Friday, July 31, 2020

EAT

Over 600 times in Scripture God speak of eating. Most people, however, speak of eating food for strength, nourishment and enjoyment.  Yet the most important words are spoken of eating God’s Word the Bible. These words are sent from heaven for our nourishment and that of those we meet. Ezekiel the Prophet spoke, saying, Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll” (Ezekiel 3:1-2). This is the role of a prophet and all disciples, to eat, know and speak God’s words to the world.

The Psalmist speaks of the Words of God as, More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10 NKJV). I find this description as not only beautiful, but very true for me. There is no other thing I take in that is sweeter than the Word of God. It builds up and strengthens as is to be enjoyed like no other living and dynamic thing. Isaiah says it never returns empty.

Jeremiah was overjoyed by the Lord’s instruction and, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:13). Can you imagine the overwhelming power of having joy and delight in the Word of God? This is what God wants all of His to do, to cherish and be full of joy in His Word. I guess that you have favorite foods that you can see and taste and smell in your mind’s eye as I speak it. That’s OK, but this is nothing compared to how God wants us to taste and see His Word and even more. It is the ultimate high.

So, have you eaten the very Words of God? If you haven’t, start today for they will never return void, they will accomplish their purpose in you as Isaiah calls it “Bread for the eater” (Isaiah 55:10). Read, eat, meditate upon, journal, memorize them.

John Eats the Little Book
The Apostle John, who was banished to the Island of Patmos was approached by angels of Christ to reveal the end times. This is the apocalypse or the “revealing” of Christ written as the final book of the Bible in Revelation. 

“ Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.”  So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter” (Revelation 10:8-10).

“Take, eat, this is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.”  You know the words if you are a Christian and have attended Holy Communion. Jesus is the living Word as John 1:1 tells us. We are to listen and we are to remember as John said by eating His flesh and drinking His blood, the very words of God and God. It is His perfect gift coming down from heaven for us to consume. As we take Him in, His power is being made perfect in us. His Holy Spirit is coming to live in us to counsel, comfort, convince and convict us in the way we should go in low and high times so that we will learn the secret of being content in all circumstances. “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).


Friday, July 24, 2020

"Let it go!"

The movie “Frozen” is for kids. Billions have been spent on costumes for Halloween. I have seen dozens of them at the door begging for candy. This little girl in the blue dress with white ice says she will make a difference over the Ice Queen. What a show of endearing memory and good values, right? Not so fast. Let’s look at the words of the theme song:
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I'm the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!

It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry!

Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on!

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back,
The past is in the past!

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

“No right, not wrong, no rules for me, I’m free! … That perfect girl is gone.”  That’s for sure. This perfect little girl that children adore and parents smile for is not one who has a philosophy of life that will endear her to parents easily, especially if they say they are Christian. Do you notice anarchy in the words? Kind of like the post-Trump win response from the left and their hired thugs. Sorry, that’s just the truth. These are sore losers from the President on down. I don’t get it. But then the platform said that their new government would give everyone everything they wanted.  That is not what government is for.

You see that is not what our country’s values are based upon. It is strong individualistic values of self-reliance not government. Now that is not what I happen to believe it the value set of our country as we were founded on Judeo-Christians values that said to love one another and to serve, not ask for a handout. There are not only a Constitution and Bill of Rights, but 300 years of law making that says that we are not in it for ourselves but for the Republic and certain inalienable rights on which it stands. This little blue girl wants it all without rules or right or wrong. All the past is forgotten, not like the Apostle Paul helping us to press on toward the goal of the higher calling in Christ Jesus. This little girl is calling for revolution, “let the storm rage.”

Hey parents, have you read the words? Do you know what your children adore? Do you know that it flies in the face of our country’s values and beliefs? Or are you just ready to revolt and have it your way? Why not let everyone in without vetting. Isn’t it the way we used to do it? No it is not. We have always been careful and required all immigrants to be known and assimilate. Just look at the mistaken Europeans and the chaos that it has brought them. This morning I met with missionaries to a city just north of London that is 85% Muslim. The residents have no intention of assimilating. They will stay separated and have a theology to take over the world and kill the infidels. That’s not peaceful co-existence or anything close to it. If this is a religion of peace, why is no one standing up and showing us.

We are a country of laws and that’s OK. We are a country that expects citizens to speak their minds yet obey, but not treasonously.  I for one am all for immigrants that want to assimilate and live by the rules and laws of our country. Failing that, they should not come in. This is not religious persecution, it is wisdom.

“The past is prologue.” I fear so. Murderous ideas from Shakespeare’s Tempest say to murder. Yes, history is important. Moreover, it is our foundation and the cultural ethic by which we have come to be the most generous and powerful nation in world history. That is not by accident, although there have been serious wrongs such as slavery and segregation. There have also been the most important democratic steps taken in world history on behalf of those who would become Americans.  As well, we have reached out to help. This generosity has not met with thanks by many and perhaps needs to be carefully reconsidered for the future. We are not our brothers keeper, however we care about oppression, poverty and violence against the weak here and around the world. We are not all about “me” like the frozen girl queen, ready to “slam the door” on us.

Be wise, self-controlled and be alert, for the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour Peter tells us. “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:9). And don’t be anxious about it either, but cast your troubles upon the Lord, because He cares for you. There is good and evil, light and dark. Be discerning and know, or “let it go.” Just know that it matters which side we are on.  One leads to eternal darkness and one leads to eternal light and life.





Friday, July 17, 2020

Lists

Do you make detailed lists of what you want to do today? I think many of us do. I know that my memory is failing and that I need to write down many things. Yet God has His list and chances are it is very different than yours. God’s will is articulated clearly in the Bible, His word. He has made lists of words that would be good to heed or have as ones to follow or try to emulate in your life. I was reviewing a few of the lists for conversation here.

Starting with the Fruit of the Spirit is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  (Galatians 5:22). What a list against which nothing can stand if you live by them. I want to live these traits or characteristics of the Holy Spirit out in my life. I have chosen one aspect of this fruit for the last several years. I have found it very hard to live them, so they will carryon into the next years for further work along with a new one. For 2014 I chose faithfulness, then kindness for 2015 and in 2016 gentleness, followed by joy for the New Year of 2017. These are great words of Christ-like character. They are beyond human capacity to live out without the Holy Spirit. That’s why they are called the fruit of the Spirit. We need the presence and power of the Spirit within us to live in Him as He is in us.

Some of you may be asking; how do you get the Holy Spirit within? Some of you may be saying that is the last thing you want, good luck with that. There is only way to receive the Holy Spirit and that is by inviting God in Jesus Christ into your heart by faith. He died for all that we might live forgiven lives in Him. That means that He, God sends His Holy Spirit to live with and within you, as you believe this truth. Now I just wrote another word that is very hard for humans to connect- truth. It was Pontius Pilot that asked Jesus, “What is truth?” It has always been a human quest to find it. Maybe on a mountaintop, or in a career or money or fame or make your list. It is all a quest, but none of it is satisfying or the answer to the truth question. “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:45).  A little later Jesus told the disciples about the Holy Spirit whom He would send as another Counselor and companion. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13). The truth may be hard for many to swallow as Jesus stated it very clearly to “doubting” Thomas, a disciple. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). These are words of truth. They may be hard to take in because they will require faith and submission to this truth. It is the only way to life and life eternal. Yes, it is exclusive, but open to all who would come and believe this truth. Jesus gives us just a short list here, so pay attention. There are others, but this is the most important.

My favorite book of the New Testament is Philippians, because joy is mentioned some 27 times. It was written by the Apostle Paul from prison and has another important list. In chapter four he tells us to not be anxious about anything, but to pray about everything. That is hard to do, so he goes on and tells us things to concentrate on and live by to help saying, “Whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable…excellent…or praiseworthy…put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8,9). These are characteristics really describing Jesus Christ and commended for our good.

In the next book of Colossians, Paul gives us another important list for our consideration. He wants us to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…bear with each other, forgive any grievances and put on love” (Colossians 3:12,13,14). He even goes on to tell us to do it thankfully and with gratitude in our hearts to God. Notice that several of these words are repeats of previous lists, which must mean that they are really important to follow. Also notice that I did not list the negative things that Jesus and Paul particularly tell us not to do. I would rather concentrate on the good things to follow therefore not following into the bad, hopefully.

These lists are not the only. There are in 2 Timothy and Titus lists of qualifications for Elders and Deacons. Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness, goodness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness as he fights the good fight. Other words throughout these Scriptures include, temperance, respectability, honesty, sincerity, tested, gentleness, disciplined, upright, holiness, not overbearing or quarrelsome, hospitable and self-controlled, as well as able to teach.

Well, as I look at the admonitions of Jesus and Paul I see some repetitive themes that are very hard to live into. Gentleness and kindness are in every list. These are not American, rugged individualist words. They just sound weak or meek. Therein lies the rub; it requires the Holy Spirit to live out, just like self-control. I think the walk of faith is a very difficult one that indeed requires humility another American non sequitur.  We are not to follow the culture and political correctness. We are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God as Jesus told Satan in the desert.  So how are you doing so far? I am struggling myself as I have many memories of being harsh and unkind and out of control, as well as arrogant.


So what am I to do? Live by the Spirit. Galatians tells us to “Live by the Spirit.”  Only if you are filled with Spirit can you begin to live by the Spirit. So make the choice today, right now, if you have not chosen to follow the truth. In Isaiah 30:21 are words that I have put into a two-volume book called, This is the Way, Walk in It. I chose this title because these are the only words that God has spoken to me audibly, telling me the right way to walk this difficult walk of faith. Just keep walking!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Sequoia and Red Woods

Sequoia and Red Wood trees are the oldest and largest living things on earth. Towering three hundred feet above the forest floor and drinking 800 gallons of water a day and living thousands of years they are the subjects of legends.

One story is that a well-hidden Giant Sequoia that outsizes the General Sherman Tree has been discovered in Sequoia National Park California, making this mystery tree the largest living thing on Earth. This tree towers some 378 feet and is thought to weigh over 2.7 million pounds. Interestingly this giant “Garganteum Sequoia,” that grows along the foggy coastal areas of Northern California is a different species than the highlands Red Woods.

I know that you can drive a car through one of the trees and a football team can’t join hands and reach around the largest, but for me this is not the lure. It is the awesome presence, the silence of a Red Wood grove.  It is like entering the sanctuary of the Most-High God. Actually it is far more overwhelming for me than the giant cathedrals of Europe, even with the brilliant color display of the stain-glass windows. These relics are dead and in most of the world lie empty, unused to worship God and sing His praises.

Entering a grove of  Sequoia takes me away to a far off, yet intimate place with God. It is one of His most magnificent creations, given to us to remind us of His grandeur and grace. In the silence and solitude of the forest we can find peace in the secret place of His presence. This peace transcends all understanding, as we trust in Him.

The path of peace that meanders through miles of undulating heaven-like cloisters brings out creativity. One of my favorite Psalms read, “In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). This is the feeling I receive when in His presence in the Red Woods. Genesis 2:9 talks of that “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. I the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).  We know this story as it is the beginning of mankind’s separation from God because of the disobedience of the first couple. Even so man has continued to reach out to fill the hole in our hearts.

Trees like the great Sequoia played a part in the building of the temple by Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  The Cedars of Lebanon were the largest and most beautiful trees in the Middle East. This cousin of Red Wood formed David’s Palace as well and was greatly prized.

The Psalms are my favorite part of Scripture bringing intimate descriptions of every emotion with metaphors like Psalm 1 begins speaking of the man who walks in the counsel of God. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3). In Matthew 12:33 Jesus tells us “a tree is recognized by its fruit.”  God wants us to bear fruit in our lives as we “abide in the vine” (John 15:5).


Where can I go from your presence is a question King David asked of God in Psalm 139 saying, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go 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 will guide me, your right hand will hold me” (Psalm 139:7-9). This plea and praise is not one attempting to run from God like Jonah. It is an adoring description of how God is always with us, guiding us as we seek Him in His faithfulness. This description is a simile for me of the presence of God in the Red Wood forests of California. It is as if these trees speak life into me as I walk by and touch them, as I sit on the giant trunk and meditate on their immensity. I stare upwards into the lofty spires, the misty rays of the suns brilliance shooting warmth through the branches and above the cobalt blue heavens. This cathedral is indeed alive with God’s awesome presence and enrapturing hand holding me tight.  To me it is like the description of the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15, "But while he was still far off, this father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I have experienced this feeling once palpably as I prayed for the love of the father in my secret space. I am reminded of how He lifted me off the ground and held me tight for what seemed an eternity, His warmth and love sourcing through me- it was ecstasy.
So is the glow and love of the Red Wood forests of God.

The next writer in the woods put it exquisitely as he wrote about the experience of the sanctuary.



My heart soars as I write and re-experience the full sensual nature of this sacred walk that I have so often taken with my wife Pam. It is her favorite place to be or next to the sea, where the breakers overwhelm and fill us with His coursing love and life. The sight of the trees rising to the heavens breaks into smells of pine-like incense that wafts from the trails. The embracing warmth of the suns rays searching us through the towering branches just seems heaven sent and not of this earth. Sound? It is silent and there is solitude standing small amongst such greatness. Who am I as David said to Saul and Moses to God that He would consider us? It is a time to meditate on that thought of a Creator God who would stoop down to save and lead us through the forests to a place of safety in His sanctuary. “I am who I am,” God told Moses in Exodus 3:14. He wants us to feel peace and uncountable joy in His presence. He provides us with living sanctuaries that we might find a more intimate understanding of Him and His powerful presence.