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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Only God Knows The Future

            I am fascinated by the predictions made on the news about when this or that will happen.  One of the latest prophecies is related to World War III.  The statement is made that we are headed for one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history.  Maybe they’re right.  I know the dollar has lost its value even while wages continue to increase, and the prices of goods and services rises even more quickly.  But man cannot predict the future. 

Men can make predictions based on statistics, or what has already happened.  They can do extensive, complicated numerical juggling to find patterns that fit their criteria and perceptions.  They can use surveys to determine how people feel about things they’ve experienced or think are going on at this minute.  But it’s still impossible to accurately predict the future.  Even weathermen, (and I am fascinated by this science), are unable to accurately predict one hundred percent of the time just what the weather will do or when it will do it!

Historians and scientists spend hours pouring over data and can, with some accuracy, based on past events, predict what they believe will occur.  Even philosophers are unable to predict what will happen in a person’s life, even within the next hour.  The events are out of his control.

The RAND corporation (Research And Development), formed in 1946 has had the ability to shed light on some things that seem to infer the capability of being able to predict the future, at least to some degree.  Statistics indicate they have been able to correctly predict 42 of 50 scientific events, related to some important and complicated problems facing our world over a fifty year period.  But even this process takes up to tens of thousands of studies, to come up with what they believe is a credible prediction.  And while 42 of 50 is a great average, it’s still not 100% correct.

            Now all that said, Christians are told to be watchful, and we have Bible information that spells out signs which will indicate we are nearing the end of the world as we know it.  Christ assures us He will return!  But even with all the information given in His Word, we still cannot predict accurately the date or time His return will be.

            So, if man cannot predict the future, who can?  There is only one person who has the ability to reveal the future and this is God, himself!  God has shown time and again He fulfills every prophesy He’s ever claimed.  There were prophesies around Jesus’ birth, life and resurrection that all came true, some written hundreds of years before he was even born!  Most recently are some of the prophesies around Israel.  It was prophesized in Ezekiel that Israel would one day become a nation and that her people would one day return.  This is happening even now as Jews scattered across the world make the pilgrimage to their homeland.  Leviticus foretells of Israel being supernaturally strong against her enemies.  This has not happened only once but several times, since her statehood in 1948.  Yet, even with all the fulfillment of prophesies relating to who the Messiah is and Israel’s revitalization, many are missing the significance.

            Clearly God is all knowing and keeps His promises.  So I challenge you to consider where you stand on Israel.  Do you see fulfillment in God’s Word?  Do you also see the signs clearly, that Christ will return soon?  I hope you do, because God said it, and it will be just as He promised, because He does know the future.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Matter Of Commitment

                     It is said commitment is to be emotionally or intellectually certain of purpose, devoted to a cause or person, and expressed through behavior and action.  Marriage is a perfect demonstration of commitment.  It is an arrangement between two people- man and woman, who love each other, participate in a legal ceremony with the promise of spending the rest of their lives together. The commitment is more than a responsibility, it’s the outpouring of self at all costs, yet yields one of life’s greatest pleasures.

            There is the story of a young boy who hated his stepfather.  His childhood and youth years were spent with bitterness until one day he came home and found his mother very ill.  The boy instinctively went to find his step-father who immediately left the field where he was working to take care of the wife he loved. This man, whom the boy hated, loved his mother. And after his mother had received the medical attention she needed, the step-father assured the boy his mother would be fine.  His gentleness, despite the boy’s hatred, unnerved the boy.  The action made an impression upon the boy he had to come to terms with.

            Jesus made a commitment to us when he willingly went to the cross.  He didn’t have to.  He wasn’t guilty of a single sin.  It was I who sinned.  It was I who deserved to die.  But Jesus was willing to take the responsibility of my sin, gave everything He had- including his life, so that I might live.  This brings Him pleasure!

            Have you ever considered your commitment as a Christian?  I’m not talking about going to a cross or giving your life for another …… just your commitment as a Christian.  We are called to love not hate.  We are called to light not darkness.  There is no neutral.  There is no sitting on the fence.  There is no in between.  If we claim to be a Christian, others should be able to see our love and the Light that lives in us.

            After the commitment to love and Light, there is the commitment to other Christians.  The Bible is clear about how we are to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all one body and each member is as important as another.  We are to treat each with love and respect.  We are to share joy, pain, sorrow, good times and bad.  Does our commitment to Christ include this kind of behavior?  There is no middle ground or gray area. 

            There is also the commitment to share the Gospel.  This is not a choice; it’s a commandment.  We are to remember the new command of God’s love in Matthew 22  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.…….and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  We are to love friend and enemy.  We are to love the clean and dirty, the righteous and sinner, the accepted and the rejected.  We are to have depth and substance which we find in the Word of God. It is a spiritual journey out of darkness that we are to share and demonstrate.

            Like the young boy who saw his step-father demonstrate love for his mother, we are to love those who we don’t understand or otherwise “love.”  So I challenge you to consider your commitment to Christ.  Are you demonstrating Light and love, or something else?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Best Friends

         A friend and I have been involved in a Bible Study for some time.  A couple days ago we were asked to name a mentor, a woman who is energized for the Lord, who we look up to, enjoy spending time with, and is quick to ask if we’ve looked into the scriptures whenever we are faced with some kind of issue that has us rattled.  I did come up with such a woman, but I also came up with a young man I know well, who also fits this description.  Many times I’ve said, “I’d love to have his strength, his faith.”

           Do you have someone in your life who you can count on in any situation; a friend, even a best friend?  I remember for years, as a young person, wanting a “best friend” and for whatever reason I never seemed to have one.  Oh, I had friends, all right.  I had lots of them.  But to say I had a best friend, just didn’t seem to be available to me.  My "best friend" came later in life.

            There’s a story about two sisters who had a discussion about friends, even best friends, that was especially difficult, even though they were both adults.  They were as different as day and night,  had different perspective on lives, different views on faith, attitudes, things and people in general.  In the discussion, the older sister asked if the two of them could be best friends.  The younger sister said, she would always love her as a sister, but best friend relationships aren’t chosen that way.  They are developed over time, nurtured on both sides and it grows naturally into the relationship it becomes.  This relationship of trust and love can stand the test of time and is the groundwork for sharing secrets, pain, growth, happiness, dreams and more. 

            We just passed Mother’s day.  It is said there is no greater love than that of a
mother. I won’t say a mother’s love is perfect, but if ever there was a love that gives with
all the heart is it in this arena.  Mother’s have the innate ability to love beyond measure,
even when they are misunderstood, treated badly, or seemingly forgotten.  The following
quote by Washington Irving seems to say it best:   

         “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” ― Washington Irving

            I guess what I’d like to be, is both the mother described by Washington Irving, and the best friend who demonstrates godly character, strong in her faith and an encouragement to others!

            Jesus, the Messiah, wants that kind of relationship with each of us. He loved, He served, cared for the poor, had compassion, understood pain and grief, knew the power of temptation, had the authority to forgive sins and was willing to go to the cross to offer a path of salvation.  His love is even greater than that of a mother.  His is a perfect love, without any faults or human frailties. 

            So I challenge you to look at your relationships.  Do you have a “best friend” who you can always count on?  Are you that kind of friend?  Do you know Jesus as your ultimate “best friend?”  I hope you do.  If not, I encourage you make Him your personal Savior and Best Friend right this moment.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Easily Identified

I remember a visit to San Francisco back in 1989, in late August.  Our motel was downtown and I was awed by the crowded streets and busy people!  These images have all faded somewhat now, but there was one man, however, whose image I will never forget.  It’s as clear to me today as it was when I first saw him.

Sitting on a bench near a trash can, the man had thick, matted light brown hair.  He wore gloves with the fingers cut out, a raggedy, frayed coat, and looked otherwise unclean and unkempt!   I remember being appalled.   He seemed to be staring at nothing in particular but watching everything all at the same time.  What happened next made my stomach lurch.  A passerby tossed his drink and remains of a sandwich into the trash can.  The man rose from the bench, retrieved the drink and sandwich and proceeded to have breakfast!  

This man was clearly homeless….and hungry!  I have no clue why he was homeless, where he came from, or even whatever happened to him.  But he stood out and I could identify his situation immediately.

I wonder, if someone looks at me, if they can tell I love Jesus?  Can a person just by seeing me, know that?  If not, at least if in conversation, can a stranger know where I stand on my faith?  Do I project the image of Christ? 

A pastor asked the question once: "When Jonah spent those three days in the whale when he ran from the calling God had for him, do you think Jonah might have seemed, looked or even smelled a little odd?  If I’d spent three days in the belly of a fish I suspect there might be chemicals from the fish that interacted with my body that might make a lasting impression!  Could he have lost his hair, had a change in skin tissues or any number of things that might have made him stand out?"  This is the reflection of the man I saw in San Francisco. His image was a direct result of his circumstance.

It is certain, when Jonah approached the people in Nineveh, they took notice!  Could they determine by looking at him, he was a man of God?  Certainly his message did!  His presence and his testimony ultimately led the entire city to repent!  God was merciful and filled with compassion and because of repentance did not destroy the city! 

As Christians, we are called to share the Gospel.  We are commanded to be His disciples in the world in which we live.  Can people trust us to be honest with them about our faith?  Can God count on us to tell others about Him? 

There is scripture which says when we help the least of these, we could be entertaining angels.  Could the man I saw in San Francisco be an angel?  Could he be testing us to see who even notices the plight of the poor and homeless?  What if he really was an angel?  Should my reaction have been different than that of horror and well….  Even disgust?  I don’t recall all that I felt, but even as I think about the event, the very idea of eating food from a trash can is revolting, ….even disgusting.  I only saw the man from the other side of the road and I doubt he ever saw me.  But what if……?