Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bright Morning


Bright Morning

I awoke this morning to the singing birds, the robins and the doves. The melodies in the early dew drew out to see. I took my bike along the river, its bank adorned with flowers. The flocks stood up above the grass, buttercups strewn like gold beneath. The fragrance so sweet I kept on breathing taking in bouquets that were heaven sent. The Honey Suckle seized the day by its pink and yellow perfumes. A dozen purple flowering lilacs lined my cheer filled route, exploding with their essence.  There smell was only equaled by the Lilies of the Valley sending scents of love abounding.

But as I looked into the golden sunrise with wings of pearl ascending, I realized it was God announcing a brand new day for me, alone. How could I speed by the floral display and not see His wide spread artist’s hand. How could I miss the aqua blue  bordering the dawns rising wings. Perhaps the fluffy cirrus clouds had captured my attention, silhouetted in the vivid corral blue sky-sea the background for the mystical painting.

Indeed it was Him so present around me sending fragrance, life and brilliance. Now I could not miss a petal, looking everywhere to settle. The street was absent of any humans to make it noisy and distracting. The Creator of the Universe made the only scene that I saw, in colors, scents and sounds.

The Field, the photograph above taken by my cousin Douglas F. Frank, tells the story of my peace-filled ride through the early dawn recital. The day would stir and so would the world with clangs, clatters and honking horns of trucks and cars making peace much harder to imagine.


So what do we do to quiet the crowd, head toward the silence and the solitude? Make your life simpler and find serenity amongst things not of man but God. Meditate on things unseen and from above. Go find a sanctuary. I think I’ll go to Lake Michigan where the bluff rises high above the moving blues and white waves, with seagulls finding treasure. There I can imagine the Psalmist saying, The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad, let the distant shores rejoice” (Psalm 97:1).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Speech



 Conviction for gossiping and my tongue by the Holy Spirit seems to be regular for me.  We are instead to be encouragers like Barnabas. This issue of the tongue is a common and very ugly sin for many people.  Now I will venture into the shark-infested waters of relatives. And one of the more hurtful I hear is “She/he is so fat” or how about “she’s so ugly.” I may be ranting here, but I often hear these thoughts.  I am not sure what causes it. My wife believes it is self-centeredness. As well it seems it might be an adolescent heart. I believe it is a caution to look within our self and ask, “How selfish am I?”

I struggle with criticizing as well. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to the Romans “As much as it depends upon you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Perhaps the colloquial phrase for this includes “If you don’t have something good to say about someone, don’t say anything (keep your mouth shut).”  James is very clear on the subject speaking of tongues “See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6). We might ask James, what does he really think?  Yet, sadly there is great truth to this confrontation of my defiling speech. This issue is clearly on the Holy Spirit’s short list of reminders for me. How about you?

In Proverbs 6 Solomon speaks of what God hates, including a lying tongue and false witness against another while sowing discord. A sign of meekness on the other hand is a gentle and humble spirit. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But wisdom from above is first pure, then, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:16-17). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and we do grow so slowly wise.


I believe God is clear in guidance on speech. It would also seem He wants us to talk with others if they are sinning (1 John 5:16), but without judging. “Let your speech always be (full of) with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6). Salt is healing and preserving. Our speech should always be toward making better relationships. However, sometimes the other person does not take it well regardless of how you try. Therefore grace and forgiveness are always keys to our continuing relationships. Be honest, not always like Billy Krystal saying, “You look marvelous” unless of course you do.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thirsty?



“I am thirsty” (John 19:25).  This utterance by Jesus Himself from the cross was portended in Psalm 63:21 regarding the scorn and bitterness given for His souls thirst. There was no greater thirst in history. Why? This was a thirst that came from the weight of all the sin of man being carried by God’s Son.  So we too thirst. In fact, we cannot live for more than a few days without water.  Throughout Scripture is the admonition to come to the only place where our thirst may be quenched.

I recall several summers ago trout fishing in Montana. I was with an old friend who had introduced our family to the “Big Sky” country. We were hiking down to the Hound Creek on the massive SK cattle ranch. The hike was down a steep canyon walled by steep rocks filled with rattlesnakes and cactus. It was already in the mid-nineties as we worked our way down the canyon trail. When we made it to the bottom, we were rewarded by a spring creek meandering through a grassy valley filled with wildflowers and prairie grasses.  We caught several native brown trout with brilliant yellow breasts we called “canaries.” It was hot and getting hotter in the cloudless, sunny August day. We found a huge pool in the stream. After taking a couple of fish, we dove in to help cool our parched throats and baking bodies.

As we headed back up the canyon trail, the temperature had risen into the 100s and we had no water. Our friend Karl led us out like a pack mule. He was determined to get to the top and water. It was a grueling hike up. When we finally reached the summit we came to a ranch home with a hose. We turned on the cold spring water and drank and drenched each other with the life giving water. We were ecstatic with the refreshment. Still today we often are reminded of the precious life-giving water of Hound Creek.

In time of trial and trouble we often thirst for refreshment or restoration as Psalm 23 provides beside the still waters. But Scripture tells us that we will continue to thirst like the woman at the well in John 4. This is a story which is familiar to all who have read any Bible stories. It is moreover, the story of all of our lives. You may say you are not a serial adulterer. Perhaps not, but you keep needing to find water for your thirst. Water that does not quench until you find the “living water” that Jesus represents. In John 4:13 Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). The woman says, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming back here to draw water” (v.15).

Back in Isaiah 55 the prophet says, "Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread with your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:1-2).  Later he says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on him while he is near…Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6). 

What a wonderful prophesy some 700 years before the coming of Christ. This plea to find the only place where our thirst may be quenched should be compelling.  John the Apostle said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37).


Finally, in Revelation Jesus says to John, “The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). This clear call is throughout the Bible, to come to the waters and drink of life.  This is the call to find life in the only One and place where there is life eternal. This life is in the Son. and he who has Him has life. Come the way of the water of life and truth and drink deeply. Drink away your sins and fears and find life eternal through Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord forever!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path



I am so glad that God’s Word lasts forever and is truth. It is dynamic and sharper than a two-edged sword. Life is hard and we often do not know what to do, but Scripture in Psalms 25:15 says to keep our eyes on the Lord. Why? To release our feet from the snare. What is a snare? It is any trial, trouble or place where we should not be or a stuck because of sin or someone else’s sin.

God leads us away and out of trouble if we keep our eyes on Him. Perhaps the most quoted scripture on this subject is Proverbs 3:4-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.” Another translation says that He will make our paths straight. Proverbs 16:9 tell us “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  The desires of our hearts should be the desires of God’s heart. These are the best desires, plans to prosper and not hurt us, giving us a hope and future as Jeremiah tells the Israelites finally coming out of exile in Babylon.

Have you been in exile in Babylon or a place away from God? Return to your first love God tells us in Revelation. I don’t know what your snare or exile is, but God does and He will lead you out or through this valley Psalm 23 tells us. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation (trial) comes to us that is not common to man, but God is faithful. When you are tempted He will also provide a way out (through) so that you can stand up under it.” In other words, we all have trials and temptations, but if we seek him and keep our eyes on him and follow him with our feet he will provide the way. The admonition is that if we don’t look to God we will not see the way and we will be overcome or overwhelmed.

These trials and temptations are common it says. James, the brother of Jesus said in the book of his name, “Consider it pure joy my brothers (sisters) when we fall into trials (temptations) of diverse kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). This seems hard, but God is developing maturing and persevering faith in us during hard times. He does not leave us without a paddle up the creek. He tells us in the next verse to seek Him for wisdom if we don’t know what to do in our trial. He tells us that if we ask for wisdom and do not doubt God’s generosity and goodness, He will give it to us and show how to proceed.

The title of this book is the verse that God spoke to me as I went through great trials some years ago. I had caused many of them by following my own sinful desires, not God’s righteousness. While I sat with a Christian counselor, God spoke audibly to me saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  This was some 25 years ago when I was not a Christian and born-again believer and I did not know what this was. My counselor heard the voice too, but not the words, similarly to the Damascus Road experience of the Apostle Paul when the Lord Jesus confronted his wayward ways and redirected him.  This was my Pauline conversion. I saw the Lord in my mind's eye and heard Him audibly saying, “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying  “This is the way; walk in it”(Isaiah 30:21). God was speaking to the chosen people of Zion who were way off course, disobedient to God. He was telling them to get rid of their idols or sins and that he would guide and rain plenty on them. He told them that as they obeyed, streams of water would flow and the sun would shine on them. He told them that he would bind up their bruises and heal the wounds that He inflicted.

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).  The Israelites through David and his son Solomon built the temple as they recommited their lives to God. “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 I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).  This was God’s response at the consecration of the temple. It was the theme verse of a Sacred Assembly held in Washington D.C. on October 4, 1997 on the Mall. This gathering to pray for our nation brought an estimated 1.3 million men, the largest grouping by far to come together in our nation’s capitol. We prayed for our nation and ourselves. It was another time of consecration like that for the ancient temple. I know that my heart was infused with a new sense of God’s holiness and awesome willingness to guide me as I sought, obeyed and submitted to Him and His word.


I am walking in His way a moment at a time as He calls me. He has made clear my path to serve as a hospital chaplain and to proclaim His Word to the world in writing books and blogs. It is very reassuring to have God’s Word clearly tell me what He desires. God’s Holy Spirit illuminates what my heart’s desire must be. I no longer look for my own desire, only His, for He will guide me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Life and Death- Do Heaven and Hell exist?



Ever wonder if God and heaven exist?  I have experienced some very affirming and convicting circumstances in my ministry to paint a pretty vivid picture of the answer. I have had the privilege of being with hundreds of people as they have died, passing from this world into the next. Perhaps you say there is no afterlife- good luck to you then. Consider the consequences.

We are eternal beings and our soul and spirit live forever. It is our choice as to where. Heaven is a place of light and love in the presence of God. Jesus Christ is the light so artificial sources are not necessary. It is a beautiful and real place as described in the Bible by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. There are no more tears, pain, sorrow or death in heaven.  Hell is spoken of as a place without God.
There is condemnation to a place of fire, pain and torment in darkness described in the gospels.  The choice is ours.

I have experienced the reactions of people as they have died with or without physical pain or illness.  The dramatic difference came between believers and non-believers. I have found a peace and even an early heavenly experience in the believer, as they are slipping from this dimension into the next. Frequently people, without hallucination begin to enter the spiritual realm where they see loved ones and other spiritual beings such as angels. Experiencing the peaceful presence of relatives who have gone before has been the most common expression of the dying.  As a former hospice chaplain, I was privy to incredible liaisons with family members and even Jesus Himself. 

I recall particularly a woman I had known for several years. As I entered her hospice room she asked, “do you see them?” She was speaking of angels. I had come to believe that angels are large creatures, but we really don’t know all about these heavenly creations. She said they are blue-winged and flying around me. I must report that without question, I saw the small angels, several of them flying like “Tinker Bell” in Peter Pan. As she spoke, I had already seen exactly what she described, not suggestively, but in reality. We prayed and praised God together. She was very joyous and peaceful at the same time as she closed her eyes and slipped into the presence of God. “Absent from the body and present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  There was a peacefulness that transcended understanding.

I contrast this experience with those of non-believers. Almost without exception, there has been agitation, pain, fear and even agony expressed in the passing of an unbeliever. This is a statement of my actual experience, described to reveal the reality of the spiritual world, heavenly and not.  I have felt helpless and frightened myself in these situations, knowing that the person was experiencing the presence of painful thoughts, images or more that is represented by hell or Hades. The Scripture in Revelation 19 & 20 tells of the lake of fire into which Jesus Christ threw Satan.  In Revelation 20, speaking of the Judgment, Christ throws non-believers into the lake of fire or hell forever.

I know that these thoughts are scary, but they are taken right from the Bible concerning faith in Jesus Christ and the judgment. I personally am frightened for anyone whose name is not written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27), for their eternity is hell, away from the presence of God. 


Heaven and hell are real and each person has an opportunity to accept this and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, before it is too late.  “ I tell you now is the time of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Jesus is returning soon, as all prophesy with the exception of the rapture has occurred.  So be ready!