Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Finding Comfort in These Times

     Following the decision by the Supreme Court on Friday, I found myself deeply disappointed and grieved over the direction our nation seems to be taking.  I, along with many others, had prayed for a different resolution that would affirm God's design for marriage, but it was not to be.  Then, today, I ran across an article written by Erik Raymond at "The Gospel Coalition" entitled Dear Christian Friend: You Are Not Home .  I was deeply comforted as I was reminded once again that this world is not my home.  I am just passing through.
     Pastor Raymond reminded Christians that all of us need wake up calls from time to time.  Indeed, for me this definitely was the case.  I remember that our Lord Jesus Christ admonished believers to store up  treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt rather than here on earth (Matthew
6:19-21).  Investing our time, talents and focus on growing in the faith to which we are called will reap greater benefits for us that will last for eternity.  This life here is brief and we cannot take earthly treasures with us.  Remembering that we are citizens of heaven helps us keep our priorities straight.
After all, we do not fit in with the world system because our very presence here is a reminder of God whom they do not know.
      Unfortunately, I think Western Christians have become complacent because we were once in the majority, but this no longer holds true.  The differences between those who are followers of Christ and those who are not are becoming more and more pronounced.  Jesus told us in John 16:33, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Just as Jesus was persecuted, rejected by His own people and despised by the rulers in His day. so we also shall know this same treatment.  
     As some celebrated the decision, I found a new resolve growing in my own heart that I believe is true of Christians around our country.  First and foremost, there is a new resolve in the hearts of those who trust in Christ.  This resolve grows out of seeking God in prayer and looking into the Bible for better answers to the questions that people are now asking.  Pressure from the culture always brings out  what is in the heart.  For the church, this is an opportunity to be that light on the hill shining in the darkness that many might be saved.
     Secondly, our current circumstances put new meaning to the term "ambassador" for Christ.  The Apostle Paul referred to believers in this manner in 2 Corinthians 5:20, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."  As an ambassador, we represent Christ in this world.  The job is not easy nor is it popular.  No wonder we feel like outsiders at times.  We are in a foreign place, but one day God will call us home to Himself.  Therefore, we need to make the most of every opportunity we have to share the "Good News" of salvation in Christ alone.
     Finally, the most important aspect is that our trust and dependence on God grows exponentially.  He is our refuge, our strength and our very present help in trouble.  Difficulties tend to drive believers back into the arms of God more quickly than any other stimulus.  For this, we should all thank our Lord who is, indeed, sovereign over all the affairs of men.   Nothing has taken Him by surprise and He is more than able to help us walk in His peace.  
     I firmly believe that Erik Raymond is correct.  We have to remind ourselves that this is not all there is, but we have a home in heaven with our Lord.  His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts; yet, if we remain faithful to Him,  He will bring us safely home.   Selah!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Looking Back with Greater Clarity

      Maybe it's because I am growing older that I often sit and reflect on life.  I see things now in a much different light than when I was in my twenties and thirties busy with our children trying to go in ten different directions all at once.  Those days were filled with stress, tension, and at times, exhaustion .  However much of it was my own doing. 
     Solomon had a similar problem.  He was endowed by God with great wisdom, wealth and peace.  Yet, he chose to squander much of his blessing by marrying many wives who were not believers but pagans.  They led him into foreign worship which greatly displeased the Lord.  At a later time in his life, Solomon reflected on the emptiness of "self" gratification in the Book of Ecclesiastes.  He says in Ecclesiastes 1:12-14: " I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.  And I applied my
heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven.  It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."  For Solomon, life has been empty when it comes to the pursuit of pleasure or even of wealth.  He had it all.  However, in it, he found no deep satisfaction.
     As this book winds down to a conclusion, King Solomon says these two important statements:  "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them;.....Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccles. 12:1; 13b-14).  Having reviewed his life and all that he has observed, Solomon now reminds the young to remember the fear of the Lord and to keep His commandments.  What wonderful wisdom he imparted, and he learned it the hard way through actions that separated him from God at times.
     While I have endeavored to walk in the light of the Gospel all my life, I have missed the boat at times like Solomon.  However, God grants us the grace in later years to pass on what we have learned to help our children, grandchildren, and fellow believers so they do not run into the same "walls" we have.  With this being said, here is some practical advice to help you on your walk.
     1)  Learn to say "NO".  At the time you are up to your ears in diapers, college, or work, someone will come along and tell you about a GREAT ministry opportunity that you would be perfect for.  You already are stressed beyond belief, but you don't want to let God down, now do you?  Somehow you will find a way to make it happen.  Sadly, all you do is cheat yourself and those around you.  Our most important ministry is in our home to our spouse and our children if we are married.  If you are a single person but still trying to find your niche in the job world or with college, do not overburden yourself with a million obligations.  Believe me, I know what I am saying.  I was the Queen of the overloaded Titanic schedule quickly sunk by exhaustion in college.  I carried this into our home, and now, I wish I had spent more time enjoying what God had given to me in our children instead of always looking out to do more beyond the home.  If you learn to say "NO", there will be other opportunities for you when life is not so hectic.
    2)  Remember that you are a human being - not a human doing.  Your worth as a person is in Christ not in all your accomplishments and activities.  I had a wise college professor that told me it was great to win lots of trophies, but one day, I would have to dust them all off and the thrill would be gone.  Reaching the pinnacle of achievement is wonderful at the moment, but it doesn't fulfill your heart the way a relationship with Christ does.  In addition, the blessing of a family and time invested in serving them reaps rewards that no amount of recognition in this world can ever equal.  I have a lot of dusty trophies today that cannot compare to the four wonderful children we raised and the eight precious grandchildren God has blessed us with.  There is no comparison.  My advice is to invest yourself in serving God by serving your family, your friends and in your work place.  Accolades are wonderful but the crowds move on in this world.  As Solomon said, "All is vanity".  The only thing that will last forever is your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Develop that and you will find true wholeness in your life.
    3)  Invest yourselves in others.  Instead of worrying about all the things you do not have or why someone else has them rather than you, start thanking God for what you do have.  Then, go out and invest yourself in the lives of others.  Rejoice when they rejoice.  Weep when they weep.  As we do things to help others, we find such blessing.  It cures depression, envy, and self-pity quicker than any other remedy I know.  Lets face it. We are a selfish, self-centered, sinful people.  Our hearts always tend to look out for number one.  However, if we are in Christ, we are supposed to be a different person...a new man or woman.  The old man has passed away - remember?  Therefore, lets be serious about putting on the new man.  When others pass by some one who needs help, we need to be the ones to reach out our hand.  We can be a good Samaritan in another person's life or we can remain detached and miss the blessing.  I once had a psychologist tell me that the best way to defeat  depression was to go out and help others.  I took that advice and found such a joy through service.  This glorifies the Lord when it is done with a heart to please Him rather than for our own glory.
     4) Cherish each day as though it is your last.  Life is short.  We do not know the hour when the Lord will call us home.  Therefore, make every effort to use your time as a good steward.  Devote yourself to prayer and Bible study each day so that you may grow in grace and knowledge.  Share your faith with family and friends that they may hear the Good News.  Kiss and hug family members whenever you have the opportunity and tell them you love them.  It does no good to say this after they are gone.  While we are here, we are to shine as lights on a hill in this world of darkness so that others will see Christ in us.  If we make the most of our time, we will not live with regrets later in life.  We will also bring glory to God by living each day as the gift that it is.
     These are just a few of the lessons I have learned over the years.  Certainly, as long as I am here, God is not finished with me.  He will continue to refine, remind, and realign my thinking so I reflect His dear Son our Lord.  Along with Solomon, though, I pray that we all will "fear God and keep His commandments."  May these insights encourage you and keep your feet from stumbling as we see the time drawing near for our Lord's return.  Selah!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Agent of Death

     Today was a sad day in Christendom when the news broke that Tullian Tchividjian had resigned from his ministry at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale.  He admitted to moral failure which is another way of saying he had fallen into sin with another woman.  Sadly, he is not the first leader who has given way to temptation nor will he be the last, but each time a man of God stumbles in this way, the ripples extend far beyond the immediate situation.  Pastor Tullian's family is fractured not only by his actions but also his wife's, the church is reeling from the news and those outside of the immediate church are also heartbroken over this triumph of sin in the life of a believer.  The argument in the secular world is that as long as my actions don't hurt anyone else then it doesn't matter what we do.  Ah, but those words come from Satan himself because we do not live in a vacuum.  We live in relationship to God whom we are all destined to meet one day either as judge or Savior and we are in relationship with one another.  Our actions do make a difference.
     If you do not believe me, look at the situation in Charleston, SC.  The actions of one young man led to destruction of life in nine families and touched the whole community.  Shock waves echoed around the nation as well as in the family of this young man.  What devastation with the commission of this crime!  This young man's life is over as he has known it no matter what the verdict is in the case.  It is true what our Pastor preached this past Sunday:  "Sin is the agent of death."  Dreams die, hope dies, relationships die, and people are forever changed.
     At best, we bear the marred image of our Creator.  It is only when God, in His mercy, opens our hearts to receive the Good News of redemption in Christ that we can shake off the bondage of sin.  Then, God the Holy Spirit goes about the work of sanctifying us and forming us into the image of His dear Son.   However, this does not mean that we cannot fall into sin again.  On the contrary, we still have the old sin nature clinging to us.  The difference is, that now, we can choose to obey God or step into sin.  Before this, we were in bondage and could only choose sin.
     In his message, our Pastor preached on Hebrews 12:1-3:  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."  These words serve to remind all believers that we have many who, through their very lives as recorded in God's Word, have provided for us an encouraging example of how to live.  They have gone before us to show us the way.  Then, the writer tells us to throw off every weight and sin.  This is what holds us back, trips us up and keeps us from looking to Jesus.  Cain had the opportunity to turn things around when his sacrifice to God was not accepted.  The Lord warned him that sin was crouching at his door (Genesis 4:7) and assured him that he would be accepted if he did what was right.  However, we know that he chose to murder his brother in a jealous rage instead.  By contrast, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, had the means and opportunity to sin with his master's wife.  Yet, he ran from the temptation for he valued his relationship with God.  Ultimately, he was the victor as a result of his faithfulness while Cain spent his life running from the Lord as a marked man.  So what should our response be when we hear about the moral failure of others?
     First, we need to come to grips with the fact that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  Any one can be fall into sin.  The Bible warns us to be on our guard and to flee temptation.  Therefore, we need to be careful not to point the finger at others when they fall lest we also fall into the same trap.
     Secondly, we need to be a people of prayer.  Pray for Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, his family and church.  In fact, pray daily for your church and your pastors.  These are not easy days to walk in for any believer.  Also, pray for your church leaders in any capacity that they may have God's wisdom.
     Finally, if we find ourselves caught up in temptation, remember the high price we will pay if we choose to disobey God.  We could lose our reputation, our family and hurt many others by an action we may take.  Sin separates us from God and others.  It is, indeed, an agent of death.
     I am a firm believer in a God whose desire is to restore His children when they do fall.  However, they must first repent and renounce their sin and turn again to the only One who can satisfy all our desires in this life and the life to come.  Let us join together to pray for this situation and our own church bodies that the fire of sin may not tarnish the glory of God.  Selah!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Are You Prepared to Worship?

     What is true worship?  This question has been burning in my soul for over a week now.  I keep searching the scriptures to understand better how we may enter into His presence when we come together on a Sunday morning.  Most of us rush to and fro getting ready to gather in fellowship, but I wonder how many of us are really prepared in heart for this is where worship begins.
     When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, they discussed where to worship whether on a mountain or in Jerusalem.  However, Jesus made the issue clear:  "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" ( John 4:23-24).  Our Lord conveyed to her the importance of the heart that is changed by the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit that leads us into all truth as we enter into worship.  So how do we prepare?
     Daily Bible reading, prayer and praise are so vital to our preparation for Sunday worship services.  Growing closer to God through the pages of scripture opens our eyes and unstops our ears so we are ready to join in communion with other believers.  If we do not have a solid relationship with the Lord, going to church will not mean much to us.  It is like being married to someone you never talk to all week, and then expecting to spend an hour of intimate fellowship with your spouse one day a week.  I guarantee it will not be as meaningful as if we had spent the entire week sharing, talking and spending quality time together.  Many Christians do not prepare themselves for worship.  Therefore, they miss the intimacy with God that is their inheritance in Christ.
     Secondly, as we worship the Lord in spirit and truth, we are to glorify Him and enjoy His presence.  We come together corporately to encourage, build up and edify one another.  The Apostle Paul painted a good picture of Christian fellowship when he wrote this in his letter to the Ephesians:  "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (chapter 5:18-21).  When we gather in common worship, our goal is to lift high the name of the Lord with words, songs and behavior.  No discouraging words or gossip should be found there.  Likewise, it is my personal belief that dress should be modest.  In our current culture, it is not uncommon to see all types of inappropriate dress from pants that are pulled too low to tops that plunge.  Being brothers and sisters in Christ, our goal is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to focus all attention on the Lord.
     Another key element of worship is the preaching and teaching of God's Word.  This must be the central part of our worship service.  In the Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1, we read:  "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men,...or any other way not prescribed in Holy Scripture."  Certainly, the proclamation of God's Word is one of the major elements of true worship.  Also prescribed in Scripture is the administration of the sacraments, prayer, sung prayer and praises, and collections for the relief of the saints (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.5).  All of these elements nurture the soul and prepare Christians to go out in the world to proclaim the Good News.  There is nothing listed in the Confession of Faith that tells us to "hype" up the worship service to attract unbelievers.  What draws people to Christ is the proclaiming of the Gospel.  Gimmicks, fancy lighting, special bands or other dramatic activities may bring a crowd, but do people come for entertainment or for an encounter with the Living God?

     With these thoughts in mind, we need to begin now to prepare for the worship we will offer on Sunday.  God has promised that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  What a blessing to be able to fellowship with our Creator and with one another.  We must remember that the heart of worship begins in our hearts.  Selah!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Heart to Run the Race

     How exciting it was to see another thoroughbred win the Triple Crown of racing.  I have lived to see three in my lifetime:  Secretariat, Affirm and now American Pharaoh.  One of the news articles I read about the most recent winner was that the skill of the jockey kept the horse at an even pace so he would last throughout the race.  Then, when he needed speed, he had the reserve to finish the race well.
     My grandfather also followed this type of strategy when he drove his harness horses to victory.  He raised, trained and drove harness horses for many years while I was growing up so I had the opportunity to not only be around horses but observe many of his winning races.  The horse has to have a heart to perform, but the skill of the jockey or sulky driver is the key to victory.  In fact, the same is true for the Christian.
One of my grandfather's champion horses
     When we commit our lives to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God does some serious surgery on us removing our heart of stone and giving us a heart for Him.  This is a transplant which radically changes our perspective on life.  We are no longer in bondage to sin.  Instead, we desire to obey the Lord and learn more about Him.  However, we need to be guided, taught, instructed, convicted, and nurtured if we are to reach our full potential.  This is why the blessing of the Holy Spirit is such a gift from the Father to us as believers.  He fulfills all the roles just described, and acts much like a wise jockey who guides us along the path of life until we cross the finish line.  Without the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit, we would find ourselves running off on many different bunny trails never going anywhere with purpose.
     In His final discourse with His disciples, Jesus told them that He would send them a "helper":  "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17).  Jesus also tells the disciples:  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).  We learn, in these verses, that the Holy Spirit is our helper, the Spirit of truth, He dwells within us, He teaches us and brings to our remembrance all that the Lord has spoken.  Like a skilled jockey, the Holy Spirit is there to provide for us  all that we need holding us back when we need correction and letting us run at just the right moment.  How gracious is our Lord for His blessed provision!
     What we must remember is that we are never by ourselves as we make our way in this world.  When we read verses like:  "13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14), we are encouraged to know that we are not running the race of life alone.   The Holy Spirit is prodding, nudging and guiding us every step of the way.
     American Pharaoh has won the triple crown, but in Christ we are more than conquerors who can lay claim to the crown of life with the help of the blessed Holy Spirit.  Thank God often for this gift  which will usher us into the winner's circle of heaven.  Selah!                                                                                        

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Moment in Time

     On our living room wall, we have a series of pictures done on canvas of our entire family.  This was a Christmas gift last year from our children who knew that family, following our relationship to God, was central in our lives.  The pictures represent a moment in time when we were all together.  Already the grandchildren have changed in appearance as they have grown, but for one day, we captured a slice of life that represents the gift of God that we are to one another: my husband and I, our four children, four precious in-laws and eight grandchildren.  It is a blessing to walk by this wall and reflect on the many joys that God has given us over the forty three years of our marriage.  However, not everyone sees life and family from this vantage point.
     In William Shakespeare's famous play "Macbeth", the main character (Macbeth) recites his understanding of life in Act V Scene V:  "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."  While this was written around 1606, there are many today who would embrace this philosophy of life.  There is no hope expressed here.  In this view, life has little meaning and our "moment in time" simply passes on the stage of life like a brief candle.  No wonder there is so much sadness and emptiness seen in our culture today, and yet, this has been true ever since man's fall in the Garden of Eden.  Each generation has felt the immense sense of loss that comes from a broken relationship with God.
     By contrast, the Bible offers us a different picture of life and the means of restoration which God has accomplished on our behalf.  In the pages of God's Word, we learn that we were created a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5).  We were meant to reflect the glory of the Lord, and we were made in His image that we might rule over His creation caring for it (Genesis 1:26).  In the beginning, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in a perfect environment, but when they rebelled, it was like someone using a can of spray paint to mar the Mona Lisa.  The image was damaged and the relationship with our Creator was broken.
     From before the foundation of the world, however, God had purposed to redeem for Himself a people called by His name (Ephesians 1:4), and to this end, He sent His only begotten Son when the moment in time was just right (Galatians 4:4).  Jesus Christ was the second Adam (I Corinthians 15:45) who came to fulfill, in perfect obedience, the Law, to live without sin, and to be, for us, the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  To those who receive Jesus Christ not only as Savior but also as Lord, the curse of our sin nature is broken so that we are free to choose to obey God.  We are no longer slaves, and the emptiness of life expressed in the play "Macbeth" is replaced by the abundant life found in Christ.
     With fellowship in God restored, any man or woman can now walk day by day in communion with their Creator.  This is why our wall is filled with the smiles of our family.  Our home was founded on Jesus Christ whom we had professed faith in just three months before our marriage.  Each of our children in turn professed their faith in Christ and married a believer in the Lord.  This does not mean that our lives are without trials, temptations and heartaches.  Instead, it is a day by day journey with the Lord as He works in each of us to conform us into the image of His dear Son.  How sweet the adventure of this earthly pilgrimage has been as we do it as a family lifting up one another daily in prayer.  My prayer for each one of you reading this today is that you, too, might know the joy of walking daily with the Lord.  If you are already a Christian, you have tasted of God's goodness, but if you have never accepted Him as Savior and Lord, I invite you to experience "that moment in time" when you repent of your sins and receive Him as your Savior and Lord.  It makes all the difference for eternity.  Selah!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Dread Filled Phrase

     Here in Florida, during the summer months, we grow accustomed to our daily thunderstorms.  It seems most storms come in the afternoon, and the sound of distant thunder soon becomes louder as it approaches.  This is when a smart Floridian leaves the pool, gets off the golf course or out of their boat and goes inside to be safe.  Florida is known as the lightning capitol of the United States with more than 1.4 million strikes per year according to the Orlando Sentinel.  For those of us who live on the central ridge of the state with a slightly elevated terrain, it is very scary to be outside when a storm suddenly comes up.  Every year, there are a number of fatalities that occur which could be avoided by seeking shelter.  While lightning is a fearful force of nature, there is something even more terrifying that none of us would wish to hear.
     In the Gospel according to John, Jesus had an encounter (one of many) with the Pharisees in the
Temple treasury.  Of course, the Pharisees were always testing Him and could not see past their blinded eyes that He was the Messiah.  Instead, they jealousy challenged Him at every turn.  Jesus, in John 8:12, calls Himself the light of the world and promises that whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but in the "light of life."  Over and over, He makes known that He comes from the Father.  However, the Pharisees miss this completely.  The Lord makes it clear that their judgment is clouded in verses 15-16:  "You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me."  The Pharisees looked through the eyes of flesh that could not see the truth.  Then, Jesus pronounced the words that no one would want to hear in the next few verses.  "He said to them, 'You are from below, I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am He you will die in your sins" (verses 24-25).  Chilling words for their ears or anyone's ears to hear, yet they still did not understand for their reply is:  "Who are you?" (vs. 25b) and His reply is:  "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning" (vs.25c).  Amazing isn't it?
     Throughout this passage as in many others, the Pharisees did not see or understand who Jesus was claiming to be.  Their refusal kept them from coming into the light and led to the pronouncement that they would die in their sins.  That was very much like a lightning bolt.  What a fearful thing to hear from the Lord of all creation.  Dying in our sins is an eternal death sentence which leads to separation from God not just for a short time but forever.  However, the Good News is that we do not have to hear these words if we have accepted God's offer of salvation and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is, indeed, the light of this world who drives out the darkness and brings life.
     Our Savior carried our sins and took our punishment on the cross for us.  He died in our place, but He rose from the grave conquering death.  Not only this, He ascended to the Father in heaven where he makes intercession for us who believe in Him.  Why would anyone not want to walk in that light.  Sadly, though, there are those who do turn away when presented with the truth of the Gospel.  We have all met them.  They are lost in their sins and judge according to the flesh (our current culture) rather than by God's Word which is reality and truth.
     Beloved, we should rejoice in what God has done for us.  At the same time, we need to pray for those outside the faith that God by His Holy Spirit would open their eyes.  God's almighty judgment is real, final and to be dreaded.  Our sins, if we do not repent of them, will condemn us for works do not bring salvation in God's economy.
     If we are a believer, we will not hear the pronouncement of the sentence, "you will die in your sins" because we have already passed from death into life through Christ (John 5:24).  However, if we are reading this and like the Pharisees refuse to recognize Jesus Christ as God's only Son who came into this world to die for our sins, those dreaded words like a lightning bolt will strike us one day.  Instead of gambling on the storm, let us run into the shelter of His everlasting arms.  He is our lightning rod who has overcome this world.  Be encouraged in this and believe in Him.  Selah!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Value of The "Good Book"

     I love to read books.  It is something I have enjoyed since childhood.  Whenever our library had a reading contest, I signed up.  They always had a special edition of a book to give as the first place prize.  One year I won a beautiful copy of Louisa Mae Alcott's "Little Women".  What a treasure!  I felt so happy, and it made me want to read even more.
     Of all the books which I have read over the years, though, none comes close to God's Word.  The Bible has been a best seller year after year.  Now that is saying something!  So why should we read it?  King David gives us some good reasons in Psalm 19:7-11:  "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple;  the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
     Where do we find wisdom to meet the demands of our life day by day?  According to Psalm 19, we find that the testimony of the Lord which is written in the Bible makes the simple wise.  We aren't just speaking of knowledge here, but the application of common sense which the Lord freely gives to those who ask.  He is the source of all wisdom since He created the world and each one of us.  Therefore, He is the One to whom we should turn.  The beauty of the Bible is that God reveals Himself to us through the pages we read.
       As we read the Bible, we come to know God's perfect Law and His precepts for living.  When we have a solid foundation on which to build our lives, our hearts rejoice.  God's established Law (the Ten Commandments) teach us how to relate both to a holy God and to our fellow man.  If we walk in the light of His Word, we find a full satisfaction and joy.  Even more, though, the Law also shows us our sinfulness and our need to turn to God in sincere repentance.  We need reminders, daily, of how to live and walk.
      Perhaps the greatest blessing of reading the Bible comes from realizing that it is the history of man and his relationship to God.  It tells us how mankind fell in sin and became alienated from the Lord.  Even more, it tells us how we can once again come into relationship with God through the sacrifice of His only Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  David said, clearly, in Psalm 19 that God's Laws, rules, precepts and His Word  are "pure, enlightening the eyes, are to be desired more than gold and sweeter than honey."  Why would we want to miss this kind of joy?
     Each time I sit down to read His Word, I find peace in times of trouble and encouragement in times of sorrow.  There is no other book I can pick up that can instruct like the Bible.  Sadly, however, our current culture is woefully ignorant of God's Word.  Most homes contain at least one Bible and often several, but many are left on the shelf.  If we want to know the mind and heart of God, we have only to pick up the Bible and read it each day, praying over the passages we read and thinking about it throughout the day.  Our minds and hearts become conformed to that which we spend the most time with....whether it is T.V., social media or our culture.  If we spend time in the Bible, we will start to think God's thoughts after Him, and we will begin to change.  I encourage you to take the time to sit and read the Bible each day.  It is the best way to start each morning and it pays dividends as we invest ourselves to love the Lord with our heart, mind and soul.  Selah!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Who Am I?

     An early song written and sung by Casting Crowns is entitled "Who Am I?"  The words are reminiscent of the sentiment written in Psalm 8 by David:  "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth" (vs. 3-9).  Indeed, with both King David and Mark Hall the songwriter, we wonder "who am I Lord" that You the great Creator of all the universe would want to have a relationship with me?  It is a deep question, and one that man has sought to find an answer for in many different ways.
     Sadly, men have sought to find their identity in ways that often lead to despair:  alcohol, drugs,
sex, and their work among other ways.  However, none of these avenues really define who we are because they all lead to dead ends.  In order to really know who we are, we have to know for whom we were created.  According to Genesis 1:1, we learn:  "God created the heavens and the earth."  He was the source of all life, and His crowning creation was man.  Why did He make us?  He made us to bear His image in this world and according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, "man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."  Unfortunately, the Bible also describes how man rebelled against the One who made him (Genesis 3) leading to a broken relationship and a fallen nature.  We have all inherited that sinful nature and none of us seek after God (Romans 3:10).  At this point, we might wonder what difference it makes?  The answer is simple.
     If we live in such a way that is contrary to what we were made for, we will never find the true fulfillment and happiness of heart that we long for in life.  Let me illustrate.  A chain saw is used to cut down tree limbs and trees.  When it is used for the purpose for which it was created, it works well and accomplishes what the creator desired when he made it.  On the other hand, if we use a chain saw  to cut a cake or food item, we may well destroy the entire thing.  It wasn't meant for that.  In looking at our lives, we can see that if we were created for God by God we will only find the greatest purpose and satisfaction in our lives when we live for Him rather than for ourselves.  The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to die in our place and take our punishment for our rebellion.  When we confess our sins and accept Jesus Christ as both our Savior and Lord, we once again are in right relationship with God.  It is at this point that we really begin to live our lives with purpose.  There is a joy that this world cannot know or touch.
     I have written all this to say that our identity is not found in the baubles and trinkets of this world system which is passing away.  Our real identity is found in Christ, and through the pages of the Bible, we see the description of what it means to live for Him.  He is our peace, our salvation, our Good Shepherd, our Comforter and the healer of our hearts.  We will not find the answers in "People Magazine", Hollywood or in the pages of "Vogue Magazine".  Everything else in this world will disappoint and let us down, but Jesus promised that He would never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5).  Answering the question "Who am I?" is not difficult when we know for whom we were created.  Begin afresh today to recommit your life to Christ if you have bought into what the world is selling.  Or if you have never made that commitment to Christ, I challenge you to give your life to Him.  He will provide the fulfillment that you seek far beyond what this world has to offer.  Selah!