STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD- 3 – BEHOLD THE LAMB!

STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER THREE

BEHOLD THE LAMB! (not, cow)

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Micah 6:8

With a little sympathy and a lot of laughter I watched the news one evening regarding Mad Cow disease. It seemed after five years of bone-wearying research to discover whether or not B.S.E. could be transferred from cows to humans, scientists were just hours away from publishing their results. After spending $300,000 and thousands of man-hours by the country’s brightest professionals, after endless speculation from worried cow-farmers, after the multitude of panic-merchants who have undoubtedly boycotted wearing leather until they find out the results (because you never know!), we’ll never see the results. They will never be printed or released. Why? Because it seems that for the first five years the scientists, who thought they were examining the brains of cow, were in fact studying sheep brain.

So, what do you know? Even the brightest of us can make mistakes! I can’t decide whether that’s comforting or disconcerting. However, it wasn’t the scientists who were to blame. It was those who provided the brains, all the time assuring the scientists that what they were studying was true. The scientists were true to their studies. Unfortunately those who supplied the materials were not, and although the building looked fine, the foundation was sand.

After my unsympathetic laughter died down I began to think about this a little. I thought of the man, who had spent his entire life thinking he was studying truth until one evening he visited the Lamb. He came to Jesus at night and was informed of his grievous error. Thinking that life was found in the scripture, thinking that salvation lay within the law, thinking that God was impressed by “faultless” religious observance, he was to discover truth was found in the Lamb.

In fact, so useless was the fruit of his labour Jesus told him that he had to be born again. He wasn’t told to brush himself down. He wasn’t told to juggle the figures. He wasn’t even told he was on the right track. He was told to start again – from scratch.

Oh Nicodemus! After being raised in the family of God, surrounded by the countries brightest subjects, and being assured that what he was studying was true, only to find out his labours were pretty much in vain; unless, of course, he would be born again.

But shall we have sympathy for Nicodemus? Not at all. By all accounts, he, like the scientists studying B.S.E., ditched his studies and began again. If we are to have any sympathy, let us have it for all those religious scientists of Jesus’ day, who heard the truth, but tragically returned to studying with their heads planted firmly in a bed of sand.

Rather than ditch their lifetime errors, they continued in their futile, lifeless and empty religious studies. So wrapped up in their own personal “correctness” they rejected the Lamb, no doubt encouraged in their efforts by the standard (or lack thereof) of the twelve scientists who surround Jesus; a bunch of wannabe scientists who didn’t even possess the appropriate credentials.

I’m reminded also of a woman. A woman, who, if our own son brought her home, we’d more than likely throw a fit – though she was fit enough for Jesus. She thought it was important WHERE she worshipped, and she’d been studying this particular course all her life. Her married-five-times lifestyle seemed to indicate that she placed all her hopeful eggs in the basket of “where”.

Her adventure is a remarkable one. Not only did she ditch the advice of her colleagues, but she turned many of her fellow scientists from “where” to the feet of the Lamb. Her inclusion in the Book of Books stands as a sharp rebuke to religious scientists everywhere who still believe the “where” is more important than “spirit and truth”. That the name on the building matters more than the content therein.

Two wonderful examples from scripture, underlining the fact that years of meaningless study are only truly meaningless if we fail to embrace the truth that even meaningless study can reveal.

These two wonderful people (from opposite ends of the religious, social, cultural and moral spectrum), were pioneers in the field of “pearl diving” (Matt 13:45&46), teaching us that TRUTH is worth ditching everything you already hold to be dear.

And yet, in spite of having these two wonderful stories immortalised for us, where are we? Still we struggle to ditch the idea that salvation is to be found in personal righteousness, religious and ritualistic observation or even in the “where” of our worship. Still we struggle to embrace the fact that our salvation rests in a God, whose heart is so tender and so pregnant with compassion, that what He truly requires of us is that we go to Him, humbly, honestly, obediently asking His forgiveness.

Every now and then, during the preaching or studying of His word we come to realise that what we thought to be Lamb was actually beef. Let us, like these two pioneers before us, have the courage to turn our backs on what we’ve previously held to be true when the Lamb teaches differently.

God applauds the bravery of those who are willing to sacrifice all they know to be true when a deeper a truth emerges from their efforts in searching for Him.

I love that about God!

Billy Wilson

Advertisements

STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER TWO CAROL and JESUS- Billy Wilson

STUFF I LOVE ABOUT GOD: CHAPTER TWO
CAROL & JESUS
Melvin locks his door five times each night, avoids the cracks on the pavement, eats at the same place each day, making sure the same waitress serves him and uses several bars of soap each time he washes himself.
Melvin (Jack Nicholson) is diagnosed as having “Compulsive Behaviour Syndrome”. His life is in a mess. He does what he wants, says what he means, and sadly, means what he says, unconcerned about the havoc he wreaks in other people’s lives. He is abusively direct and succeeds only in alienating himself from almost everyone he meets. He has the ability to offend anybody within a twenty-mile radius. In spite of this, Carol the waitress (Helen Hunt) becomes increasingly attracted to him, as does he to her.
In a restaurant, from which Melvin eventually chases Carol with his less-than-diplomatic honesty, there comes the first in a long line of changes. He actually pays someone a compliment. It comes as Carol, having heard enough insults for one day, says, “Pay me a compliment, Melvin.” He thinks for a moment, smiles, and replies, “You make me want to be a better man.” He goes on to explain that she is far better therapy for him than the pills he had subsequently stopped taking since meeting her. The film is “As good as it gets”, and is worth a watch.
“You make me want to be a better man”. God, bless all the “Carol’s” of this world. All those, who by the things they say, the things they do or the lives they live, encourage us to be better men and women. All those individuals whom God enables to cheer us on our way. Those who will challenge us to forsake ourselves (no minor miracle) and think of others.
When I think about Jesus, at least long enough to stop thinking about myself, this much is true: He makes me want to be a better man. And yet it’s so much more than that.
What is it that leads men into battle? What leads men to sacrifice? What encourages them to think, not of themselves, but of their country, or their people, or their family or neighbours? What enables men to stand face to face with death, and chose it? What is it that enables men to proclaim the virtues of freedom, and to do so with their lives, as opposed to doing it from some political seat far from the battle? More often than not it’s their leaders.
Alexander the Great, on approaching a fortified city, engaged in conversation with the King who made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t about to surrender. As the story goes, Alex then lined up a portion of his men and ordered them to march… straight off the end of a cliff. And they did it! The King? Well he duly surrendered, as you might expect.
What was so Great about Alexander? He made men want to die. He convinced them that greater glory lay in death than in life, if the life was laid down for a greater purpose.
Or what about Sir William Wallace, arguably Scotland’s greatest leader, whose troops bled the ground red at Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, and ultimately at Bannockburn, without him, and won their freedom from the English? What was so great about Wallace? He made men want to die.
Or more recently, Sir Winston Churchill, who led the British forces against the Nazi’s into what he called, and what undoubtedly was, “our finest hour”. What was so great about Churchill? He made men want to die. I mean, men, in their hundreds of thousands were signing up for what looked like certain death. And why? Because their leader had convinced them that as long as a single one of them remained alive they would fight them on the beaches and on the streets. And as long as a single one of them remained they would never surrender.
Good leaders make us want to be better men. Great leaders make us want to die. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
So then, what about us? What about this leader we follow? Is He really that great? Is He really everything we proclaim Him to be? Everything we preach Him to be? Everything we sing Him to be? Is He really, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as great as everyone says He is? Really? Then tell me this: does He makes us want to die? Or are we too busy living to seriously be about the business of dying?
Our problem has always been that we like to live. We like to live to our families, to our work, to our recreation, to ourselves, to our churches even. Whatever it is, we like to live. In contrast to this the Master speaks and tells us the harvest is calling for death. And we so often miss the joyful experience of harvest simply because we refuse to die.
* Wouldn’t we like to be free from the continual worry of financial pressure which so often binds us and would make us fruitless and faithless? Then die! Plant yourself in the soil of faith and die.
* Wouldn’t we like to be done with cowardice of tongue and lead many souls to glory? Then die! Plant yourself in the soil of humanity and die. Lose your life in the service of others and watch the roots begin to grow, and then a stalk, and then the miracle itself – many seeds.
* Wouldn’t we like to stand, regardless of the temptations and the pressures this world throws at us? Then die! Plant yourself in the field of prayer and reap a harvest of strength only dreamt about.
* And wouldn’t we like to stand one day, with baskets surrounding us, excitedly anticipating the harvest of the Lord? Then die, Christian, die! Let us plant ourselves in the Christ and His gospel, and die. For whoever would lose his life, for His sake and for the gospel, will surely find it.
Consider Jesus, who, like the seeds He encourages us to be, led the way, fell to the ground and died. And look! In doing so He produced many seeds. But seeds are not to be stockpiled. We are not to become content with sitting in a sack, in a barn, when we have been purposely designed for the field.
Are we seriously trying to grow without being planted? Are we honestly trying to produce without dying? It can’t be done. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…”
So, let us be done with trying to find contentment in life when we have been assured that it lies in death. Let us be done with attempting to satisfy ourselves with being a useless, ugly, worthless seed when we can die and become a life bearing plant for God in the field of souls. Let’s take Christianity outside the barn and into the place it was intended to grow and flourish – the field. Let’s throw off the contentment of being a caterpillar when our transformation into butterfly’s lies only a change away.
Let us…
Consider Jesus with the children, and learn to die to inhibitions.
Consider Jesus with the woman caught in adultery, and learn to die to popularity.
Consider Jesus with naming Judas as the purse keeper, and learn to die to materialism.
Consider Jesus with the lepers, and learn to die to separatism.
Consider Jesus with the towel, and learn to die to egotism.
Let us, in all things, consider Jesus, who, for us, fell to the ground and died.
It was always God’s intention for His creation to produce according to its own kind. Die, Christian, die. And from you will come a tree of souls, ready for the harvest of God.
God calls for the greatest of sacrifice from those who belong to Him: death. But He only does so for the benefit of themselves and all those surrounding them; that one day the harvest may be plentiful and truth wins the day.
I love that about God!

Along the way

LET’S GIVE A HAND…

For the most part, everybody needs introduced to reality. Yes, yes, I know your world is real. As real as mine is to me. As real as hers is to her and his to him. But there’s no such thing as a singular reality. THE reality of life includes us all.

I have been shown a measure of grace not known to many: namely, emerging from the waters of baptism over 100 times – two of those for my own benefit.

Every now and then I get an email, a phone call, a text (whatever), from someone who says something like, “Thank you for bringing me to Christ”. Now, because it’s not an invite to theological dialogue, but rather an expression of gratitude, I simply respond by saying something like, “You’re very welcome. I’m glad I was there”.

If it was a theological dialogue I would answer quite differently. The answer would go something like this…

“You’re very welcome. I’m glad I was there at the end of that procession, and the beginning of a new one. One that, by God’s good grace, will lead you HOME”.

I have loved being the one God has strangely and graciously (beyond grace) used in such circumstances. There is NOTHING in this life I enjoy more than sitting on a sofa, one on one with someone, and talking about God.

I’ve had the immense privilege, thanks to friends like Rick Atchley, Jim McGuiggan, Jack Martin, Randy Wells, Bill Paxton, Roger De Loach and so many others others, of speaking before thousands of people at one time, and enjoyed equaled privilege addressing little congregations here and there. Still, nothing compares to the intimacy of one on one. Especially when that relationship blossoms into their reach for Christ.

However, as far as “bringing someone to Christ”? Ha! If only.

I remember one time, in Glasgow, talking with a Catholic girl who decided she wanted to act upon her faith and convert; to give her life to Christ. She was actually quite annoyed at the catholic faith and their misrepresentation of the scriptures.

I’ve had similar discussions with people from the many different churches over the years. And, I’ve had similar experiences with a few alcoholics (my dad included), who, upon conversion, became quite angry at what alcohol had stolen from them. In my dad’s case, his wife, his family, his home, his business and the greater part of his dignity.

I’ve always have the same response. And it goes something like this; “Look! Your hand is now in the hand of the One who controls the very globe you’re standing on. Don’t despise the road that brought you, as despicable as it may well be”. (And some of the roads have been terrifying just to LISTEN to)

Inevitably, they thank me. This is where I’m typically keen to remind them that I’m simply the last in their pre-͏life procession, and first in their post-͏life experience. Before me came a whole HOST of people who led them to where they now stand. Good parents, a kind teacher, loving siblings, a genuine friend, a good neighbor, even the odd pet; ALL of whom played their part in bringing them along the road. “You were an iced cake when I met you. And I’m glad I met you, but I only brought the cherry”.

Life is a thousand little hands. There’s no blinding miracles around each corner, and if we’re waiting for one, chances are we’re going to be deeply disappointed. Even scriptures miracles only appear very occasionally, and typically for special and isolated incidents.

A far greater truth is that we’re surrounded by thousands of little non-miracles, the sum total of which is far, far greater than their parts.

I’m far from the wise old owl that I so admire in others. But I have lived. And I’ve been somewhat observant in life. My testimony is, that as our prayers of desperation, of loneliness, of heartache, of weakness reach the ears of God, His response is typically the same. BECAUSE He loves us, His work among us INVOLVES us. That is, He sends US to us. Unremarkably remarkable.

A flash of blinding light, a crumbling “Jericho” wall, a parting of the impassable, although well within the arsenal of His powers, are NOT typical. A hand, is usually His answer. HIS hand. But it always looks remarkably human.

As I look at my own path, it appears miraculously coincidental, that “they” always seemed to appear at just the right time. A kind or encouraging word, a meal, a friend, a rebuke, a challenge, a “pull yourself together”, an embrace… and one time, even a smack on the mouth (don’t worry. I deserved it).

So what does tomorrow bring? Well, if you’re lucky, “they” may show up, if you need them. If your blessed by grace upon grace, you may receive the call to BE “they” for some wandering pilgrim in need of a word, a meal, a shelter, a ride, a….

That God would have such faith in us, to use us in the caring and saving of others is staggering. We need simply be ready and willing to help. Those in need of you are ALL around you.

A thousand non-spectacular hands.
God’s TYPICAL non-miraculous miracles.
You may never witness a miracle; but that should never prevent you from being one.

Billy Wilson

Heaven will be “A Family Reunion”

We attended the Equip Conference in Orlando! Wonderful! Good speakers, good singing and good displays. But THE BEST part was the RELATIONSHIPS! It was so sweet to see friends like James Moore, Donny Dillon (a new Papa again last week), Steve Puckett (a new grandpa recently) and so many more who mean so much to the Miller Family and to LAUNCH SINGLES. A blessing of fellowship and encouragement. Young adults that we met almost 20 years ago are now parents of many kids! Young parents from then are now showing off pictures of grandchildren. Just wonderful! For all those who couldn’t make it, mark your calendars for 2020!

The Singles sessions were well attended. Our second class was in a BALLROOM!!!! Great discussion groups! Probably awkward to listen too recorded but great to attend. Ghiardelli’s Chocolate Rendezvous was a great time “hanging out”.  The AcaFest II was a blast!

And new connections! We met some awesome singles from places like Jacksonville and Eustis, St. Pete and Ocala! See you all new time….family.