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Becoming Better Messengers

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  • Stephen J. Hall
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NOTES FROM THE VALLEY June 10, 2007 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 11, 2007
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      NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
      June 10, 2007

      "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
      I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Cathy and I are encountering more and more people these days, friends
      and relatives, who have been drawn into some form of "New Age"
      religion. You know, the ones that take the easiest and nicest parts
      of various belief systems and combine them into something that feels
      good and makes little or no demands upon their time or lifestyle!!
      Which definitely leaves no room for Jesus or His teachings.

      It came as a shock to us that one of the primary reasons these dear
      people give for their closed mindedness about Christ is the behavior
      of Christians. To roughly paraphrase one dear friend, she believes
      we Christians are elitist, overbearing and two-faced. We will not
      accept that there can be any other God or belief system but ours. If
      someone, like her, refuses to accept our beliefs, we come down on
      them with damnation, angry and hate-filled words. And we talk one
      way of living, but live another way entirely. She refuses to be a
      part of any such hypocrisy. In the face of such strong opinions, we
      find ourselves totally frustrated and asking God "What can we do?"

      I know we can't fix these loved ones. We can pray for them and be
      ready the instant they ask us about our faith if that opportunity
      ever comes again. But the Holy Spirit will have to convict them to
      seek Christ first. And God will have to bring people across their
      paths who live their faith as a testimony to them about who God
      really is and what His children are truly like. So that is my prayer
      for God's ministry to them. I also know we can't fix other
      Christians. But we can ask God to continue His work in us and teach
      us the hard lessons we need to learn from this experience. Lessons
      that will change how we live our lives and how we will relate to
      others.

      God sent His Son into the world with a message of reconciliation, not
      condemnation. That's the message Christ gave to us. That's the
      message Christ told us to go and give to the world. 2 Corinthians
      5:18-19 (NIV) says, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to
      himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
      that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting
      men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of
      reconciliation."

      But we have failed to deliver that message with the same measure of
      love as was given to us. That failure is having eternal
      consequences. The message of the Gospel is "good news." God loves
      us and has reached down to us through His Son with a free gift of
      salvation. But instead of conveying the love and presenting the
      gift, many of us convey judgement and present a threat. We threaten
      with "if you don't" where Christ promised "if you will." We seem to
      have forgotten that to be a Christian means to be an imitator of
      Christ. We need to read again of His dealings with the woman at the
      well, the woman who was to be stoned, the Centurion, the sick, the
      suffering, and the possessed. How did He deliver the message of His
      Father's love to them? We need to find that answer and then strive
      to be like Him; to deliver the message like He did.

      Someday, some gentle person who has learned the hard lessons and
      seeks only to serve the Father in the same manner as the Son, will
      lovingly tell our lost love ones about the Christ who has filled
      their life with meaning, peace, understanding, joy, and forgiveness.
      The sincerity of their words, the witness of those gifts in the
      living of their daily lives, will lead them to accept Christ. It may
      be you. It may be Cathy or me. But it will definitely be someone
      who lets the Christ who has taken up residence within them to shine
      through them in loving kindness, tender mercy, and unfailing grace.

      As always, I remain a work in progress,
      Steve



      The Choice
      (Author Max Lucado)

      All of the Garden's inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks
      hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on
      petals and watched.

      "You will love me, nature," God said. "I made you that way. You will
      obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect
      my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will
      be like me. This one will be able to choose."

      All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed
      something yet unseen. A seed. "It's called 'choice.' The seed of
      choice." Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless
      form.

      An angel spoke, "But what if he ..."

      "What if he chooses not to love?" the Creator finished. "Come, I will
      show you."

      Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of
      tomorrow.

      "There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the
      bitter."

      The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary
      devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these.
      He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her
      daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the
      kindness and marveled at the warmth. "Heaven has never seen such
      beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation."

      "Ah, but you've only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter."

      A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and
      proclaimed, "What is it?"

      The Creator spoke only one word: "Selfishness."

      The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of
      repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured
      promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering
      blindly in lonely labyrinths. "This is the result of choice? the
      angel asked.

      "Yes."

      "They will forget you?"

      "Yes."

      "They will reject you?"

      "Yes."

      "They will never come back?"

      "Some will. Most won't."

      "What will it take to make them listen?"

      The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future,
      until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a
      cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.
      With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It
      stood alone, a stubborn ruler on a bald hill. The trunk was thick,
      and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be
      trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill.
      And soon he would be hung on it. He felt the wood rub against a back
      he did not yet wear.

      "Will you go down there?" the angel asked.

      "I will."

      "Is there no other way?"

      "There is not."
      "Wouldn't it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn't it be easier
      to not give the choice?"

      "It would," the Creator spoke slowly. "But to remove the choice is to
      remove the love."

      He look around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on
      three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with
      the wind. Men clad in soldier's garb sat on the ground near the trio.
      They played games in the dirt and laughed. Men clad in religion stood
      off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected
      God, they thought by killing this false one. Women clad in sorrow
      huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked.
      Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her
      away. She wouldn't leave. "I will stay," she said softly, "I will
      stay."

      All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity
      poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command. "It must be
      done...," he said, and withdrew. But as he stepped in time, he heard
      the cry that he would someday scream: "My God, my God, why have you
      forsaken me?" He wrenched at tomorrow's agony.

      The angel spoke again. "It would be less painful..."

      The Creator interrupted softly. "But it wouldn't be love."

      They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the
      clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died
      for the creation before he had made him. God's form bent over the
      sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new
      one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A
      finger moved. And an eye opened. But more incredible than the moving
      of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the
      unseen gasped. Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps
      what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since.

      Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it: "It looks like . . . it
      appears to so much like . . . it is him!" The angel wasn't speaking
      of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside - at
      the soul.

      "It's eternal!" gasped another.

      Within the man, God has placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The
      God of might had created earth's mightiest. The Creator had created,
      not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to
      love had created one who could love in return.

      Now it's our choice.


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      Copyright © 1998 - 2007 by Stephen J. Hall - Notes from the Valley
      and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and
      encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel
      free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have
      something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would like
      to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us at:
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      ______________________________________________________________
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      Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling
      everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of
      your love . . . (Psalm 89:1-2 The Message)
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