03.10.10

Where’s Jesus??

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:25 pm by Zane Brown

A military chaplain, sitting in a poorly lit railway station, was trying to show a young soldier the way to eternal life.  Opening a pocket-size New Testament to John 3:16, the chaplain asked the young man to read it aloud.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only forgotten Son.”  Certainly it was a mistaken reading; yet it is tragically true for too many professing Christians.  It is easy to walk out of an uplifting church service and into a stress-filled world and have our awareness of the presence of Jesus dulled by our worldly responsibilities.  There’s bills and scout meetings and soccer and bills.  There’s sickness and sorrow, disappointment and discouragement, pain and pressure,  and don’t forget the bills. 

In Luke 2:41-52, Mary and Joseph were caught up in the busyness of their departing caravan.  They were probably tired after the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Now, dozens of people and tons of frenzied activity surrounded the them as the group began their trek back toward Nazareth.  I imagine they assumed their young son was somewhere in the group, perhaps playing with other children.  Their awareness of his presence was dulled by their busyness.  So much was happening that they simply assumed that everything was OK and they’d catch up to the young Jesus later.  For a time though, Jesus was forgotten.   Not intentionally, but simply replaced by the stresses and responsibilities of life for a while.

Far too many professing Christians today struggle through life doing the very best they can spiritually while feeling frustrated and utterly inadequate.  Perhaps it’s because this Jesus, Who is very real to them in their Sunday worship and Wednesday small group, seems to disappear amidst the pressures and responsibilities of day to day life.  They tend to forget that He IS present and desires to be intimately involved in every part of their lives. 

Do NOT tie the hands of Jesus by limiting His involvement in your life to church-related events.  Jesus said, “. . . the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:14)  But, He also said, “I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance.”  (John 10:10) 

In the midst of the stresses and difficulties of daily life, Jesus is NOT missing.  He is there and wants to be involved in every circumstance, every issue, and every decision.   His desire is that our status quo be replaced with adventure, our anxieties replaced with peace, and our questions about the meaning of life replaced with a sense of eternal purpose.   All you have to do is remember that He is there and submit to His will and purpose for your life.  Call on Him for strength when you feel weak, guidance when you are uncertain, comfort when you are hurting, and boldness when you are afraid.  You won’t be disappointed!   And you’ll experience the abundant life that He has promised to those who submit to His will.

03.01.10

Can You Hear Me Now?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:25 pm by Zane Brown

    As I’ve arrived at the official age of senior citizenry, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that my hearing seems to be a bit dull.  It’s becoming more difficult to screen or distinguish words in the midst of background noise.  In the car with the radio going or at home with the TV and the dishwasher doing a duet, my wife’s voice becomes muffled sometimes by the competing sounds.  I have learned that in order to really communicate with her, I need to turn off the distracting sounds and focus my attention on her.  That might be in the quiet of a darkened bedroom at bedtime, in the car as we drive to our next “event,”  or over a table for two at our weekly date time.   When the busyness level drops and the distractions of the day are blocked out, I can hear and understand her.  And that makes for a happy wife AND a happy husband.

But you know what?  My spiritual ears grow dull from time to time, too.  With a job, an avocation or two, and family demands, it’s easy to let my life become overrun with noises and distractions that dull my sensitivity to the presence of God.  In the midst of a schedule that never seems to let up, it can become increasingly difficult to discern the voice of God over all the other “voices” demanding our time and attention. 

Perhaps we all need to schedule time regularly to follow God’s admonition to “Be Still and know that I am God.”  (Isaiah 46:10)  Perhaps we need to turn of the computer, the TV, and the telephone for while.  Perhaps we need to bow out of a responsibility, give a little less time to a time-consuming hobby, or give up some overtime on the job.  Effective communication and genuine intimacy don’t just happen.  Those things are nurtured by attentive, intentional communication. 

So nurture your family and yourself with the gift of high quality communication.   Get silly on Wii with your children.  Sit quietly with your spouse and watch the changing colors of a late winter sky.  Kneel reverently at the bedside of that sleeping child or grandchild and remember that it is God alone Who creates and sustains such beauty.  Take a few moments each day to meditate on His goodness.  Listen for His still, small voice cutting through all the frenzy of life to remind you that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  (Joshua 1:9)  Take some time every day just to Be Still and Know That (He) Is God and His desire is for you to know Him better. 

02.18.10

It Takes All Kinds

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:45 am by Zane Brown

   All my life, I tried to fit in.  As a child, I tried to find my “fit” in my family.  In school, I played sports, drank beer, grew my hair long — it was the 60s for goodness sake — all in an attempt to find a spot, a niche, a place of acceptance. 

That’s also why I was baptized and joined the church at age nine.  It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized my need for Christ as my Savior and really submitted to Him.   At age 20, I felt God’s call to vocational ministry.  YET, I was still trying to find a way to fit.  It was a decades-long , desperate search for acceptance. 

There are many who, like me, are searching for truth, answers, meaning in life, and acceptance.  Some turn to social organizations, some lean toward criminal gangs.  Many turn to the church hoping to find acceptance, encouragement, and love.  Unfortunately, subtle demands for uniformity have infilitrated the church.   “Come to Jesus just as you are,” we say.  But then we attempt to remake new believers in our own image.

Perhaps that’s why I felt so uncomfortable in ministry for so many years.  I had been trying to fit in rather than being myself.  But then, one glorious day, the psalmist reminded me of the unique stamp God had placed on my live when He formed me over 56 years.   I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” according to Psalm 139:14.   And the same is true of you.  God Himself formed you in your mother’s womb.  He created you to be remarkable and unique.  AND, before you ever drew a breath, all of your days were written in His book and planned.  In other words, He created YOU for a purpose.  You’ll never find that purpose trying to be someone you’re not.

The apostle Paul reminds us that it takes all kinds of unique individuals working together to be effective as the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12).  Essentially, God has said to me, “Zane, it’s OK to be yourself.  That’s how I made you.”  My prayer and hope is that I can be as gracious to others as God is to me.  Our differences in appearance, abilities, experiences, giftedness, and methods are one of God’s ways of reminding us that we need each other if we are to function most effectively as the Body of Christ.  

Accept yourself as Christ accepts you.  Let Him bring about the changes that are necessary to give your life meaning.   Remember that He created you with a purpose in mind and when you begin to live out that purpose,  you will fulfill YOUR role in the Body of Christ.

02.04.10

Sacrificing Certainty

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:27 pm by Zane Brown

Have you ever been disappointed in someone you love?  Have you ever wondered if there was really anyone you could trust?  Have you ever gone through a time when life seemed so unfair, that you wondered if God was really there for you?   If you answered any of these questions with a “yes,” then Hebrews 6:13-20 is a biblical passage for you to underscore and highlight.   In those verses, the author reminds us that our lives and futures are dependent solely on God’s faithfulness, character, and promises.  When we place our full confidence in God, we have an anchor to hold us steady during the storms of doubt.  Indeed, in the catacombs where Christians sought refuge during persecution, one of the most familiar symbols of faith scribbled onto the walls was the anchor.

When do doubts increase??  Usually when things happen that you believe should never happen.  OR when things you believe should happen don’t.  OR when things you believe should happen now happen later or not at all.    When the people we count on let us down.

Doubts begin to loom in these circumstances because we’ve become accustomed to certainty and stability.   We like to know the beginning and the end.  And when we give our lives to Christ, that doesn’t change . . . at least not without some intentional effort.  There are those folks who would say that faith is God IS certainty and we should not doubt or fear.  But that is only partially true.  There are realms of uncertainty here.  There is spiritual uncertainty and there is circumstantial uncertainty.   Spiritual uncertainty is eliminated with faith in Christ.  We know without doubt that our sins are forgiven, heaven is our destination, and He has promised never to leave nor forsake us.  Those things are certain and absolute.    But we still live in a fallen world and inhabit bodies of flesh.  We are surrounded with circumstantial uncertainty and can do nothing about that BUT trust God.   In fact, when we submit to God’s purpose for our lives, it might result in more uncertainty that ever.  

God’s desire is for us to embrace  uncertainty as adventure.    That’s what happened to Moses in Exodus 3, David in I Samuel 17, Shadrach and his friends in Daniel 3,  the apostle Peter in Matthew 14,  Ananias in Acts 9, and Paul in Acts 20.   Each of them used the certainty of their faith to embrace the uncertainties of life and it carried them to adventures and victories that only God could have given.    Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost for His Highest:  “To be certain of God is to be uncertain in all our ways.  You never know what a day may bring.  This is generally said with a sign of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.”

Wouldn’t you love to live a life of adventure?  It’s within your grasp, but it requires sacrifice.  The sacrifice of certainty, the sacrifice of control, the sacrifice of stability.  Surrendering to what God wants rather that what you or others want for you.  It will be scary and exciting, but it will open your life to a power and strength like that of biblical heroes.   They were no different than you, except perhaps in their willingness to surrender everything, including certainty and stability,  to follow Jesus.    Stop being afraid of the “What mights” and ‘What ifs” and remember that you are linked the Anchor.   Your future in uncertain, BUT you can move towards it with confidence knowing that your faith in not in favorable circumstances but in the God of the universe. 

“The Anchor holds though the ship is battered.  The Anchor holds though the sails are torn.  I’ve fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas.  The Anchor holds in spite of the storms. 

I have been young, but I’m older now.  And there is beauty that these eyes have seen.  But it was in the night through the storms of my life, Oh that’s where God proved His love for me.

                                                          —-  The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz

01.26.10

Good Enough?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:01 am by Zane Brown

436a02786e81f96e     Years ago, a researcher named Natalie Gabal did a little research to determine what would happen if 99.9% were “good enough.”  IF that were true, then in any given year, the following would happen:   the IRS would lose 2 million documents, 12 newborns would be given to the wrong parents, 291 pacemaker implants would be performed incorrectly, 20,000 medical prescriptions would be filled incorrectly, and 114,ooo mismatched pairs of shoes would be shipped to your favorite stores.   Now that might not sound so bad unless YOU get the wrong prescription or the wrong baby or a botched pacemaker implant or an audit from the IRS.  (Swindoll, The Finishing Touch, Word Publishing, 1994, p. 38)

Isaac D’Israeli once wrote “. . . it is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.“    Perhaps that’s one of the reasons churches and Christians struggle.  We’ve settled for mediocrity while those outside of the Body of Christ are searching for excellence.   No one achieves or maintains excellence  by setting their standards lower.  Most people and some organizations feel that they’re doing OK as long as they get somewhere close to a goal.  But, when you get to that point, excellence is reduced to “acceptable” and before you realize it, acceptable gives way to “adequate.”  At that point, mediocrity waits just around the corner. 

As Christians and the Body of Christ, we have a responsibility to strive for excellence in whatever we do.  In Colossians 3:17, Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”   Since the sin of Cain, it has been obvious that God does not want “good enough.”  He demands our best.  Our best efforts, our best behavior, our best attitudes.  Whether we are at church, at home, or on the job, we are to live in such a way that God is glorified.  Whatever we do, we must strive for excellence, not to promote ourselves, but to bring attention to the God we serve. 

 99.9% submission is not good enough.   God wants us “all in,”  holding nothing back.    So make the sacrifices, do the work, take the risks, learn from failures and strive for excellence in everything you do.  You might be amazed at how God uses YOU to change the world.

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