To the Last Breath

25 05 2009

“The haunting specter of the smoke of a thousand villages has burned within my heart.”
David Livingstone

Those words were pinned by the late David Livingstone as he looked out over the African coast into the unknown darkness of the heart of Africa. One can almost hear the cry of his heart; the call of the Lord of the harvest. “Have they not heard? Will no one tell them of the good things that God has done?”

Dr. Livingstone battled malaria, lions, scorching heat, dysentery, separation from his family, hostile natives, army ants, and the spiritual forces of evil in this world all by the power of the Spirit of the living God and with one purpose in view: to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. He died kneeling beside his bed in the heart of Africa, having proclaimed the Gospel to the very last breath.

In America we have the notion that we live on the edge for God while we are young and then settle down for the later years of our lives. David Livingstone did not believe this lie and neither do I. We all have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we going to live as the world or are we going to proclaim the Gospel to our very last breath?”

We do not have battle Africa to serve God to the last breath, but we do have to make our lives a living sacrifice on a daily basis. We can make money and give sacrificially out of our abundance. We can give of our time and resources to serve those who are orphaned. We can use extra space in our houses to room those in need. God’s call for everyone’s life is different, but God calls all of us to live outrageously for the sake of His glorious name. We must closely guard our relationship with Christ and our devotion to Him so that we do not become “sacrifices that crawl off of the altar”.

Isaiah 58:6-10 – “Isn’t this the fast that I choose: to unloose the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and to not ignore your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will be like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. When you cry out, He will answer. When you call, He will say, “Here I am.” If you take the yoke from those around you, the finger pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like the noonday.”

-Sean

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Vanity, All is Vanity

23 05 2009

Have you ever felt like you were on a hampster wheel? You
get up, you eat breakfast, you shower, you go to work, you
go to sleep, you get up, you eat breakfast, you shower, you
go to work… You get married, you have kids, you go on family
vacations, you go to graduation, you become a senior citizen,
you return to the dust… Life often feels meaningless and its
end is always death. Vanity, all is vanity, or so my soul often
begins to cry, but then I draw near to my God.

All is vanity except for our service to the One who is, and who
was, and who is to come. This earth will perish and the names
of the rich and famous will be forgotten, but Christ will remain.
And all those who serve Him will dwell forever in the house of
our Lord, where we will at last see His face. When life feels like
hampster wheel and my soul crys out, “Vanity, all is vanity!” I
need only be still and draw near to my beloved Savior, for in
Christ alone can hope and purpose be found.

-Sean





Sanctuary

15 05 2009

Isaiah 30:15 – “For the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said: ‘You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.”

Psalms 91:1-2 – “The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

In those brief moments of rest from the hectic thing that we call our lives where do we seek sanctuary? Seeking sanctuary is the idea of trying to find a place of safety amidst a dark and dangerous world. The medieval concept of sanctuary, where the Church was a place that you could seek refuge from your enemies, actually comes from the Mosaic law of the Old Testament. The people of Israel were to appoint cities where those who had unintentionally killed another person could be safe from the vengeance of the deceased person’s family and friends. If they were found outside this city before the presiding high priest died, they were not guaranteed safety from the revenge of the deceased person’s family or friends. This is, however, only in the case of unintentional killings. Murderers were put to death.

You can imagine the relief that a person would feel upon reaching one of these cities of refuge and knowing that they could at last rest without worrying about being killed. In much the same way God is our refuge from the worries and struggles of this life. He is our rock and our fortress.

The Words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The question then, is this, “Where do you seek sanctuary?” So often when we are struggling we try to persevere by keeping busy, spending quality time with friends, reading a good book, playing sports, or in general just doing something that will take our minds off of our pain, but that is not what we are meant to do! We do not need to ignore our struggles. We need to overcome them by laying them at the foot of the cross; we need to seek sanctuary in Christ.

Then, and only then, will we truly understand that joy and peace are not to be found in our own wholeness, but rather in our brokenness before God, from whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

-Sean





Seek the Face of God and Be Made New

6 05 2009

I have recently come to the realization that sometimes, as sheep of God, the most dangerous predator can be one another. We are meant to love and encourage one another, but so often our targets are set firmly on our own brothers and sisters in Christ. What good does it do anyone to pick at faults and always dwell on the negative? There is a time for exhortation, but let us exhort in such a way that we are looking towards a future state of beauty rather than always dwelling on the current state of inaptitude. Let us set the sights of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to a higher goal.

It is often necessary to see our own weaknesses if we are to grow, but when dealing with others’ weaknesses it is necessary to show them how glorious the hope of our calling is! Yes, we may be failing miserably. Yes, we may be falling horribly short of the life we should be living. But if we at once apply ourselves wholly to seeking the face of God we will soon find that the Holy Spirit has transformed us to such a degree that those who knew us before will wonder at the transformation. “Who is this?” they will ask. “They’re not themselves anymore…”
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Old things have passed away, and look, new things have come!”

-Sean





Live and Let Die

2 05 2009

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: you should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus: you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of truth.”

Life hurts. Depression, anger, sadness, lust… They haunt us like phantoms in the dark, but why should we who have been set free from sin and death bare the weight of such burdens? For many years I allowed such phantoms to tie me firmly to a stake, keeping me from knowing the joy that I have in Christ, but it is so no longer!

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, this is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

If we will only allow God to transform our minds by sacrificing our lives to Him wholly, then He will, in an act of grace greater than I will ever understand, break the chains that tie us to this world, putting to death the old man and filling us with His Spirit so that we may live a life of joy and peace and gladness in Christ.

If you are being held down to this world just let go. Live to Christ and let the old man die! I can think of no better way to put it than these most beautiful words penned by the late Charles Wesley.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

-Sean