Friday, June 28, 2019

Love Is

“Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4) is part of a teaching from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, the most sensuous one. He is not talking of Eros love, but instead brotherly and agape love.  Anyone who has read the Bible or been at a wedding will probably have heard these words about love. He is talking about all of our lives and attitudes. He is talking about how we see and approach things and other people. Most of us are coming from our own perspectives or selfishness. This is just the way we are, this side of heaven. As Paul tells us, we see through the glass darkly. It today’s jargon, we see through rose-colored glasses. What are those tinted glasses? They are our worldview and slant on everything. He is telling us that without love you gain and you are nothing. That’s pretty damning. You are nothing. I believe that God is also telling us more about the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Paul wants us to know that our lives are about our attitude and where we put our trust. More importantly, what is at your center?  I hope it is your heart. This is where all your emotions and attributes and gifts and centered and are emitted for the world to experience. Paul goes on in this well-known passage to tell us that love is not envious or boasting, rude or self-seeking, easily angered or keeping a scorecard. Love delights in the truth. Where does truth come from? It comes from God the Maker of heaven and earth. It does not come from us. You see,

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way love is made complete…perfect love castes out fear…We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:17,18). John the Apostle that Jesus loved is telling all of us that God first loved us. It is only because of His love for us that we can love. And this love requires us to love Him. Then all our fears are caste away. You see we, as humans are full of fear. That’s why fear and fear not appears some 365 times in the New Testament, because we fear. This is not an essay about all of our fears of life, people, bankruptcy, high places or whatever. It is a paper on love that can only be gained through God in His Son, Jesus Christ. He gave His life for us so that we who believe may be forgiven and live in fearless love. Remember, without His love in us we are nothing.  The Apostle John said it very clearly in a metaphor.


“’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). This long passage of the Father or Gardener or vine and us who are the branches admonishes us to remain in Him. This means to abide, live, dwell, and stay plugged into the vine or life or God. There is no other life-giving source. God tells us that He has loved us, so we must remain in Him to live and have love. He also says that if we do not, we are like a dead branch that gets thrown away and burned in the fire. This is a story in metaphor of life and death in the Vine. It is also an eternal story of eternal life and living or dying spiritually.  If we are spiritually alive we live in Christ and the light of God in heaven. If we do not we burn in hell outside of the presence of God forever. The choice is ours. Scripture says in 2 Peter 3:9 that 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. God is life giving and wants all to realize that we cannot live or love without Him. He wants us to confess this and repent or turnaround and attach to the vine of life. This means that we live for God and not ourselves. This means that our new center is God or love. Remember that apart from God we are and can do nothing.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Witness

“Witness”

Are you a witness in your Jerusalem? I mean, are you as Jesus said, “a witness to Me in Jerusalem?” (Acts 1:8). Perhaps you are concerned and even afraid of this command from Jesus Christ? Does it mean door-to-door salesman work of evangelism? Or is it a lifestyle that tells a story that brings curiosity from those who see and watch you? An experience of the Holy Spirit in your life should be evidence of the Fruit of The Spirit in your life. This is a willingness that basic holiness from God now operates in your life. This is fruit that has been growing until it ripens. Green fruit is bitter or sour, ripe fruit is sweet and satisfying, rotten fruit is awful and to be thrown away. What kind of fruit are you? Do people look at you and mentally want to throw a tomato at you? Is it your judgementalism?  Is it your arrogance, divisiveness and or behavior inconsistent with biblical teaching? One wonderful thought speaks of preaching the gospel at all times and if you must use words. This is consistent with my last essay about being “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger”  (James 1:19). It is my desire in this increasingly shrill world that I not try to meet the clamor, but be calm and considerate of everyone. Trying to be at peace with everyone is a good goal, remembering that there seem to be an increasing number of people who will not be at peace with you (Romans 12:18). 

So, how should we witness? Mother Theresa had good thoughts on this subject:
   People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.
Ben is a friend of mine who is a singer, songwriter and radio host. He wrote a song called Witness. It is about being a good witness wherever you go. I enjoy his folksy guitar version on River West Radio in Milwaukee where I am his sometimes guest. It always gives me pause to ask myself if I am being more like Mother Theresa or CNN, can I get a witness? Truth is not whatever you want to believe. There are absolute truths, a fact that our cultural Marxist or atheist society has decided to disregard. Nonetheless I will be God’s witness to the truth whenever I can. Shalom!

Friday, June 21, 2019

"Keep Being Filled"

When you believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord you were saved from sin and forgiven. At that moment most theologians would agree that the Holy Spirit came to abide or live with and in you. ‘“If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you”’ (John 14:15-20).  The person of the Holy Spirit is a gift of God to be your Counselor, guide and teacher of the truth.  Paul told the Ephesians to “Keep being filled” by the Spirit. This is a continual filling that takes place as we are emptied of ourselves and indwelt by the Spirit. This means more of Him and less of me. It is like being a container filled with rocks and then water. As the rocks (sins) are removed more and more water can be poured into the container until overflowing.

The flowing of the Holy Spirit is what Jesus tells, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow within him”  (John 7:38).  Again in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus says, ‘“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”’  (John 4:13-14). I have a painting of these verses of bubbling springs rushing from the earth. This image reminds me of one of my favorite fishing trips to the “Driftless Area” of Wisconsin where glaciers carved out deep valleys and high moraines throughout the Southwestern part of the state. Here artesian brooks bubble up from the limestone, cold from deep within the earth.  Pure spring waters bring watercress and native trout to flourish. The almost magical region is heavily forested with a patchwork of fields dotting the landscape primarily farmed by Amish plows pulled by teams of horses. The clip-clop of horse-drawn carts echo down the curvy valley roads. There is a peacefulness here that transcends understanding. It is the peacefulness that David’s Psalm 23 refers to saying, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.”  I am not good at resting so like many, God makes me rest in the beauty of His creation. But He restores, renews, and revitalizes me there. There “my cup overflows.”  Yes, this is where my life overflows with God’s passion and peace. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” That is what I am doing right now.

The Apostle Paul opened his second book to the Corinthians by telling them of the “God of compassion and the Lord of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comforts overflow”  (2 Corinthians 1:3,5). God wants us to be filled with His Holy Spirit of comfort and to overflow with Him in prayers and praises through His Holy Spirit. I have had the privilege of having the Holy Spirit fill me totally to overflowing several times. Because The Holy Spirit is alive and active He comes in times of need.

I have related a story in my book, Great is God’s Faithfulness, of how I had become overwhelmed by tick-borne illness to a point where physicians from a prestigious medical school told me that they believed that I was going to succumb to parasitic diseases. My joints were frozen, I was unable to walk. A fever over 100 racked my body for several weeks, bringing migraine-like headaches. In delusional fear, I called out to God through His word in Psalm 103 saying, “Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits. Who forgives all your sins and who heals all your diseases, who lifts your life from the pit…”  As I prayed His Word, a hot feeling starting at my head, pushing through to my feet.  The warmth felt like the oil of overflowing love. Immediately after it sourced through me, I was overwhelmed with joy. I jumped out of bed yelling, “I’m healed,” and I was, totally. It was clear that God’s Holy Spirit had overwhelmed me with His power taking away all things not of God. His power was made perfect in my weakness.


It was three years ago on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came down with His hot and healing power again. I was leading a large church through what was a very destructive implosion that had ousted the three other clergy, leaving me with a diminished and torn congregation where many had vacated in anger and others stayed in pain. I remained under the trial to be the healer. But the stress was too much for me, bringing deep depression and totally overwhelming effects on many others and me. As I stood at the front of the church while the Pentecost story from Acts was being read, the powerful warmth of God’s hand fell upon me again from head to toe like a hot oil running all over me. I was being drenched and anointed in the Holy Spirit. My body perspired through my clothes, but I also had an transcending sense of joy and clarity. The fear and the darkness vanished. I told the guest pastor standing next to me when she asked if I was all right that the Spirit of God through His spoken word had healed me again. This joy and strength has remained upon me. God has further anointed me to write it down and tell the world. That is just what I have done starting a blog and publishing books to praise the Lord: Great is God’s Faithfulness; This is The Way, Walk in it (Vol. I&II); and Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside.”  My blog is read around the world with Ukraine having the most readers outside the United States. I don’t believe that this would have been possible except through the power of the Holy Spirit filling me with wisdom. “Keep being filled.”

Monday, June 17, 2019

Number Our Days


Douglas Frank Photo

Number Our Days
Do you number your days, or do you make the most of  them? I don’t think anyone except the Lord Jesus Christ does that. We are just too distracted and full of ourselves. You say I have lists, who doesn’t? Lists can keep you from doing what God wants you to do. The Spirit of God is interceding for you even with groans that our own prayers can’t express. In other words we have very deep and personal needs that only God knows and can meet. Psalm 90:9-12 is a guide to my question, “All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years-or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away…Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  I heard these words read by a minister at the funeral of a lovely lady who seemed to have done just what the psalmist admonishes. She was tough and yet kind, giving her life to the inner city of Milwaukee and its myriad problems of poverty, trafficking and fatherlessness. We have a culture bereft of value other than self and sin. As I look at my own life on the eve of Father’s Day, I wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving?

The Apostle Paul said, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer every one” (Colossians 4:5-6). He was concerned with those outside the church and inside who had become worldly and led by false teachers. Jesus said when the end of times come many would fall away, and I am witnessing just that in the church. The numbers of true believers, centered on Christ is decreasing in this country taken by an uncivil culture full of themselves. From where does your Wisdomcome? Is it from the news, or society? If you listen to the “false” and I believe “fake” news you will be consumed and become despairing. This is where Satan wants you, worthless for the Kingdom of God. We need to be watchful in prayer, seeking wisdom for the Lord who will generously pour it out if we don’t doubt (James 1:6). We are called by Paul to join him in his evangelism as Jesus’ “Great Commission” exhorted us all. That’s why he said to make the most of every conversation, “full of grace and seasoned with salt.” 

Grace and salt are two powerful ingredients to conversation. Mercy and love, full of spice and healing words is what he is talking about. “Saltiness” is interesting, not boring or complaining or speaking down to anyone. Salt is a substance that preserves and builds up not tearing down. Words of truth are not incoherent, but clear and health giving. They are filled with generous civility uncommon today. Today it takes courage to come against lies and arguments not built on truth. The Holy Spirit will speak for you if you are, “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19) Righteousness does not come from anger. People want flavor to their lives. One that hurts or one that is bland just does not work. We need to be bold like a Starbuck’s coffee, without the caffeine headache and handover or jitters. From where does your courage come? Do you seek the Lord continuously, praising Him and giving thanks as Paul also teaches in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. This is difficult without being filled with the Holy Spirit and His fruit. This is impossible without putting on the full armor of God to protect, shield and then gives us the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God as our offensive weapon against evil spirits we battle. 

Our days are numbered, we don’t know if we have tomorrow. So make the most of them. Be in the Word, find other godly people to encourage your walk, walk boldly, seasoned with salt. Don’t let the world be your guide, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. I want my days to be a reflection of God’s grace. I want my grandchildren to see and hear words that are not “rude” or self-seeking. I want them to find my walk exciting and fun, and full of God’s wisdom. I want to be light in the darkness and so should you!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sin

“But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out”  (Numbers 32:23).

Moses was speaking with the Israelites about not following the Lord in settling over the Jordan. Not seeking the Lord to go before them would mean disaster and it was sin. Have you sinned, confessed, repented and been forgiven or do you regret what you have done and still are stuck in it? Scripture tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

There are many examples of sin in Scripture that led to severe consequences and death, until repented. King David and his sin with Bathsheba is perhaps the best-known story. In this sad case, David sinned and then covered it up to the extent of having Bathsheba’s husband killed to set up a rouse that he was the father of the child not David. Well, it didn’t work. David was found out. Psalm 32 tells us, “Blessed is he whose transgressions is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I was silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you will forgiven the iniquity of my sin”  (Psalm 32:1-5). David delineates a process wherein his sin was heavy upon him until he confessed to the Lord. Actually we know from the sequence in 2 Samuel that David did not confess until the prophet Nathan went to him and confronted him in his sin. David then was crushed and knew that he had sinned against the Lord, but confessed and was forgiven. However, there were consequences to his sin, there always are. David and Bathsheba’s love child died and David’s life, although once full of valor was filled with sorrow over a runaway family even with his son Absalom treasonously trying to overthrow eventually tragically leading to his death. David was a broken man, yet more wise about sin, even believing that the cursing from a Wildman Shimei in 2 Samuel 16 might have some truth in it.

Sin will find you out. I think of President Clinton and his lies, that eventually were uncovered leading to impeachment trials. President Nixon’s cover up and Clinton have caused the Office of the President to be forever marred.

My own sin found me out during a very intense period of my professional life as a turnaround hospital CEO. I led troubled hospitals through transitions back from bankruptcy. The overwhelmingly intense processes through hospital reorganizations turned them and myself upside down. Long days and weeks, leading to months of intense 16-hour days led to heavy drinking and moral mistakes. Several of these efforts led to successful hospital turnarounds, but crushed me, causing the end of my hospital career at the C-level. Confession and repentance has led to forgiveness and the Lord’s blessing me with a new career in His “calling” for me.

I have been a hospital chaplain for the past 15 years having been restored and completing seminary and two years of chaplaincy training to move from “the front office to bedside.” This process is journaled in my book, Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside.”  Now I serve people in crisis in hospitals that were once in crisis as I served in a different capacity.

David learned very hard lessons that he spoke out in Psalm 55. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned…Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice…Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me”  (Psalm 55 excerpts). David confessed and was forgiven. He was the only man, even in his sin that it was said, And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’”  (Acts 13:22).

Jeremiah the Prophet said, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  This is a scary verse about man. Coupled with David’s statement that we are sinful from conception, we are indeed a dark people, only to be saved from our sin by believing what God Himself did for us through His Son.  God said to Solomon when building the temple, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14). This was also the theme verse of a Sacred Assembly, Stand In The Gap, of nearly 1.3 million men, that I also attended in October, 1997, occupying the Washington D.C. mall to pray for our nation and its sin. It was the largest meeting in the nation’s history for nay purpose. God take our sin and our repentance of it seriously. I believe that our country in morally bankrupt, a state that can only be dealt with by turning to God in confession of sin, repentance and prayer. May it not be too late.



Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Messy

Douglas Frank Photo
Messy

Are you messy, or do you have it all together? Whichever way you responded, we are all in progress forever. However, both extremes, if you will, are broken- forsaken. By this I mean we are all cracked pots with honey, motor oil or bitter gall leaking out all over. It is possible to have light flow through your cracks. Dr. Seuss had a way of expressing messes like this: And this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all! — The Cat in the Hat. Have you ever considered that you can’t “pick up” or cleanse yourself pure? You can try all you want, but humans are a mess, made in the image of God, but soiled and full of boils. You may call this a negative view of life. But no, it is the truthful view of life. We are all walking in darkness until we see the light. Isaiah the Prophet said of us all, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before youas.people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Are you walking in darkness and seemingly hopeless? For most of us it is both. But it does not need to stay that way. God accepts you the way you are; He just wants you to follow Him.

Many of you are familiar with the “Love Chapter” in the Bible, which is 1 Corinthians 13. It tells us that without love we have or gain nothing. In this place we see dimly as through a looking glass darkly, imperfectly. Life is messy and full of molasses. It sticks onto you and attracts bugs, then decays before it goes away. So what do you say, should we find another way?

The Apostle Paul had a way with words, particularly making important concepts very clear, like sin. As it is written: ‘“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”’ (Romans 3:10-18,23). All is everyone of us. There is no cure on earth; we cannot clean up ourselves. Listen to 5 minutes of TV news and you will hear and see, but how can it be? We have lost the key to see while we are on the tee you and me. But start with a humble step of recognizing and repenting that you are unclean. Don’t run, for this is no fun, yes we all are undone. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9). Who is He? He who made you, is He who can bathe you. Who? Love, Perfect Love is who made and molds you. Paul prayed for you who don’t know this love from above:
 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-18). 
What kind of love lives and gives? Seuss says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”Here’s the hard part, the doctor says, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”You can do this hard thing. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”  It is a choice, “If you never did you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”What is this you say, “Think and wonder, wonder and think.” Where do I go and what do I do? “You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”Dr. Seuss would say, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”What direction to take or for goodness sake? “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!”Some 2,700 years ago Isaiah said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘“ this is the way, walk in it”’(Isaiah 30:21). Seuss might say, “Which is the way? There’s only one way, this is the way.” 

So don’t be confused. There may be many animals in the zoo, but God made them all including you too. Don’t be confused, just choose or lose, its not a ruse. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). What’s the way you say? He’s the way; don’t be dismayed, don’t be afraid. Love will show you the way to stay.  Once you say, I know He’s the way, I want this way, you’ll know the way to obey, just say. And once it’s OK because there’s no other way, you’ll be forever above the fray. Dr. Seuss would say of the way you now say, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope...“Oh, the thinks you can think!”

So what to do with all the wrappings all brand new? “If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”He’ll make you brand new. He gives you His love, which after all is from above. “You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”