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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

Psalm 24:3
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

The golfer who would play this game in Breckenridge, Colorado, must ascend into the mountains of God’s splendor.  This shot taken August 10, 2016 at 10:05 a.m. and what a glorious day it was!

ascend

 

Ascend

Silence

finished-decorating

In the stillness, late at night, when I look at the crackling fire, the twinkling lights, the reindeer, and the presents all lined up under the tree, my heart glows like the bronze hues of this still and silent image.  These moments are filled with contentment, happiness, and joy that comes from knowing God sees me right were I am.  He knows me.  And He knows that I know Him, so His Holy Spirit comforts me, in those parts of my heart that are not so joyful.  You don’t need to know what those parts are, you have your own un-joyful parts to deal with this year.

My prayer today is that you heart will be filled with God’s goodness this year, during this great Christmas season.  Open your mind and spirit to the call of Jesus, and let Him warm your inner being with His very presence and bring light to the dark places.

John 8:12
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

 

Silent

To What Degree?

degree

There is an unresolvable mystery surrounding the Christmas story.  It has to do with the illogical proposition that Jesus was fully human, and yet also fully God.  It has to do with the fulfillment of prophecy spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (7:14) Matthew’s Gospel tells “Immanuel” means “God with us.” (1:23)

For me there are many mysteries about the virgin birth, the signs of God, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the star, Herod’s role, and the trip to Egypt then back to Nazareth.  All of this as a part of God’s plan of salvation, just takes my breath away.  But when I consider the duality of the life of the Man/God Jesus Christ, I’m almost speechless.  Notice I said, “almost.”  I am, after all, a pastor/teacher/writer, and you can ask anyone… I am seldom caught speechless.

The question I ponder all year long, but most intensely at Christmas is, “To what degree was Jesus a man? To what degree was Jesus divine?”  It’s easy to take a Sunday School approach, like a child just learning “facts” by repetition, and answer, “Jesus was 100% human, 100% divine.”  These are indeed the facts as presented in Scripture.  Therein lies the mystery.

At age 12 Jesus has traveled with His parents to Jerusalem for Passover, but on the way back home they discover He is not in the caravan.  Going back to the Temple, they find Him sitting with the teachers (Sanhedrin), “both listening and asking them questions.”  When questioned by His parents “why have You treated us this way?”, Jesus responds, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  So, even at this young age, Jesus was self-aware of at least some of His own nature of Sovereignty.

From what point during His childhood, did Jesus start becoming self-aware of the duality of His nature?  Scripture teaches that He was “tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin,” and this temptation was directed at the MAN – Jesus.  At the same time, the Bible says that Jesus claimed, “I and the Father are one.” so the MAN-Jesus claims to be God-Jesus.  Anyone who spends much time considering the implications of these two phrases, will find themselves in a mystery so rich and deep it cannot be fathomed.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a Christmas song, that has become my absolute favorite.  I listen to it often every year around this time.  It speaks to me.

To what degree was Jesus a Man?  100%

To what degree is Jesus God? 100%

It is a…

Mystery

The child was born on Christmas day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His Death was sure
The pain and strife secured

Mystery… how He came to be a Man
But greater still…How His Death was in His Plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh what Love is this
That His Death was in His Hands

The Christmas trees they glow so bright
With presents all round
But Christmas brought a tree of life
With Blood that sacrificed
The greatest gift in life

I am just a man
And can’t begin to comprehend
When You look into this traitor’s eyes
What do You see that justifies the Lamb

God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh what Love is this
That His Death was in His Plan

Mystery…

Mystery…

 

click on the Title – “Mystery” above, then watch and listen on YouTube.

 

Degree

Gorge: The Deep Divide

gorge-1

The two images, set side by side above, were taken within moments of one another.  While taking the Royal Gorge Route Railway Tour a few years ago, I was struck by the deep gash into solid rock, punctuated by a river at the bottom of the gorge.  As we stood on the flatbed railcar to take photos of our trip, I was able to gain some perspective of the moment, and of my life. And while looking up at the people standing on the bridge high above us, some spiritual clarity descended into my mind.

Here’s a great description from the website for this tour:

West of Canon City the Arkansas River cuts through a high plateau of igneous rocks forming a spectacular steep-walled gorge over a thousand feet deep. At its narrowest point shear walls on both sides plunge into the river creating an impassible barrier.”

It is those two words “impassible barrier” that grab my heart.

Every day during this wonderful month of December, right up to the day we designate to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I’m reminded of why He came.  My SIN once separated me from God, like the bare 1,000 foot sheer rock divide of this gorge.  I had no way of crossing over to God, nothing I could do or say would change my condition or position.  But God.  Don’t you love those words?  Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The impassible barrier between God and me was overcome by Jesus coming to earth as a human baby, wrapped in cloths, and laid in an animal feeding trough.  I looked up and out of this gorge into the blue sky, and saw the bridge.  In my mind I saw the cross where Jesus died for me, spanning the great divide my sin had caused.

The birth of Jesus in inextricably connected to the cross of Jesus.  We can’t have one without the other.  For in this wonderful image we are saved by the Grace of God.

The gorge no longer has any power to hold me separate from God.  It has been conquered by the only One who could.

His name is Jesus, and He came to save us.

Hallelujah!

 

Gorge

 

Relocate: Nazareth to Bethlehem

relocationYes, there are many reasons people relocate their residences.  They move to be closer to their families.  They move to take on a new employment opportunity.  They move for a change of scenery.  People move.  People change.  In the case of Joseph and Mary, they really had no choice.  Based on an edict from the reigning Caesar (Augustus), Joseph and Mary walked the 70 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted, and pay the census tax.

We’ve dreamed up a pretty good story, that makes for a great children’s tale, but perhaps a look at the facts will help us some here.  The story of Jesus’ birth is told in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel records.  Neither of them mention where Jesus was born, just that it wasn’t in the Inn, because the owner didn’t have any more room.  He wasn’t evil, he wasn’t being rude, he didn’t have a hidden agenda… there just wasn’t any more room.

Manger is the Greek word phatné (fat’-nay… φάτνη) and it translates into English, “feeding trough.”  The fact is that these troughs are found anywhere animals are sheltered or kept.  It could have been a stable, a lean-to, or a cave.  The bible doesn’t say where Mary gave birth, only that she wrapped the baby Jesus up, and laid him to rest in a feed trough.

We like the image of the crèche we’ve grown comfortable with, including the different figurines in the story.  However, the moment of Jesus birth is held as a very private matter and closely guarded secret.  The Bible doesn’t describe hovering angels, stinky shepherds, or wise men in attendance.  All those elements came afterward.  The Bible doesn’t describe God’s voice from heaven.  The Bible implies that it was Joseph, Mary, and the smelly, noisy animals holed up for the night, and a feed trough.  In my mind, representing the most primitive conditions on earth for a young girl to give birth to the Savior of the world.

By the decree of the Emperor, Joseph and Mary left the comfort of their home in Nazareth, traveled 70 hard miles relocating in Bethlehem just in time to deliver the child.  In Luke 9:58 it says, “The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head...” This was never more true than at the moment of His birth, when Mary laid his head (body) in the smelly trough the animals ate out of.

Why?

Because… “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”  Philippians 2:6-7

Jesus relocated from Heaven to Earth, by way of Nazareth to Bethlehem, to accomplish a single task.

“By bearing our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24

We, through His great love and life, relocate from darkness to light, from death to life.

This is the Relocation story of Christmas.

Relocate

 

Sparkle: Don’t Blink

Woods returns 11-30-17

For those with even the slightest amount of moral balance, it’s easy to look at Tiger Wood’s fall in the world of professional golf, and judge the man harshly.  Tiger has struggled over the last few years on and off the golf course, and many, including Golf Channel host Frank Nobilo, didn’t want Tiger to come back to the PGA competitively.  And we all know that one round of golf doesn’t make a season or a career, yet, Tiger played yesterday at Albany like the Tiger of old.

At times his game sparkled like the sun beating off the clouds in this image.  Like the #2 iron he striped from 269 yards to within 25 feet of the hole.  Other times, chipping for instance, well let’s just say there’s still some work to do, huh?

Love him or hate him, we can all learn some things from the very public roller coaster ride we’ve been on watching Tiger Wood’s life.  I mean, we often learn through our on mistakes or successes, but all too often miss the lessons from someone else’s mistakes and successes.  And with Tiger, there’s lots to learn.

Here’s one thing, accepting that Tiger isn’t perfect isn’t very hard for any of us.  But, accepting that Jesus Christ died for Tiger’s SIN, just like he died for yours and mine, is just so hard for some folks to choke down.  Take a moment and let that sink in, because it has implications you might not have considered.

Since Jesus died for all Sin, for all humanity, did that not include Tiger Woods?

Spending some time in chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome will help you understand this better, but for now just consider the concept of reconciliation, in Colossians chapter 1:20…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

What Jesus did on the cross for me, he did for Tiger Woods.  If I was reconciled to God at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, so was Tiger Woods.  If through this act I can move from death to life in Jesus Christ, so can Tiger Woods.

When you look at the man, Tiger Woods, do you see a low-life womanizer, drug user, foul-mouthed professional athlete who is beyond redemption?  Take another look in the mirror, we’re the same in God’s eyes.  Yet, because of the great love of God, Jesus reconciled us all to Himself, and to God.

Is Tiger Woods saved?  Not that I can see.  There is no evidence that he has received or accepted this great gift of reconciliation, or sees any need to do so.

So, here is the final thing to learn.  And we really need to get this.  It is not Tiger’s foul-mouth, past marital sins, or drug and alcohol abuse that will cause him to suffer at the wrath of God.  The one thing, the only thing, that will condemn any man, including Tiger, is to refuse to accept God’s free offer of grace, found only in Jesus Christ.

We are all reconciled through Jesus.  We are not all saved, until we individually choose (on God’s terms) to receive his gift of life.

Tiger’s back.  Good for him.  I love to watch his ball-striking brilliance.

One day, Jesus will be back.  Tiger better figure it out before He comes, because by then, it will be too late.

In the sparkling twinkle of an eye, Jesus will return.

Be ready.

Sparkle

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

Oh to be at peace like the sweet little Sugar!
Sitting relaxed and watching the world go by.
Doesn’t it make you want to reach out and hug her?
Or just go stretch out beside her, and look at the sky?

This is how we should be, day by day,
As we trust in the LORD, into His arms we lean.
Listening quietly to all He has to say,
Brings with it a sense of being totally serene.

Sugar-is-Serene

Serene:   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.

 

Serene

 

Snippet: He Is!

snippet

So many books, so little time.  Think of the Bible as a collection of books, instead of one big book.  Now imagine that these 66 books are linked with a theme, all communicating the same message, all pointing to a singular event in time.  Do you know what that theme is?  Do you know what that time is?

The event that the whole bible (all 66 books) points to is the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There is a great song titled ‘He is” which helps us see this truth.  It goes like this…

He Is

In Genesis, He’s the breath of life
In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He’s our high priest
In Numbers, the fire by night
Deuteronomy, He’s Israel’s Guide
Joshua, He’s salvation’s choice
Judges, He’s Israel’s Guard
In Ruth, the kinsmen’s redeemer
1st and 2nd Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles He is Sovereign
In Ezra, He’s the true and faithful scribe
In Nehemiah, the re-builder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He’s Mordecai’s courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms He is our morning song
In Proverbs, He is our wisdom
Ecclesiastes, He’s the time and season
In Song of Solomon, He is the lover’s dream
In Isaiah He is Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, the call from sin
Daniel, the stranger in the fire
Hosea, the forever faithful
Joel, the spirit’s power
Amos, the strong-arms that carry
Obadiah, the Lord our Savior
Jonah, the great missionary
Micah, the promise of peace
Nahum, our strength and shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He’s brings revival
In Haggai He restores that which was lost
In Zachariah, He’s our fountain
And in Malachi, He’s the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
And that’s just the Old Testament

In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God and Messiah
In the spirit filled book of Acts, He is the reigning fire from Heaven
In Romans, He is the grace of God
Corinthians, the power of love
Galatians, freedom from the curse of sin
Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servant’s heart
Colossians, He’s God and the trinity
Thessalonians, our calling King
In Timothy, Titus and Philemon, He’s our mediator and our faithful pastor
In Hebrews, the everlasting courage
In James, the one who heals the sick
In 1st and 2nd Peter, our faithful shepherd
In John and Jude, He’s the lover coming for His bride

And in the Revelation, in the very end, when it’s all over, said and done, when time is no more. He is and will always be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, son of Man, Lamb of God, The Great I am, Alpha and Omega, God and Savior He is Jesus Christ the Lord he is everything that you need.

You want a fun adventure this Christmas.  Get out your Bible and go find these truths on your own… one snippet at a time.

Snippet

 

One-Way Ticket

road

They say that once you’ve left, you can’t go back.  They say that once you’ve said it, you can’t un-say it.  They say once you’ve done it, you can’t un-do it.  They say … well, you see where I’m going with this.

I don’t pretend to be a philosophical giant. The mind games of philosophy are writhe with every nuance of possibilities not known or seen, and I simply can’t compete at that level.  I’m more a meat-and-potatoes kind of philosopher.  One who accepts that there are indeed things I cannot know or see, yet I can KNOW the ONE who sees and knows all things.

There are those who want to convince us that when it’s over, it’s just over.  That life will never be anything more than what it is today.  They say you can’t go back, and there’s nothing after this, so today, right now is the most important moment you live.  This ticket really leads to hedonism.  Since most after-life philosophies are tied directly or indirectly to moral consequences of our actions in this life, if there’s nothing after this, morality and social mores go out the window, and everyone is entitled to do whatever they want.

Every religion and philosophical system in the world has some merits of goodness in them I suppose, some type of morality, or social or cultural focus, that causes men and women to become consumed by its teachings.  However, this ticket to the afterlife has no guarantees, because most of these systems are based in what you “do.”  Meaning if you simply “do” enough of the right things, then when you cross over into the afterlife, some form of heaven or nirvana will be yours.  There is only one problem here.  How does a person ever really know if they have “done” enough to actually get there?

Christmas is more than just a season.  This holiday allows truth seekers another chance every year to hear and listen while the true story is told of the “One-Way Ticket.”  I realize that my personal philosophy and belief system is based in believing that the Bible is absolute truth.  That said, I would be remiss if I tried saying anything at all about the afterlife designed for humanity, if it contradicted what is written in God’s Word.

So here’s the simple truth (the meat-and-potatoes truth) of what’s in our future.

The One-Way Ticket: Baby

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23
… which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

Matthew 1:21
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

The One-Way Ticket: Man

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.

Acts 4:12
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

The One-Way Ticket: King

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

It’s all there in six verses.  The way, the truth, and the life after this one, are all based on a one-way ticket, whose name is Jesus.

But don’t miss out on the real reason for His coming, as a baby, man, and King.

John 10:10
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

This Christmas you may discover, if you commit to these simple truths, that this life right here and now can take on new meaning.  If your future is secure in Jesus Christ, then focus now on making this life all that Jesus designed for it to be.  Prove the hedonist and the workaholic religious fanatics wrong.  Enjoy the freedom that comes in knowing “God with us” and share His love in tangible ways that speak of God’s truth, and bring Him glory.

 

 

One-Way

 

Percussive: A Rap on the Door

percussive

Does nobody knock on the door anymore?  Amazon.com has become one of my favorite shopping stores, because I can avoid the crowds.  However, what I’ve discovered is that even UPS and FedEx delivery people seldom ring the doorbell, or simply knock on the door anymore.  What’s up with that?

Or… is it possible I’ve become so inoculated or desensitized to these sounds that I attribute my own failing as theirs?  I’m trying very hard as I write this to think back to Tuesday last week when we received a package by UPS and evaluate:  Did they ring or knock, or did I just not “hear” it, because I wasn’t in a “hearing” mode?

What if…

What if God is pounding on the door of your heart and mind, and in our 21st-century mindset we are simply not listening anymore?  We’ve seemingly developed the innate capability of “filtering” what we hear and don’t hear today.  You know people like this don’t you?  They can be sitting two feet away, and so involved with their “mobile device” that once it registers that you’ve spoken, they may or may not look up and respond, “huh?”

What if…

What if God is sending out signals that are clear and percussive like the rapping of knuckles on solid wood, resonating with grace, love, forgiveness, and compassion, but we fail to receive these signals or messages, because we can’t seem to tune in anymore?

What if …

What if God decided He would just filter us out, like we’ve filtered Him out?  Then what happens to verses like… Matthew 7:7… Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you?

What if we knock on heaven’s door, and God doesn’t even look up, but murmurs in our direction, “huh?”

You don’t really want God to do this, any more than you want your children or spouse to do this to you, right?

So, then, why do we do it?

Why do we miss out on the most significant aspects of a relationship with God?  When God knocks on your heart’s door, your mind’s door, it is a percussive reminder that you need Him more than you think you do.

Today, why not put down the mobile device, and pick up the actual written word of God, and spend some time with Jesus?

Percussive

 

Sludge: trudging through

35 days until ChristmasIt’s “that” time of year.  It’s the season of holiday madness, black Friday deals, family tensions, disappointing football, and a general bah-humbug-i-ness that permeates and coagulates into an imperceptible emotional sludge.  During the very time of year when we should be most thankful, filled with joy, peace, and love, many struggle to just keep trudging through.

I’ll admit there are days like that for me.  So how do we focus?  Where do we find the courage and strength just to deal with the realities of life during the “holidays?”

Maybe it is as simple as understanding that commercialism drains us, and God Himself wants to fill us.  The lure and enticements of “the deal” can instantly shift our focus back to material, earthly concerns.  We fuss and fidget to find that perfect gift for the ones we love, or we worry that the hints we’ve been dropping about what we “want” for Christmas haven’t been heard… because it’s on “sale” this weekend.

This year my prayer is that you will find Thanksgiving Happiness, and the Joy-filled Christmas you’ve always wanted.  So, I’m praying that God will intervene personally in your life, in your mind, in your relationships, and in the core of your being with a simple truth to focus on.

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23
“Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”).

If God can make good on a four hundred year old promise, then we can trust that He will make good on the other promises He makes to us as true Christ-followers.  One promise that I pray you will focus on this year is this:

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Think of all that emotional sludge of this season as “the thief” in this verse, and don’t let it rob you of the joy, peace, and hope of this celebration time!

Live in such a way, through the next few days and weeks, that your very abundant life demonstrates God’s glory to the world around you.

 

 

Sludge

 

Particular: Just the Facts

Particular

Let’s be candid.  Let’s be honest.  Let’s be specific.

I know lots of good folks who say they “know” Jesus. There is a kind of “oh yeah, been there done that” to the way it comes across.  But I remember one story where Jesus was talking to the leaders of Israel, who themselves thought they knew God better than anyone else on the planet.  When Jesus confronted them with this statement, they went ballistic on Him.

John 8:32
And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

So, I guess the question today, from me to you, is:     “How well do you know Jesus?”

If it causes you pause, if it challenges you a bit, I’m also offering this helpful list of “FACTS” or “Truth about Jesus.” I’m doing it to stimulate you once again to not just know about Him… but to know Him.  Personally engage with the Master of the Universe, and discover something new.  So go get your Bible and sit for a few minutes with the Truth.

Are you ready?

Here we go…

  1. Jesus Was Not Created … Micah 5:2
  2. Jesus Has Never Changed … Hebrews 13:8
  3. Jesus is both God and Man … John 1:1
  4. Jesus Abides Forever … Hebrews 7:24
  5. Jesus is The Creator of Everything … Colossians 1:16
  6. Jesus is All-Powerful … Matthew 28:18
  7. Jesus is All-Knowing … Colossians 2:3
  8. Jesus Came to Die and Destroy Satan’s Power … Hebrews 2:14
  9. Jesus is Holy … Luke 1:35
  10. Jesus is Righteous … Isaiah 53:11
  11. Jesus is Just … Zechariah 9:9
  12. Jesus Had No Deceit … 1 Peter 2:22
  13. Jesus is Sinless … 2 Corinthians 5:21
  14. Jesus is Pure … 1 Peter 1:19
  15. Jesus is the Rock … 1 Corinthians 10:4
  16. Jesus is Gentle … Matthew 11:29
  17. Jesus is Omnipresent … Matthew 18:20; 28:20
  18. Jesus Resurrects … John 5:39; 6:40, 44, 54; 11:25-26
  19. Jesus is Acknowledged by Demons … Mark 5:2,6
  20. Jesus is Worshipped by Man … John 9:38
  21. Jesus is Worshipped by Angels … Hebrews 1:6
  22. Jesus Receives Worship by His Disciples … Luke 24:52
  23. Jesus is Honored the Same as the Father … John 5:23
  24. Jesus Will Receive Worship from Everyone … Philippians 2:10-11
  25. Jesus is Human … 1 Timothy 2:5
  26. Jesus Was Conceived by the Holy Spirit … Luke 1:34-35
  27. Jesus Took On Man’s Body … Hebrews 2:9-18
  28. Jesus Humbled Himself … Philippians 2:8
  29. Jesus Was Subject To Human Emotions … Hebrews 5:7
  30. Jesus Died and Rose Again … 1 Thessalonians 4:14
  31. Jesus Blood Brings Reconciliation With God … Ephesians 2:13-16
  32. Jesus Blood Brings Redemption for Lost Man … Romans 3:24-25
  33. Jesus Blood Allows Man To Be Justified before God … Romans 5:9
  34. Jesus Blood Sanctifies Man … Hebrews 10:29
  35. Jesus Blood Brings Eternal Life … John 6:53-56
  36. Jesus is the Bread of Life … John 6:25-59
  37. Jesus Forgives Sins, Matt. 9:1-7 … Luke 5:20; 7:48
  38. Jesus Will Bring in Everlasting Righteousness … Daniel 9:24
  39. Jesus Will Destroy The Works of Satan … 1 John 3:8
  40. Jesus Fulfilled the Old Testament … Matthew 5:17
  41. Jesus Judges … John 5:22, 27
  42. Jesus Is Our High Priest … 1 John 2:1
  43. Jesus is the Light of the World … John 8:12
  44. Jesus Sent The Holy Spirit To Us … John 15:26
  45. Jesus Will Take His People To Heaven … John 14:3
  46. Jesus Will Return To The Earth After The Tribulation … Matthew 24:29
  47. Jesus Will Return To The Earth In Power & Glory … Matthew 24:30
  48. Jesus Will Complete Revelation … Hebrews 1:1
  49. Jesus Will Never Send You Away If You Come To Him | John 6:37
  50. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life | John 14:6

And this is just the short list…

There’s so much more!

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Particular

 

Merrily We Droll Along

droll

I’ve always liked the “holiday” season.  With the coming of winter, the festive ways people adorn their homes and hearths, the abundance of food and friends gathered to give thanks, and a few weeks later give gifts in celebration of the Best Gift… it’s a great time of year, and it is upon us.

There are those around the world who don’t feel this way at all.  Caught up in relationships where conflict and strife are abundant, tends to taint the festivities.  Facing a newly diagnosed illness or disease will pretty much put a person in a dour mood, evident to anyone who engages them.  Additionally, not everyone will have enough to eat on Thanksgiving, much less a Christmas Ham.  For each person in one of these situations finding the merriment of the “holidays” is just like finding the Panda in this picture.

Yes, there is a Panda in this picture, and once you see it, you can never un-see it again.

This paradigm is also true for those who seek the real meaning of the “holidays.”

Because Thanksgiving is not about watching football on the “big” screen, or eating from a buffet fit for kings, to feed a family of five.  Thanksgiving is about “giving thanks.”  Right? And just like the image of the Panda, being truly thankful is elusive sometimes.

Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:17-18]

I realize you may think I’m doing the typical preacher platitude thing again.  However, by quoting this verse, I’m NOT suggesting that you give “thanks” for whatever has robbed your “holiday” spirit this year.  I’m saying this because I’m pretty sure, from personal experience, that this is not what Paul is teaching in this verse.

There is a big difference in being thankful in the middle of the stuff of life that attacks when you least expect it, versus being thankful “for the attack itself.”  I’m suggesting that you consider it a joy, when God gets you through it, and act thankfully for God’s strength and power to deliver you, redeem you, and encourage you through it all.

I don’t thank God for everything.  Not everything is “thanks” worthy.  But what I do is, I thank God in everything I face.  This verse also doesn’t say to put on your happy face, when you don’t really feel so happy.

Back to the Panda in the image for this article.  If you haven’t found it yet, I’ll give you a clue.  The Panda is the only one without a smile on its face.  Why would he smile?  The Panda is in this herd of snowmen.  He’s probably feels a little out of place.

While all the snowmen merrily droll along, the Panda is out of its element, not happy, not joyful, and not thankful.

Even James isn’t saying be “thankful” [James 1:2-3]   Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Joy is not necessarily a synonym for thankfulness.  Joy is a separate attitude all its own, fueled by a knowledge that nothing in our lives escapes God’s notice.  So I can be joyful in times of sorrow or loss, and in the middle of it all, I can be thankful for God’s love for me.  I can know that I am His and He is mine.

You don’t have to wear the smiling mask all the time.  You don’t have to be like the hundreds of smiling people who droll along through life, pretending everything is ok, when it isn’t.

However, we know what God’s will is for us.

  • be thankful … IN (not for) … the life issues you face
  • consider it joy … when you face these life issues
  • pray without ceasing

Pray for what exactly?

God’s glory to fill the earth?
God’s kingdom to come soon?
God’s will to be done in your life?
Daily food supplements?
Forgiveness?
To have the strength to forgive others?
Deliverance from temptation?

Sure, all that; it’s what Jesus Himself taught us to pray [Matthew 6:9-13].

And when you pray, don’t just spew meaningless spiritual verbiage in God’s general direction.

Or in some way offer droll statements in an attempt to diffuse your own pain.  Just be real, be genuine, be authentic as a true believer.  Stand out among the others around you who wear a smiling mask while they merrily droll along without hope.

If you haven’t found it yet, look hard for the Panda.  In that same way, through you prayers to God, while being thankful and joyful, look hard for God’s grace, and you will find it.  Nothing in your life escapes God’s notice.

Droll

 

Black

black - red heart

Black the…

color of sin, death and the darkness of night

image of my heart without forgiveness,

absence of light

Black is not my destiny…

for I am found, delivered, redeemed

my heart now filled with His goodness and light

directed to joy, hope, happiness, and life

Black no longer binds me…

just as it could not hold Him

it does not hold me

for I am in Him

and He is in me.

 

Black

 

Temporary: Fall in Texas

I guess this is one of the reasons I love Texas so much.  This shot was taken from a cart path on hole #14 of the Slick Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay, November 2, 2017.  One of the golf course attendants told us it cost $1million to build.  That’s a stretch for me, but on this particular day, it was beautiful!  Not more than a breath of air, clean and bright, and the colors of fall were everywhere we looked.

It’s hard not to look at this image and see that God is indeed a wonderful designer/creator.

As winter approaches, soon the colors in this image will fade, making this one fleeting day all too temporary.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Temporary - Horseshoe Bay

 

 

Temporary