Saturday, August 30, 2008

He simply could not understand.

For months; no, for years now, he had been asking God to do something! His frustration with the things he continued to see had grown unbearable. Day after day he had prayed; day after day things grew worse.

How long, O Lord, will I call for help and You will not hear?

I cry out to You, "violence", yet You do not save!
Why do You make me see iniquity and cause me to look at wickedness?

Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.

Therefore, the law is ignored and justice is never upheld.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

Therefore, justice is perverted.

Honestly laying out his frustration brought brief relief. The intensity of the burden was lessened even though the problem remained.

The moment of peace was quickly shattered by what God had to tell him in response to his pleas!

Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days –
you would not believe if you were told

"Finally", he thinks. Results; things are going to get done. "Stand back and watch my God at work"!

God continues:

For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
That fierce and impetuous people
Who march throughout the earth
To seize the dwelling places which are not theirs,
They are dreaded and feared.
Their justice and authority originate with themselves.
All of them come for violence
They will sweep through like the wind and pass on.

Surely, I didn’t hear You correctly, he thought!

D-d-d-d-d-did you say that you are bringing hordes of violent, Godless peoples to do Your will?

He again prays ( a bit more timidly this time):

Are You not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One?

We will not die.
Your eyes are too pure to approve of evil,
And You cannot look on wickedness with favor.

Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously?

Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?

How does this make sense?

The Chaldeans are far more unrighteous than the people that You use them in judgment against.

Maybe you haven’t considered that we aren’t so bad after-all. Maybe, I was a little hasty with my calling for You to fix the state of Your people’s sin.

This clearly wasn’t what I had in mind!

God responds:

the righteous will live by his faith.

(Habakkuk 1 & 2)

So there it is… the good news and the bad news:

The good news? God answers our prayers. Yea!

The bad news? He has chosen to remain God and answer our prayer His way!

The bottom-line good news? He never leaves us guessing; but teaches us in the process!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Balance that Brings Power

The aggravating experience of driving in a car with tires that are out of balance makes driving less appealing.

Likewise, I believe, that over many years the message delivered by the Church of Jesus has been out of balance making it less appealing to non-Christians and to Christians as well.

Paul states: "if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain...and if Jesus has not been raised your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have hoped in Jesus in this life only, we are most to be pitied.
I Corinthians 15:12-19

Here is where we need to consider carefully what is being said.

I am not undermining the infinite value of the message of the cross. The words of Jesus in addition to the statements of Paul to the Corinthians, regarding communion forever establishes the cornerstone position of the atonement!

That said, Paul makes a further case that it is the power of the resurrection that displays the glory of the cross.

You will remember that the followers of Jesus, after His death, were huddled in a secret room cowering at the slightest noise at the door. All of that changed in a moment with the news that Jesus was no longer in His grave.

For too long, the followers of Jesus have been cowering within the confines of their various churches.

The vibrancy of the first century church hinged upon the resurrection:

Acts 1:22 one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.
Acts 2:31 and he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ
Acts 4:2 because they were teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus the resurrection from the dead

Acts 4:33 with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus
Acts 17:18 because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection
Acts 17:32 Now they heard of the resurrection of the dead
Acts 23:6 I [Paul] am on trial for the hope and the resurrection of the dead!
Acts 24:15 a hope that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked
Acts 24:21 "for the resurrection of the dead I [Paul] am on trial before you today
Acts 26:23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light

So it comes down to this: What have we done with the resurrection?

As you approach your prayer time this week, I encourage you to take a few moments to ask Jesus to show you the power that resides within His resurrection.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wait a Minute There...

Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Thy presence - as fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil - to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence!

When Thou didst awesome things which we did not expect, Thou didst come down, the mountains quaked at Thy presence.

For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
Isaiah 64:1-4

"Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him"; are you willing to wait for such a God?

Be quick to notice what the scripture really says, "acts in behalf of the one" says far more than He answers our prayers.

You see, waiting for God, waiting for an answer, waiting for peace, for help, for health, for financial stability, for ..... is tough because it takes faith!

Without faith it is impossible to please God... Hebrews 11:6

We live in a hurry up world; patience is a thing of the past. We have come to expect what we want when we want it if not earlier. So waiting for God will never be easy. But then, most things really worth having are worth waiting for!

Make a statement to your God about that thing, or that person or that situation that you have been praying for; tell Him that you will wait!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hope for the Hopeless

Have you ever been in a difficult position? Of course you have, but have you ever been in such a difficult, hopeless position that your heart ached?

I think that is where we find Hannah after years of humiliation and failure brought her and her aching heart to the temple whether in faith or simply in desperation we will never know.

A little background might help us understand Hannah’s heart.

You see, Hannah was one of two women that her husband had taken for a wife. As difficult as this might be ordinarily, the situation that had arisen within this family was that one woman had children but the other, you guessed it, Hannah did not. Well you can’t hide a problem like that for very long. There can be no doubt as to who has the problem.

The matter was complicated by the person that scripture calls Hannah’s rival. The woman who had children "bitterly provoked" Hannah to irritate her.

The situation had become so serious that her husband, who and done various things to show his support and love for Hannah, cries out in frustration to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

I sure that none of us have ever been where Hannah found herself at this point. There is a point where the hurt can not hurt anymore, where one just mentally "throws up his hands" or "throws in the towel"
Scripture tells us that Hannah, was "greatly distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly".

After some interaction with the priest regarding her actions Hannah explained, "I poured out my soul before the Lord".

There are times when we stand strong in the strength of the Lord and we pray with boldness and confidence. There are these other times which seem somehow less valuable; less faithful.

We easily comprehend and admire the faith of a prayer offered by someone who prays like he knows personally the One to whom he talks. To pray with someone who prays expectantly is a wonderful experience. These opportunities are easy and welcome and wonderful.

There are things that we should not miss about the faith of the Hannah type of prayers.

There exists in a believer a level of faith that is buoyed by our convictions, by our experiences or by our commitments. There is yet another level of faith that we find when everything is stripped away and all we find left is the core of one’s being. The times when all pretensions, all suppositions, absolutely everything but one’s existence is let go, a level of faith remains.

This faith is what lies at the very core.

Jesus has written that core faith in the recesses of our hearts (Hebrews 12:2). It will never fail us nor will it ever desert us. It is the direct connection to Him.

( the story of Hannah is found in the book of I Samuel chapter 1)

Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Ballgame

A number of years ago I grew a bit frustrated with one of my children. It seemed so difficult to communicate with him regardless of how hard I tried or what subject I brought up.

One day I discovered a modern parable to help my child understand my concerns.

I invited my child to grab a ball and then sit across the room from me. I asked him to roll the ball to me which he happily did thinking that we were playing a game.

As I caught the ball I simply held onto to it. I didn't play with it or hide it. I just let it lay there.

It wasn't long until he grew tired of this new game and asked me to throw the ball back.

I simply smiled. His insistence grew as did my smile.

After several pleas and several smiles, I simply said, "you know, when I pick you up from school and ask you "tell me about your day" and you simply say "nothing" I feel just like you just did when I didn't throw the ball back to you.

From that time on, all I had to do was mention throwing the ball back whenever we bumped into another session of nothings.

This a lengthy preamble to this week's scripture:

I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, "here am I, here am I," to a nation which did not call on My name. I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the way which is not good following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to MY face... Isaiah 65:1-3

Have you been holding the ball?

Sure, we are always too busy, we are always too preoccupied; too frustrated to pray.

Oops, could He be talking to me? "who walk in the way which is not good following their own thoughts".

"My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways My ways", declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

There is a widely known saying that says, "If you keep on doing what you're doing, you're going to keep on getting what you're getting". As a matter of fact we would all think a person was mentally challenged who repeatedly did the same action while expecting a different result.

So how long will we continue in the folly of pursuing our own thoughts and priorities?

We should be honest enough, at least, to quit complaining about the circumstances and the situations of our lives if we choose to continue in following our own thinking.

Your God is calling out to you, "I am here; I am here". Will you respond or choose folly?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fulfillment That Gives Freedom

…for truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, no the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and so teaches others, shall be least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

So Jesus, as always speaks frankly about the things that matter the very most.

It would seem that Jesus is laying a load of legalism upon his hearers. Taken out of the very important context of His total statement it could be understood as so, however Jesus immediately proceeded these heavy words with some other extremely liberating words.

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

So there it is: Jesus came as the “fulfillment” of everything contained within the Law and the Prophets. It is only by His fulfillment that we have any chance to missing the judgment of the following message. For those who do not find the Law fulfilled in Him the road is steep and the burden to beyond strength and determination.

Don’t allow anyone, and I mean ANYONE, to lay the load that Jesus took away upon you!

Scripture is taken from Matthew 5:17-19

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Where Can I Go?

Where can I go from Your presence? the psalmist asks.

And continues, where can I flee from Your Spirit?

Have you ever come to grips with the fact that there is absolutely nowhere you can go that God is not already there?

If I take the wings of the dawn; if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will hold me, your right hand will lay hold of me.

It is one thing to mentally ascent to the fact that God is everywhere; it quite another dimension when you understand that He holds you, even more, that His (strong hand) right hand holds you tightly.

The psalmist finally proclaims, such knowledge is too high for me, I simply cannot attain to it!

These words of the 139th psalm are only the beginning of the description of how tenderly and completely God cares for you. Open the 139th psalm and hang-out there for awhile. While you are there, talk openly with the God who loves you so incredibly even though He knows you completely!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Power in the Name!

What has happened to the Church?

This is the question that has been on my mind for quite a while. No, I don't particularly mean a particular "church". Of course they are not exempt. This question plagued me after walking around the Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies festivities earlier this season.

As I strolled down the street I was take away with the excitement and the anticipation of the people. Without a doubt, there were many people there who didn't even have tickets to the game and couldn't have cared less.

So I openly asked God, why isn't the church anywhere this close to fun and exciting?

I am learning fast that if I ask a question I had better prepare to be up all night. If this message seems a bit scattered it is because the writer only got 1 our of sleep on the night that the question was answered.

So what has happened to the Church?

Almost without exception, the Church is in decline as far as numbers and participation. Even the few rare exceptions are pretty short lived!

Here is what I have learned:

Jesus used a couple of word pictures in discussing, so we could easily understand, His relationship with His church. The first is Jesus as the Head of the Body, the church. The second is with Jesus as the Vine and the church being the branches.

Either of these would work to display what I have learned, however discussing the following thoughts in terms of the former can be a bit gruesome so I will use the vine/branches picture.

Jesus made the point of what happens to a branch that becomes disconnected from the vine. It dries up and is useful for building fires.

This brings me to what I have learned about what is wrong with the church. We have become detached from the power!

Scripture warns us about"(those who are)...Holding to a form of godliness although they deny its power, avoid such people as these" II Timothy 3:5

Where is the power?

In the name that is above every name in heaven and on earth!

Jesus said: " All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Matthew 28:18

Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Phip 2:9-11

Jesus said, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me John 12:32

There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12 (See Acts 4:10-12)

The one who confesses the son has the Father also. I John 2:23b

Jesus said, For not even the Father judges anyone but has give all judgment to the Son in order that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:22&23

By this you know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. I John 4:23

The scriptures go on and on about the power of Jesus's name.

Revelation chapter 5 discusses a dilemma in heaven. There is a book in the strong "right hand" of God which no one can open. Weeping broke out over the problem. Read the chapter and see Who had the power!

As I look back over the last years , I can clearly see that slippage of the church coinciding with the dismissal of the name of Jesus.

Not meant to represent the totality of the issue, nevertheless, the songs we sing are often an indication of what we believe. Consider some to the songs that were once a staple of Christianity and, particularly, their theme.

Jesus, There's Just Something About That Name.

I Must Tell Jesus

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I'd Rather Have Jesus

Jesus Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus


Every religion has a "God"

Most religions and several governments have "Lords"

Christ is a title not a name. Jesus said that many "christs" would come before the end.

Only the true church has Jesus!

Let's hook back into the vine and experience the power!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ordinary Days

Just today, as I was driving in busy traffic toward my daily responsibilities, the thoughts about priorities, values and routine floated through my mind. (Now would be the time to feel glad that you weren't driving anywhere near me!)

You know, its not the mountain top experiences that determines your spiritual health; sure we all feel "closer" to God during certain events. What determines your spiritual health is exactly and precisely how you handle the tedium and the stress of the "everyday"!

Scripture is very clear on this issue. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" scripture boldly states. How much faith does it take to sit in a conference and hear a wonderful message taught or to attend a concert where the performer beautifully and artfully lifts your spirits? No, faith is the plain and ordinary days. The days when you feel deserted and tired. God is never closer to you than when you are doing the things that must be done. "I will never leave you nor forsake you" is what He says to you today.

Don't wait for Sunday or for that next mountain high experience to appreciate all that you have been given in Jesus!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prized Beyond Comprehension

You have seen them, I have too. You know; those far too many makeshift memorials beside the roads and highways that we travel pursuing our daily responsibilities and tasks.

We quickly pass by what is no longer just an ordinary piece of roadway in the eyes of he “memorial makers”. No, something horrific happened to someone close and dear to him or her or to them. It is just to terrible and too untimely an event to allow it to be unrecognized in the eyes of the maker(s); never again will that piece of road be simply an avenue of transportation!

What a poignant example of another deep truth:

Every-time God looks at you He sees the memorial of Jesus. No longer are you just another simple piece of humanity; you are a glowing testimony to a far greater horrific event.

The holy, infinite, glorious Creator God “became sin so that we might be the righteousness of God”.

You are highly prized above even the most glorious of the angels.

Live like it today; live like it everyday!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Getting to Know You

There is an old broadway musical song that begins with the words: "getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, hoping that you like me…"

There is a reason why the phrase is "getting to know you" rather than "got to know you". It seems that knowing someone is more far more complicated that a first look, a few discussions, an appointment or two or even months or years of social interaction.

Many of you know the woman of my dreams and wife, Sheryl. This year we will celebrate our 36th anniversary of our marriage. One amazing thing about 36 years together is that we still draw apart when we have busy weeks and lack of time together. The advantage of 36 years is that we can more quickly diagnose our troubles and move to remove the gap. You see, we are two very different people.

By nature or by nurture, I have become a night person while she is a morning person. She is organized and efficient and I am casual and priority challenged. She is teamwork; I am independent. Thirty six years together hasn’t changed these differences. Instead of change we have adapted to each other.

This is far more information about us than I feel comfortable sharing but the point I wish to make is this: Our time together in terms of years means little when we have limited time together in terms of minutes and hours. It is only by staying in contact that we manage to stay on the same page and maintain the same priorities.

This brings me to today’s scriptural challenge:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you"
John 15:1-2,4-7

That word, "abide" is a critical one isn’t it? Without "abiding" there is appears to be little hope for good. As a matter of fact, lack of "abiding" brings pretty dire consequences.

So many times we want to read the last part of that scripture that says, "ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you" and skip over the rest. But it is clear the last part is wholly dependent upon the first part; particularly this concept of "abiding".

We must understand that, as in the need that Sheryl and I have for time together to stay in touch, the differences between Jesus and us are so very great and those differences can only be overcome by time together. It is in "dwelling" with Jesus that we are changed, not in an instant (in these matters), but over a lifetime together
Purpose to dwell with Jesus and allow His word to dwell in you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Life in His Word

Psalm 119:129-144

Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them. The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

Jesus said, "…if My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you" John 15:7

Much of the reason why our prayers are so timid or our prayer life is so cold is directly related to our time spent abiding in God’s word.

I opened my mouth wide and panted, For I longed for Your commandments.

A longing desire doesn’t come from our absence for the Word. As a matter of fact, our longing only comes from our continued exposure of our spirits to the Bread of Life.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with those who love Your name.

One can only appeal for a personal touch from someone that he knows intimately.

Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. Redeem me from the oppression of man, That I may keep Your precepts.

Establishing ones footsteps is a bit more than skipping through, running through, or sitting down. Footsteps are only established intentionally. The establishment of footsteps indicates that there is a firm direction.

What does established footsteps bring? Victory over sins dominion; the heavy handed oppression of angry people; the deep hunger to follow His lead. How does a life like that sound?

Is it worth the exploration?

Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes. My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law.

Grace upon grace! Up to this point that prayer is saying that if one abides in God’s word good things come about. Here we take the next step to discover that in God’s pleasure with His tender child, He shines upon him and warms within him the deeper desire to know more fully God’s Word.

Such is the deep, unbridled joy of the one who is praying that a grief arises for what he sees in those who don’t know the blessing of abiding.

( Take a few moments with the remaining thought of this wonderful message. As you drip down the thoughts, speak to Jesus as if these words were penned by you just for Him)

Righteous are You, O LORD, And upright are Your judgments. You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness. And exceeding faithfulness. My zeal has consumed me, Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words. Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it. I am small and despised, Yet I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth. Trouble and anguish have come upon me, Yet Your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Light in the Growing Darkness

You are the light of the world….Jesus (Matthew 5:14)

Think for a moment about that statement…

What strikes you as you encounter this stark statement of Jesus?

Did you notice that it is a rather certain statement; that He said "we are" not "we might be"?

Light is so very important . Have you noticed that it even jumps out in the darkest night regardless of how far away it might be? The light of one single candle will bring a warm glow and visibility in a dark cold room.

The importance of light was evidenced in the beginning when God selected the time of light creation. The very first act within the account of creation was God’s statement, "Let there be light". Genesis 1:3

Fascinating, beyond comprehension is our God. Light was created on the first day of creation but the sun and stars were not created until day four. The power of light is beyond the vehicles that carry it.

1 John 1:5 states, God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.

You, undoubtedly, have taken note of the continual battle between darkness and light. Withdraw the light in any room, or in any society, and the darkness moves in. Contrary, interject light into the dark place and the darkness literally flees; it cannot leave fast enough.

John 1:5 says, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it."
There is no compromise between light and darkness. They simply cannot exist in the same place at the same time.

You are the light of the world, Jesus said. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.

How secure is your basket? Perhaps we all should invest some "one on one" time with Jesus seeking His opinion on the size and security of our baskets.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Reality of a Personal God

From time to time I come across things that someone has said that seem to be so profound and so revealing about truth. In addition, my words, in all likelihood, become a little routine after a while.

One of my "heroes" in the Faith is Dr. Francis Schaeffer. His words below resonate so deeply in my mind and heart. I pray that you will be deeply blessed as well. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other matter.


I do believe the Trinity can be experienced as the personality of God becomes real to us--as we know His person and not just doctrines about Him. And (perhaps most important) this can be experienced when we in some small measure begin to know the reality of His individual leading as we in moment by moment faith truly desire that He, the infinite person, might lead us, the finite persons.

The spiritual steps which meant so much to me...centered largely around the moment by moment realization of the blood of Christ. I realized then in theory, but now as something deeper than theory, that there is a further step which is more profound in the reality of the universe: this is the reality of taking our place as creatures, willingly and in love, in the presence of the infinite Creator. If we would only stop desiring to be God and, in reality and practice, take our place as creatures, then I think we could get on.

I am not thinking of this in some "mystical" area where God becomes an abstraction, but in strenuously practical areas of history in which we walk. If we would only allow the Agent of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to lead each individual instead of living in the areas of rules which are man-made and quite apart from the absolutes laid down in Scripture.

If only we would be willing to have Christ be the true Head, and be willing for exotic leadership of the Holy Spirit in our individual and corporate lives--rather than stagnifing the Holy Spirit's leadership of yesterday, as seen in the lives of other men who lived in different historic circumstances, when the infinite eye of God would see today's history as requiring a slightly different or radically different approach; or even stagnifying how the Holy Spirit has led us individually in the past. Why should the Holy Spirit's leading of us today be what it was a year ago, when our historic circumstance is always in flux? To me these things are not an abstraction.

As one small practical application, why do we insist on continuing organizations just because they were useful last week, or last year?

-Francis A. Schaeffer, Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, Crossway Books,