Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Do You Need Me Now?"

"Do you need me now?" may sound similar to the Verizon commercial depicting the man who is wondering if someone can hear him now.  Yet Jesus is clearly asking, "Do you need Me?'  Do you need His saving power, His help, and His direction?

One of the absolute signs of the fallen nature of man is that we think we don't need God.  In general, man is so proud.  We even seem to act like we are "God" when we contend our way is best, our thoughts are correct, and deep down we feel that we can always work our way out of trouble.  Yet, pride was the cause of Satan's fall and the motivation of Eve's eating the forbidden fruit to become "like God."   

Have you reached the place where all your ways and efforts cannot possibly get you out of a situation and you really need God?  What about being cleansed from the foolish or wrong choices you have made?  What about having a genuine peace and joy about your life?  How are your relationships going?  Maybe the barrier is that we don't trust that God can really help and we are still looking for other ways to make it.  

Perhaps all of life is a long-term incremental course to teach us that all the plans of man are like a barren desert.  Sometimes there seems no easy way out, and all we can do is be like Peter, who when asked if he was going to leave Jesus, said "to whom shall we go, You have the words of eternal life."  Yet Jeremiah 17 states that trusting God in difficult circumstances is like fresh streams of water to your soul. In His light we become light, resulting in a progressive growth into Christ until He literally becomes all in all. 

Certainly, there is no situation so totally out of our hands as what happens the moment we die.  All our exalted ideas and philosophies are powerless to change things.  Everything that follows is completely up to God.  Is He faithful to do what He promised for those who put faith in Him?  Man is completely helpless to control his eternal destiny.

God created man to know Him and be with Him forever.  The entirety of life has many significant activities and milestones, but when it is all said and done, we stand before God accountable for what we have done with His Son.  "Behold the man" may have been Pilate's words to the crowd, but the reality is that everything depends on how you behold Him.  Unless life is an opportunity to respond to Him and all He did for man by dying on the cross, than the only other option is that all life is a period of struggle to survive until you die.  What a completely wasted existence to fail to find the purpose for which we were made!

Christmas isn't just about a baby in a manger and all the periphery around it.  Rather, it is a divine statement that God sent Jesus to meet our need and save man.  A valid question is "From what?" From sin and eternal death, from the consequences of his own fleshly nature that leads to death, from the human pride that refuses to make room for God is his life.  Maybe the Christmas bells will ring out for you this year, "Do you need Me now?"  Eternity and your being complete depends on your answer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Purpose of your Life?

  Recently, at the passing of a dear friend who seemingly died before her time, the comment was made that a full life isn't how many years you live, but rather whether you accomplished your mission, your purpose.  Someone joked that he was so far behind in completing his mission that he would have to live past 90 just to get everything done. 

Yet finding one's purpose and fulfilling our calling is not a laughing matter or something that always seems well-defined.  Most of us just go through life simply doing the necessary practical things, making a living, handling the demands of family and work, while our emotional needs may be satisfied with common pleasures of body appetites and whatever the sports and entertainment venues can provide. However, there is little serious consideration of the real meaning or purpose of our lives.  Once in a awhile, on various occasions such as a death or birth, we may stop and reflect on what life really is and why we are here.  Usually these passing thoughts only cause temporary change of direction, much like the New Year's resolutions that are so easy to make and break. 

  May I ask "What will be said about you at your funeral?"  What would you like to have said and for what would you like to be remembered?  Clearly more important, what does God see and what will He say to you.  Before we can answer this, we may need to consider God's perspective. 

  From the beginning God wanted to walk with man and be his close friend.  He has given each of us certain unique qualities and specific abilities to accomplish the "good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)  God knows our calling and purpose and is more than able to accomplish in us and through us what He desires to do.  Life is designed to be a partnership, a walking together, and depending on Him until He is "all in all" to accomplish this assignment.  Have you imagined what it would be like if today Jesus simply walked with you, in your basic relationships, in your time at work, in the basic decisions you make with your time and energy, and in the thoughts of your heart?

  It is never too late to open up more to Jesus, or to let His shed blood clean you up and make you "new."  God's love supersedes everything that you have ever done or that has ever happened to you.  Isaiah declares He is waiting to show mercy to you.  The big things such as life calling and purpose only unfold when the small steps of inviting the Lord to permeate your mind and heart in the little things happens. Then the light will dawn and get brighter and brighter.

  You can't change what you have done or what has occurred, but you can be with the Lord Jesus right now.  He is "I Am."  You can obey the next thing that you perceive His Spirit is impressing on you to do.  You can sense that He is not only with you but also that He is pleased with you.  You can pour out your heart and concerns to Him and let Him be the motivation and strength to do the difficult thing.  The primary purpose of your life is to be with Him and to let Him "own or rule" you.  From this relationship the overall mission or purpose will be clear and unfold easily.

Then when the time comes to go home, you will have accomplished your mission.  Your mind and heart will rest as Paul did, declaring "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Pretty Please God?"

"Pretty please, God, would you make this go away?" or "I promise to change or do some generous deed if you do this for me"  Have you ever begged God or tried to manipulate God for something? Did it work?  What is wrong with this whole picture?

Let's start with the beginning.  God loves us and is pleased to give us the kingdom.  He delights in mercy and meeting the needs of his children.  He has promised to not give a stone to the child who asks for bread.  Hasn't He already given us the most precious treasure He has, in His own Son?  So how can we doubt His heart toward us in wanting to give to us all we need to have abundant life.

Secondly, there is an eternal principle in which God is not mocked, namely what a man sows is what he shall reap.  All through history God has always weighed men's hearts and responded strongly to help and defend those who honor Him.  God gives grace to the humble.  2 Chronicles 16:9 further declares that God is looking for an opportunity to show His power in behalf of the person whose heart is right toward Him.  In simple words, our attitude and actions always make a difference to God, leading to positive or negative consequences.

Thirdly, faith is not something you drum up just when you need it.  Faith is an eternal quality that starts with admitting we have sinned and accepting that Jesus paid it all for you through His death on the cross.  In response to this honest transaction, the life of God, Jesus Christ Himself, takes up permanent residence in our hearts and being. Then each time we read and allow the truth of God's Word to soak into our thinking and hearts, it grows.  Faith is defined as a "conviction" or "assurance" so it requires time of reflection and acceptance to become established in the "knower" part of our inner man.  And every time we choose a right attitude in a difficult situation we likewise grow according to James 1:2-5.  This invisible but clearly tangible quality, faith, is meant to be "ever increasing" and to grow as a plant that proceeds from seed to germination to blade to flower to fruit according to the parable Jesus explained.  Faith is a real spiritual quality and quantity that silently permeates all we think and do, and is not just how we feel at the moment of trial.

The point is that God has a plan for each of us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ, and He has sent His Spirit to make sure we have every opportunity to do that.  He not only wants us to be whole in spirit, soul, and body, but also "He who calls you is faithful and He will do it." (1 Thess 5:24)  So God, who is in us and on our side, is ready to help to change us.  All we have to do is be faithful in the little things such as starting the day with Jesus, reading the Word, asking forgiveness when we fail, and obeying the Spirit as He leads us.  Without even realizing it, our faith will be increasing and getting stronger through every trial and victory we experience.  Then in the day of trial, to our great amazement, our faith will be sufficient to overcome and bring us to a place where thanksgivings will overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:7-15).  You never need to beg or manipulate God again.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hug Your Boulder Today?

  Climbing the "moderately strenuous" class 2 mountain trail from Summit Lake to the peak of Mt. Evans is a formidable challenge, especially with 8 high school students who had never climbed a 14er before, yet the lessons are invaluable and life-enduring.  Parts of the trail and the high altitude lack of oxygen clearly required every bit of strength and determination each one physically possessed.  Encouragements like ''just take one step at a time" and "hug the boulder" were priceless in helping each one move through some of the more difficult assents and ledges.
 Why climb the mountain? The standard somewhat flippant reply is "because it is there." However, a better answer is that inside of man there is a drive to overcome and to know that he can accomplish his goals.  Ultimately the fruit of all labor is the prize at the end.  In this case, after 4 hours of trekking across uneven terrain, steep ascents, and even more frightening descends, we were able to see an awesome view of the peaks of the continental divide and the wide beautiful valleys.  Nothing compares to a first-hand experience of the majestic picture that the mountainous rocks and trees paint.
  Cartoonist Schultz has Charlie Brown saying that everyone needs to lay down and look up at the stars to see how insignificant he is.  The reverse is also true with the majestic grandeur of a mountain top view.  One can get a glimpse of how God sees His creation and all He has done to provide extravagantly for us.  The only conclusion is a powerful realization of how precious and important we must be to God.
  Nothing satisfies like a task completed.  In this case, being able to climb a 14er stands as a giant fortress and lasting monument that each one can tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges one step at a time and hugging the rock that doesn't move in the hard places.  So go climb your mountain (whatever and wherever it is).  Sometimes the hardest task may be the very thing that causes the most growth and lasting results.  Very much like James 1:2 which says to count it joy when trials come because God can use them to make us stronger.  As we push forward and step by step overcome, God plants His unshakeable foundation in our heart that with His help you can and will make it.  Have you hugged your boulder today?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Who Appreciates You?

In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown asks Linus, "If you work really hard and get all the things that you want, is it worth it?"  Snoopy, overhearing the conversation, says, "Not if you don't have a dog that loves you."

Somehow Snoopy captures the reality that having someone who loves you and appreciates you is of greater importance.  When it is all said and done, who loves you and takes pleasure in you?  This may sound trite, but no one on earth has that kind of appreciation or understanding of all you go through.  There is only one, the Man Jesus Christ, who knows our every thought, emotion, and effort.  He also happens to be a little like Snoopy, who dances with joy when he sees you.  Zephaniah 3 states that God "rejoices over you with singing."

The obvious problem is that many of us do not know God or Jesus in that way.  We live day to day doing work, putting up with situations, handling family matters, overcoming life's challenges and trials, and when we are through with the busy-ness, take a few minutes to relax and be entertained by TV or movies or Internet sites.  It is possible to go through all the motions, be a "good" normal person, and never enjoy the pleasure of knowing Someone loves and appreciates who we are. 

Do you remember the scene in Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell explains to his sister that when he runs he "feels God's pleasure."  Instead of that being an experience that only special people have at extraordinary times, we suggest that the basic purpose of life, "to know, serve and enjoy God," declares that those who know their God will walk in this awareness daily. 

So stop right now.  Close you eyes, look up and smile.  Say to Jesus, "are you rejoicing and singing over me right now?"  Can you see Him dancing for joy over you?  Maybe this whole concept is strange to you, yet is life worth it if you don't know the pleasure of the One who made you?

Something needs to change in our hearts and it begins with us realizing we need to know Him and that we are of infinite value to Him.  Ephesians 1:17 is a prayer worth saying everyday, "that the Father of Glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give to 'me' a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him."


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wisdom from Presidents on President's Day


Godly Quotes by the Founding Fathers and Past Presidents

God and faith in Jesus Christ has long played a prominent role in the lives of not only American citizens, but American presidents. Many of our nation’s leaders derived their beliefs from Christianity and maintained strong beliefs in God, as evidenced by quotations from their speeches, letters and memoirs.

1. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” —George Washington

2. “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right
which heaven itself ordained.” – George Washington

3. “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” – George Washington

4. “Let me live according to those holy rules which Thou hast this day prescribed in Thy Holy Word…direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life. Bless, O Lord, all the people of this land.” – George Washington

5. “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” – John Adams

6. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” – John Adams

7. “We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!” – John Adams

8. “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” – Thomas Jefferson

9. “The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion that changes the heart.” – Thomas Jefferson

10. “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

11. “I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, better husbands… the Bible makes the best people in the world.” – Thomas Jefferson

12. “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.” – James Monroe

13. “While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.” – James Monroe

14. “It is no slight testimonial, both to the merit and worth of Christianity, that in all ages since its promulgation the great mass of those who have risen to eminence by their profound wisdom and integrity have recognized and reverenced Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of the living God.” – John Quincy Adams

15. “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” – John Quincy Adams

16. “My custom is to read four or five chapters of the Bible every morning immediately after rising. It seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. It is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.” – John Quincy Adams

17. “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book upon reason that you can, and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man.” – Abraham Lincoln

18. “We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” – Abraham Lincoln

19. “The only assurance of our nation’s safety is to lay our foundation in morality and religion.” – Abraham Lincoln

20. “All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.” – Grover Cleveland

21. “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – Theodore Roosevelt

22. “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” – Calvin Coolidge

23. “The study of the Bible is a post-graduate course in the richest library of human experience.” – Hebert Hoover

24. “The fundamental basis of this nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teaching we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days. If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in the right for anybody except the state.” – Harry Truman

25. “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” – John F. Kennedy

26. “Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.” – Ronald Reagan

27. “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face” – Ronald Reagan

28. “Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.” – Ronald Reagan

29. “Faith gives the assurance that our lives and our history have a moral design.” – George W Bush

30. “Each day millions of our citizens approach our Maker on bended knee, seeking His grace and giving thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon us.” – George W Bush
What an awesome heritage!  Anyone looking at the foundation of this country can clearly see an indisputable godly heritage of presidents who knew Jesus Christ, openly professed Christian belief and principles, and understood that we are accountable to God and will continue to proper only by following His principles.  Therefore we thank God for His hand on this country through the years  and we are reminded to pray for our leaders today. We are so blessed as individuals and as a country.  God bless America.