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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

As I looked out my window at the rain-splashed tarmac a heaviness strove to lay hold of my soul.  Gray thoughts swirled through my mind –

  • “it’s cold, damp, and nasty outside and this is just the beginning”…
  • “winter’s coming and outside fun is gone for several months”…
  • “I have too much to do and too little time to do it”…
  • “this country is heading in a dangerous direction and I don’t know why people don’t see it”…
  • “this election isn’t going to provide a leader to unite and heal this country”…

A whispered prayer – “Lord help me to see differently.”

Suddenly my thoughts shifted.  Even though the plane had not yet moved my mind went to the ascent we were about to make.  In my mind’s eye I could see the gray giving way to the white of clouds all around.  That white growing gradually brighter until suddenly we burst through into brilliant sunshine.  And my spirit soared.

I know the sun is always there – clouds or not.  Yet there are times when what I see overwhelms and dominates what I know.  More importantly, my mind can then make projections from what I see to build a future that carries me away from what I know.  Worry, anxious thoughts, discouragement, and depression are waypoints on the road my thoughts will wander if I forget what I know.

Jesus is every bit as real as the sun.  In fact Malachi prophetically speaks of Jesus as “the sun of righteousness who will rise with healing in His wings”.  Simply stated that is what I experienced in a small way that morning.

Interestingly my flight was a rather short one so we did not get to a high enough altitude to fully break through to sunshine on that leg.  I watched for it with eager anticipation but the brilliant break-through was not achieved.  But it was not an issue.  I remembered the sun and I was content to wait.

As I sat on my next flight I engaged my seat mate in some light conversation.  He was amenable and so began a 90 minute conversation starting with work but ranging far and wide from family to travel to the election (I usually don’t go there) to church and faith.  And it was wonderful.  I thoroughly enjoyed making a new friend… so much so that I hardly noticed the weather outside.

After landing I grabbed my bags knowing I had a fairly tight schedule, but I felt the Lord’s nudge to linger for a final word with my friend.  As two new friends it would be normal to part with a firm handshake and a word of encouragement.  But as two newly found brothers in Christ we had the opportunity to go to our heavenly Father with a word of prayer and thanksgiving before parting.

As I then hustled to my car I stepped out the front door of the airport into glorious sunshine… and my heart soared with gratitude anew.  It may have taken a little longer than I first thought, but the sun is always there on the other side of the clouds.  Faith reminds us it’s there.  Patience and perseverance help us get to where we can see it.   And thanksgiving is our right response when we arrive.

Thank you Lord for your loving-kindness to us and to all mankind.  Please use me, use us, to point to you, to reflect your grace in a manner that others can see and receive.  Be glorified in us today.  In Jesus Name!

 

 

 

 

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I serve on the Care Team at Church.  We meet people with God’s love and give them hope.  I feel called to this.  But it’s not always easy. 

From the conversations I have I see that Hope is a commodity often in short supply.  Usually the visit for care is the result of multiple crises in a person’s life.  Often it is the result of personal decisions combined with events outside their control.  Almost always there is some degree of loss that precedes the loss of hope… decline in health, the passing of a loved one, a job loss, a broken relationship…  The end result is that the initial loss precipitates a void wherein hope is drained from the individual.

Our goal in Care is very simple.  We seek to allow the Lord to work through us to help the Care Receiver know that Jesus loves and cares for them.  It is amazing how He does this.  Empathy is our connection point.  Often the Father matches life experiences that the Caregivers have walked through with the challenges the Care Receiver is facing.  This empathy is more than just important, it is essential in being a conduit of God’s love and hope.  We do not theorize, postulate, or pontificate, but rather we seek to be like Jesus and know the person as a valued child of God.  With this relationship established we are able to take the next step.

With sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and an attitude of love, we seek to help the individual identify the root of the loss.  In most cases there are decisions that have been made that need to be understood.  While we seek to deal gently with the broken, we do not treat sin lightly.  It is vitally important that sin be clearly identified and labeled as what it is.  While not all poor decisions are necessarily sin, those that are must be confessed and repented of.  The Word of God is the key here.  With Love we share what the Bible says and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  (Sidenote – It appears to me that where we Christians gain a black eye in the public realm is when we take on the role of prosecuting attorney for God.  Don’t get me wrong, we are to flee from sin, to resist the devil, and do all in our power to promote what is good, decent, and godly.  But if we simply speak the truth from the Word of God, we can leave the emphasizing of what that means to the Holy Spirit.) 

Where it is possible, attempts to undo the damage of the sin are appropriate.  Restitution is a bold, and often beneficial step in the process of repentance.  When I became a believer there was a person I had wronged in my college days.  The Lord impressed upon me that I had a concrete step to take with that person so I drove 600 miles for a face-to-face confession of my sin and to ask for forgiveness.  At the time I was just trying to be obedient to what I understood the Lord was showing me I needed to do.  Today I recognize that it was a major step in my growth as a believer which freed me to be ready for what lay ahead.

Many times forgiveness is a key act in the repentance and healing process.  One of the diabolical aspects of sin is that the victim is often the one who ends up bound in cords of unforgiveness.  There is great liberty in forgiving someone who has done you wrong.  I have had a few “done unto” events and I can honestly say that the Lord has blessed me, not in spite of those things, but through those events after I forgave and then gave the situation to Him.  This is something I have personally experienced and it is essential in the healing process.  (Truth in writing, the forgiving part requires persistence.  The enemy will initially bring the event back up to try and revive the pain and emotional turmoil.  This is a good time to rebuke the thought and repeat your decision to forgive and verbalize that it is in the Lord’s hands.) 

This post is about hope, but it is necessary to understand that hope is a tender flower that requires the proper soil.  What I have described above is required to prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed of hope.  Make no mistake, hope will not flourish in the wrong environment.  There is a plethora of hope-killers waiting to stamp out the flower of hope, but Jesus’ words should encourage us – “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”  He is the MASTER Gardener and the Giver of Hope.

Which brings us to the next step – sharing the Word of Life.  The bible is full of God’s promises.  In caregiving this is an apt time to share words that speak into the Care Receiver’s life situation.  Frequently after a conversation I stand amazed at how the Lord brought the right scripture to mind at the perfect time in a conversation.  It is important to regularly read the Word so that it performs its transformative work in you (Romans 12:1-2) and becomes the source of your wisdom to share with others.  The final piece of this is the active work of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the right word for us to speak and then apply that word in the Care Receiver’s life.    

This leads to the climatic step in Care Giving – Prayer.  I’ve mentioned speaking and verbalizing a couple of times already.  I’m prompted today to mention that it is often necessary to speak things into existence.  The bible begins with God speaking all of creation into existence.  Through the Old Testament we see God putting His words into the mouths of His prophets.  When Jesus walked the earth He spoke and people were changed, healed, delivered, saved.  He even spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed Him.  He is the Lord God Almighty.  To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:9-11).  Now for a time He has chosen in His great mercy to give mankind a little more time to turn to Him.  In this window we do not yet see everything under the heavens fully submitted to Him.  But make no mistake, it is all under His dominion. 

As believers God has placed His Holy Spirit into us.  We are His ambassadors.  An ambassador is a representative of a sovereign nation living and residing in a foreign land.  Even though they live in a different country, the full weight of their home country rests upon them.  When they speak, they are speaking for their home country.  As Christ’s ambassadors, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to speak God’s Word and His words into lives.  Prayer is how we do this.  God gives us the responsibility and privilege of praying what He wants to do in the lives of those He sends our way.  The enormity and mystery of this overwhelms me, but I have experienced it too many times to ignore or discount.

The final step is living out the hope which God has called us to dispense.  In some instances, it will mean we walk with the Care Receiver for a time, for a season, or as life-long friends.  In other instances, it will mean praying for and encouraging them for just that intersection of time, trusting the Lord to continue the good work He has begun.  In every situation though, God has called us to look to Him in child-like trust and nurture the hope that He promises us in His word and He places in our heart. 

A final application.  Please forgive me ahead of time for this final inclusion, but it is a burden I’ve been bearing for several weeks now.  It is also the primary reason I haven’t blogged in a while.  You see, I, like a lot of Americans, am disappointed in what I see in our political process.  It wearies me to see the division and acrimony blasted forth for all to see and endure.  I do not see hope there.  I have chosen a candidate to vote for, but it is more because I see a terrible choice and a little less bad choice.  My friend this has tended to get my eyes off the Lord and onto lesser things.  This weekend I was able to minister care to others dealing with real world, right now issues and I was able to fellowship with others who love God and are striving to live lives of abundant hope.  In so doing I saw my malady for what it was.  I was being drawn to put at least a portion of my faith in things that are not worthy of my faith, nor able to give real hope. 

And then I lifted my eyes…  Jesus is the only one worthy of my total faith and the only one who gives real hope.  And that hope does not disappoint!  (Romans 5:1-5)

Two final thoughts.  I finished this blog last night, but for some reason I didn’t post it.  This morning I woke and called my wife to do our devotion.  (I travel a lot in my work so we do our devotion together over the phone each morning.) The following scripture just jumped out at me.  It is the exclamation point from the Word on what I have said.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of four of our youngest son’s friends in a tragic car accident.  James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah are not here with us any longer.  The pain and loss is still very real for their family and friends.  But with eyes of faith we look forward to the day when we will see them again.  They trusted the Lord and were His children.  And one day we too will pass from this life to larger life.  And the reunion will be real and it will be good.  This is hope that we can hold onto.

Take care my friend.  May the Lord richly bless you today as you live a life of tangible hope.

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God is almost never limited by our lack.

We can lack money and yet God can provide the means for whatever He calls us to do.  My thoughts run to a little boy with two fish and five loaves on a remote hillside with Jesus and a crowd of thousands, hungry after a day of teaching and healing.

We can lack strength and yet Paul passes on what Jesus said to Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

We can lack intellect, but God can still use us.  I have been in a number of situations where I did not know “the answer” and yet the answer has always come.

But I realized the other day that there is one definite lack on our part that can constrain God… the lack of humility!  The lack of humility is powerful, ugly, and spiritually deadly.

There is value in specifically saying “lack of humility” and not simply calling it pride.  Being proud of your children, your country, your church can all stray into an unhealthy region, but for the most part these do not capture the attitude that the bible means when it says in a number of places, “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6).  The lack of humility is that kind of proud.  It is a cancer that sucks the life out of relationships, beginning with our relationship with the Father.

God loves us and He wants us to live in intimacy with Him.  The level of intimacy God desires is predicated upon mutual love, trust, and honesty.  Coming clean about every aspect of our life – from acts done or not done, words uttered or not uttered, even thoughts we’ve harbored requires a humility and honesty that does not come easily to us.  In fact it often requires a degree of divine support to achieve.  But He is near to us to lend us this help if we but bend our hearts toward Him in humility.

As I consider what this humility looks like several pictures come to mind.  A child listening in rapt attention and a teachable spirit… a parent returning from deployment falling on their knees and embracing their family… a “terminally” ill patient who is given a new lease on life.  God is the giver of all good gifts.  As He gives what He desires (which is always better than what we deserve) we should recognize the opportunity to give thanks and receive with humility all that the Lord wants for us.  Often, it is in these moments that He will speak wisdom into our lives that we can’t hear otherwise.

This morning I awoke with a very clear picture of what the lack of humility looks like.  It is one of the formational stories of the nation of Israel and it is found in the 2nd book of the bible, Exodus.  What had begun as a flight to sanctuary at the end of the Genesis had become servitude and slavery 400 years later.  The Pharaoh’s government had become a hard task-master and the people of Israel were crying out for deliverance.  God raised up Moses to serve as His human voice.  The message to Pharaoh was simple, “Let my people go.”  But Pharaoh, who was considered a god in that culture, refused.  Time and again God sent signs of His power and authority to convince Pharaoh and give Him the opportunity to bend His will to the Lord Almighty.  But Pharaoh would not.  The bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Friends, this is a vital spiritual truth.  The longer and harder we resist the Lord, the more difficult it becomes to respond to Him.  It is not that God’s love is not there nor is it that He won’t accept us.  The issue is that until we are humble enough to acknowledge that He is God and we are not, we can’t bend our knee to Him and submit to the foundational truth of faith that God is the great “I AM”, the wholly, Holy Other.  While I am thrilled that my heavenly Father loves me and desires to fellowship with me, it never changes the fact that He is the LORD God Almighty, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The lack of humility can keep a person from accepting Christ, God’s provision to reconcile fallen humans with Himself.  But it can also rear it’s ugly head after conversion and stifle the spiritual growth the Lord intends for His children.  When I consider my faith walk, I can see how the lack of humility was a key factor in many of the lulls.

The message of today’s post is simple.  Take a moment to examine your life.  Do you have a deficit of humility that is limiting your relationship with God and others?  Are you thankful for the small gifts of grace you receive or are you disappointed because you feel slighted in some way?  Is God actively speaking to you and using you for positive change or is it quiet when you call out to Him?  If any of these answers make you realize that you have a deficit of humility, congratulations! Recognizing this is the hardest step.  Turn to God with your whole heart, acknowledge your sin (if you haven’t already figured it out, the lack of humility is a sin), accept His Lordship over you, and begin to walk in fresh fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The limits of our intellect do not in any way limit God’s ability to use us.  The limits of our humility constrain how, and how much God can work in and through us.  Choose humility and throw off those constraints.  Reach for the Father’s hand and talk a walk with the One Who loves you to the uttermost.  You will be so happy that you did.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing to those the Lord puts in your life today.

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One of the main events at Gauntlet each year is the sunrise baptism in the ocean.  This year 1400 persons waded into the Atlantic Ocean to be baptized in a pattern followed by  Christ-followers for close to 2000 years.  Baptism is a rich symbol in the Christian faith.  In baptism we are identifying with Jesus is His death and burial as we plunge under the water.  In rising out of the water we are connecting with His resurrection from the dead.  Baptism is an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace God has given us in our salvation.  By baptism we proclaim we are followers of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

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Even as organized as our church has become through the 10 previous Gauntlets, baptism of 1400 people takes some time and creates quite a spectacle.  Below are a few pics of the service.  Three short vignettes stand out to me.

First, we met and spoke with Maddie as she provided Life guard support.  I explained how Jesus is real and that baptism is a person’s next step after accepting Him as their savior.  Maddie is at a life change point as she enters her final year in college.  She has questions about what she is going to do with her life.  As we walked away after praying with her, I could sense the Holy Spirit stirring in her heart.  I pray that she too will soon be baptized and experience the joy and peace that Jesus gives.

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The next shots are from the lifeguard seat in the middle of our service.  One of the staff came up to me and pointed out the man kneeling in the sand to the south of our group.  He had wandered up early in the baptism and, after chatting with some of our folks, fell to his knees and remained there for the entire time I was there – close to an hour that I know of.  His posture of prayer over our group remains one of the most poignant images for me of the week.  It also reminded me that there were literally thousands of people back home praying for us before and during the Gauntlet.

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The final Baptism morning vignette was when Greg, Dylan and I held our devotion on the pier.  We wanted a vantage point where we could continue to observe and pray for the baptism service, but also open the Word and see what God had in store for us.  As we finished an older gentleman from the restaurant on the pier approached and asked what was going on up the beach.  I shared about the baptism and Gauntlet which lead to an engaging conversation with Mark.  A one-time minister, Mark had slipped and backslidden to the point that he had ended up on the streets.  A year and a half earlier he decided he had to turn his life around so for 16 months he had worked at the restaurant and was staying away from the drink and other temptations that had caused him to fall.  We prayed with Mark.  I was blessed as my guys were fully engaged in the conversation, even encouraging Mark to watch the services on-line.

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So many people… so many God-stories… so many miracles… such an amazing God.

The next post will be about the worship.  The one after that is about one of the mighty miracles that occurred and which is continuing to play out in a most marvelous way.

God is moving… the wave started in the student section and it is growing in intensity.  Come Lord Jesus – overwhelm us with more of you.

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While many think that doubt is the opposite of faith, I’m not so sure.  I have come to believe that fear may be a better antithesis of faith.  At the very least fear is a highly effective tool that keeps us from experiencing the peace, joy, and power-filled life that God intends for His people.  Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”  Where fear reigns, the people are not living in the spiritual empowerment God has given.  I have just walked through a bit of a fear testing and God has brought me through with a stronger faith and a renewed sense of His abiding presence.

You see, almost two years ago, I had a near brush with death that the Lord miraculously saved me from.  I will repost that after I finish this.  Ultimately I had three stents installed in my heart for significant blockages and a life with a modified diet, meds, and a great sense of thankfulness began.  The past year saw many more changes in my life – leaving regular employment to become an independent consultant, beginning to travel extensively, and admittedly, beginning to slack off on the rigorous heart-healthy diet I had followed for over a year.  For the record I didn’t abandon it entirely.  I just wasn’t nearly as anal about it.  For over a year I pretty much followed my wife’s advice – “if it tastes good, spit it out.”  Well flavor had been reintroduced into my life and, without touching the salt shaker, I had begun to enjoy eating again.

For the past month and a half I have been feeling guilty about enjoying food again.  And I put on about 7 pounds over the past 5 months.  So when I started feeling a little winded after walking up steps and a little ache in my chest, I immediately attributed it to a recurrence of heart issues.  The voice in my head immediately began telling me that “I was a goner”.  “God may have protected you once, but this time you have brought it on yourself with your awful eating habits.”  “You might as well give up, you’ve got heart disease and that’s just the way it is.”  There were plenty of other thoughts going on, but you get the drift.  Oh, there were also three or four conversations I was either in or overhead about someone having a heart attack or heart issues during these few days.  These just added more fuel to the fire of my fearful thoughts.

I mentioned this to Lisa on Tuesday evening and asked her to set up a doctor’s appointment for me and to pray for me.  I mentioned it to a few others the next couple of days asking for prayer, but I tried not to make too big a deal of it.  On Thursday afternoon the doctor’s office called me back to set up the appointment.  I had a choice – go to the ER, come in within a few days and see the nurse practitioner, or see the doctor in a little over a month.  It’s funny, even with all these fear-mongering thoughts clamoring for supremacy in my mind, I chose a faith response.  I said set me up for the doctor and we’ll do my annual check-up.  After I hung up the fear thoughts attacked in a rush, but at the moment she asked the question it was clear I needed to just see the doctor when he was available.

While I would like to tell you I was given a boost of faith that buoyed me, that was not the case this time.  (I have had that happen before, but not this time.)  Instead the thoughts kept coming.  Now I think I may have slipped into a helpful act of faith just by practicing an aspect of my regular devotion to the Lord.  This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent and the start of a focused season of preparation for Easter.  I typically fast on Ash Wednesday, but with the meetings I was involved in and travel, I postponed it.  After the call with the doctor’s office, I decided that if I was not going to rush in for an urgent check-up, then I was not going to put off the Fast for the start of Lent.  So Friday I undertook a simple 24-hour fast.  While many would say that isn’t much of a Fast, it was both an act of surrender and an act of faith for me to trust that the Lord would protect and carry me through.

Lisa and I went over to my parent’s where I wielded the chainsaw and used the bandsaw with my Dad to handle some chores he needed help with.  Now is when the faith boost occurred.  The entire time I was working – lifting big logs, running the saws, and performing several physically demanding tasks, my heart was fine.  In fact I felt surprisingly good for a Fast.  As I got ready for bed I felt a few more twinges in my chest, but I gave them to God and for the first time since this period began, I laid down simply trusting that God was going to take care of me.  The previous several nights I laid down wondering if I had missed the Lord’s guidance or if it was my time to go home.  For the first night in several I slept and did not wake up wondering if I was having symptoms of a heart attack.

The final piece came the next morning.  I rose early as is my routine and had a quiet time with my Dad.  I had not mentioned my struggle of the previous week or so, but I explained it then without too much fanfare.  He smiled as I talked and he held a look of confidence as I finished my story.  You see, I suspected Dad could relate.  He had a heart attack at age 53, the same age I was when they found my three blockages.  And he has lived with heart disease now for 25 years.  He shared some simple truths about heart disease that I hadn’t really considered.  His perspective was simple, straight-forward, and connected to a living faith that gave me a steady place to stand.

Even as I write this, I realize that writing with my laptop on my lap isn’t the best ergonomic way to blog… at least not if you don’t want an achy chest from having to scrunch your shoulders.  And all that plane travel and carrying a very heavy computer bag and a camera bag – well that’s a good way to create body aches too.

So, I’m achy, but I’m not fearful.  I am in need of a bit more regular exercise, but I’m not dying.  I should eat a little bit wiser, but flavor is not forever forbidden to me.  God has shown me once again that He cares for me and that I can trust Him.  I grasp all that in my head.  It is not knowledge that I lack so much as the settling of that knowledge into my heart where it becomes faith.  Because in the end, it is what is in our heart that really matters.

 

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We all have a purpose.  In fact, most of us have multiple purposes.  For example, with four children I know that one of my purposes is to love, train, and encourage my children to find and fulfill their purpose in life.  I also recognize that I have a specific calling to be an encourager.  It is a joy for me to have an apt word that picks someone up, that opens their eyes to possibilities, to see a truth click within them.  Since I am flying a lot now I get to meet new people almost every trip.  Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting next to an encourager.  Her name was Jeb.

Jeb is a two-time cancer survivor – 8 and then 5 years ago.  She was actually traveling home for an intermediate stay between visits to a hospital in another state.  She is having follow up treatments for different ailment, one that had almost claimed her life recently.  However her joyful, exuberant spirit belied her medical challenges and, if she had not told me, I would never have guessed that she had been through these challenges.  One of the things we learned fairly early is that we share a faith in God and recognize that Jesus Christ in our savior.

One story that Jeb shared about her second round of chemo really resonated with me.  Having been through surgery and chemo once already, the memory of how difficult it was the first time weighed heavily on her mind.  She asked the Lord to help her through and she specifically asked to see a minor miracle each day as she walked through the trial of chemo.  Well, our Father honored that prayer.  I was blessed as she shared a number of ways that God provided minor miracles every day.  The side-effects were actually more severe the second time, but as she experienced God’s touch through miracles, primarily through nature, I could see that He provided just what she needed, when she needed it.

Jeb accepted that she had cancer.  But she chose to seek life holding firmly onto God’s hand.  And because she did, I had the opportunity to be encouraged by her.  Thank you Jeb for sharing your life with me in that hour or so we sat and chatted.  And thank you Father for arranging divine meetings.

I recognize that not everyone has the calling of being an encourager, but we all are called to know God and make Him known.  I encourage you today to seek His face.  He is there and He will respond.  Faith is necessary, but my experience (as well as the testimony of scripture) is that if you truly and earnestly seek Him, God will meet you where you are and draw you to Himself.  And life with Him is our ultimate purpose.

I hope to post an encouraging word each day through Lent.  Please feel free to comment.  I would also love to pray for or with you.  Send me a private message and we will correspond.

Be blessed today my friend.

 

 

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I am usually a very solid sleeper.  This morning sleep alludes me and thoughts of myriad concerns and big truths swirl in my mind.  It strikes me that if I were to fully rest in the big truths, the myriad concerns would shrink into insignificance.  So I think I will capture the big truths here and see what happens.

God is omniscient.

God is sovereign.

God is in control.

No matter what the view appears to be at the current moment, in the big picture God knows how He is going to bring good out of the present situation.  As I write this a scene from a movie comes to mind.  In the movie Sahara, Penelope Cruz has been lowered into a well in the desert.  While she is in there the bad guys come up and reek havoc.  She can only see a small sliver of sky but she hears the commotion and she knows the situation is dire.  As the scene continues to develop we see the two good guys coming up with a plan (albeit a seat-of-their-pants plan) and they save the day.  The analogy here is about Penelope in the well.  She can only see and hear a small part of what is unfolding much like we are in our times of distress.  But God is never surprised by the difficulties that we experience.  He is ready to meet us in the hard place and help us through it.  By the way, the analogy breaks down about the seat-of-the-pants plan.  God’s already aware of what He is going to do.  He is just waiting on us to exercise faith in Him to execute His plan.

God is good.

Now this big truth can only be handled exercising that faith I mentioned above.  A week ago today, a vile act was perpetrated upon college students in Roseburg, Oregon as a troubled young man took the lives of 9 college students and wounded 10 others.  He specifically targeted Christians.  “But wait a minute,” you might say.  “Aren’t they supposed to be the ones in the bottom of the well exercising their faith to be saved?”  Excellent and very important question.  The answer is that many times they are, but sometimes our purpose on this side of eternity is not to be saved so much from physical death, but to help save others from eternal death.  Let me get to the next big truth before I finish answering.

God sees the BIG Picture and He moves in accordance to our ultimate good.

The big picture includes the time we live on this earth AND eternity on the other side of death.  I guess you can add this to the list of Big Truths – there is life beyond the grave.  God knows this because He created it.  He has laid out a very clear way for us to enter into His joy in this place called heaven.  It is through faith in His Son, Jesus, whom He sent to die in our place on the cross.  Part of the big picture is that God wants that message to get out to all people.  Back to the victims of the violence in Oregon, they were killed because they stood up for Jesus.  I have asked myself a number of times, would I have that kind of faith.  I would hope so but as they say you don’t know until you are in it.  The Lord promises that He will help us in our hour of need.  I believe that means I would have the faith to stand regardless of the price I would pay.  Those victims had a reassurance that God was with them whether they lived through it or they went on to heaven.  The same is true for several victims of the shooting in Columbine, Colorado.  They were killed because of their faith.  Yet we can look to what happened in Columbine to realize that God used that terrible tragedy to bring many to faith.  I am confident that the Lord will use the sacrifice of those brave believers in Oregon to open many hearts to His redeeming love and grace.

There is an invisible war raging around us in the spirit realm and God has a role for us to play.

This is summarized in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Paul, the writer of this letter, goes on to explain how the believer is to put on the full armor of God.  He ends his description with a call to pray.  Ephesians 6:18  “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  We do not have to stand idly by and watch the enemy run rough-shod over God’s people or over the many who have not yet come to faith.  In fact we are specifically called to intercede, to stand in the gap, to faithfully articulate the Gospel, to exercise the rights and duties as citizens for the common good.  If those who know God will exercise their faith in listening and obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit, God’s plan will unfold in an amazing way.

Truth is not relative.  God is and truth originates in Him.

Islam and Christianity are not the same, they do not worship the same God, and they are a direct manifestation of that invisible war that Paul mentions in Ephesians.

Islam is not our friend, no matter how influential it’s proponents might be.  It is a man-made religion that promotes a strong deception wrapped in a maze of impossible to fulfill rules.  Sadly, it’s use of intimidation, manipulation, and power appeal to the baser instincts in man.  What perplexes me is why any thinking woman would ever willingly submit to the terrible dehumanization of Islam.  I understand the psychology of it a little… the constant repetition, the unrelenting intimidation to accept the belief system, the concern of being ostracized if you don’t conform and accept, these force women to a place where the only hope seems to be in acceptance.  It is no wonder why they do not want women to be educated.  Yet we who live outside that dark shadow know the truth.  Male and female where created by God to be partners, not master and slave.  Different strengths and weaknesses, different roles in many cases, but equally loved and cherished by the one true God, the God of the Judeo-Christian faith, the God of the bible.

The Christian faith is about a relationship with God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, by the power of His Holy Spirit who lives within us.

It is possible to have the outward appearance of Christian faith, i.e. go to church, read the bible, pray, wear Christian jewelry, etc. and not have the relationship.  I can say that from experience.  I did all those things for several years, but in my heart I had areas were I chose to do what I wanted to do.  When I finally said yes to God and I gave my life fully over to Jesus’ Lordship, dramatic and wonderful changes took place.  I experienced a transformation as His Holy Spirit moved in.  I experienced salvation immediately and the process of sanctification of my life began.  I recently past my 32nd year of new life in Christ and I love Him more today than ever.  And He is still pointing out areas where I can manifest more of His love, His mercy, His grace.  Step by step He leads me in a love relationship that just seems to get better and better.

I know I get wordy.  Please forgive me.  However if you have read this far let me tell you one final story.  Twenty six years ago I was awakened one minute earlier than I awoke this morning, 2:22 am.  On that occasion I assumed God wanted me to pray for something or someone as I had become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudge usually being linked to a prompting to pray for someone.  I rolled out of bed onto my knees that night ready to pray, but it was quiet in my Spirit.  I waited several seconds and then I asked, “What is it Lord?”  To which the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to my Spirit, “Dan, I am going to have you say special things to special people.  And to prove it I’m going to take care of your house today.”  God produced the miraculous provision of a home that we then owned and raised our family in for 18 years beginning the next day.  I may share the full story at some time, however my point this morning is that the miracle was to validate to me that God would give me special things to say and I needed to say them.

If you are reading this then I am confident you are one of the special people God was referring to.  Ask Him to show you the BIG truths that you don’t already have a firm hold on.  Ask Him to help you see Truth and accept it.  Most important, ask Him to make Himself, clear to you.  Because He is real and He loves you, I am totally confident He will begin to move in ways that provide you with increasing faith to know and to grow into Christ Jesus – the One Who loves us more than we can comprehend.

Now unto Him Who is the truest, most ardent lover of your soul and mine, be glory, honor, praise and dominion, forever and ever. Amen!

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