Monday, February 5, 2018

THE GLORY

            I remember a time when there was a hunger among the people of God.  Although we were Christians and active church members, we felt there was something missing.  Our spirits were longing. For what?  We didn’t know exactly, but we knew there was something deeper than what we were experiencing.  We began to ask God, and doors started opening for us to hear His Word as we had never heard it before.  It was the same Bible, the same words, but suddenly they radiated Spirit and Life that was not only filling the void in us, but energizing our souls. It was as if a light had been turned on in our spirits and we could see clearly the Word of God.  We were aware of the working of His Spirit in us and around us as never before.
The Word is alive, because the Word is Jesus.  The first chapter of John tells us that.  It also tells us that Jesus is God, and nothing was created without Him.  Then it says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  That light is His glory, His presence displayed for us to see and experience.  In the light of His glory, we began to thrive and grow in the Word.  We were excited and celebrating the light Jesus had brought to us.  We realized the Word could be applied to our lives, and would change us.
This revelation of God’s Word and His Spirit came in answer to many desperate prayers from many people across our nation. The answer came because we were hungry and thirsty for more of Christ.  Do you have a soul hunger that has not been satisfied?  Are you doing the same rituals over and over and still feel empty?  If so, you are in the right position for a spiritual revolution, because Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
If you are hungry for more, ask of God.  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9)  Those are not just calming words to encourage us when we are down.  They are powerful words of promise spoken from the same God who said “Let there be light: and there was light”. These words carry that same power and will bring light to your soul.  We are not waiting for God.  He is waiting for us to ask, seek and knock…and it shall be.
            My grandmother was born in the late 1800’s, and she used to tell us about a revival that took place in the early 1900’s.  Her mother would take her along as she went up to Paris Mountain to pray with other believers.  She said there were woods on both sides of the road and the men would pray on one side and the women on the other.  She told us you could hear those prayers long before you ever got to them. The people were consumed with seeking God.  He consumed their thoughts, their desires, their lives and their time.  My grandmother vividly remembered the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that followed.  She recounted many miracles that she witnessed.  This outpouring was about the same time as the Azusa Street revival on the west coast.  They were very similar in their origins, because the revival they experienced on Paris Mountain began among regular people who were tenaciously passionate to know more of God.
God is waiting for us to ask and really mean it.  He will move again if we pray like that and if we are truly hungry and thirsty for Him.  He will show us His glory.  He will impart to us His Spirit.  Our part is to lay aside other things and seek Him.  He will make us into His image during those times of prayer.  He will do a work in us, but He also wants to do a work through us, one that will reach the nations. Until we are emptied of self and filled with Him, He cannot do that.
Too many professing Christians are content with just enough ‘religion’ to soothe their consciences, with church as usual and a surface relationship with Jesus. Yet, all along it is God’s desire to fill us all with His Spirit and let His Word come alive in us.  He wants His glory to be seen in us.
            I was recently part of a prayer service where we did just that – we prayed.  The presence of God was very palpable to me.  I sensed He was right there with me, hearing the cries of my heart. I know He heard them because He has renewed something within me.  Why is it that
Christians seldom come together like that to pray?  We have some organized prayer vigils where someone offers up prayers for us on specific subjects and that is alright, but this prayer from the heart is anything but organized.  It comes from the depth of individual hearts and is heard individually by the Father.  It is the spoken desire of every longing heart being lifted up to heaven with no filter, just completely abandoned to God. It brings the very presence of God into our lives.  And that presence cannot be contained within us, so it spills out to those around us.
Satan would like to keep us from such prayers that change the world.  He knows how powerful our prayers are.  He knows the damage it does to his evil kingdom.  The early church prayed together and saw wonders and miracles.  They had power and authority in their ministries and thousands came to Christ.  They were real Christ followers, many giving their lives for the gospel.
What do you want in life?  What is your greatest desire?  Is it for the things of this world or do you long to walk with God?  When we crave the presence of God, He will come and do a work in us that cannot be stopped and cannot be explained with words.  It is a transfer of His power and glory to us.  Jesus prayed to His Father for His disciples (and us) before His crucifixion, and asked the Father to make His followers one with Him.  He said, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”  (John 17:22-23)
This glory is placed within us through the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to the world, not to showcase our talents or build a career. The moment we take credit for His glory and receive the honor that belongs to God alone, that is the moment when His glory will depart.  God chose to reveal this glory through Jesus when He was on earth. Jesus was the manifest presence of God in human flesh. Now He has chosen to reveal Himself through us.  But first, we must be filled with His Spirit.  Just as Jesus was totally united with and submitted to the Father, we must be totally united with and submitted to Jesus.  We cannot do the work of God’s kingdom without being made into the image of Jesus, without His manifest presence being seen in us.  That is why Jesus gives us the same glory He received from the Father.  He gives us the “power to become sons of God.”  He gives us the “Holy Ghost and power” to be witnesses.  We are merely vessels to show forth His glory.   It is His glory in us, not our glory.
When Solomon built the Temple, it was a place separate from the natural way of life.  It was holy and was dedicated solely for the glory of God.  Everything in the temple was there for worship to God.  The day Solomon brought the people together to dedicate the Temple, God came in a cloud to show His glory and placed His presence there among them.  Look at what happened next.
“Now it happened that when the priests had come out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the Lord’s house, so that the priests could not stand [in their positions] to minister because of the cloud, for the glory and brilliance of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house (temple).”  (Amplified Bible) 
When we surrender to Jesus Christ, and He places His Spirit in us, we become the temple of the Holy Ghost.  “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
            When we are inhabited by the Spirit of God, we are set apart solely for God’s service.  We are not to take the praise and honor that belongs to God to glorify ourselves.  We are only earthen vessels He uses to point the way to Christ.  We cannot continue to stand in our own position and in God’s glory at the same time.  If the priests had continued doing what they were doing, they would have missed what God was doing and would have called attention to themselves rather than God’s presence. 
We may know the ropes and have figured out how to operate in the religious system, but the glory of God (His presence, holiness and power) is not manifest in the parameters of a system or on our terms.  Nor will He allow another to receive His glory, honor and praise.  Jesus said He had given His followers the same glory He had received from the Father, but that glory must shine from a vessel that is submitted to the Father as Jesus was, that shows love with a meek spirit, does not seek its own way, and has the power and authority of Jesus that is controlled by the Holy Spirit.  Those who are led by and walk in the Spirit will show the glory of Jesus Christ to others.  They will not turn the spotlight on themselves.  This Light is His glory, His presence revealed through jars of clay.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)  Do others see the manifest presence of God in you?

“For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which are God's.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Book Release

My new book has been released and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Just a Minute, a Daily Challenge to Change is a devotional book for 366 days (making sure leap years are not neglected). Each devotion includes a challenge to change in an area of our lives, drawing us closer to Jesus.

God bless you in this new year, and may your life be enriched by His Spirit.




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

THE REVOLUTION


            In the 1960’s and early 70’s there was a revolution that rocked the United Kingdom and United States, then made its way through much of the Western world with its “anti-establishment” trend.  It interrupted the accepted traditions and beliefs, and created a counterculture or subculture whose values and lifestyles were opposed to those of society.  Young people rose up and defied the established authority and the prevalent cultural rules of right and wrong with their protests.  They rebelled against parents, government and God.  Many experimented with drugs and were addicted or died from an overdose.  Morals were thrown to the wind.  It was an age of “if it feels good, do it”.  The consequences were harmful and, in most cases, the new “freedoms” proved to be a greater bondage than the established authorities.  Were they wrong in all their opinions?  Probably not. Were the authorities right about everything?  Probably not.  Was God right about everything?  Absolutely yes!  Turning from Him caused a downslide in morals that entangled people in drugs and illicit relationships.
            But even before this rebellion settled down, there was a new kind of revolution on the horizon, and it would break the chains of bondage brought on by the previous revolution.  It would release every kind of captive.  It would give freedom to whoever wanted it, all ages, races, and social statuses. 
            I was in high school in the 70’s, during this second revolution that overlapped the end of the first one.  This second revolution was an outpouring of God’s Spirit that swept across our nation and through our schools.  I remember the students standing in the courtyard before classes and singing worship songs.  Many were brought into the kingdom of God, and their lives were changed forever.  Yet, at the same time, the other revolution still continued.  As a result of it, I also remember the threat of a riot in our school.  I saw some students who obviously came prepared to carry out that threat. There was an air of fear and apprehension.  I don’t know what caused the tension to escalate to that point, but the school had to cancel classes for the day and send all the students home.  What a stark difference in these two revolutions.
            Just as the 60’s counterculture rocked the lives of so many, the 70’s counterculture brought many to Jesus Christ, the Rock upon which they could build their lives and have a firm foundation of truth, freedom, real peace, and a genuine relationship with Him. 
The second revolution was different from the first in a major way.  These people didn’t revolt against the government or parents or God. It was a spiritual revolution.  It was a revival. 
Andrew Murray said, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.”  This revival was certainly one that changed hearts and lives forever.  Thank God, I was part of that revolution!  And it changed me forever.
            A revolution is a breaking away from established authority.  A counterculture is the society that is birthed from this breaking away.  It is a “way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing norm.”  Some call it rebellion, and usually it is.  But that is not always true.  Sometimes it is recapturing what we have lost.  Actually, this world’s culture is in rebellion to God.  When sin came into God’s perfect world, a rebellious counterculture was established and it continues today.  Followers of Jesus Christ are often considered the rebellious counterculture, when technically it’s the other way around.  Jesus came to turn the world back to the original “norm”.  He came to empower us to be free born citizens of His kingdom.
            A revival is a revolution.  It doesn’t come through a series of meetings, emotional stirrings or the determination to turn over a new leaf.  This revolution begins deep down in the soul.  It is the hunger and thirst of a desperate heart with a longing so deep that it refuses to be turned away without receiving more from the Holy Spirit.  This revolution is a breaking away from the world (spiritually) and places us firmly in the kingdom of God, under the rule and authority of Jesus Christ.
            Let’s go back to the quote from Andrew Murray.  What does it mean to cast out the spirit of worldliness?  What does God say about the spirit of this world?  In 1 John 2:15-16, He says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 
            The love of the world will draw us away from God.  It will never lead us to Him, but will entice us to please our flesh, our carnal (sinful) nature.  The lust of the flesh is indulging in the corrupt state and behaviors of the world.  The lust of the eyes is covetousness, always looking for something more, but never being satisfied with any of it.  The pride of life is a hunger and thirst for honor, riches and the applause of men.  We cannot live in both cultures.  We must make a choice. The scripture clearly states that if we are friends of the world, we are the enemies of God.  The spirit of this world is corrupt and in rebellion to the kingdom of God and God’s authority.  Therefore, we are a worldly and selfish people.  But we don’t have to stay that way.  We can be born again of the Spirit, living and walking in the Spirit.
But even as God’s children we can begin to slide back into the ways of the world and the thinking of the world. When we do, it’s easier to try to justify our waywardness by attempting to reinterpret the Word of God so we can feel more comfortable here.  But God will never change, and we only deceive ourselves when we try to alter His Word and the working of His Spirit. It is imperative that we stay filled with His Spirit and immerse ourselves in His Word.  It will keep us strong in the Lord.  We can only keep the worldliness cast out of us by “making God and His love triumph in the heart and life.”  The church cannot do the work of the church until she has made her garments white and is pure and holy before God.  We need to be revived and renewed.
To revive means to “awaken to spiritual concerns, bring to life again, recall to activity from a state of lethargy, recover from a state of neglect, oblivion, obscurity or depression.”  Be honest.  Do you need to be revived?  Do you need to be awakened from a spiritual sleep?  Have you become lethargic, let your guard down and neglected your relationship with Jesus?  It is so easy to slip into the pattern of the world if we are not consistently immersed in His Spirit and Word.
Billy Sunday said, “A revival does two things.  First, it returns the Church from her backsliding and second, it causes the conversion of men and women; and it always includes the conviction of sin on the part of the Church.  What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”  Billy Sunday preached in the early 1900’s.  Just imagine if he could see the Church in this day.  We need a revival!  We need Holy Ghost conviction!
My mother told me about a revival that happened at a church in a mill town years ago.  The church people had a renewal and revival swept the entire city.  They had services every night for several weeks.  The people flocked in.  Conviction would come and souls would be saved.  When the services were over at the church, they would gather in homes to pray.  But this revival wasn’t restricted to the church building only.  People were being convicted of their sins in the mill and being saved right on the job.  Their lives were so affected that they served the Lord the rest of their lives.  It wasn’t just a temporary emotional experience.
What kind of influence are we as individuals and as the church?  When is the last time we have felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit or have been reproved by the word of God?  Conviction is given in God’s mercy, to show us sin that lurks in our lives and will destroy us and our influence if we don’t heed His call.  If we want to influence those in the world to bring them to Christ, we have to show them the power of God in us.  We cannot do that until we answer the conviction of the Spirit.  The Church of the Lord Jesus needs to be a pure, holy Church.  
What are unbelievers seeing in us?  What are they hearing from us?  Is it the same conversations and interests they have, or are we empowered to share Jesus through our lives and words?  Does our life cause them to be convicted of their sin and want to turn to Jesus?
            If we are to cast out the spirit of worldliness, we cannot resist the conviction of the Word and Spirit of God.  Only when we lay aside everything else to seek after God will we experience the revolution that will change us completely…and change our world. 
            We can experience a personal revival when we shut out the voice of the world and begin to hear and act on the voice of God.

“A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”

Charles Finney

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY"


            Ah! Christmas! It’s a magical time when lights and decorations turn the common into breathtaking displays. Hearts are more open to give.  Family and friends come together to celebrate, and music envelops us with the sweet melodies of Christmas. But the true message of Christmas is that which speaks of Jesus’ birth, and of “peace on earth, good will to men.”
            “Peace on earth.”  Those simple words of hope seem to be a stark contrast to the turmoil, hatred and rebellion prevalent in our world today.  Even our Christmas cheer cannot block out the reality of evil and turmoil all around us.  How can we reconcile such disharmony with the message God sent us?  How can the two fit together?        
            Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was also conflicted with the seeming inconsistency of peace in such a troubled world.  He had felt the knife of sorrow cut through his heart when his wife of 18 years died in a fire.  Shortly thereafter, his son Charles joined the Union Army during the Civil War without his father’s blessing.  Charles was soon promoted to Lieutenant and was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.  His recovery was long and his days as a soldier ended.
            Longfellow had experienced death, heartache and war up close. He could not deny their existence. On Christmas Day in 1863, he wrote a poem called “Christmas Bells.”  It reveals his struggle with the idea of “peace on earth, good-will to men.” We know his poem better as the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” 
           
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

            Yes. That is the message of peace and good will God echoed throughout the world that first Christmas night.  He reached down into a sin-cursed world that was in chaos, and He joyously, boldly spoke of peace.  Peace that would once again join us together with Him. God’s peace is not a temporary peace that is frail and can be easily shattered by circumstances.  It is an enduring, consistent peace that remains intact within us regardless of circumstances.  It is a union of our hearts with God’s heart.  Peace with God is the longing of every soul whether we realize it or not.  And God made it possible.  His peace is the most beautiful, lasting peace we could ever possess.  Nothing can take it from us, because it lies within us. 
            The bells rang out ‘wild and sweet’as a reminder of the angels’ vibrant message to us on that first Christmas when they announced the birth of God’s Son, Emmanuel, God with us, our Savior, Messiah, Lord and King.  All seemed right with the world that night in Bethlehem.

“And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth’, I said;
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”


            Longfellow knew well the pain and turmoil that still remained in the world.  We know it, too.  We see it on a daily basis and groan under the effects of this sin-sick society.  Jesus knows it, too.  He knows the pull of this world against His peace.  His invitation for us is to persevere through the trials of this world with His peace in our hearts.  It is born of and increased through our connection to Him.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  His peace doesn’t necessarily remove the turmoil of the world, but the turmoil in our hearts.  It allows us to live on a higher plane in the midst of chaos.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

            Somehow, the message of the bells, the message of the angels, was more persistent, more prevalent, more compelling than the chaos around them.  The message of peace, even in its tranquility and stillness was louder.  It rose up and prevailed against everything evil, everything that would try to silence it.  Peace may be resisted, but it cannot be vanquished or conquered.  The peace Jesus promised rises up in the middle of turmoil and dispels it.  It persists and prevails over every wrong. It is not fragile, but is a strong, indomitable peace.  It proves the good will God has toward us in spite of our defiance of Him.
            Jesus said,Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Receive that peace.  Jesus offers it freely to us that it may be alive within us here and now.  And at the end of this world’s order, peace will reign uncontested in a new heaven and earth.  All sin, fear, disease and evil with be annihilated.  There will be no more chaos, no more hatred, no more rebellion, no more tribulation.  Finally peace will reign within and without.
The message of Christmas remains as true now as it ever was.

“The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Sunday, November 5, 2017

TO THE MEEK

Meek – humble, submissive, preferring to bear injuries rather than return them, power under control

            We had an aloe plant that we left outside during that last cold snap of the winter and it died – we thought.  We had not meant to mistreat it but were negligent of its care.  Even the part that survived turned brown except for one small tip that was still green.  Aloe plants are wonderful for healing burns, so when I burned my hand, I broke off part of that tip to soothe the pain.  That little broken, mistreated aloe still provided healing for me.  Surprisingly, with a little water and warmer weather, it sprang back to life.
            Are we like that aloe plant?  Are we resilient and return good for evil?  Or do we choose to strike out against those who hurt us? Kindness changes hearts.  That aloe plant taught me a valuable lesson.  Don’t return evil for evil.  Instead, do good to those who hurt you.
            Meekness is listed among the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  This fruit only appears in the life of those who are born of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.  It is evident in those who cultivate the character of Christ in their lives.  We cannot achieve meekness on our own.  We are certainly not born with meekness. Much to the contrary, we are born in a world that declares survival of the fittest, a “me first” culture. 
In this world of vengeance and hatred, it takes real power to be unmoved from the path the Father places before us.  We only receive that power through the Spirit of God at work in us.  Just as fruit trees have an unseen force at work in them throughout the year making it possible for them to bear fruit in season; we must have the force of the Spirit at work in us every day if we are to be able to develop His fruit in the various seasons of our lives. 
            It takes a heart like Jesus’ heart to heal the wounds of those who have hurt us, to return good for evil and kindness for spiteful actions against us.  Jesus said when we learn meekness from Him, we will find rest for our souls.  That rest doesn’t mean we won’t have battles to face and problems to overcome. It simply means we stay focused and are content in the Father’s will whatever the outward circumstances.  
Jesus never pushed His own agenda as a man, even though He had the power to do it. He possessed the boldness and authority to act, but never used it for the advancement of His humanity.  He used it only for the Father’s purposes.  If persecution was not the Father’s will at that time, He simply walked away from it.  There were occasions when men took up stones to kill Him or sent soldiers to arrest Him, but those attempts on His life were futile until it was God’s timing. There were other times when men tried to force Him to become their earthly king, but He evaded them, too.  Jesus never considered the will of man.  It made no difference, had no bearing on His decisions.  He was set on accomplishing the purposes of the Father only.
            When persecution and death were in God’s timing, Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing what lay ahead of Him. Why?  Because He was meek and submissive to God’s will. He was strong enough to walk into a trap knowingly because He wanted nothing less than God’s will.  We see that so clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed just before His arrest; “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” He had the power to deliver Himself, but He used it instead to press on in the face of death. 
            In the fourth chapter of Acts, we read that Peter and John had healed a lame man at the Temple.  As the man rejoiced and praised God, a crowd gathered wanting to know how this happened.  Peter took that opportunity to preach about Jesus, the One in Whose name the man was healed.  So, Peter and John were arrested, threatened, and commanded by the religious rulers not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus.  Their answer to these leaders was honest and clear.  They said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”  They weren’t defiantly disobeying authority, but they had to answer a Higher Authority, the same Authority these religious leaders claimed to follow.  If the disciples kept the leaders’ command, they would have to disobey Jesus’ command to preach and teach in His name.  They were threatened further and released because the religious rulers were afraid to punish them.  After all, a notable miracle had been done and many of the people saw it, heard their preaching, and believed.
Upon release, Peter and John went to the gathering of believers and told them everything that had happened.  They immediately went to prayer, but their prayer wasn’t one for vengeance.  It wasn’t one for protection or even deliverance.  They prayed, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)  They asked God to give them boldness in the face of persecution, in the face of the threats that they knew would be carried out if they continued. They knew there would be repercussions and they needed courage.  They needed power to follow the commands of Jesus. 
Meekness is power under control, power to do what is right even when facing evil.  They didn’t ask for boldness to fight the religious people.  They didn’t pray for courage to take up arms, protest or bring down the hierarchy.  They didn’t ask for wisdom to outsmart the enemy. They prayed for boldness to continue doing what Jesus commanded them to do.  They would not be deterred.
These believers had an immediate answer to their prayer.  “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”  God heard and God answered. 
When is the last time you prayed and chains of fear were broken?  When the words of the enemy against you lost their power because of the Word of God within you?  When your whole world shook and left you with a boldness and power that nothing could shake?  When the Holy Ghost filled you again and empowered you for the task ahead?  If we want an answer to our prayers, we have to pray them!  We have to mean what we pray.
            If we want meekness to prevail in our lives, we must have power, the power of the Holy Spirit.  This power is not to destroy lives, but to build them.  It is not to seek vengeance against those who persecute us, but to seek their salvation.  Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, even in the midst of their murderous act.  They mocked Him and called on Him to come down from the cross if He was the Son of God.  He could have.  He had the power to come down from the cross, wipe them all out, and vindicate Himself.  Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful show of His authority?  Wouldn’t that have shown them the majesty and glory of God?  Yes, it would.  But it would have left us all lost in our sins.  Jesus was more interested in securing our salvation than in a flashy show of power that would last in the memories of maybe one generation.  Jesus was set on finishing what He came to do.  Possessing the power to deliver Himself, He allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured and killed.  It not only bought our pardon, but He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven. 
            Jesus hasn’t called us to show how powerful we are, how gifted, how eloquent or well-known.  He calls us to save the lost, encourage the discouraged, strengthen the weak, care for widows and orphans, preach the gospel and show Jesus to the world.  From time to time we need to examine our motives in our prayers and our service.  We should want nothing less than the will of God.
Jesus still gives boldness and courage to those who ask, to those who follow Him.  He still answers prayers, fills us with the Holy Spirit and gives us the power of meekness.  What are we praying for?  For God to bless our bank account and keep us in a comfortable position?  Or are we praying for the boldness to love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, bless them that curse us, and pray for them that despitefully use us?
Christ calls us to put the will of the Father above our own selfish will.  He calls us to be kind and loving even in the face of evil.  We are to give the message of the cross to those we come in contact with.  We are to show the love of Jesus to the world around us. 
Only through the meekness of Jesus in our lives can we have the power to accomplish His work.  His way is not always easy, but He will give the power to those who ask.


“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Psalm 37:11

Monday, October 2, 2017

TO THE LIGHT KEEPERS



Light – that which makes things visible, illumination
Keep – maintain custody of, protect, care for, preserve in good condition

A song was brought to my mind by a very unlikely source, and I couldn’t get it out of my thoughts.  It’s called, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning”, and I had not thought of it in years.  It kept playing over and over again in my mind, and I felt compelled to find a copy of the words.  I knew the song spoke of a lighthouse, but my question was, “what are lower lights?”  That term was a puzzle to me.  Of course, many years ago, before GPS and all the other equipment we have now, sailors navigated by the sun, moon and stars.  They especially used Polaris, or the North Star as we sometimes call it.  These were called the upper lights, lights that God had placed above for guidance and illumination. The lower lights were simply the lights from the lighthouses. These lighthouses were placed strategically at harbors where ships could dock safely without running aground on rocks.  Their beams of light signaled a safe harbor ahead as they shone a welcoming beam across the water and guided the pilot safely into the port.
Today, most lighthouses are automated, so they do not have a lighthouse keeper.  But that wasn’t the case in the past.  The lighthouse keeper’s job was all-consuming.  They were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The safety of the ships and the many lives on those ships depended on them.  Some lighthouses had two keepers to lessen the load, but most had only one who had dedicated his life to it completely.  His duty was simple, but not easy.  He was to help the ships see more clearly in the obscurity of early morning, in the darkness of night, in the fog and in storms.  These keepers saved many lives.
Jesus came to bring Light into the darkness.  He came to make His kingdom visible, and to guide us through the fog and storms of this life.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  He placed this light into whoever would receive Him, then left us to be keepers of His light, saying, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”  A city on a hill.  That sounds a little like a lighthouse, doesn’t it? A city standing tall and shining the light to show the way to those journeying through this world, letting them know there is a safe harbor accessible even in the most treacherous environment.
Jesus is unquestionably the Upper Light.  But He left us in this world as the lower lights, to guide others to Him.  The light of Jesus Christ shining through us is a welcoming signal to those in darkness.  It beams across the sea of humanity to offer hope.
            Are we carrying out our job to keep the light shining, to help wayfarers make it into the kingdom of God safely?  Philippians 2:15-16 says, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life”. Every time I read that verse, I envision the word of God as a torch we hold high to help others see truth and come to freedom.  If we let that light grow dim or go out, we snuff out the only light some people have.
            If we are to be faithful custodians of the light Jesus has given us, we will realize it is a 24-hour a day job.  We will make sure our lights are fueled and the glass panes are consistently clean and clear.  If our earthen vessel dims the light of Jesus, people will not get a clear view and won’t be able to navigate their way to Him.  We cannot be part time Light Keepers.  Our job is too urgent.  Too many lives are at stake.

“Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.”

            Being a faithful light keeper is the most crucial responsibility anyone can have.  We are called to direct the “fainting, struggling seamen” to Jesus.  Souls are desperately in need of saving, and I wonder if we are too complacent in spreading the light.  Are we sending the “gleam across the wave”, or do we hide it among ourselves?  Jesus said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”   Are we really holding forth the light, or have we become an elite club that focuses only on what God will do for us?  If so, our light will become dim and fade away.  We were made, not only to be receptacles of His light, but to shine that light into the hearts of others.  The light of Christ is to be passed on without fail, because every soul is heading toward an eternal destination of either heaven or hell.   
            God said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”  God saw the evil and darkness of the world and its inhabitants, and He searched for someone who would stand up and make a difference, who would sound the alarm of danger and light the way for people to navigate to the shelter of God’s kingdom.  The sad part was that he found no one.  Where were the light keepers?  Are we doing any better?  How much progress are we making?

“Dark the night of sin has settled; Loud and angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing, for the lights along the shore.”

            As a Christian, you are the light along the shore.  Picture in your mind those caught in the storm with no one to intervene and pull them out, no one to shine a light so they can guide their ship to safety.  Are we willing to help them?  Are we available at all times, or just when it is convenient?  It seems no one wants to be on duty as a light keeper all day, every day, but that is what we are called to do. 
            We shine light into darkness every time we give a word of hope and encouragement, give testimony to what we have personally seen and heard in our spiritual walk, when we are a godly example during a tough circumstance, when we communicate the word of God through preaching, teaching, writing, singing, radio, television, social media and many other venues.  We need to learn to wisely use every tool we have available to us.  Time is running out for many souls.
            We are responsible for shining the Light of Jesus Christ, but we are not responsible for their response to the light.  Some may see the lighthouse and refuse to come to it because they have their sights set on faraway places.  But the prophet Ezekiel wrote these words that God had spoken to him.  “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”  (Ezekiel 3:18-19)
            We need to hear the cry of those who are drifting and dying and let them know of the mercy of God to save them.  “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…”  (Jude 1:22-23)  Where is our compassion?  Where is our fear of God that causes us to reach out even when we fear to do so?
            If we are so absorbed with the things of this world, we will be deaf to the cries of the dying.  If we do not keep our lamps trimmed and burning, we will be of no use to them.  They will die in their sins, but their blood will be on us.  We need to examine our motives.  What is our personal mission?  Are our priorities eternal or temporary?  Let’s wake up and shine.  Dare to ask God what that means for you personally.  Ask Him to give you His plan for you to save the lost.  He uses different people in different ways.  If you keep the light shining brightly in you, your eyes will be open to see those who need your help.

“Trim your feeble lamp, my brother; Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor, In the darkness may be lost.”

            We need to trim our “feeble lamps”.  We tend to look at the Scripture in the light of this world rather than looking at this world in the light of Scripture.  So, we have a dingy, obscure view that compromises the Scripture to make it fit in with our culture, and to look as though we are all okay.  When we look at the world in the light of Scripture, we will see it as God sees it – desperately in need of being rescued.  Yet we will also see the glory and grace God has extended to us all, the life in the Spirit realm that lifts us above this world.  And this life is available to “whosoever will”. 
Once we become a light keeper, the light of Scripture will guide us, and the power of the Spirit will enable us.  Then it is impossible to keep from shining.  Only when we become distant with the “Upper Light” will our lower lights be obscured or put out.  So, take care to tend to your light and keep it burning strong. 
            Let our prayer be, “Send me, Lord, into the world, the fire of Your Spirit guiding.  Send me, Lord, into the world, revealing Your holy presence.”  I can hear the Spirit calling; “Shine the light of Christ in darkness.”  That is our responsibility.

Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save.”


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

TO THE DISAPPOINTED



Disappoint – fail to fulfill the expectations of (someone),
fail to satisfy the hope of
           
            When I finished my first book, it had been at the printer’s for what seemed a long time to me.  They had told me it would be ready on a certain day, and I was excited about finally getting it in my hand.  I received a call about an hour and a half before I was planning to leave to pick it up.  They were letting me know there had been a mistake and the wrong book had been finished.  Mine would not be ready until the next day.
            Was I disappointed?  Absolutely!  But I had just been sitting at my computer typing a scripture into a document when I received the call.  It said, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way.”  God reminded me He was still in control, and He was establishing my path.  As a matter of fact, He had prepared me ahead of time.
It may be tomorrow instead of today, or even next year instead of this year; but God will bring every word to pass in His perfect timing.  You can count on it.
Have you ever been disappointed?  What was the biggest disappointment you ever faced?  How did you handle it?  It could have been someone you trusted who let you down.  It could be that you failed to satisfy your own expectations.  But have you ever been disappointed in Jesus?  Be honest.  If you have, you aren’t alone.  Mary and Martha were.
Their brother Lazarus was sick and they sent word to their close friend, Jesus, Who often came to visit in their home.  Jesus received the urgent message and John 11:5-6 tells us what happened next. “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.  When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.” Does that sound like love?  It seems He didn’t care.  What was He thinking to treat their request so lightly?  Jesus’ thoughts were not following the same path of Mary and Martha’s.  Nor was his response the one they expected, because He knew what they didn’t know.  His love was strong enough to do the right thing instead of the easy thing or the expected thing even though He knew He would be misunderstood.  By the time He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days, was  bound with grave clothes and lying in the tomb.  Martha met Jesus in the way as He approached their house.  She said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Clearly a statement filled with disappointment.  Yet she said she still believed that whatever He asked of God, God would give it to Him.  We all say that, but do we mean it?  Are we confident that He makes no mistakes?  We all know the end of the story, but Mary and Martha didn’t at that point.  Jesus went to the grave and told them to open the tomb.  Then He cried out, “Lazarus, come forth”, and Lazarus came forth still bound in grave clothes.  Jesus commanded them to loose him, and Lazarus was indeed alive and well. 
Look at the prayer Jesus prayed just before He called Lazarus to come forth.  “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.  And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”  Why did Jesus wait so long?  Because He was about to do a miracle of gigantic proportions.  He knew what would happen.  No doubt.  He knew when he decided to stay where He was that Lazarus was dead.  There was a greater purpose than Lazarus being healed from sickness.  Jesus showed that He could raise the dead even after Lazarus had been deteriorating for four days.
What are you stewing about that God hasn’t come through yet?  I will admit I have had my times, too.  It seems God is uncaring toward our needs, slow in keeping His Word, but He is waiting for the right time to bring it to pass, because He wants the best, not mediocre.  Mary and Martha expected a certain response from Jesus, and they didn’t get it.  It wasn’t what they wanted and it wasn’t in the time frame they had requested it.  But Jesus gave them what they needed at the right time.  If they had just trusted, they wouldn’t have been disappointed.  Neither will we if we will trust Him.  Jesus will never do everything just how we expect Him to, and He doesn’t work on our timetable.  We have to remember that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, but His ways are perfect and His thoughts are omniscient.  Jesus will never disappoint us if we will trust Him even when we don’t understand.  Actually, Jesus never disappoints us.  We disappoint ourselves with expectations that are too small or too fleshly to allow His greater good.
As far as disappointing yourself, you are probably in the same boat with everyone else who has ever lived.  Peter was a total disappointment to himself.  He bragged to Jesus in front of all the other disciples how he would never deny Jesus, how he would die for Him.  And I believe he meant it.  He thought he could stand up to anything for Jesus.  Actually, all the other disciples said the same thing.  But a few hours later Peter denied Jesus three times and deserted Him in His darkest hour.  Die for Him?  Not even close. The best he could do was follow at a distance.  Peter was so disillusioned with his actions that he went out and wept.  He must have felt hopeless.  Even after seeing the risen Christ, he said to the other disciples, “I go a fishing.”  They all went with him.  Fishing had been Peter’s occupation before he was a follower of Jesus.  Now that he had failed, he may as well go back to the way things were.  But Jesus wasn’t finished with Peter.  While Peter and the other disciples were fishing, Jesus appeared on the shore and asked if they had caught anything.  They had not.  You can’t go back to your old life and be profitable.  Jesus said to cast the net on the other side of the ship.  They did and caught a record amount of fish.  John knew immediately Who it was.  He told the others, and Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore.  It was there that Jesus reaffirmed Peter’s call.  He asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Each time Peter said ‘yes’ and each time Jesus told Him to feed His sheep.  Peter’s days of disappointment were over.  He was still a follower of Jesus Christ.  He was still a disciple in good standing.  All was forgiven.  After the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter became a mighty leader in the early church, and eventually did die for Jesus.  It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power or determination of Peter.
Don’t give up.  If you are disappointed in yourself, know this.  Things can be different.  They really can. You can’t undo it on your own, but Jesus can.  Take it to Jesus.  He will fill you with His Spirit and make you able to do what He has called you to do.  Peter was reinstated and empowered to do what he was not able to do before. You can be, too.     
Sometimes, it isn’t ourselves or God that we feel disappointment toward.  Sometimes it’s someone who was close to us.  Someone we trusted in, and they let us down.  When someone hurts us, it can be a devastating wound. 
David was chosen by God to be the king of Israel.  He had a son, Absalom, who was unhappy with David as a father and as his king.  So, he began to spread seeds of discontent among the people and let them know how things would be different if he were king.  Then, he did the unthinkable.  He usurped his father’s throne and, with all his followers, made himself king.  David, the king God had chosen, had to flee the city with those who were still faithful to him as his son forcefully replaced him on the throne.  A terrible battle ensued between Absalom’s army and David’s army.  Yet, as David’s men prepared for war, he commanded them to “Deal gently for my sake with the young man.”  (2 Samuel 18:5)
Absalom’s reign was short-lived, and David returned to his position, but only after Absalom was killed.  Disappointed?  Definitely.  David’s heart was broken.  He mourned for his son, the very one who had done such a treacherous, treasonous thing.  His mourning for Absalom caused his army to feel ashamed of the great victory they had won for him.  His general, Joab, told him he needed to snap out of it and commend his army for a job well done and for their loyalty.  They had risked their lives to restore order and bring peace.  Many had lost their lives.
We can be so disappointed in someone who has wronged us that all we focus on is our own pity and loss.  There are many others who are for us and try to encourage us.  We need to open our eyes to see them, and acknowledge their kindness.  Sometimes a broken relationship can be mended.  That is always the best.  But sometimes it is not possible, and we have to let it go.  Disappointment can turn into discouragement and depression that will bog us down and keep us from moving on with God’s plan.  We need to get past disappointment and get back to the assignment at hand. 
Whether you are disappointed because you can’t figure out what God is doing, or you have failed to accomplish what you desire, or someone has let you down, recognize it as a tool of the enemy to redirect you from the calling of God.  It is to undermine your trust in God.  Keep the faith, hope against hope and stand strong through the power of the Holy Spirit.


“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  (Romans 5:5 NKJV)