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.

Two Dot, Montana & The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Back in the days of homesteading, there were some very large ranches owned and controlled by rugged, hearty, wealthy,  individuals.  The Grant/Kohrs ranch in Montana is one such example, consisting of something along the lines of four million acres.  Another was owned and operated by Two Dot Wilson.  Two Dot, of course was a nickname.  I first learned of him and his fascinating story because of a blizzard in central Montana where I lived.  The highway was closed at Harlowton.  Although we were only a short distance from home at Buffalo, nevertheless my son and I had to rent a motel room for the night.  We made the trip into town to get something to eat.  At the restaurant was a little book on the history of the area and that is where I learned of Two Dot Wilson.  There is a little village in the area named after him.

Mr. Wilson was amazingly wealthy for his time.  He owned thousands of cattle, a large number of sheep and hundreds of horses.  He was good to the Indians who would visit and was known as a generous, gracious man.  In the vernacular of our day we might say, “he had it all.”  Except the one thing he wanted the most – a wife.  Since Two Dot didn’t want to marry a woman from the area, he took a trip back east where he was from to find just the right one.  Because he did not want his future wife to marry him because he was wealthy, it was his practice to not dress as a gentleman of his day.  Instead, he dressed casually as any rancher of his day.  Two Dot did in fact fall in love with someone and they were married.  The story said that while on the stagecoach heading back to the homestead on the prairie of Montana, the new Mrs. Wilson looked at her husband and said something like this; “honey, do you think it’d be alright to get just one ole cow so we can have milk for the table?”  Two Dot had not told her nor had she any idea of the extreme wealth of her new husband.   The ranch had an abundance of cows and far greater riches than she could ever imagine.

This great story illustrates one of my favorite verses in the Bible, found in First Corinthians, chapter two, verse 9; “…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

And so it is with our Great God and His kingdom.  We are like Two Dot’s wife so-to-speak.  In Ephesians chapter five, verses 22 and following, the Apostle Paul teaches what God’s will is for marriage.  Then in verse 32 of the same chapter, he writes; “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”  Like Mrs. Wilson who had no idea of the wealth that awaited her, so do we as believers in Jesus Christ have only a little idea of the magnitude of the fantastic, wonderful things God has in store for those who love and seek Him.  In chapter three of his letter to the church at Ephesus, verse 8, Paul refers to this as… “the unsearchable riches of Christ…”

What does this have to do with you and me?  If our desire in life is to want all that God has in store for us, both in this life and the life to come, it is worth pursuing.  If we seek God and desire His will to be accomplished in our lives, He is more than willing to be found of us and to give us the abundant life He promised here in this world and eternal life when our journey in this life is complete.  There is nothing more important in our lives than the relationship we have with our Creator and God and His son Jesus Christ.  May it be the pursuit and goal of the short time we spend in this world, to search for and find, “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  When we seek Him and are found of Him, we truly become “rich,” like Two Dot’s wife, but incomparably so much more.

 

Terrible Times

Lately, wherever you turn for news, whoever you talk to, everyone is talking about how bad things are.  The airwaves are full of news of terrorist attacks both here and abroad.  Accounts of Rape and murder on our streets have become common place.  Hatred and strife fills the world in which we live.  Many have no respect for life, either the unborn or for those who are living.  Just when we thought we had heard it all, we hear of another even more horrific story.  It is so depressing that many people have simply chosen not to listen to the news.  This is somewhat like the proverbial Ostrich hiding its head in the sand.  The problem here is that the rest of its posterior is still above ground and in plain view.  No matter how hard we try – these problems are not going to go away.  We all wish they would.  So what should we do?  Listen to what the scripture has to say in II Timothy, chapter 3; “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.”   There is more that follows, but you get the point.  These are tough times.  In response to such out-of-control times, the apostle Paul tells young Timothy, “but as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of…and how from infancy you have know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, (vs.14:ff).”

This is the answer to these “terrible times,” to sink the roots of our faith in God and the salvation He has provided to us through his son Christ Jesus, ever deeper.  To grow everyday in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.  Like Timothy, the longer I live, the more I am “convinced” of the truth of God’s Word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to us through his written word, the Bible.

I understand how those feel who simply want to turn off the news and hide their head in the sand, so to speak.  Sometimes I feel the same way.  It is good to have balance at such times – to shut off the constant bad news and turn on the good news by opening the Word of God and drinking deeply from the well spring of his Good News – such hope – so refreshing.

Listen to these beautiful prayers and verses from the Bible so full of hope and faith:

“O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.  Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress…He will be the sure foundation for your times..,” (Isaiah 33:2&6).

Perfection

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”      Matthew 5:48

Every time I read this verse, I become more aware of just how imperfect I am.  Most of us do not want to think about this.  It means we have to face mistakes and poor decisions we have made.  The Lord’s command in this very short, very important verse is just that – a command.  So why would He tell us to do something so difficult, actually insisting on it? Because we are never to stop trying to be the best people we can be, to be pleasing to our creator & Lord. This non-optional command to “be perfect…,” summarizes the Lord’s teaching in the preceding and following chapters and verses regarding how we are to live our lives as believers. He tells us to be “salt and light” and covers such important human matters as marriage, divorce, hatred, anger, revenge, taking oaths, talking too much, prayer, fasting and loving the unlovable, judging others, worrying and more.  Let’s keep trying to be perfect and to be like our Heavenly father who is perfect.

New Year, New Resolutuion

I have decided, made-up my mind, to stop wasting God given time.  My niece Bobbi graciously set-up this blog for me long ago. Her husband Tim provided the beautiful photo.  Until now, I have done nothing with it.  Time to change.  Many things change; seasons, people, technology, leadership, opinions, times and time itself. But there is something, no not something, but someone who never changes – God.  “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure,”  (Isaiah 33:6).  Read everyday, this one Bible verse alone, would change our lives.  I received some wonderful gifts for Christmas, including being together with my family. The greatest gift of all is the time God has given to serve Him.  From now on I want to get to know him more, to unlock the treasure of which Isaiah wrote. It is time. I have decided.