Friday, April 29, 2016

Stand Watch

Habakkuk 1:12–2:3
I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me. —Habakkuk 2:1
Waiting is hard for me. I want answers now for why God seemed to be allowing sin and then allowing the Babylonians to conquer and enslave the Israelites. Where is your holiness and justice?  Postponements perplex me; deferrals daunt me. I’m baffled by God’s delays, wondering why and when. “How long, O Lord?”
The prophet Habakkuk wanted answers as well, but God chose to take His time. Habakkuk challenged him like Job, who received no answers from God. Are you like him or David crying out to answers to your plight, your illness, loss of loved ones or independence?  What do you  cry out??
His was a psalm of lament like David’s crying out to God for answers in  Ps 13:1-4 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me, forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?  And every day have sorrow in my heart? OR
Psalm 55, “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy…my heart is in anguish within me…fear and trembling have beset me…Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest- I would fly far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far away from the tempest and storm…Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you, He will never cause the righteous to fall.”
 And Habakkuk did get responses eventually too. In the meantime, He said,  “I will stand my watch . . . to see what [God] will say to me,” Habakkuk wrote (2:1). “The vision is yet for an appointed time,” God replied. “Wait for it; because it will surely come” (v.3).
Faith never gives up. It knows that despite appearances, all is well. It can wait without signs or significant indications that God is at work, because it is sure of Him. “Each delay is perfectly fine, for we are within the safe hands of God,” said Madame Guyon (1648–1717). I wish I could find that kind of faith.
We too must learn to view each delay as if it were “perfectly fine.” Postponements are reasons to pray rather than grow anxious, impatient, and annoyed. They’re opportunities for God to build those imperishable but hard-to-acquire qualities of humility, patience, serenity, and strength. God never says, “Wait awhile,” unless He is planning to do something in our situation—or in us. He waits to be gracious.
So take heart! If God’s answer tarries, “Wait for it; because it will surely come.” —David H. Roper
 “But the righteous will live by faith.” (2:4). This clause is quoted frequently in the NT. To support teaching that people are saved by grace through faith (Ro 1:17), Gal  3:11). Ephesians 2:8. It became the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th C. The same principle that was applicable in the realm of national deliverance is applicable in the area of spiritual deliverance (Salvation).
Fear and awe of the warrior God and faith come together because he trusts in God’s grace.  He is the covenant God who keeps his promises.  This gives Habakkuk solid confidence. This deliverance then and now and in His second coming should give us confidence and joy.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Heart

Heart
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 NIV).   This is one of the most quoted proverbs. What a deal, having your paths made straight. I like the NKJV that says that God will “direct your path.”  The NASB says “make your paths straight.” I am suggesting that it is often good to check out different translations of the Bible. Some are better than others.

Proverbs 3:5-6New Century Version (NCV)
Trust the Lord with all your heart,
    and don’t depend on your own understanding.
Remember the Lord in all you do,
    and hH will give you success.
I like this version except that I don’t know what success means. I also wonder what remembering the Lord means.

Proverbs 3:5-6New Living Translation (NLT)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Now here is a translation I like. I notice that in all translations I have reviewed that all say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” I think it is critical that we trust and obey with ALL our heart or center or spirit and soul. All means there is nothing kept back, it’s ALL in.  I like being “sold out” to God in Christ Jesus. I also think the concept of seeking God in everything is good. Scripture tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” I will be found by you, declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”  Seeking God in prayer, His Word, other godly people and circumstances with meditation brings insight. We don’t know the way or answer without seeking Him, we just think we do. I once needed to jump off a cliff to see what it was like. But thanks to God, I now seek Him first, most of the time.

Now hear one of the most difficult verses in Scripture from Jesus’ brother James. He tells us to consider it or count pure joy when we have trials of every kind- whoopee. He goes on to tell us that persevering through them will bring maturity and completeness. Moreover in vv.5-8 he says, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”  God is saying that He will give us wisdom, the what and how to do it when we are in trials. He wants to show us the way, the truth and the life through His Spirit and Word. What a wonderful promise of God. I am often blown like a windswept wave. It is fun to swim in the ocean, but have you ever been taken out by a riptide? Many have drowned by the currents of the sea. Warning signs on beaches have been unheeded.


I thought I might add another familiar verse from the 23rd Psalm, “He leads me along paths of righteousness for His names sake.” He leads, and we must follow if we want to be in His will and righteous. I think too often we say, “I’ve got this” and go off on our own path. Sometimes it’s more traveled and sometimes less, but regardless it is often the wrong path.

He is the way, “walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Listen for His voice, read His Word and obey it. Obey it with all your heart, mind, and strength of Spirit within you. The consequences of going your own way are potentially fatal.  Remember where I started this post with Proverbs 3:5-6?  The next verse says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7-8). God has given us free will to follow our own path, be “the captain of our ship.”  Well, how is that going for you? For me it meant falling off the path, literally. My own way brought pain, physically, and spiritually. I caused pain to myself and others. I sinned and others were affected by it. Yes the spray of the wind blown waves hit a lot of people and it was not good.  I have found that trusting God and seeking Him in all things has straightened out my paths. I will not,however, say that they are smooth or totally straight. They no longer look like an EKG but more like the smooth sea.  Thank you God for your faithfulness. AMEN.



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Heaven as our Home


C.S. Lewis said,” I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”
 A friend is there, he has finished the coarse.
When I see ocean fish in an aquarium I know something is wrong- they don’t belong there. – They were made for the great green ocean.  I wonder if their instincts tell them like ours do – something better!
Bonhoeffer: “Our greatest affliction in not anxiety, or even guilt, but rather our homesickness- a nostalgia or ongoing yearning to be at home with God.”

Christian slaves sang ‘goi'n home to live with God and that a chariot is comin’ to carry me home.
We’ve always spoken it and so has Jesus- John 14-coming to take us with him to our mansion/home in heaven.
He is the Way the Truth and the Life.
Knowing we can come home is what keeps us going- all the good and none of the bad of here. My friend knew it and Christ and He are there.
We may grieve today, but don’t be disappointed if someone had to go home early- that’s where the party is. This place is eating drinking and being merry while uncorrupted with sin.
Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die- It began when we accepted Jesus’ gift of grace.

Heaven is our source of optimism. Our foundation in Christ and his redemptive work- our pain and suffering relieved in the next UNSEEN World.  Knowing that our suffering will be relieved doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it bearable.  Meditating on heaven is a great pain reliever.
Rejoice your names are written in heaven (LK 10:20)
Anticipating the GREAT ADVENTURE-
Joni Eareckson Tada- “ Can you hear the sighing in the wind? Can you feel the heavy silence in the mountains? Can you sense the restless longing in the sea? Can you see it in the woeful eyes of an animal? Something’s coming…something better.

“Farwell to Shadowlands” Lewis said.  “I in my flesh I will see God…I and not another (Job 19:26-27).
Peter Pan said, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” Dying is merely the doorway to eternal life- just the beginning- death is the final pain and the last enemy. (Death- the last enemy to be destroyed and He/ Jesus did it on the cross. Through Christ and His resurrection (Easter) all in Him will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22).

The fact that heaven will be wonderful should not tempt us to take shortcuts to get there. Your life has a purpose and this is exactly where God wants you now- while preparing you for another world. Through our pain and grief today for the loss of a friend He’s expanding our capacity for eternal JOY. Don’t listen to the liar; finish your God-given course on earth- finish strong by his grace.

The goal and end of a person’s calling does not terminate in this life, but makes sense only in the light of the life to come…the world to come is the one we are made for.
Christ-centered righteous living is how to get a head start for heaven. He gives us all we need to do it (Paraphrase of 1Pe 1:3-4).

To be heaven –oriented is to be goal oriented- “But one thing I do, forgetting the past and striving toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14).
Let’s start embarking on the ultimate adventure by knowing Jesus and living in his Holy Spirit power and word.

And right when we think it doesn’t get any better than this, it will.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Eagle's Wings

Last year a soaring white pine some 40 feet high died to a pine beetle. I was very sad. However, when my son helped me cut it down, we saved about 10 feet of the trunk to create a totem pole.  I have been planning the design to start this summer. I intended to carve an eagle. My wife said, "why not an angel?" And so, Raphael, the arch angel of healing stands guard in our yard. He lights up in winter to shine brightly in our neighborhood. 

Have you ever seen an eagle soar in the sky?  Have you seen an eagle swoop down and take a trout from a roaring river, or sit majestically in a towering evergreen beside the river? I have many times. I understand why the eagle is our national symbol. The eagle also has a prominent place in Scripture to picture strength and grace. I intend to carve an eagle with outstretched wings on the top of my totem pole. He will be standing on a bear. I will talk about the bear in another post.

They pass like swift ships, Like an eagle swooping on its prey” (Job 9:26). As majestic as the depiction, this verse speaks of the unrelenting accusations of Job’s so-called friends condemning him and his sin toward God, unrighteously. Swift flies the ships and the eagle.

In another metaphoric presentation in Proverbs 23:5 Solomon portrays riches making wings for themselves and flying away like an eagle toward heaven. Here the wise man is telling us like Jesus did that the “Love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Again in Proverbs 30 it tells of things that are wonderful and things that the writer does not understand, including “The way of an eagle in the air.” There is a beautiful mystery to the flight of an eagle, soaring out of our sight.

The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of pride of the heart saying, ‘O you who dwell in the cleft of the rock, who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 49:16). “Pride comes before the fall,” Proverbs 16:18 echoes. 

Ezekiel spoke prophetically of his visions of God and the creatures around the throne of God. These creatures had faces of man, lions, oxen and eagles perhaps representing all creation and its glory as God had created it. Moreover, they were celestial and powerful flashing like powerful lightening. This image is repeated again in Revelation 4:7, this time the creatures having eyes all around and six wings.

Again in Revelation 12:7 John speaks of the woman representing Israel, who gave birth to a child, meaning Jesus, being persecuted. The woman was given two of a great eagle that she might fly away into the wilderness where she might be nourished by God for three and one half years. This is speaking of the tribulation to come.

The vision of the eagle for Israel is one of great strength given through God Himself. This image is offered again by Isaiah in speaking of how we grow weak with the suffering and trials of life. “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31). Mounting up and flying like an eagle is a wonderful vision of power and peace in the face of trial.  From where does this power come? Read Jeremiah 4:13, “’Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered” (Jeremiah 4:13).  This verse speaks of the speed and power of the enemy, Satan and his minions.

Now perhaps as a climax, yet in Moses' writings in Exodus comes a picture of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4). This strong picture speaks of God’s faithful covenant with His people. They did not stay in trust and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. We know the story. May we not be so stiff-necked and stubborn. May we believe His promises and covenant with us by grace on the cross, through resurrection  to give us new life that we might soar on wings as eagles.


For me the image of the eagle is a strong and mighty one. When I was dying from tickborne diseases, I lay in bed soaked through my bedding with a 103° temperature, my joints aching and frozen so that I could not walk, I repeated the 103rd Psalm. “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…” (Psalm 103:1-5).  As I uttered these words, the Lord descended and His Holy Spirit moved from toe to head with a warm presence that healed me totaling. I could rise and jump for joy. I knew that the power of heaven had healed me totally to fly on wings as an eagle. Hallelujah, AMEN.