Imagine!

God’s Magnificent Imagination!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”   Ephesians 3:20

Imagination is an amazing, wonderful thing.  I am not an artist, but am married to one.  My wife notices things in photos or everyday life that I might miss – certain lighting or shadows, colors, designs.  I am fascinated by people who have imaginative genius and can create paintings, photos, sculptures, drawings, movies, music and more from what they “see” or “hear” in their minds.  Walt Disney is one such example.  My own artistic ability lies in music.  I play keyboard and guitar and love to create as I play.

I stand in awe of the One who gave mankind talent, gifts and ability to imagine and create – God.  We are made in His image.  Our Heavenly Father has the greatest imagination.  He thought about how He would make the earth and everything in it, the heavens, plant and animal life and the birds of the air.  By His creative power He chose not to make everything the same.  It is known that no two people have the same pattern to the print of their fingers.  There are a variety of plants and many different kinds of animals, birds, insects.  Through space travel and the use of powerful telescopes, mankind now has the ability to see deeply into space.  The colors and designs of what we now can see are beautiful beyond description.  The handiwork of our Creator’s imagination is all around us, everywhere and found especially in ourselves – the culmination of God’s creative power.  God saved the best for last – the creation of you and me.

This beautiful verse of scripture gives me hope.  Imagine!  When the weight of the world seems to be too heavy for us to bear on our own, God, in Christ, gives us strength to face problems, that appear to be like obstacles too great for us to ever overcome.  God is our Father.  Ask Him for the desires of your heart.  It is alright to ask.  He is listening.  The word “immeasurably” means just that – There are no limitations to what our Heavenly Father, Our Great God, can do!  So ask!  Ask that He bless your marriage – then watch what He will do.  Ask that He use you for His purposes on the earth, then experience a deep joy like you’ve never known before.  Ask that He bless your children, your friends, your church, your country.  Notice that God does far more than we can even imagine or ask, according to “His power.”  Imagine, if we can, that kind of power!  I can’t.  But I like to think about it.  When I do, I find myself standing in awe of my God and his amazing creative power and of His imagination.  Then I realize nothing is impossible.  I feel like I will almost explode with joy when I read in His word and think that God’s amazing, awesome power, the power that is able to “do immeasurably more than all we ask,” – “IS AT WORK WITHIN US!”  When we believe in God and have faith in Him and His son Jesus Christ, He gives us power.  Power to move mountains, (obstacles), in our lives.  Power to walk on water, when we think we are going to drown in our sorrows and problems.  Power to live.  And when our days are completed here, in this world, and we enter into the next one, the eternal kingdom of God where we will live with Him forever – imagine, the unimaginable!

 

 

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS (Part III)

Elijah then journeyed deep into the wilderness, far away from any danger or threat to the place where God had met with Moses, Mt. Horeb, the “mountain of God.”  Perhaps Elijah, like Moses,  wanted a “meeting with God.”  He needed to hear from God.  He needed a touch from God.  Have you ever felt that way?  There are times in our lives when we feel like something is wrong, but are not even sure exactly what it is.  We may have a sense of heaviness.  The Bible says to, “Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  I have found this to be helpful during those periods of my life.  But we have to do something, to take action, to – “Put on the garment of praise.”  When I start feeling a sense of “heaviness,” I begin to praise and thank God for his goodness, grace and mercy toward me – for saving me and giving me the gift of eternal life.  I thank him for the many blessings He has given to me.  I thank and praise Him for the things he has not given to me.

I Kings 19:9 – “Then the Lord spoke to him ans asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  This is a very tender moment after one of the most powerful spiritual battles ever fought on earth.  In this question is a great deal of meaning.  Notice that:

  • God asked it gently, not sarcastically, but as a loving father full of compassion for His child, for his faithful servant.  Even the strongest, most powerful of God’s servants have moments of weakness and fear.
  • Elijah was spent!
    • He was emotionally spent.  His life was threatened.  Have you ever had anyone threaten to kill you?  I have – at least four times – outside of the Rescue Mission twice, on a street corner while sharing the gospel with prostitutes and during an armed robbery in the early morning hours while delivering milk to a home on Sunnyview Lane in Billings.
    • Elijah was spiritually spent.  He had watched his friends and relatives die under the evil influence and wickedness of Jezebel.  Like the Apostle Paul, concerning himself and his ministry, wrote much later, he “had fought the good fight and run the race.”  He had been found faithful.  He had not, “boxed the air.”
    • Elijah was physically spent.  He had not eaten right.  And yet God had supernaturally sustained him by ravens and angels.  He was exhausted.  His life was not one of comfort and ease.  His was a rugged life of hard service to God.  Like Paul who was snake bitten, beaten, shipwrecked, ostracized, criticized for being weak and foolish, and all for the sake of the gospel, the good news of salvations through Jesus Christ.

Consider again the question – “What are you doing here…?”

  • Here was a place of retreat, just after God and His servant had won a great victory!
    • “Here” was a place of fear!
    • “Here” was a place of doubt!
    • “Here” was a place of intense discouragement!
    • “Here” was apparently not “where” he was supposed to be!

Where are you?  Are you, “here?”

If you are, then do as Elijah did.  God told him to:

Verse 11 – “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, …”  The “mountain” for you and me can be our “prayer closet.”  Or anywhere we can be alone with our God.

God then sends three magnificent, powerful natural wonders:

  1.  A “great and powerful wind” that tore the mountains and shattered the rocks.
  2. An earthquake
  3. A fire

But God was not in these things.

We always seem to look for God in the magnificent things, the showy things.  But God chose to reveal himself to the discouraged prophet through a “gentle whisper.”  When Elijah heard it he pulled his cloak over his face.  Perhaps he was embarrassed by his behavior.  Perhaps he did not want to face God.  Maybe he understood he had run away.

Verse 13 – God repeats the question.  Like Jesus repeated his question to Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?”  Then gave him a task, something very important to do.  This repetition of the question was annoying or disturbing to Peter as I’m sure it is to us as well when the Lord tries to get our attention.  It may also have been disturbing to Elijah when God repeated the question.  Like Peter and Elijah, from what are you “running?”  Have you, “pulled the cloak over your face,” (figuratively speaking)?  In our day, we often refer to that sort of behavior as, “sticking your head in the sand,” (like an ostrich).  When things go wrong, are you embarrassed before God because of your behavior?  When things go not as planned, when dreams turn to nightmares, our first reaction is to run.  Jesus told Peter not to run away from Him and His service, but instead, to run into greater service than ever before.

Are you “here?”  Are you running from God’s warfare – to win the lost, to heal the sick, to bind up the wounded – to minister the love of Christ in this lost and dying world?

Notice from the account in scripture, that God is active.  He understood and had compassion on the humanity of the prophet.  He is our creator.  He did not condemn Elijah for the what he was experiencing.  Instead, God knew it was time for a change.  He will now provide, (ordain), a replacement for Elijah.  He will also now restore Elijah’s strength once again.  Elijah, the servant of God was tired and worn out.  God knew it was time for the prophet to, “pass the mantle,” – to let someone else take over and do the work of God.

Perhaps you are tired and feel worn out, but you haven’t really even entered the battle.

We must not run from the battle, the spiritual battles we face.  We must run into them, armed with the spiritual weapons at our disposal, the truth of scripture, (God’s Word), the breastplate of righteousness, our feet shod with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God, (Ephesians, chapter six).  And all this, of course, backed by “prayer, supplication and perseverance.”

“Here” is a spiritual place!  So where are you?  Are you where God wants you to be?  Are you afraid of God and His demands on your life?  Will you give your life to Him today?  Will you allow God to use you to be a part of his battle on the earth?  Will you love God and serve him?

 

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS (Part II)

Now let’s look at another question God asked, (of His prophet Elijah)

I kings Chapter 19

Previously we looked at one of the most powerful events in human history – the challenge on Mount Carmel of Elijah, the prophet of God against 850 false prophets.  In chapter eighteen we witnessed the Godly power of a powerful man of God.  We saw Elijah, unafraid and outnumbered.  We witnessed the man of God standing alone in the face of overwhelming apostasy and wickedness.  Jezebel had killed off almost all of the rest of Isaiah’s counterparts.  Out of hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, only 7,000 remained as true believers.  Remember that Elijah stood majestically before the people and asked, “How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, (which He is), follow Him; but if Baal, (or anything else), is God, (which is not), then follow him.”  Seems like a simple enough choice doesn’t it?  But the people, “said nothing.”

In this chapter we witness a tremendous satanic attack against the prophet.  We witness a phenomena that often seems to happen to God’s servants after such a time of victory and power – weakness and fear!  Satan’s tactics have not changed over the millennia.  He often attempts to do this to you and me also, after we are saved by believing in Jesus, the Son of God and accepting Him as our savior and become “born again.”  In the book of Ephesians, we are told that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  More and more I am learning the powerful truth of this verse.  Now whenever I am faced with entering into a verbal, (or even physical) altercation with someone, this verse comes to mind and I realize the “battle belongs to the Lord.”  Keep this in mind when you are faced with a disagreement with anyone.  In your heart, call on the Lord to help you.

Verse 2 – Jezebel was puffed-up.  She was full of hot air.  The Bible says, “Do not fear him who has the power to kill the body only but rather fear Him who has power to destroy the spirit.”

Verse 3 – the prophet was “afraid,” and ran away from trouble instead of running into it, (unlike chapter 18).  Notice that he ran into the wilderness – to a place of solitude, to a place where he could “get away from it all,” to think, to reflect on everything that had happened and that was continuing to happen.  Jesus himself often went to such a place to commune with the Father.  Sometimes it was a garden.  Sometimes the desert or the wilderness.  A place where He was free of destraction from time and demands of ministry.

Usually when we are afraid, we run from God or the task he has assigned for us to do.  Many are running from God today because they do not understand Him or are afraid of Him.

Elijah as so fearful for his life and discouraged that he wanted to die, (vs. 4).  He was tired, (vs.5).  He lay down under a tree.  Imagine falling asleep on the ground under a tree.  I can relate.  Many years ago I spoke to a friend of mine by phone who lived in Arizona, over a thousand miles from me.  My friend was not a Christian and was becoming involved with false religious and satanic teachings.  I asked if it would be alright if I came to see him.  I wanted to spend time with him in person and tell him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, face-to-face.  He agreed.  At the time, I was working and had very little money.  When I hung up the phone I did not know how I would make the trip.  My wife and baby son were away on a trip with her parents.  I prayed and told the Lord that if He wanted me to go see my friend, He would need to make a way for me to go.  The next day I was fired from my job for a ridiculous reason.  When I began to doubt that God was answering my prayer and “working things out,” I was stung by a hornet.  I decided to go.  I drove my car to a parking lot of a hotel next to the interstate highway and hitch-hiked to Arizona.  It was an adventure I will never forget.  By the time I reached Idaho Falls, I was sick from the sting.  I found a clinic and got some medication but since I had nothing to eat, I had become very sick.  By the time I reached Salt Lake City, it was late at night.  Two hunters picked me up and gave me a ride into downtown SLC.  I asked to be dropped off at the Rescue Mission with the hope I would be able to get some rest in a secure place.  One of the hunters was kind and polite to me, the other was threatening and mean-spirited.  They dropped me off shortly after midnight.  Upon learning the mission was full,  I now found myself alone and somewhat fearful in downtown SLC.  I had no money and no place to stay.  I was very ill from the sting, the medication and having eaten nothing.  I walked to the police station in the hope they would be able to assist.  They had nothing to offer.  It was now well after midnight.  I was at the point of exhaustion and prayed to God for help and protection.  All around  were prostitutes and drug dealers.  I noticed a very large pine tree in a city park that had thick branches that hung all the way down to the ground, decided to make my way to the tree, lay down underneath it and try to hide myself under its branches.  I hoped I would still be alive by sunrise.  Just as I was ready to crawl under the tree, I looked down the street and barely noticed, since it was a long way away, several men standing outside a building.  I sensed something different about them and felt drawn to them.  I did not realize it at the time, but God was leading me to them.  As I approached, it was as if they were a lamp on a very dark and threatening night.  The store was actually a non-denominational street ministry.  These brothers in Christ took me in, gave me a comfortable room for the night and a great breakfast after I awoke from a very restful and peaceful sleep.  “Our God is a refuge and help in times of trouble.”  He is a “fortress and a strong tower.”

Verse 5 – Rest and nourishment were needed for healing, for restoration.  There is more to the story of Elijah, the prophet that I will discuss in part III of this series.

For me, the rest of my journey went well.  After a great time of fellowship with the believers at the street ministry, I made my way to Arizona where I met with my friend who accepted Christ.  I then secured several rides all the way back to Montana and after arriving home, was offered a much better and higher paying job than the one I had previously.  Our God is an awesome God!  There is no greater joy known to man than that of loving and serving Him.

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS! (Part I)

Genesis 3:9 – “But the Lord God said to the man, “Where are you?”  “To the woman He said, “What is this you have done?”

Genesis 4:9, (To Cain), – “Where is your brother Abel?  Why is your face downcast, (vs. 6), “What have you done, (vs. 10)?”

These  are only a few questions God has asked mankind through the centuries.  There is another found in I Kings 19.  I would like to think for a moment though, if God is omniscient, which means that He knows everything, then why does He ask such questions of mankind, and what do these questions mean to us?  Do you think God does not know the answers to these questions?  How ludicrous to think that an all-knowing God does not know ahead of time, before He asks these questions, the answers to them.  God always asked these questions in order to help the one to whom He asked the question to know the answer – to know where he was spiritually!

It is very interesting to study the answers of those to whom the questions were asked.  All too often, as human beings, we tend to want to blame someone else or simply not take responsibility for our actions.  Adam said, “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  In other words – “it’s her fault!”  Eve said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”  In other words, as Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it!”  “It’s his fault!”  Cain said, “I don’t know!”  An outright lie.  What made him think he could get away with lying to God?  Far better it would have been for Cain to acknowledge the truth and ask God’s forgiveness and mercy than for him to try to deny what he had done and what he was as a human being.  We often act in the same manner.  When God brings something to our attention in our lives that needs correction or changing, we simply try to blame the problem on someone else or candycoat it over and deny the problem exists at all!  Notice that God did not deny the truth of the answers that Adam and Eve gave to Him.  What they said was true, but neither did it take away from their personal responsibility for their actions.  We often do this today and say, “I am the way I am because of the way I was raised.  Therefore I can’t change because…, (of a host of reasons).”  As I think of Adam, Eve, Cain, and many others in the Bible; As I think of my own reactions to God in the past when He has asked hard questions of me and when I contemplate the reactions of humans to the claims of God on their lives and  think of our answers back to him like those I have just talked about, I am amazed that He puts-up with us at all.  We are always trying His patience.  The Bible says, “Who are you, o man, to talk back to God?”  In Isaiah, chapter seven, the Lord says through the prophet, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all, (vs. 9b).”  And in verse thirteen, “Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of me?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign;  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.”  This verse was fulfilled by only one person, Jesus Christ!  Take note of the language of Isaiah, chapter eight – “Strong hand – power – warning me not to follow the way of this people.”  Why?  Because it was like a lost car on an interstate highway going the wrong way.  They were on a path which would ultimately lead to destruction.  To those who respect and love God, He is a “sanctuary,” (a place of refuge).  For those who reject Him and do not believe in or care about Him, He is, “a stone, a trap and a snare, (vs. 14).”

What about you?  Is God a sanctuary, (a place of refuge), for you?  Are you “trying His patience,” talking back to Him, making excuses like our first parents or just plain lying to Him like Cain?  Do you believe in the sign He has given to mankind – the gift of salvation through His own son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin?  Never before in all of history has such a thing been done!  No other prophet, so-called, or religious leader, of this, can be said.  Jesus alone, is the way of reconciliation with God!

WE MUST STAND FIRM IN OUR FAITH, OR AS THE PROPHET SAID, “WE WILL NOT STAND AT ALL!”

 

 

A NEW START

How many new years resolutions have you broken this past year?  It often seems we make them just to break them.  Think of new things just for a moment.  A new baby in all of his helplessness and innocence in total reliance on his father and mother for all of life’s needs.  Like that baby, you and I whether we recognize it or not, are completely dependent on God.  Years ago a friend of mine was visiting with a very independent farmer. The farmer told my friend, “for years we’ve survived drought, grasshoppers, fire and flood and we’ve done it all without God and will continue to do so.”  Most of us might not be quite that blatant,   yet may be of the same opinion but in a much more sublime way.  Rather than choose to allow God to have lordship over our lives, we simply but quietly ignore Him and continue to live with our old bad habits and attitudes.

When you think of new things, a new car may come to mind.  All of us would probably like to have a new car to drive.  There is nothing quite like the smell and tightness of a new automobile.  Or what about new clothes?  Perhaps you received a new shirt or coat for Christmas.  New clothes look and feel great.  The colors are bright, not faded and there are no holes in them.

Now that we are thinking of new things, just think of having a new start!  Have you ever said, “I wish I could just start over-” to go back, (pick an age), and get a fresh start on life.  In a way – you can.  You may not be able to turn the clock back physically speaking, (even though we spend a lot of time and money trying to do so), but spiritually you can have a fresh start, a new life in Christ.  The Bible states; “…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life,” (Romans 6:4).  In Revelation 21:5, Jesus said, “behold, I make all things new.”

It is necessary before beginning a new life to review the past – where you have been and in what condition you have been.  In Psalm 107 verse 43, the Psalmist writes, “whoever is wise, let him heed, (take note, pay attention to), these things and consider the love of the Lord.”  Verse four says, “some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.”  Do you feel like the ancient Israelites did, like you are wandering around spiritually, finding no rest or peace in your life?  “They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away,” (verse 5).  Are you hungry for a change?  Thirsty for the new life that only Christ can give?  Henry David Thoreau said, “the vast majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Like so many today, do you feel like your life is “ebbing away?”  Why not change all that right now?  Little by little the harsh winds of life were wearing away at their lives.  Sound familiar?  They were ready for a change and they knew the only one who could give them the change they so desperately needed and wanted was God.

In verse six, “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress.”  God is faithful.  When we cry out to Him, He answers.  Often God waits until we realize our complete dependency upon Him.  Have you come to that understanding?

“Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, (verse 10), for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High,” (verse 11 and the reason for verse 10).  Life without Christ is like the bondage of being in iron chains.  Again, in verses 13 and 14 the psalmist says the people cried out to the Lord and He delivered them and brought them out of their deepest gloom and darkness and broke the chains.  All of this Biblical language speaks of spiritual conditions.  “They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end,” (verse 27).  Are you at wits’ end?  Good!  Then you are ready for change – a new life!  Do like those of whom the Psalmist wrote; “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed,” (verse 29).  Call on the Lord!  Turn away from your old self and the sin that has you in bondage and get a new heart and a new spirit,” as the prophet Ezekiel said.  II Corinthians 3:6 says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.”  Get a new, fresh start on life.   Cry out to the Lord!  Then be sure to do as the Psalmist says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men,” (verse 31).

The Christmas Gift

“Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15

At this special time of year our thoughts turn to giving.  For many social service organizations such as the Salvation Army, local rescue missions and many others that render aid to the poor and those in need, this time of year is important because they receive much of their annual income during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.  Retail stores receive the lion’s share of their income for the entire year during this time.  We purchase items to give as gifts to those we love – friends, relatives, children and even strangers we don’t know out of love and concern for our fellow-man.  The giver gives gifts he or she thinks the givee will want or need.  Many decry the commercialization of the holiday season.  Nevertheless, givers want to give.  There is a spirit of joy during this time as we give gifts to one another.  Because we are made in the image of our Creator, it may be that it is during this season of giving that we are most like our Creator who literally “wrote the book,” on giving, (the Bible).  However, our Creator and God gave the greatest gift of all to mankind – the precious gift of himself by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, gift wrapping him not in pretty, colorful paper and bows, but instead, in swaddling clothes, in the form of a man, just like ourselves.  Instead of putting him under a Christmas tree however, He placed Him in a manger.

As I write this, I realize I am trying to “describe” for you what the Bible calls, “indescribable.”  I will do my best with the scripture verses to follow:

Romans 5:15 & Following – “But the gift is not like the trespass, For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, (Adam), how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin, (Adam’s); The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive, (those who believe in Christ), God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

Notice from the verses above how often “the gift” is mentioned.  By sending the greatest gift of all to the world, ( His Son, Jesus Christ), God gave to us the most valuable and precious of all – gifts of grace, forgiveness and righteousness, salvation and life – both abundant life in the here and now and eternal life forever.  These, the most expensive gifts, came at great cost to the creator of the universe, sending His very own son to give up his life for us.  The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, in chapter three, verse 8, that he was given grace to preach to the Gentiles (you and me), the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”  And that, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”    Paul also wrote in the same letter, the same chapter and just a few verses later (vs. 20), “now to him who is able to do immeasureably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us….”  These matters are deep – deeper than the ocean – deeper than our thoughts can comprehend .  These gifts of God are unsearchable – greater and deeper than our wildest imaginations can comprehend!  We have an awesome, amazing, wonderful God!

In the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes to the believers there that he “keeps asking” that God would give them (and us), “the spirit of wisdom and revelation,” so that we may “know him better.”  He also prayed that the, “eyes of our hearts” would be enlightened” so that we would “know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  I know people who have received great wealth because of an inheritance.  Imagine the inheritance the Creator of the universe has in reserve for his children, those who believe in and have faith in Him and love Him.  God’s word says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him..,” (I Corinthians 2:9).

A gift must be received with humility and gratitude.  The receiver must understand it is being offered from a heart of love.  Again and again in the letter to the Ephesians and in many other places in God’s word to us, (the Bible), the word “love” is written.  Many think of the word as a thing of weakness.  It is not!  It is a word of beauty and strength.  It is the most important value to God, (I Cor. 13:13).  It is the source of His Gift – His Son Jesus Christ.  Have you gladly and with gratitude received from our Great God, this most valuable and precious gift of all?  And by accepting the gift of His Son, He also gives the deep and unsearchable gifts of power, faith, spiritual riches, strength, hope, access to God, abundant life and life forever with Him in paradise.  If the answer is no – why not accept His precious gift right now?  Pick up the telephone of your heart right now and call the Lord.  He will answer the call.  With Him there is no voicemail.  Ask Jesus, God’s Son, to come into your heart and live there – to forgive you and change you to become like Him.  Then you will be “born again,” (John 3:3) and will have received the greatest Christmas gift of all – no matter what time of year it is!

 

RIVER OF LIFE

“The men of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”  “Bring me a new bowl, ” he said, “and put salt in it.”  So they brought it to him.  Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says; “I have healed this water.  Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.'”  And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.”  II Kings 2:19-22

At first glance, like many such accounts in the Bible, this story seems to be very strange to our human understanding.  But there is a message here to us from God, as there is in all the scriptures.  Think of your life as a town, as land and as a river, as water flowing toward its destination.

“The town is well situated….”  Everything else in our lives seems to be alright on the outside.  Appearances can be deceiving.  We may dress well, tithe, go to church, have Bible studies, give to the poor, invite folks over, have a good job, and even smile at the little children;  (I smiled at a little kid one time as he was walking down the sidewalk to go into a gas station and said, “hi there!”  He got the most serious look on his face I’ve ever seen and said as he was staring down at his feet, “I know what to do, don’t talk to strangers!”).  Long ago I knew a couple that seemed, “to have it made.”  They both had good jobs, enough money to go on vacations and have the things they wanted.  They would always say good-bye at the beginning of the day on their front porch and greet each other at the end of the day with a kiss.  One day the guy informed me his wife left him that she had found someone “better” at work.  You would never have know anything at all was wrong in their lives.  They were “well-situated.”  Sometimes you and I may have a pretty good life for the most part, but deep down something may be wrong, tilted, out of sync ever so slightly.  There is a spiritual problem.  There is “bitter or bad water.”  Water represents the spirit – the life of the spirit.  Man can go quite awhile without food, but not without water.

All living things must have water.  In Genesis chapter two, there was a river in the Garden of Eden which watered the garden.  It was clear, fresh, unpolluted, good, pure.  It was from God.  The last book of the Bible, Revelation also mentions a river.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  Revelation 22:1-2

“They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”  Psalm 26:8-9

These verses speak to us of the abundant life that God gives to those who believe in Him, as Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and that abundantly.”

In Exodus chapter seven, God turned the Nile river into blood.  The Egyptians worshipped the Nile.  To them it was the source of life itself in a land void of water.  They used it for drinking, bathing, watering crops to grow food, to cool down and so forth.  When God struck the Nile, he struck to the core of their spirituality which was idolatrous.  The Nile turned to blood.  Like a cut artery, it signified the deadness, filth, poison and stench of their spiritual life, a life without God.  They sincerely thought they were worshipping God alright.  Contrast this picture with the spiritual life of God as mentioned earlier.  His wisdom which is described in James as pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial, and sincere.  These qualities then, ought to characterize the spiritual lives of you and me.  God’s life giving spiritual water is first of all clear as crystal.

Notice also that the river of God mentioned in Revelation is also deep.  There is a depth, a clarity, a purity about a true believer in Christ.  No matter how we decorate the façade on the outside, God is concerned and always has been about the inside.

The river flows.  God’s spirit life is abundant, it is rich, it is clear as crystal, it is active.  It is moving, cascading at times like a mountain stream.  It is not stagnant like the waters of a cistern or a mud puddle.  His life is always working in ours, changing us, molding us, making us to be like His son Jeus Christ.  When God finds some stagnant water collecting all kinds of impurities in our lives, He moves those things out of our lives.  Sometimes we try to hold on to that old stale, muddy water.  I wonder why when God wants to replace it with the fresh, clear, clean, pure wisdom from above.  Scripture says this “water of life” flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb Himself.

The Bible also says that the “River of God” flows down the middle of the great street of the city of God.  Can you imagine such a street?  Imagine if you can the magnitude of this great city, that a river of such beauty and majesty would flow down its center.  There is meaning even in this.  God’s life-giving spirit is at the center of all life.  We would shrivel-up and die like an old yellow leaf which has fallen from the branch without it.

This life-giving water is the Lord’s to give.  Do you want it?  Like a little child asking his parents for a drink, why don’t you ask God to give you the water of His life-giving spirit through Christ.  He is more than willing.

The men of the city told the prophet Elisha that the water was bad and because of it, the land was unproductive.  What about your land?  Your life?  Is it unproductive?  Are you bearing fruit for the Lord in your life?  Or is there some “bad water” inside, hindering the production of fruit in your life?  In the book of James, chapter 3, beginning with verse thirteen, we are warned of a wisdom, of “bad water” that is unspiritual, of the devil.  Notice that James is talking to believers here.  It is quite possible for believers to get out of the life of the spirit of God, to get side-tracked, deceived.  It is possible for them to get out of the deep flow of God’s tender, loving spirit-life.

When the prophet added salt to the poor water, it was healed, made better again, made productive.  This is what God intended all along, for the land to bear fruit, just as he has intended for each of our lives.  Some of us allow old habits, bad attitudes, spiritual problems of all kinds to hinder our relationship with God.  There is a progression of events in II Kings.  First of all the men of the city noticed they had a problem, they had “bad water” (a spiritual problem), otherwise they had a fairly good thing going.  Next, they listened to the prophet and did what the man of God told them to do.  He didn’t ask them for something they could not give.  The solution was simple trust, faith and obedience to God.  They didn’t argue with him or demand a more complex answer of him.  They didn’t blame Elisha for the bad water problem, nor did they ignore him.  They knew he had power with God, that God used him to accomplish His work on earth.  They were blessed as a result.

Elisha took action by both doing something and saying something.  He threw the salt into the water.  But he knew that the salt had no spiritual or powerful quality in itself, but that only God could miraculously heal the water which led to what he did next – he said something.  He prophesied; he prayed to God; he spoke in the name and the power of the Lord over the water problem.  Elisha used salt symbolically.  Jesus called his followers “the salt of the earth.”  Salt symbolized hospitality, durability and purity.  To eat bread and salt together was to make a pact of friendship and trust.    Followers of the Lord then ought to be the best of the earth because of Christ in us.  We ought to preserve the earth by our presence here.  If we have bad water in our lives, wisdom from below not from above, we must pray and ask God to change our hearts.  God healed the bitter waters.  It is His problem ultimately and He wants to heal us if only we will acknowledge our problem and ask him to do so.  He wants our lives to be productive and bear spiritual fruit.

Will you drink from the river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God?

“The spirit and the Bride say, come!”  And let him who hears say, come!  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  Revelation 22:17

TELL – TEACH – TRAIN

Some thoughts regarding the raising of children, with special emphasis on the fathers role in the home specifically.

As I reflected on fathers and their children and especially my own relationship as a father with my own three sons, it occurred to me that the best example of a Father/Son relationship to be found in the Bible is the one between Jesus himself and the Heavenly Father.  Jesus said that “he always did and said what the Father told him.”  Personally I have been trying for years to get my sons to have this same attitude with mixed results.  My own father used to say, “son, don’t just do what I do, do what I tell you.”  He seemed to understand as I myself have learned, that it is always easier to preach to our kids as to how they should live, who they should hang-out with, where they should go, what they should do, and so on and so forth.  It is not always an easy task to practice what it is we preach.  My own father knew one primary verse of scripture which he preached to us kids on many occasions, “honor thy father and mother.”  He didn’t just preach this short sermon on Sundays however, but whenever he thought we were breaking the commandment.

Seriously though, not always do our kids have the same purpose or goals in life, nor are they of the same opinion on certain matters are we.  Often in homes, there is dissension or division between parents and children.  Some may call this the “generation gap,” or some other term.  When they don’t think or act like we do, we think they have “gone astray” or “gone bad.”  Someone once said, “a juvenile delinquent is a child trying to act like his parents.”  What kind of an example are we setting for our kids?  How can we help our kids to grow to have good values, morals and principles?  God has something to say to us parents, especially us fathers, with regard to these kinds of questions.  Let me share some of them with you from the pages of the Holy Bible.

Psalm 78 says;

Vs. 1 – “O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.”  This is an earnest plea from God to us as parents.  It is from the depths of the great heart of God himself.  He is saying, “this is one of the most important things you will every hear – my teaching.

Vs. 2 – “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old -”  Jesus quoted this scripture in Matthew, chapter thirteen in reference to His teaching and to the fultillment of this prophecy in relation to his own ministry.  We should listen to His teaching, to his words to us!  When God says He will “open His mouth,” that means He will speak.  We’d best listen!  We’d best pay attention!  When my own children didn’t pay attention when I spoke to them or told them what to do, the worst thing that would happen to them is that they’d get into trouble.  The best thing that would happen is that they’d miss out on what I would consider to be a “blessing.”  I had something important to tell them and they were missing the point.  People often say, “I wish God would just speak to me on such and such a subject,” when in fact He is through the pages of His written Word!

Vs. 3 – “What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.”  This speaks of personal testimony.  Do you have one?  This verse speaks of personal, intimate, knowledge of God.  Dad, do you know Him?  Do you have a personal relationship with the Heavenly Father?  If your answer is no, or if you’re not quite sure, why not start up a relationship with God the Father today?  Jesus said in John Chapter five, verse 23 and following, “…that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.  I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has CROSSED OVER FROM DEATH TO LIFE.”  God has built a bridge from the death of your old life to newness of life in His Son Jesus Christ.  All you have to do is believe this and get on that bridge and walk over to the other side, God’s side!  What an offer!  Why wait?  You won’t find an offer like that anywhere else – at a car dealer or a superstore or anywhere.  Don’t turn it down!  Just pray right where you are and ask Christ to forgive you and to come into your life and be your Lord.  God is more than willing to answer your prayer.

Vs. 4 – “We will not hide them from their children…”  As fathers, we will not hide these things of God, we won’t keep this great information for ourselves.  We will share it with our kids and their kids.  “We will TELL the next generation…”  This business of teaching our children the things of God, and of our personal experience with God, is not up to the Sunday School department of your church, the Pastor, or anyone else, (although they may assist), it is up to you Dads, to you parents!  As parents, we must check-up occasionally on the spiritual condition of our kids, to ask them as a priest I used to know when I was a kid used to ask, “how’s you love life?”  Then, after he had your complete, undivided attention after putting that question to you, would add, “with God!”  Verse 4 also tells us not just to tell our kids, but what we should tell them; “the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.”  Tell them dads of how God saved you, or how he rescued you from a bad situation.  Tell them of what a great God you believe in.  Tell them of how God has the power to help your kids when they get in a difficult bind, if they will call on Him in the day of trouble.  Tell them what you know of God and don’t be afraid to tell them of what you don’t know.  Your kids will respect you for telling them that contrary to their belief otherwise, that as a dad you simply don’t know it all.

Vs. 5 – “He decreed statutes…which he commanded our forefathers to TEACH their children…”

Deuteronomy 4:9 – “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.  TEACH them to your children and to their children after them.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  IMPRESS them on your children.  (Stamp them, indelibly etch them, imprint them like you would a young foal, so that they will know God).  “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…;”  (Do this talking and teaching about God at any time, all the above or when you are fishing or hunting or driving in your chariot.  You will know when it feels right to teach them).  “TIE them as symbols on your hands and BIND them on your foreheads.  WRITE them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

All this “impressing, tying, binding and writing,” means simply this; DON’T FORGET THEM!  THESE THINGS OF GOD!  THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE!!!

So why do all this teaching and telling?

Vs. 6 – “So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”  As fathers, as parents, we are to pass-on our faith.!

Vs. 7 – “Then they would put their TRUST in God and would NOT FORGET His deeds but would KEEP His commands.”

God wants to bless your children.  He wants you to have a happy family.  He wants this for you just as you want good things for your children.  It’s not too late!  Start now so they won’t be like the parents God spoke of in Verses eight through thirty-two of Psalm 78.  Of those forefathers, God said they were; “not loyal, not faithful, cowardly and unbelieving, did not keep his covenant, refused to live His way, they forgot, they continued to sin, (instead of stopping), they rebelled, they put God to the test, they spoke against God, they did not believe in or trust Him, they kept on sinning (in spite of all His care for them).”

Do you want this for your kids?  Of course not!  If not, then follow this advice from Proverbs 22:6, “TRAIN up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Webster defines “training” as “to cause to grow as desired, (i.e., a vine on a trellis).  To form my instruction and discipline.”

How do you want your children to grow?  Do you want them to be godly?  Do you want them to be just like you?  Get a testimony for God for yourself by crossing that bridge, then TELL, TEACH AND TRAIN them in the things of God and may He bless you in the effort to do so!

ON HORSES, HUMANS & HEAVEN

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.  Do not be like the horse or mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”  Psalm 32:8-9

The Bible often makes comparisons of animals to people.  For example, those who believe in the Lord are referred to as sheep.  This means they are to be harmless, gentle and willing to follow the shepherd wherever He may lead them.

Sometimes, however, the analogy is not quite so complimentary.  I am thinking in particular of Jeremiah chapter five, verses 8-9; “They are all well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife.  Should I not punish them for this?” declares the Lord.  Truth is often painful, but always for the good.  As a hobby, I used to train horses instead of watching T.V..  Sometimes I think I’d been better-off watching T.V..  Horses remind me of people.  When it comes to faith in God they have much in common.  I personally believe that when the Creator created the horse,  He had in mind a creature that would be something like a cross between a dog and a cat – half man’s best friend and half – well – you know, (sorry cat lovers), but bigger of course!  O.K., for the purpose of clarification, let’s say the Trainer is God and some people are the horse, (trainee).  When the trainer walks into the pen with a bucket full of oats, the trainee will walk up to him, (very cautiously of course), grab a mouthful, then turn and quickly make tracks the opposite direction.  Just like some folks, I guess it wanted its oats and eat-em too!  Seems like lots of people  want all the good things God has to offer, (wealth, land, food, health, etc…), but are not willing to be caught of the Lord and used for his purposes.  The horse is not aware that he relies on the trainer for life itself.

Wild horses, just like some people, are really, really wild.  These horses are quite to see running on the open range, running free.  Many people almost seem to envy them; eating, sleeping, breeding, and running around, without seemingly a worry or care.  But one must keep in mind the horse was created to be used.  There is nothing finer than to see a man and a horse functioning as a cohesive unit at an event of some sort such as a rodeo, horse show or simply on some grassy plain herding cattle.  If you could ask one however, the wild horse, also like some people would probably tell you that he prefers the wild life.  I am reminded their was a time when they used to turn wild horses into dog food.  I can just imagine papa wild horse asking junior; “Son, when you grow up what do you want to be?”  Can you imagine the little colt telling his daddy that when he grows up he wants to become a fifty pound bag of Alpo?

This is what God says of the wildness of the human spirit and its resulting stubbornness:

“But they, our forefathers became arrogant and stiff-necked and did not obey your commands.  they refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them.  They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader to return to their slavery….  You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands.  They sinned against your ordinances by which a man will live if he obeys them.  Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.  For many years you were patient with them.  By your spirit you admonished them through your prophets.  Yet they paid no attention…,”  Nehemiah 9:16-17, 29-39

Sound familiar?  Do you feel like you’re looking into a spiritual mirror when you read these verses?  Take heart, there’s more;

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate and slow to anger and abounding in love…,” (vs. 17).  “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God…,” (vs. 31).

In time, the Trainer is able to get a halter on the trainee.  When attempting to lead it however, the contest of wills is on as to just who is going to lead who!  Since the beginning of time, man has been trying to lead God around – to try to make Him into what he wants Him to be and make Him do what he wants Him to do!  Hopefully you realize this is all wrong and completely unnatural.  The Bible says, “who are you o man to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20).  The first thing the trainee must learn is just who’s boss.  At first he resists.  Then after awhile, the trainee may learn that the trainer is in fact the boss and may concede to his training and leading.  On occasion however, he will still resist, just like the rest of us ex-wild horses!  The trainee is learning to trust the Trainer.  The word of God says to “trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5).  He is fearful at first and tries to flee.  But then he begins to progress, well on his way to being useful in the service of his Trainer who has by now become his Master.

There is one last comment I would like to make about horses – they must have water.  Jesus said to drink from the fountain of living waters which would never run dry; “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…; Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” (John 4:10, 13-14).  There is an old, old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  How true!  There is an even older saying, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death,” (Proverbs 14:27).  If it were up to me, well aware of the importance of such matters, I would make them drink, knowing that it meant life or death.  But God is not that way, knowing that if you force anything on anyone, they will simply choke on it or spit it out!  They must want  living water.  Do you?  Feeling dry lately?  Parched?  what I have tried to do is to lead you to the source of the fountain of living water.  Note that it is “living water.”  In Jesus is the life of the human spirit and the world.  But I cannot make you drink.  The choice is yours alone.  What will you decide to be – a stubborn ole horse or what God intended for you all along, from the beginning of time – a human headed for heaven?

Almosta Christian

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  (Acts 26:28)

King Agrippa asked a timeless question that echoes through the canyons of the centuries, and the most important of all.

The occasion was Paul’s defense of himself to King Agrippa after being arrested on false charges.  His accusers wanted to put him to death.  For the apostle, it was an opportunity to share his personal testimony of his life changing encounter with Jesus Christ and the timeless answer to the timeless question of King Agrippa.

In his oratory to the King, Paul spoke of who he once was and of who he had become after his experience of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.  His story was powerful, like those of all who have been changed from the miserable, lost souls we once were to those who have become children of God, by faith in his Son – the Gift of God.  Paul repeated to the King and those present what Jesus had said to him that day on the road to Damascus.  Like Paul, we are on a road, the road of life.  It is a road that leads to a “dead end” without Jesus.  Paul spoke eloquently, gracefully and powerfully to one of the most powerful men of his time, the most powerful message of all time, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes,” Jesus said, “and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me,” (Acts 26:17-18).   What a message!  My timeless question is – “why would anyone turn down such an offer?”  And yet, Agrippa had to think about it.  He certainly was not easily persuaded, even by such a powerful message from such a powerful force – the Holy Spirit of God speaking through His human servant and mouthpiece – Paul.  Perhaps he had more important things to think about, like running a country or something.  Maybe he thought about what it would cost if he accepted the abundant life and eternal life that the Son of God has to offer.  Or did he simply enjoy his life of sin without the presence of God in his life?  He might have felt embarrassed if he accepted Christ.

So King Agrippa almost became a Christian that day.  Just think, he almost found abundant life in the here and now. He almost received eternal life after the here and now.  He almost got his eyes opened.  He almost came out of the darkness of disgusting sin and shame, into the brilliant light of God.  He was almost turned from the overwhelming, deadly, freedom binding power of Satan to the awesome, freedom giving, joyful power of Almighty God.  He almost got forgiveness of his sins and rotten choices in life by the God who gave him life.  Oh, the choices we make.  I hope King Agrippa thought about Paul’s words later, when he was alone.  Perhaps he changed his mind and realized, like us all, how self-centered he was.  I hope he called out to the Lord to forgive him, save him and  be the Lord of his life.