“After Christmas”

“After Christmas”

Now that another Christmas day is past… pause for just a few moments… breathe the cool morning air… be still and consider what we just celebrated.

Christmas…

O’ that special intimate time that in a most remarkable moment, God became a man. 

Close your eyes and envision…  envision Heaven opening herself and placing her most precious One in a human womb.

O’ there’s more…

For Jesus came, not as a brilliant flash of light, accompanied by rolling thunder… Not even as an unapproachable conqueror… But… As a new born baby… whose first cries were not heard by kings or queens or even leaders of the religious… But… Simply heard by a peasant girl, a humble carpenter and a few assorted farm animals.

Now… look more closely… at the hands that first held him… un-manicured, calloused, and dirty.

And… now look onward… catch the glimpse of His future thirty-three years… That time when he would feel everything you and I have ever felt… Yes… at times, weak, weary and even afraid of failure… He even got His feelings got hurt.

As I send this, I have a knot in my heart… For, to think of Jesus in such a light seems almost irreverent.

Indeed… there’s something about keeping him divine and predictable.

But… seemly distant…

For sure… His Holy Sprint shan’t have us go there… For, our Precious Lord and Savior desires for us to see Him as human as He intended to be.

So…

Today… let Him into the mire and muck of your world.

Why?

For, only if we let Him in can He pull us out.

Now… remain still and praise Him from the stillness of your heart.

Go forth and spread The Good News… He is with us.

 



In Times Like These

Maybe some of you are like me, stunned, saddened, concerned and even sometimes angered by the news.

 

Daily we are saturated with heartbreaking news concerning mass killings, all kinds of other violence, civil, business and political misbehavior and insensibility.

 

Perhaps you remember a few weeks ago when Conan O’Brien spoke about the mass killing in Las Vegas. His head script counsel had come to him with the words he had spoken following the long list of previous mass shootings…  O’Brien was obviously deeply affected as he again considered what to say… “we’re all tired of hearing reporters, let alone comics, discuss mass carnage in the most affluent and influential country in the world. Something has got to change.”

 

For most, I sense such occurrences are not the sort of daily news we had hoped for. For most… the kind of world in which we’d like to live is much different… one more peaceful and hope not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors. And now… it seems that this vision continues to elude our grasp.

 

Thinking… sometimes saying… “God it’s so painful”… It’s so close (thanks to today’s connectivity)… O’ how our dream of peace seems so far out of reach…

 

Today… The intensity… the in our face awareness of all of this violence can leave us speechless and consequently, feeling helpless.

 

Frequently, when we don’t know what to think or say, reaching for the words of others… songwriters can help us find ways to come to terms with ourselves, the world around us and the tasks that lie ahead.  Their words often not only express our grief and anger, they can also call us back to those truths we hold most dear.

 

Whilst I was thinking about all of this and researching helpful material, a memory of the melody “Finlandia” swept through my audio consciousness… this melody supports a lyric written long ago (in the 18th century), which itself is an adaptation of an older lyric… the 42nd Psalm.

 

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

 

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:

how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

 

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:3-6)

 

As I continued into my time of prayer and discovery, also thought about a lyric from the hymn “When Aimless Violence Takes Those We Love,” written by Joy Patterson. The third and fourth stanzas tell highlight truth…

 

Our faith may flicker low, and hope grow dim, yet you, O God, are with us in our pain; you grieve with us and for us day by day, and with us, sharing sorrow, will remain.

 

Because your Son knew agony and loss, felt desolation, grief, and scorn and shame, we know you will be with us, come what may, your loving presence near, always the same.

 

 

So…

Where is our God in times like these?

 

Hear this clearly…

God is here in the middle of the suffering.

God is here confronted by evil and bearing the agony that is evil’s intent but not only as an act of divine empathy.

God in Jesus bears this evil as an expression of defiant love and life.

 

When the lyricist’s words bring us to the suffering of Jesus – a suffering for which these days have increased our sensitivity (we can add every other tragedy and natural disaster of which we are aware), they also bring us to an awareness and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Just as our grieving finds resonance in the suffering of Christ, so Jesus’ resurrection draws our sorrow and anger into hopefulness – perhaps not all at once; we may need to be patient with ourselves.

 

Those of us who sit slack jawed, sometimes not even fully believing the news we’re reading… hearing… seeing… are called again and again and again to the hope that violence and death will not have the last word. For… this last word belongs to life – Jesus Christ has made it so.

 

And so…

With this… having begun to find our words again and in our words, hope… we begin to put the pieces together that will result in action.

 

We pray…

We talk with one another…

We seek to learn and understand the nature of the world in which we are called to serve.

 

Then we again take up our vocations anew and work for life.

Each of us will go at this differently… for, our vocations are not exactly alike… but none of us will do this alone.

 

For… God in Christ Jesus is with us…

With us in our shock…

With us in our concern…

With us in our pain…

 

Together, we who are with the Body of Christ… the people of God… are with Jesus in the hopefulness of life.

 

Yes…

There can be a tenaciousness to the hope of those whose trust is in God.

 

Well, I won’t back down / No, I won’t back down You can stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won’t back down (Tom Petty with Jeff Lynne, I Won’t Back Down)

 

Draw Close, He is Near

 

P.S.

 

Ruth Caye Jones composed this song long ago… It has been a blessing and comfort for many.

 



Come Down From The Mountains

Come down from the mountain… the work is in the valleys

“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5)

Peter had just experienced the most wonderful, powerful event in his life. He had been caught up in the glory, taken to the summit of the mount with his master, the Lord Jesus.  The sights of his surroundings and the constant murmur of men had overshadowed his world with a sense of glory that he had never known before. For a moment, for a brief moment, he had lost himself and wanted nothing more than to forget everything and everybody that he had ever known and stay on that mountain top forever. The temporal things of the world had become his enemy and he no longer wanted anything to do with them. He wanted to rise above them in rapture, stand on the summit in victory, and set up an eternal tabernacle on that mountain top.

How many times have you wished for the same?

How many sweet times of fellowship with my Lord have you longed to have last forever? 

How many times have you been content to sit on the mountain top… marveling at the beauty of His handiwork… content to listen to the gentle whispers moving from peak to peak… through the rocky crevasses… singing their high mountain song in the clear, cool, frosty air?

When you reclined at His table and took the cup and the bread in your hand in remembrance of Him, or during the nights that you spent at the altar in prayer… 
How often did you wish to set up a tabernacle in that place? 

But, too soon you heard the stirring of people, the hushed voices of those around you… soon, the doors open and people gather as life shows up again.

Have you often mourned over having to leave that special place too soon.

Exclaiming… “Why do I have to go back?  Why can’t I just stay here? This is a good thing. This is a special place. I don’t want to leave! Why must I always leave the quiet place to return to the roar of the battle? Why won’t my Lord allow me to do what Peter asked and make for Him a tabernacle here?”

But know this… The answer we receive is the one given to Peter – “Get up and go! This is not your rest.” 

For, you see… men were not made to remain on the mountain. 

We were made for the valley.

The place that is best suited for the soul of man is not the mountain of glory, but the valley of ministry. 

Listen as you descend….
Listen to the voices at the foot of the mountain… the voices of the multitude who need to be delivered. 

Hear their cries as they come up the cliffs from the valley of their humiliation…

Now, hear His clear voice speaking to you…
“Do you believe that you are too good to enter into the tents of suffering of these?”
“Do you believe that you are above being able to help to those bound up by sin?”

Heed His voice… His counsel… His gentle push… Do not fear… Do not dwell in such thoughts, for He will be with you…

Now, as you begin your descent… The veil of the mountain is parted for you… Yes, it is drawn away for your good. 
Descend now…  down the mountain…

There is much He has planned for you.
Hear His Words clearly… 
“Go forth… Build your tabernacle where many need to hear the Good News.”

Draw close… He is with you… go!

 


“A Foggy Morning Blessing”

A Foggy Morning Blessing

 

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him.” (Psalm 32:1 & 2)

The other morning, I awoke early and went into mountains.  As I arrived in the Moraine Meadows I was greeted by our Lord with a damp fog that enveloped me completely. 

The nearby mountain tops, some climbing to 14,000 ft, were barely visible as the early morning light began to illuminate the eastern sky.

Deep in the meadow I could hear the elk awakening calls… but their shapes were hidden by the fog.

 

As I paused, I thought it a bit strange because lately I had been praying for God would allow me to see deep into the things around me…

For Him to give me an ability to more clearly describe what He sees and allows me to see on a different level…

For Him to give me His insights into what is seen and unseen. 

So… I wondered…

Why the fog?

 

And now, as I walked forth (camera in hand)… 

I sensed… this was different that times before when I have stepped into fog…

For, this morning I saw things I’ve never noticed before. 

 

I remember the nudging of the Holy Spirit… 

I remember His quiet voice…“There’s some things to learn in this fog”.

So… I ventured on, cinching my jacket to block the frigid air of the high mountains.

As I meandered into the meadow, frosty grass crackled like panes of glass beneath my feet. 

I pursed my lips and exhaled a stream of warm air. 

Steam formed and it swirled gently, never dissipating rather clinging to the mist that surrounded me. 

 

Then, I sensed the hand of the foggy haze reaching out… taking me in its grasp leaving a dampness that chilled my arms. 

The fog pushed in and out as though it were waves breaking gently onto an imaginary sandy mountain shore. 

My vision began to clear as I squinted in the early grey light with growing shades of pick, red and canary… trying to find just a bit of sight through the foamy whitewash.

I gingerly blew a second breath into the wetness of the air. 

Again the cloud twisted and turned, lifting itself into the vapor that washed past me. 

The cool moisture chilled my lungs as I took it in. 

Lifting my hand, I softly swatted at the smoky cloud and it moved, caressing my hand like sand filling crevices… constant and conforming. 

This blanket that covered the early morning hours pressed against me, wrapping me tight in its clutch. 

This is early winter in the mountains. 

 

Looking over my shoulder I could see the pinhole of light growing in the darkness, forming a single ray of light. 

Yes… daylight comes.

With each fleeting second that passed I watched the curtain rise and with it, the dense ocean of fog. 

The amber glow of the morning light became increasingly bright as the mist cleared and my skin lost its tackiness. 

 

Soon….

God began taking the blanket of fog… 

Moving it in smaller portions into the deep valley…

Then blowing it slowly up the tall mountains…

And folding it neatly to be stored in the heavens. 

And…

As I watched and listened to the birth of a new morning I saw with different eyes…

Standing in newfound amazement… I saw clearly again… the tremendous cloak of forgiveness which the Father offers me… offers each of us.

This deep feeling of abiding within the arms of a God who can cover me fully, forget the wrongs I’ve done, and yet warm me completely, brought me to a new level of humility I’ve never known. 

So…

As my request was granted…

“There’s a lot more to fog than being blinded isn’t there?” I asked the Father. 

And…

I remember His voice dee in my heart…
“Indeed. Took you awhile to notice.” 
“I guess was only looking at the surface.” 

I felt a warm breath that pushed away the chill of the morning air. 

“There’s so much more to see when you look deeper – squint a bit. Fog is really not just something to inconvenience you when you drive.” 
I smiled. “I get that now. It’s a cover. A quilt of sorts.” 
“Yes… What else did you see?” 
“I saw the movement in the mist. It carried your forgiveness toward me and it washed my fallacies out of sight. It clung to me, touched me physically, tickled my skin.” 
“So you saw something in a different light?” The Father asked. 
“Yes I did. I could see the thick film before my eyes, yet, my vision was perfectly clear.” 

“Good. You understand my love a bit better. If only more people would stand still long enough to look into the fog.” 

This morning was an exceptional Blessing…

God taught me that winter in the high mountain meadows offers sight to the blind. 

He covers us with His mighty love and forgives completely. 

I saw that… deep within the cold foggy mist of the Rockies.

 

I pray that each who read this will share in this Blessing…

And know…

He is ever so near…

Draw close… unto Him.

 



The Master Painter

God… The Master Painter of Sunrises

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning –the first day.” (Genesis 1:3-6)

I sense that sunrises may one of the most beautiful things in the world. 

I am always amazed by what our Lord can do with light… this is true at any time of the day… but there’s something O’ so special about sunrises.

That’s why I arise when it is still dark and venture up into the mountains to discover what He has planned for the opening of this day.

It is always special… never seen before and not to be repeated.

 

So up I go… 

Sometimes simply stopping and leaning against the car…

Sometimes hiking to a high vantage point…

Sometimes hiking around a mountain enclosed lake to watch what He has planned in 360.

This special time… as God Paints a new day on the canvas of night.

So… as my new day begins… in total darkness, pitch black… bit within a matter of minutes the transformation happens. 

Just over the horizon a pinhole of light appears. 

I squint to see it. 

Is it the new day beginning or a distant low hanging star? 

But it widens to a broadening slit. 

The first inkling of light squeezes through the crack spilling over into the darkness.

Then a burst of light springs forth… yellow, red, pick, and finally lavender. 

One color after another stretching across the sky… reflecting on everything and providing a special treatment to any clouds who have shown up to participate.

 

Soon… it extinguishes that last gasp of night. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The brightness of the new day’s light washing like a wave
 
over the dark sky taking away all that was hidden by the night. 

Each day… the world opens her eyes and sees the beauty of the light. 

It is truly amazing.

I often wonder how I would react if the sun chose not to shine… a day without the light’s healing, therapeutic, warming for the soul. 

I remember places I have visited where there as constant darkness… where I soon longed for just a small amount of light.

Those places were cold and it was difficult without light to stay on the proper path… to find your way. 

When God crafted the world He began with daylight, offering the void of emptiness respite. 

With the light He provided hope and within the hope He gave us His promise… a promise to heal our hurt and offer us an opportunity to open our eyes renewed and fresh into a new day.

So today I ventured into the mountains with a dear friend… 

Such a special time… to watch as the sky open its eyes.

 

Quietly… I asked the Father, “How do you do it?”
“Do what?” He whispered on the crisp mountain breeze. As if He didn’t already know.
“How do you paint such different pictures every day? Each, better yet, why?”

“My portfolio is vast. I have an eternity of paintings to choose from, and you ask why? Because I can…Because I want to…Because I know your heart… I made it you know…Because I care that you see the “newness of new” every day. For, when your heart is seeking or sad, you can look into the sunrise and know that I am here.”

My heart jumped again for joy and I again remembered… indeed that’s truly awesome… He does this for me… He loves me so much.
And then… hearing my thoughts…
“Yes. without hesitation. Every day. Day in and day out. For you. Because I love you.”

And as I raised my camera, yet again to capture His gift…

“Wait, let me touch it up just a bit…” said the Father. 

And He took His finger and gracefully drew into the darkness, brightening the colors and rearranging the mountain clouds in a truly amazing way.

 

 

But He wasn’t done yet…

“Turn to the west… behind you” he said.

And as I did, I lowered my camera in deep amazement and gratitude… 

As, He painted a rainbow in the sky, amid the light mist in the western mountains.

And as before, as I raised my camera again to capture His latest masterpiece…

“Wait… let me begin adding a second bow of light.”
 
 

 

 My friend who was with me commented that “he had never seen such deep colors”.

 

So…

I do not know know if you happen to be walking in the Light of His Love… or a season of temporary darkness… of seeking His Love…

But… 

Please know that our Lord… or God is amazing…

He loves each of us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us that we might have a Way to be with Him for eternity…

But, just as in this encounter…“Wait… Jesus said… I have more… If you accept Me… I send My Holy Spirit to indwell your heart… So you may know I am always with you.”

 

O’ what an amazing God… One who paints life anew every single day and He does it for you and for me.

Draw close… Unto Him.

 



Glorify God in All You Do

Do you glorify God in all that you do?

Yes… even work?

 

Consider this…

If Christ is Lord over all of life, then He must be Lord over work, too.

Our identity must be wrapped up in who we are, not just what we do.

“Whatever we do for work, we should do it in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17), that is, with a concern for His approval and in a manner that honors Him.

 

The Spirit empowers us to live and work with Christ-likeness.

Christ gives the Holy Spirit to help us live in a way that pleases Him that has enormous implications for how we perform our work.

 

Know this…

God values our work even when the product has no spiritual value.

 

A measure of the significance of a job is its perceived value from the eternal perspective.

For example…

Will the work “last”?

Will it “really count” for eternity?

 

Shallow thinkers would suggest that… God values work for eternity, but not work for the here and now.

 

This is not a biblical truth, but heresy.

Keep these truths in mind when you are tempted to deem secular work as second-class Christianity.

 

– God Himself has created a world which is time-bound and temporary (2 Pet. 3:10-11).

 

– God promises rewards to people in everyday jobs, based on their attitude and conduct (Eph. 6:7, 9; Col. 3:23, 4:1).

 

– God cares about the everyday needs of people as well as their spiritual needs. He cares whether people have food, clothing, shelter, and so forth.

 

– God cares about people, who will enter eternity. To the extent that a job serves the needs of people, He values it because He values people.

 

Hear this clearly…your work does matter to God.

You and I are called to first be a Christian… But whilst we are spending some time this side of Heaven… We are to labor in love in the profession to which He has entrusted us.

 

Draw near… unto Him… each and every day… Endeavor to glorify Him in all that you do.

 

 



Heroic Roots

Heroic Roots

Discovering your heroic Spiritual ancestors From Open Doors

 

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised…” (Hebrews 11:39)

 

Ron Boyd-MacMillan of Open Doors shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I need to encounter the Persecuted Church.”

 

It was early 1980’s in a village in Czechoslovakia, and I had just given the pastor of a rural church a Bible in his own tongue. It was leather bound, with a gold zipper, and was the first complete Bible he had held. I remember him sniffing it, marveling at the leather smell, playing with the zip and being almost afraid to touch the thin precious pages. Then he began to talk to the members of the church.

 

Pointing at me he said, “This gentleman is your heroic spiritual ancestor. Every time the Bible comes into a culture, it is a threat, and is opposed. So it takes men and women to risk all to bring it to us. This man has taken such a risk.”

 

I was embarrassed, but he went on to say to me, “The Bible also came into your culture. It was also a threat. Tell me, who are your heroic spiritual ancestors?” I am ashamed to say I did not have a clear idea of who these men were in my country of the United Kingdom.

 

So I returned to my country with his challenge ringing in my ears, “Find out the story of how your Bible came to you, and you will discover your heroic spiritual ancestors.”

 

What a dramatic story I uncovered. Full of spies, deaths and power politics. I learned so much about John Wycliffe, the first man to translate the Bible into English in the world of the 1300’s, when most clergy could not even recite the Ten Commandments. He formed a cadre of guerilla preachers to comb the country, with hand copied versions of the Bible, a book banned by Parliament. Wycliffe died of a stroke from the strain.

 

In the 1500’s, William Tyndale benefited from the invention of the printing press. He had to leave England to accomplish the task, never to return. At age 29 in 1524, he settled in Cologne, and by 1526 was ready to smuggle 6000 copies of the Bible in English into Britain. The whole British naval fleet was put on alert, and boats were stopped and searched. First tens and then hundreds of the Bibles got through. The bishop of London tried another tack. He sought to buy the entire print run through an intermediary. His intention was to burn them all. Tyndale got wind of it, and approved the sale, saying, “Oh he will burn them. Well, I am the gladder, for I shall get the money from these books, and the whole world shall cry out upon the burning of God’s Word.” And so it was. He burned them, and Tyndale used the money to improve the translation and print more…at the church’s expense.

 

Tyndale was captured by assassins and then strangled and burned in August 1536 for “heresy.” His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” This prayer was swiftly answered, and the English reformation was quickly fueled by a spate of translations. What a story it was. And what heroism from my spiritual ancestors!

 

+++

 

Today… Let us each thank God for our spiritual ancestors who brought God’s Word to our land.

Today… Let us ask God if we may somehow, someday, be used to bring His Word to needy people… needy in the Word… Y’a know… that place my be in our own country… state… city… or neighborhood… And yes… maybe even restoring the Joy, Excitement, Reverence of His Word in our churches.

Let us push inward through nearby closed doors and outward into our world that is spiraling out of control… with His Word in our Hands… Jesus on our lips… and His Spirit in our Hearts… Let us reenergize our commitment that all peoples… all languages… all cultures may hear and be able to read Gods Word in their native language.

Let us allow The Spirit of God to show us new ways to expedite the processes of translating His Word into all languages.

Let us not be timid or fearful to GO and take His Word wherever He sends us… even if it is simply across the street, or our workplace or into the hinterlands.

Let us…

Yes…

Let us

Embolden us Lord!



“Finding Your Way Out”

Are you in a Black Hole?

 

Yep… that swirling darkness that seems to bend or consume all light around it… That pit of darkness that eats up positive feelings… even those good things that come along.

I’m not talking about blah feelings or those times when you are simply in a grey-funk… bouncing in and out of levels depression.

 

I’m talking about those times when no matter what you try… no matter what your friends do or say… No matter what …that swirling black hole consumes all worldly efforts to escape its grip.

 

Remember these words…

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…” (Joshua 1:5b)

 

A black hole is a place of total nothingness.

 

Consider…

It may be a time in our life when God allows the removal of the resources and supports that we normally rely on to feel secure… Maybe… our careers, our finances, our friends, even our family, our health, our comfort and so forth.

 

Know this…

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you…”

 

My experience is that it is a preparation time.

 

So…

When you find yourself in a black hole experience, don’t bounce off the walls in total frustration… or just sit in a corner and brood.

 

Wake up…

Take stock of your life.

Take a clear look at your relationship with God.

 

1st…

Ask God if there are any sins, habits, or attitudes that He might be judging in your life.

It’s important to discern whether the trial we face is the result of God’s discipline for our sin?

Or…

If He is preparing us for a future role… even a leadership role.

 

2nd…

When you enter a black hole… please do not trust your feelings.

Trust God.

Your feelings will tell you, “God has rejected you. Abandon hope. He has left you utterly alone.”

Feelings are fickle and change…

But, God never changes.

Feelings come and go…

But, God is always with us.

 

3rd…

Remember that your black hole experience is not only intended to refine and define you; it’s also intended to influence and change the lives of others… maybe even hundreds or thousands of other people.

Our adversity is not just for us, but others in our sphere of influence.

 

4th…

No matter how painful or oppressive the experience may feel… do not try to hurry the black hole process along.

Remember, when Joseph was in the depths of the pit, there was nothing he could do about it.

He couldn’t climb out, jump out, levitate out, or talk his way out.

All he could do was pray and wait upon the Lord.

 

5th…

Lean on God.

Even when you don’t feel like praying, pray.

Even when you don’t feel like reading His Word, read.

Even when you don’t feel like singing songs of faith, sing.

When you pray, don’t just talk; listen.

Be silent before Him and listen for His still, quiet voice.

 

6th…

And… Please be alert to new truths and new perspectives.

During a black hole experience, God often leads us to amazing new discoveries (He always has for me).

A black hole can be a storehouse of unexpected riches for the soul.

 

One last thought…

The black hole experience may reoccur… or at least for me they have.

Maybe I’m just a slow learner or maybe it’s the jobs He has ordered along my path… So… Don’t be surprised if you again find yourself struggling with a pesky black hole experience… Remember the time(s) before… Press into the lessons He taught you… and the promise that He is with you.

 

Draw Close… He is ever so near.

 

Dallas L. Nash



Deception

DECEPTION

 

Deception is one trying to deceive another or one that is being deceived. The synonyms are many: Deceit, double minded, fraud, trickery, guile, bluff, lying, pretence, fake, scheme, dodge, cheat and swindle. Do we see any of this taking place within the world in which we live? What about in our own heart?   

Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind

.”  You might be thinking, I don’t see my sin listed in that deception definition, maybe not, but does that mean we are free from sinning or our walk with the Lord can’t be improved? We will be looking a lot in the book of Galatians, but will address some other verses along the way. Many individuals in the Bible had set the bar high in their life, and although they were not able to do this on their own, they were at least headed in the right direction. None of us are without flaws, but if we are looking for a better life, we can find the way by learning from their goals and standards and see if they apply in our lives. Perhaps by following a new path it will lead us into making better choices which should cause us to be more at peace within ourselves. Hopefully we will then gain a more secure footing once we place it on a solid foundation.    

 

Nave’s Topical Bible provides us with some references that’s we’ll briefly touch.

“You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood,” Psalms 119:118.  In other words, anything that doesn’t line up with the Word of God is false. “Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit, Romans 3:13. “The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man,” Psalms 5:6b. “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” Proverbs 20:17 As

we observe the false ways of living, a better way would be in the book of Galatians.

 

Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul. Its primary purpose was to help the Jews who trusted Christ as their Savior realize they couldn’t live their life by the rules of law they were once bound to.  They were set free by the Grace of God demonstrated to them by Jesus Christ death, burial and resurrection. It was pointed out that works cannot save an individual.  But if you are a Christ follower and have experienced His love, mercy and grace, then your motivation is serving Him and others because you’ve entered into a love relationship rather than trying to gain status by following a list of regulations. Paul’s motivation is found in

2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Because of Paul’s strong faith in God, he shared his primary verse with us found in Galatians 2:20,”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.” He gave up his own life in order to place Christ first place in his life, and to give those that follow Christ a clear direction for them as well. Other verses that elaborate on Paul’s understanding of God are Galatians 3:11,”But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident; for the just shall live by faith.”  Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled with a yoke of bondage.”

Other references in the book of Galatians show us how the law and God’s grace don’t mix; just like oil and water don’t mix.

 

Back on the subject of deception and what I discovered is found in

Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” We understand the last part of that verse, but the part of God is not mocked caused me to dig a little deeper. Does that mean I am being deceived if I think God cannot be mocked? Others could mock me, or make fun of me; because of the faults I have which are many. The Scriptures clearly state “God is not mocked.” Hasn’t God ever been mocked?  Here’s what I’ve found. God cannot be mocked, although many have tried to do so, because He is perfect in all His ways. In Luke 23:4, “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this man.” In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.” Psalms 18:30, “As for God, His way is perfect; The Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalms 119:140, “Your Word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it.” The final stage of gold production is refining. It involves the removal of impurities that remain after the smelting process. God doesn’t need refining; He is righteous and pure in all His judgments. We are the ones that need to be changed. Job 23:10-12 gives us a glimpse of the process he went trough. “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”

  We may not always like the path that we find ourselves or how God deals with our situations, but keep in mind His ways are best and He can see the big picture.  The best we can see is a small glimpse of His overall plan for us, more like tunnel vision. 

 

My prayer is that I remain faithful up to the end of my life. This one is short and only what is done for our loving Savior will have a lasting value. The key is being focused on things of value and not what might keep us happy for just a brief time. In 1896 Charles Sheldon wrote a novel called, “IN HIS STEPS.” It was subtitled “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?” It took 100 years, but in the 90’s a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan named Janie Tinklenberg began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group to remember the  phrase. It spread nationwide in the 1990’s among Christian youth, who wore bracelets bearing the initials WWJD (WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?) Later a sequel bracelet was generated with the initials “FROG” to provide an answer to “WWJD.”  FROG was an acronym for “FULLY RELY ON GOD.” For a number of years prior to those bracelets, Youth for Christ rallies were popular. Kids would come and bring their unbelieving friends to hear a speaker, meet other like minded youth, and sing some uplifting songs. As a group we came up with the name called Colyers, the purpose was to combine college and career kids together.  There were times we would go on camping trips as a group, take a Christian film, bring along our own screen, and invite everyone in the campground to bring their lawn chairs and watch a film with us. Sometimes churches would compete with each other in Bible memorization. Some of those kids had memorized several chapters of a book in the Bible and a moderator would quiz them. A buzzer would go off and the first one that could finish the question and give the right answer, their team would gain some points. My parents made an impact on me by explaining to me everything we own belongs to God. Dad purchased a second car. One you might not have heard of, or know how they looked. It was a 1952 Hudson Hornet. It was build like a tank and looked like one too. It wasn’t a car to take me to school. I rode with some other families or took the school bus like everyone else. The old Hornet was used to haul a chapel on wheels my dad built for 5 day clubs for Child Evangelism. Inside it had benches similar to pews in a church.  It would sit in someone’s driveway or in front of their home and kids would attend and hear Bible stories. Once I got old enough to drive, my dad allowed me to drive the car and pull the chapel behind it in the Festival of States Parade that took place in St. Petersburg. Dad used his 1958 Shop Smith versatile table saw with attachments to make hundreds of flannel graph boards for numerous teachers in that ministry. He took the time to build a wooden boat to be used in a Christian Camp. He believed everything he had in the way of tools, automobiles and his talents should be used with a ministry in mind. That type of thinking is not common these days. We tend to think of ourselves first and once we’ve got our enjoyment from the toys that were loaned to us, we forget they really belong to God. My family thought differently and I believe that helped me see a deeper purpose in life as I grew in my spiritual walk.   

 

Today we may not have some of those tools mentioned or talents to be put to use, but there is a lot we can do to reach out to others. Our church has an Awana program for kids. If you are a member and have been asking your neighbor kids to attend or their parents to come to church, if it isn’t working, why not try a different approach. If you have a child or a grandchild about the same age as a neighbor kid, why not with their parents permission, take them to a toy store with you. Tell them you are looking for a gift for your child, and would like their help in picking it out. They not only would love to do that, but love it more if you asked if they would like one too. The next time you told them about Awana, they would be sure to come. A little time and a little investment could make a big difference in a child’s life for all eternity. That’s just one idea, ask the Lord to show you some other creative ideas and watch Him find them for you. The joy you will get from doing that will make it all worthwhile. A nephew of mine who lives in the Phoenix area grew up hearing about God’s love for him, but he wasn’t ready to make a commitment. A change took place because a Christian neighbor saw he was landscaping his yard and suggested they work together on the project. That neighbor’s effort demonstrated Christ love to him and caused him to turn his life around and trust Christ as his personal Savior. If we really believe what we say we believe, it will be demonstrated in our actions far greater than our spoken words.     

 



The Cross

THE CROSS

 

Today we are going to discuss the symbolism and the significance of the cross. As we approach Easter, does the cross have a more profound meaning in our lives or is it something we take for granted? When we see a Red Cross on a vehicle do we see it the same way as when we look at a cross on a steeple on a church? Hopefully we will be able to see the cross from a different vantage point and can then determine its significance in our own lives. 

 

Most likely anywhere you go in America and enter the downtown of a city or town you will see a cross. Many times it will be less than a mile from where you are parked. If you stop and eat at a restaurant, it’s very likely you will spot someone wearing a cross around their neck, on a bracelet, or sometimes tattooed on their arm, back or leg. The real question might be is that cross considered just a piece of jewelry, a symbolism of love or peace, or does it have a deeper meaning?

 

This year I believe I will appreciate the event of the cross even better than before, because of doing my own research on the subject. It began by my reading a small booklet written by Lee Strobel called “The case for Easter.” Considering he didn’t start out being a Preacher, but was a Journalist investigating the evidence of the Resurrection, at the beginning of his journey he was a skeptic, an admitted Atheist. He began his journey by interviewing people, asking them tuff questions, and then evaluating their thoughts before making up his own mind. If you care to purchase his books for yourself or give them away this season, you can receive them in a bundle for just 99 cents a piece on line. To start with, it’s not my desire to sell books from this sight, but to let you be aware of some material that I believe you will benefit from like I have. I understand copyright laws, and I have permission to share just brief excerpts from the book. It’s my desire not to take away from the Author, but if possible, help him circulate his many writings to others that may be puzzled by the events of the cross and the resurrection. 

 

As a skeptic, Lee started out by having doubts that the resurrection even occurred. He had heard that nobody was sitting inside the tomb, take the linen wrappings off, fold them, roll back the stone, or pass the guards and leave. He questioned at length Gary Habermas, PH.D., D.D. and asked him, “Doesn’t this lack of evidence hurt your case?” “His answer was, “No, this doesn’t hurt our case one iota, because science is all about causes and effects. We don’t see dinosaurs; we study fossils. We may not know how a disease originates, but we study its symptoms. Maybe nobody witnesses a crime, but police piece together the evidence after the fact.”

 

The apostle Paul, started out on a similar path, only he had a bitter hatred for Christians. He wanted to kill them until he met Jesus in person after the resurrection on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1-6 is the beginning and change that took place in his life after his encounter with the risen Savior. “Then Saul,(later his name was changed to Paul) still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Something pointed that would stab you, the more you kicked it). So he trembling and astonished, said, “Lord what do you want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  This was the beginning of Paul’s missionary journey. By reading more in the book of Acts, you will see what took place with his life, how his name was changed, and how he at the beginning was the most antagonist spokesman against Christianity became the most protagonist spokesman for Christ through  his faith.  Another one that saw Him in person as well as His nail pierced hands was Thomas as we read in John 20: 24-29, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 
 
The final verse of the 20th  chapter of John is verse 30. It is the purpose of John’s Gospel. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Both Paul and Thomas acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and immediately believed on Him.  

 

There are over 300 prophecies in the Bible, (things that were told in the past that predicted the future). The Old Testament concealed is the New Testament revealed. It’s possible to know about Jesus and accept Him as your Messiah if you have an open mind and are willing to learn and explore the truths written anywhere in the Bible. Perhaps the clearest indicator of Jesus in the Old Testament is written in Isaiah chapter 53, the entire chapter opens up my mind. The reason the Jews do not read that chapter any time of the year during a weekly service is that there are no parallels of that chapter in the Torah. Again, one needs to have an open mind and not form an opinion without considering all of the truths. There are other indicators in the Old Testament that draw a parallel in the New Testament other than Isaiah 53, so I’ll share some of them. Deuteronomy 18:15 is a reference of a new Prophet to come like Moses, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desire of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.”  Who did Moses say this would be is found in John 1:45, “Philip found Nathannael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote—- Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph.”   

 

Psalms 22: 16b-18, “They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. That’s repeated again in Matthew 27:35, “Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which were spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Zechariah 12”10A, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” It is fulfilled in the New Testament in Matthew 27:31, “And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.”  We just touched on three prophecies, there are a lot more for those that want to explore the Scriptures more deeply.

 

If you are beginning to see that Jesus Christ was a risen Savior whose purpose was to die on the cross to save us from our sin, then you might be interested in understanding what it might have been like for Him to go through the pain He did for us on that cross. Early on in Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Easter,” Lee interviews among others, Alexander Metherell, M.D. PH.D., because he possessed the medical and scientific credentials to explain the Crucifixion. He began by telling the torture Christ endured before the cross. “It began after the Last Supper when Jesus went with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There He prayed all night. Since He knew the amount of suffering He was going to have to endure, He was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress. The gospels tell us He began to sweat blood at this point.” “This is a known medical condition called Hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress. What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result there is a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount.”

 

“What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, His skin would be very sensitive. By fogging, the back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible. Many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock. Hypo means low, vol refers to volume, and emic means blood, so hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood. This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.”

 

“Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for Him. Later we read that Jesus said, “I thirst, at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to Him. Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through His hands and feet.”

 

We could go on, but if you’re like me, I can’t hardly fathom the total amount of suffering Jesus did for me on the cross. Romans 3:23 tells me, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That includes me. I learned there has to be a sacrifice for my sin from someone who lived a perfect life, that only one was Jesus Christ. I was shown that answer in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” By my trusting that Jesus Christ sacrifice on the cross was sufficient for my sin, and I have trusted in a risen Savior, then I have the promise of John 6:37- 40, All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should loose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” This applies to you as well, if you recognize Christ died for you, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and be open to having Him guide you through this earthly life. Then you and I will be united in Heaven for all eternity. It’s not just the cross, but who it was that died on that cross for you and I. Romans 5: 6-11, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

 

Why not make this Easter the best ever, by not only opening up your heart to this wonderful Savior, but by coming to worship with us and learn how to grow in this new found faith.