Feeding the 5,000…via Twitter?

When I entered the Twitter world in May 2012 with @BestBibleTweets, I set a goal that seemed audacious at the time: gaining 4,000 followers within one year. However, that goal was surpassed in just six months, and I’m now reflecting on having reached the new  milestone of 5,000 Twitter followers.

Although this accomplishment is exhilarating in many ways, it’s also a time of sober reevaluation. At each new milestone, I’ve found myself facing honest questions, like “Do Twitter followers count for anything in eternity?” … “Are any lives really changed?” … And “Do my supposed followers even read  my tweets?”

Reaching the 5,000-follower mark seems to have special significance from a biblical standpoint. You probably remember the story of Jesus feeding 5,000+ hungry people on a Galilean hillside. It’s one of my favorite events in the Bible—but it had a troubling aftermath.

After Jesus fed the 5,000 in John 6, He began to explain the cost of true discipleship. Instead of just involving miracles and free meals, it turned out that a real follower had to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood”  (v. 53). Hmmm…so much for easy believism or greasy grace.

And while Jesus’ day began with thousands of fair-weather followers, it ended with only the Twelve remaining. The text says that many of those who turned away after hearing His “hard teachings”  had actually considered themselves to be “disciples”  (v. 66). Yes, this is a troubling story indeed.

Jesus finally asked His 12 remaining followers, “Do you also want to go away?”  (v. 67) What a question! You see, it’s one thing to say you’re following Jesus when everyone else is—when it’s the culturally expected thing to do. But what if the tide of public opinion is flowing in the opposite direction? Where will you stand in that day?

Peter’s response to Jesus’ question has often been portrayed as heroic, but I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. He replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”  (v. 68).

Yes, Peter was absolutely correct that there was no one else he could follow that would be able to provide eternal life (see John 14:6). Yet his response could also be interpreted to imply several less virtuous traits: (1) Peter seems to have already given some thought  to what his “other options” might be, and (2) he perhaps would have been open to some other option if it seemed a feasible alternative.

Could it be that Peter was secretly wishing there was some other  Messiah who had a “kinder and gentler” message? Or was he tempted to regret that he and his fellow disciples had left behind their fishing nets, tax offices, and other occupations to put their destiny squarely in Jesus’ hands?

Regardless of what Peter may have been thinking at the time, he made the right choice in the end. So I guess it’s OK to wrestle with God’s call as long as we ultimately heed it.

I hope some of my 5,000+ Twitter followers will read this blog post. And I pray that a few will count the cost and become true disciples of Jesus.

What about you? Are you only following Christ because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do among your friends or family? Are you willing to follow even if others turn away at His hard teachings, after they’ve received their fill of miracles, bread, and fish?

Be honest.

 

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Luden’s Cough Drops and America’s Problems

A family member, who would like to remain anonymous, recently got the flu. Her head and throat ached, she was badly congested, and her cough was horrific. She asked me to get her some cough drops among the other medications she needed to relieve her distress.

I virtually cleaned out the local CVS store, trying to find anything that might help, and I didn’t forget the cough drops. After researching the ingredients on the labels of several different brands, I found the highest-potency cough drops I could find.

When I returned with my bag of over-the-counter remedies, she was grateful for my efforts. But the cough drops weren’t the kind she had really wanted. Luden’s Wild Cherry Cough Drops were the ones she had in mind.

Of course, I was quite familiar with Luden’s Cough Drops. As a kid, they were my first choice whenever I got a cold or sore throat. And they tasted so good that I sometimes bought them simply as candy.

So I returned to CVS to buy the specified cough drops, and I noticed that their name has changed over the years. They’re no longer even called “cough drops,” but Luden’s now refers to them as “Great Tasting THROAT Drops.”  Instead of ingredients to kill germs or open nasal passages, the only active ingredient in this classic product is pectin, the same component used to thicken jams and jellies. And, of course, the “great tasting” part comes from being mostly comprised of sugar and corn syrup.

My encounter with Luden’s Throat Drops is a great picture of why America’s fiscal and moral problems seem to never improve. You see, our tendency is to choose Luden’s Throat Drops—something that tastes good for a moment—over any kind of real cures. And we’re terribly prone to select national and local leaders who will give us candy instead of substantive solutions.

When our nation’s problems don’t get better, we express surprise that the Luden’s Throat Drops didn’t work. It turned out that they weren’t truly medicine at all. But at least they tasted good.

How bad will our national “flu” have to become before we’re ready for true solutions, no matter how unpleasant they may be? When will we cry out to God in national repentance and desperation, asking Him to apply the healing balm of the Gospel instead of the candy-coated solutions of the politicians?

 

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2012 Ministry Highlights

From Jim Buchan & Crosslink Ministries

 Dear Friends:

2012 has been a fantastic year of new and old ministry ventures. Here are some highlights:

  • Inspiration magazine. As the senior staff writer at Inspiration Cover JPGMinistries, I continue to produce monthly devotional magazines sent to more than 135,000 households around the world each month, with an additional 26,000 daily devotionals sent via e-mail. You can sign up for the free daily devotionals at www.inspiration.org/dailydevotions.
  • Multiple booklets. This year I’ve also worked on various other projects at Inspiration, writing booklets such as The Turnaround Devotional, Changing Your World Through Prayer, Questions and Answers on Heaven, and a workbook for Ancient Secrets of the Tabernacle.
  • Jim Preaching 1Preaching. I’ve done more preaching and teaching in 2012 than in any year since 2004. You can hear some of my messages online at

www.imagechurch.us/list-by-speaker/audio.

  • Ghostwriter and literary adviser. I’ve continued to enjoy many opportunities to serve as an adviser, agent, editor, or ghostwriter for Christian authors.
  • Twitter and Facebook. In May, I ventured into the Twitter world for the first time. My goal was to have 4,000 followers after a year, and I thought this goal was fairly ambitious. However, after just six months or so, I already have over 5,000 followers on my Twitter feed @BestBibleTweets. It has been fun embarking on a journey to tweet through highlights of the entire Bible, and the tweets are also posted on my Facebook wall.
  • Blogs. I launched a new blogsite at www.JimBuchan.com. Take a look at my posts there when you get a chance. My articles have been picked up by some other bloggers and by a magazine that has over 100,000 subscribers. Although I’ve been writing articles for decades now, I’ve never  had so many people read my articles in just one year!
  • ChurchSplits.com. At long last, my new, comprehensive manual on Church Splits is now available as an eBook at www.ChurchSplits.com. More than 8,000 people a month do a Google search for information on the topic of church splits, and this new website comes up FIRST! I believe the book and website will meet a huge need among pastors and churches. It’s a unique resource on how to prevent, survive, and recover from church splits (lessons I’ve learned the hard way!).
  • Books and Music CDs to Afghanistan. Inspiration Ministries recently sent many boxes of spiritual resources to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in order to be there before  Christmas. Crosslink donated a box of my leadership book, Walking the Leadership Highway—Without Becoming Roadkill! Mary donated some of her Christian music CDs, “Carry Me” and “Hidden Door.” And our friends Dennis and Jen Clark added copies of their amazing booklet that helps people receive healing from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pray with us that God will use these resources to touch lives in our military!

For several years, my central mission statement has been “To change the world through the written and spoken word.”  Both of these two prongs came together in a wonderful way in 2012—with opportunities to touch live through my writings and also through a renewed “fire in my bones” to preach (Jeremiah 20:9).

I’ll close with a word of encouragement and challenge to my fellow Baby Boomers, who may be wondering whether God still can revive their dreams and use them to impact lives. Let the prayer in Habakkuk 3:2 be the cry of our hearts today:

O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known.

No matter how old you may be feeling today, you’re just “in the midst of the years” — and your greatest years can be still ahead!

God bless you this New Year. Let us know how we can pray for you. We’re grateful for your tax-deductible financial contributions to our Crosslink Ministries outreaches.

Note our new address:

Crosslink Ministries

11927 Royal Castle Ct, Charlotte, NC 28277

Cell: 704-770-5200, Jim@JimBuchan.com

www.JimBuchan.com @BestBibleTweets

Whole Family 1012

 Merry Christmas from the Buchan & Stokas families!

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The Stunning Message of 12.12.12

When I realized December 12, 2012 was coming this month, I got really excited. Wow…12.12.12…so full of biblical significance. And it won’t happen again for another 100 years.

In a nutshell, the number 12 in the Bible always represents ORDER and INCREASE. Order is shown by God’s instructions to arrange the Israelites according to 12 tribes and Jesus’ selection of 12 original apostles. This theme extends all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, where the New Jerusalem is described as having 12 gates, guarded by 12 angels, with a wall that had 12 foundations (Revelation 21:12-14).

I don’t know about you, but I really need God’s divine order in my life. Sadly, I sometimes find my focus to be much like the early creation: “without shape or form” (Genesis 1:2 CEB). I need God’s Spirit to fill my heart and hover over my life, bringing His order to my time, relationships, priorities, and resources.

But in addition to God’s order, I also need Him to give me His supernatural increase. I’m asking the Lord to multiply my resources so I have more at the end of the coming year than I do at its beginning. Psalm 115:14-15 says that “the Lord, who made heaven and earth”…wants to “give you increase more and more, you and your children.” Let it be!

One story in Scripture beautifully illustrates the different strands of the 12.12.12 message. In Mark 6:34-44, Jesus and the 12 disciples confronted the same dilemma many Christian leaders face today: overwhelming needs and limited resources. The disciples logically concluded that they were unable to feed the hungry multitudes, so they should just “send them away” (v. 36).

Have you ever made a similar decision? I have. But Jesus, of course, had an entirely different perspective on the situation: “You give them something to eat,” He told them (v. 37).

As the story continues, we see a fascinating progression of questions—the same thought processes we must use today:

  • What is the need?  Sometimes we face a crisis in our own life, where we need God to bring His order and increase. More often, though, we’re called upon to remedy a need in the lives of others. This is what the disciples faced in Mark 6. And they analyzed the need quite well, even calculating the immense amount of bread required to feed such a huge crowd.
  • What do we have?  God never requires what we don’t have, but He does expect us to freely surrender what we DO have.He canturn a simple shepherd’s staff into the rod of God…use the jawbone of a donkey to slay the enemy…or kill huge giants with a slingshot and a stone. So it’s no problem for Him to multiply loaves and fish. However, the miracle can’t begin until we put our resources—no matter how meager they may seem—into His outstretched hands.
  • Have we put things in order?  It’s interesting that the disciples had to put things in ORDER before the INCREASE came: “He commanded them [the disciples] to make them [the crowd] all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties (vs. 39-40). If you’re waiting for your increase today, it may well be that God is waiting on you to first make the necessary preparations. Perhaps you remember the story in 2 Kings 3:16-20, where God told people that if they would be faithful to dig trenches in the valley, He would be faithful to fill the trenches with water.
  • Do we have our “baskets” ready?  Often I hear believers say they’re expecting God to bless them with an increase, yet they’ve done absolutely nothing to demonstrate faith and expectancy for that kind of outcome. After Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes they had given Him, the disciples “picked up 12 full baskets of broken pieces” (v. 43). In the hands of Jesus, their paltry resources not only were enough to meet the need—they were MORE than enough. You see, that’s what increase looks like. Rather than being like the Israelites’ hand-to-mouth existence while eating manna in the wilderness, it’s a life of overflowing abundance, a cup that “runs over” and blesses others (Psalm 23:5, Genesis 12:2).

The 12 disciples brought their resources to Jesus and the unruly crowd into order. The miraculous result was 12 full baskets of leftovers. Aren’t you grateful for the message of 12.12.12?

I pray today—for myself and for you—that we’ll allow God to order our lives according to His perfect plan. May we put all of our resources into His hands, trusting Him to supernaturally bless and multiply them. And may we have our baskets ready for the INCREASE!

 

 

 

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The Blessings of Spiritual Detox

As a child, I was pretty naïve about life. I grew up in a carefree, upper middle class, suburban family, not much different from Ozzie and Harriet or Leave it to Beaver. I always assumed I would have a fairly easy life, accomplishing just about anything I wanted, and accomplishing it in my own strength.

When I became a Christian at age 18, I was pretty naïve about the life awaiting me on my journey of faith. Surely the Lord would guide me to a wonderful life, full of His provision and free from any serious trials or conflicts.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the Celestial City. To my surprise, the highway to the abundant life contained some potholes and speed bumps. My trip to the Promised Land turned out to be a hazardous journey, somewhat akin to an obstacle course.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a great life. But “easy” wouldn’t be the first adjective I’d use to describe it.

I’ve experienced times of financial lack, as well as times of prosperity. I’ve been blessed with excellent health, but have also had a few physical trials to overcome. I’ve been known as a visionary, but sometimes have felt deep discouragement and even depression. And although I’ve had many great relationships, I’ve also known my share of conflicts, some of which are chronicled in my new e-book, The Complete Guide to Church Splits (www.ChurchSplits.com).

Perhaps you can relate to what I’m describing. Like the Israelites, God has delivered us from Egypt and set us on a pathway to the Promised Land. Yes, we’ve come to some roadblocks—like the time when the Israelites’ journey was blocked by the Red Sea—but now we can look back and see great victories.

Yet if you’re like me, you probably aren’t as naïve anymore. You’ve had some experiences you wish had never happened…some things you would like to forget.

After the Israelites’ triumph over the Egyptians at the Red Sea, they faced a trial of another kind:

Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea…And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah.And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet… 

…Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters (Exodus 15:22-27).

What a fascinating story. God’s people had escaped from captivity in Egypt and had seen the Lord part the Red Sea and miraculously deliver them from Pharaoh’s army. But then they found themselves in a desolate wilderness, where there was no water. Finally, they discovered abundant water at Marah—but the water was bitter.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar place. Despite your sincere attempts to follow God’s leading, you’ve sometimes found yourself in a barren spiritual desert. And right when you think there’s some hope, the water turns out to be bitter.

We live in tough economic times in America, and many believers are finding their faith and their relationships severely tested. They feel frustrated at themselves, their boss (if they still have a boss), their spouse, their church, and perhaps toward the entire Christian life. To compound the frustration, they see a federal government that is increasingly hostile to their beliefs and values. It’s a baffling time if you’ve always had an idealistic view of life.

The truth is, we’ve all encountered the bitter waters of Marah at one time or another. However, there’s good news in this remarkable story: Bitter waters can be turned sweet.

How can this transformation occur? By applying the cross (the tree) to the situation. This requires something more than passive doctrinal assent, however. Yes, the LORD showed [Moses] a tree,” but nothing significant happened until “he cast it into the waters.”

When applied by faith, the cross provides everything we need to reverse our toxic situations or attitudes. Through the cross…

  • We receive forgiveness from God and are reconciled into an intimate relationship with Him.
  • We forgive each other, as He has forgiven us.
  • We die to ourselves, making it possible to obey God and serve others.
  • We see our unfair and toxic circumstances from the vantage point of God’s love and His ability to triumph over evil with good.

Perhaps you’re saying in your heart at this point, “But Jim, what if I’m the only one trying to apply the cross to a toxic situation? How can it possibly work, if everyone else isn’t on board?”

Well, you are partially correct. You might not be able to transform the whole world around you into an oasis of sweet waters. Yet whenever you touch the bitter waters you face with the power of the cross, two things automatically happen: Your own attitudes change, and God is free to bring transformation to others around you as well.

But if you’ve been waiting for GOD to turn your bitter waters sweet, He may be waiting for YOU to embrace the cross and apply it to your circumstances. And instead of waiting for someone else to initiate the healing process, you may need to take the first step. Are you ready?

The story ends with an incredible message of encouragement. When you embrace the cross and die to yourself, you’ll soon be transported from a desert wilderness to a whole new land of blessing—to “Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees.”

 

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God Is Connecting the Dots

Being old has its benefits. And I don’t just mean the senior coffees at McDonalds.

I’m old enough to know that “what goes around comes around,” and King Solomon had it right when he observed that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). History really does have a habit of repeating itself, particularly if we fail to learn its lessons the first time around.

But recently I’ve come to appreciate another benefit of having lived awhile: I’ve seen that God is a skilled Artist who delights in “connecting the dots” in our lives. Perhaps you haven’t lived long enough to see this fantastic divine pattern yet, but I believe you will in time.

By “dots,” I mean whatever experiences, events, relationships, successes, failures, pains, or pleasures you’ve encountered during your life. Some of these dots you’ve no doubt categorized as “bad,” and other ones you’ve probably described as “good.” And if you’re anything like me, many of the dots in life simply seem random—without any apparent purpose…making absolutely no sense at the time.

Yet I have good news for you today—news so good you probably will find it hard to believe: As time goes by during your life, the Lord will increasingly connect the dots and reveal an intricate, well-planned masterpiece. Yes, He’ll connect even the dots that once made no sense. And if all the dots still don’t seem to be perfectly connected by the end of your earthly life, He will surely finish the job in eternity.

By the time God gets done with His handiwork, EVERY dot will be connected, and NOTHING will be wasted. He will find a use even for your most painful dots or and the events you considered your greatest failures.

You see, the Bible has been right all along when it told us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Read that one more time. It doesn’t say just SOME thing work together for good—it says “ALL THINGS!”

Now take a few minutes to consider some of the “dots” you wish you could erase from your life. Believe it or not, God can do something good even with those painful or ugly dots. In the next few weeks, I’ll be launching an e-book on preventing, surviving and recovering from church splits. Sad to say, I’m one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject—but the Lord is going to use my painful and unwanted experiences to help thousands of pastors who are dealing with such things in their own churches.

And if you still doubt God’s ability to turn around tragic events and use them for His purposes, consider King David. I’m sure he wished he could erase his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah (see Psalm 51). But Bathsheba ultimately gave birth to Solomon, and she ended up in the family lineage of Jesus, the Messiah! (Matthew 1:6) God is great in mercy, isn’t He?

And in case you think God only loves you or offers you His favor when you are “good,” let me share one more connect-the-dots illustration.

Although I’ve never been much of a stargazer or astronomer, the Big Dipper is one constellation that’s always blessed and intrigued me. First of all, note that it’s not a “dipper” at all until you connect the dots of the various stars.

But what amazes me about the Big Dipper is that it’s continually tilted  in such a way as to pour out its contents. My friend, that’s exactly how God wants you to see His love and favor for you. It’s not something that comes and goes, nor is it so fragile that it can easily be lost. In fact, Paul assured us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God…nothing (Romans 8:28).

So take heart today. Nothing has happened in your life that is too awful for God to forgive or to redeem for His glory. Go ahead and give Him the dots—all of them—and you’ll be amazed by the beautiful tapestry He’ll produce.

 

 

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