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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Psalm 23: Daily Living with the Good Shepherd

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Psalm 23 
Theme Verses: The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. 

O Father, I just want to thank you and praise you for this Psalm of testimony! For here I see a full revelation of David’s heart and what made him a “man after your heart!” Enable me to ever pattern my heart life as revealed here. O my Shepherd God, I worship you and thank you.

First of all, I thank you for this relationship! It is unspeakably wonderful to have as my spiritual shepherd the God of all Creation, THE Creator AND Redeemer of all who truly believe! How great it is to belong to you as a sheep who does not have to understand anything except that His Shepherd is able to care for all his needs. All I have to do is hear your voice and follow (John 10:27). Although the way maybe difficult and dry, you will lead me to the refreshing waters of Jesus’ cleansing blood and the nourishing pastures to feed on your Word in the fellowship in your Holy Spirit. By these means, you restore my soul by renewing it. As I come to the Lord Jesus, He instills his life in my soul in exchange for my old one. Then as I identify myself as his disciple in the waters of baptism, He leads me in ways that honor both of you, Great Shepherd and Father God. It is an honor to show your great worth as I bear Your Name. I can proclaim the abundant life of freedom from the dominance of directed in Your Word. I walk through life with you.

Next I praise you Lord, for the many times that you have accompanied me in the valley of the shadow of death, especially when my back was fractured and Communist soldiers threatened my life in Viet Nam. Your rod of protection saved me, and with your staff pulled me to safety. Even now, I praise you for your protection and blessings, as our spiritual enemies prowl around to catch me unaware and drag me from you presence. Indeed your enemies are mine, and my enemies must face you as my Shepherd Protector.

Lastly, I glorify you in all the circumstances where you make me fruitful in your service; they bring a joy that is an overflowing cup of refreshment and encouragement. I long for that day when in Heaven, I stand completely immersed in blessings of your Holy Preence. I will stand complete. You give this experience to all who will let their faith soar farther than the eagle or astronaut, to the Heaven of Heavens into Your Presence and Throne. For we can boldly say by heart faith that Jesus, our Savior-Shepherd is also our Forerunner. Though his substitution death, He prepared the way into your Presence and turned the place of judgment into a place of acceptance, fellowship, and even reward. By faith, our hearts and minds can go beyond their limitations into the realm of your Spirit and ever increasing faith fellowship. We are united to you in the Person and work of your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord. Even as the Lord Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Such joy we experience for through the Holy Spirit’s work, this saving relationship is communicated to our souls through His testimony in our spirits (Rom 8:15, 16). For our Savior is fully able to do all this in shepherding our souls. He is able, for He is your eternal Word, the outshining expression of Your Person, the only begotten God incarnated in flesh, the resurrected Lamb slain as the reconciling sacrifice before the Creation, and united with you in the Heavens. He is the Good and Great Shepherd of our souls.

O LORD, let me dwell where you abide, 

Let my hand be in yours, 

That you may lead me into green pastures, 

And to the refreshing still waters, 

Defend and restore my soul for Your Name’s sake! 

Place Your Word in my mouth, 

That when I speak overflowing praise, 

Your Name may be exalted and glorified. 

Fill me with Your Spirit, 

That when others hear, 

A hundred fold harvest, 

You will receive. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

C.S. Lewis was a "thoroughly converted person"

C.S. Lewis on Authentic Discipleship

by Christopher W. Mitchell, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute
Director, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Walter Hooper has on several occasions stated that C.S. Lewis was the most thoroughly converted person he had ever met. If I were to put what Hooper was saying into biblical language, it would go something like this: “From the time Lewis came to faith in Jesus Christ to the day he died, he desired, worked, and struggled, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, to bring all of his life captive to Christ.” An evangelical would simply have said that Lewis was a model disciple of Christ. I agree with both assertions. I also believe Lewis understood the nature and purpose of Christian discipleship better than most and communicated as clearly as anyone in the English speaking world.1

Because my primary aim is to demonstrate the enormous significance of what Lewis has to teach us about Christian discipleship, it is important that I make clear at the outset that Lewis did in fact struggle all his life to embody what he knew to be true of a disciple of Christ. Two examples will suffice. The first comes from a letter Lewis wrote on June 21, 1950, to his friend and former student, George Sayer. Lewis was fifty-one years old. Much of his most important and celebrated work defending and explicating the faith had been published. He was, one might say, mature and well established in his faith. But on this day he penned the following: “My Dear George, I shall be completely alone at the Kilns… from Aug 11 to Aug 19th and am like to fall into a whoreson melancholy. Can you come and spend all or any of this time with me?”2 Now this is a rather amazing and illuminating statement. Surprising in that a somewhat reserved Lewis should unburden himself in this way to a friend and illuminating inasmuch as it demonstrates that even at this period in his life, he was still wrestling with personal demons, still struggling to keep his way pure. It is also illuminating in that it demonstrates the depth of his commitment to following Christ.

Read it all here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bringing Christ to Our Neighbors

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to go and make disciples. This means telling people about the love of God that has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. It means partnering with them as they begin the walk of obedient faith.

Here are five ways we can make significant connections with the people who live around us.

For more on evangelism and discipleship, search the INDEX. Topics are arranged in alphabetical order.

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Obedient Servant of the Lord

Saint Patrick's Day Collect 

Almighty God,
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick
to be the apostle of the Irish people,
to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error
to the true light and knowledge of you:
Grant us so to walk in that light,
that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever.

St. Patrick of Ireland

When it comes to discipleship, few men measure up to the obedience of Patrick of Ireland. Taken to Ireland as a slave at age 16, he remained in servitude for six years until God guided his escape.  Arriving back in England, the Lord placed in Patrick's heart such a love and compassion for the pagan Irish, that he returned and facing great dangers in order to led many to faith in Jesus Christ.

Patrick was born about AD 390, in southwest Britain, somewhere between the Severn and the Clyde rivers, son of a deacon and grandson of a priest. When about sixteen years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. Until this time, he had, by his own account, cared nothing for God, but now he turned to God for help. After six years, he either escaped or was freed, made his way to a port 200 miles away, and there persuaded some sailors to take him onto their ship. He returned to his family much changed, and began to prepare for the priesthood, and to study the Bible.

Around 435, Patrick was commissioned, perhaps by bishops in Gaul and perhaps by the Pope, to go to Ireland as a bishop and missionary. Four years earlier another bishop, Palladius, had gone to Ireland to preach, but he was no longer there. Patrick made his headquarters at Armagh in the North, where he built a school, and had the protection of the local monarch. From this base he made extensive missionary journeys. To say that he turned Ireland from a pagan to a Christian country is not far from the truth.

Almost everything we know about Saint Patrick comes from his own writings, available in English in the Ancient Christian Writers series. He has left us an autobiography (called the Confessio), a Letter to Coroticus in which he denounces the slave trade and rebukes the British chieftain Coroticus for taking part in it. 

Patrick's authorship of the Lorica or "Breastplate" is disputed. It is poetry and "part prayer, part anthem, and part incantation." The Lorica is found in many hymnals and is often sung on the feast of Saint Patrick and on Trinity Sunday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Larry Osborne: Thoughts on Discipleship


"Most of our discipleship programs are very linear. Unfortunately, most spiritual growth is not."--Larry Osborne

Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church since 1980. He has helped oversee the growth of the church from a fledgling group of 128 meeting in a rented school, to a multi-site ministry that reaches over 9,000 in weekend attendance.

Larry is an author and a respected trainer of pastors. One of his books is titled books include Accidental Pharisees (Baker Book House). He has said, "We've lost our compassion for the struggling in the middle and the back of the faith line, much like the Pharisees did," and adds, "we come down hard on the one who struggles, the one who is weak, and therefore accidentally, we become like the Pharisees."

Osborne writes, "We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual imposters or enemies of the Lord. Our goal may be to protect the flock. But boundary markers that are narrower than the ones Jesus laid down don't protect the flock; they divide the flock. They so discord among brothers, something God says he's not too fond of. They also result in a rash of friendly fire" (pp.142-143).

He believes many Christians today misinterpret the meaning of discipleship in Scripture, confusing discipleship with leadership, and therefore casting a judgmental eye on those who struggle with their faith.

Osborne points out how Paul began his message to the troubled church at Corinth: "The first thing to notice about Paul's rebuke of the Corinthian church is the way he starts out. He begins with praise. Not contempt. Not critique. Not a scolding. Though there was plenty to rant about. He finds the good and praises it, sincerely and genuinely . . . most of our stinging rebukes have not a word of praise . . . We start with the bad and move on to the horrible. Our tone can be scornful as we ridicule, mock, and question the salvation of everyone who's at the back of the line . . . Paul wrote with a broken heart. He felt great distress. He shed many tears. He loved the Corinthians as if they were his own children. Yet many of the harsh critics that I hear and read today seem to have far more disgust than tears" (pp.132-133).

Paul recognized that people often need milk instead of meat. They need praise mixed with spiritual council. The conveyor belt approach to discipleship does not work. Each situation requires compassion and sensitivity to individual needs. Often people don't know they are hungry or confused until they hit a crisis. Larry Osborne says that it was when his wife was suffering with cancer that he wanted to take the courses on the sovereignty of God.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Forgiveness is Not Enough!

Edward F. Lundwall Jr

Forgiveness is Not Enough! 

Part III 

The story of the healing of a paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda is an about the issue of forgiveness. After he was healed and the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath by carrying his pallet as Jesus had instructed him. It was the demonstration of his faith that Jesus did heal him. However, the former paralytic excused his actions claiming that he did not know Jesus’ name. In John 5:14, we read, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” From what Jesus said, we can conclude that the man had received forgiveness for a sin that caused his lameness. He had believed and obeyed Jesus. However, Jesus told him that if he sinned again, he would experience a worse consequence.

Not all faith is saving faith. Matthew 7:21 states, “Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” According to John 1:12, receiving Christ only saves, when and if we let Him influence us to “become the sons of God.” At another time when Jesus was giving instructions to new believers, the Lord Jesus told new believers they must prove their faith and commitment: “As he spoke these words, many believed on him.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered him, “We are Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how say thou, Ye shall be made free?” Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoever commits (as a lifestyle - Greek present) sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abides not in the house for ever: but the Son abides ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:30‑36).

The purpose of Jesus coming into the world is found in the name that Mary and Joseph were instructed to give him. “Thou shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Although forgiveness is involved, His coming was to gain a people that belong to Him! His methodology was to “save his people from their sins.” The original verb “save” indicates a condition of past, present and future. Through continuous faith, a person is saved from his sins, is being saved from his sins, and will be saved from his sins. Indeed as the faith continues, so does the act of being saved.

To ask God for forgiveness, and to mentally or even publically acknowledge Jesus Christ’s death to save us from our deserved damnation is not enough. A relationship of trust in Christ must be a continuous process of learning to love Him, obey his commandments, and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform you from within to be more like Him.

Related reading: Forgiveness and Restoration; God's Forgiveness Must Bring Forth Fruit

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Psalm 22: The Hope of Christ-The Prophetic Picture

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Psalm 22, Theme Verses: 

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 
Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Verse 1) 

“I will declare thy name unto my brethren; 
in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” (Verse 22) 

O Father, how awesome is your righteousness and your love. As a believer, I must humble myself, even to laying in the dust of repentance before you, and not just bow my knees before you. Here you reveal the true awfulness of sin. When your only begotten Son took my sin upon Himself, as my substitute, your holiness demanded his death! “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23)

How else can it be? For You and Your righteous ways are life and life’s abundance. If I choose to live contrary to the ways you, as Creator, have designed for me, I oppose life. Why is it so hard for men to understand this? Even if their invented things are used contrary to their designed purposes, their purpose for existence ceases to exist. First, their performance does not meet the needs through disuse. Then, with its intended purpose lost, the invention is often destroyed by its misuse. The more complex and specialized the invention, the more this is happens. Destruction follows misuse being disharmony of design. As fantastic as space vehicles are, your design potential of each man far exceeds them in complexity. Even the greatest genius possesses all the building genes present at the moment of his or her conception. O Father, how great are your works and ways; they are far past finding out!

Your design for man at his creation was to walk in fellowship and holiness with you, but in our rebellion and turning away from you, we have become like the body of a severely injured athlete that no doctor could return to its original perfection. However, You, Father, through the Person and sacrificial death of Your Son Jesus Christ, can restore the sinner through the birthing of His life into the believing sinner (John 1:12, 13; 2 Cor. 5:15-21; John 3:1-7). This mighty redemptive work of your infinite love recreates us into a greater state than man’s original, unspoiled creation…we become your children and you become “Abba,” our Father.

Oh, how great you are! Expand my mind and my spirit that I may be more able to understand the pain and darkness that Jesus experienced when He cried out the beginning of this Psalm on the cross dying for sinful mankind! I cannot fully take it in (1 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). Throughout eternity, believers will be just soaking these divine truths into their finite minds! Only then, a measure of true spirituality will be their eternal experience (2 Cor. 3:17, 18).

Yet, let me also rejoice in Christ’s final words on the cross---the last verse of this psalm. Even in his excruciating circumstance, Jesus could see the joy before Him. All your angels worship Him (Hebrews 1:6) because you would and have given him “The Name, which is above every name…” Even before the final judgment, every knee will bow before Him. Indeed, I bow with many other forgiven and redeemed sinners, before my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and I choose to continually worship Him as Lord. All this because of his sufferings for the world, including me, as pictured in this song.

I have bowed before my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and continually worship him, because his sufferings for the world of humanity and me are pictured in this Psalm. O Lord Jesus, as this Psalm speaks of your suffering onmy behalf, I am ashamed of my groaning, because of my “light afflictions.” Help me to remember this when I am called upon by our Father to suffer in your program of redemption. I am being privileged to know you in the “fellowship” of your sufferings. This is especially so, when I am rejected and persecuted because I speak your Word, even when done in love and humility.

I worship You, Father, for in the Lord Jesus through His example on the Cross and prophetically in this Psalm, that even in His sufferings, you gave me an example of joy and confidence beyond the suffering experience. What comfort in disappointments because Father, you are the God of resurrection. I thank you for Lord Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; they give me certain hope of a personal bodily resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-23; 1 Thes. 4:4; 13-18; Job 19:23-27). Therefore, I worship you and honor the Lord Jesus even as I do You, O Father (John 5:23; 14:7-11).

Bless the LORD, O my soul, 
And all that is within me, 
Bless His Holy Name, 
And forget not all His benefits! 
And through You, Lord Jesus, 
I worship You, Father.

Thanks be unto You, Father, 
for Your unspeakable gift.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

God's Forgiveness Must Bring Forth Fruit

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Forgiveness, Not Enough! Part II 

Forgiveness is not enough for natural man to have an eternal, harmonious relationship with God. His nature must be change. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is at enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” King Saul of the Old Testament illustrates this well. After he sinned, he sought forgiveness both from God and David. After he made a peace with David, he kept going back to his old attitude of trying to kill David! Although he regretted what he had done and asked to be forgiven, forgiveness was not enough. There was not lasting change or true desire to eliminate conflict.

Since God is perfect, it is sinful people that must change. Unless a man’s character changes to harmonize with God, even heaven would not be a happy place. God’s conflict with Satan and his fallen angels exemplify this. They caused war in heaven and battling on earth (Eph. 6:12). When man’s first parents were persuaded to believe Satan’s gospel of trusting their personal desires and human reasoning, they adopted the lifestyle of rebel gods (Gen. 3:1-5). This gave natural man a nature that has become increasingly rebellious, corrupt, and stubborn through generations as described in Ephesians 2:2 and 3. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

The history of Israel gives abundant testimony. The story of their exodus from Egyptian slavery reveals constant repetition of self willed conflict between that generation and God through Mosaic leadership. Peace and blessing came only with a new generation surrendered to God and His ways. It took a generation to get Egypt out of Israel and God into her character. Forty years in the wilderness forged their rebellious attitude of slaves towards any authority to the submissive, dependent children of God.

Among evangelical groups and fundamental churches, the impression is often given that anyone who responds to “the altar call” to find forgiveness of sins, is not only forgiven, but assured of one’s place in Heaven. They are given the impression that all that is needed is a public, verbal profession of faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Workers assure them that this response is all that is needed. Perhaps either their faith began with such a simple beginning and/or they have known of notable Christian leaders that were known to have been “saved” that way. Yet, of the majority of cases of those who seek forgiveness and salvation this way, few live changed lives! They continue to live as they have been, feeling comfortable with just having negotiated an “eternal life insurance” policy.

Some years ago, Eternity magazine reported the statistics of 100 churches who had the largest Sunday Schools. These churches increased their attendance by only one out of every six professions of faith! One church reported 500 professions, but lost 100 in their spiritual education class (Sunday School) attendance.

Another surprising statistic concerned those who professed to be “saved” in Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns. After a period of time, only 3% gave evidence of being “saved” or born again. Still another alarming statistic was announced in my fundamental, gospel preaching Church. From the pulpit, the pastor said according to a trustworthy survey, that 75% of Christian young people that went to secular colleges lose or deny their faith. Later, in the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, several leaders reported that 89-90% of Southern Baptist youth lost their faith in secular colleges. For years, it has been a notable thing that youth attendance dropped off after the elementary school age level.

Is this something peculiar to recent times? What is the key to experiencing forgiveness that leads to Christ-like living? Jesus instructed his disciples to spread the gospel with the intention of reproducing themselves…making other disciples, willing to be and do whatever God willed in both spirit and in reality. Does such faithfulness lead to spiritual fruitfulness? What does the Scripture have to inform us? (Watch for Part III.)