Friday, October 23, 2015

The God of Life

     When I take my morning walk with Murphy, I never fail to be amazed at all the beauty of God's creation.  The variety, color, intricacy and design I see around me makes me stand in awe of a Creator who has made Himself known to us.  From the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing.  He spoke it into being.  Therefore, He is the God of life not of death.  Death came into this world when the crown of His creation (man) openly rebelled against the only instruction that God gave to Adam and Eve.  They were the ones that introduced death into this world.  Before that, everything was perfect, beautiful and untouched by decay.  Can you picture this environment?  It was unscathed by pollution of any sort, and man had the privilege of walking and talking with God every day.  Then sin entered the picture, and with it came death.
     Our daily newspapers and T.V. reports are filled with the consequences of living in a fallen world. The Bible tells us in John 10:10:  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  Here is the contrast between Satan and God.  Satan was given dominion over the earth when man chose to rebel and follow his path rather than obeying God.  With Satan came slavery to sin which comes to steal, kill and destroy.
      In the news the other day, I saw an example of the evil that comes with sin.  A father murdered his nine week old baby boy and buried his body in a field.  Why would anyone do that?  Or why would a father beat a nineteen year old son to death in the name of God in order to make him confess sins?  Both cases represent that thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy.
     Jesus, on the other hand, came to bring life.  He came to set us free once again so that we might walk with God on a daily basis as Adam and Eve did in the garden.  God is in favor of life!  All life is  sacred to Him:  the aged, the child in the womb, the special needs person, the poor, the sick, and on and on.  Even more than just physical life, God wants us to be alive again in our spirit not bound by sin. The Lord expressed this in Ezekiel 36:26-27:  "26"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27"I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.…"  Through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross, God has done just this.  He has made a way where there was no way that we, on our own, could accomplish this.
     When we read the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testament, we can clearly see that God is the Lord of life, light, peace, joy, holiness and righteousness.  In Him, there is no darkness.  This is why Christians often find themselves persecuted because we live in a culture bound by death and sin.
A decaying world does not like to be reminded that its pattern of living leads to destruction.  John 3:19 tells us:  "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil."  I know it is hard to believe but some prefer the darkness.
     Just the other day, I was having a discussion with a person in our office and we were discussing a meat market that had some good deals.  A co-worker told the gentleman that I would not be interested in this market since I have adopted a plant based diet.  When questioned,  I told the fellow that I no longer eat meat or dairy since I have been diagnosed with heart disease.  I want to live a healthier lifestyle so that I might take better care of my body.  This fellow went on to say that he had received a new heart valve, had bypass surgery and now had COPD, but he still enjoy eating meat and smoking. He had no intention of quitting either.  Here is an example of someone who, despite the facts on how to improve his health, had no plan to change.  He enjoyed his lifestyle.   There are many in this world just like this fellow.  Lost in self pleasure and unwilling to view the consequences of their actions.  In fact, all of us were like this at one time.  If, however, we confess our sins and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved.  It is a promise.  We pass out of the culture of death and into the light.
More than that, we will forever live in the presence of the Lord of life.
     When I consider all that God has said in His Word and all that He has created, I find it hard to understand those who choose to terminate a life either by abortion or euthanasia.  God, alone, is sovereign over life and death.  He has not made a mouth He cannot feed nor suffering that He cannot alleviate.  In addition, He has called us to be bearers of the light and life that are found in Christ.
What we must realize is that we will be opposed because we live in contrast to the culture of sin and death.  Therefore, we must put on the full armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).  Likewise, we must remember that Jesus said He will come again to rule and reign  When He does, paradise lost will become paradise again for those who trust in Him. We will see a new heaven and a new earth. May we live and dwell on this thought!  Selah!  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

As a Man Thinketh

     A dear friend of mine and my son's mother-in-law (Joy Davidson) passed along a great story the other day.  It goes something like this.  A professor came into class one day and said he was giving a surprise quiz.  He passed out the papers to all the students and to their surprise there was nothing on the paper but a black dot in the center.  The professor requested them to write about what they saw on the paper and gave them some time to complete the task.  He collected the papers from the students to look over what they had written and told them that he would not grade these papers.  He proceeded to read the papers out loud and all the students without exception wrote about the black dot.  The professor pointed out that no one had looked at all the white on the paper which was larger than the little black dot.  Of course, the moral of this story is obvious.  When we focus on just the black dot (relationship problems, health issues, money troubles), we forget to thank God for all the blessings He gives us daily represented by the white on the paper.  I loved this little story because it really is so true.
     In Proverbs 23:7, we get a picture of a man who invites someone to eat as a guest but his heart and mind are not in agreement.  He begrudges his guest the food he eats.  The verses read:  "7For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!" But his heart is not with you."  Here is a person who is looking at the black dot...what his friend is consuming rather than enjoying true fellowship (looking at the larger picture represented by the white of the paper).  How sad!
     How many times do we do the same thing?  Instead of trusting God with the issues of life that trouble us, we tend to major in the minor things worrying ourselves over things which we often have no control over.  Are we not God's creation?  Is He no longer sovereign over all life?  I think we know the answer to those questions.
     Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are not to worry over what we shall eat, drink or wear.  He made it clear that God knows just what we need and is able to supply it if we will put Him first.  If we spent more time laying up treasures in heaven (looking at the white part of the paper), we would find a deeper joy in the life we live here and now.  There are some simple steps that can help us evaluate if we are placing our time and energy looking at the bigger picture.  Here are a few:
     1.  Remember that no matter how difficult your situation is (that black dot), there is always someone going through something much more challenging.  Rejoice in your blessings!
     2.  Keep in mind that God is sovereign over all the affairs of men.  Nothing happens to us that does not first pass through His hands.
     3.  All things...I repeat....ALL THINGS work together for good to those that love the Lord.  This is where we must trust God.
     4.  Proverbs 17:22:  "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  What we choose to focus on, determines our outlook each day.
     5.  Take your troubles to the Lord in prayer and leave them there.  Then, go and enjoy the day the Lord has given to you.
     Taking a few minutes each day to ask ourselves these questions will help us to avoid spending our lives focused on the little black dot
.  Because we are in Christ, we are overcomers who do not need to fear what this world may bring our way.  May God help us to see the big picture rather than the problems.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


     Have you ever made a wrong assessment of an individual that you met but do not know too well?  It is so easy to do.  Most of us have done this at one time or another.  We react to a glance in our direction at a gathering and read into it a negative connotation.  Then again, we may hear part of a conversation and make assumptions without having all the facts.  When we jump to conclusions about another person, we may decide to eliminate them as a potential friend before we have ever really had a good talk with them.  Unfortunately, we do not see others as God sees them. This happened to the Children of Israel as well.

A crown worn by the Wittlesbach family of Bavaria
     When the Israelites demanded a king of their own, God granted them their request warning them of the  demands a king would make on them.  However, they wanted to be like all the nations around them and were not satisfied with God alone being the head of their nation.  As a result, God sent the Prophet Samuel to anoint the first king of Israel.  God instructed him to set apart Saul for this position.  In I Samuel 9:2, we read this description of Saul:  "And he had a son named Saul, a handsome young man.  There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he.  From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people."  The writer here describes the appearance of this man chosen to lead the people.  No doubt his height and good looks made him appear to be the perfect man for the job, but not many chapters later in this book, we read of his jealousy of David, his sin against God by offering a sacrifice and his disobedience in consulting with a medium.  All of this was against God's Law.  Saul may have looked good on the outside but inside, he was sinful.
     Inevitably, God rejected Saul as King of Israel.  Samuel genuinely grieved over this, but God told him to go to Jesse the Bethlehemite and find a new king among his sons (I Samuel 16:1b).  The prophet came with a sacrifice to offer and invited Jesse and his sons.  When Samuel saw Eliab, he thought surely this was the one which God had chosen.  Then the Lord reminded him:  "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as a man sees;  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" ( I Samuel 16:7).  One by one, each of Jesse's sons came before Samuel and the Lord rejected them all.  Then, Samuel asked if there were any other sons and Jesse told him that the youngest, David, was out tending sheep.  Samuel asked his father to call him back.  When he came, the Lord made it known to Samuel that this was His chosen one.  So Samuel anointed David king although he would not reign until years later.
     This story in Scripture has a lot to say to us when we are tempted to make judgment calls on those around us.  First, appearances can be very deceiving.  Look at Saul.  He was handsome and seemed on the outside to have what it takes to be a leader.  Indeed, he did win some battles, but ultimately, he fell prey to following his own way of doing things rather than obeying the Lord.  Just because someone has charisma when they talk, or appear to be one of the "beautiful people" does not mean they will necessarily be a good leader, a friend, or someone we can trust.
     When it came to choosing a second king, God was very specific in what He was looking for when He spoke to Samuel.  He said that He looked on a man's heart not on his appearance.  As the sons passed by one by one, the Prophet kept expecting this one to be chosen, but chose the least of the brothers.  David is described as being the youngest with ruddy cheeks.  He was good looking but God saw into his heart.  It is through the line of Jesse that God would bring the long awaited Messiah.  It was His plan.  Good thing Samuel wasn't in charge, and it is also a good thing we were not in charge.
     How many times have we misjudged a friend, relative or co-worker?  Sadly, we often sound worse than children as we tell another, "Did you see the way he/she looked at me?  I know they are out to get me!"  In fact, it could be that other person is having a bad day and you didn't have anything to do with it.
     At other times, we may take a simple statement someone makes and build an entire case against that person when it is not at all what they meant.  We would all do well to look at the heart rather than appearance, facial expressions or words.  It takes time to get to know someone, and the important thing to remember is that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  If God did this for us, how can we then exclude others on the basis of comparing them to our own standards of conduct?  We have to see others through the eyes of Jesus.
     Granted, there are and will be people with whom we may not come to develop a deep relationship with.  We are not all alike.  However, God calls us first to a relationship with Him and then, to develops relationships with one another.  We need His discernment rather than for us to lean on our own understanding when it comes to this task.
      Think of how many family feuds could be avoided and how many hurt feelings could be spared if we would look at the heart and not outward appearances.  Satan loves to plant vain imaginations in the minds of the willing, so we need to be on our guard.  Instead, let us take up the mantle of Samuel and call upon the Lord to help us see someone's intentions and heart as He does.  We will find that new avenues of friendship and relationship are available to those who are not easily offended by others and who are willing to go the extra mile to get to know someone.  May we glorify God in our relationships and not be carried away by outward appearances.  Selah!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

There Is Never Enough Time

     Have you ever noticed how time just keeps slipping away?  It seems like only yesterday when I was changing diapers, teaching our children at home and spending time at soccer games.  Now they are all grown, and we have been blessed with grandchildren.  Trust me, the years have gone far more quickly than I care to admit.  However, we often find ourselves complaining that we never have enough time or that things are not happening fast enough.  This is when we need to stop and take stock of God's timing in all matters.
     In a couple of Paul's letters, he alludes to the fact that Jesus Christ came into this world at the precise moment the Father had ordained for Him to come, and died for us.  Romans 5:6 tells us:  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."  We know that our Savior had an active ministry for a period of three years.  Why only so little time?  God's timetable is not ours; yet we know it is perfect even as He is perfect.
Big Ben in London reminding us of the time.
     Then, in Galatians 4:4-5, we read:  "4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."  God determined the right moment in history to send His Son.  It was not due to man's will but according to the Lord's purpose.  Since His first advent, it has been 2,000 years that we have waited for His return, and many scoff saying He will not come again.  Yet Scripture is clear that He will come to rule and reign at the end of days.  When will that be?  We do not know, but we are certain for God keeps His Word which will never pass away.
     One of the problems we all seem to have is that of perspective.  We do not see things as God does for we are finite while he is infinite.  He is not bound by time as we are.  According to Peter we read in 2 Peter 3:8-9:  " 8But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."  Because our Lord is merciful, He is patient.  He desires for those He has called to come to Him.  We serve a sovereign God who works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).  However, we have to remember that He does it in HIS time.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us:  "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
     For those of us here on earth, we often cannot understand why certain things do not happen according to our expectations.  Why does God delay in healing a person?  Why does He not hurry and answer my prayer?  Doesn't He care that certain things are not getting done?  That is "Martha" thinking when we tend to stew over everything being done on time.  Isaiah 55:9 states:  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  God's purposes will never be thwarted nor will His Word return void.  He will accomplish all He has said He will do, but we might never understand the delays.  How can mortal man whose days are like the dust of the earth (here today and gone tomorrow) tell His Creator how to do things and when to do them?
     Therefore, we must trust in God's plan for our life, our family, our church fellowship as well as our nation.  He is the God who is Sovereign over all His creation.  We need to quit worrying and stressing over time.  The key thing to remember is as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1:  "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..."  We have only to wait upon the Lord.  Nothing else matters.  Selah!