Friday, November 30, 2018

Restore

Restore
“Brothers or sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him/her gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

Paul is not talking about the Habitat for Humanity “Re-Store” here, although making something used or old into a revitalized thing is getting at the crux of this teaching. The restoration of the church member who has sinned or fallen, ambushed, taken into transgression is a difficult yet essential process or God would not have addressed it so directly here and elsewhere in the New Testament. I think the key is how and with what motivation we do it.

The Galatian church was know for “Judaizing” or requiring Old Testament Hebrew law along with tradition for all things. The legalistic and self-righteous person is not going to be effective in addressing a wrong as Paul proposes. He is looking for the Spirit-filled, those walking in step with the Spirit to do the work. The fruit of the Spirit includes the traits of kindness, patience and gentleness along with self-control. Using these traits allows a righteous person to address the one who has turned off the trail. Paul says to “restore him gently.”  This is not a word of weakness but instead power under control. Gentleness is the fruit that I have chosen as my word or characteristic to concentrate on for 2016. I am not always gentle. I raise my voice sometimes thinking that this will get a point across better. This is more about my need to control than a motivation of perfect communications. The gentle person should be devoted to loving the sinner without aloofness, but in humility lest they would be tempted too. It is about compassion, not just correction. Restoring someone is to make them complete in their former or even better condition. But be careful not to overdo it like I have seen antique restorers repaint “old furniture.” The process should bring out the original patina of the wood and make it bright so that it shines a light.

Another important thing to remember when someone sins, whatever it may be is that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Moreover, when one sins, all are affected. Commentary writer R. Alan Cole suggests reading 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Here Paul states, “If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent-not to put it too severely.” Grief is a good word to speak of the impact of sin. Grief is a process that begins with anger or shock and possibly denial, then proceeds to bargain, then accept, allowing for an eventual reinvestment and moving on. The process of dealing with sin is similar. We need to move through it and perhaps not in a linear way as it takes time. Sometimes sin takes time to reject and rework to righteousness.

The culprit caught in the sin must recognize, confess and repent. This process is overseen by the power of the Holy Spirit if a person is truly a believer. Indeed this process can make them whole. However, there may need to be repayment with the restoring as others may have been injured physically or emotionally. This process requires all involved to “carry each others burdens” as Paul says. This means be invested, interested in the other person and their welfare as well as the whole’s. In this we “bear” with each other. We are being helpers and not condemners and accusers. This is indeed the Law of Christ, to love the Lord and one another.

One more caveat is in order. This process speaks of bringing peace. However, sometimes the other person does not want peace. “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). This is difficult as another teaching speaks of each Christian having been given “the ministry of reconciliation.” It is sad that we just can’t be reconciled with some people because of their selfishness or disease. We need to keep being kind, gentle and thankful to God no matter what. In the current vernacular, “shake it off.” Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 10:14 saying If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”  Sometimes we just need to leave someone alone, let him or her be. If you live or work with the kind of people I am the Bible addresses here it is difficult and requires, hospitality, patience, kindness and gentleness, but not begging even though we may grieve a little while. Remember to forgive as Christ has forgiven you. 


Friday, November 23, 2018

Warm Springs

In 1521 Ponce Del Leon, a Spanish explorer for the crown, explored Florida for riches. He was reputedly searching for the “Fountain of Youth.” It was on a fateful day almost 500 years ago that he discovered what is now known as Warm Springs, Florida. Indigenous Native Americans mortally wounded the explorer there. The springs are a large sinkhole some 250 feet deep now filled with warm mineral spring water at a constant 87 degrees from deep within the earth. This 1.4-acre sinkhole circulates over 9-million gallons of water per day, infused with the richest density of minerals of any known warm-water spring in the world.  Chloride, sulfur, magnesium, and some 20 other minerals make the water much heavier than H2O. Archeological dives have discovered ancient Paleo-Indian burials from some 4-10,000 years ago at the bottom. At that time woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roomed in the Ice Age.

On March 3, 2016 my wife and I traveled to the Warm Springs. Pam has made it a quest to visit and soak in as many hot springs as she can wherever we go. It was a warm 80-degree sunny day as we walked to the spring in a rural scrub palm wooded area. The scene was a brilliant mélange of sound, sight and smell to take in. The spring was a dark pond of 1.4 about 250 in diameter and depth surrounded by a grassy tropical tree filled park. It was filled with perhaps 500 people ensconced in a myriad of brightly colored swimsuits, sun hats and sunglasses. The swarm floated, bobbed and swam around the pool surrounded by red and blue beach chairs where towels and sunbathing people lay. It was quite a sight in the middle of nowhere. However, perhaps it was the smell and sound that was most strange. The water smelled of sulfur and other pungent gases like a rotting compost pile. Not nice, but supposedly healing, something we had experienced many times in other favorite hot springs through the Northwest.

Through the sights and smells came a low cacophony of voices arising from the water before us. It was almost like a swarm of bees was moving around in front of us appearing as a carrousel with colorful riders providing the music. Intrigued we headed into the dark, warm to join the moving mass of humanity.

The floating folks were mostly of white skin with bright coverings and large in size, even elephantine to go with the circus-like scene and history. But soon we began to realize that the sound of voices was a low drone of languages from around the world. In fact it seemed like we were the only English-speaking people in the pool. Soon I came across people from several Balkan countries, Italy, Germany, Spain, South America and Russia, a veritable United Nations. I know that the Eastern Europeans enjoy the hot springs of the Baltic and Black Seas and perhaps that attracted them.

But the almost surrealistic quality of the experience brought me to a different place, the Book of Revelation, and the worshipful singing around the throne of God. People from all nations, tribes and tongues are assembled to praise the Lord of Hosts and the Lamb on His throne. I know that they and the angels and elders sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8; 21:15-21).  I could imagine the worship going on in heaven. Revelation describes the incredibly beautiful colors of precious stones: emerald, sardonyx, sapphire, carnelian, beryl and amethyst making up the foundation of the New Jerusalem. The swimmers colorful coverings seemed to reflect such a place. In heaven there is no need for light for God provides it. And so seemed the bright light of the Florida sun reflected everywhere around us as we swam with the others around and around. The probable sweet smell of incense burning around the throne of heaven stands in stark contrast to the mineral fumes rising from the pool. However, we read in Revelation 22 of the river flowing down from the throne of God and of the Lamb on each side of which stood the tree of life whose leaves brought healing of the nations.


Perhaps I have turned this warm springs experience into a parable because Jesus has said, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who keep the words of prophecy in this book” (Revelation 22:7).  I did find it healing to body, mind and spirit, and indeed I believe it is true.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Satisfied


Satisfied

“I can’t get no satisfaction,” sing the Rolling Stones.  “How much more do you need? Just a little bit more.” This was Rockefeller’s response on money. Are we satisfied? Where do you get satisfaction or contentment? Is it money like the “rich young ruler” in Luke 18, obsessed with his gold that he could not give up? There are many things or people we might place above God in our priorities, but they will not satisfy long term. There is only one source and you can’t buy it. In fact it’s free! Yet as Pastor/writer/martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, it is very Costly Grace. I know you have heard of some great deals on late night TV. It comes to nothing to satisfy the hole in your heart that Pascal speaks of as needing filling. There is only one way to fill it.  Jesus the Messiah is our only source and way to satisfaction or contentment. Is He enough or more than enough? Solomon and Sampson tried everything into ruin, until they repented and found the only source of wealth. Have you tried it all and still are unhappy, unsatisfied, discontented? 

The Apostle Paul tried the Law, but it only led him to jealousy, hatred and murdering of Christians. The Law is good because it points us to our sin and need for the living God. Paul finally needed to be dramatically stopped by force on the Damascus Road by Christ Himself. He was brought to his knees and stripped of his pride to be rebuilt into a vessel suitable to be filled by Jesus’ love and forgiveness. I too needed to be struck down by Jesus in a similar way on the Lake Superior Road in a blizzard at midnight in my blazing headlights kneeling in deep and pure windblown snow some 27 years ago. I had come to the end of my prideful and selfish behavior and myself. I had led the turnaround of a broken hospital back to life, but it had drained me and caused my own moral failures in the process. But God confronted me that night with His truth and overwhelming love. Repenting of my sin I received His grace and was transformed on the spot to become one of His own being made over into something new. Now, still being sanctified or being made righteous through the Holy Spirit, I like Paul have received God’s gifts as more than satisfying.

My life before was not content. Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes” (Proverbs 27:20). My old life required repentance and turning around to be made new. The old is gone, but the flesh remains except for God’s overwhelming grace to renew and satisfy the debt of my sin and yours. Once Paul was changed and filled by the Spirit of God, his life was a sacrifice demonstrated through his walk through trials and troubles as well as great success for the kingdom of God. He was able to say; “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situationwhether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him (Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12b-13). He went on to say, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Yes we will not be in want as David’s Psalm 23 tells of our Good Shepherd’s guidance and provision. He will provide for all of our needs and His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Jesus’ miracles were given to show us His total provision. In His feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” In the Luke version of the Beatitudes we read, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh”  (Luke 6:21). He meets all physical and spiritual needs. Just trust and know that as Paul tells the Ephesians of Holy Spirit filling and ending with a doxology of more than enough:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). 

The world and its resources will not satisfy or bring contentment. The visible are rusting away, so look to the things unseen which are eternal. 




Stone Catcher

Stone Catcher

The story of the Stone Catcher is too good not to repeat. Told at a Ft. Wilderness Men’s Retreat last weekend by Len Larsen, it is the story of Jesus, who is The Stone Catcher. By this he means that Jesus is the encourager, empowerer, faithful One who loves with a life fully given in humility serving others. If we want to be like Him we need to give our whole heart over and embrace His. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He alone feeds His sheep because they know His voice. Ezekiel 34 speaks of the shepherd who seeks out His sheep among the scattered and lost. He rescues them and brings them from all places and gathers them into their own land. Of course he is speaking of Israel. He is also speaking of all who would hear His voice. He will bind up their wounds and strengthen the weak. He will bring justice. He spoke of David the shepherd who preceded Christ bringing us out of the wilderness into the light and green pastures where we can rest and find good grazing. 

Do you know the one and only One who catches stones?  He caught stones on the cross meant for us that He would die and we would live, as we trust in Him? If you don’t, chances are good that you are a stone thrower or one who comes from self and has a critical spirit. You tend to gossip and find what is wrong with others, not right. You are hard hearted and want to win at any expense. Perhaps you learned that in life or business school. I certainly had many years of this kind of training. It is not what God wants from us. If you consider it a gift, take it out back and bury it. 

God can transform your heart of stone and make it into flesh, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). God’s Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and makes us new. He alone can make you a Stone Catcher. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

The End is Near

“ The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen”

Yes it is near, even though this was written 2000 years ago. Since Jesus spoke of end things and gave the same to the Apostles to write much has happened. In fact all prophecies that were foretold have occurred. Now we await the second coming of our Lord. For the Jewish people, your Messiah is coming soon. In fact I believe we are on the last lap around the stadium on our marathon race. So, “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” (revelation 22:7). The Aramaic says “Maranatha- [ I Am Coming Quickly ] He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).  What a wonderful promise of the 7,500 promises from God in Scripture. This is our eternal hope, the soon return of Jesus for us His children.

Yes, He is coming for us. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). This verse speaks of the “rapture” of His people. God will come for us and take us to be with Him as He describes in John 14:1-4. The exact timing of this rapture is unknown and debated, but it will be in the “Twinkling of the eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52).  Yes we will be raised imperishable to be with the Lord. What an exciting time, moment, event to wait patiently.  It is the consummation of our lives on earth and the beginning of our lives in heaven and in a New Earth when we return with Jesus to reign as Revelation foretells.

So, how are you doing? Do you live in hope and joy for the coming of the Lord? Or is that day portending to be a very bad one for you? If you don’t trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I get it. You will have a bad and very bad day for you will be heading to live in darkness away from the presence of God forever at that moment. It is your choice. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10-11 NIV).

Well, there it is, the wonderful promise of His coming and soon. I for one have made the most important decision of my life, to trust in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. How about you? If Scripture is true, and I believe it is, then why would you want to miss the boat? Why would you want to live in darkness eternally? “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). That’s where I want to be and I would like to see you there too!  Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Perfect

One of the idioms used today in “perfect.” I hear many times a day this response as a thank you to someone having the answer to a request, “perfect.” It sounds thoughtful and concise, however, I have been thinking about this word. You know, there is only One who is perfect and that is God:  “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Man is not perfect in any way except by the blood of the Lamb who died for all. “For the law appoints as high priest men who have weaknesses, but the word of the oath which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever” (Hebrews 7:48). Mankind is flawed in every way, even if we have gifts of God that can be used for His glory. It started in the “garden of Eden” when pride took over and ruined paradise. We became full of fears and selfish emotions after the fall. But “God is love. And perfect love castes out fear” (1 John 4:18). Yes, God’s love is for us so nothing can be against us as Romans 8:31 tells us. Yet we are not yet perfected or holy, we are being made holy and perfect, as we trust in Him. Perfect will come when we see God face to face in heaven if we believe in the Son of God as Savior and Lord. But in this world we will have troubles Jesus tells us. He also said that we should take heart because He has overcome the world. So can we have peace in this world?

“He will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast on Him, because he trust in Him” (Isaiah 26:3). God says to seek Him and pray continually. This is how we can find His peace. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.  Yes for Christ’s sake, when I am weak then I am strong.” This is one of the paradoxes of faith; we must be weak to be strong. Said in another way, we must die to self to gain. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). The flesh or our worldly ways must die to live as Christ would have us.

The perfect peace of God is the one we find when we are not anxious, but keep praying with thanksgiving as Philippians 4:6-7 admonishes us. We must continually think about and put into practice all things noble, right, pure excellent and praiseworthy. This is when the God of peace is with us. This is the perfecting power. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). This perfecting power is from above. Paul knew about it and said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and pressing forward to those things which are ahead. I press forward to the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 3:12-14). This is the upward call of God to perfection.

“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The rich young ruler could not do it. God is saying to him and us today that we must put Him first and foremost above all others. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (2 Samuel 22:31). Throughout the Old Testament and Psalms we are told of God’s perfection and to take refuge in Him to be delivered and made whole. This is the quest of mankind to be more like Jesus; many just don’t know it and how to live.
“Be perfect as I am perfect.”