Saturday, February 28, 2015

SOVEREIGN = SAFE

The headlines have been frightening and I am not going to pretend otherwise.  History has this uncanny way of repeating itself.  Different players, various reasons same results.  Reading about it, talking about it is one thing.  As it would be expected, the subject of recent headlines came up in our weekly Bible Study.  The question was asked "Why are Christians being SILENT about what is going on?  Where is the voice of the CHURCH?"

Franklin Graham, Billy's son, has certainly been vocal about our current events - is his voice enough to give the Church the impression she'll be heard?  Why aren't the rest of our voices joining this beacon of light to shine the light of Christ brightly and clearly into this dark and wicked world?

I think there are many reasons, which are too broad for me to try to go into all of them in this forum.  One of the reasons, which I do want to address, is I think there is a great element of FEAR to the silence of Gods church.

The murderous beheading of Christians so publicly and frequently reminds us of the days of being thrown into the ring with lions or burned at the stake.

When the stories of history become the reality of our everyday lives, bravery in the form of a firm voice can be a little harder to muster.

Personally I encourage and comfort myself with the firm faith that GOD IS SOVEREIGN.  My hope, my only hope for this world, for my life and for my eternity is that indeed, He is sovereign.

There is no authority but that which God has allowed.  There are no circumstance that He is not in complete control of.  There is no action that occurs upon this earth, which belong wholly to Him, that is not made a part of His design to bring about His plan and His perfect will in all things, at all times, to all of His Creation.

When the Egyptians were throwing innocent newborn sons into the Nile to drown, God lifted up Moses right from those very waters, had him raised in the house of the Ruler of Egypt who had instigated the deaths of the beloved Hebrew infant sons and through this child, Moses, God delivered the people from Egyptian slavery.

When even the Israelite ruler himself, Herod, in a fit of jealous human rage ordered the deaths of every son up to the age of 2 of Gods chosen people to try to stop the newborn King of Kings from taking His rightful place as Savior, Gods plan prevailed and Jesus became SALVATION for all the world.

Through the ages to our time right now, God has a plan and purpose in place that goes beyond the minimal time we live in this world and delivers His people, all those who call upon the name of the Lord, into Eternal Life.

Romans 8:28 tells us that "...we know that all things work together for GOOD to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Not everything that happens is good, but God works it all together for good to bring about what He has ordained and planned.

Our silence does not save us.  Hiding, compromising and tolerating does not save us from the evils of this world.  In fact, those things just strengthen those who do evil to be bolder in their evil.

Our strength, our salvation is found in the faith and trust in Gods sovereignty.  We can speak out with boldness precisely because our God is sovereign.

Silence has never been Gods plan and it isn't His plan now.  People are saved when they HEAR the Gospel of Truth.  How shall they hear unless we PREACH IT WITH BOLDNESS?!?

Lord, grant me the boldness and grace to speak Your true message of Salvation through Jesus our Savior and King to all I come in contact with.  Help me, through the power of Your Holy Spirit that lives in me to LIVE that message each day of my life, so others will SEE and KNOW that you alone are the one true God, Creator, and Sovereign over all Your Creation.  Help me to be a beacon of light, a harbor of hope to others.  Help me to be strong and courageous, secure in the absolute certainty that You are with me, You are For me and greater is He Who is in me than he who is in this world.  Thank you for my brothers and sisters in Christ to unite with me and me with them, so support, help and love one another and build each other up in the most Holy faith that we will fulfill your command and commission to us to GO INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sometimes, we just forget

As I sat there listening intently to the story being shared, my mind kept wandering through my own memories about how certain things had happened.  I was pretty young at the time, maybe 14 or 15, so naturally, I questioned my own experience.  The person telling the story was much older, at least in their 20's, so I figured they must know what they were talking about.  This led to me spending a great deal of time making a pest of myself over the next 15-20 years, asking questions like a grand inquisitor of everyone I met who even remotely had a story about knowing the Lord.

Many of the people I talked to had their own drastically different stories to tell, but they all had a similarity in their outcome! 

All were similarly along these lines:

The person was going along living their lives making their mistakes.  Some were drinking, some doing drugs while others were promiscuous in their sexual behaviors and some were criminals of one degree or another.  Then the Lord intervened in their circumstances in some ordinary or some extraordinary way, either through other people or a situation and suddenly their whole lives changed dramatically!  They began to follow Jesus. And they were doing just fine!  Life was humming along.  They never spoke of continuing struggle or of discovering new flaws in themselves.  

At first, I began to think everyone else experienced a genuine transformation through Christ, but that I myself must not truly be saved.  
They'd had a VOILA' moment and were forever changed, but I must not have genuinely had such a moment! Those stories were so different from mine!  I was struggling and stumbling about and feeling lost, dazed and mostly confused about mostly everything.  

Did I really know the Lord at all?  Even some folks that I had shared Jesus with seemed to have transfigured overnight into superChristians with no further problems, no past haunting them and just sunshine and rainbows up ahead.

It took me a lot of years and even more deep soul searching to recognize that most folks have a tendency to cover up their doubt.  They don't talk openly about the fears that nag at them.  They aren't transparent about the ongoing process of sanctification in their lives.  That's really sad, that we feel we need to hide from each other for fear of being rejected, rather than accepting one another and encouraging one another, building one another up as we are instructed by Gods word to do. 

The sanctification process seemed all too obvious in my life.  It seemed like the moment I'd licked one "fault" 7 others were happy enough to rear there heads and make themselves - VERY PUBLICLY - known!

I always seemed to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people in just precisely the wrong way!

No matter how loving or kind my intentions, my actual words and actions often appeared anything but loving or kind!

I might be smiling but my own heart knew the dark and wicked thoughts it was really thinking!

Instead of blessed, I was HAUNTED by Gods Word! 

"Be holy as I am holy."

God and I both knew well enough there was absolutely positively without doubt no chance of that ever happening in my flesh.

Then I read I Peter.  

I Peter 1: 13 - 16 13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Mt heart was convicted but in my flesh, there was no deep and lasting change. I still stumbled and struggled in spite of my very best intentions.

I drew some small comfort from 

I John 3:20 "If our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart, and knows all things."

But still I stumbled, still I felt condemned.  Then I read I Peter again and again and again, but now, having read through the Bible enough, I had begun to put it all together and it all began to make a bit of sense.

LET MY HOPE REST FULLY ON THE GRACE 
REVEALED BY JESUS THE CHRIST!

There was my answer - HOPE!  Not that I would attain any good thing on my own through my own striving and force of will, but that my hope must rest; REST! peaceful and secure, in Jesus and all that He did and accomplished on the Cross for me!

I have learned enough to have learned that in this flesh while I live in this sinful fallen world, I will never attain holiness.  The appearance of such perfect holiness in others is exactly that - only an appearance.  For even when I get it "right" in the flesh, it is only because of the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross, and God alone truly knows and understands my heart.  

And when I get it "wrong" in the flesh, I rest in the grace Jesus revealed by His sacrifice on the Cross.

Even though that HOLINESS is not a work I can accomplish in my flesh, it doesn't mean I should stop striving for it.  That doesn't mean I should accept me as I am and call it good enough.

If there is one thing I am absolutely certain of, it is that I will never be "good enough" in and of myself, but I have been made PERFECT by Gods grace.

And I can surely be blessed in some satisfaction along the way by trying.  Failing.  Picking up and trying again.  Trying this other way.  Praying.  Trying again.  Working at it.  Had a great minute there!  Grinning, bearing it, and STILL TRYING.

I'd like to think I'll be trying when Christ returns to take me home.  Then when the Father asks me "What did you do with all I gave you?"  I can honestly answer Him "I never quite got it, but I never stopped trying.  THANK YOU for sending Jesus to rescue me!"

Check out the Daily Reading Schedule.  These last few weeks, the Psalms have been speaking volumes about growing.  About the great God who created us.  About the human experience.  BE ENCOURAGED, for Gods grace is extended to all who call on the Name of Jesus!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

That lofty thing called LOVE


John 13:35
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.







Are you a disciple of Jesus?  Is it obvious?  Can others see it readily, easily without looking too hard?


One of the favorite subjects in the church and out of the church of God, is how much God loves us.  Whether or not God loves us.  All the things God does to show how much He loves us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16 has to be one of the best known verses from the Bible.

It's comforting to remind ourselves about the love God has for us.  It lends a sense of security, strength and happiness to think about how much God loves us, His children, His creation.

Most of us are real pleased to go on about how much we love God, too.  We worship Him.  We adore Him.  We are in ecstasy praising Him and serving Him and glorifying Him and exalting Him.  We bless His Holy name!

BUT.... for the world to know that He is worthy and honored, He asks not that we acknowledge His love for us; not that we show our love for Him.

But that we show all how mighty He is by loving one another.  Loving, truly loving unselfishly, other people is hard.  People are ornery and contrary and self absorbed and imperfect, and flawed and fallible and often foolish.  People aren't always easy to love.  Not even our families and friends.  But we are commanded to love both our families and friends and those we don't know well and those who aren't so lovable and strangers and even those we might call our enemies.

No easy task our Lord has commanded.  Love, not hate.  Pray for not against.  

Be kind, thoughtful, generous, patient, humble, hopeful; giving LOVE to the deserving, the undeserving, the grateful and the ungrateful.  

L.O.V.E.  Not seeking our own, but seeking the well being of others.  L.O.V.E.

On this Valentine weekend, let us encourage one another with this simple command.  Love one another.  

Happy Valentines's Day!
We love you!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

ISIS, The Crusades, Inquisitions, The Promised Land and Egyptian Horrors

Imagine you live several thousand years ago, except they had Global Newspapers available.  The headlines and news stories might read something like this:

Pharoah orders death to all male Hebrew infants.
Annihilation begins today and will continue until Pharoah issues new proclamation.  
Mothers shriek helplessly as their infants are torn from their breasts and casually
thrown in the Nile right in front of
their eyes. While most drown, some could be heard wailing as crocodiles feasted on the helpless babies. 

Israelites surge into Canaan and take no prisoners.  

Men, women, children and all livestock left dead in the wake of their hostile takeover.  
The stench of death hovers over every city and blood runs like rivers in the streets of the villages once occupied by peaceful Canaanites.



"Religious Crusaders burn thousands alive for daring to express their faith in God differently than approved by the Pope.  Others escape the fire, as they are struck down even while they cry out to Jesus for deliverance."

Some simply cried for mercy while others chose to change their confession of faith; but  too late to save their lives as Inquisition torturers ferret out those practicing forbidden acts of religious piety.

We would be horrified to read such accounts, wouldn't we?  

As I was horrified and grieved to read the recent reports about ISIS crucifying children and burying them alive.   I experienced such a deep, sorrowful hurt in my heart while I struggled mightily to understand how could this be happening in this enlightened day and time?  Why were such barbarous acts occurring?  Why didn't someone STOP them?  Why were they behaving so horrendously?  Particularly toward innocent children?

How EVIL man is!  What evil man renders upon his fellow man!  What could possibly justify such atrocity, even in their own hearts, of such murderous action?

I try to remind myself that I live in a fallen, sinful world.  That the acts of sin committed by others quite often negatively impacts those we might consider innocent.  Then I reminded myself that there are no truly innocent.  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

I have wrestled mightily with the concepts of salvation, grace, mercy and the Love of God that I am far more familiar with than His wrath.  The grace that is continually stressed far more than His merciless Justice is ever taught.

I reminded myself that He alone is God.  Creator, originator and OWNER of the whole earth and all that is in it.  ALL.  Them, us, everyone and everything.  It's His.  He can do or allow or save or ignore or fix or step in or choose not to interfere or.....do whatever He decides and we have no say.  

I've struggled with the truth that His decisions are ALWAYS righteous, even when I in my little pea brain and selfish heart cannot agree or do not understand or simply cannot grasp it.

Everything God does is right.  Everything God does is PERFECT.

He made the earth, he gave free will to mankind, His own creation, knowing the sin we would commit.  He created satan, who turned traitor.   He knew he would and still made him the angel of Light.  

I have never understood why God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone in the Promised Land.  Or why those murders were righteous, although He had only just commanded them in the Wilderness:
Thou shalt NOT kill

I have had to reconcile myself to the only TRUTH I can grasp - He is God and knows more than I do.  You may consider me naive or simple minded or blinded or whatever.  It won't matter.  Because in all of this, I've also seen MIRACLES.

Healings, total life changes, blessings too great to render into mere words,  joy too profound that defies description.  

I have never thought the burning folks alive was righteous or sanctioned by God.    Anymore than feeding folks to lions as sport just because they confessed Jesus as Lord was ever righteous.  Or cutting off peoples heads for thinking differently than others, or praying differently or worshiping differently. 

I've spent the last 49 of my 55 years trying to understand, trust God, pray through, share truth with others, trust God, grow and become a better Christian, read the Bible, understand how to apply it to my life, help others understand how to apply the principles to their lives, trust God, renew my mind to His word, pray through, be gracious, be kind, forgive others, forgive myself, trust God, study the Bible, let go of my past, repent of my sins, help others transform their lives, trust God, acknowledge Him in all my ways, grow and mature in Christianity, trust God, pray for my enemies, pray for my country, trust God, pray, trust God, pray, trust God, trust God, trust God..........

I don't understand a great many things.  Gods ways are higher than my ways.  Gods thoughts are greater than my thoughts.  My prayer is often reduced to asking the Creator for wisdom to accept that there are so many things I cannot understand; that His will be done in all things.

That the Holy Spirit would help me to TRUST GOD WITH ALL MY HEART.  

I pray for the President of the United States, because what the person in this office says and does impacts me and my family and all that I hold dear.

I pray for every living soul in all the world, because those who call Jesus Savior are treated so brutally and because those who don't know Jesus as Savior are facing an eternity filled with misery and darkness.  Hell is as awful as Heaven is wonderful; wish it on NO ONE!  

When I find myself gripped by all these terrors and unknowns and all I see and think and feel appears so very wicked and sinful and too awful to even try to comprehend, I reach for Psalm 73, and pray and did I mention that mostly I TRUST GOD?

Psalm 73:

1Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge[a] with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
11 And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
16 When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
22 was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.
ps
did I mention?  Trust God. We don't know.  We don't have to, because He does.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Marketing the Creator

Part of my life is involved in the marketing field. There are a few certain truths that rule in that realm:

  • Client/Customer Testimonies inspire new clients and customers
  • Always give examples to strengthen your claims
  • Unexpected and unusual is GOOD, it stands out and grabs attention
  • Repetition is important; it takes 5-7 touches before you are remembered
Applying these principles, I decided to take a look at how the Creator of the universe and inventor of all principles might be doing in this area. (I am not irreverent, but I am fully convinced our God has a marvelous sense of humor or none of us would have one either.  Laughter does good like a medicine, Proverbs 17:22) 

Client/Customer Testimonies:

King David the Psalmist;  Psalm 23  The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

Apostle Paul - Philippians 4:19 My God shall supply all my need according to His riches in Glory!

Always give examples:

God takes weakness and turns it to strong faith:

Peter the Disciple:  Matthew 16:23 "Get thee behind me Satan!"  Matthew 16:18  "thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it"

Mighty Men of David: I Samuel 22: 2  "everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt and everyone who was discontented gathered to him (David) so he became Captain over them"
II Samuel 10:7 "and when David heard of it he sent Joab and all the host of the MIGHTY MEN"
(these were the same men who from 22:2!)

Unexpected is GOOD:

Parting the Red Sea: Exodus 14: 14-16  "...but life up your arm and stretch it over the Sea and divide it and the children of Israel  shall go on dry land through the midst of the sea.."

A talking Donkey:  A man of God who was not paying attention to the Lord and was acting in disobedience to God is corrected by his own donkey!  NUMBERS 22:28 - 30 The Lord opened the mouth of the Donkey and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to thee that you have smitten me these three times?" 

Repetition:

Do not fear, be courageous, I am the Lord your God, I will be with you always

Genesis 26:24 -  Fear not, I am with thee and will bless thee
Joshua 1:9 -  Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee wherever thou goest
Isaiah 41:10 - Fear not for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God, I will strengthen you...

In every area of life, our God prevails.  Even in the marketing department!  There is no need, then, for us to separate the parts and pieces of our lives!  Our God fills all in all.  Enjoy life in ALL the abundance our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to make available to us.