Bubble

When I hear “bubble” all sorts of images flood into my head.  In no particular order or rank, I immediately think of “Double Bubble” chewing gum, “Bubble Fun” soap bubbles, the “bubble head” on a beer poured too fast, and those “bubble icons” used in cartoon strips.  Maybe my favorite is Charlie Brown and the bubble surrounding his  constant comment, “Oh good grief!”

Most recently, the word “bubble” might be useful to describe the maniacal ravings captured in a quip I saw on Facebook this morning.  The quote went like this:

The forest was shrinking, but it kept voting for the axe, because its handle was made of wood, and they thought it was one of them.”

And so goes the nay-sayers, haters, and blind who are still living in the bubble that Hillary should have won, and that Trump needs to be impeached.  This bubble is so hard to break out of, but somebody needs to do it besides Kanye West.  Don’t get me wrong, in a world filled with chaotic voices screaming at each other, it’s sometimes hard to hear the truth.  He’s done a good thing by breaking out of his bubble, and on TMZ this week, saying he was “free thinking” and that he had “slipped the bonds of black political conventions.”  (Full story here.)

Bubbles are interesting to study.   In my childhood days we would play “who can blow the biggest bubble” with our gum.  Some yAyhoo would blow a great big one, not being able to see the nose on his face, when one of his “so-called” friends would punch the bubble and all the gum residue would end up on the kids face.  Is this not a sign of our current political times? Hmmmm.

Soap bubbles are a great delight to children everywhere, including me.  (Sometimes I think I’m just a 64 year old kid).  Just dip the stick, put it to your lips and blow.  Out of this magic wand come these grand illusions of light flying lightly on the breeze, traveling up and out to worlds unknown.  It’s great fun, you should try it.

Now, here’s the thing.

There is more to this life, and to our world, than any one of us can see in our tiny bubble of existence.  I’m not just talking philosophically, I really mean it.  Sometimes folks are carried along on the wind of tradition and ritual, like so many soap bubbles, never realizing the changes happening all around them.  Then, when forced to consider the changes can be good, the bursting of those bubbles is so traumatic, they believe life as they know it is over.

One of these days, the whole world will come to understand that a larger plan and purpose has been at work in all of it.  Like Charlie Brown, to a person, all around the world, there is a day coming when there will be a great lament, “oh, good grief!”  Because in that moment the whole world will know their little bubble, was not the only bubble.  Like concentric circles (or bubbles) of our life, our church, our city, our state, our nation, our world, our universe, and all of space beyond… is contained in the sovereign “bubble” of The Creator’s will and purpose.

Maybe, just maybe, we should consult with Him about our bubble.

 

Bubble

Tantrum

Would you like to know what the real definition of “tantrum” is?  Listen to comedian Michelle Wolf as she performs at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington on Saturday:

And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? What’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.

Despite the criticism that flooded social media, by both conservatives and the drive-by media, comedian Kathy Griffin responded to the backlash with this:

Then don’t have a comic do a roast,” Griffin said on Twitter, “If you want to focus on the journalism do a boring awards show. Journalism is all about the 1st amendment..If you don’t see the import of what @michelleisawolf did tonight then you don’t get it.

And finally, and quite unfortunately, President Trump always seems to want to add his two cents worth:

While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” @greggutfeld should host next year!

So here’s the thing… a tantrum is an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.  Think two-year olds who demand everything is theirs, they want it now, and it’s their right to have it.  Our country will never get passed this nonsense until the grown ups quit acting like two year olds.

So here’s the other thing…

What does the person under attack do?  How did Sarah Huckabee Sanders react?  From one of her own critics, she was praised for her response:

That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive,” tweeted Maggie Haberman of The New York Times.

You can read all about the event here.

The White House Press Secretary, at least in my mind, did exactly what Christ would have done in the exact same situation.  Wait.  I should say “did” in the same situation.  In fact Jesus surrendered to the will of God that took Him to the cross.  Jesus said, in Matthew 16:24:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders was the epitome of this verse Saturday night.  She didn’t get up and walk out.  She didn’t immediately unload a storm of vitriol on social media aimed at her attacker.  In fact in my search for anything of a response on the internet this morning, I found nothing.

Thanks Mrs. Sanders for not responding in kind, and for providing America a good model to follow, and for living our your faith in real time before a National audience.

Tantrum

Bestow

There is no greater honor, right, or gift, as the one bestowed upon an individual who steps across the line of faith into Christ the LORD.  John the apostle, under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God said so.  Listen to it now…

John 1:12,13  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It is not stated as a future endowment.  It is not implied that having received this right, it could somehow be taken away in the future.  The “right” to become children of God, is reserved for, and bestowed upon, those who receive Jesus and believe in His name. In addition, this is an eternal right.  It is not eternal because of us, the believers.  It is eternal because of the ONE  bestowing the blessing, and conferring the right.  It is guaranteed in His power, not mine.

I am now… a child of God.

As such, with this great honor bestowed upon those Christ-followers, their behavior should match this position of honor, and privilege.  But does it?  I’m concerned at the number of people I know who live in fear, or in opposite contrast to what they claim as their badge of honor – a Christ follower – a Child of God.

In our world today, there is a shadowy veil of hate growing at an alarming rate, fueled by unseen forces, with the intent of annihilating the words “Christian” or “Christ-follower” from our vocabulary.  People of faith around our nation are just now beginning to recognize the first salvos breaking across the bows of churches everywhere.  Christian businesses have been under attack for awhile, but now the increased activity in the legal sector demonstrate this hate has just begun to stretch its talons of destruction.  What’s interesting, but sadder still, is that most Americans don’t realize this isn’t a new event.

The pursuit of the destruction of anything Godly, but especially the people of God, is as old as the garden of Eden.  The result of God’s children’s actions in that idyllic setting was fear, blame shifting, and rationalization of their behavior.  What are the three clearest signs, that nothing has changed since then?  Fear, blame shifting, and rationalization of behavior… is the ubiquitous nature of sin around the world right now.

So… what is “supposed” to be the defining evidence of the true Christ-follower?  I suggest that the “NATURE” of God is what is bestowed upon the true person of faith, and is evidenced when one becomes a CHILD of God.  That evidence is LOVE.

1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

1 John 4:16  And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

So what is bestowed upon every child of God?

The right to become God’s children, living in the love of God, sharing the love of God, and one day when we graduate to the next life, living in the presence of the love of God… eternally.

There is no greater honor, right, or gift.

 

Bestow

God is NOT a Genie

One of my favorite topics of conversation about God, is the concept of “prayer.”  I think you would be surprised how many interesting and varying views there are about talking with God.  This space is too limited, and the time you have to read is insufficient to digress into a discussion on “who is God?”, so let’s cut to the chase, and I’ll assume you know I’m talking about the One and Only God, the Creator of the universe, present and revealed in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

With that brief foundation let’s stay on track and talk a little about “prayer.”  Regardless of your faith system, or denomination, the Bible (not tradition or the teachings of men) is the defining authority on the topic of prayer.  For instance, a good starting point would be Hebrews 11:6 which says, 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.  So right out of the gate, any conversation with the eternal deity is based in FAITH and has as its motivation that God “is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Even the Bible implies that seldom does anybody really come to God for a general conversation about nothing.  Instead of “Good morning Lord,” more often than not it’s “Good Lord, it’s morning, help me get through it until I get some coffee.”  What may start out as a prayer of “thanksgiving” swiftly and most often turns into a list of needs or litany of wants.  So, I have to say it, Hebrews 11:6 does NOT imply that God is just a genie in a bottle, we release to meet our every whim, notion, or fancy.

All too often we use Jeremiah’s words like a dial up to Uber service.  Listen to the weeping prophet’s words, as he describes God’s desire to hear from us.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

Now, here’s the thing.  If we believe that God is (exists), and wants to reward our inquiries (Hebrews 11:6), and that we have his phone number (Jeremiah 33:3), then what SHOULD be the nature of our conversation, when God answers?

Rather than going off in any and every direction based on our circumstances, wants, or needs, God the Son, Jesus Christ, has already given us a real good MODEL on which to base our conversations with the Eternal Father of heaven.

Respect and reverence:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Request for daily needs:
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Direction and wisdom:
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Recognition:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
AMEN!

I don’t see a genie in a bottle here.  I don’t rub the bottle, watch the smoke pour out in a disembodied ghost-like appearance, with a voice that says, “What shall I do for you today, Master?”  God doesn’t call anyone “master.”

I see the Creator seeking to engage with His creation, for them to know Him as they were intended to.

I see a Creator who knows what we need, even before we ask for it, because He sees what we don’t see, and knows what we don’t know.

I see a Creator who is timeless and always present, knowing the exact direction which will lead to me fulfilling my purpose within His purposes and His will… and He is willing to guide me there.

I see a Creator who deserves my love, adoration, obedience, and trust.

God is not a genie in a bottle… please don’t be tempted to treat Him as such.  When we call God up, in faith, and in sincerity “ask” for His love, protection, guidance, healing, or blessing, but most of all HIS WILL to be done in our lives… we will get it.

Be careful what you ask for.

 

 

 

 

Genie

Glimmer

glimmer

What started with such a glimmering hope of adventure, became a journey that, in the end, couldn’t be over soon enough.  As a first timer going on a cruise, I was ill prepared for the pacific ocean in the dead of winter.  What could be better than Thanksgiving on a cruise right?  The gleam and glitter, the sparkling twinkle of the lights ashore as we left Los Angeles that night, are crystal clear in my memory.  Perhaps so because of this shot I took from our room’s balcony during the departure late that night.  The gentle rocking waves in the harbor, the smell of salt in the air, and the cool breezes all seemed to welcome me aboard, whispering a fond bon voyage.

Then, reality set it.

I was going to be on this rig for 14 days… hmmm.

I know people personally who can’t get enough of life on a cruise ship.  They go all over the world, and they look for new adventures, all the while sailing the oceans on a vessel holding 2,000 to 3,000 souls.  I applaud their tenacity, but alas, it is not for me.

In the darkness of a night on the ocean, overcast, with visibility about 50 feet or less at times, while torrential rains added more water to the 15-20 foot waves, I thought about 12 men in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.  They too thought they might die in the deep dark waters.  They too were very close to panic, and perhaps even those seasoned fishermen felt a little nauseous as they fought to stay afloat.  Then as a flicker of lightning lit up the sky, they saw what they thought to be a ghost hovering above the water coming directly beside them.  Turns out it was the form of a human man… walking on the water.

The panic of just a few minutes before turned into stark terror.  What made it worse, if there could be a worse, the Scripture indicates that He intended to pass them by [Mark 6:48].  I’ve often wondered about this phrase.  “He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them.”  Why?  He clearly saw them “straining at the oars.” Why was His intention to pass them by?

In Matthew’s version of this story (chapter 14) it seems to be more about Peter and his abandonment of all sensibility, hopping out of the boat and going to the Master.  But even in that narrative, it is difficult to pass by the underlying truth in the telling of the tale.

The fact is, when we place our hope in boats, or in my case a cruise ship, to keep us safe in the middle of an ocean, we are trusting in the wrong object of our faith.  It is Christ alone who is sovereign creator of all we see, including the wind and the waves.  It is Christ alone who will save us, when we cry out to him in our darkness.  It is Christ alone who offers these words, to the disciples then, and to us today… “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” [Mark 6:50]

There are times today when my life seems dark and dangerous, just as menacing, just as threatening as those 15-20 foot waves right outside the door to my balcony on that ship.  In these moments I hear the voice of my Savior, calling out to me, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

This phrase is my glimmer of hope.  In what or whom do you place your hope today?

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” [Psalm 39:7]

 

Glimmer

Rush

What’s you’re hurry?  Why the need to gallop through life? Is it that necessary to race to the finish without smelling those proverbial roses?  When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license for the freedom of movement and the promise of adventure that little piece of plastic represented.  Now, some decades later, that little piece of plastic still allows me to zoom, zip, and whip along my way on the freeway to my heart’s desire… but now I mostly fear for my life, and the life of my family, when I’m out on those freeways today.  Today’s drivers bring a whole new meaning to the words “bolt, careen, and speed.” So you get there two and a half minutes faster, so what?  Slow down already… don’t be in such a rush.

What’s true on the highway is true in life too, don’t you think?  In just the last two weeks my wife and I have found a home that meets our needs better than our current one, and decided to put our house on the market.  For several days I rushed from one task to the next providing financial data to our lender, meeting with our realtor, and making sure we dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” to get this ball rolling.  We listed the house on Thursday and had open house over the weekend. A few “lookie loos” came parading through, marveling at how wonderful the house is, and why we should ever want to leave.  When order was restored, our realtor remarked that it’s early days, but there were two couples who seemed genuinely interested in the purchase process.  I said to the realtor, “Well, that’s good, because I am one of the most patient people you’ll ever meet.”

What a joke right?  Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been full tilt on “go” since I came out of the womb.  I’ve rushed through each phase of my existence on this planet, always ready for the next big adventure.  Patience may be a virtue, and it is definitely on the list of the Fruit of the Spirit of God, but it rarely shows up in my life with strength, or longevity.  Apparently, I’m a work in progress when it comes to patience.  This morning, before I started writing this article, I was reminded again of just how sad it is for people like me, always rushing around to the next task.

Contemplating the weekend’s activities, and thinking about writing out the list for today’s jobs, I looked to my right to get the yellow stickie notepad on my desk … and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the sun rising in the east.  A totally cloudless sky of deep purple enhanced the glowing yellow and orange rays of the coming light.  I was mesmerized, and shocked at how few times I’ve just sat and watched the sun come up.  For whatever reason, what I did next shocked even me.  I sat.  I breathed.  And I watched in wonder at the beauty of God’s creation.  I wasn’t anxious.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  I wasn’t rushed.  I just sat.

So here’s the thing.  What’s your rush?  Take a moment, and take a breath.  Now relax, look around at something besides the “to-do list,” and take the time to see the wonder and beauty of God’s creation.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

 

 

Rush

Invisible

Some things we cannot see.  Many things we are not supposed to see.  They are invisible on purpose.  God designed it that way.  Even though there are those who insist that humans only use a small percentage of our actual brain capabilities, it was not designed or destined as the purview of human beings to know what tomorrow holds.  Tomorrow is invisible.  Books, movies, songs and poems have been written about the desire or dread to know what comes next… but it is invisible to us.  There must be a reason.

Could it be that the simplest answer is that God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and ever present with us, is supposed to be enough for us?  More than just an impersonal “force” which has an equally powerful “dark side,” isn’t it significant enough for us just to know that the One who created us, also wants to lead, guide, protect, and love us… for all eternity?

In an age of real-time news coverage of the latest dramatic school shooting, or bomb-making maniacs killing people indiscriminately, is this really what should be occupying our minds?  Do we really need to know all this stuff… and especially in real-time?  In what way does this enrich our lives?  How does this help to stop the spreading panic and hopelessness, in a world seemingly gone mad?  How does this knowledge bring peace to our souls?

The clearest answer is… it doesn’t.

I’m not blindly suggesting that in some kind of ignorant stupor we simply close our eyes and pretend what’s happening in our world isn’t there.  What I am suggesting is that the media, even conservative media sources, are on the edge of being out of control.  If I am to be at peace, I must believe in something invisible… the promises of God.  We do not see them, but we can certainly know, see, and experience the results of them.

To that end, I offer only one of God’s simple promises… and then, what our response should be as we live daily in the reality of this promise.  Seeing is not believing… believing is seeing!

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.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

Invisible

Identical

How does one distinguish between the two distinct people and personalities that result from identical twins?  In college I found it hard to know which was which.  They laughed the same, walked, talked, ate, and looked the same.  If one showed up without the other, few knew them well enough to know who was standing before them.  The degree of likeness, one to the other, could not be described any better, or more appropriately than, identical.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, traveling from one tiny village to the next, proclaiming “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…” [Mark 1:15] the crowds that followed were “…amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” [Mark 1:22]

Maybe the explanation is as simple as this.  The scribes, rabbis, and other teachers, while knowing the law of God, continually used other men’s interpretations and ideas when they taught what God was saying through the Law and the Prophets.  Since Jesus was, and is God, along with the Holy Spirit and the Father, He was able to speak from original intent, since He was there when the words of the Law and the Prophets were inspired then written.  As such, Jesus would quote the original text without the aid of scrolls kept in the synagogues or the Temple.  The words He spoke were identical to those written in ancient days.

So when Jesus would begin, “You have heard that the ancients were told…  But I say to you…” [Matthew 5:21-22], He was speaking about how the teaching of men erred from the original intended meaning behind each passage He quoted.  This alone gave Him the authority to also say, “I and the Father are one.” [John 10:30]

Having spoken these words, it’s easy to see why the Jewish leaders took offense, since there isn’t another way to interpret this statement except Jesus claiming He and the Father are IDENTICAL.  Now don’t go so fast here… linger a minute.

Jesus isn’t saying He is “another- like” the Father.  Jesus isn’t saying God and the Son are identical twins.  The one-ness Jesus is claiming is further captured in His statement to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” [John 14:9]

One of the spiritual games we like to play seems to be finding an explanation of the Trinity:  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three in ONE.  This idea is captured in an ancient image, that most of us have no construct from which to assimilate it’s truth.  We recognize the second part, but mostly skip completely over the first part.  It goes like this…

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

Even the most simple explanation is mind boggling, because LORD (Yahweh – the proper name used for God) and God (Elohenu – the divine being) are the same. Since both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are invisible to human eyes, it makes it virtually impossible to wrap our minds around the idea of One-ness. So…

Let’s not make this harder than God intended it.  In fact, while it may be fun to come up with human images that help us deal with the Trinity of ONE, our focus should be on the most complete revelation of who God is, and what He wanted us to know about Him.  And in this case, all we have to do is look to Jesus and see the ONE.  He is identical in every way, yet was visible for awhile on the earth, and will one day soon (I hope) reappear on this planet to demonstrate His One-ness.  What did this man Jesus say to John the Apostle that He wanted us to know?

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [Revelation 1:8]

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”
Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.
[Revelation 22:20]

Identical

Patience

In this age and time, a universal culture of instant gratification exists which seemingly yields not at all to the very concept of patience.  Not only do people flit from here to there seeking the next “thing” to satisfy their narcissistic pursuits of self-indulgence, but the momentary pleasure they achieve in these pursuits is so short term they impatiently enjoy the achievement, never satisfied, never satiated, never at peace.  My belief is that nothing in scripture is by accident, or haphazardly written.  So when I look at the list Paul gave the church in Galatia regarding what it means to be a true Christ-follower, and having the Holy Spirit living in us, producing in us the “fruit” of our faith in Christ… well, I contend there is order to what is written.  He wrote:

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

People today, yes-even Christ-followers today, struggle with the idea of patience because somewhere along their walk of faith, one or all three of the initial items Paul talks about is off track.  It is truly difficult to be patient about anything in life, if there is no peace in your walk of faith with Christ.  If you are not at peace – with yourself, others around you, your spouse, your family, your co-workers, then something about joy is off track.  And if your joy is nowhere to be found, then something about your love is out of focus.  Do you follow what I’m saying here?

Now, here’s the thing.

I believe each of these 9 attributes are “supposed” to be found in every true Christ-follower, every day, all the time…  but how many people do you know who really look like the image here, in real time, in real life?  I can’t look in the mirror on any given day without realizing something about one of these attributes is either missing, or dormant in my daily routines.  When I realize this, I have to ask the question, “how did I get here?”

Now this is really simple.  If I’m right, and these attributes are linear, while I may think I have great self-control, if I don’t have patience, how could I be in control of my emotions, or actions?  That seems disingenuous to me.  At the least it is hypocritical, but worse, it opens the door for Satan to defeat me spiritually, by causing me to believe I’m more in tune with Christ than I really am.

If in fact these attributes are linear, all predicated on the attribute that comes before, then all these attributes stem from the original… love.  I will never know all of what God wants me to know; nor will I experience all that God has planned for me… until I yield fully to the love of God, by surrendering my heart fully to Jesus.  In that moment, I experience His love as He intends it.  Which opens the floodgates of joy into my life.  Yielding to the Spirit in joy, opens the path to peace.  And the progression continues until I am completely yielded to the Holy Spirit’s direction for my life, and find in the end… self-control, by the Spirit’s power.

No patience today?  Go back … turn back to Christ in faith and ask the Spirit to reveal which part of these attributes is off track in your life.  And for goodness sake, be open to what the Spirit wants to do in you… and be patient while the Spirit answers your prayer… well, at least try to be…

Patience

 

Grasp

grasp

Tiger Woods staring down a putt at Innisbrook Valspar Championship was an awesome sight.  The resurgence of a career many if not most had all but deemed completely over just 6 short months ago.  However, given a few more laser iron shots like he hit in the first three rounds, or given a few chips that went in, or just a couple of putts that should’ve rolled out a few more inches, and the trophy was within his grasp.  I agree with Randall Mel of the golf channel, and his rant yesterday about these young guns on tour wanting Tiger to come back strong.  These boys need to be careful what they wish for.  To me the most telling stat in his article is Tiger’s record when holding or sharing the lead after 54 holes… Tiger won 47 out of 50 tournaments.  Those like myself who have always been a Tiger fan (his spiritual life or morals notwithstanding), if it’s golf you like to watch, at the top levels of how golf is to be played, then Tiger Woods is the guy.

Why would I say this?  It’s just math really.  Some, and perhaps rightly so, would say that Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer to ever play the game.   Many say this based solely on the Major championship titles held by Mr. Nicklaus, which is a staggering 18 titles.  Once again some have wondered if Tiger could ever achieve this height, along with all his other accomplishments.  Like…

  • PGA Tour titles = Sam Snead, 82… Tiger,79… Jack Nicklaus, 73
  • Tiger’s 142 consecutive cuts made over a 7 year stretch, Nicklaus – 105
  • Most seasons winning five or more times, 10 seasons;  Nicklaus – 8
  • Winning percentage to starts, 27%;  Nicklaus -12%

So, it’s got to be more than just Majors right?  But what if it isn’t?  What if the only stat that matters in determining the greatest golfer, is number of Major titles won?  Is this really within Tiger’s grasp?  It’s been ten years now since Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open, so does he have the stuff of Major Championship golf?  Maybe we should wait until this weekend and watch him at Arnie’s place before we decide.  But as we think on this matter consider this.  Tiger is 42 years old, and true he has had health issues, but he looked as good this weekend as he did when he was winning big time.  So how much does age factor in the Majors?

In 1978 Nicklaus won the British Open at age 38;  in 1980 the U.S. Open at 40; in 1980 the PGA Championship, again age 40; and for his 18th title, Jack won the 1986 Masters at age 46.  This means Tiger Woods has 16 more majors in the next four years to win 4 times to tie Jack… winning 5 gives Woods the all time record.  What if he plays competitively more years than just the next 4, to age 46?

Within his grasp?

Check my facts if you must, but I’m pretty sure they are correct.

But in the end, Tiger’s looking awfully good for the possibility of doing something never done before (again)… by challenging Jack Nicklaus’s Major Title number.

I think it’s within his grasp… I’ll let you decide.

 

 

Grasp

Uncompromising

My basic understanding of the word “compromise” is when two people in disagreement each make concessions (altering their position) and a settlement/agreement resolves the dispute.  Here are some of the greatest compromises in human history…

  • The Christmas truce of 1914, when the troops on opposing sides of World War I had an unofficial ceasefire, each crossing into no-man’s land, and exchanging holiday greetings.  A showing of human decency in the midst of the most brutal conflict the world had seen up until that point.
  • When a populace in search of security, in compromise yields more of its liberty than is required.  Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty, nor Safety.”
  • And perhaps the most famous of all, the compromise made by Pontius Pilate, giving the choice over to the crowds of people over whom to condemn to death, Barabbas or Jesus.

While each of these examples have specific outcomes, and each event has been written about, dissected, and discussed ad nauseam, all three are good examples of compromise, where concessions must be made to achieve resolution of a conflict.

Compromise, as far as I’m concerned has a negative impact in the life of a true Christ-follower today.  That’s because we are constantly being harangued to modify our beliefs to appease those who un-appeasable.  Trust me when I say that nothing short of abandonment of your beliefs will be good enough for many in our pagan unbelieving culture today.  However, if you want to be a true Christ-follower, it is time to take an uncompromising stand about your faith.

Uncompromising faith is not an easy stance, and you should not take me to mean that God will automatically bless you, or make you successful, or even protect you from those who would destroy you for taking this uncompromising stand.  Yes, there is a whole host of characters written about in Hebrews 11, great Bible characters who remained faithful and uncompromising in their service to God.  And down toward then end of the list, the writer suggests he just doesn’t have time to list them all, but lumps the faithful all together saying…

[11:33-35] …who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; 

It’s easy to want to be like these and know that our uncompromising faith might have these same kinds of effects.  But here’s the thing.  It’s a semi-colon, not a period at the end of this thought. And then the writer goes on to say…

[11:36-38] …and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

And the bottom line for the author, regarding those who live faithful uncompromising lives is… all gained God’s approval through their faith.

It’s easy, and yes perhaps too easy when times are good, successful, and happy to sometimes be lulled into thinking I don’t have to try so hard to speak the truth, in a loving, but uncompromising way.  After all, why stir the pot, right?  Anyone who thinks this way is thinking contrary to Scripture.  Just two more passage of Scripture for your consideration, before you decide if I’m right or not.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Neither of these passages are written as a recommendation, or as a debatable thought.  Each is written as an absolute truth.  Each is a fact that cannot be compromised.  Paul urges every true Christ-follower not to be conformed but to be uncompromising in their stand against the ideologies of this world.  And Jesus Christ says the only way to accomplish this is to place uncompromising faith in the fact of His claim to be the true Messiah.

Today I challenge you to live an uncompromising faith before your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers… and rely on God to glorify Himself through your life.

 

Uncompromising

Restart

Many of you, depending on your age, may remember the “black screen of death,” or some of you may have suffered this fatal error recently.  It’s just a term that defines what happens when a Microsoft Windows based computer suffers an internal error causing the whole system to shut down.  Often when this occurs, because the system didn’t shut down properly, the user experiences great emotional pain and intellectual suffering when the computer fails to restart.  “According to Wallace McClure of ASP.net, the phrase was originally coined in mid-1991 by Ed Brown, a technician with The Coca-Cola Company‘s IT department in Atlanta, GA. He reports that the company was rolling out Windows 3.0 within the Global Marketing group and when the users would attempt to run WordPerfect, they would randomly receive a black screen.” (click on restart, for more information.)

Missing files, compressing files, or running certain software programs, were all thought to be reasonable starting points for the random, and eerily unpredictable event, which would most often occur at the most inopportune time. Imagine working for hours, then reaching a critical point in a data set, or proposal due by 8:00 a.m. the next morning, and suddenly with a single key-stroke, your computer screen goes black (or blue, depending on the operating system software version), and you’ve lost hours and hours of work.  Hence, the other phrase people who work with Microsoft based systems are familiar with today, “Save, and save often.”

One of the most unpredictable aspects of human existence is the timing of an event we also call “death.”  Like the computer systems which just go black, at some point along our human journey, our bodies, the human system will also just go black.  How morbid, right?  How unthinkable, right?  The fact remains, human existence on this planet is not guaranteed for anyone, and trying to predict the moment of a terminal/fatal event or action is impossible.  Many have tried to answer the questions, “Is that all there is?  When it’s over, it’s just over?  There isn’t anything else?”  The logical answer for those who disavow the existence of God, the salvation of Jesus, the eternal bliss of heaven, or the eternal punishment of hell remains, “yep, that’s all there is.  There is no re-boot, or restart.”

However…

For those seekers of truth who remain far from God, but are open to the facts regarding life here, as well as life after death, I offer you great hope.  This topic of death not only doesn’t have to be morbid or macabre, but the reality of going black here, for some really does mean stepping into the Light.  For those who believe the Bible is the authoritative guidebook for a journey through this life, and the next, see the event of death as the hope of eternal bliss.

While sitting at your computer, it would be great to be able to predict when the screen would turn black, but again that is impossible.  Likewise, it would be great to know the point of our human demise, so we could be “ready” when it happened.  The only guarantee for your data to remain on your computer, is to save what you are working on regularly.  The only way for you to experience a true restart, of life as it was intended to be lived, is to be “saved” by stepping over the line of faith into Jesus.

Like malware hiding and lurking in the corners of your computer, just waiting to create chaos and destruction, and ultimately the black screed of death… sin is hiding and lurking in the corners of your mind and heart, just waiting to wreak havoc and destruction on your soul, and ultimately separate you from God for eternity.

Is there something more?  Of course there is!  Life with God, as God intended us to live all along.

How do you find it?  Restart.

How do you restart?  See, that’s the right question!  And here is the answer…

Romans 10:9-10
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

 

 

 

Restart

Imagination

Imagination is more to me than just the ability to form new ideas, or images or concepts.  To imagine might be considered a gift by those “vision”-challenged individuals who are governed by literal thoughts and senses.  Those weak in the art of imagining remind me of Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. Vandiver attended a banquet in Philadelphia, where in a speech, he stated, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.

This is the attitude of many literal or legalistic minds when challenged to think outside their box and imagine a different world, a different model, a different direction, or a different solution.  It’s not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, when they were constantly asking for a “sign” that would authenticate the words He spoke, and the things He taught.  Yet, the absence of signs was not the issue, for they were too numerous to mention.  The issue was a stubbornness that would not be softened by truth or signs.  The men who opposed Jesus so vehemently, had no spiritual vision or imagination.  In this way they were blinded to even imagine that Jesus could be Messiah.

Long ago, in ancient days, the prophet had spoken the words that would condemn them, and it dealt with imagination…

Zechariah 8:16-17
These are the things that you shall do; Speak you every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; a
nd let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, says the LORD.

The imagination they did have, was only evil thoughts and ideas about how to rid themselves of this person who was confusing the people with claims to be the Son of God… even if it did mean drumming up false charges, with false testimony to serve their agenda to kill him.

But to those who would see the spiritual truth, and commit themselves by faith to Christ, their minds would be transformed by the very power of God.  In this mind-transformation process, God’s Spirit would reveal things unimaginable by the normal, stubborn, human mind.

Paul encouraged his friends in Ephesus, to allow this imagination transformation to be the focus of their lives.  He prayed for it all the time.

Ephesians 3:14-21…  For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend (imagine) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (or imagination), that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Imagination, spiritually speaking, is the ability for God’s Spirit to teach us the reality of things we do not see, we do not know, and we cannot understand, without His enablement to comprehend them.  Yet, these are exactly the things God wants to do for every person who calls Him LORD, believes in His Son, and trusts in His Spirit to lead them.

Today, be opposite of those who constantly ask for a “sign”, and instead, imagine that God has already given you everything you need… to know God personally, know His will and purpose for your life, and to live for His glory.  God can’t “show you” anything, until you imagine it possible.  It reminds me of the old hymn…

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light!

Imagination

Courage

After wandering around for 40 years in a primitive wasteland, where God provided both food and water when none could be found otherwise, the chosen Hebrew nation was at their defining moment once again.  As a people group, they could decide once and for all to live as God called them to live, in a Promised Land… or they could reject the words of God, and wander in the wasteland forever.  Their leader, Joshua (not Moses at this point), said to them:

Joshua 1:7  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

The people chose to listen and heed these words, at least for a period of time, and God blessed them greatly… as long as they did.  The law of God was the equivalent of God’s divine voice, given through Moses, as the instruction manual for maintaining the covenant relationship God had established with them.  When they began abandoning these words, things turned against them.  When they returned in repentance to God, seeking forgiveness and restoration, heeding once again His instruction manual, God reconciled with them and began blessing them once again.

By the time Jesus arrived in Galilee and Judea hundreds and hundreds of years later, the words of Moses and the law of God was so misconstrued that few of the leaders, and most of the people, looked very little like the trusting Hebrew nation that came out of the wilderness.

They needed a new word from God.  They needed a new covenant.  So God (the Son) left heaven to come and reconcile all mankind, not just the Hebrew nation, back to Himself.  He spoke the divine voice of God again, with new instructions about a new covenant.  His authority was established in mighty ways, through signs and miracles, through which He demonstrated His authority, control and presence as “God with us.” (Immanuel)

One night as the disciples were crossing the sea of Galilee, a storm threatened to sink their boat, and in the process they would all die in the depths of the raging waters.  But then, suddenly, out of nowhere, Jesus comes walking to them on the waves.  They cower in fear, thinking they see a ghost.  Now hear the words of Jesus, to these fearful expert fishermen:

Matthew 14:27
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Courage then, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, could be defined as the RESULT of faith in action, placed in the divine voice of God, instructing us to NOT BE AFRAID.

Not so easy to do in this world today is it?

Not when those given the task to protect us… allow innocent lives to be taken, when it could so easily have been averted.

Not when those given the task to rule and lead us… constantly politicize the event rather than deal with the real issue of accountability of the humans involved.

Not when the society we live in constantly belittles and condemns our leaders who have the courage to stand for their faith in God, and vocalize it publicly.

But here’s the thing…

Neither God the Father in the Old Testament, nor Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the New testament… said it would be easy.  Remember what they did say…

“Be strong and very courageous…!”
“Take courage… it is I; do not be afraid!”

Think of it this way…

It is not courage, if it is easy.
It is not courage, if you are not in danger.
It is not courage, if the core of your faith is not challenged in any way.
It is not courage, when you say, or do, or think… like everyone else.

Courage is living out your faith in Jesus…
Living as He lived, by yielding every moment of every day, to the glory of God the Father.

What does courage look like… for you?

 

 

Courage

Mnemonic

An easy definition for mnemonic is:  “a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something.”

I saw this “Word of the Day” prompt, and immediately thought this is something missing in so many Christ-followers today.  Somehow we’ve forgotten some of the most important things designed to keep our daily relationship with Jesus fresh.  However, there is a simple mnemonic I learned years ago which I still use often these days to refocus my mind on the major elements of my faith.

When I’ve taught folks as new believers how to pray Biblically, I’ve these letters:  A.C.T.S. It goes like this…

A= adoration

All too often the first thing out of our mouths/minds towards God’s throne in heaven is, “help” or “could you please…?”  While God is interested in hearing our heart-felt cries for help, the fact that we begin our prayers this way is telling us something.  Maybe we haven’t quite figured out what our relationship with God entails.  We serve the God of the universe who has all authority, is in control of everything, and has promised us His eternal presence here and now in our lives today, not just in heaven when we get there.

Knowing this about God should generate a more appropriate response of adoration, and a desire to bring God glory with the praise of our lips.  We should exalt Him for what He has done, is doing, and will do in the future to glorify Himself in Jesus Christ, and in us.  Seeing and knowing God these ways should result in a specific response.

C = confession

What a realistic view of God usually does for the true Christ-follower is very humbling.  Like the apostle Peter in the boat when he realized Jesus was the true Messiah, Peter basically shouted “get away from me Lord, I’m a sinner!”  Acknowledging our failures and sins before our Savior, and feeling the need to run and hide, is the very point at which Jesus pulls us into Himself.  With fabulous forgiveness and glorious grace multiplied daily by our confession, we continue to walk in His spirit, bringing light and salt into the world around us.  It also generates another response.

T = thanksgiving

The basic difference between adoration and thanksgiving is the understanding between God’s nature and God’s actions.  We adore Him because He is God, and deserves to be glorified, exalted and adored.  We offer our thanksgiving for how He acts toward us, and the world. The best and easiest way to do this is found in the old hymn “Count your blessings.”  This song is not to be confused with the famous “White Christmas” song, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.”  That’s a great song, but has a totally different meaning.  The one I’m referring to goes like this…

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

And finally, after we’ve adored God’s nature and character, confessed our sins before Him, and offered our many thanks for all God has done, we’re prepared, in humbleness to approach the throne of Grace with…

S = supplication

I realize this is a word not many 21st century believers are even familiar with.  So, again, a little definition.  Supplication: the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.  Perhaps the keys words in this definition are “earnestly or humbly.”  Too many people I know, start their prayers here, and in their voices all I hear is “God, look at all I’ve done for you… you owe me this.”  They approach the throne of grace without knowing who God is (Adoration), knowing who they are (sinners), or with a grateful heart for how God has blessed them in the past (thanksgiving).  They just jump right in, as though God is some cosmic slot machine, they throw up their many requests, and pull the handle (“in Jesus name”) and expect God to deliver whatever it is they want.

I’m pretty sure it saddens God’s heart when lost people do this.  I’m convinced it grieves God’s heart gravely when He hears His own children act in this unbecoming way.

If you want to turn around the relationship you have with God in Christ, to be the living, vibrant life you truly desire spiritually, and Jesus described as “life more abundant”, then fill you prayers daily with:   A.C.T.S.

Remember: who God is, who you are, all your blessings, then make your petitions…

The results will astound you.

 

Mnemonic

Enroll: choosing to sign up

Here’s a poem I wrote three years ago, published as a newspaper article.

“One of these days,” the old saying goes, that infamous trite, of favor and woes,
“I’ll this or I’ll that,” whether it’s my “ship will come in” or “I’ll get rid of this fat!”
January comes, and February follows, then slowly but surely the promises hollow.
The doldrums return, the vision almost lost, humans fail to see the infinite cost.

“He’s a man of his word,” an interesting phrase, the sum of his actions, given in praise.
Just think were it true of the many, not the few, would peace, love, and harmony ensue?Most people aren’t, because words are just cheap, good intentions to be burned on the rubbish heap.
The thing left undone, lies rotting and wasting, a carcass of words, for the scavenger’s tasting.

“I’ll get around to it” oh, certainly you will, the timing’s the thing, like cash in a till.
Good intentions aside, it’s action He seeks, not tomorrow, the next day, or even next week.
Now is the time, what prevents such a thought? Time itself cannot be borrowed or bought.
Words, words, words, words, spoken and unheeded, the fallow field left unseeded.

“The crux of the matter”, the truth yet untold, most flounder and flutter, and the promises get old.
Transformation is required for most human wills so not to be caught in a broken-promise swill.
Transformation cannot be learned and taught, yet in such knowledge life can be fought.
Winning battle after battle against mediocre living, action in life given, and keeps on giving.

To whom does one go for this transforming power, the life-giving knowledge kept in high tower?
Only one source exists which answers these needs, found only in One man’s words, and His deeds.
“The crux” in fact is the cross of our Christ, without which the enemy achieves a great heist.
To steal the will and soul of man, is his singular focus, his ultimate plan.

“The Old Rugged Cross,” through thousands of years, still now is the resource dispelling our fears.
The man who hung there, with transforming power, now offers a reason no longer to cower.
A trade so simple a child can engage, an action so strong no enemy can upstage.
Invitation to transformation, take it fully in stride, change words into action no darkness can hide.

But a heartbeat away, a choice from inside, to engage the Creator, in His arms you’ll reside.
Do it now, no waiting, no hemming and hawing, do not hesitate, no time now for fawning.
For darkness increases, it’s almost over, even now skies wilt, and there’s no more clover.
Grains of sand draining away, holds time itself in absolute sway.

One choice remains, trust Him completely, rely on His grace, His forgiveness implicitly.
These actions alone, and no other words, will secure eternal life only He affords.
Call on His name, rely on His word, and “one of these days,” will be yours in the Lord.
“He’s a man of His word,” trust it for sure, life which He gives is the life that endures.

 

 

Enroll

Profuse

At times I become so passionate about the message, that I go way over the top trying to make a point.  In an extravagant, gushy way, I over-speak, or over-teach, because I want to make sure I get through to my listeners or readers.  Recently I’ve discovered, sometimes less is more.  Like when Jesus asked the simple question of his listeners:

Luke 6:46 – “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

So, in the interest of brevity, I want to challenge those today, who feel the discord and division of our political climate, and the social consequences of these problems.  The conservative minds, the evangelical minds across our country, need to listen closely to the words of Jesus and not get caught up in the hate-mongering, judging, critical rhetoric coming from antagonists stirring the pot.

Luke 6:27-28  – “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Those who are blind, but think they see; those who see themselves wise, but are merely self-deluded by their own agendas; those who would mock us, belittle us, or worse silence us… are the very ones some would call enemies… and the very ones who need our prayers most.

So, Christian… true Christ-follower… I call on you today to love those who hate you, bless those who curse and mock you… but mostly pray for those who want to silence you.

Father, this person will never understand how much they have hurt me, until you give them sight and understanding. My prayer for them, is for You to bring light and life into their heart and mind. In coming to know you, help them to be transformed by your power. And help me to love them as You do, as though this has already happened.”

I call out to the persecuted, the hated, the judged, the condemned… for all those who are the “underbelly of America” because you want to trust God instead of politicians to rule across our land.  I call out to you to pray.  Pray for our President, our elected officials of both parties, our judges, our military leaders and soldiers, our governors, our mayors, our town councils, our police and first responders… pray for the person who disagrees with you most about Truth… pray that God will transform our country into a nation state that brings Him great glory.

Luke 6:46 – “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

Profuse

Silhouette of Faith

silhouetteWhat does faith really look like?  Is there a way to pinpoint it with any accuracy?  The image here is offensive to some, but represents the saving power of God to others.  Paul the Apostle wrote, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]  Faith then, is an action on our part, evidenced by the resulting transformed life of the true Christ-follower, by the power of God.  What does that even mean?

This silhouette of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary captures for us in black and white, the sacrifice of our Lord, paying the penalty for our sin, offering each of us the grace of forgiveness and eternal life.  When we accept this reality, stepping over the line of faith into Jesus, His own Holy Spirit is implanted in us.  Then, day by day, as the power of this saving love begins to shape our lives, the more we obey His words, keep His commands, trust the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, provide for us, we become… more and more like Jesus.  Paul also wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”  [Galatians 2:20]  In this way, faith is not a once-and-done action.  No, faith is a step, followed by another step, followed by another step… of faith.  “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” [Colossians 2:6]  Well, how did you receive Christ? [by faith]  Then we are to walk [live]… by faith!

So what happens over time, when we walk in faith, step by step, continuing to yield more of our lives to the Holy Spirit’s control?  The proof is in the pudding, right?  It’s not about judging someone else, or suggesting some Christians are more “Christian” than others, right?  It really is about self-examination, and it’s about understanding a way to tell if I’m really experiencing the transformed life, that should naturally occur (by God’s supernatural power) if I am in Jesus.  So put yourself to the test… Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  The fruits listed here are the RESULTS of a transformed life.  If you could paint a silhouette of what this looks like, it would look very much like the image above… The Cross of Jesus.

So tell me… what would the silhouette of your life resemble?

 

 

Silhouette

“Candid” Synonym for Truthful?

candid

Do a Google search for “candid,” and you find this list of synonyms: “frank, outspoken, forthright, blunt, open, honest, truthful, sincere, direct, plain-spoken, straightforward, ingenuous, bluff.” Or, more informally: “unposed, informal, uncontrived, impromptu, natural.”

My first thought of the word “candid,” by word association, was a Television show, which began broadcasting in the 1940’s, with the show theme, “Smile, you may be on Candid Camera!”  The sole purpose of the show was to catch people doing things they might not ordinarily do, (on a hidden camera), in response to a “setup situation.”  The first episode aired on August 10, 1948, and revised episodes of the long-time, prank-oriented show have been seen on TV as recent as 2010, hosted by the creator’s son Allen Funt, and Mayim Bialik, one of the stars on The Big Bang Theory.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a series of Candid Camera episodes, with Satan himself as the producer/director in full-bore prank mode, setting me up in situations, just to see what I’ll do, or how I’ll react to some weird temptation he’s concocted to deceive me.  It isn’t frank, outspoken, or forthright… the setup is usually devious, deceitful, and potentially destructive.  His intrusions into my life are not truthful, sincere, or plain-spoken, they are contrived, planned, and designed to make me fail in my efforts to glorify God.  The saddest part, the most humiliating part, is that all too often I fall for the setup, and end up saying something, or doing something, or acting in some way that is so not what I want to do.  But there you go.  In the end, I’m glad I’m not captured on some cosmic camera for replay to a national or international audience.

It causes me to ask myself, “why do you so often fall prey to these crazy schemes of the devil?”  More importantly, “what can you do to not fall for these setups as often, or totally eliminate them altogether?”

The first answer is easy… because I’m a human being.
The second answer is easy too, I guess, but sounds like a cop-out… I can’t eliminate them.

It seems to me that the one primary objective of Satan, is to destroy human life, and rob God of His glory.  So he sets us up for failure, and when we act stupidly (sinfully) and in this he is successful in his plan.  In the Bible, the Apostle Peter, candidly warns us, then describes Satan, and his agenda:

1 Peter 5:8
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 

In the Bible, Jesus describes Satan as a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44).  Satan will never be candid with us, if the synonym means “truthful.”  But James, the half-brother of Jesus is very candid with his insight about how to deal with these designs to entrap and destroy us.

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

Look at the direct, plain-spoken, straightforward instruction in these words.  Only God can defeat Satan, so submitting  to God’s will, is the first step in avoiding Satan’s setups.

However, if you find yourself ensnared in the “setup” Satan has designed for you, there is still wisdom in James’ words… resist.  This doesn’t mean fight with the devil, you can’t win.  This doesn’t mean trying somehow to control the circumstances, that you can’t control.  This means very simply, when in the middle of the struggle with the one who seeks to destroy you… in submitting to God, you resist Satan’s setup.  You will never win, if you fight on your own, or in your own strength.

Today, let’s be candid.  The best we can ever hope to do is:  submit therefore to God!

 

Candid

An Agile Spirit

agile

On the Orpolo firing range, in the southern region of Georgia (the country), on September 3, 2017, fifteen-hundred military servicemen participated in a multinational exercise involving offensive and defensive maneuvers.  The goal of the exercise was to increase “interoperability” between Georgian troops and other partner states (the United States, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine and Azerbaijan), and improve “combat capabilities of the NATO Response Force” according to XINHUSNET. The military drill was perhaps aptly named, “Agile Spirit 2017.”

Military readiness training is essential to protecting the interests of the United States, both domestically and abroad.  It requires participating in these exercises on a regularly scheduled basis, with our allies across the world.

In this same way, SPIRITUAL readiness training is essential to every true Christ follower in order to be able, capable, and agile in response to the attacks which come from the spiritual forces of darkness.  As children of the light (John 12:36) we are encouraged by the apostle Paul to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11

The apostle goes on to instruct (from a military perspective) the importance and description of each piece of this armor… belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes-gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Each one of these articles intended for offensive or defensive purposes, is critical to implement in our walk of faith.  Without any single one of the articles, our life as a Christ follower is laid bare and open to attack.  If any of these areas is weak, or poorly instructed, or not exercised effectively, we are laid bare and open to attack.  Continual training in all these areas renders us “agile in Spirit” and then capable of surviving the struggle which comes at us hard, and fast, and when we least expect it.

None of this even makes any sense unless we understand who our enemy really is.  God doesn’t want us to be naive in this world, or uniformed about our reality, or vulnerability.  So God impresses on Paul to instruct us: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

You might notice, that in essence there is really only one offensive weapon, listed last among all these spiritual defense elements:  The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Belts, breastplates, shoes, shields, helmets… none of these are weapons, they are protection against attack.  Perhaps that is why when tempted by Satan, Jesus Himself never relied on anything other than God’s own Holy Word, to engage the battle.  He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:4  The word of God, the sword of the Spirit, is what gives our faith the agile ability to resist the attacks of Satan.

James said it this way, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Here’s the thing.  If we don’t know what God’s word says, we are vulnerable daily, to the attacks of Satan. We may be wearing the armor: belts, breastplates, shoes, shields, helmets… but all we can really do is be sitting ducks for the attack that will surely come.  To be agile in Spirit, and capable of engaging this spiritual struggle, demands we regularly and consistently engage in the spiritual exercise of training… in the Sword of the Spirt, the truth of the word of God.

In the now famous words of Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise…

Engage.

 

 

Agile

Confession is not a Loophole

loophole

As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, a loophole is “an opportunity to legally avoid an unpleasant responsibility, usually because of a mistake in the way rules or laws have been written.”  I saw this word “Loophole” as the word of the day, and it took me back to those preschool and elementary days when my three children were young, impressionable, and teachable.  As parents one of the things we wanted our children to know in real time, is the consequences resulting from each choice they make.  When they were obedient, they were blessed and often rewarded with an extra book at bedtime, etc.  When they were disobedient, they were punished in a way appropriate to the offense, like no reading of their favorite book at bedtime that night.  Even the word “punished” can cause some reading this article now to be offended in our modern world of “loopholes.”

In my observation of Christian circles over the last forty years, the concept of confession has been poorly taught, and loosely interpreted.  I know too many people who live in a world where 1 John 1:9 is used like a get-out-of-jail free card, and play it often as a loophole to presume on God’s grace with no consequences.  What does this verse actually say?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Like a pig who spends all day wallowing in the muddy dung floor of their stable, when we disobey God’s Word or Will, we become dirty, stinky, and unclean in God’s nostrils. There is not only a penalty (punishment) for this action, but also a consequence resulting from the action.  Disobeying God’s will, in the simplest of terms even Adam came to understand in the Garden, results in (consequently) broken relationship with God.  Adam could not claim there was a “mistake in the way rules or laws have been written” because God’s laws are perfect. (Psalm 119:138) And for Adam there was only one.

While there seems to be a sense at some point in the Genesis story that Adam and Eve were repentant, and God acted to cover them and save them, their confession did not take away the consequence of their actions.  So, if confession is not a loophole, then what is it?  I suggest the answer is found in the “attitude” of how a true Christ followers wields 1 John 1:9.

The kind of confession found in 1 John 1:9 brings with it two distinct grace born benefits to the person who comes in true repentance to the words of their confession.  First, by seeing their disobedience as “sin” and owning it, when this person confesses they appropriate that forgiveness of God provided through Jesus death on the cross.  This appropriation of payment for their sin is required by law.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (cleansing 1 John 1:9)

Second, in this attitude of true repentance, and turning back to God for their forgiveness, they not only are cleansed, but this confessing action results in restoration of their relationship with God.  Once again the Christ follower can walk and talk with God in joy, peace and contentment that the relationship is no longer estranged.

Neither the appropriation of God’s cleansing grace, nor the forgiving nature of restored relationship with God, circumvent consequences that result naturally from disobedience.  Sometimes the boat sinks.  Sometimes cancer strikes, homes are lost, children die, wars rage, divorce papers are served, and jobs lost… and sometimes it comes as a natural result of disobedience.

True repentance, resulting in true confession, will always have cleansing restorative power in our lives.

It is not a loophole to avoid the consequences of our choices or actions.

Loophole

Why Study?

study

Well, now that’s a good question isn’t it, “why study?”  I wasn’t always the best student in high school or college, because I studied a lot… but mostly the things I wanted to study, and not all subjects equally.  It seems I had “favorite” courses where it was easy to immerse myself in the salient facts of the lessons, memorize them, and regurgitate them onto a “blue book” (yes I know this dates me).  Other subjects I took (some more than once, ugh!) only because they were required for my degree.  I needed that high school and college diploma to get into Seminary.  I thought that once I got to really dive deep into the things that interested me most (God’s Word) then I would have the time of my life.  Do you know what I discovered in Seminary?  It wasn’t all peaches and cream, like I thought it would be.

For one thing, just like high school and college, it turns out I had my favorites subjects in Seminary too.  I found myself falling into old patterns of studying well for what I liked, and not so well, for the things that were boring to me.  It’s sad, but true.  In the end, the course work for my Doctorate?  Yep, same thing.

So here’s the thing, is it possible there are many people just like me, who have a love for God’s Word, and study well those stories they love, and avoid altogether the passages they deem either too hard to understand, or just to offensive to their 21st-century sensibilities?

There is a clear mandate from the Apostle Paul that we should study the whole Bible.
2 Timothy 2:15
Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Word of Truth here is the whole Bible, and if we are approved by God, we will study the whole thing, and find application to our lives in this world today.

God really hasn’t changed His mind about this, from the time Joshua was leading the people of Israel into the promised land.
Joshua 1:8
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.

Why should we study? So we can know what God expects of us, and do things His way, believing in His provision and protection in life.

The wisest man who ever lived (according to God), Solomon, said that knowledge for the sake of knowledge, was a grievous pursuit.
Ecclesiastes 1:13
And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven.  It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.

Then, why study?

1 Thessalonians 4:1
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.

And there it is…that you may excel still more.

Don’t study just to acquire more knowledge or facts.
Don’t study in pursuit of wisdom, oh the folly of that pursuit!

Pursue the study of God’s Word for a closer and more intimate relationship with the author of the Book!
Pursue the study of God’s Word to be acclaimed “approved!”, and capable of instructing others with what you have learned by application in your own life.

Why study?

Because it is impossible to know the depths of God, the LORD we serve and love, without knowing what He says about Himself, in the Scriptures.

And trust me when I say, you won’t get it all in a brief and cursory reading from Genesis to Revelation.  In fact, it has been my life-long pursuit since the time I could read, and God’s Word reveals more of God to me every single time I open the book.

My prayer for me, and for you today comes from a Michael W. Smith song:

Study

An Engraved Invitation

carve

If I could carve it into something tangible like a mountainside for all the world to see, I would.  If I could afford to fly around the world in a crop duster to every city, town and village on earth, to write the truth in smoke against the deep blue sky, I would.  We need to understand that “Intelligent Design” is not the same thing as “Creationism.”

Intelligent Design” is a scientific method of empirically determining the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists; that it is genuine design, and that the designer is God.  [click on the link for a full detailed explanation]

Now that sounds pretty good to most evangelical/true Christ-followers, but danger lurks in those thoughts and ideals.  Allow me to make just a few observations.  First, and maybe most importantly, the supernatural beings created for the purpose of worshiping God and doing God’s will (Angels), know that God designed and created this world.  Some of those beings were led into rebellion against God by God’s highest angel – Lucifer.  These angels turned demon (1/3 of the heavenly host according to John in the Book of Revelation), have spent all of human history trying to convince humanity that God either doesn’t exist, or that He has lost interest in them altogether.  Yet, when Jesus came to earth to reveal God’s full and complete loving plan for salvation, Satan (Lucifer) called Him “Son of God” because even Satan knew the truth about creation, and the Garden of Eden… he was there.  All the fallen angels of heaven recognize Jesus when they see Him, and cower in fear at His omniscient and omnipotent Creative nature and character.

Second, since these supernatural beings know and believe there is a God and are not saved by Him, we should not presume that just because someone says “I believe there is a ‘being’ of some kind greater than us, that created everything we see,” that this is the same thing as salvation belief.  Knowing and/or believing that God exists is only the first step in being in right relationship with your Creator.  Let’s use Hebrews 11:6 as our proof text:  “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.”  Did you see the “and” there.  You might want to read that again.

The simple truth is that just because someone believes in an intelligent designer, does not mean they automatically believe that this designer rewards their efforts to know Him personally.  In fact some in this camp suggest that God “may” exist, and “may” be responsible for the design, but cares little or not at all about the humans now inhabiting this planet.  See the danger yet?

In the Bible, the authoritative, historically and scientifically proven document that reveals the Intelligent Designer Himself, truth regarding His nature and character is also revealed.  Like a huge engraved invitation across the universe of time and space, the words of Jesus ring out…

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  [John 3:16]

The truth is that not only did God design us, but He loves us so much, He is willing to die for us.  Which brings me to my last observation.

Finally, regardless of what the world may be shouting at us today, through any means available, there are NOT many paths to find this God of Salvation.  The Creator Himself has stated with authority, that only in Himself can a human being have a personal relationship with their Creator.  He said it this way:  “I AM the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father but through Me.”  [John 14:6]

Believing there is a God, is not the same thing as yielding your life, your mind, your soul, your attitudes, your entire belief system to the authority of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  If you want to know the Designer of Life personally, Jesus says “Come!  And See!”

Jesus has already issued to you, your own engraved invitation… it is written in the scars on His back, the thorns in His brow, the holes in His hands and His side.

Come!  Come and see, and believe!  Come receive life… from the Creator of all things.

 

Carve

Think Funnel

funnel

Just suppose for a moment that the Creator had a grand plan for how humans would acquire spiritual knowledge of His existence, and of His desire to be in personal relationship with each human being on earth…

Somebody (Adam/Eve) messed that up for us, when they couldn’t just do the one simple thing the Creator said they must do.  The resulting consequence was that while the Creator would still work to reveal Himself and His grace to mankind, now it would happen outside the ideal conditions that would have made it so easy.  Don’t think “garden” here… think “obedience.”

Now consider that along the way, through the hundreds of years of disobedience by the human race, that the disobedience took humanity so far away from knowing God, that there was really only one thing God could do to remedy this horrible situation.  God determined He would come Himself (Jesus) and do whatever was necessary to restore the relationship between Himself and humanity.

What one man messed up for all of us, One Man/God restored completely, for ALL OF US.
Romans 5:19 – For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

When an individual person today, believes in this plan, and that Jesus came to be the Savior of humanity, God’s own Holy Spirit comes to reside within them, and teach them what God always intended them to know about Him.  Here’s where it gets a little tricky.  Because our minds today don’t work the way Adam’s mind did in perfection before the disobedience.  In the act of disobedience the original mental/spiritual connection between God and mankind was dissolved, this being just one of the ways that Adam died, even as God had told Adam he would.

However, when we come to Jesus in faith, and we are “in” Him in salvation, God’s Holy Spirit begins to re-establish this mental/spiritual connection with us.  The problem is, our minds have grown so dark, so crowded with our own petty lives, that there isn’t room enough for God to give us all He wants to give us, all at one time.  So what is it that allows for God to pour Himself back into us?  Obedience.

The apostle Paul says that we should take every single thought in our brains and hold it captive to the obedience of Jesus.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)  By doing this, we make room for God to pour more of Himself into our lives, which is what Paul meant by saying, “For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16

To have the mind of Christ, think funnel, like the image above.  God, through the Holy Spirit, desires to give us so much more than we can receive.  Through the simple act of obedience, more of the clutter is removed from our life, and more of God’s Spirit can come into our life.  Most of the time, the receptacle (our hearts and minds) is too full of other things, for much of God’s Spirit to come in.  What is the answer?

Think funnel.  God is the pitcher full of grace, and knowledge of Him.  Our mind/heart is the size of the tiny end of the funnel.   How much of God can we get, if this is all clogged up, by disobedience, rebellion, stubbornness, and hard-heartedness?

Solution: Clean up the think-process, and turn in obedience to God’s Spirit.  Philippians 4:8 – Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.

This simple act of obedience, will open the funnel of God’s love and grace into your life in wonderful and exciting ways!  Don’t wait.  Do it now.

Go ahead, unclog the funnel.

Funnel

The Win Some Factor

winsome

In our Bible Study, for the next several months, we are studying selected passages from the Gospel of Luke.  Luke acts as historian in his account of the life of Jesus, and desires to put everything in the correct order and accounting.  In our study we’ve only just covered the early years of Jesus birth, and the few verses describing His childhood and young adult life before His ministry.  Even in these less than detailed descriptions Luke says, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” -Luke 2:52

This image is not of a madman, or a raving lunatic spreading myths and fantasies, or heresy.  The winsome nature of Jesus, His engaging smile, His attractive appearance, His appealing character, caused people in every village and town to come running to discover more about this Man.  In Luke 18 Jesus is teaching and people were bringing their babies to Him so He would touch them, and the disciples acting like sentries tried to stop the people.  It wasn’t because the babies were crying, or that the young children didn’t want to be there because they were scared of Him.  The disciples just thought Jesus too important to be disturbed in this way. Yet Jesus tells them, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” – Luke 18:15-17

No man, or woman, before or since, could appeal to the masses like Jesus.  It was His winsome nature that won them over.  And it causes me to pause and reflect on the words of the apostle Paul once again, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” – Philippians 2:5.  Could it be that in this one phrase Paul has captured the very essence of the winsome nature of Jesus?  And could it not be said that what we should do, in fact must do if we truly want to reflect the light of love found only in Christ, that we must adopt this “Win Some” attitude found in Philippians 2?

Even a quick look around in many Christian circles today, it’s often all too easy to see judgmental, hypocritical, shallow attitudes of faith, poorly expressed, and dramatically ineffectual for changing our world.  These believers are not seen as “winsome”, like the Master they say they serve.  To the lost folk around them, these Christians are viewed more as a roach might view a can of “RAID,” and those lost folks run away in the opposite direction.  The lost are not attracted to this kind of faith, they are repelled by it.  Which might lend some understanding as to why Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,(who by the way, probably looked much like the description above), when he said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Paul did his best wherever he went to have the attitude of Jesus, and be winsome with those he met, in order to win some to Christ in salvation.  Too many folks today, who I know are true believers in Jesus, just don’t communicate their faith well to those outside their circles.  They’re brash, and proud, and their condemning spirits precede them, and the world turns to run and hide.  This looks nothing like the winsome nature of Christ who said, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them…”

Only when we become childlike in our faith, trusting God’s Holy Spirit to lead us, trusting in Jesus’ power to save us, and allowing God’s miracle-working grace to transform us… will we truly become winsome in our nature and character, and begin to win some.

 

Winsome

I have a Reservation

reservation

My wife and I are planning a bucket list vacation trip in May this year.  We’ll fly to Seattle, then by rail take a trip across the Rocky Mountains in Canada from Vancouver to Calgary. With stops and excursions along the way it will be 14 days of fun filled adventure, and great opportunity to explore my developing photographic skills.

We’ve been talking about it for awhile, and made our deposit a couple of months ago.  While the trip itself is still about 5 months away, the anticipation of what we will experience and see is growing almost daily.

This got me to thinking…

One of the foundational truths of Scripture is that this world, this earth, this realm of reality, was never intended to be our final destination.  What Jesus told his disciples clearly delineates this truth.

John 14:1-3
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

There are so many wonderful promises held in these three verses.

  • God’s sovereignty affords us the means to never fear what our future may hold, and never be consumed by past events or mistakes, but to trust in Jesus’ ability to deliver us into God’s presence.
  • Jesus, Himself, is doing the work that provides a place for us, so there is nothing else we need to “do” except trust.
  • But perhaps the most tangible present hope and future exciting expectation is that there is a “place” for me.  Jesus says so.

But there’s a catch, so don’t miss the fine print in this documentation of God’s promise. Hear the words of Jesus clearly:

John 14:6
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Were I to try to individually make all the arrangements of travel, hotel, meals, and site seeing opportunities afforded me on this rail trip, I’d never make it.  I wouldn’t go.  I don’t have the skills, the knowledge, or the determination to do everything required for making this bucket list vacation happen.  But Rocky Mountaineer does.  They do everything necessary, and everything required to make this trip possible.  And I have my reservations!

In this same way, Jesus has done everything that is required by God to present you holy and blameless before God the Father, and initiate you into the heavenly kingdom of God as an eternal home. And there is a place specifically with your name on it.  Have you made your reservation yet?

Jesus is calling your name, right now… say “yes” to Him.

 

 

Reservation

Extravagant Cost of Love

Extravagant - Raising of the Cross, by Tissot

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote these words in 1707.  The music was written by Lowell Mason in 1824, and first appeared in The Boston Handel and Haydn Society of Collection of Church Music, third edition. (1825)  Legend has it Charles Wesley, famously known for his hymns, said he would give up all of his other hymns to have written this one.

The extravagant outpouring of God’s grace and love toward mankind, presented in this image, and captured in this hymn… demands my soul, my life, my all.

There’s really nothing left to say… except, maybe… “have you?”

Will you?

 

Extravagant

Cherish: The Greatest Treasure

top-1

It’s 8:25 a.m. at my home in Texas, and by now families with children have been up a couple hours doing “Christmas.”  The room where they gathered is trashed with torn paper wrappings, boxes, ribbons and bows.  Everyone’s smiling or frowning based on the joy or disappointment of a gift given or received, pre-determined by their expectations of what Christmas would be for them this year.  What I cherish today are the memories of Christmases past, where everyone in my family received something that brought genuine joy resulting in smiles and laughter.  Today I sat looking at the fire, and remembered fondly all those happy times.  In some ways I’m a very rich man, because I can still remember these things, and smile at myself for having been a part of it all.

The greatest treasure is knowing God is not finished with me yet.  I’m making new memories now.  The road is not less difficult or challenging, as anyone who has adult children also knows.  It’s just different, that’s all.  Things change.  People change.  Circumstances change.  But one thing never changes.  God’s love, demonstrated in such a tangible way, with the baby in a manger, who became the man on a cross.  God announced to the universe His great love for all mankind.  And God is not finished with me, or us, yet.

When is Christmas really over?  When the presents are all unwrapped?  When the tree comes down, the decorations are stored, and the house is back to “normal?”  When the returns are made, and you’ve gotten for yourself what you wished for?

For me, Christmas is never really over.  I’m not one of those weirdos’ who keeps decorations and trees up year round, that’s not what I mean.  I mean, I’m only too aware that Immanuel means “God with us.”  I get that when I stepped over the line of faith into Jesus and His grace, the greatest gift to mankind ever offered was mine to enjoy forever.  In that moment the Holy Spirit of God came to abide in me, to set up a permanent dwelling in my heart and mind.  And here’s the thing…

The Grace given at Christmas when this child was born, is the same grace God expects me to dish out lavishly on the people I meet on this grand adventure called life.  Each and every time I answer insults with a kind word, receive each anger charged look and return it with a smile, or give a cup of coffee expecting nothing in return, I’m living out the expectation of God for me. Grace giver.

I may be the only form of Jesus some people ever see, and if this is true, what do they see?

Today, I cherish the idea that Christ did it all for me.  Those who know me, know I don’t deserve this great gift.  But the love God has for me personally, is the greatest gift I’ve ever received, one I will always treasure.  I want to share it with the world; with anyone who will read or listen, that’s what this blog is really all about.

Join me in the process if you agree with me.  Share this blog on your FaceBook, send it in an email, or just share the love of God with someone today.  Be a grace giver.

Cherish

Miraculous

manger

At this time of year, during the Christmas season, the word “Miraculous” gets passed around more than chips and dip at a Super Bowl party.  I’m convinced few people really have any clue what it means.

The reason I say this is that by definition, whatever event or occurrence this word is used to describe, the word demands the person using it believe in a supernatural power to intervene, and the “miracle” is the manifestation of that power.  It is used to describe the highly improbable, the extraordinary, the “only possible” through divine intervention.  And it usually includes a favorable outcome or consequence to the event.  Since many people using this word don’t believe in God, much less Santa, there’s a bit of hypocrisy in the over-use of this word.

A man and a woman come together to share in the creation of another human being, well that’s a natural thing.  How that process works inside the human body, the design and fulfillment of another human being born into this world, now that’s miraculous.

But think about it from a larger perspective.  That God would use a man of the Old Testament to prophesy about a young girl from a no-name town, who would have a male-child (even though she was a virgin), and then for it to come true 400 years after the prophecy is revealed, now that’s miraculous.

Go larger, and see it from Jesus’ perspective.  The Son of God, in eternity past, before the world was ever created, looking across the eons of time, chose to come and be this male-child Savior of the world.  Emptying Himself of His God-ness, and shrouding Himself in human flesh, this baby became a young child who became the Man of God to stand in the gap for humanity.

Now that’s miraculous.

But if you or I were to be able to ask God one question, and actually have the opportunity for God to answer this question, I believe my question would be, “Why did it happen this way?”

And I believe God’s answer to be, “It’s what I do.”  God does things differently than humans.  We define God’s actions to be “miraculous.”  Yet, from God’s perspective, it’s just what God does.  They are supernatural, inexplicable, unaccountable actions that define who He is, and what He does.

Ephesians 1:4
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. 

Miraculous.

Thank you God, for the miraculous work of salvation, found only in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Miraculous

Bliss: Not Ignorance

Bliss

Even if angels sit atop our trees, adorned with Christmas ease, all is not necessarily blissful this time of year.  It’s amazing to me that the Son of Man would come to offer grace and forgiveness for a lost world steeped in sin.  I know only too well, that this precious gift is not offered so easily by one human to another human, that’s what makes Grace – a God thing.  But forgiveness is within our reach, if we will but embrace the love He has shown to us in the birth of Jesus.

What a blissful thought…

That this Christmas might be filled with receiving and offering forgiveness, with a touch of grace, because we know the LORD.

This is my Christmas wish.  It is not ignorance, or naivete; just a blissful Christmas wish.

 

Bliss