Friday, January 29, 2016

Walk in It

It was about 25 years ago when I heard God’s voice audibly speaking to me while I was with a Christian Counselor. The counselor had told me to envision God. I saw a dramatic robed man in flowing blue gowns seated on a throne of clouds surrounded by bright sunlight. There was no face that was discernable. But, a voice spoke, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it!'   It was loud and audible to me. I was stunned and asked the counselor if he had heard the voice. He said that he had quite clearly, but not the words spoken.  I did not know that this was directly from Scripture at the time, but later I looked it up.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).  God had spoken actual words of Scripture to me directly. There had not been any before or since. However, at that moment my life changed. I began a new walk with the Lord that had begun only several months before when I had knelt in the deep snow beside my car in a blizzard near Lake Superior. Let me set the stage.

It was 1990 and I had been serving as a hospital Interim CEO, charged with turning around a struggling hospital in the U.P. of Michigan. After two years of travail with 16-hour days and only getting home every second or third weekend, I was exhausted. Physically, mentally and spiritually I was spent. My work had left me bereft of even judgment. I was drinking too much and my moral compass was spinning.  Now, it was midnight in January and I was driving back to Wisconsin in a snowstorm along Lake Superior. I had on the only radio station I seemed to be able to get, Chuck Swindoll, a renowned Pastor/Teacher preaching on Insight For Living. He was speaking, it seemed, directly to me about a life off course and worn out with trying.  He said to repent of my own efforts and failures and to give them to God, receiving the gift of forgiveness and grace from Jesus Christ, who had lived and died on the cross for me.  It was then that God’s voice spoken through someone else pierced my hard heart. I stopped the car and knelt in the headlights, snow swirling around me. I received salvation from the living God in Christ Jesus. 

As I got back in the car, a warm feeling surged through my body. I drove in a seeming trance. I had been changed, transformed, although I did not fully understand what had just happened. I had begun my walk as a child of God.

Now I was sitting in a counselor’s office, having heard God speak to me directly. He was pointing me in his path of righteousness. He was saying, seek my Word in the Bible and follow me.  It was as clear a calling as the original disciples had received from Jesus himself along Lake Galilee. The remainder of the Isaiah passage tells the people of Zion, His chosen people, to throw away their idols and walk in His way. For me that was money, alcohol, women and work. It was realizing that I had been walking on the wrong path. I was now turning around, like the hospital I had served. Both the hospital and me were being made new, not any longer bankrupt.

Isaiah’s words were ringing in my heart. Jeremiah also said, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). I had come to a crossroads in my life, and I would now take the “path less travelled” as Robert Frost wrote in his famous poem. I would follow God.

It has been a winding and uphill trail full of rocks and full of light.  But God has said, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow 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).  Many readers are familiar with this powerful promise of scripture. It is the theme verse for many on this arduous walk of life in this world.  But God will direct our paths.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  This is the answer to walking in His way, trust God, hope in Him and He will do it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Healer

By His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). These vivid words are a prophetic word of knowledge that through Jesus’ crucifixion we will be healed, redeemed, made new and whole. God is speaking of being healed spiritually.  God wants us to be healed spiritually first, because bodily healing is temporary.  What is that all about? Yes, God through Jesus Christ has the power to heal our bodies and He did it regularly in His ministry on earth. However, we are eternal beings, regardless of what some atheists say. We will spend eternity in heaven, in the bright light of the presence of God, or in hell in damned darkness. It is our choice to receive the gift of healing.  God wants to heal us spiritually and physically. He wants our souls made new, clean in the blood of the Lamb.  That means, God wants us to understand the Gospel. God came to earth in Jesus Christ, the Son of God to live and die for us that we might be saved or healed, made new through His death and resurrection.

Throughout Scripture God speaks of healing. Starting in Deuteronomy 32:39 God says He is the one who will wound and He will heal. He will heal body, soul and land.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 there is the often quoted prayer, If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  This is God speaking to Solomon on the dedication of the Temple.  Healing a land speaks of healing souls to return to God in body, mind and spirit. Even Job, in his pain spoke of God saying, “He wounds, but his hands also heal.” (Job 5:18). 

The Psalms speak of physical and spiritual healing. Psalm 6:2 of David in pain says, “O Lord, heal me for my bones are in agony.”  In Psalm 41:4 David again says, “O Lord, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Here David is speaking of his body and soul being healed of sin. Yes, God heals our bodies, forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness. And this healing is through His Son, by His death and resurrection of the Cross. Again in Psalm 30:2, the Psalmist David speaks, “O Lord my God, called to you for help and you healed me.” Yes, the Lord hears the cries of a contrite heart and brings healing.

There is a Hillsong Music praise song called “Healer.”  Ironically, a man supposedly dying of cancer sings it. He cries out to be healed.
I believe you're my Healer
I believe you are all I need
I believe you're my Portion
I believe You're more than enough for me
Jesus You're all I need

This man is not actually dying, but lying.  There is an incredible outpouring of sorrow and love for the man. He is convicted of his sin, yet God healed him of his sin and God and the Hillsong group forgave him.

Isaiah and Jeremiah speak often of God healing their wounds. Israel has been in bondage and exile. Yet God says, “Call on me and I will answer you and tell great and unsearchable things…I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” (Jeremiah 33:3,6).  God brings healing to land, body, spirit and soul as we seek him. And Hosea 6 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us.” This is graphic and metaphoric. The Israelites have been wounded in body and spirit, particularly because of unfaithfulness to God.

The Psalmist in 103 praises the Lord with all his heart, because he is the one, “Who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases…” You will find a story on the “Living Word” in my book Great is God’s Faithfulness that speaks of how the Lord instantly healed me from predictably mortal tick-borne illnesses when I prayed Psalm 103 out loud. The word of the Lord is living and dynamic and will accomplish its purposes like the rains that fall on the earth.

Then God was incarnated in Jesus Christ to earth. The Old Testament conceals and the New Testament reveals his healing ministry. There is in Matthew 8 an incredible story of a Roman Centurion coming to Jesus asking for healing of a paralyzed servant. “I will go and heal…Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.”  Later, “ he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Matt 8:17).  In Matthew 9 He heals the paralytic, “Take heart your sins are forgiven.” Yes, He heals body and spirit; He forgives sins. He healed the blind and the mute and then He sent out the 12 to do the same in His power through faith.

This is the story and veracity of the Gospel; Jesus is the Way, the Life and the Truth, no one comes to the Father but through him. If you ask him, he will heal you. It will be in his way and timing, but it is a done deal if done in faith.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Jesus Strong


“Boston Strong” continues to reverberate with trials ongoing. It is good to gather strength through shared experience. Moreover, the strongest shared experience just took place, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. This is the seminal apex of human history, the only event that has eternal consequences.

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? (Psalm 27:1)
I have written on Psalm 27 twice before; however, it bears reemphasis in a world that tries to find its strength in tangible earthly goods and people. We need to plant our feet on solid ground, the firm and fertile soil of the Gospel and God’s Word. It is the only thing that will not pass away. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:31).

The Psalmist David tells those suffering or oppressed, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9). Psalm 32 would call the Lord our “hiding place” and protection.  Yes, indeed this is true, and He is our stronghold.  He does not let us go, unless we let Him go. David’s Song of Praise in times of trouble tells us, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior" (2 Samuel 22:1-3).  Psalm 18 repeats this mantra and Psalm 144 says, “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer…” (Psalm 144:2). 


Do you have strongholds in your life, security in something? Or do you have strongholds in your life that need to be torn down? These strongholds could be trust in money, securities, job, title, or self-anything.  These are temporary and may have an evil one building them up in your mind. Are your strongholds, fear, shame, guilt, alcohol, drugs or sex?  Our battle is with spiritual things in high places. That should be scary, but not when we count on where our strength should come from. “The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Our weapons are spiritual through the power of the Holy Spirit. Human pride and arrogance are what get in the way of our claiming these weapons and the power and strength they provide.  Where do you run in times of trouble?  I suggest we run to the Lord through prayer and His Word.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Living Water

“Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3 NKJV).

From where do you draw your water? I was reading about the people of Flint Michigan who are buying bottled water because high lead content was found in their water supply. That just adds to the pain of having a destitute economy with the auto industry failure there. How about the people of California going from a severe drought with no water to floods and mudslides? One of my wife’s favorite things is visiting springs throughout the country. She loves the cold artesian water bubbling up from the center of the earth. One of our favorites is the “Giant Springs” beside the Great Falls of Montana. This spring flows from deep traveling miles to the surface. The water is always 54 degrees and was the source of water for the Native Americans for centuries until found in 1805 by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  There are also springs that nourish the body with life renewing minerals, like Lithia Springs of Ashland Oregon. We visit this one as one of our sons lives there. The water tastes metallic but gives you a kick from the natural lithium in it.

Enough about springs in the U.S. The Bible has some amazing descriptions of springs. Above we read metaphorically of drawing water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah is sharing with the Israelites the joy of these wells that bring life and life eternal. I suspect many readers didn’t know that the Old Testament is full of verses referencing Jesus Christ and salvation. In Zechariah 13:1 the prophet says, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” Numbers 19:17 speaks of running water from a vessel being sprinkled on them for purification of sin. This is symbolic of the cleansing of Jesus Christ for salvation. It also is one of the verses from which the baptisms of today are taken. However, the normative or preferred biblical baptism is full emersion as John the Baptist performed for repentance of sins.

I love Jesus' description of His sending the Holy Spirit to us in John 7:37-38, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  Can you just imagine our hearts flowing like rivers of the water of life in the Holy Spirit?

In the story of the Samaritan Woman we find Jesus saying regarding the water from the well of Jacob, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water…Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life” (John 4:10).  I love what this sinful woman says next, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” (John 4:15). Today, salvation is preached and the Gospel shared throughout the world, yet very few come and drink. All are thirsty, but few want the water that will quench the fires of sin and the world’s lies.


Water is the symbol of life and life eternal through Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit throughout the bible. Jesus uses it, walks on it, calms it and heals with it. He baptizes with the Holy Spirit, but water is life. Without water we die in a few days. Food we can go without for weeks, not water. Here along the Great Lakes we often take water for granted. We still need to purify it because mankind has poisoned it with every chemical and pollutant imaginable. But the pure water that Jesus gives bubbles up to life. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow” (Isaiah 35:7 NIV). See to it that your thirst is quenched by the refreshing spring of life in Jesus Christ. It is a free gift for the taking to those who would believe.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill Oesterlein was a stoic German engineer, working for years at Allis Chalmers, having escaped the terror of the Nazis.  He married Elsa Frank, a cousin of ours in Milwaukee. They lived near the city, but owned a gingerbread cottage in the woods of Mequon. In fact their property has the tallest stand of White Pine in Southeastern Wisconsin. Here the wind loudly whispers through the pines perched on the tall bluff overlooking a stream that leads down ravines to Lake Michigan.

On weekends our family would go to visit and I would explore the forests, ravines, pebbled beaches and crashing waves along Lake Michigan below the cottage. It was always an adventure in the beauty of creation. Fox and pileated woodpeckers scooted and flew through the trees. The typewriter-like tapping of sapsuckers filled the air.

I would watch Uncle Bill split logs for his wood stove on a fall late morning as the sun flickered patterns on the fallen bright autumn leaves on the forest floor. He piled them high along his yellow painted wood shed between the sawhorses laden with fallen pine needles and cones.

Inside Elsa was stoking the fire and preparing cookies and pretzels to go with the cold bottle of German wine that Uncle Bill would always open for my Dad.  They would talk of old family stories about the war in the screened-in porch while the wind and the sun moved around us.  I usually had a couple of “Girlie Cakes,” what Uncle Bill called the old style Girl Scout sugar cookies. They were the best ever.

After our visit, we would head up Zedler lane back to Port Road and the old Kuiper’s Cheese House on the corner of Highland.  Here grilled cheese sandwiches never tasted better and the juke box played whatever tunes the many patrons had selected, like The Yellow Rose of Texas.  The restaurant in now the Highland House, but they sure don’t have any stinky aged Brick cheese.

I know my father and his older brothers Art and Bob had made the visit to Uncle Bill’s often. Below is a photo of my father in his Army uniform after his return from WWII at the cottage. It must have been 1945 and sometime shortly after my father’s long rehabilitation from grave wounds suffered at Monte Cassino, Italy in 1944. I’m not sure of Uncle Bill, but Aunt Elsa died in 1987 at 103 in a sanitarium.
 
  The property still exists. However, Sandy McCallum, my former English teacher, who bought the land, raised the cottage. He kept the wood shed and the wind still whispers through the high pine trees. The sun flickers on the forest floor. And God is in His heaven.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Keep Walking

I have recently completed my two volume book, This is the Way; Walk in It. This work is a series of essays on how to walk in God’s way, whether you turn to the left or the right. God continues to guide us if we seek Him and follow His direction and lead. God’s word, the Bible gives us His directions and through the Holy Spirit we receive more clear illumination if we trust in Him. In fact the “Counselor, The Spirit of the Truth…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (speaking of Jesus)” (John 14:15,17,26). The Holy Spirit will “Guide us in all truth” as John 16 tells us. So what is a Christian to do in this world that is getting darker every day, as we seem to lose our moral compass? We are to “keep walking.”

How are we to keep walking? God tells us in the Bible concerning His words. “Teach them; talking about them when you sit at home and walk along the road; when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:10). God is telling us to continually be speaking His words and to be teaching them to our children and children’s children. Proverbs 4:20-22 tells us concerning God’s Word, “My son, pay attention to what I say, listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” These words tell us to “Come all who are thirsty, come to the waters…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and the purposes for what I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). 

God is saying that, “His divine power has given us all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and goodness” (2Peter 1:3). In this chapter He is telling us about His great and precious promises as given in Scripture so that we may participate in His divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires. All we need to do is ask God and He will give it to us. “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask where the good way is, and walk it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). We are always at a crossroads of some sort where we need to make a decision for the next step. God will give us the direction. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). This is the theme verse of my book, This is the Way; Walk in It. We are always to be listening for the still small voice like Elijah finally heard in 1 Kings 19:11-13 when he obeyed God and went out to stand on the mountain. He was exhausted from running away from King Ahab and Jezebel. He was to stand in the Lord’s presence when He passed by. He could not hear Him in the earthquake or strong wind, but only in the “gentle whisper.” The same goes for us.
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” This quote is from C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain. We need to be listening; God does speak. The psalmist says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah” (Psalm 95:8). This is a psalm written by a Levite calling people to prayer and worship. It is a reminder that the Israelites had hardened their hearts against Moses and God in the desert. They were stiff-necked and did not listen or obey. As a result all of that generation but two died in the wilderness. We too are often in the wilderness of life and need to listen to God so as to get through. That is why God wrote so much about trouble and His guidance. Psalm 23 is perhaps the most familiar verse regarding trouble, “even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you shall fear no evil for I am with you, my rod and my staff they comfort you.” That is the story of life, walking through the valleys. We will be in them most of the time and we need to heed God’s call to us when we are walking and that we will get through, so don’t fear.

I could write much more on “Keep Walking.” Suffice it to say, you can find more in my blog, www.greatisgodsfaithfulness.com every day. I deal with the exigencies of life and God’s guidance through them. So keep walking in 2016, Immanuel, God is with you.