Saturday, July 4, 2015

Man Down!

In this dream, I am returning to my hotel room in a strange city at night. The only way I know how to get there is to take a narrow side street, but it is barricaded. Afraid I will get lost if I don’t go this way, I cautiously slip under the barricade and instantly regret it.

In the middle of the street is an open manhole, surrounded by a circle of firemen in fluorescent yellow and orange coats, each lying prostrate with his head facing and eyes peering into the manhole. A little girl stands outside the circle, clutching a small, gray mutt in her arms and yelling excitedly, over and over, “Daddy saved Scruffy!”

Her mother, huddled over her, is sobbing uncontrollably. The awful realization hits me that the mutt ran into the open manhole; and the father risked his life to deliver him, but now could not himself escape. Even worse, apparently he was tangled in some electrical wires, and if the firemen could not extricate him or if they crossed wires in the attempt, he would be electrocuted instantly or set on fire in an explosion.

Some of the wires they had partially freed were now stretched out of the manhole and into the street. To my horror, I realized that I had disturbed these by wandering too close to the scene and that I had endangered the man’s life even further.

I awoke in a cold sweat and began to think about the symbolism of the dream regarding the Gospel, and our reaction to it. God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins, so that anyone who trusts in His death, burial and resurrection will have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He died for all (1 Corinthians 15:3), and He offers His freely given gift of salvation to all (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). 

But some people are like the dog in the dream – oblivious to their own transgressions, and to what He has done to save them and what it means to them. They don’t know they will spend eternity in hell unless they trust Christ (Mark 9:45; John 3:18), so they have no reason to appreciate His sacrifice. And yet, ignorance is no excuse (Romans 1:20).

Some are like the little girl, happy to have her pet safe and sound but unaware that her father’s life was still in danger. Some Christians get excited about receiving God’s blessings but have little love for others who are not yet delivered from the pit of hell (John 13:3-8).

Like the wife weeping for her husband, who could die at any moment, some who are born again (John 3:3-35; 15:17) do earnestly grieve for their loved ones in danger of eternal damnation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sadly, they are so consumed by this fear (Philippians 4:6) that they are ineffective in leading them to the Lord by witness, prayer, love, and showing a strong testimony of faith (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Colossians 4:12 James 5:16,20; 1 Peter 4:8).

Looking at my own role in the dream, I was in a strange city at night, symbolizing our earthly journey as we pass through this dark, foreign country until He takes us safely home (Hebrews 11:13). I knew there was only one way I could go to reach safety. He is the only Way to salvation (John 14:6), which can be entered only through the narrow gate (in the dream, squeezing under the barricade; Matthew 7:13).

But once there, I failed to help anyone who was in danger. In fact, I made the situation worse by tangling the wires that the firefighters had worked so hard to make straight (Isaiah 42:16). It saddens me to think how many times I inadvertently was a stumbling block, getting in the way of someone being saved, whether through careless words or behavior that is not Christ-like (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). 

I wonder how many times evangelical missionaries lay the groundwork for salvation in their preaching to the lost, only to have an uncaring believer disrupt it by an offhand remark or an unloving attitude.

The firefighters in the dream represent those Christians who are on fire for the Lord (Luke 24:32), doing all they can through His power (Philippians 4:13) to rescue souls from the flames of hell. The firemen worked together (Acts 2:44-47), as a formation team positioned around the chasm of hell, to deliver the endangered soul. 

Yet so often Christians allow Satan to divide and conquer them (Proverbs 6:16-19), dissipating their collective power, rather than being like a building fitly framed together (Ephesians 2:19-22) so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18).

Each of the firemen was face to the ground, symbolizing fervent prayer (James 5:16), which is essential if the church is to win souls to Christ. Each was fully suited up in his protective uniform, just as Christians should put on the whole armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:11-13) before they attempt soul-winning or even getting out of bed! And each of them was highly focused on the task at hand, letting God work through them rather than being distracted by the commotion and chaos all around them (Hebrews 12:1).

Ultimately, it is Christ Who alone has accomplished all that is needed for our salvation through His shed blood, perfect and sinless sacrifice, and completed work on the cross (John 19:30; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 10:10-14). He rose from the dead to conquer sin, death, and the devil and to give those who trust Him eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:24-27, 53-57). Only the Holy Spirit can convict unsaved souls of their sin and need for a Savior and work in their hearts for them to be born again (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

But, praise God, He has given His children the awesome privilege and responsibility of leading souls to Him through verbal witness, lifestyle testimony of loving behavior, prayer for others to be saved, and working together as the church to reach the unsaved and encourage one another in soul-winning in our local communities and across the globe.

May we daily thank Him for His freely given gift of salvation, guard our own words and lifestyle so as not to hinder anyone from being saved, keep our eyes fixed on Him, and work together as His body to increase His kingdom!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three Steps to Peace: Repentance, Reconciliation, Rest

Photo of the Peace River by tuchodi 2009

Have you ever thought about the metaphor “peace like a river?” (Isaiah 48:18; 66:12) Strange imagery, for river waters can be raging, white water leading to the edge of precipitous falls; turbulent, stirring up mud and sediment from the bottom; and divergent, parting as each stream goes its separate way around a boulder or island.

Yet we have all experienced the calming effect of gazing at the river as it flows by, drinking from a cool, refreshing brook, and floating on a meandering stream. So the metaphor is apt, because peace, in the river or in the world, is meaningless without the contrast to preceding turbulence or war. For peace to be a state of being, there must first be a desire to give up warfare and the process of making a truce.

So it is in the Christian life. If we wish to experience the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7), we must first realize that we are at war with God (Romans 8:7) and undergo reconciliation to Him (Ephesians 2:16). Until we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), there can be no peace with God, for we are His enemies (James 4:4; Romans 5:10), children of the devil (1 John 3:10), and sinners deserving eternal death in hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

Peace comes only if we put aside confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) engendered by false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-2), worldly philosophies (Colossians 2:8), and even our own hearts telling us to do what we think is right (Psalm 10:3; Proverbs 6:18; Jeremiah 17:9). Perfect peace comes only from keeping our mind, heart and spirit fixed on Jesus Himself! (Isaiah 26:3)

We will never find the way of peace when we are run ashore, cast adrift, and detoured by sin: deceit, cursing, and bitterness; murder, destruction and misery (Romans 3:10-17). We will never know peace (Job 22:21) until we are born again (John 3:3-8), knowing God through His Son (Luke 10:22; John 8:19), and His Spirit entering our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). We will never have peace with God until we are justified, or made righteous, by faith in Jesus Christ, Who gives us grace, joy, and hope (Romans 5:2).

Holy God cannot be in the presence of sinful man, but when God looks at a sinner justified by grace (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7) through faith, He no longer sees our sin (Psalm 103:12), but only the perfect righteousness of His Son!

His peace comforts us even in tribulations, for we know that when we flounder in turbulent waters, God is bathing us in patience, experience, and hope (Romans 5:1-4). We can have peace knowing that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), that His grace is sufficient for any trouble, and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We can give up fighting in our own pitiful strength (Hebrews 11:34), knowing that the battle is the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47), and that He will deliver us from our enemies (2 Kings 17:39; Psalm 3:7; 56:9; 59:1; 60:12, etc.)

Isaiah 48 describes the Trinity as the One Who spoke from the beginning of time (Jesus Christ), the Lord God (the Father), and His Spirit (v. 16), and also as the Lord, Redeemer, and Holy One of Israel (v. 17). The remainder of the chapter describes the way to peace with Him by making three references to water.

If Israel had listened to God’s commandments, they would have had peace as a river and righteousness as the waves of the sea (v. 18), for He is the One Who satisfied their thirst by cleaving the rock and causing the waters to flow out of the rock for them (v. 21). But sadly, Israel did not obey, and there is no peace for the wicked (v. 22).

Later in Isaiah, God uses three fluids to illustrate His grace toward His chosen people of Israel. He promises to extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream, and to nourish and comfort her as a mother would nurse her child with flowing milk (Isaiah 66:12),

The three steps to peace are repentance, reconciliation, and rest. Repentance in itself is a three-step process. We must realize that we have muddied the waters of our life with the filth of our sins (Isaiah 57:20-21), constantly dredged up from the depth of our soul. We must turn from our wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14; Ezekiel 3:19; 33:9,11), just as a bend in the river changes its course. And we must call out to God (Romans 10:13; 1 Corinthians 1:2), realizing that only He has the living water (John 4:10-14) that can cleanse us.

Thankfully, God is merciful, faithful and gracious in hearing our plea (Job 13:6), answering our prayer to be saved (Psalm 143:1), and reconciling us to Himself (Hebrews 2:17). That reconciliation is through the blood of His Son, plentifully shed for us like a river flooding, powerful as a raging torrent, and supernaturally able to wash our scarlet sins as white as snow. Jesus brought peace by reconciling sinful man to Holy God through the blood of His Cross (Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:16).

Only when we are reconciled to Him can we find true rest, for we leave our heavy burdens at the foot of His cross to be carried away in the river of His tears (Matthew 11:28). We stop struggling against His perfect will and yield to the current of the Holy Spirit gently guiding us (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).

As we set sail in our Christian life, we experience the flow of His direction bearing us downstream to Him instead of battling the tide. Then our destination can be to green pastures, beside the still waters where our soul is restored (Psalm 23:2-3), imperfectly in this life, but completely when we see His face (1 Corinthians 13:12), and eternally thereafter!

May we place our trust in Christ alone! He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) Who came in human form (John 1:14) in perfect submission to His Father’s will (Luke 22:42), even to the point of physical suffering, humiliation, and death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). He is the Lord of Peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16), the Giver of peace to all who recognize His Lordship through prayer, submission and obedience.

And one day He will rule all the earth as the King of Peace (Hebrews 7:2) Who has subdued, conquered and triumphed over all His enemies, even sin, death, and Satan! (1 Corinthians 15:55; Hebrews 2:14) May we make our peace with Him long before that day, to enjoy everlasting peace with Him!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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