• QUOTE FOR TODAY

    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

  • Mercy House

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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Jumping In

Kristen at We Are That Family wrote this post titled Someone is Waiting for you to Jump In yesterday.  Would you take a minute, head over to her blog and read the post?  After that would you begin praying about where God might want you to jump?  Here’s a little excerpt to challenge you:

And the truth? Standing at cliff’s edge, we wanted to say no. We asked if there was another way. We researched and begged. We cried it is too big, we can’t, we are afraid, we don’t know how.  We don’t want to love mercy.

We didn’t throw caution to the wind. We didn’t just jump into the chasm of the unknown.

We jumped into the very hands of God.

Why? Why do the uncomfortable? Why go beyond the comfort zone and risk so much? Every one of us has a unique purpose for our lives and our blogs. It’s a risk finding that purpose. It leaves you exposed and open to criticism and fear and failure.

  Would you also pray about helping them with Mercy House?

Radical–Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream-a review

I need to ask a question.  But, before you read any further, go get your Bible. 

Go ahead….I’ll wait.   

Seriously, go get it and come right back here. 

 OK, now that you have it, hold it in your hand and read this question out loud:

 Do I really believe this book? 

Just for good measure, look at the Bible in your hand and ask the question….out loud, so you hear it….Do I really believe this book? 

 Early in the first Radical sermon, we are asked if we ‘really believe what is contained in the Bible.’  As I read through the Radical book, I am constantly bothered by this question because if I claim to be a follower of Jesus, and the Bible is the word of God, then the reality is that there are certain implications for my life.  Dr. Platt refers to them as radical implications.  The thing is (and this is what hurts a little)….they are only radical by the world’s standards.  As far as God is concerned, they are simply the natural response to his love, grace and mercy. 

 While it is occasionally difficult to read the tough words he writes, Dr. Platt isn’t afraid to say it like it is, and back it up with scripture.  Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know that Platt whole-heartedly acknowledges that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.  But, where he starts to strike a nerve is with the assertion that God’s “gift of grace results in the gift of a new heart.”  If we have that new heart which is, in effect, God’s heart, shouldn’t there be an outward visible transformation in our actions as a result of that inward renewal?   And if there is no real outward transformation, Dr Platt suggests that…

            You and I desperately need to consider whether we have ever truly, authentically trusted in Christ for our salvation…

 Ouch….Like I said, there are some tough questions in this book.   Here’s another one (actually two):  “Is materialism a blind spot in American Christianity today?  More specifically, is materialism a blind spot in your Christianity today?”    Before you answer, go read the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  Really read through it and then come back and ask the question again.

 Radical—Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream is full of challenges like this.  Now, I want to be careful in placing too much importance on this or any other book because it might lead you to conclude that we don’t need the Bible.  Folks we need the Bible.  Ultimately, I believe that the only thing that can redeem the world is God, and the spread of his gospel.  No book can or should replace the gospel.  That said, I do believe this book has the power to move us to a point where we can recognize that the version of Christianity many of us are practicing may not be what God intended for us. 

I want to recommend this book to you; especially if something about your walk has been gnawing at you.  This might be just the thing to shine a light on a few ‘blind spots” in your Christian life.  Be careful though….once they are exposed, you are going to have to do something about them.  At that point God takes you and does something radical with your life. 

 In the coming weeks, I intend to spend some time writing about specific sections of the book and take a look at what I’m doing about applying it.  I hope you can get a copy and join me on this journey as it unfolds. 

The Numbers

6.7 Billion:  Total Population of the Globe

 Around 3 BillionThe total number of people worldwide living on less than $2.00 per day

 Approximately 30,000: The number of children who die each day due to poverty (lack of food, lack of clean water, and disease) – that’s 18 children dying every minute, a child every three seconds.  Put another way, the entire population of Cook County, IL under the age of 18 would perish in 46 days.

 Over 11 million children die each year from preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

 About 20% of the population in the developed nations consumes 86% of the world’s goods.

 The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for 5% of the global income.

 The richest 20% of the world’s population accounts for 75% of the global income.

 About 20% of the population in the developed nations consumes 86% of the world’s goods.

 Nearly 175 Million:  The number of orphans worldwide.

 Just sit and think about these numbers for a minute (or ten or twenty.)  The sources are pretty solid (www.mercycorps.org, http://www.globalissues.org, http://www.poverty.com) and these are generally pretty widely accepted numbers.  While you are pondering, consider another number:

 2.1 Billion:  The number of people who would generally label themselves as Christian. 

 (I want to be clear that I don’t think that the number of true Christ Followers worldwide is anywhere near that high—the number generally seems to be reflective of anyone who might wear the label but who is not necessarily living in an active relationship with Jesus) 

 That said, with nearly a third of the world’s population calling themselves Christian, why are the numbers previously cited so ridiculously high, and downright offensive? 

 Oh, I have a few more numbers to share:

 21:13 No, this isn’t a ratio.  It is a chapter and verse—from the book of Proverbs.  It reads like this:   If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (emphasis added)

 14:31 (Proverbs)  He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. 

 28:27  (Proverbs)  He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

 I think you see where I’m going with this, but if you need it spelled out here you go:

 If you are going to wear the label, you better consider whether you believe everything that’s in the Bible.  Do you believe every word?  Is your Church living every word?  Is your life reflective of every word?  Some would say this is radical or even impossible.  I guess by the world’s standards it probably is.  By God’s standards, it’s just what he’s asked us to do.    You all know that I continue to struggle with the surrender thing, but as I continue to read, I don’t see any other way to live it out.  Illustrating that point is Luke 9:62:

 “Jesus Replied:  No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’

 I keep looking back.  I’m not sure what else is back there, but it sure must be alluring. 

 Go back and read through the numbers again.  If you need some more references for how you should be feeling, take a look at the following scripture verses.

 Luke 6:20-25

Luke 18:18-25(spend a long time on this one)

James 5:1-5

Luke 14:25-35

20 Twenty $20 Challenge Day One

Several of you have emailed to tell me that you are jumping on board with the 20 Twenty $20 challenge.  Thanks to those of you who responded. (To those who are still thinking about it, there’s always time to jump in.)

As I sat down to pray for Haiti this morning, a number of things overwhelmed me and I thought I would share them with you to get you started on this “prayer specific” journey.  Keep in mind that I am not suggesting you abandon your regular devotion time, rather you should add 20 minutes to pray for Haiti, too.

Pray that God will just do an awesome thing in Haiti and His presence would be felt by all. 

Pray that the VooDoo, black magic, and witch craft that is so prominent in Haiti would be bound up tight so that God can speak clearly and work mightily.

Pray that the violence would cease so that food, water, and medicine can get to where it is needed.

Pray for parents grieving the loss of their children, especially those children who were trapped in schools.   Pray for Survivors who are greiving the loss of loved ones, especially as they very likely feel guilt over having survived.

This disaster will very likely result in a huge number of orphans.  Pray for these children who are now without parents or other caretakers.  Pray for the orphanages, many of which were destroyed, and the funding and staffing issues they will have. 

My heart is really aching for those who are tasked with burying the dead.  I cannot imagine what burying thousands of people in a mass grave does to a person’s spirit.  The men tasked with this awful duty need to have their mind, heart, and soul covered in prayer.

Pray for the volunteers who have given of their time and talent to go to Haiti.  They will need God’s protection each step of the way.

Finally, pray about what more you can do.  Maybe your job is to be a prayer warrior.  Maybe you are supposed to give more.  Perhaps you are supposed to go to Haiti in a month or two to begin the rebuilding process.  God will lead you in this regard.

One last thing:  I understand the the 147Million Orphans organization is donating 50% of the profits from all online sales this month to a children’s home in Haiti.  They already have a huge commitment to feeding orphans in Uganda, so Please check out 147Million Orphans.  From there you can link to their shopping site plus get connected with three amazing women and their orphan work.

In response to Haiti 20 TWENTY $20

Does anyone else feel helpless? 

I watch the news, read the stories, and see the pictures, and I feel overwhelmed and helpless.  Useless.  I’ve been angry with God because I don’t understand allowing this to happen, and I felt total despair as I hear about bulldozers pushing bodies into mass graves.

I marvel at stories like the one about the two sisters from Pittsburgh who were running an orphanage in Port-au-Prince and managed to drum up enough public (and political) support to bring more than 60 orphans back to the U.S. 

I am amazed at the response of organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and CARE as they feed and clothe and treat the hungry and naked and injured. 

Yet, through my amazement, I feel helpless and I need to get over it.  So, here’s what I’m going to do.  First I am going to pray.  Second, I am going to send a donation to Samaritan’s Purse.  I would encourage you to do the same thing.  I know time and money are short, but seriously, I am pretty sure we can all be praying for the people in Haiti, and we can all afford to put a few dollars toward the effort of providing food, clean water, and medical supplies. 

I trust Samaritan’s Purse, but if you know of another organization go with them.  Whatever you do, just give something. 

I’m calling my effort the 20 Twenty $20 challenge.  I am going to commit to pray for Haiti for at least 20 minutes every day for the next Twenty days and send $20.00 right now to be used to help with the relief in Haiti.    If you would like to join me, just leave a comment here (or send me an email: nogray.37@gmail.com ) so we can support each other.  If you need to modify your number to fit your circumstances, please do…but please do something. 

Here’s a link to Samaritan’s Purse 

My Prayer

Jesus, I need to give myself up.  I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own.  I simply can’t do it!  I need you.  I need You deeply and desperately.  I believe you are worth it, that you are better than anything in this world, yet day in and day out all of the other stuff of this world gets in the way.  I want you and I want to be focused long enough to remember that.  Help me to focus on you so that I remember that you are worth it when I am faced with temptation, or laziness, or doubt, or fear.  Help my unbelief.

 I want to want you, yet my flesh is weak and craves what the world offers.  I know I can’t surrender fully without your strength, so please send it.  Be all in me.  Take all of me.  Have your way.  I will resist, but remind me that you are the better way.

Surrender

Sometimes we throw words around without giving much thought to their meaning.  “Surrender” is one of those words.  We’ve minimized it.  We’ve marginalized it.  We say we’ve done it, but we don’t really mean it.  I think there are many reasons we don’t ever really surrender.  Surrender is hard.  It makes us uncomfortable.   But mostly our refusal to surrender is about a lack of trust…no, maybe a lack of faith. 

 So that I could better understand the meaning, I looked up ‘surrender’ at Dictionary.com.  Go check out the definition for yourself.  Do you see some of the words there?  Yield…Abandon…Relinquish…give up…submitWhew!  I don’t know anyone for whom these things come easy.  We’ve been taught to manage our life, control our destiny, live our dreams, and so on.  Admittedly, surrender has certain negative connotations (turning oneself in to the police, for example) so maybe that’s why we have such a hard time relinquishing ourselves to God’s will.  We see it as a loss of freedom—and to a certain extent, it is a loss of freedom, but we are exchanging our freedom for a much better way. Therein lays the rub:  If we don’t have faith, we don’t really surrender.  If we don’t surrender, I don’t see any way that we can experience the life God has for us. 

 We say we want the life, but do we really have the faith required to actually receive it?   I’ve been spending some time reading 2 Peter lately.  Check out verse 3 of chapter 1:

 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

 Now, my interpretation may be a little out of line, here, but when I read: “Everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him.”  I understand that to mean that once I know him, I will receive everything I NEED for life.  I NEED faith so that I can surrender.  I NEED to surrender so that I can have the life He wants for me.

 Bottom line:  Surrender can’t come without faith.  Want faith?  Get to know Him!

 I want to be sure to mention that I in no way believe that once I come to know Him that somehow my life is going to be rose gardens and puppies that don’t bite.  I know that I will face trials.  In fact, probably more trials than if I just kept my distance.  I do believe that once I have surrendered, my will shall align itself with God’s will and I will then have the life I want.  In effect, I stopped fighting for my way. 

Occasionally I come across excellent examples of surrender.  Take a look at Katie’s Blog over at Amazima Ministries.  I think you will be blessed and get an idea of what real surrender looks like.

Here’s a little music to finish this post   Kari Jobe–Jesus, Lover of My Soul