Friday, June 29, 2018

Be Renewed

Would you like to be renewed or made new? I suspect all of us would answer yes, maybe with a couple of provisos. King David when praying to God after his sin and pain with Bathsheba says, “Create in me a pure heart O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). He wants a life among the living again. This is a common feeling among those who have been grieving the loss of a loved one. Later in Psalms 103:1,3,5 he says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, praise His holy name, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…who satisfies the desires of your heart with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Here he is saying that we have a God who actually does these things in our lives if we trust Him. As if to confirm this promise, Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 40:31 says, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles, they will run and not grow weary, and they will walk and not be faint.”  This is a verse that many people have printed on their Bible covers or framed in their homes. It usually is accompanied by the image of a soaring eagle.

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16 addresses how we are falling apart physically and going through trials and hardships, but “inwardly we are being renewed every day.” This passage is for believers who put their trust in God, an exhortation he gives to the Romans in 12:2 saying, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is the process of sanctification or being made holy and righteous through the Holy Spirit. But we must submit and be obedient to God’s Word and direction in our lives. If we are doing it or think we can, we can’t. This is not about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps; it is a spiritual formation or growth process. Paul has told us to be “living sacrifices” as a spiritual act of worship. We were made to worship. This is not a church thing. It is a lifestyle wholly given to God.

This process starts when we are “made new.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul describes this saying, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Throughout the New Testament we read of becoming new, having a new song in our heart. This is about the “new covenant” brought by Jesus into the world with His incarnation. He came to reconcile the world, one person at a time, to Himself and God. As we receive His gift of salvation we become new and the old is gone. We have “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).  He goes on to say: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).  Lest you say that this is too much, be at peace. This is talking of the process of becoming righteous through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must submit and obey. We must stay under the trial of assignment God has given us until He says we are finished. Then in growing quantity and quality we take on these godly attributes. This is our act of worship or living. So be renewed!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Hold On

Hold On!

“ Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:10-11).

Just hold on, I'm comin'
Hold on, I'm comin'
Hold on, I'm comin'
Hold on, I'm comin’

I think many of us know this famous rhythm and blues song from Memphis. It came to my head when I was reading Jesus’ wonderful promises to the churches in Revelation. The Scripture quote is to the church of Philadelphia for their patience and persevering faith. God was telling them to continue to hold on to their faith, because He would be coming soon (quickly). We are in the end times and waiting for the soon return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign. We know from Scripture that He is coming soon, ever since He ascended telling His disciples so. Throughout Scripture God says for us to persevere because trials will bring completeness if we just hold on in faith. That is a wonderful but difficult message to hear for 2000 years. Yet today as all of the prophesies of the Old and New Testament have been completed, we have a new and imminent sense of Jesus soon return.

This 1966 release of “Hold on, I’m Comin’” might be a theme song for Christians today. Never mind that originally Sam and Dave gave it this title because they were trying to finish it and Dave was off in the restroom. Another legend is that the song was recorded in a restroom because the sound was better. Whichever the story, I want to take the words and speak of God comin’ and our waiting patiently.

Revelation 3:3 says “hold on and repent.” I think this is the proclamation of evangelists through the ages, “Repent! And be baptized.”  The writer of Hebrews says, “Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). I see many losing hope in this crumbling world. Morally our country has long since lost its compass. The world is at war and has been for a long time. Earthquakes and hurricanes are increasing. Yes, and it seems that most of the world has heard the gospel or good news.

So, “hold on” for the time is near. This should give us staying power and fuel for the rest of the journey. Eugene Petersen, the writer of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, speaks of our faith walk as Long Obedience in The Same Direction. This is like the pilgrimage of God’s people to Jerusalem up the sanctuary hill to the temple. Just keep walking and singing the psalms or whatever word of God that brings you strength and hope and “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).

Friday, June 15, 2018

Crumbling Foundations

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Good question, or are you saying, “what does that mean?” Well, I am of the opinion that our country has lost its moral compass, and that process has been going on for a long time. If I grabbed a date, I would say the last 40 years have marked a consistent moral decline in our culture and government.

Perhaps the last year has been the most blatant. Headlines reveal the Supreme Court approving same-sex marriage. This may not seem like a big deal, shouldn’t we all have equal rights? That is not exactly what they said. In approving gay marriage, the court was taking a religious stand, not civil. Marriage is a God-ordained union between a man and a woman. The Bible says this 43 times. It is not between any two people as one denomination has now said through it’s General Assembly. This is changing God’s Word, which is no small thing. If one word can be changed then all can be received or not depending on how you feel about it.  You may say, well why are there so many different translations or version of the Bible then? These are attempts by godly scholars to make Scripture more understandable for the most part. I will say that Jesus Christ said there “is ONE body” in Ephesians 4:4. I believe that He meant that we are all one in Him as believers. He knows that over a billion people cannot meet in the same place at the same time. Churches have popped up everywhere. That’s just fine; however, I don’t believe that the Lord is pleased with different interpretations of His original intent for His Word. There are certain inalterable essentials of Christian faith. Man has taken great liberty in this. Some would say that it spreads the word further. I see that and I see Sunday also being the most segregated day of the week with black and white churches, Catholic and Pentecostal, Lutheran and Presbyterian meeting. Many of these churches are worshipping the same God with the same Bible. Some are taking liberties to add their own traditions and even interpretations. Freedom in Christ does not mean freedom to change His intent.

OK, back to loving one another as He has loved us. Yes that is the main commandment after we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and strength as Deuteronomy 6:5 states. Love does not mean that anything goes. We, the people “of the Book” should be standing guard of God’s Word and desire for our lives. Mark 13:33 says “Be on guard.” Throughout the New Testament we are told to be alert and to “keep watch!”  The days are short in this the “end times.” We are waiting and watching for the return of the Lord for His people and for judgment.

I have recently published a two-volume book, This is The Way; Walk in It. It is a series of essays on how to walk in God’s way in this late season. It is about God’s wisdom and admonitions in a teetering world. I am accumulating more essays now that I keep in a special file called, Keep Walking. These pieces are for believers and non-believers to find encouragement to keep on going. We are in the end times and now is the time to seek the Lord. Psalm 11:1 says, "In the Lord I take refuge.”  This is how that might look:
·      Read and meditate on God’s Word
·      Give thanks in all things
·      Rejoice always
·      Pray continuously
·      Encourage one another in the Lord
·      Share God’s goodness and truth
·      Trust and obey
·      Submit to God
·      Stay under the trial until God releases you
·      Stand firm, watch, Be alert
·      Wait patiently for the Lord
·      Keep walking
·      Be on guard
·      Be fully persuaded in you mind
·      Love one another
These are a few life principles as we seek the face of God in Christ Jesus. In Matthew 7, when talking about building our house on a firm foundation, He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). Are you building your house on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ?

Friday, June 8, 2018

Safe Harbor

This morning I was out biking on my prayer and worship route at 0400. The wind was increasing and I had a feeling of a coming storm.  As I pulled in between the lighted stone columns at the entrance of our subdivision I felt a relief like I was entering “Safe Harbor.”

“Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.”  Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.  And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there” (Acts 27:8-12).

Paul was a prisoner heading to Rome with other prisoners. He cautioned against sailing because of the weather and difficult coastline. But the centurion decided to sail on past “Fair Havens.”  The remainder speaks of the great storm that came up and brought a shipwreck. All survived as Paul had prophesied, but all material goods were lost.  How about you, have you sailed past Fair Havens or safe harbor?  Have you put aside good judgment or common sense? Have you gone on your own advice and not God’s wisdom?  I certainly have often. I write of disastrous plane and car crashes from which I have survived by the grace of God. I write about personal decisions that have led to career endings.

It was 1967 and I was sailing through the Virgin Islands with fraternity brothers. We had wonderful weather and idyllic conditions for the “bare boat” adventure. We stayed in the Cook Inlet for the most part. We moored at British Virgin Islands at night, having snorkeled and fished as we sailed through the warm and azure Caribbean waters. We found safe harbor in tropical protected bays on quaint mountainous islands of Peter, Tortola, Norman, Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda. We sometimes partied with the folks on other sailboats that had found us. We were equipped with foreign beers and rum from the ancient rum distillery, still running on a now abandoned cane plantation worked by African slaves during the 17-18th centuries. We had fish I caught while trolling and lobster from spearfishing. It was smooth sailing to say the least.

On Virgin Gorda, the last of the chain before the open dark blue Atlantic we found wonderful fishing and spearing. We anchored off Saber Rock the last vestige of land. The 20 foot high coral heads hid giant lobsters and schools of permit and mackerel harvested for our hibachi grill off the back of our 27-foot Vega sloop. This was a paradise.

When it was time to start sailing back to Cruise Bay, St. John we made what would be a dangerous decision. We decided to head out and around the islands. It was exhilarating as the ocean spray cooled us in the tropical sun and the waves rose above the boat. We could look into the dark blue 20-foot waves seeing fish and porpoises.  The main was full and it took all hands on deck to control her. Fortunately we had one accomplished ocean sailor on board.

We tried the jib, but could only raise it half-mast because of the winds blowing at 20 knots. Up and down the huge waves we cut. At the tops we balanced and then raced down the steep sides to the bottoms. The waves around us seemed to loom like skyscrapers. Waves were breaking over our bow as we plunged on. Soon our moods changed from excitement to fear. We were in over our heads, literally.  The sailors among us started giving edgy commands as we headed back towards the islands that we could barely see except from the wave tops. This was indeed uncharted water for us.

We reefed the sails to keep from capsizing. We were in trouble as we headed into the monstrous waves. We had tied each of us to the mast or strong parts of the boat for safety in the event we were washed overboard. We kept tacking in. We threw a sea anchor to slow our pace.

Finally an island seemed to appear from nowhere. We scuttled along side looking for an opening. Then it materialized through the spray. The lines were burning our arms and hands, the sea searing eyes and throats.  We could see an entrance a few hundred yards ahead. As waves crashed over us, we held our line, the keel skipping almost out of the water. If it came out we were finished.

Our bow tore past the coral rocks by just a few feet with waves splashing 25 feet in the air, our speed over 20 knots.  Immediately we realized we were in “safe harbor.” We had entered a protected coral bay. There were several sailboats already there to seek protection from the seas. Our speed shot us forward into the protected bay right at the others. Realizing we needed to avert another potential disaster we threw the rudder and dropped the sails at once coming about immediately and coming to a stop only a few yards from the other anchored boats. It was an instinctual and almost blinding maneuver. Cheers went up as our hearts and minds began to take in the calm waters and gorgeous harbor. The other sailors were applauding what they told us looked like the maneuvers of a seasoned America’s Cup Team.

Soon we were joined with the other boats and lashed together to share and party. The rum flowed freely and the charcoal grills started up to share in the seas bounteous fare. We were secure in “Safe harbor.”

Do you have a safe harbor? Do you know the only safe harbor from the storms of life?  Jesus Christ is the one who was with us in the boat as He was with the Disciples on the swollen seas of Galilee. He will calm the storms on the sea and in your lives if you trust Him as Savior and Lord. Do it today if you have not for the seas are rising.