Thursday, April 30, 2009

"The Real Hero"

"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28) Jesus gave His life as a ransom for us. He voluntarily allowed Himself to be taken captive and laid down His life in order to save us from eternal doom.
On January 13, 1982, one of the worst snowstorms hit Washington, D.C. in decades. It caused all traffic to halt and created a large traffic jam on the Arland D. Williams Memorial Bridge. This is the bridge that spans the Potomac River. The heavy snowfall closed the Washington National Airport three-quarters of a mile away. Among the affected was Air Florida flight 90, comprised o 74 passengers (including three infants) bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was about an hour and forty-five minute delay and finally the plane took off at 3:59 p.m. The jetliner headed north and made a small right turn. The path of Air Florida Flight 90 presumed a 700-foot clearance over the bridge. At 4:01 p.m., the flight was unable to stay airborne, with the nose raised and the tail down, it crashed into the bridge. The aircraft struck seven occupied vehicles, sheared one top off another automobile and crushed four other cars. The impact ripped out 180 feet of railing before plunging into the icy water that was about 30 feet deep. The plane vanished under the water except for a small tail section, which had separated from the body of the aircraft and afloat. Motorists were injured and killed and all but six of the passengers on the plane were dead. Five passengers and one flight attendant climbed from beneath the icy waters on to the wreckage of the tail section.
Rescue was made by the crew of the National Park Service helicopter. They lowered a line with a ring on it to one gentleman in his 50's. Instead of seizing the lifeline himself, he passed it to another survivor. He did this four more times as the helicopter would return. On the sixth return, the crew noticed that the man was gone. His name was Arland D. Williams, Jr. and he perished beneath the icy waters. Today, the bridge is named after him which used to be called the "14th Street Bridge". Arland D. Williams, Jr. gave up himself for complete strangers to live!
We read of such and it amazes us and sometimes shakes us how someone could do this. There are war stories of heroic efforts, saving lives. We are touched by them. But how little people consider the debt paid by Jesus Christ. He didn't just die...He died our death. He knew what lay ahead and was going to experience separation from God, something that He had never known. The scourgings, the beatings, the mockings and nails were all meant for us but He gave Himself as a ransom so we could live. The eternal consequences that we faced were placed on Him. He took our place and God showed all the world His judgment on sin through His Son. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) In all this, many just walk on by, little care or concern, not realizing that without Christ man will pay for their own sins and it will be a horrible, horrible fate. We are moved by stories of man and rightly so, but we should be moved by Jesus because He rescued us from eternal doom which should make Him the real hero in our lives!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"It's Not About Us"

There is more and more a shift in religion to honor and promote ourselves. Personal testimony for the Lord and the great things He has done in our lives seems to invade our talk and assemblies. Some use the term "witnessing for the Lord." "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake." (II Cor. 5:4) Paul made it abundantly clear that we do not preach our own commitment or holy lives! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the Savior! Jesus is the One that atoned for our sinfulness. Our changed lives are no substitute for the atoning life and death of Jesus Christ. That means we are not to offer our moral and spiritual attainment as proof of the cross. It is not our transformed lives that make the cross the moral and spiritual center of the universe! The cross, the death, burial and resurrected Christ is what creates our transformed lives as a witness to the true center of this universe. It's all about Jesus and Him crucified!
There is nothing wrong with thanking the Lord God and speak in gratitude for the way He has brought about change within us. We should thank God and praise His name for the wonderful blessing and gift He brought about to us in His Son. But that thankfulness is not to be a substitute for what life is really about or our worship. What transforms us and shapes our lives is the mercies of God shown to us in the glorious Lord (Rom. 12:1-2). The gospel of Jesus and Him crucified is what makes sense of our lives but our lives do not validate Jesus Christ!
Too many are carrying things to make people look at us! A little here, a little there and man becomes the center while claiming it is about the Christ. Christ gave the glory to His own death. We are not to proclaim a deed but the man, the person Christ Jesus (I Tim. 2:5). Look closely at His gift and what He offers. Look at the commitment on our behalf and the power to change and transform that comes from His life. Therein you and I will find all the reason to give thanks, praise His name knowing it was His redeeming blood that, His guiltless and perfect sacrifice that makes us anything. It's all about Jesus and nothing else!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"God Is For Us"

"What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom. 8:31) Paul penned these inspired words. Is God really for us? If He is, why do we have so many hurts? What are we going to do with our enemies? If we really knew God was for us, wouldn't that affect our minds and living? If God is for us, then who is against us?
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Rom. 8:32) Here is the ultimate, guaranteed proof He is for us. God gave His Son for us, freely! I read the other day where a daughter was in need of a kidney or would die. The mother "freely" gave one of her kidneys for her daughter. She said is was an easy choice. Her daughter needed blood and her mother was the exact type needed. What do you think the mother did? She had already given the biggest gift, what about this lessor? God did not spare killing His own Son on our behalf. We would do things for those who are dear to us but what about someone we don't know? Notice the difference between God and us. If God willingly gave His Son, what do you think God will do if we need lessor things? The giving of His Son was the ultimate. Supplying the rest of the things we need in our lives to get us to the end is easy! The question is do we believe it? When we entered Christ through baptism, God the Judge declared you righteous, adopted you and set you free. If God started with us here, what about our future and the things we need to continue to fight the fight? Is He still for us now?
How many times do we live like we just can't make it? I speak to many who lose heart, thinking that there is no way God would love them any longer. The beatings of their own failures and sinfulness takes a toll and they slowly lose sight the great treasure of love God demonstrated toward them. The Lord God has not changed. He is still for His children! Jesus is One who died our death, paid our price, who was raised and is at the right hand of God interceding for us! That's on-going at the present. All of heaven is focused on our salvation! God wants you there! Christ wants you there! You and I weren't brought into Christ to fail and lose our souls. We might do that because we choose to turn away from God but that's not God's choice. He is for us! He will give us everything it takes to make it and He has proved it by the giving of most precious One, His only Son! Maybe we need to stop wallowing in our doubts and fears and look God in the eyes and realize...GOD IS FOR US!

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Our Language Reveals..."

Recently while reading some blogs, I found it rather interesting that the different ones I was reading often spoke of the Lord. They spoke of Jesus as their Lord or how deeply moved they were by His dying on their behalf. One particular person had an attachment of a very moving depiction of the death of Jesus on our behalf. You might be thinking all of this isn't strange. Here's the each of the blogs I was reading (or even on facebook), statements were made and then came a word that was not Christ-like. A profane word here or an expletive word used. Do people realize what this is saying? What are they revealing?
"From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?" (Jam. 3:10-11)
Our language comes from out hearts as the center of our fountain. If our heart is attached to the Lord there should be a life that is lived in line with Him. You sure wouldn't ever hear of Jesus walking around using an expletive word or a profane word now and then! God speaks to those in Christ, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29) Unwholesome, rotten words have no place for those in Christ Jesus! If they do, there is something wrong with their heart. It is easy to say how much the Lord means but it completely different to see the impact of His life on ours.
We need to rethink our lives and listen carefully to what we say because what we say is something that is stored in the heart. John says, "If we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (I John 1:6) Talk does not make one in fellowship with the Lord. Your walk, where you live each and every day is the tell tell sign. James says it another way, "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless." (Jam. 1:26) A person who uses such language has a self deceived heart. What does that reveal about your true relationship with the Lord?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Thinking Out Loud"

I want to give just a quick post just to think outloud. Have you ever had those moments that really strikes you? You know, those moments where something hits you and it makes you take notice or make you stand for a brief time in awe? You look at the skyline late one evening and there it is...a most spectacular sunset. You can't take your eyes off of it. You look away but your eyes are back on it. You have seen other sunsets but this was not ordinary. Or maybe you were out one night and just so happen to look up at the heavens above and notice that the stars are a little different, a little more brilliant than you have ever noticed. You look up again and for those few moments you stand amazed or in awe. You were driving in a region you are not that familiar with and suddenly, you notice a beautiful waterfall and find yourself drawn to looking, maybe stopping to get a picture. It just caught our attention and we just had to turn aside to see. We all, at one time or another, have seen something that got our attention and you can't "unsee" it even though you go back to the ordinary. It just seems to stay with us. Why I have even noticed that with a baby and the precious and magnificent life that you behold or touch.
Each of us have had our moments through some event that has affected us. Each of these, even though they aren't spiritual in nature, can have a profound effect on your thoughts. For those few brief moments, there was something "holy" and we really didn't realize it. It was out of the ordinary and our senses became keen. It was...well maybe a "burning bush" that caught our attention.
Moses must have seen a lot of bushes burning in the wilderness heat but he had never seen "a burning bush" if you get my drift. That day there was nothing ordinary in his sight. It was something that took him into a different world, into noticing that ordinary was not here. Haven't you been there?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Wasting Time or Moving Forward?"

People seem to be squandering their lives and opportunities away. The younger one is, the less they see the importance of life but I have also seen this in older adults. People just don't seem to believe their lives are really headed somewhere!
Hebrews 11 speaks of those of faith that were God approved. "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own." (Heb. 11:13-14) These faithful men and women lived a richly blessed life, even amidst their struggles because they were looking, focused on the eternal country that God promised them. As a result, they didn't fritter their lives away chasing pleasures, hobbies and other things. They didn't waste their time by lazing in bed and allowing spiritual opportunities to pass by. What about us? Our lives on this earth can be difficult and distressing but it is all part of the "going home" experience. We know we are going to die but we don't take our pilgrimage on this earth seriously. We live like we are going to be here forever with all our activities and accumulations. Our lives are weighed down with everything but God! We fill our time with innumerable obligations, involving ourselves in clubs, organizations and commitments. Our energies are used for everything and the tank is empty when it comes to spiritual matters. Our lives become frazzled from running and our faith erodes away.
It is good to believe in life after death and hope in God but we need to believe in life before death! That's where we stumble. We have a great capacity for adventure and excitement but many times that is only squandering our lives in another form of death! That's why many are not living life here and wasting many spiritual opportunities. The things we choose to involve ourselves in and what we put our efforts toward indicate what we believe! Those men and women of old welcomed the promises from a distance, confessed they were strangers on this earth because they saw their lives headed to God!! They made the most of things on this earth so they would have the most after they die. Hopeful saints do not see life the way others see life. They have a purpose in their lives by living a meaningful purpose day by day. To those dying spiritually or lost, they just exist from day to day, waiting for the next "involvement" to only find themselves separated from the Lord in the end. To the saved, hopeful saint, they live each day taking advantage, looking for spiritual gain because of their faith in the goal. "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." (Heb. 11:6)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Looking For Pennies"

Too many are looking for pennies in their lives. It was told of a little boy walking down the street one day and he found a new shiny copper penny. He was thrilled finding it, especially when he realized it cost him nothing! This experience in his life as a little boy impacted him greatly and he spent the rest of the days of his life walking with his head down, eyes wide open, looking for treasures. He logged each and every treasure. During his lifetime he found 296 pennies, 48 nickles, 19 dimes, 2 half dollars and one crinkled dollar $13.26!
He found all his treasure for nothing. But there is another side. In the process of his life-long search, he missed 31,369 sunsets, the brilliant colors of 157 rainbows, the shimmering colors of maple trees in the autumn air. He rarely noticed the clouds as they drifted by in the blue sky above moving into various forms. He didn't hear the birds sing and watch them flutter around. He missed the smiles of many and the happy faces a little children. All of these things were missing from his memory because he lived looking down, engaging his life in a search for his personal free treasure.
How many of us miss the important and wonderful things in life because of our pursuits of treasures? Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:21) What you value, what you place importance on will determine the direction of your life. If you value your career, your heart will take you into putting all your efforts there. Many fritter their lives away chasing after this pleasure or seeking a hobby they enjoy. Their extra funds go toward this and it consumes their thinking. Their heart is attached and the real things, the things that count that will last eternally are just walking on past. The saddest part is something disastrous happens in the lives of these people and they start speaking about "life" and what really matters. Their tears flow freely, speaking about what they have wasted, wishing they hadn't done what they did. They speak of turning around, making a renewed effort because where their pursuits have taken them. People that are close to them are gone and it grieves their heart they never did something, give a call or say goodbye. But time passes, slowly but surely their heart never really changed. It was just an emotional outburst and you see them headed where their heart is set...looking for pennies!

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Using God's Word Correctly"

It is simply amazing how people use God's word. People that are trapped in sin use God's word when convenient. They may be speaking to someone who "doesn't go to church where they do" and use God's word to show them the error of their way, but in reality, the one speaking doesn't really believe it because their lives reflect little of the relationship. They just move about, filling their lives with things and pleasures, giving little thought to what God really expects from them but they sure can tell others what the Lord expects. Others use God's word to control situations or people. Still others look at people, focusing what they should be while never realizing what God speaks about what people really are. In other words, those who use their Bibles, read their Bibles, obsessed with the sins of others, always gravitate to the darker passages! They seem to string them together like beads on a string and end up distorting the grandeur of God's word. They attack wanting to argue or debate (they call it defending the faith) to put people in their place. It is these that God addresses as the "grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage." (Jude 16) They also "are the ones who cause divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit." (Jude 19)
You have those on the complete opposite side that use God's word as love, love, love and everyone should be embraced attitude. They see no sin, no correction and the power of positive thinking should be what always prevails. People are not to be confronted with God to move them into His holy behavior and life. They simply live off of love no matter what. I had a fellow tell me once that they had invited the homosexuals in because the Lord loves them. I asked him to tell me what that means and he said, "The Lord expects us to love and that's what we do. He loves the homosexual too!" I proceeded to ask him about leading them to the truth of their sinful behavior, that no homosexual has eternal life unless they repent and move away from it (I Cor. 6:9-11). He smiled and said, "That's not for us to determine!" He was an elder in the Lord's church!
In all the above, there is a danger that exists on each side. We need to be sober in our thinking and honest in our approach to God. We need to use His word for the way it was intended and that is keeping us on the right path, using it as a light to guide our lives and seeing the Divine nature of God that will change us into the image of His Son. There is a kindness of God but there is also severity with Him (Rom. 11:20-22). It's all about balance. It's all about a sincere heart seeking after God and coming to knowing Him. Only then will we see things how God sees them and begin helping move people into His love the right way. No hypocrisy! No misuse of God's word! No beating people over the head! But true and free living in the presence of God.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Knowing God - III"

God is compassionate and merciful. He is generous beyond words with lovingkindness. God revealed Himself to Moses, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps His lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin..." (Ex. 34:6-7) In the wilderness, a land of nothing, God's people were abundantly supplied and pardoned over and over, even in their rebellion. Isaiah speaks of God that "He will abundantly pardon." (Isa. 55:7) God reveals through Micah about His delight in extending to others His unchanging love (Micah 7:18). Paul speaks of God "being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." (Eph. 2:4) Peter speaks of us having received His mercy (I Pet. 2:10). John speaks of the great love of God toward us that He calls us His children (I John 3:1) The Hebrew writer speaks of us drawing near to God's throne of grace to receive His mercy (Heb. 4:16). Paul reminded the Gentile Christian (and us) that the mercy shown to us by God is to show that mercy to others (Rom. 11:30-31).
With such a quick glimpse of God, it is reassuring to us that our God is like this. Time after time we must call on Him for His compassion and mercy to be extended in our failure. Jesus explains the heart of God to Peter, face to face, of a man that was unable to pay a debt of such magnitude, but the Master (God) abundantly pardoned (Matt. 18:21-35). What are we to do with all this? How does just a small glimpse of God affect our lives? Sadly to say, for many, not much. I am speaking to those in Christ. We take God's heart of mercy and lovingkindness and withhold it from others who have hurt us. We deny others the very thing we do not want God to deny us! Grudges, bitterness take hold in the heart and carries us into a world not like God's. Asaph, who wrote several of the Psalms, admits that he almost slipped and plunged himself into ruin because of his attitude toward those who seem to live so wicked, yet are so blessed (Psa. 73). He wanted what he thought was justice, having forgotten the great mercy God had shown him.
Don't we do the same? We easily become offended at someone, withholding good from them because they hurt us. What if God did that to us? How selfish are we? How self consumed are we at times? We speak of the mercy and compassion of God when it is convenient but in reality, we aren't quick to extend that to others. What did Jesus reveal about those who do not continue to forgive and offer mercy (even when it is not asked for)? "You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?" (Matt. 18:32-33) Maybe, just maybe we really don't know our God!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Knowing God - II"

If one could go back to ancient Israel and see their camping in the wilderness, there would be one thing clear. Thousands of thousands of tents pitched around a central, larger tent. All tents from the north, south, east and west, belonging to various tribes would be facing the center of the camp, where the tabernacle stood, the very place in which God dwelt. All of this arrangement reflected a major truth: God cannot accept or be offered anything but central place in the lives, affections, will and worship of His people! The Lord God Almighty always seeks our highest good and that only comes about when we place Him at the center of our being.
Moses warned, "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." (Deut. 4:24) God's voice was clear when He spoke to Moses telling him, "For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Ex. 34:14) In other words, don't give to others what belongs to God! That brings about a question: Are we sure we know what belongs to God?
Every time God sends warnings to His people, there is a present danger that exists. Putting others ahead of God, seeking man's ideas instead of God and worshipping in a way that dishonors God is at the doorstep. Just take some time and look it up and you will see it. That same attitude is spoken to us in Heb. 12:26-29 in our approach to God. The world has impressed upon us the central issue with God and worshipping His name is nothing more than..."happy hour"! Verses are quoted about entering His courts with praise or assembling in the name of God to honor man or man's offspring (I'm speaking of blessing babies in a service) so man takes it upon himself to make it an event that is less than reverent and God centered! Finding deep pleasure in the Lord is one thing but crossing the line from a deep reverence and intimacy with God to a loud "happy clappy" atmosphere or some man made thinking to add in is something else.
God drowned the Egyptians for their idols of worship, showing who He really is. God drove nation after nation out of the promised land and buried them because of their idolatry and evil ways. God sent His own away into captivity because they imitated the lost nations around in their thinking and worship. If we would learn to keep God central in our lives, our hearts, that will indeed affect our worship and how our worship is constructed. Our worship might be joyful, but it won't be a carnival or entertainment! It will be worship! A God centered, reverent worship. It might bring us pleasure but it will also bring with it a sharp pain of conviction of God's holiness. True worship will stress the holiness, the majestic and glorious Lord because He is worthy and will put us in our puny little place, rather than raise us up to a level of applause, seeing nothing more than ourselves! We need to know God!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Knowing God"

We need to come to know God. I realize those who read that statement will agree but what is meant when we say "know God"? Many know facts of the Bible, quote Scriptures coming and going but never know God. Knowing facts and where to find those facts is not the same as knowing the Almighty.
Jesus said in His prayer, "This is eternal life; that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3) Knowing God and His Christ is eternal life. You want eternal life? In order to gain that promise you must come to know God, who He is, how He thinks and feels about things. People may know facts about you, how tall you are, what color your hair is and where you live but that doesn't mean they know you. To know someone, you have to spend time with them, learning how they really operate and watch their lives as they reveal their heart. To know God you must commit yourself to His interests and His company, identifying with His concerns. We must be careful, not to measure our spiritual growth in knowing the facts of the word, how the church operates or different responsibilities but what goes on in our personal heart in response to God! In other words, we need to allow God to expose our lack of strength, inabilites and show us Himself. To come to know God is to place yourself completely at His bidding call and disposal. It's called surrender! That is difficult for many to do but only then will one begin to preceive His Majesty and power.
If we disregard the study of God, the Almighty, you will sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life as blindfolded, with little sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. You will waste your life and forfeit your soul! It needs to strike our hearts that He, the Almighty, will have the last word, both in world history and in the final destiny of each and every person. His kingdom and His righteousness will triumph in the end for no man or woman will be able to stop or deter His decisions. To know God is to deal with Him as He exposes us in our weaknesses, yielding honestly in our hearts to what He exposes about us and learning to trust Him when He speaks through His word by submitting with our whole heart. It is a personal involvement with Him. Too many know Scriptures and use them to throw out thoughts when needed but never allow those spoken words to enter the heart to effect major changes in their lives. Have you ever sat down, taken the words that are God breathed and meditate on what they mean, comparing your heart to what He speaks? Many will never come to know God and knowing God is eternal life.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"A Father's Love"

I often think of the price paid for my (our) salvation. Here was Jesus, with the Father, having all the blessings of eternal life and never knowing sin, coming to this sin filled earth in the form of man. God's word tells us, "but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made into the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:7-8) Why would He do such? Jesus never sinned or caused the curse of sin in this world, yet He offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. What drove Jesus, what drove God to exchange lives?
His name was Phil Littleford. He had taken his son, Mark and two other gentleman, on an Alaskan fishing trip of a lifetime. Setting out on a quest to find running Salmon, they flew their seaplane into a secluded bay. Salmon were everywhere. It was just what they had dreamed about. By the time the day ended, landing fish after fish, they looked and their plane was sitting on dry ground. Realizing the tide had gone out, leaving their plane twenty-three feet from the water, they decided to cook some fish and would sleep in the plane that night. The next morning when they awoke, the tide had come back in and their plane was drifting in the water. Starting up the engine, they began to move, preparing to take off. Unknown to them they had hit something that punctured one of the pontoon's and it had filled with water. The extra weight caused the plane to tip and crash as they tried to take off. Everyone survived but they had no life jackets or other safety equipment on board. They used their waders as floating devices but the frigid water was a deadly threat. The current was pulling them to sea and the 12 year old Mark was not strong enough to swim against the current. The two men that had travelled with them finally made it to shore exhausted. As they stood on the shore, they watched Phil and his son Mark slowly being swept out to sea, arm in arm. The coast guard said they could not have lasted any longer than 45 minutes in the freezing water. They said the boy, being smaller in mass, would fall asleep first and die in his father's arms. Phil Littleford could have made it to shore but that meant he would have to abandon his son. He chose to die with his boy!
As I read that, my mind reflected to the dying of Jesus. We read such stories and are touched by their undying love for another. But there was more at stake for our heavenly Father. He offered up His Son, choosing to take our place, while we were hopelessly drifting to an eternal doom. God could of destroyed everyone and started over, but He chose to stay with us and His love reached out. He died so we could live! The love of the Father is too great to be comprehended and too important to be refused. How are you reaching back?

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am off and running again! This will be my last post for about a week. I am leaving for Greenwood, Arkansas to hold a meeting there. My next post will be Monday, April 13.
People need hope! I don't mean the kind of hope that has a question in it. "I hope things go well!" We are talking a God-given hope. To have hope in God is tied to two elements: (1) God is faithful. (2) God is able. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (I Cor. 10:13)
Many seem to want to believe God is faithful and say so. But when difficulties arise, the question within asks, "Will He be faithful to me?" It is not said out loud but as the doubts and fears arise in our heart, hope is lost.
To some, the struggles of life seem like mountains. Fears, anxieties and a sense of hopelessness settle into our hearts and engulf us. We just don't know what to do because we don't know our Lord and God. To have hope in God is to have a confident expectation! How can one be sure? How can one have a confident expectation amidst cancer or other ill health? In the loss of a job? All one has to do is look closely at the cross. How far was God willing to go to secure our lives? Isn't that what God is trying to tell us in Rom. 8:31-34? If God is for us, who is against us? If God willingly gave up His Son, will He not make sure we have everything needed to fight the good fight and finish the course? Hope has God at the center because He is faithful and is able to do as He says. We do not expect anything but the worst because God is not the center of our lives and heart.
When does hope disappear? When God is pushed aside because of our fears and worries. God has the resources (He is able) and will do what it takes for our well-being (He is faithful). We focus on our problems, our defeats and God gets pushed out. Hope is lost because faith is lost (Heb. 11:1). It's easy to speak of God, talk of His greatness and power, speak of His love and mercy when things are going well. We sit in classes or conversations and gloat with right answers. But real, saving faith is the very foundation of hope and hope is based on His ability and faithfulness in each and every circumstance. Does that mean He will eliminate our pain and suffering? NO! Pain and suffering will always be part of our lives but God has something better for us. He uses the pain and suffering to grow our faith. He uses the difficulties to help us lean more and more on Him, trusting in His faithfulness and ability. God cannot deny Himself. He made promises and He will keep His promises. That should give us a confident expectation. We need hope in God in this life and in death. God will be faithful and is able to carry us to eternity no matter what we face here. Hope does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5) and that should thrill us to no end.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Blinded By The Fog"

It was early morning July 4, 1952. Twenty-one miles west on Catalina Island a 34 year old woman entered the waters and began to swim toward California, determined to be the first woman to ever do this. Her name was Florence Chadwick. She previously owned the title of the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.
The water was numbing cold that morning and the fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats that followed her on this historic swim. The television media was there following her every stroke. Several times sharks came too close and they had to be shot to protect Florence in the water. The hours slowly moved along while she continued her quest. Fatigue had never been a problem for her but the bone-chilling water was having a great effect on her. Finally, after fifteen hours of swimming and all she endured, she asked to be pulled out of the water. She simply could not go on. Her mother and trainer, who were alongside in a boat, encouraged her to keep her focus because land was near. Florence looked toward the California coast and all she saw was a bank of fog. She tried to continue but at fifteen hours and fifty-five minutes, they pulled her onto the boat. A reporter asked her about quiting and she responded, "Look, I am not excusing myself! But if I could have just seen land, I might have made it!" When all the interviews were over and things cleared up, she realized she was less than one half mile from the shore. As she warmed, she realized it was not a fatigue factor, or even the cold, but the fog blocked her way and that was all she could see. The fog blinded her will, her reasoning and it was the first time ever she had quit. Two months later she swam this same channel, fog intact but this time she knew the land was there beyond the fog and made it!
I share this because that is like us. We look at what we see and allow the things seen to determine our moods and directions. We allow the "fog" to blind us to what lay ahead. Many claim they walk by faith but in reality, they fix the eyes of their hearts on their hurts, disappoints and attitudes of those around. Bad news comes to our ears and we allow that to control our day. Our goal is heaven. The Lord Jesus made every provision for us to be there. Our sins were taken away, His life was infused within us to give us newness and heaven is bent toward our salvation. What do we do? We look at the seen! Are we going to come up short because we allow the created to affect our thinking? Are we blinded by the fog? Listen to the word of God: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him, who has endured such hostilities by sinners against Himself, so the you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Heb. 12:1-3)