Friday, October 30, 2020

Enjoy By______?

This “Enjoy by” was on a box of donuts sitting on the table in a nurses break room at the hospital this morning. It caused me to think about all the things we wait to enjoy or forget to enjoy or just don’t enjoy. Well, we could just eat the whole box right now and get it over with. That’s just 2,000 empty or saturated fat calories, no problem, right? We could just say no and let someone else enjoy them or not have anyone eat them.  Like an old Karl Reiner routine, you could just lacquer them up and frame them for a wall decoration. Are you enjoying life? Do you have a “bucket list,” or is that just for other people? You know we don’t know if we have tomorrow.

James says, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:13-17).  Wow! Now there is a tough thought, we are a mist or a vapor, gone in an instant. We can’t count on today or tomorrow. It is not about you and your plans. I just watched a movie about a woman who planned everything out so she would not be surprised. I did say it was a movie, right? You see, life just happens and we are not in control of it. We never were and we never will be in control of it.

I know that some think that they are captain of their ship, good luck with that. You are going down. “Not even God could sink this ship,” was perhaps my favorite quote from the Titanic builders. It’s even worse than the pompous captain of a battleship steaming full-speed ahead and commanding an obstacle in his way to move that just happened to be a lighthouse.

Live your life today. You do not necessarily have tomorrow. I wrote this on my own brothers “auspicious” birthday. He has been fatalistically thinking that he would not outlive our father. I am not sure from where his superstitions grew.  Black cats and four leaf clovers are about bad luck or good luck.  There is not such a thing. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Life is ordained by God.  He has also given us free will or choice. He has said, “Choose life.” In this choosing I also choose “joy.”

I want to live each day to the fullest, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Wisdom comes from God; there is no other source. There is knowledge and education, but wisdom comes from living for and in the truth of God. God in Christ Jesus told His disciples when He was ascending to heaven to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This is saying, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). This is our purpose as Christians, to go and tell the “Good News.” Not everyone is an evangelist, but everyone is to share the Word. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).  So as you go through life, live it with “gusto” and full of joy and God’s grace.

I don’t know what God has for you. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). These works are uniquely designed for each of us. God has gifted each of us with talents and skills and spiritual gifts for the edification or benefit of the church. That’s why we live.

I am teaching at a large men’s conference on the subject of retirement. What does God have to say about it? God talks of work some 700 times, but only once of retirement and of that- No! What might you say? I am so looking forward to retire and do nothing? Well, that’s not the life God has for us. He wants us to keep going in His power to do the works that He has already prepared for us. This does not mean for pay or with the same or any employer other than God.

So get to it. Enjoy by- today. Get going and be joyful in all things including trials as James tells us. God is developing us to maturity with perseverance so that we can keep working for Him. He is no slave driver. If we are doing His will with the gifts He has given us, our calling, we will enjoy it. By the way, we will have jobs in heaven if we make it.

Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Yes as 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, “His power is being made perfect in our weakness.”  In other words, just keep going like the “energizer bunny,” as God is our battery. God’s servant Caleb kept working after 85 to take the lands from the enemies.

So what do you enjoy? There is a good chance that if it is in God’s will that that is what He wants you to do and enjoy. And if it is enjoyable then do it now to the glory of God. Our expiration date is not known or predictable by any doctor or sage, only God the Father in heaven. So make it a good day and enjoy it now.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Healing


Healing

In 1997 I led a group of 100 guys from Faithwalkers, a men’s Bible study in Milwaukee to join over a million other men in the Nations Mall for Stand in The Gap, a sacred assembly to pray for our nation. It was an astounding conversion toward a spiritual awakening in our land. The key verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 was, “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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This prayer and word from God first came to Solomon after the dedication of the temple where all in attendance were reminded “He is good; His love endures forever.”

Fast-forward 23 years to today. We seem as a nation to have found the darkness even at Christmas and the Season of Lights. Isaiah the Prophet said, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest as men rejoice when dividing the plunder”  What was this great light? It was the coming of the Christ child called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end”  (Isaiah 9:2-3, 7). He was and continues to be the only real source of light as man’s hearts are dark without knowing Him. Even Jeremiah the Prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). But then he offers some hope.

‘Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing…But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord’ (Jeremiah 30:12,17).  He is looking at the gloom, like today, but he is also looking out to the Messianic age of Christ’s coming and end time reign ahead. This is the time of distress, but God promises to free His people, to break their chains of slavery.

I have been studying the Apostle Paul’s Book of Galatians, written to a people burdened by the law and not freedom in Christ. They were bound by trying to keep the hundreds of civil and ceremonial laws of the Jewish people and Christ. But Jesus has set us free (John 8:32) from the tethers of the law we can’t keep. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us to counsel, comfort, convince and convict us of the way to walk in His freedom.

“By His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Yes, He took our transgressions onto Himself on the cross that we might live free and healed. We praise the One, “Who forgives all our sins, and who heals all our diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3). He lifts our lives from the pit and fills us with His love and compassion. He satisfies our hearts with good things, not bad. He wants us to soar like an eagle.

Back in the days of the beginning of the Israel nation after the exile there was a man who prayed for his nation Judah in a very special way, Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10). This prayer became a national treasure for believing Christians in 1997 at Stand in The Gap. This prayer given to more than a million men is one for enlarging our territory for God in ministry. It is a prayer of blessing and protection for God’s people amidst the trials. We may not be kept from pain, but God granted his request. He will grant ours’ if we humble ourselves and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways. It is the only way our country and each of us will have true prosperity and freedom.

Right now people seem to be following whatever feels good like fools. Proverbs is very clear that God only blesses the wise and humble (Proverbs 3:32-33).  We are warned, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips”  (Proverbs 4:23-24). It speaks of the way that seems right to a man, but leads to destruction.  “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  This is a strong warning for a people bound on destroying one another. There are 59 “Love one another” passages in the Bible. Apparently this has been and continues to be “beyond healing” as Jeremiah said. But is it really? No! The Lord also responds strongly saying that He will heal if we will humble ourselves and turn away from our destructive path to His way. Our way leads to death, His to life. So choose life and be healed.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Oh Happy Day

Oh happy day (oh happy day)
Oh happy day (oh happy day)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)
He washed my sins away (oh happy day)
Oh happy day (oh happy day)
He taught me how to watch, fight and pray, fight and pray
And live rejoicing every, everyday
Oh happy day
He taught me how

Written in 1968 by Edwin Hawkins, this Grammy winning gospel song went viral when San Francisco based DJ played it. It became controversial with Christian pastors complaining that it was being played on pop radio. It is very sad commentary when Christians have trouble how the gospel goes out. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he did not care how the gospel went out, whether from Apollos, Cephas or himself.

Edwin Hawkins said of his song, “I think that it’s not just the song, but the gospel itself that transcends any racial barrier, language barrier, all of that.”  Yes, as Isaiah the Prophet said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:10-12).

Sing a new song the psalmist says often, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy” (Psalm 33:3).  I like the old hymns and the new praise songs. Worship wars continue, but the word of God goes out in many ways to many people in many places throughout the word to the praise of the Lord.




Friday, October 16, 2020

Joyful, Joyful

Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians  5:21. It is the theme of my Joy Book and a powerful theme of Henry Van Dyke, born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1852.  His hymn is considered one of the greatest expressions of joy in English hymnody. This very able Presbyterian preacher and writer taught at Princeton served as Navy Chaplain in WWI and even became Ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg under Woodrow Wilson.

This hymn is considered his best and has a ring that fits well into the seeming chaos of our world and nation today. The recent Donald Trump inauguration comes at a time when people are afraid of many things, except the Lord.  He writes of his purpose:
These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in the present time, hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy their religion or that any revolution on earth will overthrow the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore these are hymns of trust and hope. (101 Hymn Stories, Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1982)

The hymn portrays interplay between God’s created world and the manifestation of this same creative spirit in the life of a believer. Great metaphors like hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, reveal this simile of life. It goes on to speak of the Creator and worshiping Him.  He marshals us to join with all God’s children in a mighty chorus of joy that began at creation’s dawn.  He is giving us the words of encouragement for all circumstances of life. The hymn rises to the mountains of which he was reminded in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The tune “Hymn of Joy” comes from the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th, or “choral” Symphony, thought to be his greatest. He wanted to combine voice and instrument in a majestic expression. Poet Friedrich Schiller who wrote, “Ode to Joy inspired him.”  I have chosen some of its words linked together that have the power of joyful gladness and the divine light of life.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love…stars and angels sing around thee…Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away…Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! Call us to rejoice in thee…teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine. Joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumphant song of life.

Martin Luther loved hymns to express the gospel of which he said, “Gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it.” He wanted to remind us of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a bulwark never failing.” He may have seen darkness often, but he found strength in the words of Scripture that joyfully set him and us free from works righteousness to just rejoice. “The heart overflows with gladness, and leaps and dances for the joy it has found in God. In this experience the Holy Spirit is active, and has taught us in the flash of a moment the deep secret of joy. You will have as much joy and laughter in life as you have faith in God… I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor. (Martin Luther Quotes)
“Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to heaven.”- Walter Savage Landor