Changing Times

This one will be short.  There is a reason. Things are changing.

In times of uncertainty I’ve always turned to Proverbs 3:5-6.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

What’s interesting is how this morning my wife pointed me to Proverbs 3:25-26.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

There are many ways that God can speak to humanity.  I read a story this week where Dolly Parton said, “I think God is in this, I really do.”  In times past, He has acted through a flood.  God performed miracles through Moses and brought plagues to Egypt to accomplish His purposes.  God sent serpents into the camp of His own people to get their attention.  God can use any and all means at His disposal to get our attention.  Believe it or not, God can even use a 1964 singer-songwriter now maybe considered a prophet named Bob Dylan.  Don’t believe me?  Read these words carefully.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

These changing uncertain times bring yet another opportunity to the family of God to unite with a message of eternal hope, even if the world as we know it changes into something unrecognizable.  Because this world is not my home.  I am just passing through.  So what can I do??

The short, and the sweet of it all is simple.

God demonstrates His power by still being in Control, either we believe it or we don’t.
Jesus claims in Matthew 28:18 “All Authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” and either we believe it or we don’t.
The Holy Spirit residing now in true believers all over the world represents God’s abiding Presence among all of mankind.

Either we believe it or we don’t.

Remember, Solomon was wise enough to teach us:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.

 

Share with your friends, and trust God for the results.

Chimers, Haters, and Nay-Sayers

Is COVID-19  a life or death crisis?  A little perspective here might be nice for all of us.  In your neck of the woods, you may not know anyone who is infected or in an urgent care condition from this virus.  This does not mean that others around the block, in another state, or around the world are not facing serious life and death battles with their health.  So, we all have a choice to make when we are not the ones facing these issues.  Do we pretend that all the news reports are fake news?  Do we denigrate the leaders we don’t like because we think their communication is just constant fear-mongering babble?  Do we offer an opinion on issues when we can’t possibly see the larger picture, or all the details that are prompting all these local, state, and national reactions to this war with … aren’t you tired of hearing it yet… COVID-19?

So, here’s the thing.

I read an article yesterday about a Hollywood celebrity who Tweeted about her support for  how our President is handling the crisis in our country.  Immediately she was ridiculed by the other celebrities and followers on her account since not many folks in that community support anything President Trump does.  But I loved her response:

“You can tell a lot about people who belittle you for your views and beliefs, when u aren’t even TALKING TO THEM!” the “Look Who’s Talking” actress wrote. “My bestie and I call these people CHIMERS ..they ALWAYS chime in when u are speaking to someone else.”

Chimers

So, yes, I got the word “Chimers” from Kirsti Alley’s tweet, because it resonated with me.  A lot of people do a lot of “chiming in” today.  Most of it unsolicited, most of it negative, most of it hurtful, most of it we are all better off without.  I have to admit that in my past, I have probably chimed in way too much, with very little impact other than making some people royally ticked off.  Today I just blog.  I am happy to have a voice when asked, but I try really hard to not rock on other people’s opinions or posts or ideas, if I can help it.  Where’s the gain in that anyway?

Haters

You’ve heard the phrase, “Haters are just gonna hate, and judgers are gonna judge!”  And largely today this is true.  I live in Denton county, in Texas where the local authorities have just issued a “shelter in place” restriction.  But they did it in such a way that caused me huge concern about our society as a whole.  I’m reminded of Greg Gutfeld, who has written a great article you may want to check out titled “The Prison of Two Ideas.”

Yesterday, my impression of what  the Judge in Denton county and Mayor of the city of Denton said was (my paraphrase-not a direct quote):

“You will follow this new ordinance and stay in your homes, and not leave for anything except essential services or you are just selfishly putting everyone you engage at risk of infection and death.”

So look.  I hate this virus.  I hate that people in Denton County are suffering, and may die, just like others around our nation and the world, I hate it.  But don’t make me the culprit of all the death in the world, or even someone in the city of Denton, because I went outside and spoke with my neighbor yesterday.  Please don’t call me selfish, because I would like some normalcy in my life.  That’s just absurd.

This kind of hate-mongering, name-calling, illogical over-reaction to COVID-19 is the very reason why people are wondering how they’re going to pay their bills, or keep their mortgage up, or buy new clothes for the kids in the fall when they do go back to school.  Come on people, a little perspective ok?

Nay-Sayers

Right about now, someone reading this might say, “Dude, you sound a lot like a Chimer and a Hater about now.”  Sorry if you think that, it wasn’t my intention.  So, let me try one more time to help you with what I’m trying to say.

There were those who believed in God a long time ago who thought they knew more about spiritual matters than anyone else on earth.  God in fact had chosen them among all other nations of the earth to be His People.  Yet, when God showed up in the flesh, to bring salvation not just to them, but to all people, they became such intense nay-sayers that they plotted to have a Roman Governor of Judea hang Him on a cross.  “You cannot possibly be our Messiah!”  “You claim equality with Yahweh?  Blasphemy!”  “You break the very laws God gave us to live by, what Messiah would teach people to do that?!”

For thousands of years now, people have been suggesting Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, but certainly not God, and definitely not the Savior of the world.

Well, guess what. That is a personal choice that every individual is given the privilege of deciding for themselves.  Chimers, haters, and nay-sayers are always going to look at me and say, “how can you possibly believe that rubbish?”  Yet, I want to live my life in such a way that when crisis comes to town, something like say, COVID-19… that those folks will see my faith as Rock solid, not filled with fear or uncertainty.  I want my speech to be filled with loving words of hope.  I want everyone who knows me to know I believe with absolute certainty that God is in Control, Jesus is who He claims to be, and nothing since the beginning of time has taken Him by surprise.

Let’s not be a chimer, hater, or nay-sayer.

Instead, let’s act like true Christ-followers and give these folks something to think about, something to hope in, something to believe in that will see them through dark days of doubt and confusion.

Jesus is the Rock.  Jesus is in Control.  He holds it all, including you, right in His hands.

 

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What is “Normalcy” today?

Last evening I experienced something as close to normalcy as possible in today’s crazy zany mixed up world.  Actually most of the whole day was pretty normal, in terms of my activities.  After I got up, had some morning coffee, ate a breakfast burrito, and drank some apple juice, I began my prep work for smoking meat.  This past week one of the items still available at my local food store was Baby Back Pork Ribs, and, they were on sale! Yippee Skippee!  I bought four full racks, and spent less than the cost of two large pizzas.  Can I get a “hallelujah!”?  But I digress.

Anywhoo, after all my prep work was done, it was time for “On-line” church, so my wife and I worshipped “remotely” from the safety of our living room.  The time we spent singing and listening to God’s Word was delightful, and while not “NORMAL” in the sense of going to a church building, we still felt connected to those like us who were making the most of our time, and doing the right thing!  Singing praises to the LORD Jesus.

When worship was over I put the ribs on the smoker, here’s a pic of the ribs before the goodness of the smoke cooks them into a delicacy!

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After five hours in the smoker, all wrapped in foil, and sitting in warming mode in the oven, it was time for me to clean up, and prepare for the “normal” part of the evening.  The rule of thumb in our area of Texas is to not congregate with more than 10 people, and use common sense about knowing the risks, and taking precautions.  That said, I cooked these ribs for a group of my wife and I, and two other couple friends.  We arrived around 5pm, had a wonderful time of loving each other, sharing good food, playing card games, and discussing spiritual matters and current events.  That is about as “normal” as it can get, and still be in “safe” mode.

We joked, we laughed, and generally just tried to appear normal for a few hours.  We all left around 9pm to our respective homes, refreshed by the fellowship of human relationships that are meaningful and loving.  We ate way too much, and everybody got a take home bag of ribs for leftovers.  How fun huh?

Now, on Monday morning, I’m back to reality, and trying to get a handle on how to deal with the ongoing issues of how to just be “normal.”  And it is quite challenging.  One thing I did today was return to our local food store for this week’s supplies of nourishment.  During the first few minutes of walking around the store, I became aware of a sense of “blah” from the people I passed.  So, I decided to just try a “social” experiment.  I didn’t try to get anyone to engage in conversation, I simply smiled at them, and tried to get them to smile back.  No, not one of those creepy “who is this crazy man” smiles.  You know, the kind where people just genuinely know you care kind of smiles.  Some smiled back, some didn’t, it was maybe 50-50 on the whole.

But, is this the new “normalcy” where people are shopping for food and can’t even smile?  I wondered how many of them were actual Christ-followers and I wondered how many were far from God in their own chaotic world without hope or promise.  I wondered if my smile had made a difference.  What else could I do?

I would never try to minimize the importance of following local and national government instructions for social distancing and self-quarantine when there is infection.  That said, if you have no symptoms, maybe when you do get out in the public eye, you might try just smiling.

Also, it might help us all to listen as close to God’s word as we do the NEWS media which seems more pervasive and invasive than ever.  Last week I wrote about being still and knowing that God is in control.  That’s in Psalm 46:10.  Maybe some of you went ahead and read the whole substance of Psalm chapter 46.  But if you didn’t, maybe it would help give some context about being still and understanding God is in Control. It begins this way…

Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

I don’t think it’s possible to feel normal again yet, and maybe we won’t ever return to the same place we were before COVID-19.  But here’s the thing, would that be such a bad thing?  Hasn’t this helped many people reconnect with family?  Hasn’t it helped many people question the value of some of their previous activities?  Hasn’t this situation turned many people’s minds toward spiritual values, and looking to God for answers?  Yes, Yes, yes, and YES!

So what is normalcy? Who gets to define that?  No one yet.  But God is still in control.  Even in this very abnormal confusing frustrating time.  Trust Him.  Obey Him.  Declare and proclaim Him LORD of ALL.  Why can’t this be the new “normal?”

 

Surrender, Submission, Adoration

I sat here today reviewing my week of writing.  All of these posts remind me that I’m perhaps more like the prophet Jeremiah than Jerry Seinfeld whose comedy is based in truth but makes us all laugh our heads off at it anyway.

I wanted to take a lighter look at our current circumstances and found this entertaining meme of FaceBook.

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It is important to be able to keep laughing, find the humor in our circumstances, and let off some of that pent up depression.

How do we do that?

Surrender indicates an end to the resistance of an enemy or opponent, and coming under the enemy or opponent’s authority.  When panic and paranoia result in fear the enemy of God, who is our enemy, gains authority over us.  This enemy doesn’t stop until the fear has totally ruined a life, resulting minimally in a debilitated human existence or death.  Depending on which translation of the Bible you read, the command “Fear not!” or “Do not be afraid!” is found between 105 to 365 times.  Some will see the discrepancy of these numbers to negate the basic message.  However, if God repeated it only a few times, say 5 times in the whole of Scripture, would it still not be God’s Authoritative  voice commanding  His children to not be afraid?  So when we are afraid, are we not fighting against God’s providential care and concern?  Listening to God’s enemy who wants us to be afraid, means we are surrendering to that fear infused whispering from the father of lies himself.

God’s word says:

Psalm 23:4 –
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Submission is often used as a synonym for surrender.  Usually this is derived from context, as when a person might be “forced into submission.”  However, it seems to me that surrender is about a person thinking they have no other choice; while submission is almost all about choice.  When a persons submits, rather than continuing to resist the enemy’s whispering temptation to fear, they simply quit struggling, they give up.  In becoming so passive about God’s command, they may not be afraid, but they are also not pursuing the fight to stay alert, and listen to God’s sole authoritative word for direction.

God’s word says:

James 4:7
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

What of “Adoration” then?

The definition of this action is perhaps best found in its synonyms:  love, devotion, care, affection, admiration, worship, glorify, praise, extol, laud, magnify, etc.

When we read the scriptures from the beginning to the end, the whole Bible is filled with the wonderful promises of a Creator who loves human beings as His highest creation.  We know from the Creator’s revealed word, that He only wants the best for us.  We also discover in these same Scriptures how God’s enemy seeks to destroy us, simply because we are God’s highest creation.  All the promises of God are based in the simplicity of saying “yes” to God’s voice of authority, and saying “no” to the enemy’s temptations or attacks to keep us from glorifying God.

So consider this word from God, spoken through the Apostle Paul:

2 Corinthians 1:20
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him (JESUS) they are yes; therefore also though Him (JESUS) is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

If God says He will act in a certain way, the promise of this action is “YES” in Jesus.  When a person steps over the line of faith into saving faith provided in Jesus, then all of God’s promises are enacted and empowered through His Son – Jesus.  God says He alone has the power to save, to create, to uphold, to heal, to direct, and to sustain us.

  • God does not force us into surrender.
  • God does not belittle us into submission.
  • God gives us choice to serve Him in completely devoted adoration.

In choosing to serve God alone, to worship God alone, to listen to God’s authoritative voice as the sole authority for life, in our crazy mixed up world, we hear “Yes” in the loving voice of our Savior.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Today, choose life.  Do not surrender to the father of lies and become fearful.  Do not surrender to the rantings on social media, or the talking heads breeding doom and gloom on the television.  Do not submit by becoming an impassive voice, thinking it is better just to quit resisting.

Today, choose life.  Choose to live a life of adoration for the ONE who can deliver us from this unseen enemy called COVID-19.

Live in humility before the Creator of all things… casting all your worries and fears on Jesus … because “He cares for YOU!”

Loving God doesn’t have to mean giving up a sense of humor either.

Choose life.  Find something to laugh at today.

Intentionality

Right about now even the strongest hearts and minds are subject to the efforts of Satan, to use COVID-19 spreading fear and panic among human beings across the world.  While each of us wants to be strong and courageous, modeling our faith and trust in the LORD for those around us, we can easily be defeated from reaching this goal without some specific intentionality in our daily lives.

One aspect of this crisis is the car-crash syndrome.  You know what I mean.  You’ve been in traffic jams before.  There are those events which take an inordinate amount of time to continually creep toward what is causing the long delays.  The highway during these times resembles more of a long winding parking lot.  Arriving on the scene of some horrific entanglement of metal and road, you discover the delay was someone’s life being altered forever in the vehicle that was crushed.

On the other hand, you have probably been in those traffic tie-ups that slowed everyone down for miles and miles, only to have the traffic suddenly return to normal speeds, with no evidence at all of what caused all the fuss.  I’ve said on more than one occasion, “What was that all about?”

When we look back in the weeks ahead at this very frustrating couple of months we are still working through, for some, life will have changed forever. For others, it will be more like life returning to normal, after a brutal slow-down period of isolation and social distancing, toilet paper hoarding and disruption of lifestyles.

What can you do right now to make your experience in this crisis more tolerable?  One is to be more intentional about everyday life, and the activities that help you pass this time while preserving your sanity and peace.  There are going to be those who say this would be a great time to binge watch that old favorite TV show on whatever streaming media channel you use for entertainment.  And this will surely while away the hours, but is this the best use of your time?

Others might suggest getting outdoors for a walk or run and soaking up some sun.  Or heating up the swimming pool and floating in the sun, all the while imagining yourself on that deserted Caribbean beach with white sands and cool tropical breezes.  I’m sure both options could help with the cooped up feelings we struggle with right now.

May I suggest another activity that also has the inherent ability to bring encouragement and peace when things are not always looking so bright and cheery.  Get that Book of all books, and turn to Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae.  Specifically, and with intentionality, focus your thoughts on Jesus Christ, the LORD.  Read with the idea of learning something new, or rediscovering something that will help you personally during these trying times of isolation.

Paul wrote with this intention: Colossians 1:10-12

“… so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”

If anyone today should be “walking” with confidence and assurance, without fear of anxiety, it ought to be those true Christ-followers who serve the risen LORD Jesus!  Paul says we should be “strengthened…attaining all steadfastness and patience, and living in joyous thanksgiving.”  This words are not just lip-service to spiritual philosophies, Paul modeled firsthand for us how to do this while he struggled to serve Jesus.

But how do we get there from here?  We are so diverted by all the stories of the virus.  We are so concerned about the unknown nature of the virus and when it will all be over.  We are cutoff from our friends and family.  How do we become strong again?  How do we maintain peace and patience?  And many you might be thinking “what is there to be joyously thanking God for right now?”

I’m so glad you asked! Verse 13 is the answer to those very questions!

For He (the Father) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus), in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We have been rescued from something far more deadly than the Coronavirus.  Jesus has rescued us from ourselves.  He rescued us from that God-defying willful shaking of our fist at our Creator and saying “I don’t need you!”  When we said “yes” to God’s love and turned away from our own thoughts of how to save ourselves, Jesus rescued us from “the domain of darkness.”

So during these dark days of social distancing and isolationism, let’s focus on the ONE who can restore our strength, help us be strong and courageous, and joyously thank Him for rescuing us from ourselves.

Here He is.  Read it slowly.  Dwell on the words, letting them sink deep into your thoughts and hearts.  His name is Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Everything we need, right this minute, is found in Jesus Christ the LORD.  Nothing else satisfies.  Nothing else matters.  Did you see it?  Do you see it now?  Right in the middle of this deep theological truth written by the Apostle Paul, is the singular truth that must be the foundation of our intentionality for living.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

My dear friends the only reason any of us are still here is because Jesus is holding this world together.  This one fact alone should cause our lips to joyously praise Him and thank Him for His steadfast love.

Today, as you face another day of Coronavirus madness, turn your eyes upon Jesus and say “Thank you, LORD, for rescuing me. Thank you, LORD, for holding everything together.”

Missing You

Since the time I was a teenager out in West Texas, I’ve followed basketball, football, and golf.  I have favorite teams or players like many of you do.  You may be into soccer, or bowling, opera, theater, going to movies or concerts.  During this time of world-wide crisis we have all been told to just stay home.  I have no problem with this directive.  In spite of whatever inconvenience this may impose, radical times call for radical measures.

I have to say it though, I don’t miss watching the NCAA tournament, my favorite golfers playing on the grass so green, or spring training games for my baseball team, the Texas Rangers.  This reality was quite an eye-opening experience for me, since I’ve been athletic all my life.  Yet, I still don’t miss it.

I don’t miss going out to a movie.  I certainly don’t miss Hollywood’s elite telling me how stupid I am for supporting our President.  That whole make-believe industry holds no sway over me these days.  I just don’t miss it.

“Missing you” is reserved for those of my personal family I haven’t seen in awhile, or those men and women who are part of the two Bible study times I lead.  In the incomparable words of Lowman Pauling, and Ralph Bass, and their 1971 hit, my blog today is “Dedicated to the One I Love.”  I love and miss my friends from church.  These are the folks I am connected to.  One thing we all cannot afford to do is lose the connection with our friends and family… just because we are adhering to the “stay home” element required by all of us at this time.

I remember when the telephone on the table was connected by wire to a plug on the wall.  You picked up the phone, you got a dial tone, then dialed the number of a friend and waited.  Waited until the friend answered, or until a message machine guided you to “leave a message.”  We still have the “leave a message” option on our cell phones today.  But there is so much more you can do with your cell phone than just calling someone.  Today we can “text” someone a message, or Skype or FaceTime with each other like a video conference call.

If you can send or receive an email from your mobile device, then more than likely you can also send and receive still image pictures, as well as short video clips.  All of these activities can serve to preserve the emotional and spiritual connections between people who love each other.

In addition to your cell phone, there is always the opportunity to practice a lost art: writing cards or letters to those we love.

Now think on these words of Jesus..

John 13:35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Missing my friends should not paralyze me.  Just the opposite.  My missing people should stimulate me to be creative in the ways I try to reach out and “touch” people “virtually.”  That has been my goal for the last few days of writing these blogs.  We are all in the same boat of danger from this virus.  The phrase used by scientists is “flatten the curve of the pandemic”; that just means slowing the spread of infection.  The number one way you and I can help is “social distancing.” The current thought is to not be in a group larger than 10-15 people.  One of the greatest privileges of our time in history, is using technology to stay connected while not in the same physical space or location.

The old adage is true, and this current disruption to every facet of our lives proves it to be true:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

My version is:  I’m Missing You.

Just how serious should we take all this?  You may or may not know these statistics:

As of 8:53pm March 17th (last night), according to NPR’s Elena Renken and Daniel Wood, 6353 people in the USA have tested positive for COVID-19.  Of this number, 108 have died from complications derived from the virus.

In this same report, in Texas, 110 have tested positive as infected, and 1 person has died.

That is serious enough for me.  I want to help. I want to be actively part of the solution. So I will keep on missing you.  As more time passes before we can gather again without fearing the unknown of this virus, I will miss you more and more.

Missing you will inspire me to write more articles for this blog.  I will do my best to stay current and relevant to the things that concern us all.  The Minister of Senior Adults in our church emphasized the importance of these key activities you can do at this time:

HERE IS MY REQUEST:

  • Pray for God to stop this virus.
  • Pray for families to use this time to re-connect with each other and to God
  • Protect yourself
  • Pray for healing for those infected

I guess I just want to add my two-cents worth, as you miss those whom you call “friends” try to connect with them through your phone, by email, by text, or some means that you feel comfortable with.

While we wait, and trust in God, stay connected, and…

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.

 

 

 

Please share these blogs with friends and family in whatever way you can.

Purposes

I’ve lived for years in solitude.  My vocational choices led me to spend time among people occasionally, but the bulk of my work, both secular and in ministry, was alone in an office.  While some of those jobs also challenged me to work with several people in the office, the most number of people I was around on a daily basis was 8-10.  Even there I spent every day on the phone, or planning, or writing proposals or sermons or lessons, in what sometimes felt like solitary confinement.  In many different ways, I’m as prepared as I ever could be, for social distancing.

While in the throes of this COVID-19 chaos, we’re being told to go home, stay home, and live in a secluded fashion with the purpose of stemming the flow of the virus to other people, including ourselves.  Many people who don’t deal well with confinement, will see this time alone as pure torture, agony, or undue suffering.  In fact, not being alone, and not being still long enough to think rationally and logically about anything is an ancient problem, not a new 21st-Century challenge.

The Psalmist writes how God is the refuge of His people in Psalm 46.  But I especially have always looked to verse 10 for solace.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Hebrew text indicates this word means to sink, or relax.

Sink into what?  Relax, are you kidding me?  No really, this is exactly God’s purpose for what we need most – right this minute.  We need to know, not just intellectually understand or comprehend, but really get what God expects from us, indeed commands us. The command of God is total surrender to Him as the LORD – in control, having all authority, and present in our world today.  More and more, activities people around the world would normally flock to have either been postponed to a later date, or cancelled completely.  This could be easily construed as the LORD of heaven on purpose saying to all of humanity, “You’ve been worshiping at pagan places filled with idols.  I will help you be still, and remember who I AM, by using this virus to get your mind off of sports, movie theaters, works of art, concerts, playoffs, or any other venue-oriented entertainment escape.”

One of the hardest things for many people I’ve known is the concept of just “being still” for more than 10 seconds.  Add to not knowing how to be still, the idea of being cooped up with children, or spouses, or grandparents who all would drive you crazy when there was no virus, and this command of God might seem impossible to achieve.

Could God’s purpose for this virus really be that we need to stop worshiping other things and just be still?  Well, being still is only half this equation.  Because if you are capable of being still, that alone does not ensure you will focus where you need to focus, on the LORD of heaven.  After all, the being still part is really just to create a space in your world where you can experience Truth.

“… and know that I am God.”

Our minds and our hearts have in recent years become numbingly indifferent to the nature and character of God.  I really do believe it is time for a reset for us.  Why?  Think about the last several years of turmoil in our United States government.  Now filter everything you’ve seen, read, or heard on television, radio, or online apps, and read these words:

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Do these descriptions essentially fit to form a fairly accurate description of life in the USA and other places around the world today?  Does Paul really have a vision of life in the 21st-century?  Men and women of power and means, blatantly denying the existence of God, must really be taxing to the LORD of creation, don’t you think?

It doesn’t take much understanding to realize we have no control whatsoever over this virus.  The leaders of our world, the scientists, the manufacturers of the health products we need, all are working around the clock to solve a currently unsolvable problem. The virus will run its course. And we do not yet know the extent of the damage, or where or how it will all end.  We’re in the throes.

Isn’t it time to just stop?  Stop being scared?  Stop listening to the talking heads on TV telling us what to think and how to feel?  Isn’t it time to just BE STILL, AND KNOW that the One who created us, also has intended purposes for this event that we can’t possibly know or understand?

When was the last time you picked up your Bible to give you hope and clarity, rather than tuning into Talk Radio, or some 24 hour news station on the television?  If you are a true Christ-follower, you are being watched right now, whether you know it or not.  In days of calamity and chaos, even the ungodly are brought to a place where they must recognize they are not in control.  God is.  Do you portray this truth in how you are dealing with COVID-19?

Right now, are you modeling for your neighbor who is spiritually far from God, the truth that God is not far from any one of us?  Are you criticizing everything and everyone, or contributing a solution by inviting God to intervene in our world with healing?  The true Christ-follower knows how to “be still” and in prayerful worship, trust God for the outcome.

Are you a lover of self, money, or power?  Have you become boastful, arrogant, ungrateful, and unholy? Are you like those holding onto a “form of godliness” all the timing denying the power of the Creator to control this virus?

Be still. Know that I AM is still God.

Keep saying it.  Allow you mind to constantly repeat:

I am in God’s care.
He loves me more than I love myself.
Jesus gave Himself for me so that I might know the truth of God’s love.
I am who He says I am, and He says I am His child.
He is in Control.
He has absolute Authority over my life.
And He is right here with me… whatever may come.
His name is Jesus.

And I will not face death, until all my days are done, so I will be still, and know that God is..

 

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Mortality

This is going to be a very interesting few weeks ahead.  My prayer is that this post brings you hope.  But you might want to read it carefully…

The one fear plaguing mankind since the very beginning is the reality and certainty of death.  Those without hope, those without love, those blind to the eternal nature of the human spirit, are most possessed and effected by the ultimate eventuality of their own death.  The natural reaction to something like COVID-19 then, is for a person in this lost and hopeless condition is to panic, act illogically, and do whatever they can to find a way to increase their own ability to survive.

What a shame.  What a loss of time.  What a sad, sad, testament to a life which was designed for exactly the opposite result.

I don’t know when you last spent much time reading Psalm 139, but right about now would be a great time to dust off the old Bible sitting on the shelf, near all those self-help, nonsense works, that haven’t made a difference, and do a little reading and thinking.  Stay with me here, I’m not just making this stuff up.  We’ll go slowly, so you can soak some truth into that truth-starved soul and mind that might be upset about what is happening in our world.

Psalm 139:1-2
O LORD, You have searched me and know me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar.

So, just on the face of it, God sees exactly where you are right now.  He knows the condition of your body, and He knows how panicked you are, and how hopeless you feel.  He knows what you’ve been doing, and how you’ve reacted to this virus scare.

Psalm 139:3-4
You scrutinize my path, and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all.

The Psalmist doesn’t want us to just skate by those first two verses, but spends a little more time detailing the exhaustive nature of God’s understanding and awareness of our condition, our thought patterns, and daily routines.  He knows ALL our ways.

Psalm 139:5-6
You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain it.

Here the thought shifts to gaining a little perspective of God’s control on matters of my life and yours, by understanding God’s presence all around us, all the time.  It’s mind-boggling for sure, but that doesn’t negate the truth of it.

Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lay hold of me.

Stop here a minute.  Don’t just read the words.  Re-read them until the truth of what is stated sinks in.  There is no place in this universe where you can go to hide from, escape from, or avoid God’s touch.  His hand will lay hold of you, when it is time.

Psalm 139:11-12
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night. Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You.

These are dark days for many people around the world.  The virus is continuing to spread, with deadly results for some, and debilitating effects for others.  Yet there is nothing hidden or dark or unknown about this virus to God.  He sees it all with absolute clarity.

Psalm 139:13-15
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Knowing that we are created, and knowing there is a Creator, also serves to give us perspective on our existence.  Knowing and understanding the natural human experience of procreation, that I am a product of God’s will through the efforts of human love, should also bring some basic assurance of God’s awareness of not just my being but also my plot in life.  God knows when you took your first breath, your first step, spoke your first word, had your heart broken for the first time.  God knows because He is deeply invested in you.  He made you in your mother’s womb.

Now comes the part I’ve anticipated writing about, so don’t miss this next part!

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Carefully read that again.

What does it mean?  I believe that no one will die out of the sight of God, or at a time different than that which God chooses.

Yes, I really believe this, based on Psalm 139:16.  But it wasn’t just David, the Psalmist who spoke this truth.  The Author of Truth, the One who called Himself, the Truth, also said:

Matthew 6:27
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

And there it is.  We don’t die out of God’s timing, awareness, or plan for us.  All our days are written, the details of each day, hour and minute, in God’s own book.  He knows us better than we even know ourselves, because He knows when we will finally see Him face to face.

This virus has no power except that given to it by God, not man.  If it is man-made, then God allowed this for some purpose we don’t know and can’t know or see.  If the virus is an un-natural mutation of another strain of the flu, then that too didn’t escape God’s notice as if done in darkness.  He knew when it happened, allowed it, and has a purpose for allowing it within His sovereign will for mankind.

But make no mistake here.  COVID-19 is limited by God’s own all-powerful control.  No more will get sick than God allows.  No more will die, than is predetermined by God’s plan. Since neither you nor I can do anything to alter this fact, then maybe this knowledge will help us alter our own concerns about what is happening around us.

I am in God’s care.
He loves me more than I love myself.
Jesus gave Himself for me so that I might know the truth of God’s love.
I am who He says I am, and He says I am His child.
He is in Control.
He has absolute Authority over my life.
And He is right here with me… whatever may come.

And I will not face death, until all my days are done.

Snoopy said to Charlie Brown one day, “We’re all going to die someday.”

Charlie Brown’s response bears remembering:

“But, not today.”

 

 

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Supposed To, Have To, or Want To?

Here is the headline I read just minutes ago:

Across faiths, religious rules bent as virus alters worship

The article goes on to describe all the different religious leaders who are implementing initiatives to protect their congregations from the coronavirus.  From the Roman Catholics halting Mass, to Orthodox Jewish rabbis, to Evangelicals and even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… everyone would think that America’s faith-based element in our society is finished, we’re closing it down. One prominent exception to this movement is the First Baptist Church of Dallas, pastored by Dr. Robert Jeffress.  He is quoted as saying,

“What we do is more important than what the NBA is doing. That is entertainment. That’s optional, worship is essential.”

The church my wife and I attend is among those who will not have a joint meeting at the physical location of the church building this morning.  However, in a rather creative way, our church is offering an on-line experience at 10 AM central time.  And if you would like to join us, click here.

All of these actions across the USA are stimulated or are attributed to COVID-19.  Which caused me to ponder a few things.

The basic question I pose is this:

Do we attend worship because we are supposed to, because we have to, or because we want to?

I’m convinced more people would choose “supposed” to or “have” to, rather than “want” to.  Maybe this is because in my early days, my mother and dad imposed on me the “have” to mindset of: “The church is open, we’re going to attend.”  It wasn’t ever really my choice, it was theirs, and I was under their authority (at least for a time), and that was that.

Later, after I left home, my attitude fluctuated between “have to and supposed to” as I stretched out my right-to-choose spiritual wings.  I found myself sleeping in some Sundays, or suffering through another session of guilt-laden “have to” syndrome on others.  Finally, as I matured both physically and spiritually, I realized something.  It isn’t really worship in the true sense of the word, unless it is given willingly, and by choice.  Worship, of all spiritual activities, is a choice.  We worship in the truest sense, when we worship like Jesus told the woman at a well in Samaria.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. [John 4:24]

Which caused me to think next,

Is church the only place we can worship?

Now, we have to be careful here.  Because some false teachers have led many astray by suggesting no one needs to go to church – for any reason, including the three I presented here.  So, I’m making a distinction between going to church, and true worship of the LORD of heaven and earth.

The answer might lie in understanding what Paul was really saying to the men of Athens regarding worship.  These men were so wrapped up in not missing any of the idols of gods dreamed up all over the world, they had constructed one to “The Unknown God.”  So, given the opportunity, Paul the Apostle says:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth... [Acts 17:24-26]

Here’s the point.

We don’t go to church because that is where God is (dwells according to Paul).  In fact most people wouldn’t go at all if they thought God would dwell there, their guilty conscience’s  wouldn’t allow them to be comfortable there.

One of the greatest dangers of the current COVID-19 world-wide panic, might just be the elimination of faith-based practices world wide; of gathering together for the Worship of God.  But one thing this virus will never be able to do, is keeping God-loving people, the true Bride of Christ, from worshiping Him in homes, or one-on-one with Him.

The very thing the enemy of Christ wanted to do in the first century was to wipe out the spread of Christianity, by eliminating gatherings of believers.  The church has always been persecuted, but has remained strong and committed to the message of hope in the gospel of Jesus.

So, worship is a “want to” choice.  You can choose to do it at home.  You can choose to do it in a group.  You can choose to do it in a large church. Where is not really the issue.  But it is only truly worship, when it emphasizes the object of our worship – Jesus Christ – as LORD of all, in control of all, having authority over all, and present right where we are.  When we declare these truths by singing together, reading His word together, and celebrating His grace together… well, simply put, the enemy of Christ loses, and we win.

A virus will never stop the spreading of the Authoritative word of God.

Choose to go to worship today.  Online, with a friend, or with a group of friends… even if your church is closed to protect the larger congregation!

 

Share this with your friends and family, on social media or email!!

 

 

You Can’t See This

Today’s headlines along with subtitles:

  • Rewriting History” – China reframes coronavirus narrative, touting Xi’s successes despite body count, global spread
  • Troubling Results” – Nursing home sees nearly 50 employees test positive for virus
  • Rocket Attack” – New barrage hits base housing US troops in Iraq
  • Containing Coronavirus?” – Why have these countries got so few, or no, COVID-19 cases?
  • Helping Hand” – Here’s how to soothe rough, cracked fingers from overwashing

 

The truth is, without a microscope, you can’t see the “bug” causing disruption around the globe.  But it’s there, … and here, … and seemingly everywhere.  The ubiquitous nature of this ugly “bug” is disconcerting at best, and at its worst frighteningly paralyzing bringing death to some.

corona virus

Now I would ask you, even as you read these words:

“Is God really in Control?  Is He in control of even this virus? Does HE know what it looks like?  Can He control how much farther this thing spreads or how many more die?”

It is exactly at times like these that our faith in Jesus Christ, as LORD of all, is so important.

The CDC, and other health organizations have given us specific kinds of activities to help mitigate getting this virus in the first place.  We’re told to wash our hands regularly, get tested if we feel sick, and create social distance from others who might at this moment be contagious.  All these are good, and are not “should-do” but “must-do” things we CAN control in our daily lives.

That said, how do you deal with the growing emotional unease and irrational fear that has permeated almost every town and village around the globe?  I’m not saying the virus isn’t dangerous.  If only one person had died from this it would be classified as dangerous.  What makes the situation so bad is the unseen nature of the germ.

It reminds me of a story out of the Old Testament.

In 2 Kings 6, Elisha is being pursued by the king of Aram with a huge army of horses and chariots encircling the city of Dothan.  Elisha and his servant were completely surrounded and it was only a matter of time before the king would capture, then kill them.  The servant is afraid and asks Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

Elisha’s answer in this story holds an ancient truth:

Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.
[2 Kings 6:16]

What we need to remember and focus on right here, right now, March 14, 2020 is this;

you can’t see it – but God is STILL in Control.

Elisha prayed these words,

“O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” [2 Kings 6:17]

And God did.  God opened the servant’s eyes to unseen spiritual forces under direct command of the LORD of the Hosts of Heaven.  Elisha’s servant saw the whole mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

God was protecting Elisha and Elisha’s servant the whole time.

Can you even imagine the scene?  Thousands upon thousands of holy angels preventing the sudden demise of God’s prophet, is an awe-filled thought.

I don’t pretend COVID-19 does not exist.  I’m not trivializing the danger people across the world are in from this agent of sickness and death.

In the same way, I’m also not trivializing what God can do to solve this problem that mankind will never be able to do.

From His throne in heaven, God is able to speak a holy word of healing, and this virus could be stopped in a single moment.

The caveat, what we don’t know, is God’s purpose for first allowing the virus to exist, or second, what design and plan God has for its existence that will bring God glory.

We don’t know, and we can’t know.  We can only react to what is happening right around us, in real time, right now.

So may I offer a couple of suggestions?

First, men and women of God, true Christ-followers will not panic or become fearful, or act in irrational or illogical ways, because they KNOW like Elisha knew, that God is in Control.

Second, men and women of God, true Christ-followers will seek God’s face and favor, asking Him to intervene once again in the lives of humans all round the world, and maybe even someone you know, who needs His healing and salvation from this virus today.

Third, men and women of God, true Christ-followers, will seek God’s wisdom in these days of uncertainty, and live out a life of faith in ways that bring the God in Control, all the glory He deserves.

I believe God is in Control.
I am praying now for each of you and your families protection by the hosts of heaven.
I am praying for our world that fewer still will die, or be exposed to this virus.
I am praying for rational responses from people all over the world, and for God to give them courage, and not fear, to face whatever is in their lives this moment.

What are you praying for?

 

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Trump is not Jesus…

That’s right.  I said it.

I’ll go further still, the visible celebration among the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives gives visual authentication to their verbal assignations that they are blind, deaf, and dumb.  Putting a “face” on it, putting a “name” on it, the mask of hypocrisy and the name of injustice, is Nancy Pelosi.  And no, Trump isn’t Jesus, but what happened on Wednesday, January 15, 2020 could be viewed much like the drama that took place when an innocent man was nailed to a Roman cross. Yet, it was all on the allegations and nonsense of a 1st-century group of leaders who were also blind, deaf, and dumb.

The Pharisees didn’t want to hear the truth.  They had already made up their own “truth” with literally thousands of extra interpretations of the Laws God had already given them.  These “lawyers” were jealous of Jesus because He challenged their authority; because He intentionally disobeyed their man-made interpretations of God’s Law; but worse, because the common people loved Him.  Does that sound like anyone else you know?  Perhaps the one person who cares about the common man and woman in this country more than anyone else right now, is Donald J. Trump.

I’m not debating whether Trump is a true Christ-follower or not.  I know, because I’ve listened to him for the past three years. I’ve read much of his twitter feed.  Because I’ve done this, I can without equivocation say: President Trump is a mortal man, neither A god, nor The God.  In my view, He is a name-calling, intimidating, seemingly prideful and arrogant business man, with little regard for how he might make those who challenge him feel. In these ways, he is not at all like Jesus.  In these ways, he is just the opposite of Jesus.

That said, only a few people I know think he’s done anything that even resembles abuse of power or obstruction of Congress.  But that doesn’t matter.  What’s at stake here is whether the common people of the United States are going to allow an election to be overturned, just because a group of people who call themselves the nation’s leaders don’t “like” that duly elected President.  In fact, they don’t just “not like” him, they hate his guts with such passion and fervor, that given the opportunity, I honestly believe they would kill him… if they could get away with it.

Clearer minds must have prevailed, at least in the sense of eliminating him by taking his life.  But how is what they are doing now, not the equivalent of silencing him, destroying his reputation, and denying him the same honor and esteem due the office of the President when one of their own sits in that chair?

Look, I’m just one of the commoners.  I know my voice won’t change, alter, or even influence the events about to take place in the Senate as this impeachment trial gets underway.  I suppose by writing this blog post, I can at least vent a little, but that is not my primary motive for writing.  I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m hurt, but mostly I’m motivated to have whatever voice I can have.  What the political left is doing is wrong.  And when I say “political left” I’m not just talking about elected officials.

The television/radio media, social media, political pundits, and politicians who began this process within months of President Trump’s election, are all responsible for the destructive course this nation is traveling.  I’m concerned about future generations of Americans who will live with the consequences of next weeks actions.  We can’t go back and change all the rhetoric, no matter how badly we might want to.  Yesterday is gone forever.  The house passed their articles of impeachment, and that is over, in the past, it is history.

But the future remains uncertain.  We don’t see it yet.  We haven’t lived it yet.  And there is still time to do the right thing.  Love him or hate him, President Trump is not our enemy.  He is not the enemy of America in general, or you in particular.  President Trump cares about you and your family.  He wants you to have a job, to be free, and to provide for your families needs, without breaking your back or your will to do it.  Those who have passed articles designed to impeach him, then extricate him from office, want exactly the opposite for you.  They want to control what you think.  They want to control what you spend your money on.  They want to tax you so they can provide healthcare and rights and privileges to those who actually are enemies to our country.

I only know ONE way to effect change in this nation.  Pray.

I’m asking anyone who does read this blog post to pray.  Pray in your church, pray in your car, pray in your closet, wherever you are most comfortable pouring your heart out to God, just pray.  Please.

Pray.

In the book of James it says:

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

 

Acts 13:1-13

ActsBibleStudyWebpage_Email Header

Bible Study resumes!  We begin the next leg of our journey through the Book of Acts in chapter 13.  Below are the links for the recording, the handouts, and a map to aid in our study.

Share these links with someone you would like to study with!

 

 

Acts 13_1-13 FBO Antioch MAP

Acts 13_1-13 FBO Antioch Outline

Acts 13_1-13 FBO Antioch TakeAway

Describing God

Most churches have an internet presence, and on their website post a series of belief statements.  Many if not most will have a belief statement describing God including how God describes Himself.  The church talks about “who God is” by a listing a series of attributes of God found in Scripture.

This belief statement usually contains all or most of these thoughts:

God is a Spirit and is the Creator of all things. He alone is eternal (has always existed) and is the self–existing one (He is completely self–sufficient and independent of anything else for His existence). He is loving, all–knowing, all–powerful, omnipresent (present everywhere at all times), unchanging, holy (without sin), just, long–suffering, gracious, righteous, and merciful. He is the One True God (all other so–called gods are nothing but man–made idols) who reveals Himself in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Here is one Example:link

What is most interesting to me is that when we examine the Biblical text which define and authenticate these ideas, God is not simply giving us a list of His attributes.  God is actually defining Himself in the context of activities or events, as well as dealings with us individually and corporately as human beings.

Look at these brief examples:

Genesis 15:7 “I am the LORD, who brought you out…”
Genesis 26:24 “I am the God of your father Abraham…”
Genesis 28:13 “I am the God of Abraham…and the God of Isaac…”
Genesis 46:3 “I am God, the God of your father…”
Exodus 3:6 “I am the God of…Abraham…Isaac…and Jacob”
Exodus 6:7  “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”
John 10:10 “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”

Do you see the pattern here?  God’s definition of Himself is found in relationships, and His own actions within those relationships.

Should someone ask me, “Who is your best friend?”, I would not respond, “She is this wonderful, 5 ft. 4 in. female, approximately 66 years old, brunet, hazel eyes, and a smile that never ends.”  These are attributes of my friend, but they don’t really answer the question.  So, my answer would be “She’s my wife.”  I find the answer in relationship, not attributes, although the attributes are fantastic!

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is completely filled with God desiring to reveal Himself in relationship with individuals and with mankind as a whole.  He reveals Himself through these relationships and His actions.  In thousands of stories and interactions with humanity, the divine God, the LORD of all creation reveals Himself in control, as authoritative, and always present among us.

Is God eternal?  Is He self-sufficient?  Is He loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent, unchanging, without sin, just, long-suffering, gracious, righteous, and merciful?  Without a doubt, the LORD is all this and more!

However, the only way to realize or experience these truth-statements, is in a personal faith act of your choosing to believe God is who He claims to be!

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

This means that to be properly in relationship with God a person has to move beyond the intellectual assent of knowing facts about God’s attributes, to a place of believing God has revealed all this information just for you; so that you can know, then believe it to be so.

The ultimate revelation of Himself to humanity is the Man/God, Jesus.  In His physical presence on earth, He established one simple fact: the LORD desires relationship with individual human beings.  Jesus demonstrated in very clear actions and words, that God loves every one of us.  He said He wouldn’t leave us as orphans on this worn out, sin-filled planet. He said, one day He would return to take us where He is.

The questions posed in all this information:

Do you know God, or know about God?
Are you in relationship with God, or are you hung up on His attributes?
Who is God to you?

He is here..

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Christmas morning, 2019.  People all over the world are challenged today with the reality that celebrating a birthday is not the same as celebrating a person.  But hey, any ole excuse for a gift right?  Forget for a minute the Person, whose birthday is being celebrated, created everything we see or know, or believe we see or know.  Just skate right past the truth that this birth was talked about almost 700 years before it happened.  Ignore the fact that the conversation during that time was so specific that it could not have been missed or misinterpreted by any sane human being.  Don’t bother focusing on the supernatural nature of an angel announcing the event had actually occurred. And finally, whatever you do, don’t challenge the idea that we might have gotten the actual date of the event wrong, both in terms of timing or importance.  After all, it’s all about me, and what I got for Christmas this year… right?

Without sounding too much like Ebenezer Scrooge, allow me to share what I didn’t get this year.  I didn’t receive a call from my estranged children to say, “We forgive you dad, and we were wrong too.”  The one call I long for, yearn for, pray for, and hope for… didn’t come.  The photos of years gone by, of happy times celebrating together, are but distant memories that cloud my emotions, and make my eyes start leaking again.  Those who know me well, know my story, also know I understand the significance of unintended consequences.  On this Christmas morning, I also didn’t have the opportunity to call my dad, and say, “Merry Christmas.”  Because he now resides in the kingdom of the Father.  The call I would have made to my mother, whom I still miss everyday, is one I’ve gone over in my head a thousand times, for 37 years now.  Sometimes, the silence is deafening.  The longing for reconciliation is paralyzing.

However, allow me to return to the springboard of my thoughts, and share with you what I did receive this year.  It is a gift that continues giving every day, with renewed nuances affecting every area of my life.  In fact, this gift came months ago, without my even recognizing its arrival.  One day, months and months ago, I was studying for a Bible Study I was to present.  Whether I actually heard the words, or whether these words were just suddenly real to my mind as I studied, He said, “I’m right here.”

The same words God had spoken thousands of years before to the first couple in the Garden of Eden, I heard in my mind spoken to me.  “I’m right here.”  This has been His message for all of human history.  This statement is a truth which cannot be undermined by the countless hordes who don’t even believe He exists.  The statement is just as true as when Jesus arrived, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.  The statement is just as true as when Jesus walked into that locked room after he had risen from the tomb, appearing to His most trusted friends.  The statement is just as true as when I heard or read it some months ago. The result for me was peace. It is true for me.  It is true for you.  The Prince of Peace said to me, to you, “I’m right here.”

The message of Christmas of course is to bring tangible evidence to what God has said for thousands of years.  This is why the angel announced, “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” [Matthew 1:23]

Get it?  “God with us,” translates, “I’m right here.”

What God gave me that day, and continues to give me every day since, is the awareness of what makes Him LORD.  One of the characteristics of Jesus as LORD is His abiding presence in our world.  He didn’t just create us, then leave us to determine our own destiny.  He didn’t just come as a baby, only to be crucified as a heretic, and leave us to figure out who He really was.  He came to announce, “I’m right here.”  And the ongoing promise of these words is found in the realization that every day the message is exactly the same.  “I’m right here.”

Do you want to bring joy to someone this year?  Call your dad.  Call your mom.  Call your son.  Call your daughter.  Reach out to them, one more time, and just say, “I’m right here.”  And allow God’s peace to reign supreme in your life and theirs.

The photo image above is a tribute to my sister.  She is the living example of forgiveness and grace, and believes with all her heart, the words of Jesus.  “I’m right here.”

Acts 12:1-25

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Hello Bible Study Family!

This lesson on Acts 12 will be the final fall lesson of 2019.

We will resume our study on January 12, 2020 at 4:30pm.

Click below for the handouts and click play to listen to the Acts 12 study.

Merry Christmas!  Share these links with friends or family who might want to join this study online!!

 

Acts 12-1-25 Outline

Acts 12_1-25 Takeaway

 

Acts 11:1-30

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Just a reminder there will be no study lesson on November 24th, 2019.

On December 1st, we will finish the lessons for this fall, and continue again on January 12th after the holidays.

Also, feel free to share this post or these links on your social media for your friends or loved ones who want to join the study!

Lesson:

Acts 11_1-30 outline

Acts 11_1-30 Takeaway

 

All the Colors

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More than anything else, this image reminds us that things change.  Time marches on. The grains of sand in an hour glass fall painfully slow at times.  Then, when you least expect it, you observe there’s very little sand in the upper globe indicating a “season” of time is almost at an end.  When Fall begins, the same thing is true.  What was green turns to a rainbow array of colors in the trees.  The leaves fall over time, sometimes slowly, other times in a day. Things change.

Depending on whether  you are a “glass-half-full” or “glass-half-empty” sort of person significantly affects your view of this tree, and its many colors.  On a recent trip to Arkansas I had high hopes of catching a view of the fall foliage from Mount Magazine, north of Hot Springs.  I’m sure it would have been a lovely drive, and the view would have been spectacular, were it not for the dense fog encompassing the mountain.  When we arrived at the peak, we could see less than 40 feet in any direction we looked.  Since we were only there for a day, we hoped it would burn off quickly.  The reality is it didn’t, so we left, with a tiny bit of sadness and sense of loss.

I took the photo image above, looking North from my backdoor, on Sunday morning.  It reminded me of the singular truth found in the first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes 3.  “There is an appointed time for everything” (vs.1)… and … “He has made everything appropriate in its time” (vs.11).  In between these two statements are couplets of contrasting thoughts describing almost every aspect of human life on earth.  The dichotomy of living a human existence here on earth is captured in the joy and sorrow juxtaposed in the words, “a time to…”

Give birth vs. die, plant vs. uproot, kill vs. heal, tear down vs. build up.
Weep vs. laugh, mourn vs. dance, thrown stones vs. gather stones.
Embrace vs. shun embracing, search vs. give up as lost, keep vs. throw away.
Tear apart vs. sew together, be silent vs. speak, love vs. hate, war vs. peace.

I really like Eugene Petersen’s “The Message” translation of the Bible for passages like Ecclesiastes.  It is just easier to relate to I guess.  In each of these verses Petersen’s translation begins, “A right time …”  These words help us see that God designed all of these events into the human existence and we really don’t have any control over them. Today, see if you can hear God speak to you through Solomon, in verses 14-15 of The Message.

I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

Whatever was, is.
Whatever will be, is.
That’s how it always is with God.

Trusting in Jesus as LORD, in its essence, is knowing these words Solomon wrote are true absolutely.  Proclaiming Jesus as LORD is declaring He is in Control of all things, all the events of my life.  Serving Jesus as LORD requires an understanding and commitment that He is the sole Authority in my life today.  Knowing in fact, that I am alive and serve at His pleasure, whatever may come my way.  The third, and maybe the most awesome truth of declaring Jesus as LORD, is knowing and believing, the Living LORD Jesus is present right now with me.  When one of the “a time to…”-events happens in my life, I am not alone to face them.  Jesus is with me continually.

It’s fall, and the LORD is demonstrating His Creative power in all the colors.  As the blustery North wind blows creating a sea of leaves ripping through the air, do you see Him?  Do you know Him?  Is He LORD of your life today?