Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GOD'S PLACE

Where have we put God? Where have I put God? Where have you put God? God is always the constant. He is everywhere. He promises the believer to never leave them or forsake them. Yet in the challenging times I catch myself asking God where He is. The answer is always - "I'm still right here."

Ravi Zacharias is noted for saying - "I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put Him. We have kept Him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on Him in prayer, we wonder where He is. He is exactly where we left Him."

To Mr. Zacharias's comments I say -  I don't believe Christians Can place Him at a distance. First, God is omnipresent or everywhere. Second, Christians have His promises of never being without access to God. While our lack of whatever may place God on stand-by and activate our do-it-yourself mode, I don't view God as a distant God....ever. Just because we cannot understand Him and turn to our own devices does not mean He is far away.

With His promises to believers of being ever-present (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20) in their lives, there is no escaping His presence, care and counsel anytime we need to turn to Him. We just have to call His name and speak with Him anytime, anyplace. He is Emanuel - God With Us - that is God's Place.

KNOTS IN THE ROPE OF LIFE


Have you ever heard the expression - "Tie a knot and hang on."? It speaks of a desperate last attempt to endure. I have come to that point many times in my life. The catch is - what is the knot made out of? Is the knot made from your weaving of the rope; your attempt(s) to create peace, forgiveness, health or whatever? Or is the knot made from God's promises for you found in His Word? It is o.k. to be still (tie the knot), just rely on your knowledge of Him to form your knot (strands of His faithfulness). "Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

When Jesus was here on earth, there were several times when a person and/or people desperately tried to grab a hold of Him and hang on. Matthew 9:20 records the woman with the issue of blood reaching out in faith for her condition - "Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak." Here was this woman activating her faith in Jesus as the healer of her condition by literally and spiritually grabbing a hold of Christ.

Five chapters later, in Matthew 14:35-36 there is an event documented of people desiring and receiving the opportunity to touch The Master's Garment - "And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed." If word was sent to "all the surrounding country" that Jesus was in the area and to bring the sick to Him, the impression is there must have been a lot of sick. And all they did was "just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed."

The final example I'll share is cited in John 20:17 when Mary Magdalene realized it was the risen Christ Jesus speaking with her - Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” If I was there with Mary, I would want to give my Lord a bear-hug too - maybe after bowing at His feet first.

The Good News for me is Christ Jesus is, among many other things, my knot. His strands of faithfulness prove each time that the knot will hold. And now as I  look ahead to the future and climb up the rope of life, I find it is easier to allow Godly Knots in my life as a hand-hold and/or next goal to attain. Paul, in his letter to the believers in Philippi said, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12) Jesus has loved me so much that He conquered all. Now He encourages me to possess the benefits (plural) He paid for - "to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." - to view, rely and take hold of Christ as my Knots In The Rope Of Life.


Monday, July 27, 2015

CONSIDER YOUR FUTURE GLORY!


Romans 8:18
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

There is still a future time for Christians when "the glory will be revealed in us". This "glory" was only made possible through Christ and His Righteousness - "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:20) When speaking about the actual glorification1 John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." However, believers know we all must endure "our present sufferings" until then. 

The Good News in this verse is that Paul acknowledges these current hardships, pains or afflictions we experience in this life are not worthy of being on the scales of comparison with the transformation that awaits believers. So, when "our present sufferings" seem to much to bear, I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ - Consider Your Future Glory!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TRUSTING HIS SECURITY


Psalm 91:2
"I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'”

I pray I will accept, believe and keep this perspective alive from now on in my life. I have a bad habit of "saying of the Lord" or speaking about what the Lord says and that is not all bad. I have the tendency to run to my office or bedroom and seek refuge with God and that is not all bad. You can also find me desiring the protection afforded me from the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6) and a fortress of spiritual protection from my Heavenly Father and that is not all bad. However, I fail in the trust department sometimes. 

I fail to trust His word is enough. I fail to trust Him as My Refuge. I fail to trust Him as My Fortress. I have learned that I can speak His Words all day long and be located in a place of care and protection (i.e. refuge/fortress), but if there is no trust in God then my faith in God's Word, Refuge and Fortress is inactive. Trust in God as who He says He is for my life makes real His Word for my life; makes real that He is My Refuge; makes real that He is My Fortress.

I encourage you also to speak in faith all the promises of the Lord for your life. Declare Christ is Your Refuge! Proclaim Jesus is Your Fortress!  Activate your trust in God so that you can "...say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ON THE GOLF COURSE OF LIFE


This is one of the few sports where a negative symbol beside your number/score makes you happy and a plus symbol not so much. The moral to the story - "Less is more."

In this life of fewest strokes to our destination or goal we can choose to keep playing Putt-Putt with the one club that is offered us or opt to use the full set of tools in the real game when it is appropriate to begin playing the full course. Did you catch my symbolism there? In Hebrews 5:13, Paul speaks to this maturity level check and transition - "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness." Again in 1 Corinthians 3:2, Paul makes this point - "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready." It is important to move on in maturity and just as important to know when to move on. Sometimes this comes with age. Sometimes this comes with nurturing. Sometimes this comes with the environment around us. Sometimes this comes with all of the above. However, the notable thing about the game of golf is you will never see the athlete alone.

The caddie and the golfer. The caddie has actually had some experience playing golf and brings that knowledge and track record to the table when he/she is paired up with the golfer for a tournament, a season or a career. The other responsibilities of the caddie come with the territory - carrying the golf bag, citing distances, suggesting club(s), noticing wind direction, and cheer-leading. The golfer and the caddie have their own language they use to briefly communicate the desired club and the kind of shot needed. Then the golfer is the one that pulls-the-trigger on the physical action to hopefully deliver the desired outcome of their decision.

Life is like this picture of a golfer and his/her caddie, especially if you are married or have a best friend. Challenges come in life that require a certain tact or approach and consultation is a must. If the "Golfer" in the relationship makes a major decision and acts on it without the advice of the "Caddie" friction is risked and you rely on the strength of your relationship to continue. However, if you have as the foundation of your relationship the Architect of the course (i.e. God) then your relationship should be solid and your "golf game" good, especially if you include the Architect in your consultations.

Some people choose to live life alone (play Putt-Putt; no true partner) and the benefits of a caddie in life are missed. I step back and acknowledge there are some situations that will not lend itself to these parameters. However, for the rest of those that this applies - I can't begin to imagine what conditions would be like without my partner, Tanya, On The Golf Course Of Life.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

THE BLESSED TREE


“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trust breeds confidence. How do you have confidence in someone? A history or track record of trust is established. Trust births and grows confidence. I think the idea behind this passage was conveyed after the first sentence. "The one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him" is "blessed". The rest of this passage elaborates on how one is "blessed".

If you are someone who truly places their dreams, plans, needs and desires in the hands of Christ Jesus, then these verses liken you to "a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream." You, the tree, knows where you get your nourishment, strength and peace from - the water of the nearby stream. Because of this confidence in what the water supplies, you, the tree, "does not fear when heat comes;" in fact the next part declares that when the heat arrives your "leaves are always green" - your witness, calling and attractiveness are still strong. In addition, "in a year of drought" - when things seem to be dormant/stagnant in your life, Jeremiah proclaims you are the kind of tree that "has no worries". My mind goes to Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God." for this time of our lives. As a bonus, God enables you, as the tree, to "never fail to bear fruit" - displaying and instilling "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).

So, we come full circle. The key is again at the beginning of the passage. The person who has no worries and no fear when challenging times come is someone who has allowed their roots to tap into the peace giving, strength giving and life giving water of the Holy Spirit. The individual who has a track record of trusting the Lord, will have a great confidence in Him when more challenging times come. "The one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him" is The Blessed Tree.




Monday, July 13, 2015

FOUR RIVERS, THREE SOURCES


Water is abundant in this world. It seems to be the sustaining element in our existence. The Earth is covered by 71% salt water, 2.5% fresh water. Our bodies are made up of mostly water. The adult male consists of approximately 60% water. It is in our necessities (cookware, toilet and bath). It is also in our accessories (pools, water-guns, etc). Water is everywhere. Yet we fail to stop and consider the source many times. Where is our water coming from? 

We could ask this about our spiritual source of water also.  F.W. Robertson (1816-1853) made me contemplate this when he said -
  • "Love descends, not ascends. The might of the river depends not on the quality of soil through which it passes, but on the inexhaustibleness and depth of the spring from which it proceeds."
In Mr. Robertson's quote, the "might of the river" is what is in question. He says that the power of a river is dependent upon continued supply of water ("inexhaustibleness") and how far the water has to travel within the spring to gain speed enough to be a mighty river ("depth of the spring"). God as our source of spiritual water is everlasting and He is deep so that when He reaches our situations - He is mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

There are three other rivers in life - yourself, the enemy and the world. For the river called yourself, you get yourself as the source. Paul talks about the muddied-waters that one has to deal with if you depend upon yourself in Romans 7. In addition, once you are spent, that is all you have for yourself and others - a limited supply. 

For the other two rivers called the enemy and the world, you get Lucifer as the source. In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11 we see that the world has over it a prince. In Ephesians 6:10 we see an enemy, the devil, we have to be armed spiritually to fight. This same devil is that prince over the world. And while many fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12), there are others who trust, drink and flow in these rivers and from these sources.

These three rivers will run dry - yourself, the enemy and the world. Sole dependencies upon these will result in your own life as a dried-up riverbed. Scripture encourages the Christian in Colossians 3:17 -

  • "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Believers cannot take care of themselves, their family, the family of God and minister to the lost/hurting if we are turning to another water source. Paul, in his second letter to Timothy spoke about this turning being a problem of the "last days".
  • "...having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." (2 Timothy 3:5)
Notice the admonishment - "Have nothing to do with such people." I believe  1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 is close to fulfillment. Until then, Christians do yourselves and others good by going to see The Man at the well. Let Him give you water, you'll never thirst again (John 4:1-42). Plus, as F.W. Robertson adds, "We win by tenderness; we conquer by forgiveness." Pour out to others from the river of life that is flowing in from God.

When retrieving spiritual sustenance for yourself and/or to disperse to others - there is none better than Christ Jesus through His Holy Spirit. No other water is richer in that it benefits you more. No other water creates such a positive change as we drink from it daily. No other water is so pure, this speaks to the quality of the water. No other water is ever-flowing this reflects directly on the Water-Source, the Well-Spring of Life - the Eternal God.

Unlike, the Four Rivers in Genesis 2 which all flowed from the same source, a river in Eden made by God, spiritually there are four options for your life to flow from - yourself, the enemy, the world or God. In which source will you trust, drink and flow?



Thursday, July 9, 2015

TRUST IN HIS AUTHORITY

Speaking to the Pharisees about His own life, Jesus said, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

The imagery of Christ laying His life down, of His own accord, into His Father's hands becomes vividly clear when Christ was upon the Cross and spoke these words - “'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.'  When he had said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:46)

Within Luke 23:46 Jesus says He commits His "spirit" into the care of Father God. In the original Greek the word is Pneuma meaning breath or life force. So, Christ is delivering into the Father's hands, at the perfect moment, His sustaining energy.

In John 10:18, the phrase "lay it down" in the original Greek is the word Tithemi. This means to place; to commit for a style of inaction. So, in John 10:18 Christ tells the Pharisees and us, down through the ages, that He is Sovereign and when the time comes for His breath to be still - He will still it.

On the Cross, Jesus elaborates. He says, "'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.'" The original Greek word for commit is Paratithemi. Notice this word has the Greek word Tithemi for the placing of inaction, but the Para in front of the word renders the definition - To place alongside, that is, present; by implication deposit. This means Christ would be taking His life back...and He did - for you and for me. 

Jesus gave Father God His breath to hold for safekeeping until Jesus took it back and walked out of the tomb. Father God holds all the breaths of the dead and the living in His capable hands. In His perfect timing He will restore those breaths to the appropriate bodies.  He is the only One who could, the only One who will, and according to prophecy (future history) - the only One who did. Trust In His Authority.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

THESE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE THINGS


"When the dog bites, 
When the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad." 
(Julie Andrews, My Favorite Things from "The Sound of Music")

I agree, it is important to have favorite things, especially in challenging times. Some of my favorite things are Tanya, laughter, singing/music, certain food (like wings, bbq and chicken-n-dumplins), family, friends, sports, Christmas, Easter, the seasons (especially Fall), and saving the best for last - God's Grace.

If it was not for God's Grace, His unmerited favor, in all these areas and more, well the song would say - "when I'm feeling sad, I simply can't remember my favorite things." But it doesn't say that because I have God's undeserving favor upon my life. I have done nothing to earn any of these wonderful people or things - they are just a gift from my God because He loves me.

It is a good thing to stop and count your blessings. Others might phrase it "Stop and Smell the Roses". However you wish to say it, a pause in life to thank The Giver/Creator of "these favorite things" is always a healthy (reviving/refreshing) meditation. It does not have to be Thanksgiving to give thanks or be grateful. Paul admonishes through Hebrews 13:15 - Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

So Lord,
I publicly thank you and praise you for everything. In particular, I thank you for my wife, Tanya, laughter, singing/music, certain food (like wings, bbq and chicken-n-dumplins), family, friends, sports, Christmas, Easter, the seasons (especially Fall), and saving the best for last - your Grace that supplies all my needs and promises me a blessed eternal life with you in Heaven one day. I thank you for all this and more, but I start with these, because - These Are Some Of My Favorite Things!

Amen

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

INGREDIENTS FOR A PRISON BREAK


The room we find ourselves imprisoned does not have to be made of cinder-blocks and steel-bars. The construction of some prison rooms are even greater than these. Prisons such as strongholds, bad habits, fears and destructive behavior are but a few that the Warden of Darkness, Satan, attempts to keep people bound.

The Keys or Ingredients For A Prison Break are three-fold - 
  1. Salvation
  2. Hope
  3. Worship
To help me explain my message I will enlist the characters of Red and Andy from the movie "Shawshank Redemption" to assist me.

Red (Morgan Freeman) is in a place physically, mentally and spiritually where he is not ready to receive hope. After the introduction of the topic of hope Red says,
  • "Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
Many of us can get used to our prison. Red calls it "institutionalized" in the movie. But God, through us, especially Christians, are their introduction to and realization of hope through Salvation. Scripture admonishes us to be like Jesus as He proclaimed in Luke 4:18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free," Other verses that speak to believers ministering to those in prison are - 
  • Matthew 25:36 - I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
  • Romans 7:23 - but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
  • Hebrews 13:3 - Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
So, Salvation or the message of Salvation comes to the imprisoned through the Christian who visits or encounters the enclosed. We see the next two, hope and worship, played out hand-in-hand in the movie.

Andy Dufresne: That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you... Haven't you ever felt that way about music?

Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn't make much sense in here.

Andy Dufresne: Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget.

Red: Forget?

Andy Dufresne: Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside... that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours.

Red: What're you talking about?

Andy Dufresne: Hope.


Flip through the pages of Scripture to the book of Acts, Chapter 16, starting with verse 16 and you will see Paul and Silas knew exactly what Andy was talking about. Flogged and locked in the inner cell of prison for their faith clashing with city business, Paul and Silas were also placed in stocks with a guard. It seems a bit over-kill for the supposed crime they committed. However, I believe the Prince of Darkness knew the effectiveness of Paul in Christ and worked behind the scenes to hinder this turncoat of darkness (Saul). 

The common threads here are hope and worship. In the movie hope is derived out of the music that comes from the opera-women that nobody can understand with the mind, but seems to fully grasp with the heart. The Christian music artist Carman in his song about and entitled Jericho - says it this way - 

Now God was putting in operation, a principal of war
Setting at our disposal weaponry that drops demons to the floor
Something with tremendous power that assassinates fear and doubt
It's the high praises of victory, unleashed by a shout

When David played his songs of praise, demons fled from Saul
As Paul and Silas worshiped God, the chains began to fall
It lifts us above the circumstance and lets God's power flow
The shout of victory binds the Devil with chains that won't let go


Just because Christians are saved, have a future filled with hope and life filled with worship - does not mean temptations will not come to attempt a backslide into the old lifestyle. If anything it means the enemy of our souls will be playing hard ball harder. But, like Red had the promises of Andy motivating him, believers in Christ have the Lord's promises to rely on.

Red: [narrating] There's a harsh truth to face. No way I'm gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they'd send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won't have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me. A promise I made to Andy.

In the movie, Red is finally set free. However, it takes some time but he arrives at that point where he can receive and experience freedom from his prison. It started with a salvation message laced with hope and drenched in music (daily worship). Here is what Red said -

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."

Christ is our Salvation. Jesus is our only Hope. Christ Jesus is why we worship. If you are experiencing the confines of a prison in any form today, I encourage you to begin experiencing your freedom by singing with me - 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.


On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.