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When we become adults, life has a way of changing us into something other than our true selves. We have lost that childlike wonder that so delighted me with my children. Te see a butterfly light on flower and admire its beauty or catching that first fish! Oh how exciting!
Adult years tend to rob of us of that wonder and childlike trust on which Jesus places such a high premium. We forgotten our dreams that God placed in our hearts often at an early age. Then we end up being and living a life in a different course than otherwise dreamed.
In Mark 10:13-16, Jesus blesses the children people bring to him. He scolds he disciples for trying to keep them away from him. Perhaps they have in mind the seriousness of his going to Jerusalem to the Passover before his crucifixion for our sin.
Jesus shows a priority of the Kingdom instead. He takes the time to spend with them along his journey despite the seriousness of his purpose. He says with such authority, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (NIV)
Here we see why Jesus considers childlikeness - not childishness - paramount for the gift of of God's kingdom for life and eternity:
Childlike faith dreams dreams larger than life! No business as usual or attitude of “been there done that” but hope for great things.
Childlike love makes no conditions and builds no walls! All people are worthy of love no matter what, and we have a desire to reach out to people.
Childlike wonder responds with joy and enthusiasm! No such thing as a ho-hum attitude there. I remember how excited i would get when my grandmother would give me brand new shiny pennies!
A childlike attitude takes no small thing for granted! Excitement over every little thing that God does as an intimate way of his showing love to us in every detail of life
Childlike gratitude never stops thanking and praising God! The more we know of Him the more we have reason for praise and thanksgiving. The more we thank and praise Him the more joy we have and focus on the blessing He is and the blessings he gives.
With all of that in mind, we have plenty of incentive to begin to live a life in childlike trust and wonder and began to dream God's dreams again. That gives rise to hope, which is a tree of life and gives us fresh outlooks every day in the Lord! We have a God whose love abounds and has purposes for our lives beyond belief! Even in the midst of great trials, the joy of his presence keeps up buoyed and moving upward! Soli Deo Gloria!
Because of the snow and all I decided to spend some of it inside and read. A book that has been staring me in the face for a long time on my bookshelf, screamed at me to read today: C.S. Lewis' book, A Grief Observed. How insightful! And how very real! It is a blessing to me.
Much of what he experienced I have been experiencing and many thoughts he had I have been having. His book evolved over a course of days through his own journey of the so-called grief process, which I think is more of making sense of our own lives and coming to terms with who God is.
I like especially the words that stand out much: "My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His Presence?…..All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her."
I also like the illustration he gave of the idea of separation that people miss when they try to console you with words like, 'Oh, she is in a better place.", which I find myself parroting. Lewis said it is likened to a leg being amputated. You don't have the leg anymore even though the stump heals and eventually you can walk with the aid of a prosthetic leg. Many times the stump gives much pain for the rest of one’s lifetime.
I know this to be true, since my roommate my freshman year had his leg amputated because of cancer on the knee. He would do all kinds of things to try and prove that he was capable of doing everything and even more than than when he had his leg. It was a kind of denial of the loss or overcompensation of it. But the reality was still there. He would suffer great pain after an escapade. He even entered an Olympic race in Greece for the handicapped a few years before he died a couple of years ago.
I think he had faith in Jesus because he always read his Bible before going to bed but often his behavior did not reflect it. However, I kind of entered into his suffering and saw things I have not seen before of human suffering and some of the good things that can come out to it. For him, it made him stronger because it gave him the incentive to overcome and become something he could never have become without it. The people who want us all healed miraculously without seeing God's plan for that life have a short-sighted picture of who God is.
He never was healed from his condition and may have eventually died from a recurrence of cancer. I do not know. But one thing for sure, the pain he went through gave him a greater potential for reliance upon God much like Joni who has touched so many lives by her testimony of triumph in the midst of pain and loss. Would she have touched as many people if healed miraculously? I don’t know.
God is not a truncated God who exists to make us happy or to live a life of ease and bliss in this life. Standing on his promises means we also have to take the whole counsel of God into consideration. We are such children. Pain helps us to grow up into maturity to make us who God wants us to be, not necessarily who we conceive us to be and desire to become. It is always his word from start to finish. Anyone who does not see this, has blind spots that God needs to remove so that we can see him with greater clarity. We have to come to the conclusion we do not know the counsels of God for each individual.
To wipe away someone's grief as surely God is capable of would take away God's sculpting work in that person. To say that death only allows us to be able to touch someone else going through the same thing, sadly minimizes the effect God intends. Its ramifications are huge, beyond our dim human insight. Some would say we have to see him on the mountaintop. I say we see him clearer in the valley of the shadow of death so we can go the mountaintop without unreal expectations of what he is like.
LIke C.S. Lewis would say, reality of suffering in this life, is the divine chisel God uses to fashion our understanding of God and the quality and intimacy of our relationship to him.
For four years I grieved the waning of my dear wife Carolyn, Every day God used his scalpel twisting it every which way to show me things about her, about myself and about himself. The pain was unending. If only he could have taken that cup from me, I often thought.
If God will only heal her. My desire never ended until the guillotine of death struck its final blow. Healing and restoration would have meant the end to my suffering, her suffering, and a perhaps temporary praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Sometimes I think our insistence in seeing someone healed as strong believers in the healing ministry is so shallow without seeing the whole understanding of God's purposes instead of our own. It is incomplete for sure. What about the love we are to show people who may never be healed. Can we love them just the same? Can we show them the milk of human kindness regardless and thereby affirm their worth?
I have always said, it would be good for all of us to read and study the Book of Job and understand the faith that grew in Job as a result of his circumstances. It actually rose up inside of him and became much greater in the end. He saw God in different light. We have such a minimal understanding of God's intentions for each person specifically for the corporate church. We really have to come to the point where our wishes are zero, and his are everything. It is all about letting go of our own reasons why God is doing something and coming to the place where we have to admit we are clueless. Then and only then can we begin to come out of the dark a bit and see a greater glimpse of him as he is.
Well, I did not intend to go on at great length as now, but I am writing this as much as a help to myself in making some sense out of everything I face now as one whose right arm has been severed. I am now someone has nowhere to go but into the loving arms of the only one who understands perfectly. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for all the expressions of care and love people have given knowing some of their hesitancy to know what to say. What I am writing is the language of feeling and thoughts and is no way intended to stand as a word from the Lord but rather hopefully serves as a corrective to thinking that fails to take into consideration God is God and we are not. We need to let him be God. He will see to it anyway. That is a fact!
Harsh realities jar us into a far deeper walk with the God who desires fellowship with us more than we do with him. A God who often is the cloud of unknowing John of the Cross speaks of so eloquently! As I look out at the snow falling today, I think of how we try to cover over a multitude of our empty attempts to deny reality about ourselves and our life here on earth.
The dinginess sometimes of our own thoughts and dimness of our view, becomes almost beautiful with this white covering.Then the sun comes to melt it all away and uncover what is really beneath it all and thankfully to give way to springtime and a fresh look at life and an another opportunity for new growth!
Now we are nearing the New Year 2014. If ever there was a time for wisdom, it is now. I need it, you need it, the church needs it and Lord only knows, our leaders in government need it.
No one knew that better than King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes and also Proverbs, scholars classify as “wisdom literature”, which both speak words of wisdom loudly we should all take to heart.
I Chronicles 1:10-12:
Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.
I Kings 4:29-34:
And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men …people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
We, too, can receive wisdom for the asking from God as James 1:5 states: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask Go, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Story: One-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Ali was flying to one of his engagements and during the flight the aircraft ran into foul weather. Moderate turbulence began to toss the plane about. Of course, all nervous fliers well know that when a pilot signals “moderate turbulence,” he is implying, “If you have any religious beliefs, it is time to start expressing them.” The passengers were instructed to fasten their seatbelts immediately, and all complied but Ali. So the flight attendant approached him and requested that he observe the captain’s order, only to hear Ali audaciously respond, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The flight attendant, however, did not miss a beat but quickly fired in reply, “Superman don’t need no airplane either!”
Christian writer and speaker Ravi Zacharias: On days when we are tempted by thoughts of invincibility, might we remember that falsely posing as a superman will only ensure a crash landing. In places where we are overwhelmed by turbulent forces and despairing of instability, might we recall that humbly seeking wisdom and following it to its source will lift us to glorious heights.
Proverbs 1:1-7 (ESV): The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (discipline - NIV)
There is also a vast difference between the wisdom of God and of man as 1 Corinthians 1:10 bears that out:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrates. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was please though the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”
King Solomon had the wisdom of God in day though, and he writes well about the seasons we as humans face, the times when it is appropriate to laugh and the times when it is not but is appropriate to cry. Wisdom gives us the discernment to know the difference.
Jesus reprimanded the people he spoke with for not discerning the times. Luke 12:56:
“Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it you don’t know how to interpret this present time.”
What 2014 holds, we do not know for sure, we can only imagine or surmise.
As we minister to each other and the communities we serve as a parish, there are some common goals we can achieve together as well as those we do well as unique to each our own congregation. United in Christ and in joint ventures we can accomplish great and mighty things for the Lord.
Lets take the truth from God we can gain from this passage in Ecclesiastes:
1.God has appointed a season and a time for everything in his plan for each of our lives, for the church, and our communities. He has order and structure in his world.
That gives us reason to seek him as the season or time we are in his plan. That requires wisdom and knowledge from God.
Reminder: He has a set time for everything. It overrides our desires ultimately.
2. God in his wisdom makes all things beautiful in its time.
Gives us reason to be patient with ourselves and each other. We want it yesterday but there are things that must come first and follow and order. Reminder: his timing is not like our timing! All our running about hither and yon is meaningless.
3. God in his wisdom places people in time limitation but nevertheless puts eternity in their hearts giving us limitless hopes. Eternity is more than limitless time. It’s timeless and has depth and breadth beyond comprehension and God gives us desires that have eternal value while our own worldly desires have little value and do not last.
4. God in his wisdom gives us the gift of happiness and satisfaction in our work on earth when in his will. That includes our work together as a cooperative parish seeking to do God’s will for our area and beyond. When we do his work with his power and gifts we feel fulfilled and are happy people as the writer of Ecclesiastes intimates toward the end of the book where he admonishes the reader to obey God to avoid bad consequences and God’s judgment.
As we face a New Year 2014, it is wisdom to reflect on our journey over the last 12 months to see what we could have done better, what we indeed should have done, and what we should not have done. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can gain some wisdom to take with us into New Year 2014 so that it can be a new beginning individually, and corporately in each of our churches and as a nation. Amen.
By Greg Foster
I’ve got a fire in my bones that just won’t go out so I have to get it out here. If I sound wild, I am! I am wild about Jesus and the life he has called us to of righteousness and love!
I am not a “religious” person. Being religious and following Jesus are opposite, by my definition. I only love Jesus and want to follow him and see more of him in my life and others like you. It’s a blessed way to go!
In my last blog, I spoke about the righteousness of Christ we have as a standing with God if we place our faith in him and his death and resurrection for us. In theological terms, it is called imputed righteousness. Read all about it in the epistle of Romans in the Bible.
You may have questions about it all, but it really is quite simple. Maybe your question might be like this one: if I have the imputed righteousness of Christ because of my faith in his death and resurrection for forgiveness of sin and eternal life, is there anything I have to do?
Many Christians feel they are safe under the grace of God alone and do not have to make any effort to live a Christian life or to acquire a Christ-centered mindset toward the world. They go as far as becoming what theologians call antinomian. In other words, no matter how I live, I have the grace of God and I am okay.
Others go the other extreme and become legalists or religious by listing do’s and don’ts to follow. They put people in bondage and remove them from grace rather than teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus Christ by relying on the Holy Spirit to provide the desire and ability to fulfill them.
As a result, many Christian people become lax about making any effort to “work out” their salvation in their daily lives as God commands, drawing on the divine strength he gives. Consequently, non-believers might ask something like “ look at that woman, she calls herself a Christian?”
Why has this sort of thing happened to Christianity? Author and researcher George Barna’s recent survey of American Christianity revealed only nine percent of adults who consider themselves born again have a Christian worldview on morality, integrity, character, and Christ-like living in general. A biblical worldview includes believing in absolute Bible-based moral truth and core beliefs, such as the resurrection and sinless divine nature of Christ, omnipotence and omniscience of God, the virgin birth of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and the reality of Heaven and Hell, as well as the existence of a real devil and his minions, to name a few.
Only seven percent of Protestants possess a biblical worldview! And worse than that, only half of the country’s Protestant pastors have a biblical world view! That is scary! No wonder our society seems on the skids morally and otherwise.
Our pulpits across America blare out messages about material prosperity, happiness, and self-help advice. Where, I ask you, are the Biblical admonitions for godly living, hating the world’s system, and becoming a holy people? I thought the Bible says if you love the world, you do not love Father God.
Also, whatever happened to “godliness with contentment is much gain”, living a simple lifestyle, and praying without ceasing?! Whoever said God does not have expectations of us. I always thought “from whom much is given, much is expected”.
There is so much talk about the need for revival, which to some means more prosperity, bigger numbers in the pews and budgets to pay for larger and larger facilities. Healings, deliverances and miracles galore will abound in a heightened atmosphere of God’s presence and power, they emphasize, to the exclusion of radical faith lived out radically.
What about repentance from sinfulness which the goodness of God leads to? What about purification of the inner life in keeping with God’s holiness. “Be holy as God is holy” and “without holiness, no one will see God.” That sounds like pretty serious stuff to me but something a lot of modern-day Christians have no clue about. It may not be their fault. Although they may not hear it from the pulpit, they can still read their Bibles. Thus all of us are without excuse in our lack of obedience to the commands of Christ.
The true good news of Jesus all who call themselves followers of Jesus should be sharing, preaching, and teaching about should aim at bringing people to maturity in Christ. Half our churches are filled with people who are still in the baby stages of their faith walk or not much beyond that. No wonder congregations rise up against preachers who start calling them to their utmost for his highest.
If we finally get it together by the grace of God, we should see an emphasis in our lives and biblical teaching on not money but maturity, not happiness but holiness, and not getting but giving! Grace with responsibility not cheap grace!
Any winds of genuine spiritual awakening/revival could produce such a change. However, I say calling the whole Body of Christ to such a task can produce a real revival or at least get one sparked as we pursue a biblical worldview and godly living like Jesus. Who knows, maybe we might see a whole transformation of Christianity in our day. That would be awesome! You must admit, it is sorely needed. So take it and run with it!
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When people join most churches, no one asks them if they are a disciple (follower/learner) of Jesus Christ. If you join chances are you become a member, but not necessarily a disciple, a least not with the kind of non-negotiables Jesus talks about in Luke 14:25-33.
Jesus says we must hate our family, which means no hate in the sense of bitterness but in the sense of priority and we must be willing to carry spiritually the crossbar of a Roman crucifix on a daily basis, which means dying to sell in order to live totally for God. Besides all that he says, we must give up all possessions, meaning we cannot be attached to anything or anyone except to cleave to God.
Jesus says no one can be his disciple unless he fulfills all of these stipulations. These are stiff challenges, a lot different than the requirements for church membership, such as simply faith in Jesus Christ, baptism and in some cases to covenant with God and the specific church community. But that is all usually.
Along with all those challenging qualifications to be chosen as a disciple, comes an invitation more appealing to provide balance. Jesus says, as recorded in Matthew's Gospel 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke (teachings) upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)
Hopefully through messages from the pulpit and other teaching moments, people at least receive some instruction. But being a disciple requires more than just instruction if you consider what a disciple really is in the context of Jesus' day. Disciples of rabbis/teachers had to spend time with the rabbi who chooses who may be with him. They must imbibe his life spirit. In others words, the life he teaches is no only taught but caught. They get immersed in the culture of the teacher. They also become apprentices and learned by doing along with the teacher.
Such was the way Jesus taught in his day and once again should be done today to create a discipling culture that permeates and saturates the current church model to change it from a membership focus to a discipleship focus. Leadership will also have to be changed to make it happen. Leaders will have to go from a managerial and chaplaincy model to a spiritual leadership model as disciples themselves.
We are all on a learning curve in the spiritual life and cannot become disciples on our own, but with the Holy Spirit as our teacher inwardly and leaders and spiritual mentors along the way in a community of believers fostering a discipling culture, it can happen. Disciples make disciples and membership follows, but membership does not necessarily create membership.
The small tree in the middle of the falls in Lisbon Fall, Maine has been there a long time weather many storms and river rapids over the year. Somehow a seed fell on the rock where it stands its roots going down into the crevices of the rock in the of this coastal Maine river. No matter how high or how swift the water becomes, it still stands, grows and flourishes for all to see.
How like a life rooted in the solid rock of Jesus Christ and grounded in his Word! When the storms of life hit, the individual remains standing, unmoved, and becomes even stronger because of the strain that exercises one's spiritual muscles. Trouble may come, but such a one sees it as a challenge for his God to cause him to overcome instead of facing defeat or despair. Trouble shows where the roots are.
The prophet Isaiah quoted God saying, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you ; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:1-2)
Often you might hear the expression, “that’s the Gospel truth”, when someone wants to emphasize what they are saying is definitely true fact(s). However, when it comes down to the truth, how many know what the Gospel truth really is?
A lot of mixed messages come from the pulpits all over the world distorting the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. First, of all, Jesus Christ made the bold claim he himself is The Way, The Truth and The Life and no man (human) comes to the Father except through Him (John chapter 14, verse 6).
The Truth is he reveals the truth about the Father, because if you know him personally, you know the Father because they are one. Writers of the early Scriptures have said the Lord our God is One. Our Jewish brothers and sisters have often misinterpreted that to mean there could not possibly be three persons in the Godhead for that reason. However, the Hebrew word for “One” indicates not one only but rather a unity. That makes Jesus claim of being in the Father and Father being in Him possible and even believable. Likewise the Holy Spirit, the breath of God in the early Scriptures known as the Torah and the Prophets to Jews (in Hebrew, ruach) can actually be a person as well and part of the Godhead as Jesus said (“I will send a Comforter”).
Thus, Jesus becomes the vehicle for both imparting the Holy Spirit and revealing the Father to all who believe upon him as the Anointed One of God (The Messiah, The Christ). Jewish believers in the Father, however, have difficulty believing in Jesus as Messiah as spoken of in the Scriptures in prophecy long before Jesus’ birth. Even though Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies in every detail, many people still do not believe and tradition of men has distorted and hidden what is black and white in the Scriptures. A person cannot believe solely by hearing the Scriptures because God himself must open the hearts of all men, Jew and Gentile.
Later, after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Apostle Paul came along to explain in detail what Jesus actually accomplished by his life, death, and resurrection for all mankind. Paul talks in his letters to churches throughout the known world of his day a righteousness from God comes from God by grace – an unmerited gift”. It could only come through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross on which he died. His death had the effect of erasing the sins and nullify the effects of the sin nature that caused them to all who accept Him by faith. (Romans, chapter 3)
Righteousness carries with it two aspects: one, a moral rectitude and two, a right relationship. The righteousness of God accomplished both, the Bible teaches. That should be Good News for both those who have not yet believed in Jesus as the Son of God as well as those who have, who may have been trying to measure up to God’s standards by their own endeavor after receiving His grace.
The kind of righteousness God provides what no man can achieve on his own. “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NIV) , Jesus said. He was not expecting anyone to be able to achieve such a righteousness on his or her own.
The Bible in the Book of Malachi prophesies of Jesus Christ as the Sun of Righteousness who would “rise with healing in his wings” Malachi (chapter 4, verse 2). He became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21). No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven and discern the Kingdom of God without the righteousness of God a person receives as he turns away from his sin and believes in Jesus as the one who has come to set him free from his sin and the bondages that it produces.
No one can boast about themselves for having such a righteousness. Man boasts about his own righteousness but God calls it like “filthy rags”. Good works can never make a man righteous but good works becomes a fruit of the kind of righteousness God provides for us.
“By grace you are saved through faith lest any man boast,” Paul wrote (Romans chapter 2, verse 5)
The earth and heaven both belong to God and God essentially as God and Lord of all decides what is what. We must listen and obey or ignore and disobey to our peril. The Bible warns about hell, and Jesus himself speaks more about hell, which includes the lake of fire in the final judgment of the unjust, all who have ignored or shunned the Gospel and failed to believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths Jesus as Lord.
Heaven, on the other hand, is a real place where people who love Jesus, have believed in him and have followed and obeyed him throughout their lives, go to be with him and the Father forever. Many people have seen both heaven and hell either in after-death experiences or actual visitations or vision of the places. In heaven, people live lives of perfect love and joy filled with the peace of being one with God. In hell, people experience nothing but absolute misery tormented night and day in eternal fire.
People have a choice of where they would like to go? Why would anyone want to choose hell unless they hate God and thus would be miserable in Heaven. Heaven is not just a happy place. It is a place for people who want to live with God and for God for all eternity.
Where will you spend eternity? Do you want to have a foretaste of heaven now. That happens the instant you decide to believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord of your life and follow him all the days of your life. Even in this life, Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
What have you decided? Don’t wait for tomorrow. None of us know if we will have tomorrow.
WHERE WILL YOUR MOORING BE?
Moorings for sailboats in harbors like this one in Rockport, Maine make for protection from the elements and the open sea. The serenity of such a safe harbor differs dramaticalloy from the nearby shores of the rocky coast where ocean waves crash against the rocks.
How like a life anchored in the Word of God, the Holy Bible! Sea billows may rise all around us, but our anchor holds because we can rely on God who in his Word has promised to be our protector. Whatever befalls us, we can count on him to be there for us.
King David of Israel said it well: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord,' He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:1-3)
See latest blogs on reformation of the church entitled "WHERE HAVE ALL THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS GONE?","WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF LIKE?", "TIME FOR A NEW REFORMATION", "BACK TO BASICS", "IS JESUS ENOUGH?","VISION FOR A RENEWED CHURCH", and "ANYONE SEEN JESUS"? also a previous one on relationships and finding healing and wholeness through small group fellowships.....
There is a lot of talk today in the American Christian church about the gospel of the kingdom and comparing and contrasting it with the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let me tell they are one and the same if indeed the Good News contains the whole story. CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE OF "WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD LIKE?"
Believe me, the true church is nothing like man’s creation we often see today. Today’s church in many cases has a man-centered image with man-oriented worship instead of God honoring. Our prayers often amount to making God a cosmic waiter catering to every whim. A lot of people who call themselves believers in Christ are more interested in what God can do for them rather than developing closeness with God to know his mind and putting him first in all things. CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE ON "TIME FOR A NEW REFORMATION"..... .........................................................................................
Recently I was appalled to discover a lot of Christians I know do not fully understand the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ – his blood sacrifice for our sin – as much more than an initial introduction into the Kingdom of God. They had no concept of the awesome spiritual freedom there is in Christ.
As a result, many of them have come into the Kingdom believing they had to struggle against their own sinful nature and the sins that are the fruit of it. They thought all they needed was to be more filled with the Holy Spirit so they could overcome.
Much to their chagrin, many have been on a rollercoaster ride and have not entered into the faith rest God intends for his people. No one ever told them about the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross to deal a fatal blow to sin, sometimes referred to a original sin or the nature or tendency to disobey God and his way. CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE ABOUT "BACK TO BASICS...... ........................................................................................................................................................
The lack of knowledge of the freedom we have because of our faith in Jesus Christ has caused many a believer to fall for doctrines and religious activity that put them in bondage. It all boils down to the church’s failure to teach and preach the Good News instead of bad news that puts people in bondage.
I liken it to a situation in a third world marketplace in which a man tied up chickens’ legs to a string fastened to stick in the middle allowing each of them to walk around in a small circle and no more. After a number of days tied up, the owner untied them. The chickens were free to roam wherever they wanted to go but strangely stayed within the circumference of the circles they had been familiar with.
How like a lot of Christians! CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE OF "IS JESUS ENOUGH?".....
Why are there so many disillusioned people today who don’t feel they fit into any church today? They wander from church to church in search of one they can call home and sometimes have to settle for second or third best.
The reason perhaps lies in the fact many believers seem hard put to find a church where the reality of Christ reigns and actions speak louder than words. Often church leaders accuse them of church hopping and unwilling to make a commitment. CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE OF "VISION FOR A RENEWED CHURCH"......
If Jesus were to appear among us dressed like us, would we recognize him? Unfortunately many churches would not recognize him because they fail to recognize him when he comes in a form we do not expect.
Let me explain. If Jesus came to one of our church services like a paraplegic and required a lot of assistance, and his or her appearance tended to disturb us, we might fail to see Jesus in that person. Why? We most likely expect to see someone nicely groomed and dressed sitting quietly and observing. CLICK ON NEWS FOR MORE OF "ANYONE SEEN JESUS?"
The social network provides a source of communication that gives millions of people connection. Often Facebook and other popular media give people a sense of belonging and even support they may lack otherwise. However, there are times when such means fail us as a source of real strength when undergoing a serious setback or hardship that is beyond our natural capacity.
Thankfully, for that we have the "God of all comfort" spoken of in the Bible in the second letter of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corint h. The word comfort there in the Greek could also be translated as encouragement, both of which signify strength. It essentially means a call for coming alongside one to help. Jesus promised when he returned to the Father in Heaven afer his resurrection he would send a helper or comforter in his place. Some translations give a transliteration of the word as "Paraclete", one who come alongside to comfort, help or strengthen.
For believers in Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit provides the necessary strength when facing challenges and trials beyond our own strength. When people witness the strength we receive from the Helper, it gives faith to others to receive from the same Helper. Paul wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Crhist, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (II Cor. 1:3-5)
Bonjour, mes amies! In March I visited beautiful Quebec City and spent time in the old city with its embattlements and wall surrounding it, making it the only fortified city in North America. In the vacinity lies the imposing Parliament bulding with its tall tower. Atop the tower is the blue and white flag of Quebec Province with its fleur-de-lis waving in the breeze. It flies as a symbol of the proud heritage and strength of its people. It reminded me of another flag, the standard God promises to raise for his people as a symbol of his power and love for them giving them cause for hope in him.
God promises restoration and victory in the face of obstacles and opposition as expressed in the Book of Isaiah ( New Internatiaon Verssion, chapter 59, verses 22-23): "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daiughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.' "
Ever turn on the light in a room and the light bulb goes out? You have to scramble around to search for a new bulb so that you can see what you doing. Once the old bulb is out and the new one is in, you can then proceed with what you intended to in the first place.
Ever turn on the light in a room and the light bulb goes out? You have to scramble around Some of us are scrambling around for spiritual light to find answers to the meaning of lfe, some kind of transcendence, and intimtate relationship. A lot of things out there appear to give spiritual enlightenment but somehow don't provide the real answer to the meaning of our existence. They also fail to give us something or someone 100 percent trustworthy and loving who truly transcends us. He is God and we are not!
Chuck Colson, a contemporary Christian author and speaker had a slogan he had designed as a pin: "TRY GOD!". When Colson speaks about God, he is talking about the God of the Bible, who is a real person who transcends human life and personhood but who became human in the person of Jesus Christ, his only son. The God of the Bible is creator and sovereign over all. That is transcendence! Consider this then that he created us for a love relationship with us such that we can enjoy him and give him glory. That is meaning and that is the epitome of relationships impacting positively all other relationships!
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance!" , the psalmist has said. (Psalm 33:12)
The reprehensible act in Tucson, Arizona last week sent shock waves across the United States but also got people thinking about how we deal with diversity in our country.
Quickly after the tragedy happened, people all came together in unity to support the victims and their families and then gathered for a joint memorial service. The occasion gave President Obama an opportunity to address the gathering and the nation as Head of State and to rally the nation to think about how we treat each other when we disagree.
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A long time ago I heard a parable about small fish, which lived in a small pool. The pool was about to dry up but some of the fish with a vision for only the small pool did not want to leave because they felt so comfortalbe where they were. A couple of the fish, though, thought ahead and risked it to try and see what the adjacent brook would be like. What freedom once they got into the brook! One of them wanted to swim upstream, however and stay in the brook where he felt more confident.
The other was more adventurous and forward thinking. He decided to follow the current of the brook, which eventually led to a river. The river was garganthuan compared to the brook and the small pool. Where would the river take him, he thought. Why not keep going to see where the river would lead. It might lead to something even bigger. Sure enough, his faith did not disappoint him when he landed in the ocean which went on forever!
How much larger than your "pond" is your vision? More importantly, how large is your God who imparts vision to you? Will you be like the early disciples who thought Jesus was about reestablishing Israel as a great kingdom? Or will you see beyond that to the Kingdom of God which Is what Jesus really came to establish within and find new horizons of spirituality and practical living in Him?
Just before the early followers of Jesus were about to receive power from the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, they asked Jesus, "Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Isreal?" HIs reply seemed to evade their question but in actuality anwered it differently than expected: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." (Acts of the Apostles 1:6-8) Jesus had a different vision to impart, larger than this world because of a large God who enables its fulfillment.
A larger vision involves larger risk but also depends on discovery of a larger God on whom we can have faith to carry it out. How large is your God? Perhaps a good exercise at the beginning of this New Year would be to search dilligently to know and see a larger God. Once that happens, faith grows and vision expands automatically.
It doesn't take a prophet to realize we may well be heading for difficult times ahead and possibly near future in the world and America specifically. In fact, Christian ministers with prophetic giftings have foreseen dangerous days over the next few years. One of them here in America, Stephen Choate, who has had an amazing track record, has predicted specific events happening at the end of this year in the nation that will shock people.
Meanwhile people continue on living business as usual expecting blessing when many have turned away from the God who blesses. Protection from disaster comes from God but when people turn away or do not allow him entrance, they leave divine protection. In other words, God's hands are tied.
Jesus warned the religious people in Israel he encountered when he was on earth, "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." (Matthew 16:3)
(The photo shows the sky over the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.)
Years ago people used to save green stamps they would receive after making purchases. They would put them in booklets and save them for something they see in a special catelog depending on the number of stamps they have saved.
Sometimes we save spiritual green stamps on sins we have committed or sins other people have committed against us or we feel God also saves them in his book for every instance. How could God ever forget?
Once we ask forgiveness and turn from our ways, he indeed does forgive and FORGET. This is what he has to say about himself: "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 42: 25) If he can forget, why not us?
Giraffes, like this one at the Giraffe Park in Nairobi, Kenya spend most of their time looking up into trees and high places for food. They actually can't reach food on the ground or keep their heads that far down because they might have a cerebral hemorrhage because of blood pressure.
God’s Word admonishes people to look up to heavenly things, things of faith and not evil or fleshly things of the world. He feeds his people with spiritual food from above that produces life while things below produce nothing but spiritual, emotional and even physical death.
Paul, the writer of Colossians and Philippians in the New Testament, reminded believers in Jesus: "Since, than you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Many over the centuries have searched for the Holy Grail, the communion cup of Jesus Christ supposed by some to have special power. One day while visiting a cathedral in Valencia, Spain I realized it purportedly had on display in one of the niches Christ's communion cup made of alabaster and supported by a gold bracket. The name of the cathedral, in fact, is the Cathedral of the Holy Grail.
What is strange is I was not looking for the Holy Grail and yet discovered what might well be the real thing. How like when we are looking for the answer to the issues of our lives and all the time have it right under our noses. We go frantically about sometimes from person to person and other places to find what we are looking for.
Paul the Apostle wrote in his letter to the church at Colossae, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowlege." In other words, you might say if we have Christ in our lives, he is our Holy Grail and we need not look any further.
If zebras like these photographed in Kenya did not have stripes, would you think they were some kind of horse? Anyone trying to ride one would find out otherwise, since authorities say no one on record has ever tamed or ridden one. Likewise, if you are a Christian, would anyone be able to see distinguishing traits that show you must be one?
The only way people are going to know that the Christ was sent into the world to fulfill a mission of redemption is by our love for one another Love than is the distinquishing mark of a Christian, since God is love. As one of Jesus apostles, John, said, "God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that all who believe in him would not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
When a person believes, he receives the Holy Spirit of the living God so that he has God's love resident within, a quality of love that goes beyond human love. It is divine. It is unconditional even for one's enemies. Are you showing your divine "stripes"? If you do not yet believe, do you want those kind of stripes?
Think of how many garden herbs you could use to flavor food. Each one changes the taste of whatever you are making. So it is when each one of us becomes a part of some family, group or organization. We can either give it a good "flavor" or leave a bad "taste" depending on how we involve ourselves or not involves ourselves with a family, group or organization.
When we are not present or involved at all, the potentially good atmosphere and benefits of being together lacks something. Similarly, if an actor fails to show up for a bit part in some stage production, the seemingly insignificant role takes on more importantance. Likewise, if an actor having such a role messes up his lines, the whole play suffers.
Believers in Christ in Corinth heard from their overseer Paul: "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. The parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment." (I Cor. 12:21-24)
The 9/11 terrorist attack on America the USA remembered this past weekend, brings to mind how unexpected the event was. In our lives there are things that happen unexpectedly we may not be prepared for. Christian speaker Corrie Ten Boom, who survived imprisonment in a concentration camp during World War II, said, "We can entrust an unknown future to a known God."
God knows the past, present, and future of everyone and sovereignly participates in their lives whether they are aware of it or not. His ultimate desire is for good to those willing to surrender their lives to him, a knowable God, who loves unconditionallly.
Jesus comforted his disciples before his death for the redemption of humankind and subsequent resurrection with these words: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1)
Hurricane Earl has passed by the eastern seaboard of the USA leaving a trail of some damage in various locations. A woman commenting on the radio about the aftermath said she has found some good effects from such storms because people reach out to meet and help each other. Thus a sense of community deepens in those times.
Likewise, God always has a way of creating good out evil in our lives and if we trust him, he will turn things around or give us new perspectives to endure them. He aims to give us his perspective on people and situations to draw us closer to him and to make us overcomers for his glory.
In times of desperation, there is no other place to go but to him. Anyone ever in a foxhole could vouch for that. The writer of Psalm 121 in the Bible knew that well, stating, "I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
Much of the northeast coast of the USA is preparing for the worst as Hurricane Earl moves over the Atlantic Ocean, and weather reports keep us informed of its path.
It may be balmy days weatherwise now or in our lives, but God prepares us for the coming storms of life if we tune our hearts to his voice. He not only braces us for the worst but carries us through it all if we lean on him.
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord with compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:49)
We just noticed a verse for Sunday on our calendar after writing this, which seems providential: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you." (Isaiah 43:2)