Thursday, May 15, 2014

An Excerpt from Herb Hodges recent letter.

If you have read John Bunyan’s classic Christian allegory, PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, you will remember the stopover Christian (Pilgrim) makes in “the House of the Interpreter.”  Just as a refresher, I have read this section several more times, because it is a great primer for an overseas disciple-making trip with pastors and leaders.  The “Interpreter” represents the Holy Spirit in the story, and with Bunyan’s remarkable genius, he pictures beautifully the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of God.  The Interpreter is defined by a “picture on the wall” of his house, the portrait of a “certain man” ( a kind of representative “interpreter”).  Let me explain that.  Though in Bunyan’s story there is one “Interpreter”, there are several “Interpreter’s assistants, or helpers”.  These represent all of the called and assigned servants in the Household of God.  Jesus said, “He who would be great among you, let him be the servant (bondslave!) of all.  A bondslave is a slave who has “bonded” or bound himself to his master because of love, not because he is bound by law.  A Christian is not a servant because he is FORCED into such a life, but because he deeply “loves his Master, and WILL NOT GO OUT FREE” (see Exodus 21:1-6, especially verse 5).

I want to linger to look at the portrait of the Interpreter in that picture.  Seven characteristics are listed in Bunyan’s  verbal portrait in PILGRIM’S PROGRESS.  (1) While happy of heart, he is still a serious (graveyard serious) person.  C.S. Lewis echoed this in one of his brilliant works entitled, Joy, the Serious Business of Heaven.  (2) His eyes are elevated to Heaven, a living example of the verse, “Since you are risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  (3) He is Biblical.  “His blood runs Bibline”, as Spurgeon said.  Bunyan defined him as one who “had the best of Books in his hand.”  (4) He is Truth-dominated—and Truth-declaring.  “The law of Truth was written upon his lips”, Bunyan said.  What a remarkable line!  Truth, then, is the law; not a mere moral option, but a mandated necessity.  And it was “inscribed” as in letter of fire—upon his lips.  When he speaks, he even unwittingly speaks the Truth that fills the vitals of his life.  In short, he is a walking, talking BIBLE.  (5) He is unworldly.  “The world was behind his back.”  He doesn’t even notice the glamor and glitter of the world; he has already acclimatized himself to a world where the streets are of gold!  “I have seen the King; what have I to do any more with baubles and bubbles?”  He wears this world like a loose garment, and it may be left behind at any moment in favor of a better inheritance!  (6) He is urgent about men’s souls.  “He stood as if he pleaded with men.”  And again, “He is one in a thousand; he can beget children, and travail in birth with them until they are born.”  (7)  He is a disciple-maker, one who nurtures new-borns to bring them to mature character and productivity. “He sponsors them himself when they are born.”  (8) “His head will bear a crown of reward” in the next world.   I Peter 5:4 says that “when the chief Shepherd shall appear, he shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.”

(I pray that we, you and I, have the passion to follow Christ in like manner.)
Pastor Mike

Thursday, May 8, 2014

An Exerpt from a letter from Franklin Graham

Dear Friend,
I have recently returned from holding an evangelistic Crusade in El Paso, Texas, and as I write, I am preparing for a Crusade in Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo is in the most northern part of the country, a city where the 1972 Winter Olympics were held. Not long after those Olympics, a surprising news report captivated Japan and the world when the last World War II Japanese soldier finally surrendered—30 years after the war.
Hiroo Onoda’s fascinating story came back into the headlines this January when he died at age 91 in a Tokyo hospital. As an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army, he had been stationed on the island of Lubang in the Philippines and given strict orders to stay there and carry out reconnaissance and guerrilla warfare. Lieutenant Onoda was directed not to leave the island or to surrender. His commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, ordered: “You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.” He was told to carry out his duties until his commanding officer returned.
In the confusion that followed defeat, the Japanese army lost track of Onoda. For 30 years, this dedicated soldier evaded capture and continued to fight a war he didn’t know had ended. He didn’t compromise. He followed his orders without interruption until he was found in the jungle and his commanding officer, long since retired, returned in person to the island to relieve him of his orders.
This one-time enemy soldier’s devotion to duty spoke to me about the commitment we are to have as followers of Christ. We too have been given orders. Our orders are from the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16, NKJV). He is clear about them in His Word, and we are not to compromise. I’ve been shocked in recent months to hear about organizations who say they accept the authority of God’s Word but support same-sex marriage. I’ve heard of a Christian publisher planning to print a book that says actively practicing homosexuals can continue in their lifestyle and live as Christians. Not only is this compromising, it is heresy. What God calls sin is sin—we cannot call it something else. The penalty for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (see Romans 6:23). It is through the cross that God, in His love, provides forgiveness for those who repent. This is the Good News we must proclaim.
The last order our Lord gave us before returning to Heaven was to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth—“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20). He will return one day soon, and will He find us faithful? Will He find us carrying out what He has asked us to do? Will He find us using our energy, our time, and our resources to share the Gospel message with a lost and hurting world that He loved enough to die for?
Franklin Graham