Saturday, January 31, 2015

Open Hands

Good morning!

Do you know anyone with open hands?  I do.  I have friends who are always opening their home to others, following the model of the apostle Paul in Acts 28:28-31.

Paul lived for two years in his rented house.  He welcomed everyone who came to visit.  He urgently presented all matters of the kingdom of God.  He explained everything about Jesus Christ.  His door was always open.

These friends of mine are much loved by many, because of their generosity in sharing Jesus Christ. When we think of the apostle Paul, we generally think of him as "on the move", don't we?  He was quite a zealous man, no matter his cause, whether it was in persecuting Christians in his early days before conversion, or preaching the gospel of Jesus after his conversion.  He went on at least 3 missionary journeys, rambling all over Asia.

There were also times when he "stayed put", such as the two-year period at the end of Acts.  He was skilled at making tents; this was his trade.  There were times when he plied his trade while discipling new believers (building churches).

Wherever he was, he had "open hands".  People like my friends, and like Paul, have the gift of hospitality.  That sounds like one of the more frivolous spiritual gifts, doesn't it?  If you believe that, then you have a false understanding of what this gift means.  There is an element of succor (support in times of hardship and distress) and "safe haven" in this spiritual gift.  Those with this gift provide a place where those who need Jesus (or more of Jesus, Beloved) can come to be loved on, rescued, or built up in the faith.

What does this passage reveal as the characteristics of someone with this spiritual gift?  If you look at these verses in various translations, here are some of the descriptors that pop up:
1.  Open
2.  Welcoming
3.  Bold
4.  Great Confidence
5.  Unhindered
6.  Proclaiming the Lord Jesus

This is SuperBowl Weekend which, as I am not a sports fan in any sense of the word, is not my fave. However, I want to ask you to pray for another ministry that combines the gift of hospitality with the gifts of evangelism and prayer and preaching.  It is the Out of Darkness ministry, headquartered in downtown Atlanta.

Right now, members of this ministry are in Phoenix, AZ, attempting to combat the sex trafficking which accompanies the SuperBowl.  Did you know that, wherever this event is held, there is more sex trafficking associated with it than with any other major event in the United States?  That is an uncontested statistic.  In fact, pimps and other traffickers IMPORT women from neighboring cities to handle the "demand" for their services from those who attend this event.  Out of Darkness has been in Phoenix, AZ, ministering to women enslaved in this trade for the past two weeks.  Many have come out of The Life, as they ironically call it, to the freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  

You can check out their Facebook page here:

What does this have to do with hospitality, you ask?  When these women are rescued, they are relentlessly pursued by their handlers (a nicer word for "pimps").  These precious ladies need support for several months, until they can regain their footing and re-enter society with a means of supporting themselves financially.  Out of Darkness has "safe houses" scattered over the Atlanta area.   Last year, the ministry rescued over 250 women and men out of sex trafficking.  Those with the gift of hospitality are critical to the success of this ministry, for without the follow-up support, the men and women would stumble and fall right back into the mire from which they had been freed.  (This is the "Restore" aspect of OOD's mission - - - "Reach, Rescue, Restore".)

As wealthy (compared to the rest of the world, all Americans are wealthy) believers, we have often been guilty of grasping our wealth tightly to our chests, "building bigger and bigger barns" (Luke 12:13-21).  And, we wonder why we always seem to be struggling financially.

Jesus said that the secret to true wealth is giving away what you have, whether it be money or time or your own spiritual gifts, Christian.  The gospel writers were so impressed by the Holy Spirit of this foundational truth's importance that three of them included this teaching of Jesus in their gospels:  Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24; John 12:25.  Here is the John passage from The Message version:

Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.  
But, if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.

Open ourselves away.  It is the way of the cross, the way of our Savior, who gave all of Himself for us.

Oh Lord, forgive us for holding tightly to the gifts you have given us.  There are also those whose material blessings have prevented them from turning to you for salvation.  For all of us who answer "no" to your call to give ourselves away, I pray.  Please chisel the stone from our hardened hearts and enable us to see those suffering and dying spiritually around us to the point that our hearts are broken over their need.  And, show us, then again, how you would have each of us to open our hands to share the love of Jesus Christ.  In His name, I pray, amen.

Friday, January 30, 2015

When It's Convenient...

Good morning!

24-26 A few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed him. “That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.” At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently.
27 After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison.
Acts 24:24-27 The Message

I started reading this morning in Acts (24-28), which ended with Paul living and ministering in Rome.  He was there because he had been arrested by the Romans on trumped-up charges by the Jerusalem Jews.  As a result, for over 2 years, he was in prison in Caesarea, in King Herod's official quarters.  In chapter 24, we learn that, while there, his case was heard by Felix, the Roman governor.  Felix "shilly-shallied", to borrow the term from The Message version, although both he and his Jewish wife, Drusilla, were privileged to hear the gospel straight from Paul's lips.  Felix was very much in love with his power as a Roman governor and feared that he would lose that if he became a follower of Jesus Christ.  His last recorded words in Scripture are:  "I'll call you back when it's convenient."  The Bible says that Felix was stalling Paul in hopes of receiving a bribe to let him go free.  Even when replaced by Festus, Felix continued to deprive Paul of justice and left him in prison for Festus to handle.  Sadly, there is no record of Felix ever becoming a follower of Jesus Christ.

Verse 22 states that Felix knew far more about The Way than he let on.  According to Luke, generally accepted as the writer of Acts, this was a man very familiar with both the Jewish faith and the life and work of Jesus Christ.  Felix is an archetype of, representative of, people who have plenty of "head knowledge" about Jesus Christ, but who never gain the ultra-important "heart knowledge" of Him. The Bible refers to the former category of folks as "wise fools".  Look at Romans 1:22-23.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

"Well, Felix didn't do that, did he? - - he was not creating an idol, was he?", you ask.  Absolutely, yes he was! His idol was himself!  Firmly planted on the throne of his own heart, he did not want to risk losing the power, authority, influence and riches he had been given over the Jews by the Romans!  It was not "convenient" for him to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Let me be clear (to quote our current president!): there is no "halfway" with this initial decision about what to do with Jesus, no symbolic gesture, no going through the motions for the sake of appearances.  Surface conversion which does not involve a heart change is not true conversion.  Jesus is either your Lord, or He is not.  (Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 8:18-22, among other places.)

And, after your heart has been zapped by the power of the Holy Spirit, change will be evident.  That does not mean that Christians never sin, of course, but that generally, on-the-whole, they genuinely seek to follow Jesus Christ, honoring Him with the sacrificing of their wills on the altar, day after day, after day.  Taking up the cross and following: this is the "fruit" of salvation, the evidence of a Sprit-transformation.

Today's question:  have you made that decision to follow Jesus, or have you, like Felix, said, "I'll do it when it's convenient."  Be very sure of this: you don't get to specify how much time you have left to make that decision.  Who knows when your last breath will be exhaled?  Don't.Wait.

Christian, Beloved - - - what is God calling you to do that has caused you to respond, "I'll do it when it's convenient"?  If you are saying, "no" or "not yet", to God, be aware that, under the guise of "playing it safe", you are missing out on tremendous blessing.  The abundant life, the joy-filled life, is the life that is lived in total, sold-out obedience to God's calling on your life.

I'm thinking this morning of a young man who recently decided to attend seminary.  This was a man of great prominence and influence in "the world".  His decision shocked (and in truth appalled) many who considered him a "rising star".  I so admire him for his obedience!  He considered the favor of God, who called him to this, more precious than the favor of his fellow man.  Beautiful!  God is probably not calling most of to attend seminary.  But, I am sure of this:  He has a calling, a purpose for each one of us, and will never fail to make that clear to each of us.  That "still, small voice" will tell us.  The question is not "to what" we are called, but rather, whether or not our answer will be "yes, Lord!"

Good morning, Father, thank you for this new day.  Each dawn is a new opportunity to praise You. We are so privileged to learn of You from Your Word, and to be given an opportunity to accept and then serve You, in Spirit and in Truth.  Please make your calling to each of us deafening! Sometimes, often, we are so obtuse, so hard-of-hearing, so stubborn - - - careening through life like a runaway wagon - - - accomplishing little.  And, this is because we have jerked back the control of our lives from Your Hands, sticking our fingers in our ears when You call, certain that we know what is best. How foolish we are!  Thank you for not giving up on us and for continuing to woo us by Your Holy Spirit.  Today, may we step out in faith and answer, "YES!"  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Purified, Total Salvation

Good morning!

Come with me to the book of 1 Peter this morning and let's stroll.  The text is 1 Peter 1:1-9.

1-2 I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours! 
3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

Peter was, if not the most influential leader in the early Christian church, certainly in "the top 4".  The other contenders were James, John, and Paul.  His letter was not written to a particular local congregation, but instead to the exiled believers scattered throughout the region.  Remember that after Stephen's martyrdom, Christians left Jerusalem, going to places like Antioch and elsewhere. The relentless persecution of Christians fueled the spread of the gospel to all of Asia Minor, and beyond.

Peter reminds his readers in verses 1-2 that they, the exiles have not been forgotten by God, that He has his eye on them.  There are times in every Christian's life when he or she feels forgotten.  I've certainly felt that way, haven't you?  Happily living the Christian life, and striving to be obedient, we encounter a big roadblock.  Everything comes to a screeching halt.  You wonder, "what the heck?!" And, worse, when you pray about the situation, there seems to be no reply.  The devil then, seeing an opportunity, whispers in your ear:  "You don't matter; you've been forgotten."  Discouragement and derailment often follow if we listen to that nonsense.

Peter encourages the believers by reminding them that as followers of Christ Jesus, how fortunate they are to have a relationship with Him, that because of their faith decision they have a brand-new life with everything to live for!  He likens the Christian's troubles in this life to the process used to refine gold.

How is gold refined?  In Peter's day, gold was refined primarily by fire.  In our modern day, the process is similarly time intensive and expensive.  One website I consulted said it involves these steps:  (don't try this at home without the proper safety equipment, lol!)
1.  Smash the ore with a hammer, in a metal pan
2.  Pass a magnet over the smashed up ore to separate the gold from the ferrous metals (like iron).  Gold is non-magnetic and will remain in the pan.
3.  Wash the remaining ore with a highly acidic solution, which includes the poison, cyanide.
4.  Using a car battery, pass an electric current through this solid and chemical mixture.
Sounds pretty drastic, doesn't it?  Nevertheless, gold cannot be refined under pleasant conditions.

Peter reminds us that such refining of our faith, through "every kind of aggravation", produces "pure, genuine faith" - - - faith proven to be real.  He also commends future believers with a sense of amazement in verses 8 and 9:

You never saw him {Jesus}, yet you love him.  You still don't see him, yet you trust him - - with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: 
total salvation.

What a precious promise!  As we walk resplendent, our faith is tested and purified.  Salvation is both a guarantee and a process.  The Holy Spirit in our hearts is our guarantee of salvation, but it is our response to the experiences of this earthly life which will determine how pure our faith will be when we do actually see God, face-to-face, when our faith has been made complete.

Dear Father, purify us! Make us and mold us into the image of Your Son.  As painful as this process is, we want our faith to shine brighter than pure gold, as evidence of Your eternal victory over sin.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

People of "No".

Good morning!

This morning's text is Acts 13.  Grab your Bible and read it if you can.  I was reading from The Message.

The opening scene is in Antioch, a church that had many Spirit-filled preachers and teachers.  The Bible tells us that believers were first called Christians at Antioch.  This city, in Syria, was where many of the Jerusalem Christians fled after the martyrdom of Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr recorded in Scripture.  Antioch was a beautiful city, a jewel of the Roman Empire.  But, it grew to be a bastion of Christianity, second only to Jerusalem.

At any rate, the Christian congregation at Antioch grew strong in the faith.  It was this church that was led by the Holy Spirit to commission Paul, Barnabas and Mark to go on Paul's first missionary journey.  The Holy Spirit spoke to the congregation as they were worshipping, praying and fasting for direction (vs. 2).  This congregation said "yes" to the Lord.  Paul and Barnabas and Mark did as well.

Later on in chapter 13 Paul and Barnabas ended up in Antioch of Pisidia (not the same one mentioned above).  (Where was Mark?  He had returned to Jerusalem.) Beginning in verse 16 Paul gave a wonderful recitation of how God worked in the affairs of the Hebrew people, starting with Moses and the Egyptian enslavement and going on to that present day.  Many believed on Jesus, and Paul and Barnabas spent the next week discipling them.  The following Sabbath, Paul began to preach again. But, this time, they were opposed by jealous Jewish leaders who saw their power and influence begin to erode.  Reactions such as these were common where the gospel was preached, and it's no different today.  The gospel often divides people because it separates Truth from the lies of the devil.

Paul makes this sad pronouncement in vs. 46-49 ...

"It was required that God's Word be spoken first to all of you, the Jews.  But, seeing that you want no part of it - - - you've made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life --- the door is open to all the outsiders."
When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune!  All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God ... they honored God's Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.

Isn't it astounding that the very people to whom the Messiah was promised, rejected Him?  This happened over and over in the early days of Christianity.  On the other hand, think about it....if they had not rejected Him, the Gentile world (which includes most of you reading this) would perhaps not have heard the Message of Jesus Christ and His salvation.  There are those today of Jewish heritage who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and I believe that they are some of the happiest Christians on earth!  In their worship, they celebrate their salvation and right-standing with God by grace alone. Yet, they enjoy keeping the Jewish feasts as acts of worship.  They embrace the Old and New Testaments to a depth that many of us Christians do not.  Ah, but I digress.

Lest you start looking down your nose at most Jews, I submit to you that many others have rejected the Savior, perhaps even us at times?
Consider this:

There is a group of people who has heard the gospel, perhaps from infancy, and yet the very familiarity of it is repugnant to them.  They reject the Savior because Christianity is to their minds "anti-intellectual" or intrusive or in opposition to their own self-governance. Like the Jews in the passage above, these "have no taste or inclination for eternal life".

Then, there are disciples of Jesus who balk at what they are being asked by the LORD to do.  Perhaps it is to apologize to someone they've wronged or to cook a meal for someone who is in need or to donate money to a ministry or to serve in a fearsome capacity in their church, city, state, country, abroad.  It could be anything. The point is, we say "no, Lord."  Is not that very response ... contradictory?!  Does it not shut down the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Sometimes, this rejection of Christ becomes like that of the Jews in Acts 13.  Notice in verses 50-52 that some of those who rejected Christ ran Paul and Barnabas out of town.

Look at the attitude of Paul and Barnabas in verse 52, though.  They shrugged their shoulders, figuratively speaking, and left...

"brimming over with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples". 

Does that response puzzle you?  Isn't it counterintuitive that they could be happy in the face of such extreme rejection from the people of "No"?  We'll take a closer look at that tomorrow.

Dear Father, thank you for allowing us to hear your invitation to eternal life.  Thank you for those who obey your call to "go and tell".  I pray for those we know who are right now being people of "No", perhaps even us.  Open the blind eyes and unplug the dear ears, Dear Lord, because Hell awaits those who reject Your offer of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus.  It is in His matchless name that I pray, amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Outrageous Nonsense

Good morning!

A friend gave me one of those pretty display plates, with chalkboard paint in the center.  This, of course, just invites the writing of messages, sayings, etc.  At the moment, the saying on my plate is "The Truth WILL set you free!"  I wrote that because the college Bible study group that meets here twice a month is studying the topic of divine truth.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote in his New Testament book about living out the truth that we know, the truth which our faith says is real.  James' writings provide the perfect complement to Paul's writings about the central role of God's grace in our salvation.  Paul drives home the truth that our own good deeds cannot earn salvation for us.  James points out that if our behavior doesn't show evidence of our "decision to follow Christ", then perhaps our belief in Christ is only intellectual.

James points out that the forces of Satan, the demons, believe intellectually the truth about Jesus Christ, and it causes them to tremble with fear.  They do not and cannot worship the Name that is Above Every Name, the One True God.  Their belief never reaches their hearts, nor does it lead to salvation.

Many people are like that.  They are content to profess "belief in Christ."  "I am a Christian", they say.  But, while they identify as a Christian, and may even attend church, their hearts have never been changed.  Their consistent actions show this.

James pierces to the heart of the matter in 2:14-17 (The Message)

Dear Friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything?  Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?  For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half=starved and say, "Good morning, friend!  Be clothed in Christ!  Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup - - - where does that get you?  Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

Wisdom in living involves not only knowing the truth, but also the deliberate acting on it day after day after day in self-denial.  The Christian life is characterized by taking up the cross of Christ daily and following hard after Him. (Luke 9:23) This is what real Christians do, not because they are trying to earn their salvation or "get into Heaven".   (That deal is sealed at the moment they surrender their lives to Him.)  They do it because they love the Savior and because they truly believe what they say about Him.

Non-believers like to point at Christians and criticize them for their missteps.  Often, the sins of Christians are used as a basis for rejecting Christ.  Christians do sin, but they do not consciously, deliberately practice sin because displeasing their Lord is abhorrent to them.

Functioning properly, Christian churches should be places where Christ is worshipped and people are loved, places where sin is brought out into the open and dealt with, places of repentance and cleansing.  It is only by confronting our own sin that we can fully embrace the Truth and then live out His love in our own lives.

Genuine believing gives birth to doing.  Anything less is outrageous nonsense.

Father, please forgive me for the many times I walk unworthy of Your grace, for the many times my actions are not reflective of my salvation status.  I thank You that it is You who holds me and keeps my salvation secure, in spite of my day-to-day stumbling.  Help me to take up that cross, the cross of my Savior, daily and follow You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Distraction of Comparisons

Good morning!

My mother has been visiting, and although I wish she could have stayed longer, she just left to go back home.  I spent as much time with her this morning as I could before she left, which is going to make my daily post later than usual.  As I told her, "It's not like I have a large readership, waiting with bated breath for my post."  But, if you do read here on occasion, it is my sincere hope you receive a blessing.

Today's reading is Proverbs 31, which I'm going to consider in its entirety, with focus on verses 1-9 and 18.  Plainly, the chapter could fuel numerous blog posts.

Verse 1 identifies the author as someone called King Lemuel.  Who is that?  According to Jewish tradition and ancient rabbinical commentators, Lemuel was a poetic name for King Solomon. However, the name Lemuel means "for God".  And, the Septuagint translates verse 1 as something like this:  "the words of a King for God, the utterances that his mother taught him." Regardless, let's look at the advice this mother gave to her son.  I'm impressed that the son at least had the respect for her to write her words down.

1.  Apparently, this mother dedicated her son to God, probably before his birth.  That in itself is laudable, and the sign of a godly woman.  The poem is born out of her anguish over her son's waywardness.  There is an old Jewish story that this proverb was given from mother to son shortly after the dedication of Solomon's Temple.  The story goes that on the day of the dedication, Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter and then drank too much at the wedding feast, sleeping until the fourth hour of the next day, with the keys to the Temple under his pillow!  Whether this is true or mere fancy, who knows?  It's an interesting story.  It is plain, however, that this son of Proverbs 31 is a leader, who has been acting in a distinctly "unleaderlike" way.

2.  The mother's first admonition is for her son to avoid promiscuous, fortune-hunting women, because they shipwreck leaders (vs. 3).  The bulk of the chapter is a hymn to a virtuous wife where it appears this mother describes a woman much like herself.  She presents this fictitious woman as a model for the type of woman her son should seek.  How it must have broken her heart to see him make bad choices!

3.  The second admonition concerned avoiding making a fool of oneself with alcoholic drinks.  This mother advocates the use of alcohol only as a sedative, for those who are in tremendous pain or near death.  She wisely points out that a leader who imbibes cannot with a clear head lead people - - - that his fuzzy-headedness would cause him to make decisions that would hurt people who depend on him.

4.  Her fourth admonition dealt with speaking up for those who cannot defend themselves - - - those who have no voice, those who are down-and-out, and the poor.  This is justice, a practice which should typify all godly leaders.

Much has been written about the Proverbs 31 woman.  The one verse I want to mention this morning from the remainder of the chapter is verse 18.  The Message version translates it as follows:

She senses the worth of her work
Is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.

I am sure that one of the most common pitfalls among those of us who admire the Proverbs 31 woman and long to be like her is this:  we don't see the worth in what we do, and think that some other woman has it better, does it better, looks better, is more worthy, is less sinful, etc., etc., etc.

Sigh!  Come on now...can I get an "amen"?  If you are a woman and you've never done this, I'd like to meet you.  Personally, I don't think such a creature exists.  That, however, does not make this attitude any less wrong, nor is this attitude exclusive to women.

This sin is very sneaky and is nearly "on you" before you realize it.  Here's an example:  look back at the first paragraph, the quote of mine.  Hey!  It is not up to me how many people read this blog.  That should not be my concern or my distraction.  My job here is to be faithful to commune with God each morning and then to share it as He has called me to do.  That's it.

Some of us have fallen in to Satan's trap in this regard.  If what we are called to do right now is not glamorous or showy, we feel that it is "less than".  What a lie!  And, then, what happens next?  We get discouraged and start slacking off in our faithfulness  - - - we "call it quits for the day".

But, the Proverbs 31 woman KNOWS that her worth is in her God and that what He has called her to do is holy, as long as it is in line with His principles revealed in His word.  As long as her calling is sure, that she is not deceived or walking in error, then her calling is holy.

Are you a young mother, changing poopy diapers day in and day out?  Your calling is holy.
Are you a young entrepreneur, starting a business?  Your calling is holy.
Are you a student, preparing yourself for the future God has called you to?  Your calling is holy.
Are you an elderly grandmother, praying for your family and ministering to others?  Your calling is holy.

We tend to elevate some callings as more holy than others.  Sin, sin, sin!  Each of us has been equipped to glorify our Savior according to the gifts He has provided us.  There is no difference between the secular and the sacred.
A calling is holy if we have heard from Him and are obeying Him by doing what He has called us to do.  If we remember that, then we will sense in our hearts the worth of our work and will pursue it with zeal.

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.
Colossians 3:17

Dear Father, please deliver Your people from the distraction of comparisons.  Please make clear to each of us what You would have us be doing for Your glory, at any given time; and, show us the standard with which we should measure our performance:  our best, with zeal, for Your glory.  Thank you that no two of us are alike, that we are each beautiful jewels in Your crown, created by You specifically for just such a time as this, for Your service.  Thank you for the privilege, Lord.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Your Kiss, Your Kiss ...

Good morning!

When I turned on the TV, while making the morning coffee, I had to laugh.  The song tidbit that was ending the segment on the news program was from what was once called one of the "10 Songs That Will Instantly Put You In a Good Mood":  "Your Kiss Is On My List", recorded by Hall and Oates, in the 1981.  It was one of my favorite pop songs back then, and remains so.

The reason I laughed was because I had already decided to blog about marriage this morning, albeit briefly.  The Hubster and I are leaving soon for an out-of-state wedding, and my time is short.

Surely, like me, you know a couple still married, after millions of years.  There is a sweet couple that sits in front of us at church; they've been married for over 60 years.  We've been married for over 20; but, we got a late start.

My heart breaks for my girlfriend, whose last child is marrying today, and he is her only son, as well. I know it will be so bittersweet for her.  But, I also know she is rejoicing that her son has chosen a godly woman, that he has chosen well.

The Bible says that when a man and a woman are joined together in marriage, then they become "one flesh".  This is a reference to both their physical union and their spiritual union.  The picture the Bible paints of godly marriage is so beautiful.  And, when we humans pervert God's standard, it is so ugly.

How do we pervert God's plan?  In a multitude of ways:

  • joining ourselves physically to another outside the bonds of marriage, and this includes while "single" and after marriage
  • rape or incest
  • emotional adultery
  • so-called marriages that are not between one man and one woman
  • divorce
  • pornography, one of the chief avenues of lust
  • marrying non-Christians
God compared the marriage relationship to Jesus' relationship to His Church.  Jesus is referred to as the Bridegroom and we, His followers, are called The Bride of Christ.  It would be more accurate to say that we are "engaged" or "betrothed" to Christ in this present Church Age.  The Jews viewed betrothal just as binding as the actual marriage.  Recall that it was while Joseph was betrothed to Mary that she was found with child (Matthew 1:18).  Our actual wedding ceremony will occur in the future. This is prophesied in Revelation 19:7-10 ...

Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”

Other key passages that give us guidance concerning godly marriage are Ephesians 5:22-23,  2 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.

One of the prayers I pray often over my sons is that they will marry godly women.  It is of vital importance that believers not marry unbelievers.  If you looked up 2 Corinthians 6:14, mentioned above, you saw that plainly stated.

Marriage is a tremendous commitment because, as those of you who are married know, it is often difficult.  Our expectations are usually unrealistic for our mate, and they inevitably fall short, as we do of theirs as well.  We are human and therefore imperfect.  But, just as Christ is committed to us, His Bride, so we are to remain committed, faithful in love to our spouse.

And, what about that kiss thing?  Well, there's even a book in the Bible that addresses that too! There's nothing wrong with marrying someone whose kiss makes your toes tingle.  Why do you think the song is so popular?  God does not hate sex.   Otherwise, the Song of Solomon would not be in the Bible!

"His mouth is most sweet, and He is altogether desirable.  This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!"  
Song of Solomon 5:16

Y'all have a blessed day.  I've got to go get me some wedding cake!  ;)

Dear Father, thank you for my Bridegroom, whose love for me never fails.  There are times when I am unfaithful, but He is ever constant, always true.  You hold me close to Your heart, Beloved, and I worship You.  It is in Your name, Lord Jesus, I pray, amen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Good Medicine

Good morning!

Gilead was a region east of the Jordan River, about 20 by 60 miles in area.  When the Israelites conquered Canaan, the tribes of Gad and Reuben settled the area.  It became a region where medicinal ointments and balms (salves) were produced from the local plant life.

In Jeremiah 8:22, the prophet laments,
"Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?  Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?"  
These woeful questions occurred in conjunction with God telling him that Babylon would take the Jews into captivity.  Basically, Jeremiah was asking, "Is there no cure?  Is there no remedy for this situation?"

When Christ Jesus came and began His earthly ministry, He healed many people of their sicknesses, both physical and spiritual, even raising people from the dead.  I'm so glad those stories are in the Bible.  The sheer volume of them are convincing evidence that Jesus is God Himself.  He proved Himself to be the "God of the Impossible", even before He rose from the dead, the ultimate healing.

Many of the African slaves brought to the United States in the 1600s and 1700s heard the gospel message and became Christians.  That, in itself, is testimony to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If I were a slave, I doubt I would willingly become a convert to the religion of the one who snatched me from my home and enslaved me.  Yet, we have the evidence of this in the beautiful Negro spirituals that have endured for over 200 years.

There is a Balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
There is a Balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work's in vain
But then, the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

This hymn appeared in a book of Negro spirituals around 1800, although its original authorship is uncertain.  Regardless, it hearkens back to Jeremiah's question and testifies to the soul-healing power of Jesus Christ, which is the ultimate "balm in Gilead".  Despite our best efforts and all of modern medicine, no plant derivative will cure all our diseases.  Our bodies will eventually fail, releasing our souls into eternity.  If Jesus has healed the soul, though, that soul will live with Him forever.  I am so grateful for this truth.

In Revelation 22:1-5, the apostle John saw a glimpse of Heaven.  There he saw a river that contains the water of life.  On its banks, he saw the Tree of Life.  Look at those verses:

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river,was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  Sickness and sin are related.  Sickness, both physical and spiritual, is the consequence of our living in a sin-sick, fallen world.  Jesus is our Healer, the Great Doctor.  He can heal us now, in all the ways that matter, for eternity.  And only Jesus, and the Life He IS, can "heal the nations".  The "curse" referred to in the passage above is the sin-curse, which will not exist in Heaven.

So-o-o-o many people think that they can never be healed of their soul's diseases.  This is a lie, straight from the pit of Hell.  These precious souls are held captive by this satanic deception.  They do not believe that anyone, not even Jesus, can heal them.  They believe that they are "too far gone". If that is you, today, believe the truth of the gospel!  If Jesus could and WOULD heal the thief who hung on the cross beside Him, without hesitation, without question, He can and will heal you! Believe it and receive eternal transformation, eternal healing for your soul!  There IS a Balm in Gilead.

Dear Father, I cannot thank you enough for healing me.  With Job, I can exclaim and affirm, "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.  I myself will see Him with my own eyes, I and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!"  (Job 19:26-27).  Hallelujah!  In Jesus' name, amen. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Time Is It?

Good morning,

This morning's passage is Matthew 24:3-44.

In the first two verses of this chapter Jesus had remarked to His disciples that the great and mighty Temple in Jerusalem would one day be reduced to rubble.  Naturally, this alarmed the disciples and today's passage begins with them asking Him when this was going to happen.  Jesus did not give a direct answer, such as April 19, 2038.  Instead, He gave to them a list of signs that will indicate His coming is near.  Let's look at them:

1.  The Non-Signs (verses 5-8)
Wars, famines and earthquakes will continue until the return of Christ, but they are pretty much "business as usual" on this fallen world.
2.  Doomsday Deceivers (verses 4, 11, 23-28)
The first sign mentioned and the one Jesus gives the most emphasis is the proliferation of false Messiahs, leaders with "forged identities" (vs. 4, The Message version).   These charlatans will claim to be the Christ, the Messiah and will deceive a lot of people.  Jesus gives a related sign in verse 11 when he mentions "lying preachers", who will preach a false gospel.  These, too, will deceive many.  Jesus mentioned this first sign more than any of the others, returning to this theme in verses 23-28.  Spiritual blindness and deception will be everywhere.
3.  Widespread Persecution of Christians (9-10)
The world over, Christians will be hated.  Christians will even betray one another, out of deception, and will turn their friends and loved ones over to authorities who will torture and kill them.
4.  Evil Will Be the Order of the Day (vs. 10-12, 21-22)
Brotherly love will have been replaced by hate.  In The Message version, the translator says, "it will be dog-eat-dog".  Trouble "off the charts"!  Jesus commented that, in fact, if this time period were not cut short by God's mercy, mankind would utterly destroy itself.
5.  The Gospel Preached in Every Nation (vs. 13-14)
And, then, Jesus gave a beautiful sign.  In the middle of all this chaos and deception and persecution, the true gospel of Jesus Christ will have been preached to all the world, to every nation.  My pastor points out that this prophecy is yet unfulfilled.  There are still people groups who have not heard the story of Jesus and His love.  I personally believe that it will be the persecution of Christians which will propel the gospel to every nation.  As communication across the world continues to "make our world smaller", the persecution of Christians will be broadcast far and wide.  Some people will first hear about Jesus through the martyrdom of His saints.  The reason I believe this is that the Church now has the capability, the resources, to send the gospel to every people group.  However, we are too wrapped up in our own materialism and self-centeredness to do so.  When the push comes to the shove, some will renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, revealing themselves as spiritual frauds, pretend believers.  Those who profess their love for Jesus to the point of death will be a powerful witness to the world.  And, the gospel will be made known to every nation.
6.  The Monstrous Desecration  (15-20)
The most easily identified sign from this passage is found here, but it is actually two signs bound together.  This prophecy concerns the Temple in Jerusalem, which most of you know was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  There is just part of the Western Wall remaining, commonly known today as The Wailing Wall.  Many orthodox Jews can be found there daily, even now, praying earnestly.
At any rate, the first sign is that the Temple will be rebuilt before Jesus returns.  And, it will be desecrated in the last days by a man many believe to be the Messiah.  He will be possessed by Satan and will be a world-wide ruler.  For a time, he will allow the Jewish sacrifices and rituals to be performed in their new temple.  But, then, he will suddenly bring all that to a halt.

He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering.  And, the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.
Daniel 9:27 HCSB

7.  Strange Signs in the Cosmos  (verse 20)
The sun will do strange things, such as appearing to fade.  The moon will likewise appear to cloud over.  The stars will "fall from the sky", which could mean an increase in meteorites, or a shifting of the earth's poles, or something similarly catastrophic.

And then....and then...
The Savior returns!  His sudden return will be characterized by these things: (vs. 30-31)
a.  Every eye will see Him.  His accompanying angel armies will fill the skies, the world over.
b.  Simultaneously, His angels will gather His chosen from all corners of the earth.  There will obviously be some who will have escaped death and will have remained faithful to Jesus, through all the years of tribulation.

I want to leave you with two additional things to ponder:
1.  I am amazed at how Jesus limited His God-ness by putting on flesh.  He stated in verse 36 that He did not know the day or the hour of His return, that only God the Father knows that.  There were some limitations God had to put on His Son, in order for Him to be not only fully divine, but fully human as well.  This appears to be one of them.  I do believe that, now that He has been glorified and is seated at God the Father's right hand, He has taken up again all aspects of God-ness in all His limitlessness.  Very God of Very God.  And, I do believe that He now knows that exact day and hour, as does the Father.
2.  What we need to concentrate on is laid out by Jesus in verses 13-14: remaining faithful.  The Message version:

"Staying with it - - - that's what God requires.  Stay with it to the end.  You won't be sorry, and you'll be saved."

The apostle Paul echoed this in 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NIV) - - - 

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Have you ever thought about whether or not you could lay down your life for the cause of Christ?  I mean, physically, because Jesus calls us spiritually to lay it down every, single day....right?  IF we do the latter, He will give us the grace to do the former, should it come to that in our lifetimes.  

Dear Father, we are living in a world in which we see and hear of monstrous evil on a daily basis. By Your Holy Spirit who lives in each of us, Your children, help us to pay attention to the signs around us.  More importantly, however, keep us focused on being faithful to the calling You have given to each of us.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"You can't be serious....""

Good bleary-eyed morning...

Last night I used a beauty product under my eyes, which caused an allergic reaction and caused me to see a basset hound in the mirror this morning.  To make matters worse, I had a nightmare in the wee hours, a dream that one of my loved ones had turned to Satanic worship.

So, even the morning coffee is not "gettin' it" today.  There are times when the promises of God are all we have left.  The prophet Habakkuk felt this way.  Let's devour an entire book of the Bible this morning; I need it.

The prophet Habakkuk lived in the latter half of the 7th century B.C.  His book is dated somewhere between 625-605 B.C.  The Assyrians had already overrun and conquered the northern kingdom of Israel.  But, the southern kingdom of Judah was still "whuppin' it up", unrepentant.  Habukkuk describes it like this in 1:3-4 ...

"Justice is a joke.  The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head."

Habakkuk was describing his own people, not some enemy nation.  And, he was complaining to God, because He would not change the situation.  in 1:1, he laments,

"God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen?!"

In 1:5-11 God tells Habakkuk that Judah will soon be judged by the Babylonians, the adjacent empire.  (Ezekiel also received this prophecy, and it is described in greater detail in the latter half of Ezekiel 17.  God brought this prophecy to fulfillment in the mid-500s B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar hauled Judah away to Babylon.)

Habakkuk is completely bamboozled by this response from God.  What he wanted was for God to use some other method to straighten out the Jews, some "more righteous" method.  He was incredulous that God would use the heathen Babylonians for this purpose.  Look at 1:13 and following....

"God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work?  Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline?  But you can't be serious?!

In our modern-day vernacular, we would exclaim, "God, really...REALLY?"  Habakkuk goes on and on with his incredulity and then says in 2:1... "I'm gonna climb up here in my tower and sit and wait to see how He answers my complaint."  
LOL, well, okay, Buddy, you've got some nerve, but okay...

The bulk of chapter 2 contains God's answer to Habukkuk's complaint.  On the face of it, God seems to be elaborating on His condemnation of Judah with the repeated question, "Who do you think you are?"  (verses 6, 9, 12, 15)  But, he is also asking that question of Habakkuk, who has the audacity to question God's plans.  What God wants from Habukkuk is given at the beginning of His answer, in verse 4:

"But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive!"

God ends His answer by contrasting His Living, Eternal "I AM" with the dead, false gods of wood and stone.  "The LORD is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth be silent before Him!"  (NIV)
That includes you, Habukkuk.  :)

What is Habakkuk's response then, in chapter 3?  Remember, we last saw him sitting in a tower, waiting on God's response.  In 3:1 he says, "I'm stopped in my tracks, down on my knees."

Habakkuk goes on to affirm God's message from chapter 2, and then, as he closes his book, he prays these beautiful words of trust:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18  Yet ...
I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19  The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Oh!  So beautiful!  Brings tears to my eyes.
Can we trust Him like that?  DARE we trust Him like that? Do we truly believe He has our best interests at heart?  Are His promises really true?  Do we know that what we believe is REALLY real?

Habukkuk had this assurance.  By the grace of God, we, His Beloved, His children, can too.

Dear Father, my sovereign and almighty God, YET I will rejoice in You, because You are my strength and song.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Good morning!

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you won the lottery?  Some of you, like me, are saying that you'd have to actually play the lottery first...but, stay with me here.

Or, what about this?  What about if you found out you had a mysterious uncle you never knew about. He died and left you a fortune.  What would you do?

The situations I've described are similar to the illustrations Jesus used in Matthew 13.  In verses 44-52 He describes the Kingdom of Heaven as being of such great value that anyone who truly recognizes it for what it is will turn his or her life upside down to possess it.  The illustrations He uses are:

  • a treasure that is discovered hidden in a field (verse 44)
  • a flawless pearl (verses 45-46)
  • a bounty of fish (verses 47-50)
What is the Kingdom of Heaven, anyway?  Jesus made plain that any of us who are part of this kingdom or who possess it are rich beyond measure.  People of Jesus' day, even His closest disciples, thought He would set up His earthly kingdom, similar to that of previous earthly empires.  But, He made plain that the kingdom He set up during His 33 years on this earth was "not of this world" (John 18:36).  Listen to the Message version:

"My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you.  If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews.  But, I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king."

In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus was asked by a Pharisee when He would set up His physical kingdom. Jesus replied as follows:  

“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”  {Some versions say "within you".}
Jesus went on to say in that passage that He will return to set up His earthly kingdom and that His return will happen suddenly.  He describes what is commonly called the Rapture of the Church in verses 34-35.

So, here's what I want to ask you:  have you discovered the Kingdom of Heaven?  Are you a part of His kingdom?  We need to read the earlier verses in Matthew 13 (verses 36-43) with a great deal of solemnity.   In them, Jesus is describing how, when the Rapture occurs, the true believers will be revealed and separated from the pretenders.  Note in verse 42 that there will be wailing and complaining to high heaven from those who will be exposed as either unbelievers or fraudulent Christians...In 2 Timothy 3:5 the apostle Paul described the latter group like this:

"holding to the form of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid these people!"  
(HCSB version)

If you say you are a believer, do you really believe that what you say you believe is truly true?  Let me ask you something:  (and I'm asking myself the same thing)  "How does your belief change your life?"  Notice in Matthew 13 that when those who found the kingdom of heaven (vs. 42-26), the pearl, the buried treasure ... it changed their behavior!  They sold everything that they had in order to possess it!

Of course, we can't BUY our way into Jesus' kingdom.  It is His free gift to any who choose Him as Savior and Lord.  But, IF we truly believe Jesus and His claims to the Truth, as revealed in the Bible, there should be a drastic difference between how we live and how the rest of the world lives.

Most of our lives are lived on "automatic pilot".  We wake up and get out of bed.  We believe our legs will support us.  We go to the toilet, believing our bodies will rid themselves of waste accumulated overnight.  We open the faucet, believing that water will flow into the coffee carafe.  In other words, we operate on faith in the physical laws that we learned about as small children.

This does not always happen in the Body of Christ!  The kingdom of Heaven is within us!  Yet, we often act, we live as if we don't believe that.  

I marvel at the zeal of the apostle Paul.  When he was ignorant of the kingdom, he zealously, fervently pursued the life of an orthodox Jew, even to the point of persecuting and killing Christians, since the orthodox of his day viewed Christians as heretics to the Jewish faith.  (Well, in large part, that has not changed...)  But, then!  When he met Jesus Christ in the heavenly vision on the road to Damascus, when he caught a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, he did what the people did in Jesus' stories in Matthew 13....he did a complete turnaround.  The zeal he had formerly applied to persecuting Christians, he began to to apply to preaching the gospel.  Yet, D.L. Moody famously said, "The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to Him."

We have "won the lottery", Christians!  Let's live like it!

Father, thank you for the riches that are mine through my Savior, that I did not have to earn those riches, but that they are Your free gift.  I confess that I often forget my place, my status, and  live like a pauper, choosing things that are distractions or that are of lesser importance.  I pray for a heart that thirsts after You, and that my actions will match the Truth that lives within me.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"Lord, I was Born a Ramblin' Man..."

Good morning!

I'm in a ramblin' mood this morning.  Let's just cruise through Psalm 103, one of my favorites.  I'm reading it in The Message version, which is not always the most poetic, but certainly lends new language perspectives.  Grab your Bible!

Verse 1 - - - - bless the Lord, O my soul....
It is not our flesh that blesses the Lord, because our flesh is continually at war with the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us Christians.  It is not our minds that bless Him, because our minds are easily corrupted by the lies of the Devil.  Our souls, though, are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, God's "down payment" on our salvation.
Verse 2 - - - don't forget a single blessing...
Isn't it easy to focus on what is "wrong", instead of what is "right" in our lives?  Every life occurrence is an opportunity to bless the Lord, to magnify His name, to advance His kingdom.  We must view everything that comes our way in light of its eternal significance, instead of doing what we (I!) usually do, which is to focus on the temporary.  (Come on now; can I get an "amen"?!)
Then, in verses 3-5, David lists some of God's blessings:
1.  The first is the best one:  He forgives every single one of our sins.
What a reason to bless the Lord!
2.  He heals all our "diseases".
Sin is our first and worst disease.  As for physical diseases, He acts in accordance with His master plan and our prayers.  But, all of the Christian's physical diseases are healed when the soul leaves this mortal existence and steps into His presence.  Bless!
3.  He snatches us from the jaws of Hell.
The Message says He "redeems us", which means He purchases us with the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we are spared not only a hellish existence on earth, but more importantly, an eternity in that place of torment.
4.  He satisfies our mouths with good things so that our youth is renewed like an eagle's.
Most of you know someone who has lived a life of chasing after things that don't satisfy --- "God substitutes".  The idol, the thing that is pursued (in a sense "worshipped") may be alcohol, or sex or drugs or other addictions.  But, they never satisfy.  Furthermore, they age a person physically, often making them look "older than their years".  The Holy Spirit, when allowed to rule and reign in our lives, instead satisfies us with God, "the real thing".

Ramblin' on down to verses 10-14 - - - oooooh, this is precious!

He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
    God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
    keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.

"He does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs."
Hallelujah!  This is God's mercy on display.  Can you imagine, Christian, if we were dealt with FAIRLY by this just God?  Even if He did punish us for each and every sin, His justice would not be satisfied.  The only thing that could satisfy the justice of our holy God was the perfect, sinless sacrifice of His only Son.  Jesus' beautiful words from the cross: "It is finished!"

He knows us inside and out.  He made us and knows what we are made of.  He has compassion on us and remembers that we are formed of the dust of the earth.
And then, AND THEN, He refuses to remember our sins against us anymore!
Not only does He forgive them, He forgets them.
As it says in verse 12 - - - "He has removed them as far as the east is from the west."
When we accept God's substitute for us, His Son, Jesus Christ, God completely obliterates the "owed" column on the balance sheet.  Over in the "paid" column, He stamps "paid in full".

In church yesterday our pastor was speaking with compassion of those religions who tell their adherents they must do this and do that, bring this many souls into the Kingdom, for instance, to earn their place in Heaven.  The Bible is clear that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, that it is impossible to earn it, in fact.  (Titus 3:5; Romans 10:3; Isaiah 64:6). We can be at peace and be confident in the assurance that Jesus Christ has "paid it all".

"Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow."
One of my favorite hymns...

See, I told you I was in a ramblin' mood.  Beautiful Psalm 103!  Let its promises seep into your soul this morning, Beloved!

Dear Lord, I'm thinking of that pop song, "Lord I was Born a Ramblin' Man" this morning.  Some of the lyrics go "tryin' to make a livin' and doin' the best that I can..."  I know that my best was not good enough to satisfy Your holiness and Your justice.  I'm grateful, though, that Jesus' finished work WAS and IS good enough, and that, consequently, I don't have to ramble through life, searching for peace. My peace is found in You, Lord Jesus!  O my Father!  Thank you for looking at me through rose-colored glasses, tinted red by the blood of Your precious, only Son.  I cannot begin to understand why You did that for me.  But, I thank You and bless Your name, Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Enduring Truth

Good morning!

Our church's college Bible study meets every 2 weeks, every other Monday night, in our home. Tomorrow night, we will be starting a new study, which will carry us through the remainder of the academic year.  It is called "The Truth Project", and is produced by the folks at Focus on the Family. If you are reading this on or a few weeks after the initial date of publication, I would appreciate your prayers for us as we enter this study, that the Holy Spirit will transform lives.

One of the chief aims of the study is that each of us, leaders included, will gain a truer picture of who God is and that that understanding will transform our lives.

I was reminded of the centrality of truth, in the ongoing cosmic battle between good and evil, as I read Psalm 100 this morning.  I'll reproduce it here in its entirety, because it is very short.

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
Since it entered into the heart of Satan to rebel against God, there has been a cosmic battle between truth and lies.  When man was created, he became the nexus of this struggle.  We see the apex of this battle played out in the life and ministry of Jesus, who said when before Pilate,

"For this purpose I have come into the world - -   to testify to the truth.  And, everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."  
John 18:37

Jesus went on to win a world-changing victory with his finished work on the cross and in His resurrection.  This epic, cosmic battle will continue, the Bible says, until God puts all Jesus Christ's adversaries (including the Devil, especially him) under Jesus' feet.  (Psalm 110:1 and 1 Corinthians 15:25)

Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

Do you remember what Jesus called Satan, as recorded in John 8:44?  The Father of Lies.  Truth versus falsehood:  the battle can be summed up as this.

Depending on your perspective, I am an old person.  It's intriguing to me that, generation after generation, the elders have lamented, "Oh young people today!  The world is going to Hell in a handbasket!"  In other words, truth is being killed!  We are headed for ruin!  This attitude defies the Word of God.  We can be comforted by God's promise that His truth will endure.

We may not easily spot it.  It may go "underground" in some localities for a while.  But, it will not be extinguished!  We may even look at the next generation of our family members and moan and groan over their deception.  But, God says, "His truth endures to all generations."

What a precious promise!  He cannot be defeated.  He will reign victorious.  In our eternal state, His beloved (we!) will see our Savior crush the head of the Serpent (Genesis 3:19).  And then, this is the most amazing part:  we will reign with Jesus, forever and ever.  "I.just.cannot.even.", as the young mamas say.

I am often criticized for my "blind belief" in one, constant Truth.  But, this passage in Psalm 100:5, and others, give me such peace.  I know that what I believe is really real.  There is nothing better, nothing higher, than the goodness, mercy and truth of the everlasting God.  Let's worship Him today!

Dear Lord, it is such a pleasure to praise You joyfully, to enter into Your presence with thankfulness, to serve You gladly.  Thank you for being so constant, so faithful, for being the anchor for our souls, as we are tossed around on the seas of this world and its error.  You are our safe haven, and we will trust in You.  In Jesus' name, amen.