Category Archives: Pastor’s Blog

Thanksgiving

November 2016

Thanksgiving

If we could hop on a time machine (anyone got a used DeLorean?) and go back to the first Thanksgiving, we’d be surprised at how much different it was than our present celebrations. Back in 1621 turkeys were only about eight pounds, not like the twenty plus pounders today. So the main course consisted of seafood (in Massachusetts), venison, and chicken along with the turkey. And, according to my research, the early holiday was a three day affair with eating, partying and shooting guns. But there also was a religious (spiritual) undertone. They were THANKFUL!

Unfortunately the “religious” aspect of Thanksgiving began to fade into insignificance. While we all love family gatherings, a sumptuous meal and even football frenzy, thankfulness isn’t in the plan unless we bring it with us.

Besides that, it’s sad to think that thankfulness would be relegated to one day a year. Shouldn’t Thanksgiving be a celebration of an attitude of gratitude that we live by year round?!

I’m not a doctor. (I don’t even play one on TV) But I’ve heard that an attitude of gratitude can even have wonderful effects on our health. All the media we’re subjected to provides us with lots of “evidence” that things are bad – and getting worse. But most anyone can find something to be thankful for. As Christians we have a Bible full of truths that should “bless our socks off!”

There’s a passage in the Psalms I’ve always liked.

Psalm 100:4, 5 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and Hebrew has a bunch of words that deal with praise and thanksgiving. The word here in verse 4 translated “thanksgiving” is TOWDAH in the Hebrew. Strong’s gives these definitions: an extension of the hand, an avowal, or adoration; specifically, a (sacrifice of) praise. Now there is a wonderful attitude to adopt for November 24th and all year round!

Thinking about Who God is, and who we are in Him, should move us – at church or wherever we are – to lift our hands in thanksgiving. Bringing the sacrifice of praise (i.e., when we don’t feel like praising) and agreeing with God, rather than arguing about what we think.

I don’t understand the ins and outs of everyday life any more than you do. Things happen – or don’t happen – that I can’t explain. But God’s Word is still true. I am who He says I am; I have what He says I have; and I can do what He says I can do! And He is the One true living God.

Good News

Good News

A friend of mine recently posted this quote on Facebook:

“The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.” Tim Keller

The truth expressed in this recitation caught my attention and immediately brought a scripture to mind.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16, 17

Why these verses? Because the word “gospel” means GOOD NEWS! The good news of the gospel is all about what God has done for us in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our response to that good news isn’t about things we need to do. Our response needs to be one thing – BELIEVE.

One of the biggest problems with this is that we’ve been trained to DO! “Give me something to do, Lord!” We’re accustomed to thinking things like – only those who work hard get ahead; idle hands are the devils workshop; put your nose to the grindstone; God helps those who help themselves; etc., etc. And, there’s a ring of truth in these statements. When there’s a job to do and we roll up our sleeves to apply diligence to it, good things are accomplished. But when it comes to our redemption, there is no more work to be done!

When we start working – doing – laboring – to bring about our redemption, we’re saying in affect that what Jesus has already done wasn’t enough. We’re adding our labor to His death, burial and resurrection, assuming that His sacrifice + our labor = our salvation, healing and deliverance. But the true “formula” is this: salvation = Jesus sacrifice + NOTHING!

Now, I realize this brings up some interesting questions. I can’t possibly anticipate them all in this article, so allow me to address just one.

James 1:22 tells us to BE DOERS. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Of course, this is absolutely true. Be a doer of the word! This doesn’t contradict what we’ve been discussing. On the contrary, it points us to the heart of the matter. The focal point on doing the word, when it comes to our redemption, is faith. We must believe. Christians are believers. We believe God’s Word. We believe the Gospel. We believe that Jesus’ death, burial, time in hell and resurrection paid the price in full!

Most of the New Testament – especially the Epistles – were written to address this question of “doing”. What separates religion from true Christianity? Lists of do’s & don’t added to the gospel. The Apostle Paul had “teachers” following him from city to city, telling people that they must believe in Jesus, AND … get circumcised, keep the law, remember the Sabbath, etc., etc. I’m sure it was frustrating for him at times. In fact, he got quite angry with the Galatian church for leaving the freedom of the gospel and returning to the pains of religion.

So, enjoy the good news! Believe it with all your heart. As the psalmist said, don’t forget all the benefits. [Psalm 103]

I’ll close with the Tim Keller quote again: “The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.”

Got Milk?

Got Milk?

I Peter 2:1-3 – Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Understanding a few key words in these verses makes a huge difference in extracting what Peter, by the Holy Spirit, was trying to say. First consider the word “desire” in verse two. It means to long for something with all one’s being. Peter’s admonition: “This is something you’ve got to have!”

And what is this very important commodity? “The pure milk of the word.” In using the words “pure milk,” Peter is emphasizing uncontaminated, undiluted, fundamental truth! Make sure the teaching you receive is pure and nourishing. And don’t read God’s Word with preconceived notions. Seek truth.

This brings us to the last phrase in verse two, “that you may grow thereby.” The purpose of reading, studying and even meditating in our Bibles is not merely to learn more but to grow, i.e. to become more mature in our faith.

In our discussion groups we have explored the difference between knowing something intellectually and actually experiencing it. Knowing about something or having collected data on a subject doesn’t transform our lives. Transformation is in the growth process and requires more than information. Truth must be applied to our lives to elicit real change.

Spiritually speaking, one doesn’t become mature based merely on how long it has been since he first accepted Jesus into his life. You could have been born again thirty years ago and be a spiritual kindergartner. Conversely, you might have come into the Kingdom a short time ago and yet show huge signs of growth.

Here’s my point: be sure that you never stop growing (spiritually)! My title here makes reference to the TV commercial, “Got Milk?” The truth is that we have milk – at least we have access to it. There’s no reason for any of us to be without a Bible. We give them away free at church. Yet again, it’s not just owning a Bible … or even reading it. Sorry to say but some Christians read their Bibles daily and aren’t growing a lick!

Our attitude toward God’s Word is one key. King David wrote a psalm (the longest chapter in our Bibles) just to express his enthusiasm over God’s Word. With him, reading Old Testament scrolls was not something he was obligated to do. He felt privileged to peruse the laws and commandments. Is Bible reading a chore or a joy for you? It makes a difference!

Another key is getting Bible truths written in our hearts. Intellectual “head knowledge” won’t change your life. Whatever is written on our hearts sets the boundaries of our lives. [Proverbs 4:23] Head knowledge might impress some, but biblical principles etched into the heart create victorious lives.

As I said, David understood these principles. In Psalm 119:11 he said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!”

The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament agrees. “For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 [AMP]

So, … “Got Milk?”

Say What?

Say What?!

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

The Bible is not meant to be mysterious. God obviously wants us to understand what He is saying to us. We can’t live our lives based on what we don’t understand.

There are, I think, two things that work against our understanding. First, we tend to think of God’s declarations to us as complicated logic, when it’s the simplicity of it that we trip over. As teachers of scripture we should take what seems complicated and make it simple. Religion does the opposite – it takes the simple and makes it complicated.

Also working against our understanding of scripture is the fact that the original writings were penned in a time and language much different than ours. If Jesus were walking the shores of Lake George today, teaching the same principles as recorded on the shores of Galilee 2000 or so years ago, His illustrations would be different and the language would be English. The good news, though, is that there are study helps made available to us to open our minds to both the customs and languages of Bible times.

That said, let me define a few words out of this verse in Hebrews. The word confession means the acknowledgement of truth. Bible hope is a confident expectation with joy. Without wavering is literally without bending, that is, being firm and unmoved. Put it all together it would read “Hold fast to your acknowledgement of the truth that you’re confidently expecting, with joy.”

Now, let’s simplify that and say it like this: “Keep what you say in line with your joyful expectation of Bible truth.” Has God declared some things about you in His Word? Do you believe His Word is true? Then line up what you confess – what you say – with the joyful, confident expectation of those truths.

Over many years I’ve developed a list of things that I “confess” regularly. You don’t have to adopt my list, but take a look at it just to see if it challenges you to have a “confession list” of your own.

I am who God says I am. I have what God says I have. I can do what God says I can do.

I am a child of God, an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. [Romans 8:16, 17]

I am born again and Spirit-filled. [Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 2:1-4]

I am forgiven and qualified for all the promises of God. [Colossians 2:13 & 1:12]

I am sanctified.  [I Corinthians 6:11]

I am justified, made righteous with Jesus’ righteousness. [II Corinthians 5:21]

I’ve been made more than a conqueror. [Romans 8:37]

Nothing can separate me from God’s love. [Romans 8:38, 39]

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:13]

I can run through a troop and leap over a wall. [Psalm 18:29]

I’m strong in the Lord and the power of His might. [Ephesians 6:10]

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24]

I’ve been delivered from power of darkness and translated to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. [Colossians 1:13]

I’ve been given authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt me. [Luke 10:19]

God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. [II Timothy 1:7]

I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. [Isaiah 61:3]

I choose to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [Galatians 5:16]

I don’t yield my members to unrighteousness, but only to righteousness. [Romans 6:13]

I continue on in my devotional time confessing some things that are specific to my life.

Our confession has one of two purposes in our lives. If we believe what we’re saying, it begins to come to pass. If we don’t (yet) believe what we’re declaring, we can use it to persuade ourselves of the truth. So, boldly say what the Bible says about you. And even (or maybe especially) in difficult times, don’t bend to the circumstances. Stay firm; don’t waver. Persuade yourself of the truth. You’ll be glad you did!

Ode to Pop

I first posted this in 2011, after the passing of my dad. With Father’s Day coming up, it seemed appropriate to post it again. Fathers are so important, and I had a good one!

Ode to Pop

 As was expressed at the funeral, he was known by many names. His hair was a blazing red as a youth – some called him “Red”. He had lots and lots of hair then too, so “Curly” became a nickname, and ironically so did “Baldy”. My sister, brother and I called him “Dad” when we were youngsters. His mom – my grandmother – called him by the name she gave him, “Wayne”, and as I was given the same name, she designated me as “Waynie”. As his children begat grandchildren we all seemed to settle on “Pop”. It just seems to fit – not too formal or too outrageous – just “Pop”!

He was not very tall but not really short either. He had broad shoulders and muscular arms. He was raised on my grandfather’s dairy farm with his two sisters and three brothers. He didn’t finish high school, instead he joined the navy to get in on the end of WW II. He was put aboard a Merchant Marine ship and observed fire fights from a distance in the Pacific.

After fulfilling his naval obligations, romance was in the air and Pop met Mom. Apparently he was pretty dapper looking in his uniform. Soon there was a marriage and the kids started coming. I came along first, then my sister 13 months later. My little brother is five years my younger, a point that Mom reminded me of over and over and over. “Wayne, leave him alone! He’s five years younger than you!” We lived in a few different places, but my childhood memories revolve around the stone house given to Mom and Pop by inheritance. It sat at the tree line on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake. It was part of my grandfather’s farm. It was a wonderful place for growing up.

Pop went off to Alaska for a time, before I was old enough to remember. He got a job working on a huge airport project. When he was home he would help out on his dad’s farm. Taking in the hay every summer was a big job. We didn’t bale the hay in those days; we took it in loose. A loader pulled behind the hay wagon would scoop up the loose hay and drop it on the wagon. Pop was one who would balance himself on the wagon while he spread the hay around. I was told a story that Pop was up on the wagon one time and a live snake got scooped up with the hay. He hated snakes, so when he saw it he slid off the load of hay and ran all the way home.

My fondest recollections of time spent with Pop were going with him on his milk route. He got a job driving a closed body truck around to the different dairy farms, picking up their milk and delivering it to the local dairies. In those days few farmers had bulk tanks to store the milk. They used 30 gallon milk cans sunk in coolers to keep their product fresh. I can tell you that a metal can holding 30 gallons of milk is heavy! My dad could pull one of those out of the cooler in one motion, then swing it around his hip and use that momentum to toss it up into the truck. It took both strength and agility, but Pop made it look almost effortless. As the oldest I got to go with Pop almost every day. We’d get up early, before dawn, and do the first half of his route in time for him to drop me off for the school bus. Crawling out of bed that early was no problem. It was well worth it just to sit in the cab of the truck and spend those mornings with Pop. On non-school days I got to do the whole route and even go along to the dairies. Sometimes Pop would buy us a fresh-made soft ice cream cone. By lunchtime we were done for the day. It was heaven on earth!

When I was entering seventh grade Pop got a job in a plant that produced Ford automobiles. He moved us all off my grandfather’s farm and over to New York state. I went from a country school with grades 1 through 12 all in the same building, to a huge school system with hundreds of students in each grade. To say that I didn’t like the change would be an understatement. In fact, I tried to get Mom & Pop to leave me back on the farm in the care of my grandparents. As I look back on it now, I’m glad they didn’t let me have my way. I learned a lot about life living in a suburban setting that I wouldn’t have learned back on the farm. I wish I would have told Pop about that.

Mom & Pop were both disciplinarians in our family, but Pop was the main one. Pop’s main method of discipline was a spanking, with his belt. He would say, whenever we were misbehaving, “You know what’ll happen if I take my belt off!” We never once said, “Your pants will fall down.” We each had our own methods of dealing with discipline. My brother was a manipulator. He’d start crying long before the belt even got close. He probably got away with less swats that way. My sister was a mover. She’d keep spinning around and made it hard for Pop to hit the mark. Me? I tried to be tough. I would do my best not to cry. It was stupid, but that’s what I did.

Now before you go away thinking that we were abused by Pop as children, let me tell you a few details. First, Pop never spanked in anger or without a good reason. We may have felt innocent at the time, but we weren’t! And Pop did it right. He disciplined in love, just like God says to in the Bible. We always knew why we were receiving discipline. He always applied the belt to that soft, fleshy part of our bodies – the rear end. He didn’t punch or slap. We weren’t slammed against a wall or bullied. It was discipline – not punishment! Plus, he always finished up with a hug, reaffirming his love to us.

Pop only worked for Ford a short time and eventually ended up doing what he loved to do – drive truck. He drove the big tractor trailers all over, hauling cars, and all kinds of freight. He worked for some of the biggest outfits in the country. He was good at it. He got those big semis in and out of big cities and small towns with ease. It impressed me so that I made it my aim to follow in his footsteps. But, alas, it wasn’t my calling. God had other plans for me. After five years of Bible-training and four years of part time ministry God moved me and my family to upstate New York to pioneer a church. For 31 + years we’ve been doing just that.

In the meantime Mom & Pop moved back to Pennsylvania, finished raising their family and helped us kids raise another generation. In fact, now there are not only grandchildren, but great grandchildren. Pop drove trucks till he retired. He and Mom eventually moved into a beautiful adult assisted living apartment. There are lots more stories about Pop to tell, and I hope we keep telling them over and over. His memory will live on through us, his family.

But there’s one other side of Pop that only his family and closest friends knew – his spiritual side. Pop was a Christian, without doubt. He received Jesus as his Lord when I was still in elementary school. It changed his life! He gave up bad habits and course language. He read the Bible, went to church and talked to God regularly. It wasn’t “religious”, it wasn’t an outward show, it was a paradigm shift. I told him with all sincerity that he passed on to us a wonderful heritage. You could break it down into two components: he loved my mom; he loved God. These were not things he did, it was who he was! Thanks Pop!

Back in January we were called to come home and see Pop. His great heart was worn out. He had spent his life taking care of us and Mom and others. Now he was quickly winding down. When we got the call – I have to be honest – I didn’t want to go. I procrastinated as long as I could. I just didn’t want to see him that way: thin, gaunt, tired and getting ready to leave. Thank God that I didn’t wait too long. I got to spend time at his bedside. Four generations were together for a time: Pop and me, my son and my grandson.

Pop was very tired. He laid on his bed, dosing off, waking up, in and out. When he was awake, one of us would spend time with him. There wasn’t a lot to be said. He was ready to go. His ticket was bought and paid for. We knew that when he was ready he’d be gone.

The next morning Pop and Mom were alone. Mom went out of the room for a few quick moments. I wasn’t there, but I can picture it as if I were watching. Pop’s spirit – the real ‘him’ – raised up out of his body. He took with him his soul, that is, his mind, will and emotions. I see him hovering over the body he left behind for a moment. He probably hovered over Mom, smiling at her one last time. Then,…he was gone! The Bible calls it, “absent from the body; present with the Lord.”

Jesus met Pop at the entrance to heaven. I’m sure he got reacquainted with family members who have gone on before, including his parents. Someday soon I’m going to see him. As things wind down here our Father will send Jesus back to earth to bring all of we Christians back to heaven with him.

What a family reunion that will be!

How’s Your Heart?

Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

There are two phrases that I’d like us to take note of here: “believe in your heart” (verse 9) and “with the heart one believes” (verse 10). From the time I first started studying the Bible (not just reading it), I became interested in the subject of faith. Obviously “faith” and “believing” are the same thing. To “believe unto righteousness” (verse 10) means having faith for being made right with God. But faith for healing, deliverance, peace, and so on come from the same place.

One cardinal rule about faith is that it must be “heart faith.” Agreeing with the Bible mentally is a start, but the type of faith that moves mountains is settled deep in our hearts.

King Solomon exhorts us to guard our hearts, for out of them come the issues or boundaries of life. [Proverbs 4:13] Heart faith is what we need.

Agreeing mentally could be called “head faith.” The problem with head faith is that it won’t sustain us through the challenges of life. When we try to take a strong stand against sickness, for example, “head faith” wavers. In James chapter one we’re told that the person who wavers won’t receive anything from God. This is not a case of God holding out on us, but rather a case of doubt. “Wavering” and “doubt” are usually translations of the same Greek word.

That brings us then to “heart faith.” The “heart” here is not merely an organ in our chest that pumps blood.  “Heart” represents the center of our being. It’s a combination or link between our spirit and our soul. [I Thessalonians 5:23] Everything that has affected us emotionally over the span of life seems to get stored here. Painful experiences from the past can inhibit our ability to truly believe God at this heart level. We may agree mentally, yet disagree from our heart, and this “faith” produces nothing. But “heart faith” got us born again, and this same “heart faith” is what will receive healing, deliverance, peace or whatever God’s word promises us.

The question becomes, then, what are we going to do with the painful experiences in our hearts that have stymied our faith? The definition of faith given in Hebrews 11:1 gives us the information we need.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Bible faith – the God-kind of faith – requires EVIDENCE! Gather enough evidence to persuade your heart of the principles and promises of the Bible. Where will this evidence come from? First and foremost from the Word of God. II Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Word is profitable for “reproof.” The Greek word translated “reproof” is the same as the one translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1. So we could say it this way: “The Word is profitable for evidence.”

Evidence also comes from what we see – not with the natural eye, but with our spiritual eye. In II Corinthians 4:17, 18 we’re instructed to look at the things that are NOT seen. Joshua was told by God to SEE that He had given Jericho into the hand of the Israelites. This “seeing” is a type of meditation. We can meditate – see ourselves – already enjoying the benefits of the promises of God, before there is any manifestation. Our senses may bring opposing evidence to us in the form of pain, symptoms, etc., so we have to gather more to overcome that opposition.

One last area (for this article) is the area of words. The words we hear spoken, especially the one coming out of our own mouths, become either positive or negative evidence. Proverbs 18:20, 21 relates that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Choose the right words and persuade yourself toward life!

Well, there’s much more to be said on this subject but this is as good a stopping place as any. I suggest you study this out for yourself, because the just shall live by faith – heart faith that is!

Evidence

Tension reigned. Indiana Jones must find the Holy Grail and bring some water of life back, or his dad will die. Blocking his way are three “biblical” tests that he must pass. The first was repentance – “the repentant may pass.” At the last moment he decided repentance meant to kneel, and he dropped to the ground just in time to duck under a blade destined to slice off his head. Next was “the footsteps of God.” Indy faced a floor made up of individual stones with letters etched in Latin. He must step only on the stones, in the correct order, to spell out J-E-H-O-V-A-H. After almost falling through for a spelling error, Indy safely arrived at the third test: “a leap of faith.” Now he finds himself at a huge chasm, needing to get quickly to the other side. It’s too wide to jump across. His whip won’t work here. How will he get over? After a moment of fear and indecision, Indy determines a blind step into the opening is required. With eyes closed he takes a big step and lands safely on a narrow bridge. It was there all along! Scurrying across he finds the Grail, fills it with the water, and brings it to his dad. The senior Jones is brought to life and they live happily ever after, or at least until “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

If you watched “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” all that was familiar to you. Why am I bringing it up here? To make a point about our faith. Faith – the God-kind – is not blind. Harrison Ford may have been required to take a step with eyes closed, but the God-kind of faith requires EVIDENCE.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

There’s a vast difference between “blind faith” and faith in things not seen. Consider another scripture passage:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:17, 18

There is an “unseen realm.” God dwells there, along with angels, demons and other spirit-beings. It can’t be seen with the naked eye. Faith is required! And the God-kind of faith gets its evidence from there.

Consider another verse of scripture:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. II Timothy 3:16

The word “reproof” here is a translation of exactly the same word in the original Greek translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1. Do you see the significance? “Faith is … the evidence of things not seen,” and “All scripture is … profitable … for evidence.” Therefore, the most important place to get evidence for our faith is from the “unseen realm” of the Bible – the Word of God.

Here is how it works: when I find that I’m in need of something promised by God, I must believe – have faith. “All things are possible to him who believes.” [Mark 9:23] “Miracles aren’t for the deserving, they’re for the believing.” [Dr. Jim Richards] When I need healing, my physical senses (including my sight) bring evidence that I’m sick. I look sick; I feel pain; etc. Sometimes sickness even smells bad! So my responsibility becomes finding evidence in the unseen realm to counteract and overcome the physical evidence. While the sickness may be “real,” the Word of God is even more real! Jesus bore my sickness and pain. [Isaiah 53:4, 5] By His stripes we are healed. [I Peter 2:24] You see, I’m gathering EVIDENCE. When that evidence gets stronger in me than the symptoms, the pain, etc, then I’ve made divine healing mine and it will come to pass.

This is the way it works regardless of the need. Is there a promise in the Bible for a remedy? Then faith is required, a faith fed by evidence!

Never Alone

I’ve been blessed with wonderful parents. My dad went on home to a heaven a few years ago. My mom resides in an assisted living facility in Pennsylvania. I don’t get down to see her often enough, but I try to call her every week. She’s one of those rare people who can make your day, even in a short phone conversation.

Just today mom and I chatted for a short while. She keeps me abreast of my relatives in Pennsylvania and news from the home front. She’s a strong Christian, so we get to pray together and share what God has been doing in our lives. Mom expressed how one day not long after dad had died she mumbled a question something like, “Did you see that?” Suddenly she realized that she was alone. Having been in a good marriage for over sixty years, she was used to having someone there for conversation. But there was no reply, only silence.

What mom shared next was beautiful. I say that because many people tend to open the door to depression and loneliness when they find themselves where mom was. But mom went the other direction. She realized that she was NOT alone. She remembered a scripture where God promised that He would be a husband to the husbandless. [Isaiah 54:5] She became suddenly aware of His presence in a profound way. God was always there, but now mom was actually experiencing the reality of it.

One of my instructors at RHEMA taught us that you can be lonely in a crowd and be comfortable when all alone. It’s not about how many people surround you; it’s about knowing (and experiencing) a God Who will never leave you. To know that is to know great peace.

In Hebrews 13:5 we’re told “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” The Amplified Bible reads this way:  “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” Add to that part of the Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God and we have reason to live with a sense of great peace. Of course, we must believe what the Bible says, or it won’t help us at all.

When we know and believe that God is always there, other bits of scripture come alive. In I Thessalonians chapter 5 we’re instructed to “pray without ceasing.” If we think of God as being far off, prayer becomes a laborious chore. We attempt to “pray hard” or “pray through” in order to get His attention. When we know that we know that God is right there, plus we recognize that prayer is a lot more than a list of the things we need, we can pray without ceasing. We can talk to God as we go through our day because HE’S RIGHT THERE!

So, don’t give in to loneliness. The One who loves you more than anyone in the universe is close at hand. In fact, if you’re born again, He lives inside you as the Holy Spirit.

Enjoy His presence today!

God Don’t Make No Fools

I did a little research into the “April Fools” phenomenon associated with the first day of April each year. While no one is sure how it all began, it seems to be widely celebrated as a time to pull pranks on unsuspecting people around the globe. I found a website entitled “Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes.” Here is a sample:

April 1, 1906: The front page of the Wichita Daily Eagle carried news of an astounding natural phenomena. A huge wave, eleven-feet high, was moving southward down the Arkansas River. Simultaneously, a giant mass of millions of frogs, spanning a distance of over eleven miles, was migrating northward up the river. The two (wave and frogs) were predicted to meet at Wichita at around 10 o’clock that morning. The report brought out thousands of Kansans who lined the banks of the river, eager to see such a once-in-a-lifetime event. When, after three hours, the wonder never materialized, it occurred to the crowd what day it was, and they dispersed quietly back to their homes.

While I’ve never pulled off a prank on this level, but I have attempted some on a smaller scale, and I’ve been duped a few times myself.

I’m convinced that our God has a great sense of humor. [Just look around!] I don’t think of Jesus as being morose or depressing. There’s nothing wrong with having a sense of humor. Just be sure to know when it’s time to be serious, and never use humor to denigrate anyone or cause them pain.

We’ve been studying along in the book of Proverbs recently in our New Beginnings class. This book of wisdom contains a kind of “cast of characters” and their attitudes toward Godly wisdom. Three of these are listed in verse 22 of the first chapter: “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?”  Allow me to take a quick look at each.

“The simple” are those who are naïve. They’re not bad people, but their lives display a lack of experience, wisdom and/or judgment. According to verse 22, they love their simplicity. That’s not a compliment! These simple ones are too easily fooled and manipulated, plus people tend to take advantage of them. The good news for the simple is that they don’t have to stay that way. Wisdom is available!

Next we find “the scorners.” Scorn is defined as open dislike or disrespect. Scorners, according to Proverbs, delight in their scorning; they take pleasure in it. As one reads through this book of wisdom we find they mock others, they boast about their superiority, and they even make facial gestures at others to demean them. Hey there mister scorner, you need to get off your high horse and develop some respect for others. If you stay on this course you’ll eventually find yourself friendless!

Thirdly we have “the fool.” Solomon spends a lot of time dealing with this fellow. He’s not stupid or unlearned as much as he is rebellious. He neither knows nor cares about wise living. In fact, the fool hates knowledge, perception, discernment and understanding. They reject those who could teach them, because a fool thinks he knows better. He may even know some things about God, but doesn’t truly know God. Knowing god intimately and personally changes a person. If he would focus on experiencing actual fellowship with God, the fool would begin lose his foolishness. Jesus is made wisdom unto us.

God didn’t make no fools! He didn’t make us to be naïve or scornful either. We should all present ourselves to God and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, bringing forth the new man that we are now in Christ Jesus. No foolin’!

Gird Your Loins

Gird Up Your Loins

Luke 12:35, 36 Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.

In the Bible when we see a phrase like “let your waist be girded” or, as the King James reads, “let your loins be gird about,” it is a reference to readiness. Movement would have been impeded by those long robes, so a person readying himself for work or travel needed to “gird up his loins.” That meant he would take the bottom seam of his robe, pull it up between his legs and tuck it in his belt. Then he would be ready for action.

Is readiness a viable issue for modern day believers? The Bible seems to indicate that it is! We don’t have the same long robes to deal with, but we do have responsibilities to fulfill. I’m not referring to religious works or works of the flesh. Thank God we are saved by grace through faith! [Ephesians 2:8] Yet we are saved to serve. Spiritual laziness is frowned upon. Hebrews 6:11, 12 tells us not to be sluggish. James 1:22 encourages us to be doers, not merely hearers. Our “Great Commission” is repeated in different words by Matthew, Mark and Luke. We have a responsibility to be about the business of making disciples. Not much will be accomplished if we’re not READY!

Allow me to share what I consider to be some keys to girding our loins today.

#1 – Accept the responsibility.

We’re all in the same boat here. My calling may differ from yours, but we’re all called. There is something for everyone to do. God doesn’t need “bench warmers.” There are no true barriers to participation. No age discrimination. Galatians 3 indicates neither male nor female, no ethnic boundaries, or even any economic roadblocks. I’ve discovered that even when facing physical challenges, God can use me. This is good news!

#2 – Know that you’re qualified.

Repeat after me: “Jesus is my qualification!” You see, you may have tried before and failed miserably. You may have been told that you can’t do it. You may feel like you’ll just mess things up. Maybe you were a poor student or just never finished anything you started before now. Check out scripture: God used those whose resumes contained failures and low recommendations. He even used a donkey! He can use you.

#3 – Believe that you’re gifted.

I Peter 4:10 tells us that we ALL have been given gifts with which to minister. These are grace gifts, meaning we did nothing to earn them. Outside of Jesus we don’t deserve them. But He gave ‘em to us anyway. The purpose of these gifts is clear: not to bless the operator of the gift, but to bless those needing the benefits of the gift. Check out the Amplified version of I Peter 4:9, 10.

Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him). 10 As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

Maybe a better modern day rendering of “gird your loins” would be “roll up your sleeves.” Let’s do it! As a congregation, let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy with the work of the Kingdom. As the slogan goes, “Just do it!”