Friday, April 26, 2019

Lightening Up

Life goes on and passages bring change and new perspectives on all aspects of our journeys. Well, at least this should occur unless we are just adrift. For my wife and I our present circumstances are the best they have ever been. We are growing old together physically and spiritually, as God has ordained. I feel blessed in hospital chaplaincy to which God has called me. Even though I have “failed retirement” I know that I am in God’s will using the gifts he gave me.  My wife has retired from a nursing career after 45 years. Additionally, we have seen the need to simplify life and lighten up on possessions of all kinds. This has meant innumerable trips to Goodwill and the Salvation Army as well as selling over 200 items through consignment shops. This has not been easy as we are now getting down to the numerically valuable items.

My parents collected antiques, furniture, pottery and Currier and Ives lithographs. When they aged they vacated their house, which we had purchased from them so they could simplify and move south. We moved my mother, with alcoholism and Alzheimer’s, to assisted living, nursing homes and eventually a locked geropsychiatric unit.  Their former home still had old milk in the fridge, piles of papers and mail and all of their clothing, furnishings and basically their whole history for 60 years of marriage as well as evidence of their family before them. It was a monumental feat to clear out and dispense of carloads over months while we determined what to keep. I was the only one visiting my mother who had become violent in her dementia. She eventually became silent as her disease progressed. I have written of the miraculous spiritual healing in which I was blessed to participate. My father had moved to Florida to cope with lifes harsh realities. After my mother died, he eventually found a friend who had lost her spouse to dementia to help each other.

Although my father had arranged financial and legal issues well, he had simply moved out of his former life, friends home and possessions. Mentally he was beaten down to a point where he needed to leave to survive. That was OK with us, just sad, which helped inform us of a better way. We have become determined not to leave our life a shambles for our children now lively in distant states.

Today I sent a large box of Curriers via UPS to an old print dealer in New York City. They will purchase the prints at a considerably discount because of a poor market. What my parents thought would be a tremendous investment has turned out to be a sad chore of divestiture. We are doing the same with other collections from antique still banks, duck decoys, china and furniture. There is a contemplative view that I am taking. I am asking God to tell me about the process. He is saying to enjoy the journey but to know that it is relationships not possessions that matter in life. There can be enjoyment in the treasure hunt for items, but the real joy should be in the shared experience and the growth of love and respect for one another we gain through it.

In Jesus’s parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:15 He says, ‘Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  When the wealthy farmer had so much crop surplus he wanted to build more barns to store it and just be at leisure. The Lord informed him, “this very night your life will be demanded from you…This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (vs. 20,21). This admonition from the Lord is frightening, as we never know when our time is up. God makes very clear that the most important decision in life is whom we will serve. Joshua, the Hebrew leader, told his people, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord… But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then chose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15). 

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is one decision that is the ultimate one in life and there is only one response that brings life and life eternal. That is in trusting in Jesus Christ as you Savior and Lord. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do jot destroy, and where thieves no not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). May all your treasures be in heaven.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

He is Risen!

In the Gospels we read of the garden tomb with the stone rolled away. Angels with appearance like lightening and clothes white as snow stood there to tell the women, “He is not here; He is risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:5). The different gospel versions imply that it might have been Jesus Himself greeting Mary Magdalene. Regardless of which account is most accurate, I have an image of bright gleaming light from angels and the empty tomb.

The above photo taken by my cousin Douglas F. Frank, a landscape photographer, brings to view a rock wall perhaps like the one used for Jesus’ burial. The clouds are exploding with the energy like a powerful wind that brings to mind an angelic or holy appearance. The hills in Jerusalem are similar to those in this image and stark. But the light shines in the skies announcing a risen Lord as He had prophesied. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief” (Matthew 17:23).

Forty-one (41) times in Scripture God speaks of the third day. It is holy, representing the trinity and Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. Jesus himself prophesied in John 2:19 to the Pharisees when they demanded a miraculous sign, ‘“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”’ He was speaking of His own body and His own resurrection after three days. Jesus Himself is the Temple of God, and when He comes to live in you, then you too will be this temple of the Holy Spirit of God.

Easter is a miraculous event in history that cannot be refuted. Throughout all of Scripture we read of it and no evidence can destroy it. God in Christ Jesus rose from the grave that we might live in perfect peace, forgiven and renewed in Him. That is why we can sing on Easter, “Christ the Lord has risen today, hallelujah!” Examine the evidence yourself if you don’t believe it and come to a saving faith in the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.  

Friday, April 19, 2019

Water into Wine

Water in
to Wine

Recently I told of God bringing water from a rock. Now that’s a miracle. But how about wine from water? No cheap trick there, this was Jesus’s first miracle performed at a wedding that had run out of wine. Has your wedding run out of wine? Have your marriage, life, and career plan run out of juice? You know all plans made outside of God’s will run dry, fizzle out, wear down and run on empty. But God!

Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus said. He just told them to fill the huge ceremonial jars with water, 180 gallons. Pump after pump, day after day, year after year, assignment after assignment or meal after meal with toil. It is our lot in life to work. It is also our lot to obey God when He speaks and says to fill the jars with water. 

He might have said to the servants like His brother James, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of all kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance which must finish its work for you can be mature and complete lacking nothing”  (James 1:2-4). It is to be counted pure joy when we carry water, plow the field, walk the halls of the hospital or roof that building. Is the travail a test; I think so. Can you be faithful in handling water? Jesus said to fill the jars, not to overflowing like the falls in the photo above. Don’t waste it. 

Then He turned the water into wine. Not just ordinary wine, but the best. He would have them serve the best at the end. “The best till last” (John 2),unlike anyone else has ever done. He transformed the water into the best wine. This wine would be made from trial, testing and torture to the very last drop. This wine would be made from squeezing the very blood of the King of Kings. This wine press would transform trampled grapes of the wrath of man to be resurrected through the wrath of God into the salvation of the world. How precious was this wine? It is not to be wasted, but treasured because it is sacred. Have you tasted the wine from the Wedding at Cana? Have you drunk from the font of blessing? Have you drunk the dregs or the sacrificial ends of the life of your Savior and Lord?

If you have taken the wine then celebrate and rejoice. Sing and dance for He has turned the empty jars or your vessels into glad communion in His sacrificial blood. If your marriage or life seems empty, it is because you have run out of wine. Your cisterns are empty. You need to be refilled and refreshed in the revitalizing flow from the most aged casks and vines. Walk and abide in the ways of the Ancient Vines (John 15:5). Harvest the ripe dark grapes that were crushed for you. Drink the new wine and rejoice for he or she who had only water now has the wine of God and life eternal through His blood red wine flowing and given for you. Do this in remembrance of Him. 

Beatitudes of Revelation

You probably are familiar with the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 saying “blessed are the…” But are you equally familiar with the 7 beatitudes of the Book of Revelation? Well the Revelation of Jesus Christ, given to the Apostle John, gives encouraging and scary thoughts for our consideration.

Starting in Revelation 1:3 we read, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy an blessed are those that hear it and take to heart what I written in it, because the time is near.”  God is admonishing us to read Revelation and to believe it with all of our heart now for the time of Jesus’s return is near. Yes the “end-times” are here and the “beginning of birth pains” that Jesus talks about in Matthew 24. “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  Blessed means more than happy, so get to it if you have not found salvation in Jesus Christ as yet. It will soon be too late.

Revelation 14:14 says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  This is victory. Yesterday I presided at a funeral where I was able to speak about our victory over death through Christ Jesus.  The time is now and not forever. The salvation is forever; the opportunity to find it will end soon.

“Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed” (Revelation 16:15).  Now this is a strange thought. We are being told frequently in the later New Testament to be alert and watchful for the times are dark and full of evil. I believe this and want to be “clothed” in Christ or believing in His deliverance through the valley and darkness. I don’t want to be found lacking faith as a “mustard seed” but trusting in God. Romans 8:1 says, “That there I therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”  (Revelation 19:9). This forth beatitude tells of being ready. Remember the parable of the “Wedding Banquet” in Matthew 22? The king invites many to the banquet, but they were too busy to come. So he went to the streets and found good and bad to bring in. All were given invitation and received it, thereby receiving wedding clothes. This was a custom, but also symbolic of receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. We must hear and accept the invitation; otherwise we will be unclothed and thrown out. Many are invited and few are chosen. Chose today whom you will serve as Joshua told the Israelites.

“Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for 1000 years” (Revelation 20:6). What an incredibly exciting promise for those who trust in Christ, they will be resurrected and not have the second death, or damnation in Hades.

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of prophecy in this book”  (Revelation 22:7). Jesus was telling John that He was coming soon. How the whole world groans for this moment and heavenly reign, at least believers do. Unfortunately all other should shudder.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may go through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).  This prophecy speaks of the Christian martyrs who have died for their faith. Very sadly as Revelation predicts the persecution is increasing and many will perish for the gospel. However, we do not need to fear as we may go through the gates of heaven many call the “pearly gates”. Actually Revelation 21:21 tells us that the gates are towering and made from one giant pearl.

Well, there they are, the seven beatitudes of Revelation bringing joy in the trials for Christians and perishing for non-believers. But Jesus said, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”  (2 Peter 3:11).  What about you?  Don’t you want to be blessed of God and know for sure your eternal security? Then make haste and decide this day whom you will serve.

Word from God

Have you recently received a fresh word from God? Do you know that God speaks to us in many ways? Do you know the story of the Prophet Elijah? “And the word of the Lord came to him; ‘What are you doing here? Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:1). Elijah had just run for his life from the evil Queen Jezebel. God was talking to him personally about Himself and his mission.

“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
15 Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria”(1 Kings 19:11-15NKJV).
God was telling Elijah in a whisper, a still small voice to trust and obey Him and to return from the “wilderness” to where he would obey and anoint a king over Syria. God was and is still very specific in His instructions. The author Henry Blackaby wrote in his book Experiencing God, that the Holy Spirit of God speaks His will for us through prayer, His word, the Bible, other godly people and circumstances.  In Old Testament times God spoke audibly to His prophets. This is rare today as He speaks more so through Scripture. He spoke to Samuel the Prophet in 1 Samuel 15:22 saying, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offering and sacrifices as much as obeying the voice of the Lord?” 

God wants us to obey His word, whether spoken audibly or from reading it in Scripture. I have had the  awesome privilege of having God speak to me audibly while sitting in a Christian counselor’s office. As we sought the Lord, I saw Him high and lifted up as in Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple.”  Then I heard clearly the words, “This is the way, walk in it.” At the time I did not know that this was a Scripture verse from Isaiah 30:21 saying, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” I asked the counselor a Franciscan Monk if he had heard it and he said, “I heard the voice, but I don’t know what He said.” This incredible confirmation of my hearing brought great joy and fear at the same time. I have come to know that God was calling me into ministry to follow Him the rest of my days.

This clear call was given in love from the One who created the heaven and the earth. This call came shortly after I had received the Lord Jesus Christ as my own Savior and Lord by the side of the road in a blizzard along Lake Superior while driving back home from my hospital work. I gave my life to the Lord as I had just heard the word of the Lord through a radio station in Upper Michigan. It was the only station I could pick up in the storm. Chuck Swindoll, a Christian author and preacher spoke of god’s love and forgiveness for my sins. I knew that the message was for me and I obeyed it, taking a knee in the snow to receive it and Him. Since then, my life has been a rocky journey ever forward and upward with the Holy Spirit and God’s word as my guide. That’s how life will be, full of blessing and heartaches. But God is faithful as I write in my book, Great is God’s Faithfulness. God has led me into my calling of hospital chaplaincy and writing.  I now have published four books and have a blog that goes out around the world, God is faithful and has also led me to write a book in response to His call; This is the Way, Walk in It. The book delineates how to follow the admonition of Isaiah 30:21 about walking in the way of the Lord. It covers personal theologies and brings essays on subjects ranging from abundance, grief to wisdom.

Yes, God speaks to us in many and miraculous ways His will for us. Read His word, Meditate on it and listen to His teachings and plans. Be obedient to His word and know that “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. 
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater, 
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,

And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:8-11 NKJV).