Friday, June 30, 2017

GPS


GPS (Global Positioning System) is a relatively new device that looks to the skies and satellites for directions while traveling. It is a wonderful concept I think you would a agree. Yet even when I am driving with audible GPS on my smart phone, I make mistakes. I hear “Seri” say, recalculating and then “turn around and go back to last exit” or something like that. I might say, I don’t think so and she will say, recalculating again. I must say that I have found directions many a time with this help. Only occasionally has it led me on a wrong route. But let me change this concept a little to GPS meaning “God’s Positioning System.” 

GPS with God is His Word, the Bible. In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). A similar way to express this thought in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” These admonitions are telling us that God is sovereign and will direct our course. The key is that we must be seeking Him as Proverbs 3:4-6 tells us, “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 path (make your path straight, smooth).” Here Scripture is saying that we must always seek God in our life first before proceeding. I will have to say that I don’t always do this, especially in small things. I just proceed and if things get off course I seek God in prayer. God would say, “pray continually.” I have slowly grown wise as David Roper puts it in his book of the same name about the Bible Book of James. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps.”  This “God-Speaker” goes on in a familiar passage to say, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity…and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Yes, God will guide us as we seek him with our whole heart. He wants us wholly devoted and obedient to his word and will.

The Psalmist says to God, “Guide me in your truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:5) and in Psalm 73:24, “You will guide me with your counsel.” It is the Lord who directs and guides our steps in His way, the truth if we will seek and submit. There is the key. We must trust and obey for there is no other way. I suspect you have heard this admonition. I know that this is not easy, because life often leads us through the “valley of the shadow of death” as Psalm 23 tells us. But it says we are walking and we are getting through with His rod and staff directing and delivering us, so fear not and follow.


For many years I travelled the United States as a consultant teaching Boards of Directors and leaders of hospitals on planning. I had many steps on visioning and mission. But it was only as I had found the Lord as Savior and Guide that I began to teach God’s Word as the director. The Bible has been the guidebook for our nation since its founding, but we seem to be forgetting its Words because they are uncompromising and relativity is our God. The other way to say that is self not God. Jesus made it so clear in John 14:6 saying, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.” The Apostle Paul would call it the “most excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 12:31. So when you seek GPS, make it God’s.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Repairer of The Breach

Douglas F. Frank 
Repairer of the Breach

One of my favorite Bible books is Nehemiah. This Cupbearer for King Xerxes was a man of prayer and courage. He knew that the walls, literal and spiritual, of Jerusalem were broken down. Disbelief and exile had contributed to disrepair. He knew that when the ramparts we watch are not gallantly streaming so goes the country, down the drain. “Frankly Speaking,” which is one of my bywords, this country seems to be in rubble in terms of attitude and heart. I have written and will continue to about the sorry state of media angst and darkness that seems to both mask reality and foment discouragement and willingness to be helpful to anyone.   Perhaps this is similar to the state of Israel when Nehemiah asked his king for permission to go on mission on behalf of his people.

Nehemiah prayed fervently and received great favor from a pagan king. He prepared optimistically and was given materials, gold and papers of passage to make his journey. He surveyed, studied and made a dramatic plan. His enthusiasm caused many to rise up out of their stupor and join in. He was a true leader. Then he organized teams and went at it. His teams had good leaders and each man carried tools and swords. He understood that he would have resistance from evil-doers who were getting rich from a fallen nation and discouraged people. He brought teams and men together in body, mind and spirit. That was a key to his success. He was an encourager and courageous.

The wall was rebuilt and the people too. He recruited Levites, Rabbis and the Prophet Ezra to reintroduce the people to God’s Word and His promises. He brought them to repentance and then revival in a Sacred Assembly. All of this was done through a God inspired leader. The next book, Esther, speaks of another Jewish woman who was chosen. “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Her courage saved her people from extinction. First Nehemiah and Ezra and then Esther to restore, revitalize and save the people. God wants and expects us to be courageous in times of trial. He wants us to be “Repairers of the Breach” (Isaiah 58:12). God is calling each of us to step forward to be “Rebuilders of broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  Isaiah is admonishing the people to rebuild spiritually and physically. God is restoring His people, Israel. He is sending a Messiah to save and redeem. He wants us to return to the Word and righteousness. He wants to bring a “cup of warmth,” and “streams in the desert.”  This messianic book speaks of Jesus coming to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of God’s favor” (Isaiah 61:2,3).  This is about joy and gladness, the splendor of the Lord’s faithfulness to His people. He is bringing a New Heaven and a New Earth prophesied here and again in Revelation. He is also the avenger and will judge and punish those evil ones who will not bow their knee.


So, all this to remind us that God is working and He will vanquish. Rejoice and share the good news with those who are angry and selfish. True, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:18, that as hard as we try, there are those who will not be at peace with us. In other words sadly, they will not be at peace with God. So as Luke told of the angels’ announcement of Jesus’s birth, do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Go out and help repair or rebuild the broken walls.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Poppies and Peonies


Poppies and Peonies

This morning as I rode into the morning light I gazed into the increasing clouds. There were high stratus and cirrus with a single crossways stripe near the tops. It caused me to pause as it was a little discordant or seeming inappropriate in the otherwise gorgeous pink and yellow dawn colors with the healing blue background. It reminded me of the tare in the garden or the tear in the in the fabric. It also brought to clarity in equally broken rip that is sin in my life. Yes, I may be a child of the Most High God, but I am still a sinner saved by His grace. I am reminded of the Apostle John’s very clear teaching:
 “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him but walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us of all sin. 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 1:5-9). 

I do not, as hard as I try, always walk in the light. Yet, God is faithful to forgive and wash me when I confess and repent of my trespasses against Him and others.

The Apostle Paul was a man changed dramatically by Christ into a new man as we both had Damascus Road experiences. He wrote in Romans 7, “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is the sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:17-21).

So it is with me. I confess and repent and even make vows to abstain from things, but fail. I am frustrated like Paul who wrote 40% of the New Testament or King David who sinned and the whole world knew and now know about it. But he was the only man in all of Scripture of whom it was said, “He was a man after God’s own heart, he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts13:22). I am always thankful for these models that were indeed not always paragons of virtue but of broken and contrite hearts. I praise God for His mercy and grace to forgive us our sins and cleanse or purify us of our darkness.

Life is very daily as the Serenity Prayer of AA reminds us. We need the serenity, courage and wisdom of God to live in repentance and grace. God wants us to live one day at a time; being in every moment, knowing that hardship is the pathway to peace.

Now God has said, let your yes be yes, and your no, no, when you vow. In other words, don’t do it if you don’t mean it. But know that it is only God in you the hope of glory that gives you the strength to live in godliness and righteousness. It is the Holy Spirit within the believer who counsels, convinces, comforts and convicts us of our sins and how to walk in His way. Life this side of heaven is full of hardship, trials and temptation. I am so glad that God also gave Paul the teaching of 1 Corinthians 10:13 saying, “No temptation has seized you that is not common to man, but God is faithful and when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out (through) so that you can stand up under it.”  I like to read different versions of Scripture that might take a little twist on an admonition like this. The Message is a paraphrase by Eugene Peterson with another hopeful thought on this verse, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”  He will always be there to help get you through or to endure is a promise stated throughout Scripture.

So today I am hopeful that I can live this day knowing the peace of His presence and as Nehemiah the great leader said after rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

So why Poppies and Peonies? These are the flowers that caused me to pause on my morning bike ride, one for its penultimate orange color, and the other for its almost heavenly scent. I was reminded by them that God is always present and perfecting me. He is showing me in creation the beauty of His presence and hope in His future. Therefore I can end with my favorite verse of hope from Romans 15:13 saying, “May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Keep walking

Friday, June 16, 2017

Raspberries



I am covered with red raspberry juice as I bring inside three large quart containers of bright red fruit from the patch in the backyard. It seems the plentiful crop is ripening on the vine as I watch. We are blessed with the harvest and share it with others that they too may enjoy this joy of summer.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The Apostle goes on to say as we bear much fruit we show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

This message is about abiding or living in the vine or Christ Jesus. It is saying that the harvest of fruit or new disciples will be great in us and others as we stay grafted in the vine.  This means that we receive our nutrition and life in Christ. Apart from this vine or knowledge and love there is no life. Perhaps you will live a good life here on earth, but not a bountiful eternal life with God in His light. Instead you will live eternal life in darkness away from God in agony.

So this lesson is simple, but not easy. Abiding always or continuously is something I don’t think we can do by ourselves. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do this. We receive this power when we receive or accept Jesus Christ into our life as our Savior and Lord.

Jesus often talked about things we would understand like fruit. In Galatians, Paul tells us as God had inspired him that “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). As I look down on the red stains on my shirt I smile. It is a symbol of life in Christ Jesus. He wants us covered, immersed, transformed by this juice. What is this juice? It is the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross. He bled bright red for us because we are separated from God by sin and can only be made whole and clean by the blood of the sacrifice of Christ. His blood washes us white as snow as Psalm 51:7 tells us. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5). By the Holy Spirit in His blood. This is the miracle of rebirth and harvest.  Joel 3:13 and John 4:35 say that the fields are ripe for harvest. The earth is ripe for harvest Revelation 14 tells us. We who are washed in His blood are to go out and harvest the fruit of His salvation. We are to go and tell the “Good News” to others that they may know the truth that will set them free from sin and make them new, full of the fruit that is so luscious and beautiful.


I love this harvest season. My hands are red, not just in juice, but also His blood making me ripe. Yes, I am a sinner, but this symbol of Christ’s life and sacrifice make me/us new and ripening in His love and life.  Enjoy the summer; stay abiding in the vine of life.