Kissing FROGS and Hugging PORCUPINES

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Swindoll, in his book Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes, wrote the following regarding ourselves and other’s “frogness” in life:

Floating On A Lily Pad
Floating On A Lily Pad

“FROGS feel slow and low, ugly and putty, drooped and pooped.  I know, because one told me.  The FROG FEELING comes when you want to be bright but you’re dumb.  When you want to share, you are selfish.  When you want to be thankful, but filled with resentment.  When you want to be great…but you are small.  When you want to care, but you are indifferent; yes, at one time or another, each of us has found themselves floating down the great river of life, frightened and disgusted, but to frightened to budge.” 

Scripture Reading in John 15:12-17  [Amplified Version]:

[12] This is My commandment; that you love one another [just] as I have loved you.

[13] No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends.

[14] You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do.

[15] I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out).  But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father.  [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.]

[16] You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you.

[17] This is what I command you; that you love one another.

The Fairy Tale of Endo…

In this particular Fairy Tale (and others too), the FROG wasn’t really a frog.  He looked like one because…a wicked witch cast an evil spell on a prince.  Only a kiss from a beautiful young maiden could SAVE him.  Then one day, a beautiful young girl lays a big sloppy kiss on the frog’s slimy lips, and in a great puff of smoke…he changes back into a handsome prince.  They marry, have a ton of kids, and live happily ever after. The End.

Our Task In Our Churches Across the Land Isn’t A Fairy Tale…

“Kissing Frogs and Allowing Ourselves to Be Kissed!”

Faithful Christian LOVE has a way of rescuing kings and queens and their “frogness” [i].  I believe we must do more than “wishing” we were different in our communities.

I’ve learned by practical experience, I need to be more intentional about telling others that the church I’m a part of, is a loving community!  But it will take more than just telling…it will require me to be an active “lover”.

WHY SO?

Because of the reason for the Command of Jesus (John:12a, 17).  Not once, but twice within six short verses: “love one another”.

Our Selfishness Often Gets In the Way of Loving the Brethren…

My wife and I never told our kids when they were little how to be selfish.  And yet our youngest, even at the age of four, on any given day, would have no problem taking one of his older sister’s toys away.

Israel’s neighbors haven’t a problem finding ways to torment and mistreat them, because of their hatred.  Certain things come “naturally” to fallen man–sin and selfishness in the heart.

“Use it or Lose it!”

I believe we’re NOT intentional about creating a loving environment; an accepting community, a fellowship of mutual service and sacrifice and if we don’t use what God has made available, we might just lose it.

It often seems, too many churches leave “loving one another” to chance: “I’ll let my wife LOVE ON OTHERS. I’ll stay out-of-the-way of the crowds.”

The Apostle John’s Thinking On the Matter…

Jesus’ repeating command must have made a lasting impression.  Maybe more than any other disciple, John sought to obey these words of his Master.

How revealing then, a few years later, John would write in the Letter we call, 1 John, the following:

1 John 3:14:

We know that we have passed over out of death into Life by the fact that we love the brethren (our fellow Christians).  He who does not love abides (remains, is held and kept continually) in [spiritual] death.

“NO ROOT, NO FRUIT” –

Wow!  When I meditated on that verse (read and re-read the words), God really spoke to my spirit.  John is saying, the sure sign of being “SAVED”, is a sure internal testimony of my outward profession of my faith.  If there isn’t any fruit, there isn’t an attachment to the “Vine” JESUS (John 15:1-11).

Is Loving Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus Easy?

If it were easy to LOVE those of us in the church, there would be no sign of a miraculous work of God happening in OUR midst.

If LOVE for the brethren were a natural occurrence, you wouldn’t know and have the Life of Holy Spirit permeating your souls in the loving process.

If LOVING each other was something we could do apart from prayer, humbleness, and dependence of God’s grace, then LOVE would prove nothing.

But John tells us:  “Here is a sure sermon for your own soul, a testimony that you are abiding in Christ, IF…you can love Christians!”  

Even knowing this, sometimes its hard to LOVE OTHERS in the Body of Christ:  Some are crusty, prickly and painful to be around.  It’s not simply “kissing frogs”, but “hugging porcupines.”

 JESUS COMMANDS such LOVE, otherwise, we would avoid it entirely.

Hugging Porcupines
Hugging Porcupines

GOD’S STANDARDS OF PERFECT LOVE FOR US:

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”  (John 15:12 b.).

JESUS loved us in giving His life.  Human relationships are strengthened when a man sacrifices for a close friend.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this LOVE in detail:

Romans 5:7-8:

[7] Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die.

[8] But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.

The Family of God and their SACRIFICES:

If SACRIFICE doesn’t cost you something, then it isn’t a sacrifice.  It cost Jesus His life because of His LOVE for us.

Beginning the conversation…the Heart & Mouth Connection.

Every family has secrets–the special stories and nicknames, ways of communicating that are unique to the closest relationships you have.  In fact, one of the ways we have to bring other people into a closer relationship, is sharing with them a special aspect of our family life.  Looking for something you might have in common: family ancestry, where you’re from originally, etc.  But you are going to have to open up heart and mouth to find something in common.  Yep, we’re going to have to get off our “lily pads”.  It probably will be uncomfortable; might even feel insecure.

JESUS’ APPOINTMENT…CHOOSING US! 

“JESUS LOVES ME [“US”], THIS I KNOW.   FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”  

Jesus loves us by choosing and appointing us to bring God the glory in the world and through the FRUIT that we are to bear.

Everyone with young children, or in my case, grandchildren, knows frustration comes in helping them to do something; we’re tempted to say, “It’s easier to do it myself.”

I’ve thought at times, out of frustration, regarding the need for evangelism in Whatcom County.  God could have found a much easier way to communicate the message other than the local churches.  But of course, that isn’t His plan.

God’s Plan for His Church…

But JESUS loves us, appointed us to bear fruit in this place…at this time.  With this LOVE STANDARD as our active goal…not another “church program”, but an individual goal, create opportunities to develop and demonstrate LOVE to one another.

Many conservative churches preach “LOVE YOUR WIFE AS CHRIST LOVES HIS CHURCH–and that’s a clear biblical command.  But rarely do we talk about loving “fellow believers” as Christ loved the church.  Yet here in this passage of Scripture, JESUS says, “THIS IS MY COMMANDMENT”–this is My PLAN!

There is POWER available for LOVING one another…

JESUS has made known to us the church, the Word of God is His will for our lives.  It’s not complicated.  It’s NOT a family secret.  It is a crystal clear commandment in the Bible.  And the Word of God is LIVING & ACTIVE; it doesn’t simply just urge us to do something (enjoin), it EMPOWERS US!

GOD’S WORD BECAME FLESH:

“IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself” (John 1:1).

“And the Word (Jesus) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth”  (John 1:14).

JESUS HIMSELF chose us to bear fruit and Jesus is God in human flesh; He doesn’t fail.

When He commands LOVE, He also guarantees its fulfillment.

Sitting On A Lily Pad As It Floats Down the River…

With JESUS on our side, we must succeed in transforming our churches into a visibly loving and caring community.  We’re going to have to get off our “Lily Pads” ; show our community we care!

Being the peruvial LIGHTHOUSE…where the building with our name on a large out-front sign…where everyone who drives by will see and want to come in to worship is sitting on a LILY PAD.  They’re “wish-in and a hope-in” the surrounding community will see the Light.

If we want to be a LIGHTHOUSE to our community, we will need to be “moving Lighthouses”, not stationary structures.  People need to see how we LOVE one another; with FRUIT-BEARING branches and God’s Light shinning on the fruit.

Last but not least…

We have our words; our prayers.  Whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, He gives.  When we pray for grace (favor)  to LOVE…even some other FROGS…God will show Himself strong and powerful answering that prayer.

Now go out and Kiss A FROG, maybe even Hug A PORCUPINE or two, and know that Holy Spirit will be there to comfort you:

John 15:26, 27 AMP.:

[26] When the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) comes,  Whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth  Who comes (proceeds) from the Father,  He [Himself] will testify regarding Me.

[27] But you also will testify and be My witnesses,  because you have been with Me from the beginning.

 

Footnote: [i] Glenn Durham, Pastor at Church of the Covenant.

 

“UNCHECKMATED”

A Famous Chess Game
A Famous Chess Game

 A Defeat in Progress–

The Fausts’  famous painting hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess.  And at first glance, looks like Faust is losing.

His opponent in the chess game is Satan.  The devil sits there grinning smugly, thinking the VICTORY is in hand.  He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil, gloating look on his face.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting:

“Checkmate!  Games over!  I win!”

An international famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden, he lunged forward exclaiming:

“Wait a minute!  Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him VICTORY.”

THE TEXT from Acts 26:16-18: “Another Move!”

[16]  But arise and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you.  [17] Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you–  [18] To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.  (Amplified Bible)

JESUS HAS GIVEN US PURPOSE:

I remember years ago, when I was asked to give an account of how and when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before a small group.  How inadequate I first felt.  It wasn’t that I feared standing in front of people to speak, but I thought my story wasn’t….exciting enough.  I hadn’t been driving down a road, when a lightning bolt struck the pavement in front of the car; pulling to the shoulder; hearing the audible voice of God saying,  “Mel, I have a specific purpose and objectives in mind for you.”

But in saying that, when we accept JESUS out of obedience…for He chose you, you didn’t choose Him; you accepted the calling… out of obedience.  The obedience doesn’t stop there at conversion.  It’s ongoing!

The Apostle Paul’s Testimony in Acts 26–

We find Paul stating his God-given purpose through his testimony to the whole Jewish Legal council.  Also, to three of the highest political officials in Palestine:  FELIX, FESTUS, and AGRIPPA.  All three hear the GOSPEL MESSAGE because Paul was arrested and imprisoned on false charges.

PAUL’S TESTIMONY:

He was blinded by an arrogant sense of his own importance.

Thought he was on a mission for God.

Though he was defending God…he had gone on the offensive; to wipe out as many Christians as possible.

He was chasing them down everywhere, arresting them, sentencing them to prison, even torturing them if needed.

If they (the Christians) refused to renounce their faith, like Stephen, Paul saw to it that they died as a heretic.  Saul, as he was known to the world, quickly became infamous among the Way (what believers were known as before the term “Christians” was applied).  Would Paul’s INFAMY put him in CHECKMATE after his obedience to God’s calling?

BUT SOMEONE SAW PAUL’S POTENTIAL–  JESUS!

Paul’s testimony– that JESUS turned on the lights for him–blinding him on the Road to Damascus.  Now, his eyesight was “20/20” regarding spiritual matters.

3 OBJECTIVES TO CONSIDER:

THE FIRST OBJECTIVE we are to meet is to accomplish the purpose; to move out of a “checkmated” position. 

JESUS has given each one of us in the church assembly, the BODY OF CHRIST this command:  GO AND TELL!  (verse 17)–

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles”

“I AM SENDING YOU”:

God has placed you and I to penetrate our community with the good news.

We are a sent people–

In fact, the smaller number in attendance at the church I attend, with various age differences, different occupations–we are all given the same responsibility; penetrate the world, our community, with the Gospel.

None of us live at the church, though you may complain you feel like at times.  Most of us don’t work at the church; we live and work among the people outside the church walls.  That’s just where God wants us to be.  He wants us living out there, moving about, meeting people, being involved in their lives and shining God’s Light around our own lives.  Does that sound just to “poetic” for you to grasp and understand?

THE “CHURCH” IS MORE THAN A LIGHTHOUSE:

As some of you know, I sang in a men’s Gospel trio in Southern California in the late 70’s.  One of my favorite Gospel Hymns to sing out in the community was, The Lighthouse.  The lyrics refer to Jesus as the Lighthouse, and that is certainly true.  But since we are Christ’s Ambassadors, we are to represent the “Lighthouse.”  The last verse of the song contains a powerful thought:

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Everybody that lives about us

Says tear that Lighthouse down.

The big ships don’t sail  this way anymore

There’s no use of it standing round

Then my mind goes back to that stormy night

When just in time I saw  the light

Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill.

Please understand, this idea is often a mistake in the body of Christ–the Christian Assembly.  We sometimes believe that the CHURCH BUILDING is our Lighthouse and not the Light living inside of us.

It is time for the church to start  “wiggling”–MOVING OUT!

I came across a story this past week, of an E.M.T. (emergency medical technician):

Bill Stelianessis was called to a nursing home for a routine transport.  While there, he encountered four residents enjoying the warm day, relaxing in lounge chairs, all staring up at the sky.  When he looked up to see what they were looking at, he saw a flock of large birds flying by.  Then one resident spoke up:  “Margaret,” she teased, “for goodness sake, wiggle or something.  Those buzzards are getting closer!”

We are going to have to move folks.  We are supposed to be “living lighthouses”–guiding, directing, and warning others.  We do not ask people to come here to the “building”, for most won’t come.  We are to go where they are, and show them the LIGHT.

Moving Lighthouses
Moving Lighthouses

A SECOND OBJECTIVE–ANOTHER MOVE we are to meet, to accomplish the purpose of Jesus has given us– “…to open eyes…” (verse 18).

God wants spiritually blinded eyes to be opened:  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said,  ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’  made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV).

It is God who created LIGHT in the beginning.  HE SPOKE.  IT HAPPENED!

He has a method in mind.  It’s you and me.  We are PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT in communicating the TRUTH–God’s Word.

Our Responsibility–

To LIVE and SPEAK words of truth, so that when people’s eyes are opened, there is something to believe.

Holy spirit never opens the eyes of the heart until there is GOSPEL TRUTH in the mind to believe.  We do not SAVE people, and I think most of us already know that.  But on the other hand, Scripture indicates His only plan includes our communication–God doesn’t do it without us.

3042052_b6efc7004cTHE THIRD OBJECTIVE TO CONSIDER IS “TURN THEM” INTO VICTORY (Verse 19):

“To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness…

I remember when I was living in darkness…the “darkness of sin.”   Before being saved, I use to think life couldn’t be any better.  And those who did…I thought they were more than a bit “nutty.”  I thought that DARKNESS was light and LIGHT was darkness.

Are We Hiding the Light in a Paper Sack?

TWO CLASSMATES from Washington State University were discussing their frustrations of dorm life.  High up on their list was the difficulty of keeping others from eating ice cream stored in the dorm’s refrigerator.

“I’ve solved that one,” one of them said.  “I just wrap my ice cream in a brown paper bag and label it ‘TOFU’.”

It’s possible that the devil has done the same thing.  Wrapped up the light (THE TRUTH) in a brown paper bag and called it “TOFU”–as a result, no one is going near it!

SATAN’S POWER OVER PEOPLE:

His power is simply based on DECEPTION.  He does so by working hard to keep people away from the TRUTH.  So he bends and twists the TRUTH (God’s Word), keeping people at bay and off-balanced.  He did that with us…unsuccessfully.

I certainly remember why and how he FAILED.  It was because of one small, unattractive looking pastor, living out the truth every time he came to the place where I was employed.  Because eventually, after his repeated visits, the opportunity arose… to SHARE the Gospel TRUTH with my wife and I in the living room of our home.

Paul’s Example to Us All.

Paul wasn’t concerned about his own condition, as much as he was about the condition of those who stood before him.  While he was standing in chains, he was more concerned about the spiritual chains around the necks of Festus and Agrippa.

WE ARE CHOSEN AND ENTRUSTED WITH A MISSION:

Encouragement Presented.  BE A MOVING LIGHTHOUSE!

Those of us who were called–called out of the tunnel of darkness, into His marvelous Light are entrusted with a MISSION:

To remove whatever obstacles that prevent others from rejoicing in the brilliance of God’s unconditional acceptance.  We are to GUIDE, DIRECT, SHOW THE LIGHT.

Are the people living in the DARKNESS simply because you are not sharing your light?  Have we become CHECKMATED?

WE STILL HAVE A MOVE ON THE “CHESSBOARD”:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and]  do superabundantly far over and above all that we [dare] to ask or think  [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–  To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen (so be it) – (Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP).

I see VICTORY in these two verses and the victory is in bringing others to Christ Jesus–letting the Holy Spirit do the convincing while we verbalize the “good news”!.