Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why You Can't Master the Book of John

Lionel Whiston shared this powerful thought in his book on John's Gospel:, Through the Eyes of Love:

 “When I first started reading John’s Gospel in preparation for this book, I struck impasse after  impasse. For hours I sat without writing even a paragraph that was satisfactory. I phoned my son in  St. Louis, telling him of my dilemma. “I can’t master this Gospel of John,. I feel powerless before it.”
 His answer was perceptive and provocative: “John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Christ and you can’t master the Son of God. You can only let Him master you.”

 I had come seeking to understand and conquer, but instead, Christ had conquered. He has shown me myself and I have felt understood, loved, forgiven and empowered. With reverent awe, I can say, like Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Gospel According to John: Prepare for a Grand Adventure!

There are a lot of opinions out there about who Jesus is or was. Some say he was just a man, whose deity was merely an exaggerated construct of a power-hungry emperor. Others claim that he never existed at all. Some say that he was a great humanitarian, a good teacher, or a Jewish prophet.
The cyclone of varying opinions concerning Him can be blinding. But who is Jesus, really?
We’re about to launch into a new series  at Hayward Wesleyan Church that will take us into the unfathomable depths of that question. Like a canoe voyage down the river into the heart of the unknown, we’re going to pursue a compelling vision of Christ through the gospel according to John, as we venture into a place of new discoveries – an untamed wilderness of truth, filled with wonder after breathtaking wonder.
This will be no passive journey, or luxurious cruise. This will challenge you. Initiate you. Provoke you. And compel you to decide what you believe about Christ. So bring your Bible, a pen, a notepad, and a hungry spirit. For all those who seek the truth about Christ… will find it. 
(Graphic designed by Jeremy Mavis.  Article written by Ryan Wilson)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Remember Your First Calling

"We are not called primarily to create new structures for the church in this age; we are not called primarily to a program of service, or to dream dreams or have visions. We are called first of all to belong to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and to keep our lives warmed at the hearth of His life. It is there the fire will be lit which will create new structures and programs of service that will draw others into the circle to dream dreams and have visions."
  -- Elizabeth O'Connor

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Beautiful Melting of Christmas Evans

When the snow finally melts each spring, all Hayward rejoices together.  Every conversation at the post office and grocery store begins with, "What a beautiful day!  It's great to see the sunshine!"

I've recently experienced a spiritual melting, as God warmed my heart, refreshing my soul, and bringing a fresh infusion of faith, joy, and peace.  Like my friends at the post office, I can't help but bubble over with it, "What a beautiful Savior we have!  It's great to see the Son shine!"  (I've found, over the years, I need regular, repeated renewings to stay filled up and fired up spiritually.  Praise God! He gives free refills!)

I am reminded of a passage in Oswald Smith's little book,  The Revival We Need that shares this delightful account from the great Welsh minister, Christmas Evans.  What a beautiful melting!

"I was weary of a cold heart towards Christ and His sacrifice, and the work of His Spirit---of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer, and in study, for fifteen years previously, I had felt my heart burning within, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus.

"On a day ever to be remembered by me, as I was climbing up towards Cadair Idris, I considered it to be incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart, and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus, I soon felt, as it were, the fetters loosening, and the old hardness of heart softening, and, as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me.

"This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage; tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joys of His salvation; and that He would visit the churches of the saints, and nearly all the ministers in the principality by their names.

"This struggle lasted for three hours: it rose again and again, like one wave after another, or a high flowing tide, driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ, body and soul, gifts and labors--all my life---every day, and every hour that remained for me; and all my cares I committed to Christ.

"From this time I was made to expect the goodness of God to churches, and to myself. In the first religious meetings after this, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost, into the verdant fields of Divine promises."  --Christmas Evans.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Secret of Getting Along

It is always more pleasant when people get along. As the Bible says,“Behold how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” One mother recently told her children, “I only want one thing for Mother's Day – Just one full day when you all get along with each other without squabbling!” They didn’t make it. (You could say they gave her half-a-present!)

Ask anybody, and they will tell you they want to get along with others. However, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in controversy of some kind or another. Usually it’s because of misunderstandings.

Understanding what frustrates others is the first step towards peaceful relationships. What gets people upset?

Abrupt Change:
Mark Twain said the only person who likes change is a baby with wet diapers! Normally, however, people are not totally opposed to change. They just get worked up if it is sprung on them!

Unclear Expectations:
When we assume they know what we’re thinking, we’re asking for trouble. It’s aggravating to walk on eggshells around an unpredictable and inconsistent person.

Broken Commitments:
Every time a person breaks their word, they also break a trust.  It is better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Violation of Rights:
Ignoring basic courtesy and respect usually bring an angry response. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity.

Poor Communication:
People are always down on what they’re not up on. You can’t just say something once in passing and then think you’ve communicated. A true communication does not occur until the one receiving it gets it!

When it’s Not Done Right:
Normally, when someone is upset about something not being done “right” they mean “MY WAY!” It pays us all to remember that there is more than one way to look at just about every issue. There are very few things in life that must only be done one way.

Something Else (-------------------------------------)
I left this one blank so you can fill it in! Whatever and Anything! There are some folks who will get upset about anything. You can’t do much about that except try to be patient, love and understand the best you can.

So, how do we go ahead and get along? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Get alone with God and pray about it. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re prayed up.

2.  Make peace with yourself. Most conflicts are caused by inner turmoil.

3.  Assume 80% of the responsibility for getting along. That means be proactive in the relationship. If you think it’s 50% your responsibility (or less) you will wait around when you should be doing something.

4.  Fix the problem, not the blame.

5.  Never judge motives (unless you are assuming they mean well.)

6.  Attack issues, not people

7.  Look for common threads. Find what you agree on and put your energy there.

8.  Go back and patch the holes. This means to apologize, the make amends, to reconcile and iron out the differences.

9.  Make sure they know you care about them.

10.  Remember, love covers a multitude of sins.

11.  Use the 7:1 ration (seven affirmations to one correction)

12.  Refuse to be consumed by negativity.

13.  Be easy on people when they fail

14.  Put God first, and the other things will fall into place.

15.  Forgive 70 times 7.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Give Them Something to Eat

It was dinner time, and the crowd of 5000 who came to hear Jesus was getting hungry and cranky.  

 Jesus turned to Philip, one of his disciples, and asked, "Where will we find food for all these people?"  There was certainly no McDonald's within sight and no pizza delivery. 

 Philip froze, like a deer in the headlights.  "Uh, I don't have a clue.  Feeding this crowd would cost more than I make in a whole year!"

 Andrew, another disciple, found a little boy who had a small lunch:  five loaves and two fish.  He brought the meager morsels to Jesus, and said, "This is all we've got."

 When he gave the lunch Jesus, a great miracle occurred!   Jesus took the lunch, blessed it, broke it, multiplied it and gave it to the people.  It was absolutely unbelievable!  Everybody ate and there were 12 baskets of leftovers!

 I can relate to that story.  

 Sometimes, I feel like the helpless disciples wondering how to feed the crowd -- and all I can muster up are a few scrawny bluegills and less than a half dozen bagels.

 But our Lord allows us to pass through the overwhelmed times -- the deep waters -- to teach us to float in His goodness and grace.

 Just recently, God gave me this teaching about our weakness.

 1.  Sometimes, we deny our weakness and limitation.  We act like super-heroes who are able to take it all on.  We end up pressured and overloaded because we are carrying burdens we were not created to bear.  I tend to do this -- acting strong and carrying too much on my shoulders.

 The fishermen disciples could have said, "Well, Jesus said give them something to eat,  so we'd better get to work.  We're decent fishermen, so let's get out there and fish, fish, fish!  Maybe, if we fish our hearts out all day and knock ourselves out, we might possibly provide a snack for most of them."

 When we assume the responsibility for everyone, and take the load on our shoulders, we over-perform.  There is no joy in over-performance.

 2.  Sometimes, we wallow in our weakness and limitation.  We just give up, and check out.  

 The disciples could have said, "Are you crazy?"  There's not enough to go around.  Maybe if we ignore them, they will go away.  Besides, why on earth did all these idiots show up without considering how they were going to eat?  It's not my responsibility to feed all these people!  It's not my problem.  They just need to be feed themselves!  

 So -- we numb ourselves against compassion.  We cease caring because it won't hurt so much.  There is no joy in under-performing.

 3.  But what did the disciples do?  They took the little bit they had, gave it to Jesus, and he MULTIPLIED it!  He fed the whole gang with a dozen baskets left over (that's one basket for each of the disciples!)

 When faced with a responsibility bigger than ourselves, the best thing to do is turn it over toJesus and see what He can do with it!

 He provides the juice!  That's the kind of energy we need!  

 "My power is made perfect in your weakness!"
 "Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!"
 "To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy that so powerfully works in me!"
 "You will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you"
 "Not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord!"

 The secret to the power is abiding in Christ.  Give Him your bagels and bluegills and see what He will do with them!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Holiness is Pure Love

Wesleyan Publishing House recently reprinted the works of  Samuel Brengle, the great Salvation  Army leader and holiness evangelist.

 Brengle's writings have inspired and impacted greatly me since my teenage years when my youth  camp counselor, Larry introduced them to me.

 My prayer is that this new publication of holiness classics will bring this beautiful message to today's  generation -- as it did so powerfully in years past.

 This excerpt from the Introduction to Helps to Holiness, which describes when Samuel Brengle experienced the fullness of the Holy Spirit, resonates deeply with my heart:

  He gave me such a blessing as I never had dreamed a man could have this side of heaven: a            heaven  of love in my heart.  I walked out over Boston Common before breakfast weeping for joy and  praising God.  Oh, how I loved!  In that hour I knew Jesus and loved Him till it seemed my heart  would break with love.  I loved the sparrows; I loved the dogs; I loved the horses; I loved the little  urchins on the streets; I loved the strangers who hurried past me; I loved the whole world.

 Do you want to know what holiness is?  It is pure love.

Purchase Here

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Passing of Wesley Duewel

I received word today that the great missionary saint, Dr. Wesley Duewel, passed away last weekend at the age of 99.

His devotional classic, Ablaze for God, is one of my favorites. I have read and re-read it many times, and it has been a tremendous source of spiritual strength and blessing to me.

Seven years ago, our congregation was transformed as we went through this powerful book together. We invited Dr. Duewel, then age 92, to Hayward so he could share his heart and pray with us. To my delight, he accepted the invitation.

Obtaining special permission, I eagerly awaited Dr. Duewel’s arrival at Gate A-19 of Minneapolis International Airport. His plane landed, and a long line of passengers debarked – but no Wesley Duewel.

The last stragglers came out of the tunnel, but there was still no sign of my special guest. I checked with the agent who radioed back into the plane, and grunted, “He’s coming. He’s coming.”

Finally, three flight attendants emerged from the jet bridge, and they were all wiping away tears. One approached me, “Are you the one waiting for that precious little old man back there?” she blubbered. “He was just praying for us! It was so beautiful! I have never felt such love in all my life!”

I marveled. This holy man was so filled with God’s presence and anointing that it automatically overflowed to everybody he met along the way. In other words, his very presence created a thin place for others, where heaven and earth merged together.

I lifted an eye towards heaven and prayed, “Lord, when I grow up, please make me the kind of guy who makes flight attendants cry!”

No Substitute for Prayer

"Intercessory prayer is the Christian's most effective weapon.  Nothing can withstand its power.  It will do things when all else has failed.  And the marvel is that we turn to other agencies in order to accomplish what only prayer can bring to pass.  God has placed this mighty weapon in our hands, and He expects us to use it.  How disappointed He must be when we lay it aside and substitute natural means for supernatural work."  -- Oswald Smith

Monday, March 07, 2016

25 Ways to Start Living

My dear friend, O. J. Philpot, once shared the following 25 ways to start living.  I appreciated his thoughts, and pass them along to you hoping they will inspire you as they did me:

1.  Seek out a forgotten friend.
2.  Help mend a quarrel.
3.  Put new trust in someone you have had difficulty trusting before.
4.  Encourage someone younger than you.
5.  Gift a soft answer to someone who is harsh to you.
6.  Write someone a kind letter
7.  Share a special "treasure" with someone.
8.  Keep a promise you have made.
9.  Forgive an enemy, and let him/her know you have forgiven.
10.  Take time to do one of those important things you have been putting off.
11.  Take time to listen to someone's sorrows.
12.  Say "I am sorry" when you are wrong.
13.  Think of someone else instead of yourself.
14.  Show appreciation
15.  Be kind, gentle and thoughtful.
16.  Laugh.  Don't take yourself too seriously.
17.  Express your gratitude -- be thankful.
18.  Gladden the heart of a child.
19.  Go to church and worship God.
20.  Don't be cross with people.
21.  Let your love show.
22.  Sing, sing, sing.
23.  Examine yourself and the demands you make on others.
24.  Do something you know you should, but is extra hard to do.
25.  Do your best to move beyond yourself into loving service for others.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A Hymn of Personal Renewal

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, with all thy quickening powers;
 kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours.

 In vain we tune our formal songs; in vain we strive to rise.
 Hosannas languish on our tongues, and our devotion dies.

 Dear Lord, and shall we ever live at this poor dying rate? 
 Our love so faint, so cold to thee, and thine to us so great!

 Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, with all thy quickening powers.
 Come, shed abroad a Savior's love, and that shall kindle ours.
 --  Isaac Watts

  I discovered this revival hymn in an old small pocket hymnal which was a gift from my friend,  Barry Bubb.   A handwritten inscription from 1853 is inside the front  cover, along with an invitation to attend Sunday School for Poor Children held at 14 Colchester Street.

  The old song captures a most relevant message for the church today.  May it be so among us!

(Image compliments of Revival Clip Art)