Thursday, November 3, 2016

Whatsoever Things Are Good

     During this long election season we have gone through, it is hard to keep a positive outlook.  People are tense, out of sorts, and often rude, and a lot of it can be related to the atmosphere created by the contentious times in which we live.  In fact, today I read a story about a woman who wore her
candidates button into a doctor's office.  A fellow sitting across from her in the waiting room got into a disagreement with her over her choice of candidate and went over and struck her on the side of the face with his newspaper.  He indicated he was very sorry for such action but will face legal consequences for his behavior.
     While we may look at that incident and consider it extreme, I do believe it is easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment.  So, as believers, how do we get through times like these without losing our peace and perspective?  The Apostle Paul has a clear answer for us in the letter to the Philippians.
A lighthouse in Peninsula Park Wisconsin
Christ is our lighthouse!
     At the time Paul was imprisoned, he wrote to the church to encourage them and thank them for their support.  In chapter 4 verse 8, we read:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  Paul's concern for his brothers and sisters in the faith was that their minds dwell on things uplifting rather than on earthly circumstances.  I believe he had a twofold purpose in writing this.
     First, Paul knew man's propensity for sin.  We have the Holy Spirit living and dwelling in us when we committed our life to Jesus Christ as our Lord.  However, the old man with bad habits and thoughts is there to try to pull us back into the path of sin. An old saying goes, "An idle mind is the devil's workshop and our hands his tools."  When we do not spend time in God's Word, we have put down the sword of the Spirit as our defense.  If we do not talk with God daily, we are missing out on His comfort and guidance.  In addition, we are to be "transformed" by the renewing of our minds, but this only comes as we are immersed in fellowship with the Lord both through His Word and prayer.
     Secondly, I believe that Paul wants our witness to be different than that of the world.  Many in our culture look at only the circumstances and have no peace of mind and heart.  They come across as negative, discouraged and hopeless.  By contrast, as Christians praise the Lord and recount in our own minds all that God has done for us, we are thinking good, pure and lovely thoughts.  After all, we are citizens of heaven not of earth.  We are pilgrims passing through, and God does not want us so caught up in worldly affairs that we lose our witness to a dying world.
     By keeping our minds focused on the pure, lovely and commendable, we are far less likely to gossip, judge one another or meddle in the affairs of others.  It was Jesus who told us in Matthew 12:26: " I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak..."  Idle words come from idle minds that are too immersed in the matters of this world.  Let us strive to live this verse  so that our light may shine before men who can see our steadfast trust in the Lord who works all things together for good to those who love Him.  Be encouraged and think on all He has done for us!  Selah!                                                                            

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just a Reminder....

     A week ago, I received a postcard in the mail reminding me that I had an upcoming dental checkup.  Since I had completely forgotten about this, I was happy to get this helpful note.  I put dates in my smart phone to remind me as well, but there are times when I forget where I laid my phone!  In truth, we all need reminders of appointments as well as other obligations that we have.  We are a forgetful people.
Peninsula State Park Door County, Wisconsin
     Throughout the book of Joshua, God tells the people to leave memorials so that they will remember His deliverance of them into the Promised land.  We read about one such memorial in Joshua 4:19-24:  "19Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their
fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23“For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”  God did not want His people to forget what He had done so that they would worship and fear Him all their days.
     In the Psalms, we find many occasions where the mighty deeds of God are remembered.  Psalm 105:5-7 reads: " 5Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 6you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth."  As we continue to read the Psalm there is a call to remember the bondage in Egypt and how the Lord delivered His people.  Recounting the blessings that the Lord gives helps us to remember His presence in our daily lives.  He never forgets His people, and He is always at work on our behalf even when we cannot see it.
     Perhaps the greatest reminders to us of His tremendous grace in our lives is found in the sacraments of baptism and communion.  Both are symbols of the covenant which God has made with us through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  Every time we witness a baptism or partake of the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of the new life we have in Him and His return.  He will come again to receive His bride, and this will be a day of great rejoicing.  Until then, we take part in remembering His precious sacrifice for us.
     When we are discouraged, sick, depressed, tired or otherwise overwhelmed, this is the time to begin enumerating the many ways in which God has touched our lives and blessed us.  He inhabits the praises of His people.  In my own life, I find that singing songs of praise to the Lord help to get my mind off the difficulties and focused back on God.  Likewise, I turn to God in prayer and begin praising Him for who He is.  Again, I feel such a relief when I remember Him who is the helper of my soul.
     This is what David did when He wrote the Psalms and sang to the Lord.  Indeed, he had many troubles, but he learned to look to God.  Some wonderful Psalms of comfort are Psalm 23, Psalm 91 and Psalm 139.  There are others, but these focus on the Lord's care for His own.
     Lets face it, we all need reminders on a daily basis for the things we need to do, but even more importantly, we need reminders each day of all that God has done for us that we cannot do for ourselves.  Look in God's Word, seek fellowship with other believers and pray without ceasing recalling His miracles in your life.  As we do these things, we will rise above this world and the trials that can weigh us down.  Selah!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Time for Prayer

     More and more as this election season drags on, I have found myself in prayer over the condition of our nation and the choices that are before us as voters.  I have lived during the administrations of 12 presidents and I have seen tremendous change in the morals and values of our country.  A drifting away from biblical principles which made this nation strong along with a diminished understanding of our founding documents has weakened the foundation upon which we were built.  The very things which 40 years ago would never have been discussed in polite company are now practiced openly in our culture.  Abortion on demand, disrespect for authority, murder, homosexuality, the break up of the family have all become symptoms of the deeper problem we all have - sin.
     In looking back in God's Word (the only GOLD standard for truth, behavior and life) to the book of Judges, one Scripture stands out clearly to me.  Judges 2:11-12:  "And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals.  And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.  They went after other gods and among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them.  And they provoked the Lord to anger."  Since His people abandoned Him, God allowed plunderers and enemies to arise against them.  This brought cries of mercy from their lips, and in His graciousness, God raised up judges to save the people.  Unfortunately, once things got better, the people again did evil in God's sight.  This cycle was repeated over and over.  Why?  Sin is the culprit.
      Ever since the Garden of Eden, man and woman have been infected with the sin nature of Adam.  Jeremiah declared:  "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  Jesus said:  "18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander" (Matthew 15:18-19).  Indeed, our Lord never trusted Himself to man for He knew the heart of man.  Instead, He trusted Himself only to the Father and spent many hours in prayer as He walked this earth.
      While our situation in current history is different from ancient Israel, the root cause of our problems then and now comes from the fallen nature of man.  We can and should vote for those seeking office, but we must realize that they cannot save us from all our woes in this world.  There is no guarantee that they can deliver on the promises they make no matter how sincerely they assert their intent.  The only power that can redeem us and bring us peace and satisfaction is found in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  He made the perfect sacrifice through His blood and the offering of His life that we might be delivered from the bondage of sin.  Therefore, as the book of Hebrews tells us:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).   He, alone, can be trusted to never leave nor forsake us.  God is sovereign, and we can depend on His guidance and protection.
     While I do not presume to know how this election will turn out, I do know that prayer is the key to peace.  It is His peace which passes all understanding when we come to Him in humble intercession for our nation.  He is able to turn hearts and lead many to come to Him for salvation. This is how our nation will be heart at a time as we pray and share our faith.
     As believers and citizens, we have a responsibility to cry out to God for those who lead us and for the present election to come.  Then, we must exercise our right to vote and leave the results up to God.  However, it does not end with this or any election.  Jesus Christ is our King who will come again in glory to rule, reign and bring justice to this earth.  Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, but while we are here, we must storm the gates of heaven and pray for our nation that many will come to know and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.  This is a time to pray. Selah!