Monday, November 23, 2015

The Honor Of Humility

And before honor comes humility
(Proverbs 15: 33b NASB)

I wonder what they think about me now?
I worked for a mission’s organization called Youth With A Mission, referred to as YWAM.  I was a recruiter and I set up missions meetings in 35 cities east of the Mississippi River.   I had wonderful people in each city working with me. Knowing that missionaries were just ordinary people who had the privilege of working with an extraordinary God, I sometimes felt these people had a little higher view of missionaries then we deserved.
One weekend a couple that organized meetings for me in South Carolina came to the YWAM center in Virginia where I lived. This couple really loved missions and they appreciated the work of our mission.  But that weekend I was a little surprised when I found out why they really liked us so much.
Sunday morning we planned on having them over to our apartment for breakfast before going to church. That morning I was running between the dining area and the bedroom. I was trying to entertain my guests and also to help my youngest daughter get dressed for church.  I felt a little stressed. My little one who usually was the picture of submission was having a hard time listening to her Dad. I think she may have been influenced by the Sunday morning demon.  Finally, I lost it and let her have it verbally in a very unloving fashion. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was wrong and I apologized to her.  She forgave me as kids usually do. But we were in the room right next to where my guests we're waiting, and I thought to myself; did they hear what I said?  A little embarrassed terror hit my heart.  Again I thought, I wonder what they think about me now.  At the breakfast table I felt like a little child who didn't want to look into his parents eyes when he knows he's done something wrong. Needless to say it was a very awkward breakfast for me.
          After breakfast I realized that not making eye contact with them was not going to work all day. After church at a restaurant before we prayed for the food I decided to get this thing off my chest. It didn't matter whether they had heard me or not, I needed to be known in my weakness and ask them to pray that I would be better at handling stress. I told them the story and the husband got a huge smile on his face and said, “that's what we like about you YWAMERS, you have the rhema in this area of openness.”  Wow! I saw more clearly than ever that I had been believing a lie. I thought that if I let myself be known for who I really was I would lose their acceptance. What made me so susceptible to this deception?  It was my pride.  I cared more than I should about what my friends thought about me.  What I wanted to hide, when revealed, didn’t bring shame but respect   In God's Kingdom honor is always preceded by humility.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Image used with permission by Microsoft

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Unless The Lord Builds The House

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. (Psalms 127: 2a NASB)
    Recently I had a day on my job that was an exercise in futility.  I executed a change in my work schedule that I thought would be productive. When the desired results were not forthcoming I pressed even harder.  I initiated subsequent strategies to try and make my plan work, but to no avail.  I worked longer and harder than usual but accomplished even less than I did on most days.  When God is not working with us we actually labor in vain.
    The next morning part of my daily reading was Psalms 127. God is always right on time.  As I read this passage I wondered why my efforts the previous day seemed so futile.  Then it dawned on me that I had been trying to “build the house”, so to speak, without God’s help. God had choreographed this little incident so I could read this portion of Scripture at just the right moment. What an amazing God.
           Sometimes there's a very fine line between diligence and striving.  Of course God wants his people to be diligent. But God exhorts us to not strive. “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NASB).  So the pertinent point is how do we distinguish between hard work and nervous effort?  It is simply the one that is accompanied with peace.  Looking back on that day, I had a restless spirit.  God gave me a sign but because I was not looking for it, I did not see it. Peace has been referred to as the barometer of the soul.  It’s the indicator of how well our efforts are aligning with God's will.  It is not the absence of struggle but the presence of calm or tranquilly in our daily battles. Our Heavenly Father is concerned about his children's daily life and peace is the compass that guides us.
       The pivotal question in this process is whether we believe that God wants to take care of us in the mundane aspects of our lives.  Sometimes as Christians we can act like deists who believe that God created the universe and then sort of let it play out on its own. As you know the Bible says,  “Faith without works is dead.”  But some of us practice that as work without faith.  Maybe I should have taken a few moments alone with God and asked him why I was so restless that day? He may well have revealed to me the source of my unrest. When we give way to the temptation of frenzied activity, it never lends itself to obedience to His will. When we feel that compulsion to work longer and longer days, sometimes we should just shorten our workday and retire early.  This may be the most diligent, obedient, and productive thing to do; “For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep” (v. 2c).

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Fear Of The Lord: Our Protection

The fear of the Lord leads to life, 
So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
( Proverbs 19:23 NASB).

            On the Big Island of Hawaii I once learned spiritual attacks at night can be an indication of whether we fear God or man.

He is going to embarrass you!
            I was in missionary training with Youth With A Mission on the Kona Coast of the island of Hawaii.  Theo was a young man who I had befriended while sharing the Gospel on the streets of Kona.  I wanted to take him me to a YWAM community meeting. He seemed open to going with me.  One evening I stopped by his apartment to take him with me to the service.  As I opened the door I saw Theo sitting with a friend having a beer.  Thoughts rushed through my mind. I wonder if he is drunk? The people at the meeting are going to smell the alcohol on his breath.  He might say some things that will be embarrassing.  Fear latched hold of me and after a few minutes I quietly left, feeling a little guilty but never revealing to him the real purpose of my visit.

Lord, What Is Happening?
             That night I was beset by horrendous dreams filled with all types of evil.  I awoke and I was emotionally distressed.  I cried out, “Lord, what is happening?”  I picked up my Bible and was led specifically to Proverb 19:23.  The portion, “so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil”, jumped out at me.   It did not take a spiritual giant to realize I had been duped.  I am convinced to this day that Theo was just having a beer with a friend and was nowhere near inebriated.  I believed a lie in relation to his sobriety.  How could I have been so deceived?  It was due to the fact that I cared more about what people thought about me rather than the soul of the man I was trying to reach.  It was a classic example of the fear of man.  God sometimes takes the scales off of our eyes and allows us to see ourselves as we really are.  It was not a pretty picture that morning.  I learned on that South Seas Island that if you want to protect your mind and heart, fear God and not man.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Monday, September 14, 2015

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

Fight the good fight for what we believe....( I Timothy 6:12 NLT).
The famous words of the title, spoken by Patrick Henry in 1775 were the fuse that ignited The Revolutionary War.  Today the church is in a struggle. This conflict is not being fought with bullets and cannons as in Henry's day, but with words and ideas. For Christians today, though the terms of engagement are different, the consequence of defeat in this war is the same, the loss of our liberty.
            Whether we want to believe it or not, you and I are in a war.  Is the mentality of the church today to fight or play?  AW Tozer the prominent twentieth century pastor and writer, once said this about the church of his day. “People think of the world, not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic.” How much more is this true of  the church in our day.  Dr. David Jeremiah said  this in response to Tozer’s comment. “We need to begin living like it’s the battle for our very lives, because in fact, it is.”
            The church is being bombarded with anti-God cultural mindsets.. Alternative lifestyles, same-sex marriage, the killing of the unborn, just to mention a few. Our young people are being brainwashed in academia.  Richard Dawkins, the brilliant naturalistic scientist from Oxford University who wrote the book “The God Delusion”, says this.  “The reason we have religious or moral thought within our thinking, is because something has gone wrong with the software of humanity, it s virus that has entered our thinking, and  we need somehow to expunge this virus.”  He even goes so far as to dismiss a category called evil.
Ravi Zacharias talks about what he calls privatization, which fosters a disconnect between our private and public lives. It says you can be religious if you want, but don’t bring it into the public arena.  You can believe what you want to believe, but just keep it to yourselves.  You are free to exercise your faith, but don’t try to put that over on Jews, Muslims, or Hindus.
A group of Brahmans from a part of India, due to the gains of Christianity among Hindus, once decided that they would allow the Christians to practice their religion but not propagate it.  A wise old Brahman spoke up and said, " you don't understand Christianity, to practice it is to propagate it."  This gagging of Christianity pressures the church to hunker down in our little Christian bunkers and wait for second coming of Christ. And all the while the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Of course the world has good sounding justifications for their schools of thought.  In my country, the United States of America, there are many trumpeting the so-called Constitutional cry for the separation of the church and state.  Yes, our Constitution does guard against a state religion, but it was never the intent of our founding fathers to have believers leave their faith at the door when they exit their places of worship.  Those who interpret the Constitution have done so in a way that freedom of religion has become freedom from religion.  The men who penned this document, mostly men of faith, would be dismayed at how the meaning of their words have been distorted.
Listen to what Steve Turner an English satirist has to say about the state of the world in which we live.
                    We believe in Marx, Freud, and Darwin.  We believe everything is Ok,
                    as long as you don’t hurt anyone, to the best of your definition of hurt
                    and to the best definition of knowledge.  We believe in sex before,
                    during, and after marriage.  We believe in the therapy of sin.  We believe
                    adultery is fun.  We believe everything is getting better, despite evidence
                    to the contrary.  We believe Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
                    Mohammed,  and ourselves.  He was a good moral teacher, although
                     we think some of His good morals are really bad.  We believe all
                     religions are basically the same, they only differ on creation, sin,
                     heaven, hell, God and salvation.  We believe that after death there
                     is nothing, because we ask the dead, they say nothing.  We believe
                     Masters and Johnson who said that what is selected is average,
                     what is average is normal, and what is normal is good.  We believe in 
                     total disarmament, because we believe that there is a direct link between
                     warfare and bloodshed.  Americans should beat their guns into tractors,
                     and the Russians will be sure to follow.  We believe that man is basically
                     good, it’s only his behavior that lets him down.  This is the fault of society.
                     Society is the fault of conditions, and conditions are the fault of society. 
                     We believe each man must find the truth that is right for him and reality
                     will adjust accordingly. We believe there is no absolute truth, except
                     the truth there is no absolute truth.  We believe in the rejection 
                     of creeds and the flowering of individual thought.

Turner finishes with this thought, “If chance be the father of all flesh, then disaster is its rainbow in the sky.  And when you hear a state of emergency, sniper kills 13, youths go looting, bombs in schools, It’s the sound of man worshiping his maker (Romans 1:25).   We are reaping what we have sown.”
        At this point it might be very tempting for Christians to say that it's all too overwhelming. There's not very much that I can do.  But will this attitude bring about God's redemptive purposes on this planet?  Every Christian has a sphere of influence. For some it may be our family, or our job, or neighborhood, for others a wider impact.. The saving and transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the hearts of people is the only hope for this world.  Mother Teresa was once asked how the world could  be changed with such massive needs.  Without hesitation she replied, "one person at a time."
         Our struggle is not against flesh and blood ( Ephesians 6:12).  We are called to hate sin but love the sinner.  Those who call us bigots are just sinners in need of grace, just like you and I at one time. We make the mistake of starting a battle in the Spirit and ending up in the flesh, involving hurt feelings and egos.  In such cases, we always lose.  We are called to fight but our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty for the pulling down of strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).  Our double-barreled weapon is truth administered through love.  We take no joy in exposing sin, but we do it because we love people enough to tell them the truth.  There is no person or society that can be truly free that rejects the truth.
            When any society starts to say that good is bad and bad is good, it shows its moral fiber is being ripped asunder. Christians have not only the right but the responsibility to resist. Toward the end of Henry’s famous speech he said, “Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”  I submit to you that when we are told that we can decide what we believe and practice it in the pulpit but not in the marketplace and government, this is a form of tyranny. It makes the church a toothless tiger.
            Patrick Henry spoke of a death.  For us it may not be a physical death, but death to our reputation, death to our seeking the praise of man, resulting in the freedom to serve and glorify God as our conscience demands.  The Apostle Paul admonishes us to “Fight the good fight for what we believe” (I Timothy 6:12a NLT).  My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I know not what stance you may take, but I echo the words of that famous patriot and follower of Christ from the state of Virginia  “give me liberty or give me death.”

Image used with permission by Microsoft.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Forever Young

 Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
 they will remain vital and green.  (Psalms 92:14 NLT)

         I am the first of the baby boomers. I was born in 1946 along with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the inception of the baby boomer era.  Many of us are starting to notice a little wear and tear on our mortal bodies. I don’t run down the first base line with the same rapidity that I once did. As a matter of fact, I don’t run the bases at all anymore.  For believers in Christ, though our physical bodies are decaying, our spirits are growing stronger and stronger.
         Many in this generation reach this stage of life and move into a nostalgic malaise.  They sit around and think about “the good old days.” As Christians, yes, we thank God for his faithfulness in the past, but we use it as a springboard of faith for our involvement the new things God wants to do. Of course, due to physical limitations, we sometimes have to vary our type and the extend of our service to the Lord, but this in no way makes us ready to be put out to pasture.  As the above scriptural reference says about the godly, “Even in old age they will still produce fruit.”  We should never allow ourselves to become a prisoner of a positive past.
         E. Stanley Jones, the famous missionary statesman to India, at age seventy raised a few eyebrows at a conference when he proclaimed that the next ten years would be his best. At age eighty the naysayers had to admit he was right.  After he turned eighty, Jones asked the Lord for more and better years. The Lord spoke to him that the next era would be one of his greatest contribution. This too, also happened.  What enabled this man to be fruitful his entire life?  It was attitude. A young girl once asked her Mother, “How old is Stanley Jones?”  The Mother answered, “77.”  The girl replied, “How can this be? He acts as if he is just beginning.” Jones once said this toward the end of his life.  “Is this period of my life a sunset or a sunrise?  But this that I have doesn’t have the feel of a sunset at all.  It has the feel of a sunrise.  In Jesus there are no sunsets, they are all sunrises.  He is the bright and Morningstar, not the evening star.  He is the Lord of the past, the present, and the future.”
         My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must always remember that our home is in heaven. Though our bodies are fading, God’s Spirit is renewing our spirit in anticipation of the day when we will be with Him. The best days for Christians are always in front of us. Let us all rejoice every day that in Christ we are forever young.

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing