September 30, 2009
Concerning that avalanche I wrote about yesterday in my post… I just keep thinking about you there… underneath all that snow… no one knowing your location… nor where to begin to help you out… So here’s a sort of story I wrote… about you…
There you are, trapped, yet well cared for. You have food. Every morning there it is, on the table, fresh, from seemingly no where… You have your huge coat. It keeps you warm and it provides a soft bed on which to sleep. You still have your ipod, by which to listen to the praise music you’d once downloaded onto it. You still have your Bible. It was in your coat pocket when the catastrophe hit.
And you still have that hollowed out place, with plenty of room to move around, that He, God, made for you.
How did you get to that shelter? Well, He shone a light, like a flashlight, at His feet. He told you to trust Him, to follow Him, and said He would never leave you. So He led you… and now here you are… in a spacious enough room, but still, a room of uncertainty. You thought He was leading you all the way out, but instead, He stopped here. He put the light on the table and it became a candle. He again told you that He would never leave you, but then He left. Or so it seemed. I mean, you never did see His face. In fact, you never had really heard his voice… except in your spirit. Now you can’t even see His feet…
But you remember He said to trust Him. He’d reminded you several times that He would never leave you. Could He maybe, just maybe, still be in the room with you? Even if you can’t see Him? Somehow you do still feel His presence… You feel peace. So you talk to Him, and often you hear Him answer, or tell you things, especially when you are reading your Bible. Other times, though, all seems so quiet. Like He has truly left. Like the snow cave becomes a lonely prison, wanting to engulf you, telling you your God has definitely abandoned you. And that He does lie. This makes you sob.
You try hard to remember what He said… So you get your Bible. Nothing… this time… No comfort. So you weep some more… for hope is gone… Suddenly you make a decision. It’s about the candle. It was used to lead you here; maybe it can be used to lead you out to safety. True, you wouldn’t know which way to start digging; but it’d be worth a try. The candle could even melt the snow, and it’d be light for the way.
So you go to the table and carefully take ahold of the candle-holder. It won’t budge. You pick away some wax at the bottom, vaguely realizing that this candle should have gone out weeks ago. But the candle won’t move. In fact, its flame flickers and almost goes out. You try again. Again, it’s immovable.
Now, anger and frustration well up. The sense of being completely at the mercy of circumstance, of having no control over anything about your situation, you go lay down. And you just wail. You cry out to God. You are so angry, fearful, lonely, hopeless, weak… and knowing you have nothing to offer Him, not even praise, you finally resort to one word: …”Mercy.”
Nothing seems to change. So you mumble the word a few more times, through tired sobs, and soon, because there are no tears left to shed for the time being, you lay there quietly and eventually drift off to sleep.
When you wake, you wake to the same white lonely walls, and you wish you could’ve died in your sleep. But a gentle whisper seems to float your way, telling you to get up and eat. Not having many other options, you do so, and soon you do feel better. Hope is renewed.
This happens periodically. You decide to take measures to avoid its frequency. You concentrate on all the blessings and diligently keep yourself in communion with God. You exercise and study. You pray for all those who you’ve ever known. You memorize Scripture. You sing. You wait. Nothing happens… except that your hope stays intact. And that, in itself, you well know, is most valuable!
Besides all this, you just rest. Because maybe, you realize, once you are rescued, the journey out may be strenuous, and may require sufficient rest beforehand. Or maybe, the assignments, once you’re out in the world again, will require having been prepared with rest, as well as the training in patience and the knowledge of God.
All these thoughts help. They help a lot. And since the impression from God remains, that impression that you will one day be delivered, you decide to settle down to a contented wait, learn from your situation, and even enjoy the present.
One day you wake to some scratching. A large and furry animal is at your table, reaching for some food there. Not sure of the nature of this beast, you remain quiet, unmoving. You watch as it bustles about, reaching, gobbling, round and round the table sniffing. After your heart slows, it dawns on you that being this forest creature has not been with you these long months, it had to have come in from none other than the outside world! In one swoop of thought, you realize you are saved!
And so you are. For you watch as the animal bumbles over to one wall, then pushes itself down into what appears not to be there, and disappears. You run over. Your hands slide quickly across the wall of the snow cave. Then you see it. A crack down low. You could not have seen it in the dim light, being all was white snow, unless you knew it was there. You stick your head in. It’s very dark. No matter. You know this is the way out, and you take it, risk and all. It’s slow going, a tight squeeze. You try not to remember that earlier in life you were claustrophobic. You try not to envision the animal meeting you up ahead with bared teeth. You try not to think about the possibility of the passageway crumbling in on you and you dying from suffocation in the end anyway.
So you sing quietly. You thank God for the deliverance.
You crawl, for what seems like hours, through many twists and turns, no light shining this time, only your hands groping ahead for the open passageway. At last you see a light ahead. As you near, you know it is sunlight. Finally, you are there. The mouth of the hole opens to a snowy field, a house across, children playing there, a piano’s music vaguely heard.
You drink in the cool, fresh air. You are okay. You are out. The avalanche did not kill you. It instead taught you… taught you many things.
“In fact,” you say to yourself, “Why did I ever doubt?” And as you slowly walk toward the house, you glance back, actually wishing you had taken advantage of the training a little more.
That’s my “story” for you today, my dear suffering friend. I wrote it to encourage you.
September 29, 2009
The Scriptures are full of comforting and mighty promises, all from a powerful, compassionate God who does not lie. Here is one that never fails to give me hope and peace. It is Ps. 25:15. “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only He will release my feet from the snare.”
So many snares in this fallen world… So many trials and heartaches that try to hold us captive… When we are tossed about; when we are discouraged, seeing no end in sight; when we just absolutely cannot figure out what went wrong or how to fix it; when we cannot raise the paraplegic up off his bed of confinement; when we can’t seem to mend another’s broken heart… we are told in God’s Word to keep our eyes on Him. We are told to wait on Him. We are told to take hope in His Word. We are told to pray and not faint. We are told to persevere.
Will we do this? Will we obey? Will we keep a steady trust in God, the kind that remains calm when the roar of the avalanche thunders toward us? When it sweeps us off our feet? When we find ourselves engulfed beneath its heavy, smothering, killing weight? When the rescue is delayed and we cannot see any way out? Dear suffering one, even in this, there is a place, hollowed out by His sheltering hand, where we are invited to wait it out, where we are given a banqueting table, where we are given fellowship with Him. There we quietly say, “Oh Lord, ‘I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed.'” (Ps. 57:1) This is the faith rest that pleases God.
Heb. 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Yes, this feels unfair and disheartening sometimes. Because we are tempted to fear, tempted to wallow in self-pity, feeling it’s in our right to complain and grumble. But aren’t these some of the very sins which kept a whole generation out of the Promised Land? (Num. 14:23,27-30)
May we not imitate them. May we instead trust God. Let’s keep our eyes focused straight on Him and turn a deaf ear to the noise of Fear. We are told to never be afraid. Even if the world blows up and the mountains crumble into the sea. (Ps. 46:2) Even if someone is trying to kill us. (Luke 12:4) Even if there be tens of thousands drawn up against us on every side. (Ps. 3:6) Instead we can say, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (v. 5)
This is rest. The rest, the calm assurance, the trust –that only He can bring. It is God’s peace that transcends far beyond all human understanding… guarding our hearts and minds through our union with Christ. (Phil. 4:7)
So, “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deut. 33:12) Like a little lamb carried over the strong, kind shoulders of our Good Shepherd. (Isa. 40:11, John 10:1-18, Luke 15:5)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Do not be afraid, little flock…” (Jesus in Luke 12:22,32) “‘Do not fear… for I Myself will help you,’ declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa. 41:13,14) Yes, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus in Matt. 11:28)
These are His beautiful promises… life-changing promises for those who take ahold of them in trust… for those who come to Him daily, throwing down their worries, fears, heartaches, and sufferings right there at His triumphant, sea-walking, nail-scarred feet.
You will find rest.
September 28, 2009
We know that Jesus is the Truth. (John 14:6) We also know that God’s Word is the Truth. (John 17:17 & Ps. 119:160) We know that Jesus is the Word of God in bodily form. (John 1;1,14 & Rev. 19:13 & Col. 2:9) We know that the Holy Spirit is interchangeably called “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ”. (Both in Rom. 8:9) Furthermore, we know that 1 John 5:6 says, “the Spirit is the Truth.”
So, in light of all this, I want to emphasize that if someone claims to know God, and to have Christ dwelling inside of him, and to have been born anew by the Spirit, then there is no reason for that person to be living in anything but Truth. If the Holy Spirit of God and Christ dwell within him, then there is fellowship and communication (spirit to Spirit), and he will certainly be experiencing guidance into all Truth. (John 16:13)
If such a thing is not happening, then there is a blockage from the Vine to the branch; and being Jesus says, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), this then includes the ability to hear Truth from His Spirit.
What is it that the Spirit speaks about? Jesus tells us in John 16:8. He says that when the Counselor “comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” Is this something that is being implemented by those who claim to have His Spirit in them, and claim to be His servants and messengers? Sometimes. But not much. Instead, what is being solicited is the Love-Unity Gospel. And though we are certainly to love everyone, and try to be at peace with everyone, these are only secondary pieces of the true Gospel.
The true Gospel puts at the top this: What Jesus did and does for us. That, friends, is what is to be proclaimed. Proclaimed in the churches, the streets, the cities, and the nations. Every word, attitude, deed, and service of ours is to bow to that. We are to teach obedience to Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:20), and preach that all “should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20) We do this through PREACHING. “How shall they hear without a preacher? …[For] faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:14,17)
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:21,18) Yes, this is the way to evangelize. Love, serve, help, listen, yes. But all that falls behind PREACHING –preaching from the infallible Scriptures, the Word of God. In evangelizing, it is never to be left out. For as the above verse states, the message of the cross is in itself the power unto salvation. God’s Word, not man’s word, has true power. No other message or effort has His Holy Spirit’s power. (Zech. 4:6) Rom. 1:16 says this: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.” “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of [human-inspired] talk but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20) Power for what? Power to repent, turn to God through His chosen mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), and obey Him.
As Jesus says in John 14:15-17, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to 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.” And in v. 23: “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home with him.”
Friends, when the Triune God sets up His abode within us, we will know Him. And to know Him, is to love Him; and to love Him, is to obey Him. “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar and THE TRUTH IS NOT IN HIM.” (1 John 2:3,4) This means that anyone who is not controlled by the Spirit, does not belong to Christ, and thus does not belong to God. (Rom. 8:9,14) For “No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6)
So knowing Him means knowing Truth.
And not knowing Him, means not knowing Truth.
Therefore, those who want to know the Truth need to stop thinking that they can glean any spiritual wisdom from the world. For as John 14:17 tells us, (which I’ve quoted above), the world cannot accept the Spirit of Truth, nor do they see or know Him. Because of this, no true Christian should ask the world anything about Truth concerning God, His ways, or His character. Nor should we adhere to any of their spiritual advice or methods. Why? Because we’ve already been provided with all we need right there in God’s written Word, the precious, living “holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise…” (2 Tim. 3:15), as we “correctly handle the Word of Truth.” (2:15)
As Jesus says, “If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free.” (John 8:31,32)
September 27, 2009
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land. Not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.'” (Amos 8:11,12)
Those last few words of that verse are some of the saddest, I think, in the whole Bible.
This famine is already spreading. Preachers, if filled with the Holy Spirit, should be giving us the Word of God; not entertainment and fluff –baby food. But God’s pure Word is hard to find even from the pulpit these days. Has it been forgotten that there was something called “The Dark Ages” –and that history does often repeat itself?
At least I have God’s Word right on my shelf and I, being “a spiritual man” (1 Cor. 2:13,14), can (and do!) read it for myself, learning of –and getting to know– the only true wondrous God. (That’s not arrogance. We ALL should be able to truthfully say that.) Sadly, though, many Christians are refusing to read it. And by doing so, they automatically invite the spirit of delusion to lull them into error –even to the point of joining ranks with those who reject the absolute authority of the Scriptures.
Then where will they find God’s Word? Not from the worldly pulpits; and not from their uncircumcised hearts –due to their continued disobedience against Ps. 119:11 “Thy Word have I hid in my heart…” Nor will they even find it on their shelves –for they will either have considered their Bibles so unimportant that long ago theirs went in the trash, OR their unspiritual minds become so diluted and fogged up that there will be no way they can even chance to understand what it’s saying –even if they do still have it on their shelves!
Friends, if we say we are followers of Jesus and His words, then we are citizens of HIS Kingdom and we are to be WHOLE-HEARTEDLY serving in that Kingdom. Not running around in our own puny kingdoms, serving ourselves, the world, or the dark kingdom. A good musician practices a lot! A good doctor practices, reads up, and studies –a lot! A computer job demands top diligence in keeping abreast of the numerous viruses threatening the company; thus constant alertness and study is a must. Athletes don’t lounge around on their couches much when they are expected to help their team win that season. No. They practice and they strive and they sweat and they groan and they work –and then they do it again –and again –and… Well, how many hours a day DO they do this to become proficient? Hmmm… We all know it’s no 12 minutes a day…
So what’s with “Christians”? I don’t know. You tell me.
September 26, 2009
“Seek truth.” That’s what I encourage us all to do, and to do constantly. In everything we go through, experience, hear, see, think, etc., we should weigh it against truth. And how might we do that if we haven’t sought truth? Truth brings freedom. Others cannot control us if we know the truth. They may force us physically, but they cannot control our attitude, our thoughts, our heart, or our beliefs. Because when we know the truth, we can have the calm and peaceful assurance in our spirits which only knowing the truth can bring.
God’s Word is truth. Is this not what Jesus prays in John 17:17? “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” Sanctify means to be set apart unto holiness. When we are seeking truth, we grow in holiness, the fruits of the Spirit. However, we cannot do that by glancing over at our Bibles. Or even by hurriedly scanning a few verses once a day (or once a week), thinking that is somehow going to enable us to know and walk in the truth. No, we must meditate on truth, rehearse it, apply it, and practice it. That is the only way to live correctly, righteously, pleasing to God.
Titus 1:1 tells us that “the knowledge of the truth leads to godliness.” And 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through…” Through WHAT? “… through our knowledge of Him… and through His very great and precious promises…” That, (Jesus and God’s promises), are found in none other than the Bible.
So let’s seek truth there.
September 25, 2009
For those of us who know the Lord, don’t you agree that it is so wonderful that the awesome, invincible God, the Creator of the ends of the earth and of the ends of the galaxies, has condescended to commit Himself to us? I think this is SO amazing! And SO compassionate and tender of Him! I exclaim, “He has committed Himself to be MY God!” Oh, the loveliness of this… the sweetness… the privilege… I am so grateful. Aren’t you?
And besides the fact that He is MY own God, I meditate on how He also is then MY Rock, MY Fortress, MY Shield, MY Deliverer, MY own precious Heavenly Father, MY very own good, kind Shepherd. And how this furthermore means that He is my Protector, my Provider, my Comforter, and my Counselor. Hmmmm… yes… I am so thankful.
And I’m thankful too, that while He commits to me, I also commit to Him; and that in so doing, I actually become HIS servant, HIS child, and even… HIS own friend. Oh, this is so infinitely wondrous and precious…
I deeply wish and pray that everyone would recognize this Offering, that they would take to themselves this Gift, and that they would understand the depth of such a Blessing. That blessing of having the Great God Most High commit Himself to us because of our faith in what His Son did for us on the cross.
For “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:26,27)
Yes, it is the most beautiful relationship that could ever exist.
Believe it. And totally commit to Him.
September 24, 2009
What a privilege we are offered… to worship the Creator of the whole immense universe. He is GOD. Do we fathom this… fathom His greatness? No, we do not. But we can try. We can get on our knees, our faces to the floor, and think about this awesome, majestic God that we are invited to not only bow before, but to commune and fellowship with. Oh, what privilege… If everyone could just grasp this… and sing to Him songs of praise.
Yes, for we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” (Ps. 100:4) This is how we approach Him. But let us come as humble servants, righteous, unblemished, undefiled. Sure we do this clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), but WE clothe ourselves with Him, as that verse says. God’s grace flows to us, but “it teaches US to say ‘No’ to ungodliness…” (Titus 2:12) WE are the ones to do this. Many want to sit back and expect Jesus to do everything for them. Some go so far as to say, “Well, if I sin, Jesus just didn’t come through for me.”
No, WE have the daily, hourly choice to walk in the Spirit or not to do so. (Gal. 5:16,25) WE have the choice to abide in the Vine by meditating on His Words. (John 15:1-7) WE have the obligation to “purify ourselves by obeying the truth” (1 Peter 1:22), that Truth which is Jesus, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. (John 14:6 & 17:17 & 1 John 5:6)
If we are in the habit of doing this on a constant basis, then we can joyfully approach Him through praise, thanksgiving, and our union with Him obtained through our faith in Him. (Eph. 3:12) Then we bow in humble reverence before Him, listening to Him, repenting of the sins He may be pointing out in us. Then we pray… we intercede for others… we commune… Then after that, we thank Him some more.
In fact, let’s stand up, maybe on a high hill, and PRAISE this amazing God! Let all the realm of the spiritual world see. Maybe even the peoples of the nations too. Yes, praise Him in song. A new song. “I will sing a new song to You, O God.” (Ps. 144:9) He will give the new songs to you to sing, if you ask, and they will be very beautiful.
“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him… Sing to Him a new song…” (Ps. 33:1,3)
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than [a big sacrifice].” (Ps. 69:30,31) Do we understand that these two things REALLY please the Lord? Songs of praise and glorifying Him with thanksgiving? And not only do they honor God, but they both work to bring deliverance. (Ps. 50:14,15,23 & 32:7)
So, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” (Ps. 105:1.2)
Yes, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the LORD.” (Ps. 104:33,34)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)
This, friends, is worship. Worship due the King. (Ps. 29:2 & 98:1-9)
Let’s make it our consistent practice!