Have You Surrendered to the King?

copy-of-the_cross_1631“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:31-33).

Many people are fighting a war of resistance against the kingdom of God. They are attracted to the Lord Jesus and His call on their lives, but there is something within them that wants to keep distance between them and God. Many are afraid of the changes that becoming a Christian will cause. Yes, there will be changes in your life when you surrender to the King of Kings. But what is the alternative? Do you wish for your life to continue the way it has been? It is time to sit down and think through your options. There is only one option. The option of surrender! How long are you going to keep fighting against King Jesus? What are the terms of surrender that He asks? An unconditional surrender is what is needed! You must give up everything you have to Him to be all that you can be in Christ. Only when you surrender completely all that you are and all that you have can He begin to work in your life to transform you into His image.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

During the latter stages of the Second World War, a Japanese soldier was told by his commander to fight a guerilla campaign against American forces on the island of Lubang in the Philippines His name was Hiroo Onoda and his commander’s strict orders was that he was forbidden to die by his own hand and they were to continue the fight until Japanese forces were to come back for him. When the island fell to the Americans, he kept to his orders and carried on fighting with three other soldiers. They survived by eating coconuts and green bananas that grew naturally in the jungle.

Occasionally they would come out of hiding, killing one of the local villager’s cows for meat. It was at one such time that they found a note left by a local resident, appealing to them to come and surrender for the war had come to an end two years ago. The soldiers took it to be a clever propaganda trick to draw them out of the jungle to capture them. They received the truth that the world was at peace with mistrust and unbelief. They carried on killing and wounding the islanders whom they saw as the enemy. In September of 1949, four years after the war had finished, one of the soldiers, without a word to the others, sneaked off during the night and surrendered. The remaining three felt that he was weak willed and coerced by the ‘enemy.’ They continued their guerrilla attacks for another three years until Corporal Shimada was shot in the leg during a shootout with some fishermen. He died at the age of 40 years old. For nineteen years Onoda and the remaining other soldier, Kozuka, carried on the fight, refusing to surrender. They felt that the Japanese Army would return as they had been promised and recapture the island. Nineteen years after the death of Shimada, in October of 1972, 51 year old Kozuka was killed by a Filipino police patrol, ending his guerrilla war of 27 years. Lieutenant Onoda carried on the fight on his own, refusing every bit of information that came his way that the war was over and that he should surrender. The Japanese authorities sent out search parties but he evaded them all. In 1974, a Japanese college student, Norio Suzuki, managed to track him down. Still Onoda would not surrender, explaining that he would only surrender to his old commander, Major Taniguchi, who had given him orders to fight on and never surrender. Major Taniguchi himself went to Panang and told him that Japan had surrendered many years previously and that it was futile to carry on fighting. When the reality of the truth sunk home that peace had come and that he had been deceived into fighting a war that was over, he broke down weeping. He formally surrendered to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in 1974. He was pardoned for the crimes he had committed under the false belief that the war was still being fought and that he should never surrender. He returned to Japan to receive a hero’s welcome. His memoirs were entitled, “No Surrender: My Thirty Year War.”

Lieutenant Onoda fought gallantly but for a misplaced cause. In his 30-year war, he killed 30 individuals and wounded over a hundred people. If only he would have listened. If only his countrymen from Japan would have gone earlier to find him, so many families would not have been in mourning. Much pain was endured because He did not surrender. How about you? How much pain has been endured in your family because you have been unwilling to surrender to Christ? Can you hear the call to surrender? If so, today is your day to surrender fully to His grace.

Keith Thomas

Are You a Believer or a Disciple?

Wanted24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous explorer, when he was about to set out from England on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down can see the answer).

We have a tendency in the Western church of Jesus Christ to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of Jesus Christ and His call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats, and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this. The churches in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackelton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship, with a small wage, bitter cold and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement?

I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many today are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values. What things do you see happening that is pressuring Christians to compromise their faith?

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to go beyond being believers to being disciples. Let me ask you this question, if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a believer, or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a Disciple Series and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.”

Keith Thomas

[1] Quit You like Men, Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).

What is God Like?

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When Jesus was being criticized by religious people for spending time with those that were far off from God, He told them a story to describe what God was really like. Here’s the story He told:

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate (Luke 15:11-24).

Some call this story the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but the parable is more about a prodigal Father in my opinion. Now before you start writing me an email to throw me an electronic stone, let me explain what I mean by saying that the word “prodigal” is not mentioned in the text and dictionary.com says that it means:

Rashly or wastefully extravagant”: as in prodigal expenditures on unneeded weaponry; a prodigal life. Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse: prodigal praise.” 

Yes, the parable does tell us of a younger son who was wastefully extravagant in his sin, but the father was even more extravagant in his acceptance of the son when he came to his senses. Jesus tells this story to illustrate just how the Most High God actually is in His essence—God is love (1 John 4:8), and very extravagant with His grace, mercy and love for His children.

When the younger son began to reflect on his wasted life and how he had grieved his father, verse 17 says that he came to his senses and started thinking of how to get it right between himself and his father. He thought that he would be much better off than being in the pigsty if his father would accept him as a servant. His sin, he felt, no longer made him worthy of being a son. This young man began practicing his words and  “got up and went to his father” (v.20).

We are told that the son had gone to a distant country (v.13); certainly there was no need in Israel for pigs, so he was probably amongst Gentiles (non Jews) in an adjacent country. Wherever he was, we are to think that he was several miles from home. This father, a picture of the Father that loves each of us, was also a long way from home, looking and waiting for his son to turn.  As soon as the father saw his son he ran to him. There was no anger within the father; his heart was full of compassion. What is compassion? Dictionary.com says that compassion is: Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. This father, a picture of God, had been in pain for his son while he had been away from home.

This father was so ready to forgive that he does not even give the young man a chance to speak his words. He is so in love with his son. After running to his son he is unrestrained in kissing him. The Greek tense says that he threw his arms around him and kissed him again and again and again. The father expressed his kindness before the son expressed his repentance. This speaks of God’s kindness and his readiness to be reconciled to those that have been apart from his love. Finally, the young man, in the midst of sobs, I’m sure, manages to get out part of his speech that he had prepared. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father cuts him off, and speaks to his servants to bring some things.

They were told to bring the “best robe.” There is a double emphasis here in the Greek text. It speaks of the robe, that principal robe. We are not talking about a coat here; this robe speaks of the son being restored to a place of honor. It speaks to us of a robe of righteousness that covers over our pigsty of sin. The ring speaks of authority and power of attorney. In that day, rings were used to sign official documents. Often the ring had an impression on it that, when pushed into hot wax, was the official seal of the family. Pharaoh gave Joseph such a ring when he was elevated to second in command of Egypt, after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:42). We too are given authority by our God to do the works of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). The son was given shoes. No slave ever wore shoes, and the father would not let his son go barefoot. He was a son, not a slave. Our feet are shod with the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). We have been made sons of God. The servants were told to kill the calf that had been fattened ready for this day. This father had been slowly fattening the calf that he may celebrate when his son would come home. These were all gifts of grace lavished on the slave of sin returning home to be restored to son ship. How extravagant is the Father! He is so ready to receive you as soon as you turn toward home. How about going home today?

Keith Thomas

A True Fisherman’s Tale of Listening to My Father’s Voice?

But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

There are times in one’s life when we must simply trust our Father. This can be difficult when we are going through a trying situation. Sometimes it means ignoring everything but His words in the midst of a storm.

I remember a time when I was working as a commercial fisherman with my father on his  fishing boat. We were on a long journey south to our home port of Harwich, Essex, England. It was past midnight and it was his turn to sleep. Before he lay down on the day bed, there in the wheelhouse alongside of me, he wanted to give me some instructions for our passing three miles off of the coast of Lowestoft, Suffolk.  He instructed me to avoid the two sandbanks that ran parallel with the coast. He wanted me to go close to the shore, evade the sandbanks, and escape the tide that would be turning against us when we got there.

As he fell asleep we were following two another fishing boats that were two miles ahead of us.  I could just see their stern lights ahead.  Dad had been asleep about an hour when I came up to the Scroby Sands, the Outer and Inner banks, that ran parallel and opposite the coast of Lowestoft. I reasoned to myself that, instead of following my father’s commands, I could see the stern lights of the other boats, I could just follow their lights as they were in between the channel running through the sandbank. If I followed them surely we would be okay. Continue reading

I Have No Other Plan–The Great Commission.

There is an old legend that takes us back in time and recounts the time when Jesus slips back into heaven after He had died on the cross and rose from the dead. According to the legend, the angel Gabriel met him. Gabriel frowned when he saw the marks of Jesus’ scars of His tortuous years on earth, especially the scars of His crucifixion. Gabriel said: “Master, you suffered terribly for those down on earth.” “Yes, I did,” was Jesus’ reply. Gabriel continued: “Do they all know now about your life and your forgiveness? Have they all heard about your death and resurrection?” “No, not yet.” Said Jesus. “Right now only a handful knows. Only a handful of people in Palestine know about my death and resurrection.”Gabriel looked perplexed. “Then,” he asked, “Well… How will everyone find out about your wonderful life and your sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection?””I have asked Peter, James, John and a handful of friends and followers to tell other people about it. And when other people hear and believe, they in turn will tell others. And Gabriel, by and by, the planet earth will hear the message.”Still frowning, the angel responded: “But, hmmm, you know how people are on earth. What if they… What if Peter, James and John get tired? What if they tell the story and then the next generation gets all involved in other pursuits? What if way down in the 18th or 21st century, people aren’t committed any longer to your commission? Have you made other plans?” The Lamb of God looked directly at the angel of God and said: “I have no other plan. I am counting on them.” (Author Unknown).