Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Slimmer Image

I was recently at the local store and saw something quite interesting. The store is selling mirrors that reflect a slimmer image. Personally, I am not obese, but could stand to lose a few pounds. I guess in a sense it is nice to look in the mirror and visualize myself as I could be and  this could provide an incentive for weight loss. That was not though my immediate reaction as I gazed at the glass. My immediate thought was that it seems quite obvious that this is becoming the world standard. We do not always like to see ourselves in a true light. I am not referring as much to the physical image as I am to the emotional and spiritual condition in which we exist. In psalm 139 we read the words "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me." We know that nothing is hidden from God, although at times we may wish to hide our emotions from him. Still, the truth is that God does discern our thoughts and emotions.

The fact that God can discern our condition with total clarity is wonderful news for all of us; it means that God knows exactly how to help us. If we are open to receiving help from the Holy Spirit we have every assurance of success. I am not speaking of success as the world judges it, but of course, as God measures it. Most of us are well aware of the "pattern" of the world, and I know that so often people will make the statement that they wish for a world "without judgement"  for those who lack physical beauty or power or money. Much of the world goes after those things with intensity, expending every ounce of energy contained. They have the world, but they do not perceive the critical condition of their spirit. If they do get a glimpse of it, you can be pretty certain they are going to discard that  impression from their mind.

Dear friend, we should never turn away from the truth. God will always show us the truth: We do not need to be afraid to face our deepest feelings. I think that few of us rejoice in correction. It seems to illicit an automatic rise of resistance, however the Holy Spirit can gently bring us around to a right way of thinking. When we look into the "mirror" let's deal with the reality and know that God loves us to the utmost extent!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Time and Urgency


How do we spend our lives?  How do we use the time we have each day?  Do we expend our energy for learning?  Are we aware of time that has been virtually lost?  Of most importance, do we seek God’s direction?  Do we set aside the time we should to read God’s word and pray?   

Some years ago I took a required class which had to do with time management. In this class we studied the book written by the late Stephen Covey entitled "First Things First." In the book Dr. Covey described "Urgency Addiction." He defined it as "a self-destructive behavior that temporarily fills the void created by unmet needs" (Covey, 1994, p. 35). I have considered this point from time to time as I acknowledge my own particular urgency problem. The thing that I have noticed is that my day tends to present with more difficulty when I neglect scripture reading (or listening) and prayer. And so, here is a great need I have and I recognize that it cannot be fulfilled in any other way. There is nothing and no one in the world other than God who can fill that spiritual need that provides strength for the physical as well. 


I enjoy watching a television program on TCT called "Ancient Jewish Wisdom" hosted by Rabbi Lapin and his wife. In May, the Rabbi spoke about our "model of reality." He said that "if you shape your model of reality on the Bible, you are miles ahead of others." The truth of that point is striking! It fits in perfectly as we consider the question of time management.


I like the way the Bible describes God's perception of time: "Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (NIV, 2 Peter 3:8). In a very interesting way I was recently reminded of that verse. I was one day standing outside of the checkout aisle at a store waiting for someone. As I waited, a man I did not know approached me and asked me if I knew the time. Reaching into my pocket I flipped open my cell phone and gave him the time. He said, "You know, those are nice. I should get one because you can make a call and read the time." He then paused and looked at me and said, "But you know, I've always found that God's time is perfect."  


What a wonderful thought! 


For those interested in reading some of Rabbi Lapin's commentaries and books, please visit his website: www.rabbidaniellapin.com


Thursday, April 16, 2015

KNOW THE ENEMY

Recently I heard a man on the radio talking about military type of strategies, one of which he listed as perhaps the most important: He defined this plan of action as "knowing your enemy." Personally I have never served in the military, but I can grasp the concept of how important it is for military personnel to be fully equipped with knowledge of how the enemy performs and what their tactics are. I began to think about this and, for me, it calls to mind the many references in scripture regarding the strength, protection and power of God's word. Obviously, Satan stands as our adversary, the enemy, the destroyer. Jesus referred to him as "the prince of this world" (John 14:30). That is a shocking thought on one hand, and yet we do see it that way more and more. My greatest concern in this is that so many people in this world do not, by any means, "know the enemy."

"The mind is the battlefield" a pastor once said to our congregation some years ago. Satan tries to influence our thinking at times with unrelenting efforts if we do not respond with a strong defensive effort of our own. We need to know scripture, because as described in the Book of Ephesians, God's word is ". . . the sword of the Spirit." In that same verse we are told to wear "the helmet of salvation." God will protect, dear one, we are in His care. I just worry that we place ourselves at a disadvantage when we allow too much of the world into our lives. It always seems to coincide with reading less scripture and praying less, if at all.

For those of the world who do not know the saving power of Christ, it would be very hard for them, if not impossible, to know the enemy. And so, they may think they are doing okay or their lives are literally being torn to shreds. In both cases they are souls who are suffering, both from a lack of understanding, because the world so often resists understanding and would rather embrace a lie. They suffer because they embrace the lie and the deception continues to corrupt. They suffer because they do not know the enemy.

Beloved, God would not have any of us suffer! The cross itself is there to remind us of what Jesus took on for all of us.

"The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, American King James Version).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

HEARING WITH UNDERSTANDING


In a Bible study group we have been looking at the “Parable of the Sower,” from the book of Mark. In this parable Jesus explained the effect of God’s message to mankind and likened it to seed sown on different types of soil. I think we all understand the concept of the benefits of sowing seed on good ground. This brings to mind the thought that when a person makes a decision for Christ and their life has been rocky with difficult ground their heart may be much the same and they will need a lot of support as they learn from God’s Holy Spirit.  I think the biggest impact for my learning was the discussion regarding those who will not listen and/or turn from God despite having heard the message.

As I read scripture, I find myself pondering the fact that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day should have understood his teachings. They claimed to be experts and certainly devoted themselves to study of scripture. Yet, the day came when they stood before the Lord and had trouble understanding his words; and many refused to understand; they turned away. Apparently it was as if they were blind or asleep. We know this was prophesied: We read about it in the book of Isaiah and Jesus referred to that very text. Jesus also explained the heartbreaking result of a stubborn and willful heart. Let’s just look at the definition of ‘willful.” It is “having or showing a stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants regardless of the consequences or effects.” This is obviously not a good state to be in and it seems so sad to think this was the condition of several of the religious leaders. 

We read in the Gospel of Mark Jesus’ words regarding his teaching (in particular here, The Parable of the Sower). “And he said to them, he that has ears to hear, let him hear!” How beautiful those words are! God wants us to have understanding! The only thing that would prevent us from hearing without understanding is the condition we intentionally or unintentionally put ourselves in. And yet, we see God’s patience with us at every turn. It is as if he is saying “Okay, let’s try this again. .” I think we have all run across a scripture or a message successive times, and realized there is something of importance there for our life which God wants to make us aware of.

I watch a television show called “Precepts for Life” taught by Kay Arthur. She is an amazing teacher of the gospel. She once talked about a man who served in ministry under a strict, burdensome teaching. He had been taught that he had to work excessively hard in order to maintain God’s favor. He continued on with his ministry, but without a sense of joy he had hoped to experience. One day as he read scripture he came across Paul’s description of righteousness as a gift. Now, this young man had read this scripture many times before, but this was the first time he read it with understanding. The Holy Spirit had been able to bring the understanding to him and it changed his life. 

Again, we can feel greatly encouraged, because we know of God’s love and mercy for everyone. We can pray for our own understanding and pray for others. Let’s go to the Book of Psalms: “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper”(Psalm 1). Very powerful is the word of God! Of course, this psalm (in its entirety which I did not copy here) describes two paths. The way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly. And in this fallen world it may look as though the way of the ungodly is flourishing, but ultimately that way will perish. But certainly, even those who have chosen that way can turn and come into agreement with the one true God and receive salvation. 

God’s Holy Spirit has been able to reach the understanding of so many people! Even a young man who is the son of a leader of the terrorist group Hammas. This young man has become a Christian and has a tremendous testimony. 

And so, we look for our answers where we can find them. When Mary went to the empty tomb she was asked by an angel “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” I think we can look at our lives and apply that very question. We do not need to look to the world for our answers. The spirit of the world does not hold meaningful answers for us as Christians. Our life is in Christ. 

Let’s go back to Psalms (33) and give praise to the God of creation: Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous; for praise is fitting for the upright.” And jumping down a few verses: “Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy O Lord be upon us, according as we hope in you..

Amen



Monday, October 6, 2014

In Search of Truth

Over the weekend a friend and I watched a 2008 documentary film entitled "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." The narrator and star of the film is Ben Stein and I was extremely impressed with his work. The subject centers in on the resistance within the science community to the theory of intelligent design. Largely it seems the scientific community of any affiliation (and most certainly at the university levels) are in extreme opposition to discussions regarding or even suggestions which could lead to a discussion of intelligent design. It is clear that they are in opposition to this because they oppose any suggestion that God exists.

As I watched the film, I was struck by the thought of how true scripture is and how accurately the spiritual condition people find themselves in is described. This is a condition which those affected by will not discern unless they actually turn to God for help. As much as we may want that for them, it has to be that they respond to God's invitation. We can certainly pray for them that they will respond to the Holy Spirit. It is heartbreaking to see the direction they are going at this point and to see the damage they are causing by influencing the thinking of so many.

Why and how do people of amazing intelligence disregard the truth so completely despite their knowledge? Well, if they were in search of the truth God would open that door for any one of them, but the fact is they do not desire truth, and so God allows them to believe a lie. Unfortunately they have opened the door to strong delusion.  The result is that we're talking about incredibly intelligent and educated men and women of science who believe we were seeded here on the back of a crystal from another planet and other such theories. They are quite literally blinded, but it is a very curable condition. Let's remember to pray that the day will come that they too will turn to the Lord for understanding.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all your getting get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7, American King James Version).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Come Home, With Joy

Quite often I watch a television show on a Christian channel called "Ask the Pastor," and people call in questions for a panel of pastors ready to offer their interpretation of scripture regarding answers.  The question that seems to get asked more than any other is "Can one lose their salvation?"  It's asked frequently, phrased in different ways but with the same concern:  "Can it happen?"  "Did it happen to me?"  The emotion behind that question is very real and I've heard some asking the question with the sound of such distress they can hardly get the question out.  In considering that question, allow me to offer my interpretation of God's word and also the viewpoint I've seen given on the show from various pastors.

Please understand: If it were possible that you had lost your salvation that would not concern you in the least.  You would be so far from God, it wouldn't matter to you. There may have been a confused time in your life when you walked away from God, but listen, He has called you back.  When you feel that tug - that pull inside your heart saying,  "I want to get back to God."  "How do I do that?  Will God hear me?"  that is God, dear friend, calling you - drawing you back.  Jesus said we don't come to God unless He draws us.  His Spirit is working to bring you back, to remind you of the truth of God's love and grace that He has for you.

Jesus spoke of the assurance that He will never turn us away.  When we come to Christ with the knowledge inside of us of the cleansing power of Christ's blood, shed for us, we stand before God forgiven.  When Jesus referred to forgiving a brother seventy times seven, I believe He was referencing it in that way because that is God's response to our ongoing need for forgiveness.  It does not end at some point.  When Jesus spoke of going off to find the one sheep gone astray, I believe we are given to understand that God's Spirit will seek to find and bring us back from wherever we have gone.  When Jesus spoke the parable of the Prodigal Son, that story symbolizes The Father, standing with arms open ready to receive us back, with joy. Believe me, God doesn't want us out in the world wandering in the wrong direction.  He wants us with Him forever.  But don't allow your heart to get hardened because therein lies the danger.  Pay attention to God's Spirit speaking to you of love, mercy and forgiveness.  Dear friend, know it with assurance:  God is calling you home.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Gift of Understanding

I was with a good friend today and we had talked about some old homes we had seen. Even the home I live in is quite old, having been built in 1919. Anyway, I remarked on the lack of closet space. My friend's response was "Well, people did not have a lot of possessions in earlier days. If you had one good pair of boots, you made them last. Generally people did not have households jam packed with clothes, games, toys and whatever else people buy. You pretty much had the essentials of life in those days. That thought made me reflect on something from my childhood days. At Christmas time, my grandparents were always generous toward us. My great regret is that at that time in life I did not absorb the message of Christmas. I dressed up and went caroling with children; we sang the message of Jesus birth, however, I did not receive a true understanding. I really wish I had understood and had expressed to my grandparents the love of Christ.

It seems hard for us to realize it at times, but the Lord wants a relationship with us on a deep and abiding level. Perhaps we have some understanding of that fact and yet draw away toward the world as if pulled by a magnet. Or perhaps there has never been a time of real understanding, but if we reach out for it, the Holy Spirit will open that door. We don't need to fill our lives up with distractions which money can buy at Christmas or any other time.

Jesus talked about giving things up as needed and not hanging onto worry and fear. We could have all the money and possessions in the world, and yet remain totally unstable if not anchored in the knowledge of Christ. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of Heaven, which heart and soul, we can partake of if we will only receive with understanding. And so, we need a relationship with the Lord which draws us close. We should read God's word, drink it in, and spend time in prayer. And whatever we do, whatever life brings our way, in a time of bounty or despair, turn to the Lord.

I give thanks to the Lord for the times I had as a child with my wonderful grandparents. It took years for me to see their love as a measure of God's love which is beyond our earthly comprehension. That understanding is the "gift" I received.