Friday, December 27, 2019

The Battle is The Lord's

Are you struggling with your burdens, trials, storms and temptations? How are you doing? Do they just keep coming like a “mighty river?” Yes they do and they will keep right on coming. What great news you bring you might be saying, probably not in such nice terms. Am I right? Well, like you I too have storms and constant trials and temptations in my life. Currently there seem to be difficult people. I did ask God for help with difficult or unreasonable people. You know that God obliged me by turning out more of them. His response is to have me learn to deal with them, because it is usually not about me.  So are there any helps on this common issue?  Perhaps the Top-10 or 11.

1.     Keep Your Cool: Don’t join the fray or be offended or defensive. A key fruit of the Spirit is “self-control.” This requires seeking the Lord and keeping your mind and heart centered on Him. By the way, this is always the best bet. Don’t try this on you own.
2.     Fly Away Like a Bird:  David the psalmist wanted to do that. Where can I    go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-11). It isn’t running away, it is just to deescalate or not engage difficult people unless the stakes are high. Seek the Lord and His strength and peace.

3.     Don’t React But Be Proactive: Recognize how unreasonable or problematic some are. They will be negative, so be positive. Remember it’s not about you, even though it feels like it sometimes.

4. Pick You Battles: Save you energy and grief for worthy projects. You have power, use it wisely.

5. Separate The Person From the Issue: Stay on the problem to be solved; the person is a distraction.

6. Put Spotlight on Them: By this I mean ask them questions, involve them, make them come up with positive solutions when they just can’t get out of the dark.

7.Change From Following to Leading: Don’t just sit there and stew, take action! Take positive action. Light always overcomes the darkness.

8.    Use Appropriate Humor: Find the humorous in the ordinary, this is a gift and a reorienting tool or strategy.

9.    Set Consequences: This may be difficult as it means addressing behavior directly. But keep it on the project or objective.
10.Confront “bullies” (Safely): Yes they are insecure and are often cowards needing to obstruct for control. Control freaks are insecure bullies.

11. The Battle is The Lord’s: In all of the Top-10 there is one solution to strengthen and guide you. The battle is not yours it is the Lord’s. “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2Chronicles 20:15). This was God’s answer as King Hezekiah sought Him before he went out to meet the Moabites and Ammonites, enemies of God’s people. And of course all of you know the story of David and Goliath. David, even though his own brothers were chiding and harassing him,  kept his eyes clearly on the Lord. “’The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’” (1 Samuel 17:37). He disregarded Saul’s armor as it didn’t fit him. He disregarded the taunts saying, “But I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down...All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you over into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47).  Do you get it God is fighting for you. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  You are not alone and without power or resource, but instead have the limitless armies and warehouses of God to supply you. He is your strength. Find Scriptures to remind you and uphold you in times of trial and temptation. I love to go to the Psalms. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

One Thing!

I have been thinking about the number one. It comes first; it is the first-born, first fruits and before all other numbers. It is also about priority or exclusiveness. Number one in the rankings is pretty important in this world. We look up to number one. But in God’s economy there is also one thing to know and understand.

For the King and Psalmist David there was One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). For him the “one thing” was the Lord. He also wrote in Psalm 62:11 that, One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

 Jesus’s parable of the rich young ruler addressed this issue. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. One thing you lack,” He said. ‘“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”’  For this man wealth was the one thing he could not give up for now. It was too hard to give up earthly things to find heaven and salvation for eternity.  Similarly, when Jesus was meeting with His dear friends Mary and Martha, He responded to Martha’s asking for help with preparations saying, ‘“but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”’  He is telling her that Mary has chosen the one thing that cannot be taken or lasts forever, sitting at Jesus’s feet and hearing and trusting in His word.

Why does it seem that seeking God in Christ Jesus is the “one thing” in life that matters most? It is not politically correct in today’s world to identify one thing or one way, as it seems today’s culture says to tolerate and even receive and believe all beliefs as equal. But sadly and importantly, not all things are true. Pontius Pilot asked, “What is truth?”  (John 18:38).  He found nothing wrong with Jesus and what He had done. Unfortunately he did not have the courage to claim His innocence to the religious leaders and release Jesus. But God had greater plans for the salvation of the world through His Son. You see Jesus would need to die for our sins and be resurrected again to His rightful place in heaven to rule and reign.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12). This is the powerful and saving truth, that Jesus is the “one name” through whom we may find forgiveness of sins and salvation. Jesus claimed Himself to be the one true God and the only way. “Jesus answered (Thomas), ‘“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”’  (John 14:6). Jesus is the creator of the universe and He is the “living word” of the Bible that existed before time. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”  (John 1:1). God in Jesus Christ is the Word of life, the healing word and saving word.

The time is short as Jesus is returning soon to rule and reign on earth again; but first the wrath of God or the tribulation will occur. It will be too late to choose the one decision needed then. We must choose Jesus as Savior and Lord now to be saved, and soon it will be too late. What better time than Christ's incarnation or Christmas to choose Him. 

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:8-16 New International Version (NIV)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

This message of " good news and great joy is for you! Choose JOY. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Brand New

We just completed an addition to our home. It is a new “mud room” or laundry room. The outside has new Smartboard® with a brilliant white baked in covering.  Thick new cedar shake shingles make the roof new. Yesterday our painter finished painting a bright white over the stained, cracked and chipped siding and window sashes after scraping and power-washing. Because the windowsills and cedar siding were rotting, a carpenter replaced that too.  The new room took up garage space, so we extended our garage with a new windowed extension. Around the addition was rock filled clay. The soil is now replaced with brightly collared flower and butterfly attracting bushes growing in it. Extending from the new garage is a brilliant white new concrete driveway, replacing the old cracked and blackened asphalt drive.  What a makeover.

But yet, as I rode my bike through the morning pre-dawn I saw something else. I saw my life before and after receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of my life.  Paul in Ephesians uses the metaphor of “washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). God is speaking about washing away our stained lives and making them new.

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). This Old Testament prophet makes clear that all of us are “filthy rags” because of our sin. Paul said in Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is mankinds’ lot; we were born in sin and separated from God because of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Paul also said, “there is no one who does good, no not one”  (Romans 3:12). But God is good and He loves you and wants you to be transformed by the renewing of your soul. He wants you to find the source of our creation and cleanliness. God offers the purification and renewal of our souls and spirits. Our bodies start rotting away in our 20s and we can only temporarily put off our decline and eventual death. Diet, exercise, vitamins and lifestyle can help. But only one thing can make us new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2Corinthians 5:17). In Christ means receiving Him into your life. This is His gift for those who accept Jesus as Savior and Lord in their lives.

At that time a transformation takes place making all things new.  We can become new creations, washed in His word and blood as spilled on the cross for each of us. This sacrifice gives who believe salvation and redemption. We are more than remodeled, but made brand new.

We love our new addition and the work that involves our entire home’s outside.  But God is saying more than externals. He is saying that all, body mind and spirit must be transformed.  “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:26-28).  You may think Jesus is being harsh, and He is, but it is because of the Pharisees’ motivations and selfish hearts and thoughts. They were living false lives.  Just like our newly painted or whitewashed home, without a heart transplant inside, it is just like Jesus describes. We continue to clean up our house inside, getting rid of clutter and washing and painting walls of mold and making them new.  But more importantly we are seeking the Lord through His word, the Bible and prayer. We are asking for God’s Holy Spirit help to live godly and pure lives holy and obedient to Him. God is guiding and leading us as we seek Him in our renewal, continually being made brand new.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Jesus Is

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”
 (Colossians 1:15-20 NIV).
What a powerful passage. God, the Son is the image of a God we cannot see except in Jesus Christ. The fullness of God dwells in Him. He is the firstborn or the highest ranking, unique.  He created all things, visible and invisible, in the beginning.  And He is not created,  but existent in heaven and earth before creation. Let me pause here to recognize that many people didn’t know that Jesus created all things and is His identical image.

But I love the fact that in Him “all things hold together.” The King James says in Him all things “consist.” Scientists say that there is a molecular-magnetic force of gravity holding everything together, you know, Superglue. It reminds me of the joke of a scientist and God having a contest to make man. The scientist picks up a lump of clay and God says, “make you own mud.”  Right, so what is gravity, and who made it? Scientists say molecules just grew out of evolution. But who created the first atom? 

I read and believe that Jesus is the head of the church and all things; He is supreme.  He is not the caricature that is created of Jesus being just a man with wisdom and a friend or buddy. No He is in charge.

Yet He has “reconciled” all things to Himself through His sacrificial death on the cross. He has allowed each of us to have peace with God once again because our sin had separated us from Him. He has given us His goodness or holiness and peace when believing in Him as Savior and Lord of the universe and of each of us.

There are other descriptive passages in Scripture about Jesus, but I believe that this passage is the strongest in identifying who He is and therefore who He is not. We have a choice to believe this statement and live, or not and die spiritually.