Monday, May 30, 2016

He Remembers No More

Have you sinned and are brokenhearted in them? You know that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). What do we do in sin? Recognize that it is against God and also always hurts more than you.  Sin is outside the will of God, so we must confess it and repent. John tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What a promise with a condition for each of us to claim. We have a grace-filled God who wants to restore us to fellowship with Him.

I have been dealing with a sin for which I was recently greatly convicted. I have been in prayer and meditation on it. I have confessed and repented and gone to the Lord to ask for forgiveness and help to overcome the pain and brokenness it has brought. For me it was something that I did not see. It was described by a brother as being “confrontational” in all things that I did. I had no idea that I did that. However, I remember well being confronted by my wife some 16 years ago about negative thinking. She told me in fact that our 30 year marriage was over if I did not change. God did a work in me in this sin and I have been growing out of this ugly edge. So now I see that this newly revealed sin is related. It seems that I have a need to be right or have the last word. I believe that I react often or respond whenever someone else speaks. I have been convicted that most of the time no comment is necessary, especially from me. I will be working on silence as a discipline as appropriate. I will respond when asked. My advice is not always a blessing, what a concept. A little self-effacing humor is helpful in this time of rebuilding.

Let us remember that all of life is re-building or being remade in God’s likeness. He will cause us to be confronted in order to become more like Him. This might cause suffering or pain or embarrassment. But the purpose is to make us holy and pure in His sight. That’s what matters, not what others think. We have a forgiving and yet personal God who is the Potter and we are the clay, so be prepared. Remember, He said, “I, even I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remember your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). 

So this Memorial Day when we remember those who have perished so that we can live free, know that we have a God who has perished for us so that we can live free of sin too.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Who Leads You?

Who leads you? Ever thought about that? Is it your boss or your spouse? Good questions. The answer should be the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. The Bible has many verses speaking to this important question in your life and mine.

The Psalms tell us who should lead. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). This picture is on the cover of my book, Great is God’s Faithfulness. It gives me a sense of God’s unmovable strength.  Psalm 139 is a Psalm revealing how God knew us and every one of our thoughts before we were born. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (v.14).  Later in the Psalm David asks God to, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv.23-24). This is a prayerful request of God that must be offered in total trust that God will lead us on the right path, the one that leads to heaven. I know that I have many thoughts that are anxious, and many that are not good either.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (v. 10). Now this is a prayer request I should make every day that God would teach me and lead me on level ground. I will have to say that an EKG printout could have represented much of my life, radically moving up and down. Oh yes, there might have been a pattern but not always very good. Thanks be to God that today the graph is smoother, but not yet level. In fact I think that in life there are many things that are not level. But God is saying that He wants our response to be level.

Perhaps Psalm 23 is one of the best to dwell on. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He guides me along paths of righteousness for His name's sake” (Psalm 23:1-3). This Psalm tells us that we often go our own way, and God forces us to lie down. He has to lead us because we will be led by wrong thoughts or people otherwise. I love that He restores, revives, and refreshes our souls. We need to rest and in Him alone as Psalm 62 reminds us. Then after we have our compass more level, he will guide us along paths of righteousness or holiness for His name's sake. These are the paths that conform to God’s moral will. What better place to be?

Proverbs 19:23 tells us, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” The fear or awesome respect of the Lord in whose hands are life and death is a good thing. “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).  Yes He is the light of life and he wants that for us if we follow His lead.

He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads them that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).  What a picture of God as Shepherd. He is a gentle leader if we follow His lead as His sheep. Notice that He carries us close to His heart.  That is where we are safe and find guidance for help in times of trouble.

Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13). This is the Master’s teaching on life. Find the narrow gate. It is open to all who will find it. It leads to life, life eternal. Later in Jesus' teaching He says, “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:13). Be led by the Lord, not people. You do have people in authority over you, but let the Lord be your guide in all things.

The Gospel of John continues the theme of the Shepherd guide. “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). He speaks of thieves and robbers who climb over the fence. We want to follow instead the Shepherd as we hear His voice calling and leading. “But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Corinthians 2:14). Our guide and leader brings us out and through life victoriously, so let us spread the “Good News” of the Gospel of truth and life in Him.

Perhaps you are thinking, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing, that’s why I’m in charge. Good luck, and that’s what it will be if you make it out alive. Remember the Israelites who wandered? They never would have made it to the Promised Land if God had not led them. “I brought you up out of Egypt, and I led you forty years in the desert” (Amos 2:10). Why 40 years in the wilderness? Because they wanted to go their own way. It was only a few days journey, but their stiff-necked attitude made it a long journey during which an entire generation died of selfishness.


Paul, in Romans 8:14 reminds us not to be led by our own knowledge, but by the Spirit, “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14).  It is the Spirit of God alongside and inside us that leads us through His word and prayer, other godly people, and circumstances in His will. Be led by the Holy Spirit alone. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heaven Facts

Heaven- Facts- John 14:1-8; Rev. 21:1-7
We are gathered to worship and seek God’s Words of reassurance and celebrate the life of our dear friend’s presence with the Lord in Heaven. Her love of God and her family and friends reflected the Light of the World we have been celebrating in His Christmas incarnation. We come to remember her gentleness and palpable enthusiasm for life that exuded from her every pore. She let her light shine so others would see God and glorify his name. Now she is whole and healed, home in heaven.
Jesus said in John 14: “Do not let your hearts be trouble, trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going ahead to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Wonderful. How do I get there? Jesus went on to say, “You now the way to the place where I am going.  I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one goes to the Father but by me.” She knew He was the way and received Jesus as her personal Savior – She is there. She understood who took her there and she reflected that faith here is like an angel full of grace, mercy and love for her family and others, reflecting God’s light and love for us.
Yes, Jesus told his disciples this 2000 years ago and He has been working on it ever since to make heaven a wonderful place. She knew the way and Jesus has returned to take her to be with Him to a magnificent place that is so well described in John’s Revelation 21-22. Heaven is a family gathering of believers from every tribe, nation, but it is also our Father’s house- and in that house He has been preparing a place just for her as she trusted in Him.  When she arrived in heaven and Jesus opened the door, she knew she was home. Here are some facts on heaven that help us to know what a wonderful place she now dwells in forever.
1.     In Heaven Everything is always NEW- New heaven and New earth.  A new body, new food. New sky, stars.
V.2- New Jerusalem – New earth- Holy City God has made- pure righteous, all good news.  Prepared like a bride for adorned her husband- perfect awesome.
2. God is Near- Tabernacle with men, with us.  He heard a loud voice of God saying Now the dwelling of God is with men, he will be with them. They, we, she will be his people.  Yes Jesus is there and has welcomed her with open arms. Well done good and faithful servant. Heaven declares the glory of God.
3. She who goes to heaven will inherit all things v.7 –she inherits everything, all the beauty and promises of eternal life in God’s presence.
v. 4 God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  Ps 56:8 tells us that God saves our tears in a bottle. None will go to waste. All the pain and tears are gone. He has personally wiped the last tear from her cheeks as He gently carried her home. No more death or sickness, hurt, disability, no more aging and the process of loss. No need for Doctors. It’s all gain. Our bodies will be and hers is perfect. It’s moving into the fullness of joy.  (Psalm 16:11- “In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand pleasures forevermore” Yes, In God’s presence are eternal pleasures and perfect joy.  
No more sorrow, no more mourning- Nothing to be discouraged about. Nothing from earth will bring sorrow, only perfect happiness. No pain of any kind in body or even relationships. Jesus, in salvation has given us comfort for all who mourn, and provides for those who grieve in Zion- bestowing on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and the garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair. He has brought all of us from darkness to light when we know Him and He have completed it for her.
NO PAIN in body or relationships. All things are perfect and cooperative, no conflict in joy.  We won’t even have to say, “Have a good day.” For it will be perfect.
4. Satisfaction is abundant and complete- V.6 I am the Alpha and Omega- It is done- final words of human history.  Jesus finished it on the cross, now it is complete for eternity.
To her who is thirsty I will give to drink from the fountain, springs of the water of life, without cost.  Water is the fullness of the Lord. This new life eternal welling us inside us. John 7:34 told us about the streams of living water flowing from within us for whoever believes in Jesus, meaning His Holy Spirit. Now in heaven it is continuous, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  She is fully satisfied; all her desires have been met and are righteous, fulfilled. She wants from nothing. She is delighting in the fullness of God.
The angel showed John the river of the water of life as clear as crystal flowing down from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city Rev 22:1- And I love this next part. On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing 12 crops of fruit every month. Constant new crops of different and nourishing fruit.  And the leaves are for the healing of the nations. All mankind to be healed and made new who choose the Lord.
5. Heaven Displays the glory of God- The City of God (Glory of God). John saw it from a high mountaintop where an angel carried him. I wonder if she has been carried to the high mountain- top where she is now able to observe and share our love for her.  Heaven shown with brilliance like a precious jewel, jasper, clear as crystal for its lamp is the Lamb of God.  27 times in Revelation.  It is huge some 12,000 stadia and decorated with jewels and paved with gold with 12 gates of pearl. Why gates- for it is exclusive for those who love Jesus and have chosen Him as Lord of their life.  Oh, so precious that John tries to describe it in ways to tell us that it is beyond our imaginings in beauty, preciousness and purity.  It is a display of color making a rainbow look dull. Pure gold street, and 12 foundations each of a brilliant precious stone reflecting its beauty. Clear Jasper, brilliant blue sapphire, deep green emerald, carnelian, bright red sardonyx, and yellow chalcedony, purple amethyst.
Heaven’s gates are always open for there is no fear in heaven, for God is its PROTECTOR. No danger or harm. Only those pure with names written in the Lamb’s book of Life will be there, safe and sound. Her name is written and wants us all to be there with her. It is so beautiful like a painting of a sunset she loved that Frank her dear friend who managed the art gallery where she once worked gave her. She might be painting it but she doesn’t need to because she is in its awesome beauty continuously. We need the paintings to imagine it
 The city does not need a temple for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. God is all-encompassing so we are always in His presence. So shall we ever be in the presence of God.  The Lord is worshipped, magnified in heaven. Worship is continuous and awesome in praise, given to His worthiness like the roar of rushing water (Rev.19). For God is in the praises of his people and she is there in fine, bright, white linens passionately worshipping God because there is hope in Him, complete in joy.
Have you had glimpses of heaven on earth- Perhaps peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon, a mile deep- Heaven is 1500 miles deep.  Have you ever stood in and on a mountain range and gazed out from the pure snow-topped peaks. John stood 1500 miles up. I love sitting on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan on a sunny day seeing infinite shades of blue beyond the horizon as if forever. John is just describing the beauty of heaven.
I remember in my mind’s eye looking over the brilliance of a yellow wheat field in Montana spreading and waving before the brilliant sun, stretching for miles and reaching into the Rocky Mountain front rising high above the plain snow-capped as if to tell us God lives there. But it’s just a glimpse, like Niagara Falls roaring and cascading with rainbows dancing in its spray.
How do we describe it? Have we had glimpses of its glory? They are just a small vision gifted by God to give us hope for heaven and its beauty.
She is there and God only knows if she can see us here.  We just know that even though we miss her wonderful, gentle and loving person. She is whole and healed, complete, waiting for us who believe in the name of the Lord. For as John tells us in 1 John 5 “He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son of God.” Let’s make sure we are going there by trusting in the name above all names as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Lamb of the world.  Her journey is over. Well done good and faithful servant.  Our journey continues.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost

May 15th, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday, commemorating the day that the Holy Spirit came down to bring power like a violent wind with tongues like fire to fill and baptize the waiting disciples. This was the promised gift from above to start the church and to give us God’s power, wisdom and strength to live and love through Him. Jesus said to them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

As we stagger through these “End-times” marred by wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and heathen human behavior, may we be reminded that Jesus also said, “’Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:6).

This morning I was contemplating excerpts from a 2015 Franklin Graham sermon saying, “The American dream ended on November 6th, 2012 in 
Ohio. The second term of Barack Obama has been the final nail in 
the coffin for the legacy of the white Christian males who discovered, 
explored, pioneered, settled and developed the greatest republic in 
the history of mankind.”  The sermon went on to speak of the Judeo-Christian founding of our country that has been diluted and assaulted by the White House and even the Supreme Court.  We must fight for our rights, even if the time is late. His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:3-7 NKJV). God has empowered us and tells us to stand firm and proclaim the truth. It is not an option.


I am reminded this Pentecost Sunday that God re-baptized me in His Spirit just three years ago. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things, says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 4:2-3). The Prophet Malachi is speaking of the “End-times” and Jesus’s return to rule in righteousness. He will be like a “refiner’s fire” as He purifies. So be ready and obedient until the victorious end. As Joshua, the leader of Israel said as he ended his leadership, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:14-15).