When I was asked by the publisher to write all about myself and why I was qualified to write the book I was proposing, of course I gave them all my experience and “the best of times”. But the truth be known, “the worst of times” in my life were the ones that most qualified me to write the books, articles, songs and poems I have written. I learned much from the teachers of failure, pressure, betrayal, pain and disappointment. They taught me to find my strength in Jesus and to dig deep into the Word of God. They taught me the faithfulness of God and the weakness of man. They took me places I did not want to go, but caused me to learn as Corrie ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:67-69
When Jesus lived as a man among the people, He spoke truth to them, taught the principles of God’s Kingdom, healed the sick, cleansed lepers, raised the dead and cast out devils. I’m sure many people heard Him as He came through their towns, and others traveled far to see and hear Him. Then they returned home.
But there was one group that put themselves in a position to hear what Jesus said all the time as they followed Him closely every day. They had to leave behind life as they knew it to seize the opportunity to be and do something bigger than they had ever known before. Because of their commitment, they saw and heard many miraculous things. Their spiritual eyes were opened to see farther than this life. Yet they had to bear much ridicule and persecution from those who opposed the message…and there were many of those. But the disciples of Jesus stood firm in their commitment and did not turn back.
Which group do you belong to?
Monday, September 9, 2013
What memories draw you to the past most often? Maybe they are memories of playing out in the yard during long summer evenings until the dusk gradually casts its shadow over the earth. Sometimes the “good old days” call to us with their simplicity and innocence. But the truth is things have changed.
We cannot go back. We must go forward, even though our world seems to have darkened with sin considerably. The dusk of iniquity has cast its shadow over much of the earth, but there is still light for those who want to see.
Everything changes with time…our physical characteristics, our circumstances, our abilities, our relationships. Everything but God. He never changes. His characteristics, power, ability, knowledge and His principles never change. They stay the same forever. He invites us to enter His timeless, unchanging world – the Kingdom of God. The principles of His Kingdom never change, because they are truth. To change even the tiniest iota would turn them into something false, artificial and dishonest.
The fact that His principles never change may seem to suggest they are archaic or at best slightly outdated. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are as relevant now as they ever were. They still result in blessing, freedom, wisdom and light.
Look at the words of Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.”
“The old paths” are not a reference to the customs of our parents’ or grandparents’ era. They are the paths of God’s ways that have not been infiltrated with the concepts and traditions of any era or culture. Every generation has its own ideas of right and wrong or even if there actually is right and wrong. All have discovered some amount of truth and accepted a tremendous amount of error.
God’s Kingdom remains the same from generation to generation, because it is the place where God’s rule is supreme and truth reigns untainted by human error. We can know truth and live in the freedom of it no matter what our physical surroundings. God’s Word is truth, and it will lead us to light that never dims.
We can debate it, but we cannot change it. We can disagree with it, but we cannot cause it to vary in the slightest. We can lead a rebellion against it, but it will not move. We can choose to live outside God’s truth in the darkness of human reasoning, but God’s truth still remains the same. It will not adjust to accommodate our opinions or our weaknesses. We can present it as something other than it is and believe what we teach, but we will still be accountable to God according to the light of His truth, not by the shadowy areas of our reasoning.
Proverbs 22:28 says, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” These landmarks were established to show the boundary lines for properties. If there was ever a dispute where someone’s property started and ended, the landmark was the deciding factor.
Truth is the boundary marker of God’s Kingdom. It has been established as the deciding factor or the basis of judgment. We are held accountable by the original marker whether or not we are in agreement with where it stands. God’s boundaries cannot be changed. Trying to change the Word of God to suit our culture or the “American Dream” will not be accepted in the end.
So, God calls us to walk with Him in the old paths, the paths of truth and light. He calls us from the other paths that are leading us to destruction, but few choose to listen and follow.
In Malachi 3:6-7, God speaks to His people who have changed paths searching for something they will never find. His lovingkindness has kept them from being consumed by their foolishness. He continues to call them to come to Him. “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?” And so they refused.
How long will we refuse the old paths and follow our own reasoning? How long will we ignore the call of God to walk in truth?
Who among us is wise enough to take the high road and walk in the old paths?
Monday, January 14, 2013
One evening I was unexpectedly asked to play the piano at the end of the church service. I was young at the time and not used to playing with an organist. The pastor’s wife was at the organ on the opposite side of the church, and she held up three fingers signaling the song would be in three flats. I knew I couldn’t play the song in three flats, so I nodded to her to go ahead, that I couldn’t play it. I got the same signal again – three fingers that said, “we are playing this song in three flats.” Thinking she didn’t understand my message, I mouthed it to her again and motioned for her to go ahead. One last time, she sent me the same message, except this time she held up those three fingers with a sweeping motion that came to an abrupt halt in midair. It was as if she was yelling, “We ARE going to play this song in three flats; now get on with it!” So, what did I do? I played the song in three flats…because she told me to do it.
When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” (Genesis 17:1) I wonder if Abraham tried to explain to God that he couldn’t do that. I wonder if he panicked to think God really expected him to be perfect. What an impossible task he was asked to perform! After all, none of us can be perfect! Or can we?
Jesus tells us, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) How can we possibly accomplish that? The simple answer is “by walking with God”. But before we explore that statement, we need to understand what God is really asking of us.
In the Amplified Bible, Genesis 17:1 looks like this: “I am the Almighty God; walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete)”. When describing Noah’s relationship with God, Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked [in habitual fellowship] with God.”
Perfection does not mean we are flawless, that we never make a mistake. These great men of God made mistakes, but they kept walking with God. They refused to allow a fall to stop them.
It is easy to look at the lives of people in the Bible and think they were so different from us. We put them on a pedestal and think we could never attain the level of spirituality they had, but God would never tell us to do it if we couldn’t. The obvious way to be blameless, wholehearted and complete, is to walk in habitual fellowship with Him because we can’t do it alone.
How much of our day is spent with not a thought of Him? Are we constantly aware of His presence with us? I don’t mean do we always feel His presence. I mean are we always aware of His presence? If you are walking with someone, you may not be constantly talking to them, but you are aware that you are not alone. The more closely we walk with Jesus, the more like Him we become, the more faith we have, the more power we have. But we cannot have it if we don’t consistently walk with Him.
Becoming righteous is not possible on our own, but we can accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, then His righteousness is bestowed on us through our faith in Him. However, the choice whether or not we will be wholehearted in our pursuit of God is clearly up to us.
The disciples left everything to follow Jesus. They walked by His side every day for 3 ½ years. They listened to Him as He taught them how to live and how to give. After Jesus ascended to the Father He sent the Holy Spirit as He had promised. We need to be as wholehearted in following the leading of the Holy Spirit as the disciples were in following the physical footsteps of Jesus.
So, how do we walk with God? By applying His principles to every circumstance that arises. By keeping His commandments. By staying in constant communication with Him every day. We get up with Him in the morning. We talk with Him throughout the day. We listen to what He says through His Spirit and from His Word.
Let’s look at a few of Jesus’ precepts that He taught and lived. When we truly walk with Him, we will walk according to these principles.
Walk in Light. Those who truly want to walk with Jesus will welcome His light. Many prefer darkness because it hides their sins, but those who wholeheartedly want to follow Jesus are glad for the light. They know if we refuse to see our sins and confess them, we cannot have them removed, so we will fall over those obstacles in the darkness and be destroyed. Walking in the light will keep us on the path of life rather than destruction. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Light also removes the veil over our understanding and allows us to have insight into spiritual things. (See 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.) God’s light will let us see beyond this world’s wisdom into the glorious realm of the Kingdom of God.
Those who walk in light become light to others. Jesus instructed us to be careful not to hide the light we have, but to shine it into the darkness so others may see. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 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. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
Walk in Truth. The nature of truth is to set us free from bondage. The lies Satan told in the Garden of Eden deceived Adam and Eve and brought them into bondage to sin. That is why Jesus came. He is the key that unlocks the trap and sets us free. He said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Although Jesus no longer walks on the earth in the flesh, His Spirit has come to teach us and show us the way – just as clearly as Jesus showed His disciples. He promised to send the Holy Spirit, and He did.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13) See how the Spirit of God comes alongside us to lead us just as Jesus did His disciples? Learning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit enables us to walk in truth rather than falling for the lies of the enemy.
Walk in Wisdom. Wisdom is insight into the true nature of a thing. The Amplified Bible defines wisdom as the “comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God”. No one can have that insight without the help of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be taught or acquired any other way. It is received by living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit day by day.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) This wisdom is not showy, but expends itself out of compassion for others.
Walk in Love. 1 Corinthians 13 is a sobering look at true love – God’s love. I say sobering, because I don’t always see a description of me there. As we read verses 4-7 from the Amplified Bible, let’s look at each phrase to see if it describes us…and to allow God to help us cultivate His love in our hearts.
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].” I will leave this passage to speak into your heart as it has mine.
Many in the church seem content with a lifestyle far beneath that of a true disciple of Jesus according to the Scripture. We fit too comfortably into the world and easily conform to their ways rather than the ways of God. Living with a divided heart –half in this world and half in the Kingdom of God - does not work. Jesus said one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.
When we genuinely determine that the Kingdom of God is more important to us than anything in this world, and carry through on that determination, we will have begun to walk with God. As we walk with Him, He will change us more and more into His image and can use us more and more to build His Kingdom. Our part is learning to yield daily to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
When this life is over will it be said of us, “he/she walked with God and was perfect?”