The Community of the Called Out

The Community of the Called Out

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the City, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psa_127:1)

Man is a communal creature by design; we are not built to be alone. While some rare souls seek solace in the caverns of monastic retreat, the overwhelming majority of us are forever compelled toward community. It is how God has wired us.

The question, then, is what kind of community do we seek? Like Abraham of old, we “seek a city, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb_11:10). That is to say, we hunger for a godly community in every sense of the word. Law and order, peace and justice, truth and goodness, love and mercy, freedom and creativity. In one word — godly.

Jesus made it clear that He came to start just such a community on the earth. “I will build My Church,” He said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Greek word He used is ekklesia, meaning “the community of the called out.” This immediately makes us ask, “Called out of what?”

The old hymn gives the best answer –

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night;Thy freedom, gladness, and light.of my sickness into Thy health,of my want and into Thy wealth,of my sin and into Thyself,, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss;the glorious gain of Thy cross.of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm,of life’s storms and into Thy calm,of distress to jubilant psalm,, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride;Thy blessed will to abide.of myself to dwell in Thy love,of despair into raptures above,for aye on wings like a dove,, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb;the joy and light of Thy home.of the depths of ruin untold,the peace of Thy sheltering fold,Thy glorious face to behold,, I come to Thee.
(William T. Sleeper, 1896)
another question rises, “What, then is it that we have been called into?” To be sure, it is a community like nothing this world has to offer. The Bible refers to it in such comprehensive terms as The House of the Lord, the City of our God, and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is both local and global, as well as eternal. It is not institutional; but relational.

It is gathered in the name of the Lord, governed by the word of the Lord, guided by the Spirit of the Lord, guarded by the power of the Lord, and garnished with the glory of the Lord.

And there is only one way into this Community; it is through faith in the Lord Jesus, evidenced by love for His people, which springs out of obedience to His word.

Are you in?

Royal Ambassadors

Royal Ambassadors

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Mat_10:7)

The message has not changed. John the Baptizer said it first, as the forerunner for the Lord Jesus. Then Jesus Himself debuted His own ministry with the same declaration. And now He authorizes His followers to carry the exact same message everywhere we go.

More specifically — as we go.

This is an important distinction. For if we approach this calling to proclaim the Kingdom with our minds focused upon where it is we are going to deliver the message once we get there, then we will miss all the opportunities that await us all along the way. And, frankly speaking, that is where most of the Kingdom occurs.

It would be a mistake if we became so focused on what God is going to do later that we missed out on what God is doing right now.

So, as you go, preach; don’t wait until you get there, for by then the sermon will be nothing more than, well, a sermon. And haven’t we heard enough of those already! Somewhere along the slow unfolding years of time, we have somehow actually come to the place where we evidently believe that a tidy church service on Sunday morning supposedly fulfills this mandate from our Master.

And we miss out on the Kingdom of God each and every day all around us!

The Kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power. Jesus told them to not only proclaim the kingdom as they went, but to also demonstrate it by what they did. In other words, He wants for us to become the means whereby His power is expressed — changing things from what they are, to what God wills them to be.

“As the Father has sent Me,” Jesus said, “even so send I you.” (Joh_20:21). Paul the Apostle said, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2Co_5:20). Few verses more precisely summarize not only our mission — but our message.

You are a royal ambassador for the Kingdom of God. As you go everywhere fulfill this mission and proclaim this message – “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In the course of everyday activity, simply tell others the good news that the ruling power of God is present to help them in whatever they face.

Driven to My Knees

Driven to My Knees

“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psa_27:4)

Abraham Lincoln said, “Many times I have been driven to my knees in prayer by the conscious knowledge that I had no where else to turn.”

For many of us it takes trouble to drive us to our knees. A crisis in our life, or some dread calamity beyond our power to avert. While prayer is certainly the appropriate course when faced with such things, I want to make a case for a more noble cause.

Beginning tomorrow, I want to share three great facts about prayer that, once comprehended by us, will drive us to our knees without the aid of crisis and calamity.

By way of introduction to this short series of posts, let me acquaint you with a great promise from Scripture: “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psa_92:13.

Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Thus, if we are “planted in the house of the Lord” then we are rooted and grounded in a life of devotional faithfulness. This means that we will “flourish in the courts of our God.” If House is where He lives, the Courts is where He works.

In other words, our commitment to a life of prayer opens the doors for us to enter into the fullness of God’s work in the earth. Being made sensitive to His presence, to His Voice, and to His ways while we are in His House, makes us ready and available to see His Hand at work in our world — bringing His kingdom all around us in the lives of our families, our friends — and even our foes.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” (Samuel Chadwick)

May we become men and women who are driven to our knees!

Tested by Trials, Trusted by God

 

Tested by Trials, Trusted by God

 

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed…”

(

2Ti_2:15, Amplified Bible)

There comes a time in every situation where light-weight pretenders just can’t get the job done. They may talk a good game, but in the trenches when the pressure hits — they fold like a house of cards.

I think of Abraham being tested to the point of raising the blade to slay his son, Isaac. God stopped him, and place great trust in him from that time forward. I think of Joseph being sorely tested in Egypt as he went through multiple injustices, without turning bitter in his heart against the Lord. And we see how God raised him up to be a prince in Egypt who brought salvation to the people of God.

I think of Daniel and the Hebrew children facing great trial of soul in Babylonian captivity, who nevertheless kept their faith in the darkest hour and were elevated by God to positions of extraordinary influence.

Tested by trials, trusted by God.

This is the way of the Kingdom. God looks for those who have been proven by going through significant trials; men and women who are not out to make a fast buck, or jump on the fast track to fame and glory. Men and women of substance, found in the depths of solitude and separation.

Earlier Paul told Timothy, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given me the strength for my work because he knew that he could trust me.” (

1Ti_1:12). Can the Lord trust you?

And listen to Paul’s words to one of his favorite churches — the Thessalonians: “God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.” (

1Th_2:3-5, The Message).

May God exalt in these days those whom HE trusts, because they have been tested by trial — and passed. If God trusts them — then so can we.

Pass your tests my friend; we are all counting on what God will do with you next!

A Place Where Begging is Unnecessary

 

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

Heb_4:16

A dignified English solicitor-widower with a considerable income had long dreamed of playing Muirfield, one of Great Britain’s most exclusive golf courses, and one day he made up his mind to chance it when he was traveling in the area. Entering the clubhouse, he asked at the desk if he might play the course.

The club secretary inquired, “Member?”  To which he replied, “No, sir.”   “Guest of a member?”  “No, sir.”  The answer came back, “Sorry.”  As he turned to leave, the lawyer spotted a slightly familiar figure seated in the lounge, reading the London Times.  It was Lord Hampton.

He approached and, bowing low, said, “I beg your pardon, your Lordship, but my name is Higginbotham of the London solicitors Higginbotham, Willinby and Barclay. I should like to crave your Lordship’s indulgence.  Might I play this beautiful course as your guest?”

His Lordship gave Higginbotham a long look, put down his paper and asked, “Church?”

“Church of England, sir, as was my late wife.”

“Education?”  “Eton, sir, and Oxford.”

“Sport?” “Rugby, sir, a spot of tennis and No. 4 on the crew that beat Cambridge.”

“Service?”  “Brigadier, sir, Coldstream Guards.  Victoria Cross and Knight of the Garter.”

“Campaigns?” “Dunkirk, El Alamein and Normandy, sir.”

“Languages?”  “Private tutor in French, fluent German and a bit of Greek.”

His Lordship considered this briefly, then nodded to the club secretary and said, “Nine holes.”

My friends, this World will have you jump through a lot of hoops just to have some of your dreams sort of come true; but it is not this way with the Lord. “If any man thirsts let him come unto Me and drink,” Jesus said, “and out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water!” You will find fulfillment like no other in a friendship with Jesus.

Yes,  while the Lords and Dukes of this world would have us bow and grovel for their fleeting favors, the King of Heaven welcomes us into His royal presence as we are and greets us as friends! When you “tee it up” with Jesus the sky is the limit — and, of course, it has no ceiling. In His presence you will find the place where begging is unnecessar, and living full and free is endless!

“Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!”

Staring at What Isn’t There

Staring at What Isn’t There

“Be anxious about nothing…” (Php_4:6, The Living Bible)

The word nothing means “something that does not exist.” The word anxious means “to be troubled with care; to concentrate one’s thoughts upon something in a fretful manner.” Could anything be more incongruous than a person focusing all their fretful thoughts upon something that doesn’t even exist?

Yet people do it everyday, almost all day long.
from the present, their eyes somewhat glazed with vacancy, they dismiss the obvious for the oblivious — staring at something that’s not even there. They are unable to appreciate what they actually do have, because they are so wrapped up with anxiety over what they do not have.

One of my favorite hymns that I learned as a boy encourages us to count our many blessings. “When upon Life’s billows you are tempted, tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will amaze you what the Lord has done!” (Justin Oatman, 1856)

It is true. A few thoughtful moments spent in thankfulness to God for the many blessings that undeniably are yours, will quell the whispering voices that beckon you to become upset by staring at nothing.

Next time anxiety begins to crowd your space, step back and start counting your many blessings — not generally, but specifically. Name them, one by one. Let your mind dwell upon the massive benefits which the Lord has downloaded into your life. You’ll find in no time that by looking at what is really there, your imagination will no longer drift into the darkness of what is not there.

Hey, you there! Stop staring; and start counting your many blessings!

The Hazardous Christian

 

The Hazardous Christian

 

“Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Act_15:26

Marketers have called it the World’s Most Successful Ad. It was posted in The London Times in 1905 — “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.” Signed E. Shackleton.

He was looking for a crew to help him discover the South Pole. The next morning, over five thousand men were waiting outside the Time’s office ready to go. Something in the ad touched something deep inside each man.

But there is an even more successful ad posted in the Acts of the Apostles, and over the centuries millions have responded to its higher call in an even deeper way.

Paul and Silas were commended as men who hazarded their lives. Contrary to what one may initially think, this does not mean to be reckless or irresponsible. The Greek word means “to give over to another.” In other words, they were men who had handed their lives over to Jesus Christ, so as to bring great honor to His name. And while the underlying thought might seem to be one of self-abandonment, the truth of the matter is that this is the ultimate act of personal responsibility.

Paul said, “My friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.” (

Rom_12:1, Good News Bible). The Amplified Bible says it is the “reasonable, rational, and intelligent” thing to do.

You and I were put on this earth to make Jesus famous. It is reasonable, rational, and intelligent for us to use our gifts and abilities to honor Him. But that’s not going to happen if we hold on to our own reputations as something to be cherished and mollycoddled, as they said in the old days. We must hazard our lives.

There is something deep inside every person that is stirred by the daring challenge to live a life of greatness for something other than oneself.

Still, not all choose to do so; not every one hands their lives over. Some settle for the pampered, risk-free environment of a lifeless faith and live out their days making no difference at all. But not you; surely not you.

Start now and from this day onward, hazard your life for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“You Are the Light of the World!”

“You Are the Light of the World!”

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mat_5:14)

Jesus said many staggering things, and this statement ranks high on the list – “You are the light of the world.” He is passing the torch to His followers. “The works that I do, you will do,” He told His disciples, “and greater than these, for I go to My Father.” (Joh_14:12)

Thus does He, who is the Light of the World, turn to His followers and say, “You are the light of the world!” In other words, “Just as I have shown you My Father’s love, so now you do the same to all those around you. For I am leaving, and now you are the revelation of God’s love to the world!”

No pressure.

We are to do the job in the same manner as Jesus. Luke tells us that God “anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Act_10:38).

As God was with Jesus, and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power, so now is He with us. And He is fully committed to our success for the sake of His Son’s honor (see Joh_13:35, and Joh_17:21).

Let’s look again at what Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mat_5:14-16).

Has it ever occurred to you that today, in somebody’s life, you may be the only opportunity they will ever have to see and experience God’s love? That even a simple act of kindness to another can be vested with the power of the Holy Spirit and turn darkness to light? Are you aware that as you stroll through the day in your usual surroundings you are like a torch passing through a cave – bringing light, warmth, and hope every where you go?
’t laugh. Don’t dismiss this. And don’t count yourself out. Jesus said it, and He meant it – “You are the light of the world.”

What would each day hold in store for us if we walked through every situation looking for opportunities to say or do something that could reveal God’s love to somebody else who really needs it?

Go for it and see what happens! “Arise; Shine – and Let there be Light!”

(PS – if you are new to “Rylisms” you might want to go back and read the previous posts beginning with January 1, “Arise! Shine!” That will give you the full, unfolding message in this devotional series)

Fully Alive in the Light

 

Fully Alive in the Light

 

“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

(

Joh_1:4)

Jesus is the Light of the World. He came into this world as a light shining in darkness, and brought us the one true revelation of God; showing us the love of the Father, and changing our world forever. But, He means for us to take this personally.

 

John says, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (

Joh_1:4). One translation puts it this way, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.” This means even you and me!

And, remember from our previous postings, the light He brought to us is “the revelation of God’s love.” God wants us to be fully alive in the light of His love.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the way, that we might be saved; the truth, that we might be sure; and the life, that we might be satisfied! Practically speaking this means that when you open your heart to Jesus, His life will enter fully into you and bring the revelation of God’s love throughout your whole world – changing everything. Saving you; securing you; and satisfying you!

“I once was blind, but now I see!” the man shouted after Jesus healed him.

“And what is it that you see dear brother?”

“I see the love of God everywhere I look!”

May the Prayer of Paul the Apostle be answered in each of our lives:

“I pray that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (

Eph_3:16-19).

Or, if I may sum it up in four words — “Let there be light!”

?

“Are We There Yet?”

“Are We There Yet?”

And Jesus said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mar_12:34)

Standing at the west end of Monumental Park with a group of happy pilgrims taking in the sights and sounds of God’s amazing Grace, we heard a fellow in our group call out and ask, “Are we there yet?” His voice was a bit strained, and betrayed a measure of mild exasperation.

“What do you mean?” a fellow traveler asked.

“The Place called Grace – are we there yet?”

Everybody was stunned. I must admit that I myself was a bit perplexed at this fellow’s disconnection to the moment. How could he not know where we were?

“Dude, we’ve been here for quite awhile!” somebody else in the group replied.

Realizing this guy needed help, I then said, “At the start of our Journey I told you all that we would be traveling far to a place that is nearby; and once we are there, you will realize that we’ve actually been here all along. Remember me saying that to you?”

“So, are you saying we have arrived?” the fellow then asked.

“You’re the only one who can answer that,” I replied. “Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person.”

That Person is the Lord Jesus, the King of Grace and Glory. The power is the incomprehensible influence of His redeeming presence in all things, at all times. And the Place of Grace is everywhere humble men and women live freely to do God’s will fully.

“So, let me ask the question a different way,” I  then said. “Have you arrived?”

The perplexed brother stared at me in silence.

Perhaps a short story will serve to illustrate my meaning.

Years ago at a youth camp the guest speaker presented a compelling message for surrendering our all to Jesus Christ. What made his talk so compelling was the glow upon his face. This was real to him; and we could tell. He was “standing in a place called Grace.”

At one point in his message he told us about an experience he himself had at this very camp years earlier when he was a student. He had taken a walk into the woods after an evening meeting and found a spot where he fell on his knees and cried out to God, “Oh, God! Do in me anything You need to do, so You can do through me everything You want to do!”

The power of the Holy Spirit fell upon him as he prayed, and he rose to “walk in newness of life; empowered to love and serve the Lord.”

We were riveted by his story. One student approached him after our evening meeting and asked, “Preacher, can you take me to that spot?”

“Certainly,” the camp preacher said, “Follow me.” And they headed off into the woods. After they had walked for several minutes, the student asked, “Are we there, yet?”

“We’re getting close,” the preacher said. And they walked on further. And again, after some distance was covered, the student asked, “Are we almost there?”

“It won’t be much longer,” the preacher said. “It should be just a little bit further.”

They walked on deeper into the woods, getting farther and farther from camp. The young man grew increasingly restless, and asked once more – “Are we close to that spot?”

“It shouldn’t be too much further,” the preacher said.

After several minutes of more hiking, the student fell to his knees and cried out in desperation, “Oh, God! I can’t wait any longer! Do in me what you did in this preacher!”

God’s presence suddenly flooded the young man’s heart, as he wept for joy. And the preacher smiled and said, “There’s the spot, right there!”

Get it? Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person. Nobody knows but YOU when that moment occurs. It is that moment when you realize that you cannot, and you will not, live another day outside this place called Grace.

So let me now ask the question — “Have you arrived there yet?”