Friday, August 26, 2016

Green Pastures

Green Pastures
Psalm 23 is known by most as a restful Psalm. Yet, it this life, we humans seem anything but restful. We are driven to produce to strive for perfection, to beat the other and compete for an earthly prize that will rust or rot. Perhaps that’s why God causes David, the shepherd boy, to write such an important Psalm, hymn or song of life.

He makes us to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2).  Yes, God makes, forces us to lie down, often kicking and screaming. That is such a sad image of selfish, misdirected humanity. Rest is something we just don’t understand. Oh, we may watch some violent or sex dripping TV serial, or read a book of the same ilk. But do we seek the only place where we can find rest? That place is in God’s presence. It is seeking after the face of God. “All who are weary and heavy laden” Jesus says to us, “Come!  and find rest. But we keep on going.  Sheep do that. In fact, sheep don’t sleep, they are too worried about predators and insects and food.  Sound familiar? Yes, we are like sheep who have gone astray, our own way.

Psalm42 says, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). Where is your God? This Psalm asks. Where do you find rest? Psalm 62 says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” We find rest in God alone; He is our “Green Pasture.” He causes or makes us to lie down in the green, verdant places. Here is nourishment and life. Here there is safety and along still waters of life giving streams. Here we need to rest and drink in His strength for the journey. “Green Pastures” of grass often surrounded by green leafed trees. Leaves produce O2 our life giving air. Without oxygen we die. Without God we die spiritually. We are body, mind and spirit and must find God to live. Those who doubt or are searching, give Him a try. You will not be sorry.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trees

Can a tree represent life and death? Can a tree be cursed and blessed? Can someone who is hung on a tree bring life to all who believe in Him?  Yes, yes it/He can. The image of a tree is frequent in Scripture starting in Genesis. “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). These are verses about life and death. Trees are symbolic of a foundation with roots that go deep, or not.  I think most folks know about v. 17 that says we can eat freely of all the trees in the garden but one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From this tree all things good and evil and disobedience have been born. You see, man disobeyed God and ate because the first man and woman were deceived by Satan and ate. We as a species are all about ourselves and want everything, good, bad and ugly, and we want it now!

In Deuteronomy 22 we read that any man committing a sin worthy of death will be hung on a tree. “Cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).  This cursing begins to point to Jesus’ crucifixion on a tree and the paradox of the curse becoming a blessing through God’s atoning or redeeming and life giving death through the forgiveness of the sins in Christ’s death for those who would believe.

Scripture speaks of trees bearing fruit or not. “By their fruit we will recognize them…a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17).  Good fruit is what God wants us to bear. Back in Jeremiah 17:7, we read,
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

This tree or person planted by the water of life or in the Spirit of God will yield much fruit.  John would say in his Gospel that we must be planted in and dwell in the vine, “apart from Him (the Vine) we can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Imagery of trees, fruit and water are present in Psalms.
“Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers (Psalms 1:1-3). 
This tree is planted in streams of living water, referring to the Holy Spirit that gives life. What an incredibly empowering image of God’s power within the believer. This image in strongly repeated in Revelation 22.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:1-3).
God wants us to know that life is in faith in Him. This vision is of heaven and the bounty and healing, fruit bearing trees that are planted in God, “the river of the water of life.”  


I don’t know about you, but I want to be a tree that lives and bears fruit. I want the knowledge of life and to be in the Book of Life  (eternal) that comes through trusting in God. Keep your roots planted in streams of living water.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Anger and Forgiveness

Anger and Forgiveness Radio Show     
www.riverwestradio.com        ( Go To: Just Talk'n Show #31 8/13/2016)
·      Anger hurts you physically, mentally, and spiritually:  job, relationships
out of control anger imprisons- chains on you.
·      10% of anger is righteous
90% anger is selfish- I didn’t get what I wanted, when I wanted it.
Anger is a cover-up for feelings- What is the real cause?
Were you hurt, abused, betrayed
Examples: Forgiveness asked in church situation.
Forgiveness asked with daughter-in-law

Forgiveness Scripture:
Matt 6:14- If you forgive other people when they sin against you God will forgive you, but if you do not, God will not forgive you.  (You have not accepted God’s forgiveness, you think you are beyond or you are better than God)
1 John 1:9- If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Ps 103- Praise the Lord Who forgives all your sins and who heals all your diseases, as far as the East is from the West
Matt 5:23-If you have anything against a brother or sister, First be reconciled then leave your gift at the altar.
Forgiving frees you- even if the other does not forgive.
Myth: You are not letting someone off the hook by forgiving them. It is for you. They still have a problem.
 I forgave and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
50th reunion: One went to a former hotshot “fast” guy and said, “I have forgiven you for having been an ass to me.


·      Healing is possible. What is the answer?
·       
ANGER
Forgiveness- Giving up the right to be angry. They are related.
Anger imprisons us- in chains

·      Anger 1st stage of Grief
·      PTSD- Anger persists, helplessness- Need to go back into it to heal
Ex: Woman shot

Scripture: God is slow to anger
Psalm 86- The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love
Eph 4:26 “In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun set on your anger”
Joan Rivers- “Stay up all night and argue.”
James 1:19 Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Anger does not produce righteousness.
Prov/Eccl.- Anger is for fools 15:18 anger causes conflict, patience brings calm
Colossians 3- Rid yourself of anger, rage, be renewed- patience, meekness, kindness, forgiveness
Forgiveness- Key to successful marriage

Myth: Forgiving is not forgetting – God chooses to forget. The circumstance will become reframed or redefined in your mind – It will not hurt you anymore.
Sometimes it is not safe to ask forgiveness or tell someone that they are forgiven- 50% of women in our mental health unit have been sexually abused as children.

Forgiving is not letting the other person off the hook- it is freeing you from your unforgiveness regardless of what the other person does. Yes, God wants and we should want reconciliation.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Water

Water is necessary for life. Survivalists tell us that we can live for 30 days without food, but less that a week without water. Water is essential because it is our primary element, nearly 75%.  We dehydrate and die without it. That is not a beautiful physical death. However, not having the “living water” that Christ gives us is the cause of a spiritual death. This death is much worse. Really you might say? Physical death brings us to eternal life, but which one?  If we have the Son we have life, if we do not have the Son we do not have eternal life” (1 John 5:12).

Many readers know the story of the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus asks a woman for a drink, who was not very secure about that. Jesus said, “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 this water will never thirst again” (John 4:10,13).  What is Jesus saying? He is saying that water represents life eternal in Jesus Christ. That means that the water of life is believing in God through Him. This decision is the most important one in life, because to not make it means death.

Isaiah the Prophet told us many things about the soon and coming King, Jesus the Messiah. He said, “They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them. Even by the springs of water He will guide them…Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…hear and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 49:10, 55:1,3).   This same Jesus in the Gospel of John says, “If anyone is thirsty, 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” (John 7:37-38).  Jesus repeats this admonition again in Revelation 22:12.  Jesus is talking about faith bringing life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. The reference to spring of living water speaks of the Spirit power within. This is a “fountain” spring up, our cup overflowing as David states in Psalm 23. This is a transformative experience to new life. This is a conversion by immersion in living waters. This reference is to the baptism by the Spirit, as we trust in Jesus.  Jesus is the water and our water immersion baptism is the proclamation of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Have you been given and drank the water of life?  Have you been cleansed by the waters of purification. Ezekiel 35 speaks of being sprinkled and cleaned by water, cleansed of all impurities. “On that day I will cleanse you from all your sins” (Ezekiel 36:33). This is the cleansing Jesus tells Nicodemus, the Sanhedrin leader, in John 3, being born again by the water and the blood of Jesus sacrifice.


“Come and drink, all who are thirsty.”

Friday, August 5, 2016

Come

Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight…His going out is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3).

This passage is tough to hear while being hopeful. I say that God is very active in our lives and we must stay close to Him and His ways: obey. He will tear us. This is a little or a lot scary. God disciplines. He does not punish, however.  That is the good news; He has already taken the punishment on the cross for us that we might live if “we return to the Lord.” Yes, God corrects and shows us the path of life. David’s Psalm 23 tells us that, “He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name's sake” (Psalm 23:3).  If He leads we must follow if we desire healing not tearing.

This passage is powerful in telling us that God is a “Healer.” He binds up and heals what He has broken or stricken. He wants a broken and contrite heart. He want us to “humble ourselves under His mighty hand and in due time He will lift us up” (James 4:10). He wants us to return to Him so that He can revive us. Do you have a vision of this revival? Is it a new life, refreshed, remade and reshaped by the Lord?  That is what the “Potter” wants to do in our lives.

He wants to rain on us. Rain is life and health. Rain causes growth. The California draught reminds us of dead crops and dust blowing in the wind. I spoke recently of “dry bones in the valley.” Ezekiel spoke of lives bereft of God’s presence and purpose. He wants to restore our spiritual vitality. In verse 3 He says, “Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.”  He is making a call to repentance to the Israelites and to us today. Confess and repent of our going our own way without Him. This is a pride and selfishness that takes us away from His blessings. For me it took a major life change. I was a worldly hospital CEO, successful in carnal ways.  Oh sure, my efforts helped keep some hospitals from closing. However, I also opened myself to the ways of darkness. 

Only after realizing my own poverty of spirit and confessing it did I receive God’s awesome forgiveness and healing.  My own behavior led to my needing to change my career direction. It was very dramatic, but not without consequence. I spent several years in the desert, going from job to job.  But I had begun to seek God and He began to work dramatically in my life. He led me to turnaround and repent and go another way. He began to lead me from the “front office to bedside” of hospitals.  This new journey began with a call to seminary.  This six years pilgrimage in seeking after the Lord led me to the chaplaincy.

He was as Hosea, raining on me and lifting me up.   It was more than on the third day, except to say that specific plans were being led by the Lord now, not me. He was teaching me that to do life in my own plans leads to nothing unless it is sourced in the Lord and His Word.  My calling was appearing out of this process. What I could not do in my own strength was now being done in His. “His power was being made perfect in my weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).  I believe that I am now walking in a new way, His way. He is directing my path as Proverbs 3:5-6 admonishes us. Let God direct your paths. Listen to His voice and follow.