Saturday, May 26, 2012

Celebrate Life

Ecclesiastes 3:2a,4 - [There is] a time to be born, and a time to die; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...

I went to a funeral service at church Thursday morning for a man I didn't know. I had volunteered to help set up food for the luncheon afterward but for reasons only God knew I ended up at the service! 

I don't know his wife either other than seeing her smiling face as a greeter on some Sunday mornings. Our pastor, Rory Grooters, Victory International Fellowship, did the service. His message, or retelling of this man's life and circumstances leading to his death were so tender and yet so real. As it should be. Real. It touched me (and others who didn't know him well) very deeply.

Pastor minced no words as he told how he became friends with this man two years ago when he started his pastorship with our church. He had been in the hospital, ICU, rehab, and back in the hospital for seven weeks with a rare form of pneumonia. The illness got the better of him and in the end he was on a respirator, his heart and lungs failing. He would not survive.

As Pastor explained his last visit at the hospital with this man and his family, he explained how he was holding his hand and praying and reciting or paraphrasing scriptures to him and the family. He knew this man's heart was not going to recover. These were his last minutes.

One of the scriptures that came to mind was the one in Ecclesiastes above. He quoted it to the man. It's not the most comforting one but it is real. It's true for all of us.

There is a time to live and a time to die, Pastor said to us. It's how you live those years in between that matter most. And most importantly, as I see it, how the last years of our lives are lived out. 

He described a bit this man's life, how his father died when he was quite young, how he had been placed in a boy's home growing up, how he admitted once to his wife how he had never really felt he'd been loved. 

In time he became an abusive alcoholic. Those were tough years. But his wife stuck by his side. But somehow in 1995 this man came to know a love unlike any other. He came to know the love of Jesus Christ. He had given his life to Jesus and a transformation began to take place. The pain of his past, his alcoholism and abusiveness changed him into a kind hearted teddy bear of a man who people did not recognize anymore or would never have guessed was the type of man he had been. The love of Christ came out instead. He will forever be remembered not as he once had been but for who he had become in later years through his life in Christ.

You see, Christ has the power to change hearts and souls. He takes the stony heart filled with anger, bitterness, shame and guilt over others' mistakes toward us or our own sinful life choices and replaces it with a heart of flesh able to be set free from that anger, bitterness, shame or guilt...or anything else we carry as baggage.

Then pastor described the man's tensing up when he was told he would not recover, that his heart and lungs were failing. But comforting words about what lay ahead for him because of Jesus was a comfort to him and he relaxed and allowed himself to go, to be at last in the presence of God. 

In our church funerals are not always somber events if we know the spiritual condition of the departed. They are celebrations of the new life in Christ, with the new hope ahead in standing face to face with Jesus. Sitting by His side without pain, sorrow or tears. It almost brings a hint of jealousy to those who still remain. 

Yes, there is grief in losing someone. Yes, there will still be days feeling the loss. There will be a time of transition living without that person's company. Routines will be different. But during this time of healing there is one thing that remains: knowing that there was a time in that person's life when Jesus became the focal point and that eternal security is secure...and one day they will meet again, where Jesus' face, as Pastor Rory often states, replaces our faith. Oh, heavenly day! May we all know that joy in our own hearts.

It is said that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it only remains a seed, but if it dies it produces many seeds (John 12:24). I wonder how many seeds were produced at this man's dying? How many hearts will turn to Christ and lives be changed because of one whose seeds are produced by those who die in our lives...and words of life are spoken instead of words of sorrow at the gathering of family and friends for the dearly departed? 

God has given us His Son that we may have the hope of eternal life but it is up to us to receive Jesus by faith, confess our sins directly to Him, ask Him to forgive us...and then seriously follow after Him so we can have the assurance of the same life in Christ on earth and also with Christ in heaven. I know which choice I have made. Do you?

2 Samuel 14:14 - Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All The Wisdom

Matthew 7:24 -  Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.

An addendum to yesterday's blog! I had forgotten about the Oswald Chambers devotion for the day (May 23) and another message I received by David Wilkerson…both connected…naturally. Everything should be and really is connected to the Word of God, if we know Jesus as our Savior!

Oswald Chambers scripture for that day: ... do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on —Matthew 6:25.

This is all part of trusting in the Lord for all things. His Word is power, comfort, strength, wisdom, knowledge and so much more. When we worry about our lives and all our needs it places undue strain on us. 

Tuesday morning we were reminded by a woman giving a testimony that fear is a sin. I've known this and am forever being reminded of it and yesterday morning it was that one thing out of many that she said that hit me right between the eyes. My thoughts were: Jesus as Savior, as perfect love, casts out all fear. Worry, anxiety and anything like that is a type of fear…and also a sin.

So what happens when we are faced with troubles of the world? Doesn't anxiety just sort of happen? That's why it's so important to have the Word of God at our fingertips and in our hearts, that we know we are not without help. That's why it needs to be spoken and impressed upon in our hearts…so anxiety is cast away.

But what kind of help can that be to us? The help may not come in the way we expect it. It may be just the peace that passes all understanding in a difficult situation. Don't forget that God's ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts like our thoughts. He knows best what our needs are. And I'm pretty sure (!) He thinks the first need we need to need is that relationship, that intimate knowledge of Jesus as our Lord and Savior; to have that new life in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our God will provide when we need it most… and just what we need. We don't always need what we think we need. Physically we might need to take steps ourselves to make positive changes in the way we are treating our bodies (but the Lord will help us). Financially sometimes we have to make a concerted effort to cut back the spending. Then there are also times when God just miraculously provides…because He knows what we need and exactly when…even when it comes to our spiritual condition and health.

Fear of death can be replaced with comfort and peace knowing that spiritually, if we have the Lord Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are saved. We need not fear the torment of an eternal life separated from God. So death should not be a fearful thing, if we know Jesus. If there's fear, we don't know Who it is waiting on the other side of our earthly life.

Fear, worry and anxiety, according to Chambers, is unbelief…and that, too, is a sin. We are told to let all these things go. Give it over to Jesus. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion, Chambers states. Confusion causes the anxiety. Put Jesus first, put His Word in our hearts, know His Word and anxiety dissipates.

Know what the scriptures say. Take them to heart. Meditate on them. Not like yoga where you're supposed to empty your mind to get rid of the garbage and noise that enters minds  and destroys serenity and peace. (Meditate is to reflect on, think can you do that by emptying your mind?) We are to fill our minds with the things of God, the things that are good and true and just...things that bring comfort and peace. And He will bring them! Then speak them forth. Manifest them in your life. 

And then also after writing the blog I came across this in my email from David Wilkerson. The message was called Building on the Rock. If we are not loving on Jesus, serving Him, obeying Him, meditating on His words, we are building our lives on sinking sand. That doesn't sound to hopeful and definitely would cause fear. He is to be our Rock, our strength. It is imperative that we spend time in the Word and in His presence to maintain that peace in life, that security, that strength for anything that arises.

See, it still is all about Jesus. I really don't know how many different ways there are to explain that everything is all about Jesus. He is our Word come to life. He is our truth. He is our shelter from storms. He is our strength, wisdom, peace, provision. 

Colossians 2:2-3 - that [your] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nothing More Powerful

Hebrews 4:12a - For the word of God is living and powerful...

As I was spending time with the Lord this morning, I was thinking about a friend who is dealing with a health issue. Occasionally I will send a scripture to encourage her. And a thought zipped through my mind, not the first time, but as yet another reminder...there is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. Yes, I'm trying to encourage her to seek God's strength, not man's and not her own. We are weak on our own, but that weakness, when given to the Lord and replaced with His strength, becomes our strength.

No human words of encouragement can replace the Word of God. Our words may sound good, but there is something about the Word of God being spoken into a person's life...because it brings weary souls, even to those who don't realize the power of God. It's the very act of speaking it forth or in some cases, writing it forth! I looked up "word" in the Baker's Bible dictionary and this one one explanation: the human word mirrors the human condition: it is limited, fallen, and dependent on divine intervention for restoration and sustenance. So much depends on God's Word.

John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Psalm 119:50, 105 - This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Proverbs 30:5 - Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

What more encouragement can these scriptures be? The Word has always existed and created all things. It brings comfort, life, light in a dreary world, a those who put their trust in Him, the Living Word.

God's Word is true and just. His promises are true. His Word will not return void. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. God has sent His Word to the world, both in His Word, the Bible, and through His Word, His Son Jesus.

So, ultimately, nothing is more powerful than Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. His promises are true to those who receive Him, call on His name, have faith in Him over faith in the things of this world, which do not stand the test of time. When you receive Him by faith, the Holy Spirit of truth and life opens the eyes of understanding so hearing the Word, hearing Jesus' words speaking to us, become our ultimate knowledge. 

There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. His Word (the Bible and Jesus) will never pass away, despite the things of the world doing so. Let us speak forth His Word, in scripture, in Jesus and in Jesus' name. Let us strengthen and arm ourselves, and others, with the "honest to God" truth of His Word.

Isaiah 55:11 - So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arms Outstretched

2Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 

I was reading a devotion about morality this morning and how society has defined it in these current days. How society has changed moral values, even making laws regarding them, and continues to do so, as they see fit. Laws that need to be adhered to. The Bible is very clear on all issues, but I'm not so certain all our leaders understand this. Well, one thought led to another and as I started putting my thoughts on paper, even those thoughts evolved into something unexpected, yet related (I think).

What stood out in the article for me was Jesus' mission. He came to earth not to mingle with the so-called elite but with those of less standing. He came for you and me and to proclaim what is true. But, you might say, I'm a good person. I'm a good husband/wife/father/mother/employer/employee/provider, etc.  I know others who are not so good. Which law tells us this? We are not to compare ourselves with others...because none are righteous! All need Jesus. All.

Jesus was looked upon by the religious leaders as blasphemous. Can you imagine that? Jesus! They were pretty high and mighty in their thinking that their knowledge of the laws of God made them superior. So much so that they could not see Jesus for who He truly was. Who was HE to think He was better than they...and yet somehow they knew He spoke with authority and wisdom, which infuriated them and threatened them.

These leaders commanded everyone to adhere to their laws, though they, themselves kept having to create new laws to prevent the original law from being broken, or putting a fence around the law. They, too, struggled. If they had listened to Jesus they would have understood that even they were not capable of maintaining their so-called goodness/righteousness. No one is righteous...not one. Jesus was proclaiming even they needed a Savior, which fell on deaf ears, as happens today. And the laws of morality keep changing to suit the current demands of the day so as not to offend or cause anyone to feel guilty or "bad." Because, after all, we are all "good" people, aren't we?

No one is NOT in need of Jesus. No one. He spent His time with sinners and included religious leaders in this mix. And He gave of Himself for them...for us. He selflessly gave of Himself. He reached out to those in need. He did not turn anyone away, although He would rebuke those who thought they knew better. He's still doing that. 

Until we know Jesus in the depths of our souls, He will keep poking our spirits. I have been thinking these past few days for some reason about something I know I've written about before. The day before I received Christ I was still believing very adamantly that I didn't need what I didn't know then was called a relationship with Christ. I knew of Him, believe He lived, died and rose again. But the idea of getting any closer was not on my agenda. What for? 

I can mentally see my arms stretched as far outward as possible pushing Jesus, who was calling me, wanting me to become His, away. Pride, I know now, was the reason. I was doing fine on my own. What was all the hullabaloo about Jesus? I could manage my own problems, which just wasn't true. I didn't need to be any closer. I didn't need anyone prompting me to come to church, to just give it a try. I didn't need anybody telling me what to do. I just didn't! So I pushed away. 

But like Saul who became Paul, a change was to take place in an instant. In an instant. An instant. Like the Damascus Road experience. I remember the agitation I felt about (what I perceived as) the confrontation with my sister-in-law. She was gentle in her words, as she always is, but I viewed them as nagging. Stop bringing this church thing up to me, was probably what I was thinking.

Then the words that changed me from resisting to giving in happened, without warning and with great confusion, she said: I hear God's voice. In that instant, those outstretched, pushing arms became almost an inward collapse to my knees with tears and words I cannot believe I said: I want that! Where did that come from? Who could have ever guessed my resistance could have been broken in an instant. I was toast!! The next day despite how strong I thought I would be in that church service, I melted like wax. Jesus became my Lord, my light and my salvation. Replacing my outstretched arms were His outstretched arms welcoming me into His kingdom, to my kinship with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This can happen to anyone at any time, and not even in church! Why some resist, or how, is beyond me. It just ain't their time, I guess! But that's okay. The Lord's timing is always perfect. He's always right on time. All the struggling, all the resistance, only brings a greater fall. Either we fall into Jesus' arms or to our own devices and failure. Which is it we want to do? Jesus is not the crutch so many believe He is. He is our strength, our wisdom, discernment, peace...and most of all our salvation.

I'm thankful He didn't give up on me. His timing IS perfect. It always will be.

Titus 1:1b-3 - ...according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at His appointed season He has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Words of Life

John 6:68 - But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Lord, how can I not enjoy reading Your Word? There is so much promise in it even though it was written thousands of years ago to the people of Israel and their nation. It truly is Your love letter to Your children. Open the eyes of the world to this realization. Send Your Spirit that all might see and understand for it is only through Your Spirit that we can fully understand.

Your Word shows Your love, Your strength, Your judgment and Your redemption that leads to life to and for those You call Your children. It becomes Your presence, O God. You speak to us through Your Word. But we must realize ALL the words. We cannot take only the good words and apply them to our lives; we must heed the tough words too. 

Despite Your disappointment and judgment for the world who does not seek You, You love and You show us what we need to do to maintain Your love in our lives. You show us the judgment that comes upon us if we do not listen. You have shown us through Your Word where life is, how it is obtained...and what happens if we choose not to listen. Sadly, some do not recognize this.

You sent Your Son Jesus to become our salvation. You couldn't allow us to wallow in our sin. Your Word shows us these things. You get angry like any parent would when a child has done wrong. If we do not accept Your love You leave us to our own devices. It's our choice. I see a world falling to its own devices. Lord, help the world.

Your Word is life. In the midst of the troubles of this world, all we have is You. There is a song I was just made aware of called Pursuit by Kim Walker-Smith. I listened to just the beginning of it and was prompted to write. In this song the words proclaim: I will pursue You, I can't live without Your presence, I'm pressing in to You so do not pass me by, I'm breaking through the boundaries, I will NOT be denied. Yes, You must be pursued. Your presence must be part of our daily lives. It's how we survive in this world and how we enter into Your kingdom at our last breath. I will not be denied!

Heavenly Father, You are all we need. You tell us in Your presence is fullness of joy. You give wisdom, understanding. You never change and that means Your love never changes, either for those who do not seek You nor for those who You call into Your glorious light, who receive Your Son and seek You with all their hearts. Lord, forgive me for times when I have lost my way or have forgotten how to seek You. I thank You, Lord, that even if we don't think we are in Your presence or don't sense it or even think there is something more we need to do, for this is our nature, to be in that place, You are there. No condemnation for those who love You.

Your words are life.

When we experience bad days, we are to praise You. We are to seek You for all things, not just when we need You most. The truth is, we need You most ALL the time. There shouldn't be a step we take that You are not a part of. 

Let this child open her voice to show this to those around me. Let Your presence be seen through me. Let her words be life and love, as Yours are to me. Let her devotion to You be noticed.

Thank You for Your words of life, strength, compassion, judgment and promise. Let my pursuit never falter. Let my pursuit be evident.

And thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness. Thank You that even as I wrote this prayer You were putting the words of the part of the video I had not heard yet into my heart and into my words to You. Hearts joined, one heart, one mind, one Spirit, Your desires given to me. Praise You Lord! I will continue in my pursuit of You.

Acts 5:20 - [The angel of the Lord said] “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life." 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Next?

Psalm 119:152 - Long ago I learned from Your statutes that You established them to last forever.

I don’t know if this made big news or not. I heard about this yesterday morning. It's another idea that our God, who created the heavens, the earth and man, can be put into that proverbial "box." That somehow if there is a way to remove Him from all public buildings or parks or government that He really will be removed. Let me just say that those who attempt to do this will meet with strong judgment some day...and will know they failed.

What in the world am I talking about, you ask? The federal judge in Giles County, Virginia, who is working to modify “offensiveness” of a display of the Ten Commandments at the Narrows High School, Narrows, Virginia, by reducing the Commandments to six, removing the first four, because a student was offended. Come on people.

Well, that hit a big, fat nerve in me! As it seems to have hit nerves among the students at the school as well. The first four Commandments are the foundation of the others, just like God is to be the foundation of our lives. They are first because they are the most important of all Commandments. Removing these four is a slap in the face of our God. It is another display of rejection toward Him. But then, this is a sign of the times.  The Apostle Paul warned Timothy: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God... always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2Timothy 3:1-4, 7)

This world is changing; this country is changing. It’s becoming easier to push God aside for the sake of tolerance. Those who reject Him will be judged…and condemned. But Jesus did not come to condemn; that condemnation, as I see it, is put upon a person by his own rejection of the things of God…including the intolerance of Christianity disguised as tolerance of religion.

There are many who say there is a God but still do not believe all that the Bible claims. Yes, Jesus does love us; but He also will judge if we do not return that love, if we decide to make of Him what we want Him to be...we want being the key words. Jesus will return some day and those willing to follow Him, to receive Him into their lives, to live a life for Christ, will be saved. 

So this judge is asking if the Ten Commandments could be reduced to six to eliminate the offense the first four are for some. This is yet another form of watering down the truth of the Gospel. We cannot pick and choose which scriptures we want to believe or live by. We must accept them all.

Let's see. What might the first four commandments say? Remember, they are the foundation of His law. Above all things, He is the LORD our God and:

1 - You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 - You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...
3 - You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Removing the first four Commandments remove the mention of God, clearly the one who wrote the commandments in the first place. What is left after those Commandments are gone are commands we all agree should be adhered to anyway. But removing God's name...isn't that a little like putting other gods before Him?

Yes, He is a jealous God. He longs for our devotion that He might bless us with spiritual blessings, the necessities of a good life in Christ, the hope of a future so unbelievable we cannot comprehend it, we cannot put words or images to what it will be like.

Ah, but this is what the world is coming to. It reminds me of the Great Flood. The people were repeatedly warned by Noah that the flood was coming but the people heeded him not. What flood? They'd never known a flood; couldn't comprehend what it was. This Noah was a crackpot. One day their lives were filled with frivolity, arrogance, disobedience to God, recklessness and love of pleasure. They had no need to believe Noah. And the next day...the flood took them out. An angry God? A jealous God. Jealous for our affection to Him. Jealous for our hearts and lives.

This story of the Flood is one we might want to heed today before God chooses to return and cradle those He calls His children against the disasters the world is setting itself up for.

Perhaps I might be called a crackpot. We'll see some day. I'd rather be seen as a crackpot today than one lost in the next disaster before Jesus returns. Yes, God despises His name being bandied about, removed, ignored, spat upon. His Word will stand the test of time no matter how hard people of misunderstanding and intolerance try to remove it. Praise our God! 

Luke 21:33 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.