Friday, January 30, 2015

Being Kind


<Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM>Christmas  and the New Year's is past. I have spoken of a word that I will try to make real in 2015 - kindness.  Yet, this is hard and brings to mind a group conversations with a number of men at a recent Saturday morning Bible study. We discussed the issue of being kind to those we don’t like or are different than us. This may be some of our relatives from the Holiday party or those with whom we work who bug us, or people on the street.

As we chatted about this trial in common that morning, the solutions were hard to find, but LISTENING was a key. In fact active listening or listening presence has power. We don’t need to say anything even if our nemesis is talking, even in excess.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians 3:12-14 gives us further Biblical guidance: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

He goes on suggesting that we sing songs to one another. Really?  How? With gratitude in our hearts to God.  Thankfulness is at the center of God’s will for us. In fact, God is in the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).  Paul said elsewhere to give thanks in all things, for it is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:16).


So, be kind, listen and be thankful!  Any other ideas? Please add a comment for conversation as we thankfully head into 2015.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Valley of The Shadow of Death

Have you traveled through the valley of the shadow of death? What is that place the Psalmist David talks of probably near the end of his life in Ps 23?  We do not always walk through “green pasture.” Not always; sometimes He who knoweth best; in kindness leadeth me in weary ways where heavy shadows be- (unknown).
There are places and times when green pasture paths plunge into dark valleys.  This conjures up images of deep darkness, not a place we want or like to go. It may be darkness of depression or trial, loss or illness.  The thoughts are associated with death or deep anxiety, a mine shaft experience.   John Bunyan, in Pilgrim’s Progress,  referred to it as “dark as pitch” where hobgoblins live, or where live the dragons of “Middle-earth” in the trilogy of the Lord of the Ring.   It is where King David fell and would have stayed had not He that is able pulled him out.  

Paul tells us, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22). Perhaps it reminds you of an employer saying, “clean out your desk” or “cleaning out a closet” when a son or daughter leave home. Deep loneliness, isolation or despair may come in these times we have caused, or as a result of unforeseen events in our lives.  These are nevertheless difficult times from which perhaps we want to run as David tried.  The author Andrew Solzhenitsyn wrote that “suffering ripens our soul.”  There seem to be no cushions on the ride as we are jolted along usually against our will.  When we come to the end of the valleys we’ll understand that every path has been selected, out of all possible options, for our ultimate good said author David Roper in his book about Psalm 23.  If only we could see the path, we would select it as well, perhaps?

“Who led us through the wilderness, through the land of deserts and pits, through the land of draught and the shadow of death." (Jeremiah 2:6).  If it is God, what is he doing or “why?”  Job cried out? 
<Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM>Well, David came to a place where he was able to say that even though we go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Why? Because God is with us, His rod and staff comforting and protecting us. Notice in the psalm, we are walking and we are getting through with God’s guidance, if we will accept or chose it.  What God said to Moses is also true for all time, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14). He told Joshua the same in his fear.  The Prophet Isaiah 41:10, 43:2, said, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

God is with us-  The Immanuel of Christmas. Friends and family will fail us, circumstances will be cruel, but God is always there, even when we don’t see or experience Him.  Richard Foster said, “God becomes a reality, when God becomes a necessity.”

It seems to me, as we rise out of the valleys, we see more clearly. We come to a place, if we look for it, that we find that God has been working for our good in the dark places. Ask him, cry out to him. God will tell you, not why, but what to do and how to do it in it.  Oh, and one thing more, all valleys end, no valley or testing goes on forever. He tells us  in 1 Cor 10:13, that he will provide a way out or through if we seek him. Psalm 30:5 tells us, “Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Friday, January 16, 2015

Dreams

Dreams, do you have them?  We all do, and we remember some. These are visions of thoughts that often can’t be expressed or intellectualized consciously. They require a subconscious picture, albeit, often a strange one.  Dreams may be scary or wonderful, but it seems not usually things in between.  Let me share a recent dream that can be coupled with a December blog regarding a head-on  auto accident my wife Pam and I suffered on an Island trip.

I have mentioned that for a couple of years, I served on the pastoral staff of a large church. A very difficult schism occurred causing all of the pastors except me to be forced out. It was a very dark and frightening experience that stretched out for more than a year. Because of the darkness and the resulting depression in my life, it was very difficult to function well in ministry. The thought and requirement to preach was particularly challenging. I labored for many hours over Scripture and Biblical commentaries to fashion words of encouragement and challenge. Fear was palpable until I started to speak from the pulpit.


I awoke with a start recently out of a deep and dream-filled sleep. The dream was very strong and clear to me, let me tell a bit.  I was leading this same church, or one like it. I was to preach and seemed to be the only Pastor around. I had prepared the sermon with great travail. As I moved to the sanctuary, it was gone, the sermon text was lost! I was terrified. I looked around everywhere. The congregation became restless. It seemed hours as I searched and the voices rose in rancor and rebellion it seemed. I was pushed toward the pulpit without a sermon. I was shaking. Just as I stepped up on the chancel, the Lord spoke to me saying, ‘Psalm 27 is your text, “The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?”’  Yes, God was alive and speaking peace and strength to me. As I turned to greet the congregation, I awoke. He is faithful, and will respond and supply all our needs in His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Fear Not and dream on!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Kindness

<Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM><Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM>Kindness – Fruit of the Spirit
<Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM>My blog for December 31st spoke of choosing a word with God’s Spirit leading and guiding you in 2015. I have chosen “Kindness.” So what might it look like in action?
  As a result of more people being impatient, having short fuses, and with everyone seemingly always being in a hurry – many people have lost the ability to treat others with kindness and respect.
A kind word, a kind action to another person can really do wonders for them.
When you really study the life of Jesus in the New Testament, you can clearly tell how kind He always was with other people in His dealings with them.
Jesus is without question, the ultimate role model for all of us as someone who was fully walking and living in the Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness goes hand in hand with the quality of love. Once the Holy Spirit starts to transmit His love up into you, the quality of kindness will follow right along with it. It will then become much easier for you to be able to be more kind to others once the love of God starts to flow more into your personality.
You cannot help but be more kind to others if God’s love is flowing through you. This is why the quality of love has to be the main quality that you really concentrate on in getting more of the Holy Spirit. Once the love of God starts to flow and operate through you to touch others, many of the other fruit of the Holy Spirit will then start to follow right after it in domino fashion.
Here are some of the different definitions of what real kindness is all about:
1 Quality or state of being kind
2 The steadfast love that maintains relationships through gracious aid in times of need
3 Goodness of heart, serviceable, agreeable, gracious, pleasant
4 Love for mankind, hospitality, acts of kindness, readiness to help, human friendship, benevolence, taking thought of others
5 Goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, affability
6 The ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience
7 Being forgiving and not holding grievances against another
As you can see from some of these different definitions, this is a very beautiful quality to have transmitted up into your soul and personality by the Holy Spirit. Not only will you be able to touch others with this godly quality, but you will also be touched– because you will feel so much better about yourself if you can learn how to treat others with much more kindness and respect in your daily dealings and affairs with them.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Morning Star

<Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.43.01 PM>"We saw His star in the east and have come to worship him." (Matt 2:2). This is what the Magi or "Wisemen" from the east said as they were led be a star to visit the Christ child. This is an incredible piece of the Christmas story. These men were led by God using a star to guide them as astronomers might. God uses His creation to guide us. The Holy Spirit reveals his will for us through prayer, His Word, other godly people and circumstances, then and now. I have spoken on how the Holy Spirit enveloped me and spoke to me in love and guidance through His Word. God uses stars for symbolism. In Numbers 24:17 the prophet Balaam speaks of a star coming out of Jacob or Israel to reign, speaking of David and eventually the Messiah.  This star comes to earth at Christmas in Jesus birth and is proclaimed by the Lord Himself in Rev 22:16 saying, "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

Have you seen His star?  In 2Peter 1:19 the Apostle speaks of the prophets and to us, to pay attention "to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart." Isaiah foretold of those walking in darkness and seeing a great light, speaking of Christ. This is Peter's admonition, to be moved to receive the "light of the world" into our hearts.

This is why Jesus came to the world, to be a light in the darkness and to lead all willing to find hope in Him. The Magi represented all peoples and were lead to worship the Christ child. They were obedient and followed and God used a star and dream to have them avoid Herod. They were overjoyed when they saw the star again and found the Savior in a house with Mary and Joseph, perhaps two years after His birth. They are included in the Christmas story because of their faith.  After they returned home, God used an angel and a dream again to warn Joseph to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

Yes, God uses many ways to reach and guide us if we will stay open and obedient to His ways that are higher than our's to lead us to a saving faith in Him.