How Do We Mature?

When we discover something for the first time and like what we’ve learned, we usually get excited about it. We can remember the excitement of skateboarding, fly fishing or putting on makeup for the first time. Similarly, many of us recall our excitement when we first came to Christ. We experienced His forgiveness and acceptance. We wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

Many new believers are on fire for evangelism and may impulsively walk into the coffee break room at work and declare the Gospel to every bleary-eyed coffee drinker in the room. Or we take the microphone at a family reunion and preach a ten-minute sermon when all they asked us to do was open with prayer. We buttonhole our team at the bowling league and drive them to distraction with our over-the-top testimonials about Jesus! Ugh! Even seasoned Christians might get tired of this type of over enthusiastic evangelism!

As admirable as this enthusiasm is, the Bible teaches us that we need to mature, allowing older Christians to counsel us. Just as sixteen-year-olds need driver’s training to go along with new driving privileges, newborn Christians need mentoring. Mature believers in our church have the responsibility to recognize that new Christians need help. In their passion for Jesus, new Christians may be judgmental. They may rightly identify sin but could harshly condemn it in others, without the love and gentleness more mature men and women of faith might exercise. Baby Christians can be quite demanding in their desire to be fed. Just as newborn babies demand feeding, baby Christians insist on getting attention. Full-grown believers must teach and offer loving suggestions for contemplation, personal Bible study, prayer, and corporate worship. Allow new believers to mature before electing them to positions of leadership (see 1 Timothy 3:6).

The body of Christ in our world today has many members, and each must nurture the other. New Christians must submit to the authority of the mature members, while the mature saints must not smother the ardor of the new ones. In unity, the work of Christ moves forward.

Prisons Without Walls

Many of us are in prisons without walls.  Those prisons are self-made places of confinement that we have constructed in our minds. Built over time, we believe that because of some of the things we have done in our lives, God could never love us. The devil whispers to us, “God could never love someone who has had an abortion, abused drugs, gotten divorced or hooked up on a regular basis.”  As usual, the devil’s got it wrong!

One of the amazing things about God’s love is that He loves us despite who we are, not because of who we are. That is radical grace. We all have spent too many years trying to be someone who was worthy of another’s love. We’ve tried to earn love from our parents, our boyfriends, the people we work with, drug dealers, and our bosses. We’ve worked hard to be rich enough, pretty enough, or tough enough to deserve their attention and love. God’s love works differently. God sent His own Son to die for us while we were still sinners. (See Romans 5:8, But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.) Even when we were selling dope, cheating on our income taxes or worse…God loved us. He doesn’t say to us, “Straighten yourself up and clean yourself off and then I’ll take a look at you.” No. He loves us as we are—period.

Another amazing thing about God’s love is that it’s extravagant, over-the-top. God doesn’t skimp on love. He shows His love by sending His own Son—not some low-level flunky—to die for us. He sent His own Son—His only Son—to die for us. Most of us have never experienced that kind of unconditional love.

That unconditional love is life-changing. It offers forgiveness and gives us value, hope, and peace. When it seems dark in our bedrooms are 3 A.M., we can hear His voice calling our name, saying, “I love you just the way you are. Come to Me. Accept My love. My Son has covered your sin.” Who wouldn’t want to say yes to that kind of love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Good Company

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”    1 Corinthians 15:33

As we were growing up, we always knew the girls who knew how and where to shoplift the coolest lipstick. We also knew the guys who could hot-wire a car so we could take a joy ride. Those same guys were the ones who tried to get us drunk! We were attracted to their “badness” and power. But when we remember their evil impact on our lives, we can appreciate the role that bad character plays in our lives and why the Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

Have we learned our lessons from our experience with the losers in our lives? Or, are we still drawn to the “bad-asses” who know how to manipulate the system? Do we admire the women who can manipulate and get away with murder at work and influence events for their own benefit? Do we overlook the lies and the cover-ups it takes to operate in this fashion? If so, then our companions will lead us into sin.

The people we hang with will definitely have an effect on what we think about life. Friends who seem attractive to us and flatter us may not be the best influence on our attitudes. Our attitudes toward our families, our wives or husbands, our bosses, and ultimately, our own sin, determine how we act.

We must not be seduced into thinking we can keep bad company and still retain good character and a healthy relationship to God. Light and darkness do not go together; one chases the other away. Like the old proverb says, “You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”

As the new year starts, we need to evaluate our acquaintances and determine if they have a positive or negative effect on us. Do they promote sinful actions or encourage us to stay close to Christ? We need to find other believers who will have a godly influence on us. Good company promotes good character.

How Valuable are You?

A little boy found his father’s old collection of comic books in the basement. There were old Superman and Archie comic books alongside the Fantastic Four and Batman comics. All were sealed in plastic sleeves to prevent mold and dirt from destroying them. The son asked his father what these old comic books were worth. What was their value? The father replied, "They are worth what one person is willing to pay for them."

What is a person worth? What are we worth? What are you worth? Do you ever sit alone after a tough day or in the midst of a busy life and ponder the question, "What am I worth?" Most of us do from time to time. The problem is that we look for the answers in the wrong places. In secular society the answer to "value" question is wrapped up in what our jobs are, or how much money we earn or how beautiful we are. Sometimes we flash the Rolex we wear to garner value from others. Sometimes we brag about the vacation spots we have visited or the new cars we are driving. In a world driven by advertising these are the answers put forth.

Big problem is all these things never satisfy. There is always someone with a more expensive car, flashier watch and bigger house. It is a fool’s game that leaves us feeling like we are hamsters on an exercise wheel. So what is the source of true value and significance?

The answer is found at the Cross of Christ. Remember, the power of the cross is that although we were more sinful than we ever dared think…God loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son to pay the penalty for our sin. God wanted relationship with us…valued us so much…that Jesus laid down His life voluntarily so that we would be in relationship with Him forever. This ultimate gift of love cannot be equaled and is the immovable rock that stands with us when times are good…but more importantly…when times are tough. God demonstrates our value to Him and His love for us on the Cross of Calvary.

Cannot “Earn” God’s Love

The writer Helen Wodehouse said, “We think we must climb to a certain height of goodness before we can reach God. But He [God] does not say, ‘At the end of the way you may find me’; He says, ‘I am the Way; I am the road under your feet, the road that begins just as low down as you happen to be.’ If we are in a hole, the Way begins in the hole. The moment we set our face in the same direction as His, we are walking with God.”

Many of us wake up each morning feeling that God could never love us. People we trusted sometimes sexually abused us as children and then afterward angrily told us we were worthless. As adults, we often stayed in abusive relationships, hopelessly searching for love. We misguidedly thought that if we treated our abusers better, we could earn their love.

Many of us view a relationship with a loving God in the same twisted way. We mistakenly feel we must “be good” to earn His love. Nothing is further from the truth!

God does not care where we have been; He is concerned only about where we are going. He searches for us and meets us where we are. God comes alongside us at the most depressing moment of our lives and whispers that He loves us, forgives us, and believes in us (see John 3:16; Jeremiah 29:11). We can trust those words!

We can experience God’s redeeming love. We can cop to the sin in our lives and turn away (repent) from it (see 1 John 1:9). When we confess and change direction, we will be on the right road. His genuine, authentic love will flood our hearts as we walk in His direction.

 

Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Christmas is a happy time! Christmas is a time when trees are decorated with lights and ornaments, gifts are bought, put under the tree and families gather to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. The popular Christmas songs we play create a mood and atmosphere of playfulness and warm feelings. The popular song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Yet, while it may be true for us, for those souls in prison, it is the very opposite. The Holidays, especially for women in prison are a period of aggravated loneliness and severe self-loathing. Self-loathing and self-hatred flourish during the holidays for the incarcerated because they cannot be with their families…and, they know the reasons why. They have been convicted of a crime where the penalty is separation from society. They understand that, but recognition of their mistakes does nothing to alleviate the pain of their not being able to hug their babies, or press their noses against their child’s neck and inhale the sweet smell of their young child’s skin. They understand their actions and mistakes have caused their pain, but that makes them feel even worse about themselves. Christmastime, rather than being a time of family celebration and warm feelings, becomes, for women in prison, similar to being on a merry-go-round that has stopped dead. Life is no longer moving and all they can do is wait, pray and cry themselves to sleep. It is a very rough, tough and relentlessly cruel period of time for those in prison.

As followers of Jesus, we are not told to open up the prison doors and let everyone out regardless of crime. We are not commanded to ignore personal consequences and individual accountability. To be sure, Jesus would not advocate for a quick fix.

Rather, Jesus calls us to visit those in prison (See Matthew 25). To clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He instructs us to love and visit them, and in doing so, love and visit Him, by proxy.

How can we do that? Several ways:

  • Give a Gift: Prison Fellowship sponsors a program called Angel Tree. Angel Tree (pfm.org). PFM works with local churches and organizations to provides the names of the children of those incarcerated to people who are willing to buy a gift and have it delivered to the child in the parent’s name (google Angel Tree in your town).
  • Write a ChristmasCard: Every prison has a Chaplain that can receive Christmas cards, even written anonymously, and distributed to inmates who wish a card. Look up a prison nearest to you on the Internet for specific facility information.
  • Google “prison ministry (your city’s name): You will be astounded at how many small boutique prison ministries exist to help you connect with those hurting this Christmas Season.

All it takes is the willingness to help and the awareness that there are women and men who need to feel Jesus’ love through you and your efforts. Let them know, during this Christmas season, they are remembered! Do it today!

 

 

Jesus Ain’t Santa Claus

We all have a need to feel connected to another human being. Good marriages thrive on communication. Without daily sharing, one partner feels disconnected and alone. Suicides occur when people lose all loving contact with another human being. In our daily friendships, we require connection to each other. The people with whom we eat lunch or work out with, offer us a sense of community that’s vital to mental health and happiness. But sometimes spouses or friends abuse that connection by using us for their own selfish, personal advantage. Some of us have been ripped off by a “friend” who stole from us to feed her habit. Perhaps we’ve done it to someone else. Any betrayal damages trust, but it also makes it less likely that we’ll offer that gift of connection again. Think about how we treat God and the connection He offers us through the intimacy of prayer. Don’t we often bring our own selfish wish list to our prayers? Don’t we often consider God a sort of Santa Claus and try to make deals with Him? And then we wonder why our prayers never seem to get an answer! Consider what James said about that, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3 Prayer is not a way to get our wish list completed. Jesus is not our gofer who is just about giving us what we want!

Rather, and more important, prayer is a direct link to the Creator of the universe. He has a plan for our lives, but like most plans, He needs to share them with us. Without our willingness to put aside our selfish concerns and really be quiet and listen to God speaking to us, we’ll never learn what He wants to say to us.

When we pray, let’s connect to God by using our ears first and our mouths second. Let’s keep our motives pure and ask God for the things we need so that we can serve Him.

 

Getting Virtues into our Lives: Virtues Practiced

We have been looking at 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s famous chapter on Love and what author Henry Drummond had to say about it in his essay, The Greatest Thing in the World. We have studied one virtue per month that when taken together form Love, i.e., The Greatest Thing in the World. But as we read about these virtues, we admire them and would welcome them into our lives on a daily basis, but we also wonder how we do that? How can we get patience, kindness, generosity and humility, to name just a few, into our everyday persona? How do we learn to Love? The answer is the same answer to the question asked of a taxi driver in New York City. When a tourist asked, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" the driver sarcastically replied, "Practice, practice, practice.”"

Drummond speaks to that taxi driver’s snarky (but accurate) response when he says:

"The world is not a playground; it is a school-room. Life is not a holiday; but and education. And one eternal lesson for us all is how better can we love. What makes a man a good (musician, sculptor, artist or athlete)…practice. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character."

Christian character is crafted out of ever-changing circumstances. Sometimes the times are wonderful and happy; other times it is a trial and temptation. We should give thanks to God for both occasions. The good times are a classroom to practice humility. When we are flush with money, generosity should flourish in our hearts. But it is the tough times and painful experiences that mold our characters the most. Someone once said, "Pain is the Mother of Compassion." That person was insightful.

We cannot isolate ourselves when times are good nor shrink away and curse our God when times are tough. When times are calm, we have the luxury of focusing on what pleases us. But it is the storms of life that build character. The German poet Goethe said as much when he wrote: "Talent develops itself in solitude; character in the stream of life."

Do you want to be patient, kind, humble and generous? Then make a point to practice these virtues everyday, in some situation, for someone. You will be surprised as how fast these virtues take root in your souls.

Thanksgiving: A New Perspective!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Thanksgiving Day is a time set aside for us to acknowledge our gratitude and thanks to God and those around us for the bounty and blessings we have received. If over the last year our bosses gave us a bonus, we give thanks. If our children or spouses have been healthy and successful, we give thanks. Thanksgiving Day is almost 100% about expressing heartfelt gratitude for things we have received.

And, this is exactly the right thing to do. However, the Apostle Paul offers a new perspective on giving thanks that leads to banishment of fear and anxiety. In addition, the fear and anxiety is replaced with a peace that defies understanding…and the key to it is…giving thanks!

When we read the above listed passage from Philippians, we notice that we are instructed to not be anxious about anything…that would include, but not be limited to…our finances, our health, our jobs, our marriages or relationships…or absence of the same. It means giving up our fears about our children, grandchildren, and sons in prison or the drugs that assault our schools every day.

Paul teaches us to do three things: pray…petition (request, implore, plead) and give THANKS! Now, we certainly GET the first two…but most of us feel Paul has got the third thing wrong. How can we give thanks for something we have yet to receive? Are we supposed to thank God for an outcome that we are not sure is correct? Paul must have this one out of place…surely we should wait until we know what God’s answer is BEFORE we offer up Thanksgiving to God for His answer?

But Paul has not got it wrong. To receive the blessings of peace and rest, we need to trust God and do all three things. This means that we give THANKS to God for His answer to our prayers BEFORE we know the answer! This faith and trust in His provision signals to God that we are willing to acknowledge that His answers to prayer are better than our expectations…that HE WILL GET IT RIGHT! Faith that delivers freedom from anxiety and fear begins with the faith and trust that prays this prayer: “God hear the prayer that I would have prayed, if I had all your information.”

Let this Thanksgiving Day be one where we offer up praise and thanks for answers yet unknown…and live with adequacy knowing God has our back!

 

The Importance of Unity

Many church choirs are very good. They’re easy on the ears because there is a unified blending between the higher and lower voices. The choir members have common goal, mixing their voices together to create harmony. Sports teams that win championships aren’t always the ones with the most talented athletes. More often, they are the teams that have few superstars but really are united as a team.

Ever wonder why that is so? When people have common goals, like great harmony or winning a championship, they put aside their own agendas and work for that goal. However, if individual egos emerge, disunity destroys the harmony. This is why so many great teams fall apart after big wins. Too many egos want credit and demand bigger contracts. Without unity, the common goal is unreachable.

It is very much the same with the church. The most effective church is one that has the unified purpose of spreading the love of God. The goal is to preach the Good News and nurture those who hear and accept the Word. When new believers accept Christ, they may think that that is enough. But seasoned Christians know that the devil is prowling around, waiting to cause believers to stumble. It is absolutely necessary for new Christians to have a safe and harmonious refuge where they can be nurtured and taught. Then they can grow in Christ. We must commit ourselves to harmony in our churches so that each believer can be an effective servant of Christ.

Spiritual Q-Tips
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Ever feel like God isn’t talking to you? Ever wonder why? To really understand something takes work. If we want to speak another language, we take language lessons and study it. We discipline ourselves to put in the hours to learn. Some of us are great piano players, but did we wake up one day and play jazz piano? Not likely. It took years of practice to achieve excellence. So why don’t we apply this same dedication and discipline to our relationship with God? God called Samuel three times. Samuel was just a boy, but he knew something was up. Samuel heard God’s voice because his ears were trained and open. Why don’t we hear the Lord’s call on our lives? Is it because we take God for granted? Do we expect too much from God, thinking that He will get through to us somehow? Or, are we lazy, letting our ears fill up with the static of the world? To take our relationship with God as seriously as our relationship with our golf buddies or the ladies we catch a drink with, we must get the world’s wax out of our ears. Then when God calls us, we will hear Him.

What are some of the world’s wax that need to be cleaned out of our ears by Christ centered Q-tips? If we are involved in obvious sin, that is, sin directly prohibited by the Bible, we must repent and stop. We all know in our hearts what those sins are, too! Don’t deny or fool yourself. When our ears are clogged up with the wax of spite, hate, discord, envy, greed, lust and sleeping around…we will NOT hear God’s voice. We must use the ear wash of personal devotions every day…for centering in our lives and to help keep those sins we all know about, at bay! And, we must faithfully attend the church services. We may not always get something out of them, but we will never get anything if we don’t attend. Besides our presence in the church may feed someone else. Plus, get into a small group in your church. Only through community and friends will you be able to see yourself clearly.

Start with this treatment of Q-tips and see if your hearing doesn’t improve…it will! With our ears cleaned out, we will hear God’s voice.

ChristianityJim Vogelzang
Joy
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Back in February, there was a really moving story on TV about a young girl in Chicago who was killed by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting. Her organs were donated to six different persons. Each person came together with the mother of the slain girl to celebrate their happiness and joy because recipients had been given new life because of the death of this young person. There were hugs of gratitude and tears of delight as the recipients celebrated and at the same time, cried for the loss that made it possible. As tragic and wonderful as this story is, it makes us wonder why don’t we celebrate and feel the gratitude and joy that these donor recipient’s felt when we consider the death of Jesus and the new eternal life that comes to us as a result. If we stop long enough to contemplate that the Son of God was killed so that we all could get a new heart transplant, then the joy we might feel might be contagious.

As we spread the joy to others, we will witness to them that our faith is not a bunch of "Thou shalt not’s" Rather, our contagious, joyful faith will infect and draw people to Jesus. Joyful people are kind people. Kind people are the most convincing evidence of God’s love.

It all starts with gratitude for the undeserved gift of a transplanted heart (grace). When we recognize the new life that new heart offers us, really recognize the enormity of the gift… Joy is the emotion… kindness is the gift to others… and to Jesus.

Living Without Fear
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Ever consider the real reasons why we obey traffic laws, don’t we cheat on our income taxes, and do not even consider stealing shoes, perfume or other items when we go into a store? We all like to think of ourselves as upstanding, moral human beings. Our answer is most likely, "Because it is the right thing to do!" But if we are honest with ourselves, a very big reason we obey the police, don’t steal, tell the truth on our taxes and are faithful to our spouses is FEAR. It is the fear of landing in jail… fear of going to prison for tax evasion and fear of divorce… or worse… if we got catch cheating.

So, ask yourself, why do we obey God’s laws? Why are we moral and regular church attenders? Could it be the same reason that we avoid the issues listed above… FEAR? Are we afraid that if we sleep around, do drugs or do not give enough to the church, God will notice and punish us? Are we frightened that if we do not memorize enough Scripture and volunteer the perfect number of hours, somehow we just might not be "good enough" to be accepted into heaven when it is our time to die? Is it a spirit of fear that is our incentive to live good lives?

The Bible speaks about how perfect love drives out fear. (See I John 4:18 and Romans 8:15). It expresses how the Holy Spirit writes the law of God on our hearts and does not make us slaves to fear or bondage. What does that mean for us?

It means that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us that the perfect love of God was coupled with His wisdom and expressed to us with Jesus death and resurrection.

It means that the Holy Spirit will change our incentives and motivations from fear to joyful gratitude.

The Holy Spirit points us towards recognition of the fact that in Jesus we have the perfect example of God’s love. When we recognize and receive this perfect gift our responses change. The fears of losing out, fears of not being good enough, fears of punishment are banished. As God's heirs, we rest in the kind, loving arms of a God who valued us so much He sent His only Son to rescue us.

Live without fear!

What The Cross Tells Us
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Easter has passed. The celebrations have ended, but what are the lessons of Easter and the Cross for us going forward? What does the Cross tell us about ourselves and about God? If we broke the law but received a summons in the mail from the NYPD, we might not consider our crime is not all that serious. If we found out that the NYPD had put out an APD (All Points Bulletin) on us, we would immediately know it is more serious. If the NYPD linked up with the FBI and a SWAT teams in helicopters, there would be no doubt that we that we were in serious trouble.

When we take stock of our lives we usually think, "We’re OK…not the best, but better than most." We really feel that our sin is not that big of a deal. We sometimes wonder why God makes such a fuss over it. We sometimes think, God, just send us the speeding ticket and we will pay the fine…

So seriously consider this: What then does it say about our self-centered, human natures, our personal lives and behavior on Earth that it took the Son of God hanging on the Cross to make us right with God? Much more than being in trouble with the police force that requires a SWAT Team, we are out of sync with Almighty God. We are out of harmony with Him. What it tells us in BOLD TYPE is that we are more corrupted, messed up, sinful, than we ever dared imagine…and it took the Son of God’s death to fix it!

But wait! The news gets better…

Because, in God’s wisdom, He sent Jesus to pay the ransom for our debt (sin) it also shouts at us that we are more precious, more valued and more loved than we ever dared hope.

Here, in this passion play is the essence of the Gospel. We did not and cannot earn salvation. There are no tricks, good works or donations that we can offer to secure a righteous standing before God. Only our humble, surrendered hearts accepting this free gift allows us to stand before Him, justified.

Justified before God means two things: 1) because of the blood of Christ, we are declared “Not Guilty” but 2) we are declared "righteous." This means we are perfect in front of God. We are a sweet aroma in God’s nostrils.

Women and men of God, let these facts about the meaning of the Cross wash over you. And after you realize the gift that is offered, accept it with humility and offer your lives in gratitude in serving Him.

Jesus: The Ultimate Feminist

Jesus and the Apostle Paul place a great deal of emphasis on being a "Son" of God and being called into "Sonship" with Christ (See Matthew 5:9; Luke 6:35; John 12:36; Romans 8:14 & 9: 26; Galatians 3:26 & 4: 4-6). For many women, these passages and references to the Son and Sonship irritate and sometimes cause women to turn away from the Gospel of Jesus. They feel it is not inclusive or worthy of 21st Century thinking. To many it seems outdated and therefore irrelevant.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Jesus is and was the ultimate supporter and promoter of women. To fully understand how significant His affirmations of women were then and are today, we must comprehend the culture of 1st Century Judea.  Then, a woman had no status, nor was her testimony admissible in courts of law.  Men could divorce their wives by simply saying, three times, "I divorce you." Men were not expected to address women in public. Women were treated as possessions. In 1st Century Judea, you had to be a man to inherited family wealth.

Jesus, in 1st Century Judea, by contrast, was the ultimate feminist! No one bestowed honor and value and worth to women more than our Savior. Consider three occasions that prove this point. First, in John 4: 1-42, Jesus meets, talks and asks for a drink of water from the Samaritan woman at the well. By doing this, He broke the rules of male/female relationships. In John 8: 1-11, Jesus defends and counsels the woman caught in adultery. He protects her, values her and gently instructs her to "go and sin no more." Lastly, in John 20: 11-18, Jesus first appears to Mary. He entrusts the most important moment and message of history to a woman! He empowers Mary, who would not normally be believed on any subject, with the responsibility of informing the disciples that He is Risen! By 1st Century standards, this would not have been considered a promising way to begin a religious movement.

Jesus was elevating women to men’s level. Full equality! When Jesus talked to all people about becoming Sons of God and Paul continues with his teachings that we are ALL heirs of God’s bounty and righteousness, they are speaking to ALL people…women included, that they are Sons of God! To Jews listening in 1st Century Jerusalem, Jesus was preaching a radical orthodoxy that made women equal to men. The announcement that all women are equal to men and heirs to the Kingdom of God speaks powerfully to the inclusiveness of the wonderful, God we serve.

Christmas 2016 - An Open Letter to DHT Supporters

Dear faithful supporters of DHT, As DHT celebrates its 17th year, we praise God for His faithfulness, even as we marvel at how fast 2016 has flown by. I reference God’s faithfulness because for a majority of our 17 years we have relied on His grace and provision to sustain His efforts through Doing HIS Time. He has always provided and we have great faith and trust that it will continue. How we got to this place of complete surrender and trust is not widely known. So, I will share the story today with you.

When DHT was created in 1999, it had an Endowment Fund of $1,400,000 that was a gift from our investment company, Vogelzang & Associates, Inc. From 1999, through 2003, all the expenses of the ministry we paid for by this fund. In 2004, the Holy Spirit had something else in mind. After reading a sermon by Dr. Peter Marshall that challenged his listeners to rely total on God’s provision and dared us and others to surrender their lives and how they operated to align with Malachi 3:10, to wit:

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

I felt greatly convicted by the Holy Spirit to live by faith according to this Scripture. When I contemplated what it meant for DHT, I felt it was a command to empty out the Endowment Fund 100% and live by faith for God to provide for the ministry. I also felt, as a businessman, that it was the “dumbest idea I had ever heard!” Over the next six months, through prayer and consultation with DHT peers and others wise persons, the decision was made to live by faith and to divest DHT of the huge $1,400,000 Endowment. And that is what happened. Over the next years we liquidated the fund, gave it away to a point where DHT had no more that $50,000 in the bank. That is the case today…YET…

Since that day, DHT has been blessed richly. DHT has never had a surplus, but DHT has never once missed a payment or a payroll. The blessings that flowed into DHT were more than monetary. We found ourselves on our knees more, communicating and trusting the Holy Spirit completely…growing in faith.

It is our hope that you, as supporters will continue with us in this faith journey. We never have surplus cash, but we never run dry either. Praise God for His faithfulness and praise Jesus for yours!

 

Together in HIS Service,

James C. Vogelzang

James C. Vogelzang

Over 425,000 copies of DHT Devotional distributed for FREE!
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dht-uk_silv-cover_100716-1 Last week (November 7-11, 2016) 5,000 copies of the UK Edition of our prison devotional were being distributed into every one of the 126 prisons in England and Wales!

How the Holy Spirit made this happen is exciting. I was having lunch in the Virgin Atlantic Airline Lounge at London’s Heathrow airport in early December 2015. While there, an article in The Daily Mail newspaper mentioned Justice Minister, Andres Selous, MP. I knew when I read his name that something was brewing. It was as if the Holy Spirit shoved me to get my attention that this man would be the person to contact about getting the prison devotional printed and distributed into the prisons of the US.

So I dropped everything and went online and found his phone number in Parliament. After speaking with his personal assistant, an email was sent to Mr. Selous, outlining our proposal for placing 5,000 copies, at DHT expense, into the prisons of the UK. More research encouraged me when I found out that Justice Minister Selous led the Bible study for MP’s in Parliament.

A few days later a reply waited for me that indicated his interest. Five copies were sent to him with an understanding that we would speak again in eight weeks after he and others digested the devotional. After eight weeks we spoke and the devotional was enthusiastically endorsed.

We then set out to edit the book into a UK Editions with British slang and references to UK prisons. In October 2016 the final, UK Edition was ready for print. Today, it is ready, printed, and being distributed to the 126 male and female facilities around England.

This might sound routine, but it is not! During the past 6 years we have tried repeatedly to interest the Justice Ministry in the UK in this devotional, without success. So we have been praying for an inroad, and God provided. Interestingly enough, Justice Minister Selous was replaced in his post in July after the new Prime Minister took over. We can only praise God for His timing and for our Holy Spirit led obedience that allowed the devotional to slip through this window of opportunity.

No we await to learn how the Word of God, as presented in this devotional will change the hearts and minds of prisoners and their families in England.

Good News, not Good Advice

truth We are all bombarded with self-help programs; programs to treat violent anger, addiction, and other behavioral abnormalities. Sometimes our anger management classes bump into our 12-Step AA and NA schedules. If we are not in group therapy, we are in book clubs that discuss Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Most of these give good advice and counsel. But let’s not mistake good advice for the Good News of Jesus.

Jesus claims that He is the Son of God and the only way to the Father. He is the One who became flesh, was crucified, and rose from the dead. Jesus bridges the gap between sinful humanity and a perfect God. Christ became sin for all of us so that we might be able to live with God for eternity. He paid our debt.

The Good News of Jesus is similar to the New York Times, in that the newspaper shares accounts of events that actually happened—fact not fiction. And Jesus is not fiction. He lived, He loved, He died and He rose from the dead…fact, not fiction.

Jesus is not a self-help guru. To see Jesus as an ancient psychiatrist would be to miss His power and life-changing mission. Many of us prefer the self-help version of Jesus because it allows us to pick and choose which advice to follow. It permits us to keep the rules we like and discard the ones that complicate our lifestyles. It lets us try to save ourselves, rather than surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.

Imitating Jesus’ commands and life choices is a good thing, but it is not good enough. He wants surrender, not imitation. Bending a knee in total surrender to the living person of Jesus as Savior and accepting His grace is the only way to salvation. This is the cornerstone lesson from the life of Jesus.

Virtue of the Month: Good Thoughts

love-1 We have been unpacking 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s treatise on Love, and looking specifically at what Henry Drummond taught in his essay on this chapter entitled, “The Greatest Thing in the World.”  This month we approach one of the hardest virtues: “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” We have summarized it: Good Thoughts.

What is so hard about thinking good thoughts, you might be asking yourself. Sounds easy. But when we examine the entire virtue, Paul is saying that when bad things happen to people we dislike or to persons or organizations we despise, loving people are not allowed the “guilty pleasure” of dancing a jig or relishing the fact that the calamity happened to someone who we think deserved it. The German language actually has a word that encompasses that very perverted, but all too human response. The word is Schadenfreude, which is, translated “malicious joy in the misfortunes of others.”  It is altogether too easy to indulge this vice.

Think about it for a minute. When our ex-husband breaks up with the woman he dumped us for, we immediately want to call our girlfriends and celebrate. Or, when the boss that fired us get fired himself, we feel an immense guilty satisfaction over his misfortune. On a popular level, think about how Jennifer felt when she learned Angie had dumped Brad. Or, perhaps consider the party that broke out in the Clinton HQ once Trump’s sexually explicit video was released to the public? All too common a response! This virtue is very difficult to learn and to practice.

The reason Paul lists it and makes it the template for truly loving people is because when we delight in someone else’s misfortune we pollute our own hearts. When we indulge unloving spirits, we infect our souls with a disease that will difficult to cure. We become loving people when we rejoice in the good about people and hate the sin that causes others to stumble. As sinners, we can rest assured that someday we will be the one on our knees bleeding. And wouldn’t feel good to have someone reach down and kneel with us when we’ve stumbled rather than sneering and taking delight in our adversity?

The road to a loving, Christ-centered spirit must travel down some very difficult situations. Being kind, patient and humble are tough…but hating sin in ourselves and sin’s effect on others and not indulging a malicious glee when others get beaten-down is the hardest virtue we will ever accomplish. Think about how the world would be if we, as loving people, comforted the fallen instead of celebrating their downfall?

The Offense of the Cross

black and white jesus on cross Many people around the world admire Jesus. They like Jesus because they feel He taught a moral and ethical philosophy that is in tune with their lifestyle and outlook on life. Jesus’ teachings of loving your neighbor as yourself, forgiving others and treating others, as you would like to be treated, resonates with people as wisdom and words to live by.

What people really dislike about Jesus is that He died on the Cross. Jesus dying on the Cross is offensive to a lot of people. Many men and women, who admire Jesus as a wise man want to believe that God grades our actions like a mathematics professor in college…on the curve. They feel that if they simply live a good life…not perfect, of course, but hey, who does…then when they stand before God, everybody will be just fine. We have done our best, and that should be good enough for a loving God to accept us into eternal glory.

Unfortunately, in the eyes of God we are all in the same sinful boat. All have sinned and fallen short. This fact is difficult for “good people” to believe. They cannot come to believe that in God’s eyes, a good guy like Paul Newman of Newman’s Own Charities is the same as Adolph Hitler. Dr. Timothy Keller once preached this marvelous analogy about this riddle. Suppose you asked three swimmers, one a novice, one a good swimmer and the other an Olympic champion, to swim from San Francisco to Hawaii. The first would drown within the first mile from shore. The second might make it five miles and the Olympic champion might make it 150 miles…but in the end, they all drown without a rescue boat.

Jesus’ death exposes our human hearts as so wicked and so deceitful and black with sin that only the death of His Son would be adequate to pay our penalty. That revelation and truth about our hearts is distasteful because it rips into the pride of men and stabs the ego that says we can contribute to our own salvation. To admit to ourselves that only the death of His Son would pay the price to get right with a holy and just God makes us furious and we reject Jesus.  We reject the dying Jesus because we all want to earn salvation ourselves. Human pride hates to bend a knee to anything greater that itself. This is the Offence of the Cross.