the birth pains” (Matt. 24:8). Indeed, these are exciting times we are living in. I believe that the prophetic signs indicate that we are in the season of the Lord’s return. Therefore, we ought to live with urgency, as if Christ died yesterday, rose from the dead this morning and is coming back this evening. -DM  

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Secret of Surrender

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Watchman Nee once told a story from his missionary days in China. The bathing accommodations were quite rustic in the village where he lived, so most people went for a daily dip in the river. On one occasion, a man from the village, who was unable to swim, waded out too far, lost his footing and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men by the river, who was an excellent swimmer, to go after the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man. Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected.
Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer hopped in and was there by the drowning man in a flash. Both were soon safely on shore. After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer for waiting till the last moment to rescue the drowning man. However, the response of the swimmer revealed that he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river. He then told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.[1]

Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop fighting and wrestling, then the Lord can step in and save us when we are yielded to Him. As painful as it may be, the Lord must let us come to end of our own strength before we are ready to submit to His way. Someone has said, “Surrender is when we come to an end of ourselves and find that’s where God’s work begins.”

If ever there was on Old Testament character who epitomized this picture it was Jacob—the schemer and dreamer. In Genesis 32, on the banks of the Jabbock River, Jacob wrestled with the Lord. The Bible says, “24 And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

This showdown proved to Jacob that all along his true conflict has been with God. By crippling Jacob, the Lord is pushing him to the end of himself. Jacob discovered that he’d spent his life wrestling and resisting God’s will, and that the only way to victory was through surrender.

Jacob’s fight with God reminded of C.S. Lewis’ quote from Mere Christianity, “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”[2]

In a peculiar way, surrender to God is the act of winning by losing. Surrender to God brings us to the end of ourselves so that we can have a new beginning with God. In God’s economy, the values of the world are completely reversed. The way up is down and the way to save your life is to lose it. God uses our defeat as the turning point which He will use to lead us to victory. 

Are you fighting against God? If you are then you are fighting against the One who wants to bless you and your blessing will come only through brokenness (Matt. 5:4).  -DM

[1] Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1977), 151-176.
[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper One, 1952), 56. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

God's Dress Code

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In one of his books Max Lucado tells the story of being given tickets to attend to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA. For those of you who aren’t golf fans let me tell you that the Masters is the World Series or Super Bowl of golf. Tickets are extremely rare and extravagantly expensive. But because Max was good friends with a pro golfer, he was given tickets.

           Max wrote: “So off we went to Augusta National Country Club in Augusta, Georgia where golf heritage hangs like moss from the trees. This was the place where legends were made and I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t get enough. It wasn’t enough to see the grounds and walk the course, I wanted to see the locker room. That’s where the players hang out and that’s where I wanted to be.
            As I walked towards the entrance, a guard stopped me. I showed him my pass, but he shook his head. I told him I was ‘a guest of so-and-so, you know, the pro golfer.’ The guard replied, ‘I’m sorry sir, but your name isn’t on the list of caddies and players’ All of name-dropping and cajoling would not make the guard budge. It didn’t matter that I was a pastor or that I had authored several Christian books. I was turned away right at the entrance because my name wasn’t on the list and I didn’t have the right credentials.
            This will happen to many people at the most important place of all—the gate of heaven. They will be turned away because their name isn’t recorded in God’s Book. They may be God-fearing and church-attending and have a long list of accomplishments, but if they don’t know Christ and He doesn’t know them, then it’s all in vain.”
Later on, Max did get in to the coveted locker room. His golfer buddy who gave him the tickets asked Max if he wanted to be his caddy for a day. In order to be a caddy at the Masters, one has to wear a set of special white overalls. Max explained, “Later that weekend, I made my way to the clubhouse. And through the same door, walking past the same guard, I stepped into the golfing inner sanctum. What made the difference? One day I was turned away, the next I was welcomed. Why the change. Simple, I was wearing the right clothes.” [i]

If you and I are going to step into heaven it will be because we’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and we have had our old sin-stained garments removed.

As Paul says in Colossians 3:9-12, “9 seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator . . . 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” -DM  

[i] Max Lucado, When Christ Comes (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 55-62.