He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, March 30, 2015

Joy In Restoration

            Easter is only a week away and many people are getting ready to celebrate.  Easter egg hunts are organized, churches plan for communion, foot washing ceremonies, Good Friday and Sunday sunrise services and there are others, depending on denomination and tradition. Regardless of how we celebrate we are remembering the Risen Christ.

            Can you imagine what our life would be like if Jesus hadn’t come as the perfect sacrifice?  God has been since time began.  He created the perfect world, yet man chose to sully it with sin.  Since the first infraction, we have continued to make bad choices!  Yet God in his divine mercy forgives us.  He doesn’t look at us without compassion or understanding when we repent, but stretches out his arms and welcomes us back into his arms.

            King David was considered “a man after God’s own heart,” yet he was human and often made bad choices.  He chose many wives and specifically another man’s wife, had an affair, had the husband killed and more.  Still he cried out to God, “Don’t give up on me!” He loved God and was passionate about worshiping him. He asked for God to “Create in me a clean heart!” and begged God to not “banish him from his (God’s) presence.”  David recognized his failures, repented and accepted the punishment.

            King David was not the only Biblical figure to make bad choices. Cain killed his brother; Abraham lied to kings as he traveled; King Saul who actually started out good, ended up trying to kill David; and Saul who later became Paul, was adamant about persecuting Christians before God changed his life.

We are no different.  Everyday we make choices and everyday we fail.  We are nothing more that broken vessels who keep trying to live according to God’s will.  Our lives can often be paralleled to the dry, broken, bones as described in Ezekiel before God breathed life into them.  Just as God breathed new life into those dry bones, He breathes new life into us daily as we repent of our failures and start anew.  Every day offers a new opportunity to make things right!

When God makes the changes others can see, are we surprised?  I think sometimes we might be.  There are times when God makes such dramatic changes in lives, there is an element of surprise and perhaps even suspicion.  Consider again, Saul who became Paul.  People weren’t sure they could trust him since they were completely aware of his past behaviors. 

People can be uncertain how to respond to us when we’ve allowed God to restore us to His salvation and creates in us the genuine desire to follow His will and choose his guidance and direction over the ways of the world. 

As a child of the King, we need not be surprised at his ability to change a mere human’s heart.  He’s done other great things, even giving life to the dead.  Jesus, the Messiah, is the perfect example of this.  Jesus willingly went to the cross as the perfect sacrifice and then he was raised from the dead so we can be assured of serving a living God. 

God kept his promise to send the Messiah.  It is this reason we celebrate Resurrection Sunday.  He will also keep his promise to again return.  I hope you’re ready!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shells In The Sand

          Friends of mine went on a cruise recently and looked forward to a week of warm weather, rest and relaxation.  They left port without incident, but it wasn’t long before the water became choppy and rough as wave swells licked the side of the port holes in their cabin.  The next day didn’t prove much better, as the waves continued to batter the boat causing it to bounce from wave to wave.  Needless to say, they were pleased when the boat reached their destination and were able to wiggle their toes in the warm sand.

Our life journey is much like this.  We make a decision, certain, “good times are ahead,” and then once we enter the circumstance we find ourselves shaken to the core by satan, as he schemes to deliver blow after blow to our confidence in having made the right decision. 

Sometimes our confidence is shaken because we really have made the wrong decision.  We joined ranks with someone (or something) which we knew going in, wasn’t of God, yet the world, through demonic means, has the ability to make even things we know to be wrong, alluring.  We made a decision without consulting God first, got caught up in the sticky web and find ourselves fighting for our spiritual lives!

Other times our confidence is shaken because God wants to test us.  He uses circumstances to make us stronger because He knows what is before us.  We might need this trial to be able to deal with something larger and more foreboding than what we have before us at the present time.  It’s in these trials, we learn to lean more on Him.  The truth is, “stuff happens.”  We live in a fallen world and bad things happen to good people. It may have nothing to do with our choice, but the world’s.  God is strengthening our spirit so we can endure a greater coming, hardship.

It’s times like these when we have to look for the little nuggets, like “shells in the sand” so we can see the glimmer of blessing in whatever situation we are in.  These blessings can remind us that trouble has a limited time and space in this world, but salvation is eternal and the time will come, as a saved child of God, when the trials and evils of this world will no longer be.   We are conquerors, and will prevail completely!

            I won’t suggest or even infer our days will be easy, even when we make the right choice.  The world and satan are all around us ready to “throw sand in the joints” so things seem to grate and grind.  God has the right ingredients or “medicine” which can be found in His Word or through prayer to help us move forward.  It is through him we can be cleansed and made whole.  It is by His power we have the ability to see the shells in the sand, even when the wave is ready to pull us into the unforgiving current.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Condition Of The Heart

          A friend of mine shared he’s recently lost his job due to health reasons.  He’s been unable to maintain the pace for sometime and they finally decided it was in the best interest of all concerned that he leave for the benefit of his health and family, as well as, the company.  This of course, left him in quite the dilemma since he has a wife and children.  Undaunted, however, he says, “God will provide.”

            Not surprising then, he discovered he has the opportunity to begin a new adventure in a completely different arena which would allow him to remain home, deal with his health issues, yet have a means to support his family.  How does this happen? 

           We all have things we are sure we must have to be happy.  Very often it includes a good deal of “stuff” that in truth, we only want, not really need.  Sometimes it’s very hard to separate the two, given the world we live in where everything we “want” is considered a need.   To be without any of the latest technological inventions, latest fashion, or lifestyle we desire, we believe we are absolutely in “need!” 

            I suggest it’s perspective and the condition of the heart.  It’s clear this young man completely believes God has control of the situation and knows what is best, even though the road and challenges before him are unknown.  I would like to think I have that kind of faith.  It takes courage to not buckle under when it seems like the world is throwing you a curve ball and you’re striking out, especially when it affects the people who count on you, and those you love.

            I admit, I don’t always have that kind of faith.  I become fearful and stress over whether I can do anything to improve my situation and if I can’t, what’s going to happen next?  It takes great focus to place my trust in God, even though I know He is there, knows what’s going on, cares about my life and wants only the best for me.

            When I ask the young man how he does it, he explains he spends a good deal of time in God’s Word, on his knees in prayer and in the company of people who support and encourage him. 

            In our world of “fix it right now—and immediate gratification” we lose sight of what is important.  We focus on what is happening right this moment, how we can be in control of whatever situation has become problematic and panic when we can’t.

            We seldom interact with God when things are going well and the world seems to be running according to plan.  It’s only when our lives are in turmoil that we find the need to be in communication with the Supreme Power of our lives.  When we finally feel like we need Him, we want immediate results!  And when the results, sometimes of a crisis we’re partly responsible for due to choices we have made, doesn’t happen when or the way we planned, we become impatient and angry.

            I challenge you to consider the tumultuous life circumstances you are currently dealing with.  It might be finances, health, children, parents, moving, a job or any number of issues.  When was the last time you took these issues, individually to the Lord and asked for His help or guidance?  Have you, like my young friend, found yourself lost in His Word, listening for His voice, or in fellowship of other believers before a situation became a crisis?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Remembering With A Thankful Heart

Some weeks ago I came across the following question/quote.  I have no idea who said it or where I saw it, but it struck me as important.  “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”
A friend of mine, about a year ago, lost a daughter to Cystic Fibrosis.  The family misses her but holds on and cherishes the years they had together.  Another family recently also lost a daughter who was only in third grade, in a tragic car accident.  Death touches all our lives.  It may be through our children, a special friend, a relative, a mother or father, or grandparent.  Sometimes death can even affect us if we didn’t know the person.  It may depend entirely on the circumstances of their death and their age.  Somehow, the younger the victim, the greater the pain. 
Remembering the loved one who has “gone before” is painful, at least for a while.  But remembering the impact they had on our lives, what they taught us, or the special times shared, can bring healing. 
God created us as a people who remember.  We remember wonderful events or tragic ones, people who made a difference in our lives, lessons learned  and more.  Even in Joshua 4, the Bible tells us how the Lord told Joshua to set twelve stones taken from the center of the Jordan so generations later people could remember how God led the people across the Jordan River on dry ground, just as He had led the people on dry ground when the people reached the Red Sea.  It was to remind them how The Lord had brought them to this place through his mercy.  This also reminds us, even today, how God will provide the way, if we ask and as he draws us to Him.
As Easter approaches we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We celebrate in Sunrise Services, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper and more.  The point is we must remember how Jesus fulfilled the scriptures as the Messiah, his death and resurrection, providing the perfect deliverance of God’s people.  The first Passover freed the people from Egypt and even now the Messiah frees us from a sinful life when we accept him as Savior.
We are told in scripture to remember and observe the commandments He has given us.  It’s also important in our walk with The Lord to remember God’s provision.  Does He not provide what we need on a regular basis?   Deliverance and sacrifice.  Does He not offer deliverance from the sin of this world through the sacrifice of Jesus, his Son?  Care and love.  Does He not offer a Father’s care and love as He holds us close?  Mercy.  Does He not offer mercy when it’s clear, as a sinful creature there is no way we could enter heaven’s gate without the blood of Jesus?  Jesus the Servant and Christ the betrayed.  Did He not send his son, Jesus to become the ultimate Sacrifice and Servant, and finally, The Betrayed, as he hung on the cross? 

There is much to remember about our Lord, and that brings me back to the opening question/quote.  “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

Monday, March 2, 2015

Basic Needs

            “Mila,” said Peyton, “You’ve got to get on with your life.  Scott is gone and there is nothing you can do about that now. You have hidden yourself in this apartment for nearly eight months.  I know Scott’s leaving was bad, but you’ve withdrawn from life. You won’t talk to people, you don’t go out or anything.  What are you afraid of?”
            “You think I’m afraid of something?”
            “Well, are you?”
            Pausing for a moment, Mila sighed.  “I think maybe I am.  I think I’m afraid of….. rejection?”
            “Well, maybe.  Think about it.  All I ever wanted was a husband, home and family and now I’m alone.  I was so certain Scott would be the one.  I failed.”
            God created us to need each other.  He even gave Eve to Adam, his very first man creation.  To be rejected by someone can be devastating and can cause all kinds of problems to our well-being, including the ability to reach out to someone else.
            Our world has evolved into a computerized and scientific phenomenon.   There is space travel, satellites, communication advances, not to medical progress and developments that can boggle the mind.  But despite all these improvements, people are still people.  We still have very basic needs which none of this can address.  If this is all we have, when the lights go out, we are still alone in our very technological world.
            Maslow's theory of “man’s hierarchy of needs” pyramid in psychology suggest “physiological” needs are the most basic needs (that which keeps us alive and functioning, like food, water, sleep) while a step above this is “safety,” to “belonging and love,” to “esteem,” then to the top of “self-actualization.” 
            When I look at this list, I fail to see the need for spirituality.  I perhaps, not being an experienced psychology student, may be missing a critical link.  But there seems to be little evidence of Christ in that particular pyramid.   I can see and agree with the idea of basic needs, but I suggest the need for the Savior is about as basic as it comes! 
            The truth is, regardless of whether or not our needs are met here in this life, the greater need is making sure we are ready for the next life!  What we do in this life, is directly linked to our eternal destination.  We have to choose where we will spend eternity.  And even if “basic needs” are missing here, we can be certain, if we are children of God, that all of our needs will be met in heaven.
            We are a corrupt world and people struggling against a naturally corrupt nature.  Our needs, including needing other people and particularly needing Christ is as real as any other need you can imagine, and I suggest just as, or maybe more, important.