Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eternity in Light of God's Gift of Peace

"When you are dead, you are dead a long time." was my father's only words to me after hearing about the stupid thing I had done.  I'm sure he wanted to say more but chose not to.
 That day on the farm I was a teenage boy working in the field with our LA Case, a strong 4-5 bottom-plow tractor.  As evening neared, rather foolishly, I chose to go home through the ditch instead of going back to the driveway.  From the bottom of the ditch the tractor jerked as it started up the steep incline.  The climb was too much and it suddenly began to lift the front wheels off the ground.  The tractor reared up so quickly that I fell to the ground.  Then I watched in utter dismay as this powerful tractor killed its motor standing straight up just over me.  I slowly crawled out from under it and walked home, in awe at what happened and mostly, that I was still alive.
 In a cartoon by Jeff Larson, a drop of water, representing our life on earth, is falling in to a bucket of water marked eternity. The point is to live your life aware of the fact that your time on earth is extremely short compared to eternity.  Our time of life actually is totally insignificant compared to the billions of years with forever to go that eternity represents, and yet everything depends on what choices or seeds we sow in this realm.
 However, eternity isn't just duration, but rather a quality of life, thanks to God sending and revealing Jesus.  "This is eternal life, that they know thee, the only true God, and the One whom He sent." (John 17:3)  Christmas clearly shows that the Heart of God is to reveal Himself to man and make a way for us to enjoy Him forever.  Jesus came to earth and manifested the very nature and greatness of God, so we could know Him. 
 We come to know Him by accepting who He is and what He has done.  It pleased the Father to provide an innocent, perfect sacrifice to pay for all of man's failures.  Jesus rose from the dead and demonstrated his complete victory over sin and death. We can live because He lives.  And finally, God sends the Holy Spirit to personally reveal Jesus to all who come to Him and desire to walk with Him.
 Peace on earth, good will toward men.  In a quiet, powerful way the little baby born in Bethlehem sends an eternal message that God longs for us to be with Him and He is willing to go to any and all costs to make it possible.   The starting point is realizing that we need His shed blood and sacrifice to cover our wrong choices, and secondly, that trusting His love enough to invite Him to rule over us, we submit to Him as "Lord" forever.
The Christmas carols tell of the quiet and peaceful night. Those who reponded, who came to adore Him, experienced the peace and quiet of God's glory.  Today He asks you to simply "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) and to receive His incredible gift of peace and quiet in your inner man.  Life is much more than these 70 or 80 years on the earth; it really does last, as Dad said, "a long time." So the most important and critical choice you will ever make is to let Jesus change your eternal destiny.  Come, taste and see that He is good.  With a grateful and sincere heart, declare "Jesus, I come to you believing you paid for my sins and I am unashamed to say, Jesus, you are my Lord."
You have just received the gift that Jesus brought for all men at that first Christmas. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Opens the Door to BFF Relationship

As a young man I loved airplanes, especially when they took off or landed. So it probably follows that my thoughts during sleep one night floated in this direction.  In my dream I was overwhelmed with the power and beauty of a large 747 landing on the airport runway just a few feet away from me.  My heart pounded at the awesome grace and consuming noise.  Then the words came to me, "the great thing about this is that it will just get better and better forever!"  When I awoke that phrase resounded in my thinking and I felt God was moving my attention to something far more significant than airplanes landing that would get better and better forever.
This week I was reminded again about this great promise and truth as we were teaching our students at school the value and place of thanksgiving in God's kingdom.  Psalm 100 instructs us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  However, once we enter with thanksgivng and go into His courts with praise, then what we do?
I am going to suggest we simply stop, be still, and look at Him.  Know that you are in the awesome presence of the living God, and Jesus Christ, who revealed the Father's love on earth through His taking our place in paying the price of death for our sins.  Take time to behold Him as He really is, One who is both overwhelmingly majestic and yet also who passionately enjoys you. The more we wait in His presence and experience His consuming love the more we are changed.  In His light we become light, meaning our heart and thoughts and emotions start becoming like Him.  God's original purpose for man is to walk with Him and share His nature, so after giving thanks and praise, we are invited by God to stand with Him.
Paul had an understanding of this mystery, as quoted in Philippians, expressing his greatest desire as "to know Him and the power of His resurrection."  Likewise, in Colossians 1:10 he prays we will be fruitful and well pleasing to God as we increase in the knowledge of Him.
Being transformed into God's glorious nature is described in 2 Corinthians 3:18 as a work of the Holy Spirit, which happens as we look upon His glory and greatness.  We can humbly come to Jesus and ask Him to help us see His face, His nature, His substitutional death and overcoming resurrection, and simply enjoy being with Him.   As we behold and consider Him, God promises to change us from glory to glory, strength to strength, and from our fallen nature into His light.
"This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" the Father declared over Jesus after his baptism in the Jordan.   However, since God is no respecter of persons and He declares in His Word that He loves each one of us the same as He loves Jesus, this incredible affection is extended beyond Jesus.  For a moment close your eyes and imagine God the Father saying to you, "You are My beloved son (daughter) in whom I am well pleased."  And for the rest of eternity, this absolutely amazing love and glorious relationship will increase and continue to be revealed to you until you share the fullness of God, know His love for you, and enjoy the glory of being one with Him.   No wonder it only gets better and better forever!
Giving thanks is the door.  Jesus and the opportunity to know Him is the reward waiting to happen.  Jesus prays to His Father in John 17:22-26 for us to receive His glory and the love with which the Father loved Jesus.  God waits to give us and help us know an eternal, ever-increasing love that overcomes all and is permanently sealed with the only true BFF (Best Friend Forever!).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Shall the Righteous Do?

If the foundations are shaken, what shall the righteous do? Psalm 11 further asks how can you say "Flee as a bird to the mountains" rather than trust God.  That the godly foundation of America is shaken is unquestionable.  No wonder many Christians feel like running away from it all. 
One of the realities of the recent election is that the majority of Americans voted for those who favor killing babies in abortion and perverting marriage with acceptance of homosexuality.  God's principles were simply not important enough or considered too narrow. Even strong pleas from godly leadership like David Barton and Billy Graham were unheeded.
  Abraham Lincoln wisely stated that what happens in the schools in one generation will be in the government in the next.  So it follows that since God and His Ten Commandments were thrown out of our schools in the sixties, that this generation has grown into the adults that have no place for God's standards in the election of today.
  Which brings us to the original question, what shall the righteous do? Rather than run, it is time to turn to God and cry out for mercy.  A bedrock principle is that God is not mocked.  Judgment will surely follow any country that slaughters innocent babies and perverts the godly ordinance of marriage and the God-given purpose of sex.  The only hope is for someone to stand in the gap and intercede for the land.      
  God would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah for 10 righteous people. The 2 Chronicles 7:14 promise still stands today, if God's people in America will humble themselves and pray, turning from their wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven and heal our land.  Obviously God delights in mercy.  He takes no pleasure in the death and judgment of the wicked.  He longs to rescue the lost and to change the hearts of men.  So a major part of His plan is calling intercessors to turn whole-heartedly to Him and to seek Him with humble repentance and worshipful praise. 
God has warned in Isaiah 60 that darkness will cover the earth, but His light and glory will be seen on you (believers).  So even if there is gross darkness in the hearts of voters who give approval of abortion and homosexuality, God hasn't given up.  He is seeking those who will respond to the challenge by diligently seeking His face and obeying the leading of His Spirit to stand as a light in the midst of a "crooked and perverse" generation.  Stand in the gap and cry out for mercy, with praise and thanksgiving to an absolutely wonderful Father who cares infinitely much about His children.  His glory will be seen upon you.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Choosing Weakness?

Power!  We live in the NFL football age when everyone gets excited about a powerful fullback who can crush through the hefty defensive line.  We admire power and speed.  Nobody wants to be the 97-pound weakling.

In almost total contrast, Jesus in the sermon on the mount lays out the foundation for the kingdom of God.  Significantly all the keys to life He gives suggest laying your life down and trusting God to supernaturally reward and empower you.  However, rather than laying down your life in death, you are called to live with a surrender style by doing such things as pray, fast, give, serve, and yes, even bless and love your enemies.

Notice that each of these practices allow you to lay down your life by giving of your time, effort, feelings, thoughts, and strong sentiments.  Each of these demand you choose the position of weakness.  In prayer, you pour out your heart and cry out to God, choosing the attitude of weakness that God has to do it, you can't.  In fasting, you deliberately let your body energy get weak and trust God to enable you through increasing your spiritual relationship and depending on His strength.  In giving, you deliberately decrease your financial resources trusting that God sees and will reward you.  In serving, you give or lose your own time and effort to help someone else, while your own desired use of the time is denied.  And finally, in loving your enemies, you have to override your thoughts and sentiments toward the one who wronged you and deliberately bless the other person in obedience to the Lord's instruction.  You make youurself weak.  God becomes your strength.

A person would be a fool to deliberately become weak and get run over by the other guy, unless God said to do it and He backed up His Word with action.

Jesus started His public ministry by laying out these simple attitudes and practices to point out that the kingdom of God is the exact opposite of fallen human nature's desires.  The weakness principle can also be summarized by Jesus' words, "he who loses his life for my sake shall find it." The question is "Do you believe that enough to actually do the very things He stated as a step of faith that you know He will do His part?"

Choosing weakness isn't weak.  It is the wisdom and power of God put into action.  Praise God forever for giving us the way to life and the power to live supernaturally on this earth!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Raising Cain

Many of us are "Cains."  Fallen human nature raises Cain.  Our flesh tends to follow the attitude that Cain displayed toward God.  In Genesis 4, Cain offers to God what he wants to give.  In contrast, Abel offers to God what God really wants.  As "Cains," we do things for others and for God, but it is only what we want to give, not necessarily what the other really wants.

Man-made religion performs various rituals and practices in order to gain God's favor. However, the truth is God has already chosen us and given us His infinite favor. This revealed love, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), is not earned, just given. All God seeks is for man to receive what Jesus has done and come into a loving relationship with Him.   Our only honest and humble response is to honor Him by choosing to do what He wants.  In one word, obey.

We would rather do things for God than obey from the heart.  Yet, Samuel reminds us, "Obedience is better than sacrifice."  Even when describing Jesus in Hebrews 10, the Word  states that "sacrifices and offerings You did not desire," but rather, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." 
Obviously coming to do God's will is what God desires. 

Our challenge is simple.  Rather than adopting the "give only what I want" attitude of Cain, find out what God really wants and simply do it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do What? Be What? Impossible!

Have you ever noticed how God almost casually states things that seem utterly impossible to man?  He told Adam to name all the animals.  He told Noah to build an ark (450 ft. by 75 ft.) when it had never been done before and it had never rained.  He told Joshua to march around Jericho and shout to defeat an impenetratable fortress!  He told Moses to speak to Pharaoh to let all his slaves go.  Likewise Jesus often told His apostles to do "impossible" things: fear not in the storm, feed the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish, even to heal the sick and raise the dead.  He told believers to "Be holy."  Throughout history God has instructed man to do seemingly impossible things.
However nothing compares with God's command,  "Be holy, for I am holy."   What could be more impossible than being holy like God?  Furthermore, Hebrews 12:14 states that we should "Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord."  So not only does God command holiness, He declares that it is a necessity to see Him.
"Holy" is the essential character of God Himself.   All created beings will cry "Holy, holy, holy" for eternity in God's presence.    The word can be partially defined as "set apart, consecrated, pure, transcendent."  The point is that clearly reaching this state or characteristic is impossible for man and his abilities.  So the answer must be God.  He has to do it. "With God all things are possible."
In the beatitiudes, or the declaration of the principles of God's Kingdom, Jesus stated, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Matthew 5:8  These simple statements accentuate the qualities God wants us to desire and value as eternally important.  Those "set apart, consecrated, pure in heart" ones will see God.
One of the principles of God's Kingdom is the working of our participation and God's power.  When we seek Him with our whole heart, He will be found.  When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.  When we forgive others He forgives us.  So in the case of the qualities of the beatitudes and holiness, when we choose and seek these responses, we allow Him to do that work in us. 
Jesus said in a little differently in John 12, "believe in the light that you may become sons of light."  That belief or faith is further explained in Hebrews 11:6, "But 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 diligently seek Him."  The point isn't God's holiness, or man's impossibility of attaining it by himself; but rather it is knowing and trusting that God will reward or come through for those who seek Him. 
God calls us to be holy, we desire and choose to seek it, He does it in us.  "He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thess 5:24  Be holy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Will and to Work for His Good Pleasure

We serve an amazing God!  He puts the desire in us to do something and then as we embrace that choice and stand in faith, He does it (through us).  And to top it off, it pleases Him.  Philippians 2:13 states "for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

What work do we have to do?  Clearly the Word of God in James points out that faith without works is dead.  Likewise, Ephesians 2:10 declares "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  He intends for us to work as a result of our faith, and He has prepared things for us to do.

Does He do it or do we do it? Yes.  Let me ask you a question.  Did you believe to get saved or did God give you the grace to believe and you simply received it?  The answer is "yes."

Perhaps Galatians 2:20 can shed light on our dilemma. "I have been crucified with Christ, 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 gave Himself for me."  In other words, when I accept that Jesus gave Himself for me and realize by faith that I, my old man, died with Him, then, also by faith, I now live in His resurrected life.  My new life is hidden in the living risen Lord and He is in all I do.  We are eternally joined.  So everything I now do is by His strength and power through faith.  Instead of complaining about having to work, we now understand that God enables me to do all things as a way to partner with Him.  My working together with Him gives Him pleasure.

What a great perspective--we can please the Creator of the Universe simply by doing the things set before as an act of cheerful worship.  Faith makes it happen.  Jesus said the work of God is to believe in the One whom He sent.  When we believe in Jesus and His life in us, everything we do comes from God and is by God's strength.

God's desire from the beginning was to have fellowship with us. He is pleased to accomplish work together with us.  He gives us the desire and provides the power and we get the joy of accomplishing the work.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Such a Time as This

Back in the sixties Jerry Lee Lewis sang “there is a whole lot of shaking going on.” However, those "shakings" do not begin to compare with what’s happening in the world today and what is coming. Hebrews 12 informs us that everything that can be shaken, will.

What is a person supposed to do who is concerned about what must soon happen? Even Jesus pointed out that in the last days “many hearts will fail for fear.” Nevertheless, God always has a perfect plan. He reveals truth to prepare us, not to cause us to fear. First Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that God is faithful to give us the grace to endure, but more importantly, He will also show us the “way of escape.” In other words, rather than just “grin and bear it,” we are going to overcome. The promise in Isaiah 60 is that when darkness covers the earth, His light shall also come and shine in you. His glory will be seen in you.

“For such a time as this,” Mordecai told Esther in the day of extreme trouble for the Jews, after she had come into the King’s palace. Clearly God had arranged events and given her favor to be in position to stop Haman from killing all the Israelites. Likewise, God is arranging events and giving favor to believers to “know their God and do great exploits” in the days ahead according to Daniel 11:32.

We have a choice. Either we go along with the world in a business as usual attitude, or we wake up and realize we have been brought into God's Kingdom to make an eternal difference. We are called to go beyond enjoying the blessings of peace, health, and prosperity and only living for our own comfort. Desperate times call for desperate measures.  We can use this time and position to come to know Him and become grounded in the truth of His Word.  God commands us to stand in the strength of the Lord, exercise His power in the spiritual fight, and extend the triumph of Jesus Christ to change lives forever.  In short, God sets before us life and death. Choose life.

How do we choose life in this "such a time?" The answer is to make it our first priority to know God. Yet, we can’t even love or know God without His help. So ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us each morning. Cry out as Paul did in Ephesians 1:17, "that God may give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." Then deliberately take time each day to read and to think about His Word until the truth is stronger than the world's ways or your own human thoughts and desires.

God has brought you (us) into His powerful kingdom and put us in the world in the midst of the shaking going on for such a time as this. Even Jesus before His death and resurrection stated, “For this purpose I have come.” This is the time to get to know and love Him with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.  In this awesome relationship, in His light we will become light.  God needs you (us) for such a time as this to be His light.  We will overcome the darkness.  Jesus reassures us, "Fear not, I have overcome the world."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What is Your Goal for Today?

Focus. In watching the Olympics one thing becomes increasingly clear: these people focus. Whether the action is a routine on the balance beam or a summersault and twist in a high dive, the competitor has learned and trained to focus whole-heartedly on the details to make the execution near flawless. While it is exciting to see someone with such effort and ability put everything on the line for the gold medal, there is something more which rivets us to the screen. In every person there is a deep-seated desire to succeed and reach our goals.

Often in the day to day reality of life we get caught up in our work, our family, our responsibilities, and even our struggles to survive as pleasantly as possible. If we make it through the day, without rocking the boat too much, we feel like it has been a good day. Unfortunately that is not why God gave us life. What is our main purpose for the day?

Most Christians have read that the purpose of life is to know and serve God. Yet this foundational principle seems so far removed from real daily existence. How do we make it an inner drive of our hearts everyday? What if God, in giving us this first and great commandment (Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength), also intended us to ask Him for help in doing it? All the commands in Scripture are addressed to our will, in other words, we have to choose to obey them. Then God who “works in you both to will and to work for His pleasure” accomplishes it in cooperation with us. Many of us are like Peter, who promised Jesus his willingness to die for Him, but didn’t have the inner power to do it in the time of trial.

The point is, even in the area of our relationship to God, we need to ask Him to give us a heart to know and love God each morning.  Ephesians 1:17 is a prayer asking the Father for wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  The most precious and important goal of our life today is to know and love God , and those who invite the Holy Spirit to empower their will and heart will experience a fresh desire and joy in being closer to Him. It is as simple and yet profound as praying,  “Father God, help me to know and love you today in all I think and do.”

Jeremiah 24:7 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Facts, Just the Facts

On Dragnet many years ago Sergeant Friday wanted the facts. Everyone has an opinion, but the facts provide the evidence to reach a right conclusion. The facts are that Christian teenagers are departing from the faith and becoming like the world. Here are the results of three recent surveys.

1. “According to a stunning new survey by America's Research Group, 95 percent of 20 to 29 year old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. However, only 55 percent of them attended church regularly during high school, and only 11 percent of them were still regularly attending church when in college.”

2.”Another new survey by the Barna group reveals that less than 1 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 hold a Biblical worldview. This new poll data clearly demonstrates that the youngest adults in America are clearly rejecting traditional evangelical Christian teaching.

The Barna survey defined "a Biblical worldview" as holding all of the following six key beliefs:1) Believing that absolute moral truth exists.

2) Believing that the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches.

3) Believing that Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic.

4) Believing that a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or by doing good works.

5) Believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.

6) Believing that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.”

3. “The board of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing 60 denominations and dozens of ministries, passed a resolution this year deploring “the epidemic of young people leaving the evangelical church.” Their alarm has been stoked by a survey claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be “Bible-believing Christians” as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation. There is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.”

Also quoted from the New York Times article “Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers” of 10/06/2006 “Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual “hooking up” approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.

“Over and over in interviews, evangelical teenagers said they felt like a tiny, beleaguered minority in their schools and neighborhoods. They said they often felt alone in their struggles to live by their “Biblical values” by avoiding casual sex, risqué music and videos, Internet pornography, alcohol and drugs.”

Whether we like it or not, those are the facts. The facts speak louder than words of opinion. The eternal welfare of our children is too important to continue letting the worldly system destroy them. God’s plan includes the promise in Daniel 11:32 that in the midst of troubling events toward the end of the age, “those who know their God will be strong and do great exploits.” If ever there was a time to put your children in a Christian environment where they can know Jesus and learn to walk in the truth of His Word, that time is NOW. For such a time as this.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Walking Through the Crowds

In the past few weeks my family and I have had some wonderful opportunities to walk through crowds from Disney World to a Rockies baseball game. One of my first realizations was that it was impossible for the five of us to stay together in the midst of people of all sizes, strollers, opposing traffic, tour groups, wheel chairs, etc. As each one fought through the challenges all one could do was look around and see if the others were still in the vicinity. In my case I would try to remember what color shirt or what hat each one had, so I could spot them and try to keep track of where each one was at.

Then it struck me. This is so much like raising children to be Christian. You can't always be together and keep track of everything they are doing. Each one will have diversions, meet other people with different ideas, get jostled around by various challenges, and move forward at different speeds. You just hope that their relationship with Jesus and the truth of the Word you planted in them will be enough to be their guide so that you all end up at the right place. So periodically, you may see them, share a word, or even have the opportunity to make comments, but the individual direction is clearly out of your control.

As parents who have been entrusted children, it is our most sacred responsibility to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Unfortunately, there is also an enemy who desires to instill in them the opposite, the way of the world. This oncoming contrary wave challenges our convictions and the price we are willing to pay to complete the God-given task of making sure each one is grounded in truth. Many parents have sacrificed much to home school their children themselves or to send them to a Christian school that teaches Bible principles in order to plant God's truth and ways in their hearts. Others have taken the broad path of "free" public education only to see all their children's Biblical values undermined and polluted with such issues as homosexuality, rebellion, toleration of sin, abortion, living for one's own pleasure rather than for God, and other worldly ideas contrary to the truth the parents have taught. Then as the years of life pass on, the child can no longer be seen heading the right direction and the final heartbreak is that he or she will not end up in the right place.

God will make a way through the crowd for you and all your children to arrive safely. Even though it may cost time, money, and laying aside other desires, nothing compares to obeying God in this sacred trust of bringing up children to know Him. The cost is nothing compared to the glory of God. Eternity is a long time and you and your family will be eternally grateful.