Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘God Stories’ Category

I experienced one of those “ah ha” moments this weekend.  I was speaking with a new friend about God’s goodness and blessings.  We had taken turns sharing how God had, in His grace, provided healing and protection at different points in our life. It is good to take time to remember God’s faithfulness in the past because it is a helpful reminder that when we face a trial of any kind, that God, Who has been faithful before, will be faithful in the future.

My eyes were opened to a new perspective when she shared about praying for a woman for healing on multiple occasions.  The person was very vocal about her need.  She carried her pain and woundedness around constantly asking for prayer and comfort.  My friend had prayed for her and had even gathered a group together to pray for the woman.  After some time of praying though my friend sensed the Holy Spirit tell her that it was time to stop praying.  That the woman being prayed for didn’t really desire to be healed, but rather she wanted the attention and sympathy her illness brought her.

When she said that I suddenly realized what a big truth that is.  ‘When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ‘  James 4:3  What pleased this woman more than receiving God’s healing was being the center of attention.  She had become comfortable in her condition and was satisfied with the sympathy of others.

The picture that came into my mind was of a person lifting their hands to God in supplication asking for a gift from Him, but their hands were full of tightly clenched “other stuff”.  Even if God offered to give what was requested they would have to release what they currently had to receive the gift from the Lord.  And many are not willing.

Lest you mistakenly think I am condescending in this, please know that the hands I am seeing are my own.  This is not simply a believer versus non-believer issue.  This is true of all gifts and all growth in faith.  As a believer I have grown by steps and stalls.  I can see that some of the stalls have been when I have tightly held onto a thing, a desire, a belief, that the Lord wanted me to lay down.  And the steps have been when in obedient trust I have released and lifted open hands to Him for whatever He has in store.  In some cases it was a blessing pure and simple.  In others it was a blessing disguised as a trial, but a blessing none-the-less.

For the person who does not yet know the Lord, the things they hold onto can cause them to miss out on the greatest gift of all, a relationship with the living Lord.  Holding onto pain from the past, unforgiveness toward someone, lifestyle choices contrary to God’s plan are all abundant life limiters.  The Lord is a good, good Father.  He is perfect in how He parents.  He is neither over-indulgent nor overly stern.  And like any good Father, He enjoys blessing His children.

Today, I encourage you to ask the Lord, “What is it I’m holding onto that I need to release?”  And then listen… and obey.  The second question is then totally appropriate.  “Lord, what do you want me to receive?”  The follow up to this question is a bit more open-ended.  He may answer that long requested prayer… or put a new desire in your heart… or simply bless you with His overwhelming peace.  Regardless, you can know that in releasing what’s in your hand, you make room for God’s “something better” in your life.  And that’s the path to the abundant life He desires each of us to experience.

Read Full Post »

As Jesus followers we have access to the most powerful force in the universe.  Paul writes about it in his salutation to the church in Ephesus.

‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, ‘   Ephesians 1:18-20

My last post discussed how our emotions can lead us to believe a lie.  There is so much information being disseminated that is not accurate, whether intentionally or simply in error, that it is easy to absorb, believe, and emote based upon untruth.  Once we have believed a lie, especially when it has evoked strong emotion, it becomes easier to believe supporting lies and harder to discern the truth from the lie.

I do not believe it coincidental that the word in my quiet and prayer following that post was power.  Repeatedly yesterday the reality of God’s power was emphasized… beginning with God’s power demonstrated in raising Jesus from the dead, continuing with the power Jesus exhibited in healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and ministering to the humble and meek.  That power was then compared to our sun which provides our light, warmth, and sufficient energy to sustain life on this big, blue ball we call home even though it is over 93 million miles away.  While the sun in powerful, the One who created it had to be even more powerful to create it and all that is.

Finally, I saw the power of God in the ability to change a mind… to direct us onto the right course… to deliver the opioid-addict and bring them to health and wholeness… to turn a prodigal toward home… to open our eyes to the lies and half-truths we have embraced and to see and seek truth… to bring us ever closer to Him Who is the Lover of our souls.

That same power is continually available to us as Jesus’ followers.  We are encouraged to embrace that truth and to allow Him to guide us into how He wants to make that real in us and through us.  You are saved for a reason – to know Him and to make Him known.  The Holy Spirit living within the believer is the direct connection to God’s power.  In Jesus’ last recorded words before His ascension into heaven He said,  ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ‘ Acts 1:8

I encourage you this morning to lean into Jesus more and more.  Trust in His power which saved you, sustains you, and guides you.  Read the Word and allow the truth of it to saturate your mind and spirit.  As you do so, you will become more aware and dependent upon His wisdom, His grace, and His strength to live the life He has called you to.  You will learn to discern His promptings and respond to them.  I have been fortunate to participate in miracles He has brought about.  My role was 1% of the work which was accomplished simply by being obedient to what I sensed the Holy Spirit wanted me to do.  It was God’s power that did the work – healing in some cases, deliverance in others, salvation at times. In every case God was glorified and people were blessed.

Wherever you are in your faith walk, God has next steps for you which are for your good and His glory.  He will not leave or abandon you, but rather He is right there with you encouraging you to take that next step.  I don’t know exactly what your next step is, but I know God is cheering you on, whispering words of peace, hope, and guidance.  Let today be the day you take that next step in faith.  Let today be the day you take hold of the power Paul said is available.  Let today be the day you experience joy in a new and exhilarating way.  Seize the day my friend by saying yes to Jesus and stepping out in faith.

If you are interested in watching some excellent sermons, our church broadcasts the services on Sunday and they are also saved and accessible free online.  Just go to newspring.cc/sermons.  We are in a series on the Holy Spirit right now which is very balanced and biblically accurate.  Check it out.

With the benediction today, I think I will do a throw-back to the 1970’s and say:

“More power to you!”

Read Full Post »

During this season of Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, I have undertaken to write 5 posts a week.  I have been blogging for about 7 years now.  The posts have definitely ebbed and flowed.  It’s exciting when I am inspired to write and share God-stories with you or wisdom that I sense the Holy Spirit bubbling up within my spirit.  There have been times though when I purposed to write and it has been like trying to draw water from a dry well.  I notice I have 35 drafts that were blog post starts that have not made it.  Setting the expectation of writing 5 posts a week is the type of challenge that has, at times, caused me to encounter the dry well.  That is what happens when we operate in our own strength.  But this season is turning out to be something different… something richer, an altogether new and exciting experience.  I believe I understand why and it’s today’s topic.

This morning as I awoke I immediately entered into prayer and meditation about what the Lord would have me share.  Okay, truth be told, my first alarm at 4:30 woke me and I started praying and meditating, but staying in the bed also meant the second alarm at 5 is what actually got me fully awake and out of bed.  One of the things I have been praying for is greater understanding on why the Lord has me in this wonderful season of clarity for hearing His voice and sensing His leading.  It seems He gave me at least some insight this morning.

During this morning’s prayer I had this visual image that was very pleasant.  Over the years we’ve bought Christmas decorations during the post season sales.  It turns out we have about 1.3 miles of white Christmas lights.  The visual image began with the site of our typical Christmas tree with two or three strands of lights on it.  It’s pretty with lot’s of ornaments made by family members and little points of light interspersed about.  You can clearly see the tree, the ornaments, and little glowing spots.  But then the image changed.  Suddenly the tree was wrapped with the entire 1.3 mile strand of Christmas lights and we had an entirely different situation.  You could barely see the tree because the light emanating from it, but the shape was there.  The little lights that had highlighted the bobbles on the tree previously now were illuminating the entire room with a bright and joyful light.  Everything was richly aglow with light coming from the light-filled tree.  That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke this morning and said, “Be Filled!”

That short phrase rang familiar and I looked it up.  In Ephesians Paul is giving exhortations to the Church and the phrase shows up.  ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘  Ephesians 5:18-20

That Christmas tree was filled with light and I can see an amazing lesson in it.  I am in a season that I hope never ends.  In fact I hope it is not a season, but the result of progress in being transformed.  It’s the transformation that we are all called to in Romans 12:1-2 ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  I have been a Jesus follower for a long time.  I have experienced the clear leading of the Holy Spirit on various occasions and it always gives me great joy.  But all my previous experiences have been more like our typical Christmas tree with little points of light interspersed here and there.  The light was visible, but the tree was still the predominant feature.

But lately, I have been sensing the Lord’s hand upon me, guiding me with a greater frequency and clarity than I have ever experienced.  Continuing the metaphor, additional strands of light are being wrapped around me and more light is shining through.  Halleluia!

At this point a little insight into what’s been happening inside of me may be informative in your walk with the Lord and desire to Be Filled.  As I mentioned earlier I have been a Jesus follower for a long time.  I have tried to be faithful in every area.  I would have seasons of additional focused attention in reading the Word, prayer, loving my wife and family sacrificially, etc.  But I have always been a busy person too.  I have worked in stressful jobs, long hours, lots of responsibilities.  And I’ve tended to be as busy as my work life allowed outside of work… youth leader at church, scoutmaster, soccer coach and active parent, small group leader, etc.

The past few years as our children have reached adulthood and begun families of their own, my wife an I have found ourselves with a little margin in our lives.  We’ve added a bit of travel to our lives which has been fun.  But last year’s trip was interrupted when I broke my shoulder.  If you have read that story it a pretty good one and it is informative to the point I’m making.  With the broken shoulder I was not making any income.  I work for myself and I don’t have supplemental insurance.  So we could have been in a financial difficulty.  But all through that season of being out of work the Lord kept telling me, “Trust Me.”  “Rest in Me.”  “Relax and Lean into Me.”  All words of encouragement for me to let go of my striving and busyness.  So I did.  I used the down time to read more, both the bible and great teaching books.  I also was able to serve more.  It has been such a blessing to get to know my care pastor at church better.  And I’ve definitely prayed more.

Breaking my shoulder provided an opportunity.  It was the prompting of the Lord, definitely subtle at first but growing stronger every day, to pick up different spiritual disciplines that got me to a stronger place.  There are “okay” things I could do that I find I am doing less.  I have not completely cut out activities like going to ball games or watching a good show on TV.  But those things have diminished greatly and anything questionable has been dropped completely.  I travel a lot for my work and since November I have been back on the road a lot.  But the TV doesn’t come on.  I’m now drawn to pray, read the Word or an edifying book, or work-out (which includes prayer and meditation).  It seems to me that with each time I am faced with a choice of doing something okay, I am pausing to see if there is something else the Lord would have me do.  If there is, I am tending to do it.  And each time I respond following that leading to do the thing I sense the Lord directing me to, there is greater clarity the next time the Holy Spirit prompts me to do something.

Before I head to the close today, I need to tell you about the other scripture the Lord brought to mind right after He said, “Be Filled.”  Since I knew the topic was “Be Filled” I threw off the sheets and popped out of bed.  But as soon as my feet hit the floor I thought of the widow of Zarephath.  Here’s her story.

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’ ” She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah. ‘  1 Kings 17:8-16

As long as the woman continued to use the oil and serve the Lord and the ones He brought to her, the jar of oil was filled.  When we follow the Lord’s lead, when we minister when and where He guides us, we will be filled.  There is also something important about what I shared in my life over the past several months.  When I have the opportunity to use my time in different ways, I ask for His guidance and then follow it.  I have been engaged in spiritually edifying activities more, but not to the exclusion of family, friends and other things.  (A topic for a future post will explain how in my past I engaged in activities that should have been spiritually edifying, but I did so in a more legalistic manner without proper regard for family, friends, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  They tended to fill my head with knowledge, but my spirit was unfruitful.)

This week has been as eventful in a positive way as most recently.  There was a great meeting with the Group’s pastor at church.  You expect those to go well, but there is a qualitative difference between a good meeting and a spirit-led meeting.  It was a spirit-led meeting.  Then I had to drive 200 miles to a plant for work.  I stopped to get gas and a coffee since it was an early morning drive.  As I got back in my truck, the Lord said, go tell the cashier, “It’s All Good.”  Yes, I questioned Him a couple times on that one.  I almost turned the key to back out.  Just thinking about going in I began to feel self-conscious.  But I remembered I had promised the Lord many years ago after I rationalized away a very clear prompting of the Lord that had a tragic end, that I would always obey Him if He clearly asked me to do something, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.  So I went back in .

Wouldn’t you know it, there was now a long line.  Rather than shouting from the door, “Yo cashier lady, God said to tell you, “It’s All Good'”, I decided to buy two bottles of water I didn’t need.  When I got in line, it was obvious she was having a problem doing some task for a customer.  Another cashier came to the adjacent register and started taking customers.  Now I was worried that I wouldn’t get to the right cashier.  I knew who the word was for and I knew what I was to say.  I had no idea how she would respond (although I hoped it would be with an indrawn breath and wide eyes of wonder).  The line kept moving to the new cashier and my cashier kept having problems.  Finally it looked like she was about to finish with her customer, but now I had a new problem.  There was a person in front of me in line.  If she finished, he was going to her and I would have to go to the cashier-who-is-not-the-right-one.  “Lord if you want me to give her this message, please let me go to her.”  It was a photo-finish.  The other cashier ripped off the receipt for the customer and said, “Who’s next” just a moment before my cashier looked up to see me standing in her queue.

I handed her the two bottles of water and said, “I was in here earlier, but when I got in my truck the Lord told me to come in and tell you, (slightly dramatic pause here) “It’s All Good.”  At that moment I kind of wished the Lord had given me something a little more eloquent or definitive, but that’s exactly what He said to say.  So I said it.  Well I didn’t get the wide eyes and gasp of wonder.  But I did get enough.  She looked at me and we made eye contact.  You know how in so many instances people look at you with the dull, unseeing eyes.  Well she really saw me and a little smile crossed her mouth and into her eyes.  I walked out thankful that I had given her the word the Lord told me to give her.  I don’t know what it was about but as I drove away, I was praising Him and praying that His words would resonate in her and that they would accomplish exactly what He knew they were to accomplish.

As I’m typing this I realize those words are pretty good words for me… and for us.  So I close today telling you what the Lord told that middle-aged, seemingly harassed cashier, “It’s All Good!”

Indeed, with the Lord it is all good and VERY GOOD!

Have a blessed day my friend.

Read Full Post »

I woke this morning with a couple mental pictures from the past week rumbling through my mind.  The first was of tweets bashing people who were praying for the victims and families of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  The second was of another similarly minded person who, after mocking 2nd amendment supporters and those who would pray, screaming, “Do SOMETHING!”  This is truly a gut-wrenching situation because I grieve for those who have suffered and I desire healing and unity in our nation.   There are good things that can be done, but true sustainable results will not be found in a knee-jerk reactions.  All the facts must be accurately shared and a civil discussion needs to be had.  Then I think we can begin to separate ideas that will work from those that are extreme and foolish.

But overarching all this is the real crux of the issue.  When we remove God and personal accountability from the equation we are doomed to poor results.  I was reminded of a journal entry a few weeks back that helps me put this into perspective.  I hope it blesses you.

 

Be Still

 

12-1-17   ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”   Exodus 14:14

 

This verse resonates within my spirit today.  For about a week the Lord has been stirring in me the call, the necessity of His followers to understand how to effectively win in the spiritual war we find ourselves.  In the natural realm we see the conflict manifested between national interests. We see it between political parties.  We see it in families torn by conflict.  We see it between generations, races, socio-economic classes.  But the root cause is Satan’s rebellion against the Lord God.  From Satan’s view point we are pawns in the war.  We are the battleground where he wants to create as much damage as possible.  Why?  Because he knows the Lord values each and every person.  When Satan is able to inflict pain on people, he believes he is striking God, who has become his enemy.

 

God, loves with an everlasting love.  He is patient and it is His desire for people to choose to respond to His love, to seek to enter into a love relationship with Him.  God’s plan for each person is to know and to grow into the fully redeemed and renewed person we were created to be.  It hearkens back to the garden where Adam and Eve walked with God.  That intimacy is God’s desire for us.

 

But to get there, we must pass through this life and the spiritual conflict that it entails.  Today’s verse speaks to a truth that we believers can rest in.  Let’s unpack it a little.

 

This verse is what Moses told the nation of Israel as they stood at the edge of the Red Sea.  The Egyptians had gotten over their mourning about the death of the all first born, the 10th plague brought upon Egypt due to the Pharaoh’s refusal to obey God.  They got over their mourning only to rise up in wrath toward the Israelites who appeared to be wandering aimlessly in the desert.  They mounted their war chariots and stormed out after the Israelites ready to conquer and enslave them again.

 

What a powerful picture of what Satan desires to do to believers.  When we come to faith, we are sealed as God’s children forever.  The Holy Spirit is given to us at our conversion and we are marked as God’s children.  As His children we are Satan’s enemies.  And because Satan cannot reach God directly, he seeks to hurt His children.  Like Pharaoh, Satan wants to punish and enslave us again. 

 

Prior to our conversion we garnered little of Satan’s direct interest.  After our conversion we become objects of his wrath.  Part of the reason is because he targets us as God’s children, therefore his enemies. But also because as God’s children we become the instruments of God’s grace in the world.  We are direct threats to Satan’s hopes and plans.  He wants to rule the world, but believers are God’s representatives who stand against his plan.  Our very presence is a reminder to Satan that his days are numbered, his rule is not total, and his end is certain.

 

He will attack and he is a dirty fighter.  Yet, God is omniscient.  He knows all things including Satan’s plans and desires.  As God’s children, we are called to maturity.  Part of our calling as mature men and women of God is that we participate in the battle.  Evangelism, Intercession, Service, Worship – all our acts of faith are edifying to the body of Christ and militant acts against Satan’s end goal.  Satan wages war against the Church, but he is constrained to those persons he can manipulate.  ISIS, Terrorists, corrupt politicians, elitists, and the anarchist mob are all people ultimately serving the devil’s purpose.  But none of their maneuverings are hidden from God.

 

Through the Holy Spirit the Church is fully equipped for the battle.  But… and this is probably why I am being stirred as I am, it is our responsibility to listen and submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  This is both an individual and a corporate responsibility. 

 

Which brings me back to “unarmed” Israel on the sea shore facing the menace of an angry, fully armed enemy army.  In the natural things did not look good for Israel. I am sure many of the people were near panic state.  They had been wandering so the question of where they were going and the clarity of leadership would have been a logical question.  But they had been called by God to this point.  The Lord had demonstrated His power through progressive plagues upon Egypt and protection for Israel.  Even as the battle heated up, God’s care for Israel became more visible and real. And there was the pillar of fire which even now was restraining the Egyptian army. 

 

So, when Moses gave the word, ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  The people needed only to look at God’s provision thus far and project that onto the current situation.  His faithfulness is not variable, He is always faithful and true.  Even when we are not, God remains faithful.  He loves us and it is His desire and plan that we be conformed to the image of His Son.  When we lose faith, He is ready and willing to pick us up, dust us off, and wrap His love around us anew to reassure us that He is for us and not against us.

 

In this situation the people responded in faith and God unveiled a plan that was as amazing as it was miraculous.  God held the Egyptians at bay and then opened the sea for the Israelites to pass through.  When the Israelites were through He released the sea and the Egyptians were finally destroyed.

 

Let’s go back to the “be still” part the Israelites were called to.  In my minds eye I see the strong wind coming and lifting the waters, but I also see this as taking some time.  The Lord dries up the sea bed.  Yes, He could miraculously in an instant, but again I see this as taking some time.  All the while, the Egyptians are just on the other side of the pillar of fire (night) or cloud (day) trying to figure out how to get to the Israelites.  I suspect their shouts and war cries were heard by the Israelites.  Throughout this time the Israelites had to be still and wait. 

 

This reminds me of Ephesians 6:10-17 where believer’s are encouraged to STAND.  God is the One Who fights for us.  We are to do what we know to do – pray, give, worship, serve, but ultimately when the battle comes, it is God who fights for us.

 

At exactly the right time the ground is dry in the sea bed and the Israelites stream in, through, and out of the Red Sea.  All make it through unscathed.  The Egyptians now are at a fever pitch.  They charge in vowing to destroy Israel in their anger.  But God’s plan is to bring an end to the Egypt phase of their growth and begin the desert phase.  The water crashes down and the Egyptian army is no more.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.”  In every battle there will come a time when we are to simply stand still and know God is in control.  “The battle is mine,” says the Lord God of Hosts.  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” says the Lover of our souls.  “You are my precious child.  I love you with an everlasting love.”

 

Be blessed my friend.  And let God bless through you as you seek to love and serve the LORD.

 

Read Full Post »

Jesus talked about the kingdom of God a lot.  I was told He mentions the Kingdom of God 84 times in the Gospels.  At the very start of His ministry He proclaims in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:15 ESV   https://www.bible.com/bible/59/MRK.1.15.ESV  The Kingdom of God was not a future event Jesus was calling people to prepare for eventually.  The Kingdom of God was a present reality He was calling them to join now.  He is still calling people to join the Kingdom and to partake of the benefits and responsibilities of kingdom citizenship.

Some may ask, if God is good and His Kingdom is present now, then why do we still have school shootings, and wars, and conspiracies, and child molesters and on and on.  Two primary reasons come to mind.  The first is God is patient and desires everyone to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.  Jesus died so that all may enter into the Kingdom of God.  But entrance into the Kingdom is not automatic.

The Kingdom of God is unique.  God the Father is the King and like all Kingdoms He reigns supreme.  I have studied a bit of history the past few years and one of the realizations that I came away with is just how long civilization has existed with monarchies as the primary form of government.  And under good, benevolent kings life flourished.  God is the ultimate in good and benevolent.  His people are not simply subjects to be ruled, but when we enter His kingdom we become His children.  We are heirs with Christ Jesus becoming daughters and sons of the Lord God.  Unique to God’s family, we enter through a dual process.  In a natural family you are either born into it or you can be adopted into it.  But for God’s family we are both born into it and we are adopted into it.

‘Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ‘  John 3:1-8
https://www.bible.com/bible/59/JHN.3.1-8

‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ‘  Romans 8:15-17  https://www.bible.com/bible/59/ROM.8.15-17

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God with His life, death, and resurrection.  The Kingdom of God is a present reality.  But as mentioned in the second paragraph, why are there still bad things that happen?  So God’s mercy is one reason.  God’s plan is the second reason.

There is war in the heavenly realms.  Satan was once an angelic being of high status.  Unfortunately he desired higher status still and pride brought about his downfall.  Since that time he has lead a rebellion against the Lord God.  Humanity is the battlefield.  Mankind is God’s crowning creation.  We are specifically created to be able to choose to love.  That is God’s plan and our purpose.  Satan strives to thwart that.  God will not “make” us love Him because then it wouldn’t truly be love.  And thus we have the reason the Kingdom of God is not fully revealed.  God desires for the Kingdom to be revealed through His children living in such a selfless, loving, sacrificial way that those who are not yet His children will question, will wonder, will be drawn to Him.  He desires that those who don’t yet know Him will become seekers of the Truth behind a people who are manifestly different than the rest.

Being a Jesus-follower for many years now, I can see the Kingdom of God all around me.  But I know it remains obscured to many.  God has called me, along with every born-again child of God, to live in and display the reality of the Kingdom of God right now.  It is not something far off, but here and now.

I thought about today’s post a good bit yesterday as I had a 3-hr drive late in the evening.  I had the title and I had thought about a lot of different things to share about the Kingdom of God, but as I neared my destination, I whispered a prayer, “Lord, give me the words you want me to share.” and I knew He would provide.  As I dreamed last night I met my best friend from high school, Scott.  He was playing in a band.  He had either a clarinet or some other marching band type instrument in his hand.  We haven’t seen each other in quite some time so we hugged and celebrated getting to see each other.  He was preparing for a parade.  I laugh because he told me he was playing three different instruments now.  It was great to see Scott and my heart was full from the visit.  You see, my friend Scott passed away over 17 years ago.  He was an athlete and as far as I know he never played any musical instruments.  But in the presence of the King, he has learned new ways to celebrate and make a joyful sound.

Yes, the Kingdom of God is here right now and it is bigger and better than we realize.

Be blessed my friends.

Read Full Post »

I expected colder temps as I set out for the mountains at 4 am.  What I failed to expect was that the calm where I lived would be replaced by 15 – 20 mph winds.  Fortunately I dressed warm and for the most part I was comfortable.  The hike from 5500 feet to 6000 feet also kept the blood pumping which meant for the first hour I was relatively comfortable.

Shining Rock in the Pisgah National Forest was created as one of the original federal Wilderness Areas when that designation was established in 1964.  The high mountain range consists of a concentrated number of mountain peaks in western North Carolina with several over 5000 feet and three, including Black Balsam Knob, over 6000 feet in elevation.  Surrounded by thickly forested mountains slopes the closest town, Brevard, NC is some 20+ miles south.

As I emerged from my car near the trailhead I was stunned by the vast number of stars visible this far from manmade lights other than those I had just turned off.  Since the moon had set, the stars had the stage all to themselves, and what a performance they gave.  For the second time in two weeks I caught the glimpse of a shooting star as it’s long and invisible existence came to a brief, yet fiery end colliding with the earth’s atmosphere.  The wind was howling as I entered the 200 meters of trail running through the strip of fir trees just off the service road.  I prayed a prayer of thanks for the folks who had laid white rock on the trail through the trees.  It would have been very easy to lose the trail without it.

Breaking through the trees, the expansive view opened to the first hints of light on the horizon.  An hour before the official sunrise, I had time to soak in the immensity and grandeur of the night.  Even without the moon, the stars were bright enough to give a sense of shape and flow to the land.  The dark shape of the mountain rising to my left and the swaying form of the trees I had emerged from falling off to my right were silhouetted against millions of stars.  Toward the eastern horizon the hint of color slowly grew with one bright star shining above the brightest point.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

Psalm 19:1-4a

Creation speaks if we listen.  It is not loud or demanding, but more of a gentle whisper… most of the time.  The message is one of beauty, power, and majesty.  From the top of a cold, windy mountain bald far from civilization I knew the creator’s presence not as in an artist’s work created and left behind, but in a world that He Himself fills and sustains.  God – the Almighty, was there on the mountain and my spirit soared to embrace His loving presence.

Another thought came.  When I look at creation, I realize the utter emptiness of an atheistic point of view.  The belief that all of this – the sun, the moon, the stars, earth and the exact combination of so many variables necessary to sustain life, just happened in a cosmic accident, is far too hard to believe.  That all of this came from nothing is the definition of foolishness.  I don’t make light of the fact that there is much we do not know about life and the universe.  There are mysteries that we mere mortals do not and may not ever know.  But evidence and logic make an indisputable case of an intelligent designer and creator.

As the sun rose I realized that winter had come to the high places.  The trees were all bare and the grass-covered bald was colored in various browns and greys.  As a lover of light and color, the view through the photographer’s lens was much closer to bleak winter than the festive fall I had hoped to capture.

I hiked to the top of Black Balsam Knob.  By this time I had been out in the wind for a couple hours.  Being stationary while trying to snap long exposure shots, the chill had seeped through my gloves.  The fleece-lined jeans were doing their job and my son’s borrowed yarmulke had my head toasty, but I realized my fingers were numbingly cold.  The intensity of the wind made it a challenge to get my fingers warm.  Frost-bite was suddenly a concern.  I looked for shelter, but the trees were about a mile back down the trail over the open mountain ridge.  I had selected the rock out-cropping I was standing by to serve as a foreground element in a few shots.  I suddenly remembered David and Elijah taking refuge in the cleft of a rock.  Sliding down the lee side of the rock from the wind I found immediate relief.  As an added bonus the morning sun was now hitting me without the wind stealing it’s warmth.

Sitting beside the rock I was aware of warmth emanating from within as well as from outside.  The physical rock behind which I sheltered brought to mind the Rock Who is my forever shelter – Jesus Christ.  I had felt His presence the entire time on the mountain, but as the winds swept over and around the rock, I thought of the challenging times of my life when He walked me through.  Sometimes He had to carry me.  Always, His strength was able to supply what I lacked.  With a smile on my face I rested in the relative warmth of the sun and the eternal warmth of the Son.

I did manage to find some color at the lower elevations.  The following shots are some of my favorites of the day.

At mid-afternoon I found myself standing on Caesar’s Head overlooking the Blue Ridge escarpment falling off into the South Carolina piedmont.  A couple hawks and then buzzards flew by, but I did not see any of the Peregrine Falcons I had hoped for.  It was fine though because the view, like so many this day, inspired yet another thought, this time from Isaiah.

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

It’s fitting that the last act of this trip was to make two new friends with whom I shared not only the view off the mountain, but a faith in the Lord.  As we stood there and chatted, we realized that we had been inspired by the view in a very similar manner – with wonder and praise for the Creator of such beauty.  We were standing on a different rock outcropping than my Black Balsam Knob, but since rock was a common thread running through this day, I enjoyed the thought that my two new friends and I were knit together as family because of our common faith in the Rock.  And that Rock’s name is Jesus.

I hope you enjoy the pics.  But even more I hope you are encouraged by the truths the Lord has given to us… to you every bit as much as to me.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”

Psalm 62:8

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:37-39

Be blessed today and be a blessing!

Read Full Post »

When our youngest son announced he was going to complete his under-graduate work in Germany, I began making family travel plans to visit as he completed his studies. Since flights are a major expense we began saving money and vacation time so we could spend three weeks sightseeing in Europe. With over a year to plan, I did a lot of research and built an impressive list of things we wanted to do and see.

As I have stated before, my desire in this blog is to share my faith story in progress – an open, honest picture of the ebbs and flows of one person’s walk with God. I intend to show God’s grace which is a constant even though at times I progress in this life in Christ while at other times I slip. God always uses my misses to teach me valuable life lessons when I give them to Him. Our epic European trip demonstrates this in an unusual, yet marvelous way.

Because trip planning began so early, about March I had a pretty full itinerary for the three weeks in July. It was also about this time that I began sensing a check in my spirit about the trip. By April I had come to realize I had once again rushed ahead of God. I planned this great trip, but it was with a vision of “pack in all the fun and historical sights I can” without really seeking the Lord’s guidance on what to do. I was guilty (once again) of what I believe is all too common for many of us… “Here is what I’m going to do God, please bless it.” Rather than taking the time to seek the Lord’s guidance from the beginning, I rushed ahead and did my own thing.

The climax came during a time of prayer when I realized I had to give up the trip. I was on a business trip later in April when I told the Lord I was willing to give up the trip and I meant it. Even as I began figuring out how to start canceling the multiple elements of the trip, I sensed the Holy Spirit reassure me that if I had a heart to accept His leading throughout the trip, He would be glorified. With this came a sense that I had to hold my plans and expectations for the trip very loosely. Additionally, the understanding came that there may well be challenges to arise that would make the trip less fun than what I was planning. I remember again offering this up to the Lord for His glory.

The trip arrived and we experienced several great days of sight-seeing. One highlight was the many new friends made on our Viking Rhine River cruise. Here are a few of my favorite pics as we visited 6 different places in France, 4 different locations in Switzerland, 6 places in Germany, and one UNESCO World Heritage site in the Netherlands before heading to Prague to begin our final week visiting the Czech Republic, Vienna, and Budapest.

Our arrival in Prague by train from Berlin was a bit chaotic. Expecting our son Sam, who has become quite competent in German, to be our initial guide was a bit unfair. They don’t speak German there. However, between his understanding of city travel in Europe and Google Maps we found our AirBnB and then the E-Bike rental. And this is where the story took an interesting turn.

Most of our E-bike tour in Prague was really great. We had clearing weather and after riding through several interesting spots in the Little Quarter, Old Town, and the Jewish Quarter, we crossed the Vltava River and climbed up to the Castle District. I am including a few pics from this portion of the trip.

After visiting St Vitus Cathedral inside the castle complex we headed further along the Castle Hill. I noticed my front tire was going flat. Since we were close to the end of the trip I assumed I could make it the final half mile. Unfortunately, the final leg was down a relatively steep hill through an orchard. I made it down the straight part but the curve at the bottom proved my undoing. Even riding the brakes hard all the way down the hill I was having difficulty controlling the bike. In the curve, I lost control and crashed landing hard on my right shoulder. I broke my right clavicle at the end next to the shoulder joint.

The realization that I may have done serious damage came pretty quickly. Miss KJ, our guide, came back to check on me when I didn’t show up with everyone else. (I was last in line.) I am so appreciative of her help. We called for the ambulance and she and I sat in the orchard by the bike path waiting for them to arrive. Up to this point my body was somewhat in shock, but as we sat there, crystal clarity came over me. I knew the “vacation” was over for me, but I had an absolute peace. As I began to pray I was absolutely overwhelmed by God’s goodness and love. Instead of prayer, praise just flowed forth. I knew that my plans were gone and yet I could not help but smile because of the certainty of God’s immediate presence which I was experiencing. And I was also aware it was not for my benefit alone, but for Miss KJ and others who might hear this story.

The ambulance ride, the hospital visit, x-rays, and the conclusion that my shoulder was broken and needed surgery consumed the next 3+ hours. Throughout that time though I was never alone even when there was no one else present. I remember two more times when the love of the Lord again became tangibly real. At one point, I was left alone in the front hallway of the hospital facing the open front door. The hospital was in a building that I am sure is older than most (if not all) communities here in the USA. There was no traffic whatsoever outside being on the cul-de-sac of a narrow, cobblestone drive. But there were large trees across the cobblestone drive. As I sat looking at the golden light filtering through the trees, the wind began flirting with the leaves causing branches to sway and leaves to wave. I was reminded of Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit arrives as a mighty wind, touching the lives and enlivening the spirit of those who seek the Lord. And I was again enraptured.

The final divine touch that evening occurred as we were leaving the hospital. Miss KJ had been a tremendous help. None of the medical personnel knew enough English to communicate effectively. Thankfully Miss KJ served as our interpreter. As we left the hospital – my wife, Miss KJ, and I prayed together and the sense of the Lord’s love for us and for Miss KJ was amazing. I have experienced God’s touch many times and in many mountaintop experiences, but what I experienced in Prague with a broken shoulder on that Sunday evening was miraculous. No pain meds, no real treatment other than to be x-rayed and given an arm sling, nothing but the Lord’s grace carried us through a broken shoulder and the loss of 6 vacation days with peace and even joy.

As I type this one handed… with my left hand… it’s 16 days later. I have had surgery and I have a hook plate installed holding my clavicle together so it can mend. I have learned to do most things left handed. I am functional, if neither fast nor good with the left hand. And there are some things I simply can’t do now that I could before the fall. But these things are all temporary.

I didn’t have regrets as I sat in that orchard realizing our vacation was over and I still don’t. Because the Father had brought me to a place of relinquishing control, I have not been battered by what-if’s and regrets. I know that the Father’s plan is perfect. I am satisfied that in my accident, God is bringing good out of it. He is revealing Himself to others and meeting needs that otherwise would have remained hidden and unmet. And that makes me smile. My arm may be in a sling, but my life is in His hands and that’s a marvelous place to be.

Be blessed my friends. Seek the Lord with all your heart and you will find that He is but a whisper away.

Don’t forget to be the blessing you were created to be!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »