Friday, February 25, 2011

What is your life?

My son's car after a collision on 02/24/2011.  He had been traveling north (left to right) through the intersection you see behind his car.  Another car turned left in front of him.  Both cars are totaled.  Neither driver had serious injuries.  Praise the Lord!
In my last post (02/22/2011) I said that I "let my son die" each morning when I yield him to God's perfect will.  Yesterday evening we had a reminder of how suddenly things can happen.  David was driving up the street, just a few blocks from the house, when a man suddenly turned left in front of him.  Both cars were severely damaged and ended up in the side street.  Neither driver was hurt.

Praise God!  Praise God nobody was hurt.  Praise Him for the airbag that caught David  before he could hit the steering wheel.  Praise God nobody was in the Honda's passenger seat!  Praise God that both cars stopped short of the car waiting at the stop line in 4th street.  Praise God that both cars had insurance - good insurance - State Farm insurance.

We place our lives in God's hands.  We should not be deluded that we are in control.  But God, Who is very much in control, is good and merciful - no matter what challenges He allows in our lives.

Go with God.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's That Cross For?

(Luke 9:23 NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
Contrary to popular opinion, the cross is not some "burden we bear" in life - some difficult aspect of our daily lives.  The cross was something far more sinister.  The cross was the implement of execution.  The purpose for the cross was to complete the act of self denial by death.
(1 Corinthians 15:31 NKJV) I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
I died this morning, did you?  I also let my son die.  I also let my wife die.  In fact I let all of the people who are dearest to me die.

Do you think it hurt?  It sure did!

Death hurts whether it is your own death or the death of someone you love.  We are born to live.  Our whole experience is life.  We naturally struggle toward life and away from death.  But in our calling to follow Jesus Christ we are called to death.
(Luke 9:24 NKJV) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Following Jesus Christ involves embracing death here and trusting Christ for a greater life in exchange.  He died and rose again.  We follow him to death on the promise of resurrection.
(Galatians 2:20 NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
How did I die this morning?  I died when I prayed with full understanding, "Let your kingdom come and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

I died because I understood that I was yielding myself completely to God's will.  Life or death.  "Not my will, but Thy will be done."

I let my son die today when I prayed with my full understanding, "Lord, I yield him to you for your glory - whether by life or by death."
(Galatians 6:14 NKJV) But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
We need a cross daily, because every day we need to execute ourselves again.  We are attached to this world and the pleasures of this world.  We are attached to our loved ones - it tears us apart to think of something happening to them.  We fight against death and strain to maintain control and achieve safety.

Then we come to our face time with God.  Who will be in control?  Whose will do we really want done?  What will we withhold from God?  How much are we willing to give to God's glory?  Who are we willing to yield to God's glory?

What does it mean to follow Jesus, if we are not willing to imitate His complete obedience to the will of the Father - even when it meant incredible pain and suffering?

Does this strike you as morbid?  Perish the thought!  In fact, this daily cross means wonderful peace and great blessing!  Every morning you go through the searing pain of yielding up your life and the lives of your dear ones to the glory of God.  But then we get what we have requested - glory to God - and it is worth everything.  We have no worries.  We don't need to scramble about like we need to control the universe.  Nothing that happens can shake us - we already went through the pain.  Having given up everything in the morning, we are often blessed to have it returned to us later in the day for our enjoyment.  (But of course, tomorrow will be another day - to yield these again.)

I am afraid that too often people want "heaven on earth."  We want everything to be perfectly calm here on earth.  We want all of our loved ones to live forever right here with us.  We want to escape from every trouble and enjoy all the pleasures this life affords.

But this world is not heaven, and if you lived 1000 years and never had a dear one get sick or die or lose a job or have a problem... it still is not a speck on what heaven really is.

Heaven is the presence of God and the glory of God and the will of God and the praise of God in perpetual perfection...  But you can't have heaven and this broken, dysfunctional, sin sick world too.  Don't even try!  Give yourself and all of your loved ones to God.  Trust God more than you trust yourself.
(Colossians 3:1–4 NKJV) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thy Kingdom Come...

(Matthew 6:9–10 NKJV) In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Your kingdom come!  Your will be done!

I have often thought of this as a matter of sacrifice, humility or obedience... That we should submit our will to God's will and recognize His sovereignty over our lives.  Certainly that is true.

But last night I watched, "The King's Speech," about the man who became King George VI on the eve of World War II.  In this movie, the crown weighed heavy on each of the kings in the story.  Both King Edward VIII (who eventually abdicated) and George VI break down and weep at the prospect of the burdens of being king.

It made me remember that "Your kingdom come" is less of a sacrifice and more of a desire for blessing.  We long for deliverance, not just from various human governments, but from our own sinful self government.  The better we know Jesus and the better we know ourselves - the more we will ache for His absolute rule and His perfect will.

Your kingdom come!  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
 (Revelation 22:20 NKJV) He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 
Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!  Deliver us from ourselves!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

Valentine's Day - February 14, 2011

Spring is in the air today.  It is warm - well above freezing anyway.  The groundhog did not see his shadow.  People are already seeing robins returning from their winter vacations.
(Proverbs 18:22 NKJV)  He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.
Today I want to publicly praise God for my good wife, Lola.

This summer we will celebrate our thirty-third year of marriage.  Over these years we have become increasingly joined together - heart and soul and mind. Of all the blessings God has poured on my life, Lola is my greatest blessing after salvation.

We have been blessed by God.  We have experienced what our marriage vows predicted...

Better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.
Young love, new life together and babies.
Financial distress, rice and beans and indoor snow drifts.
Years of school, changing schedules and incredibly busy times.
Many moves, disrupted lives, uncertainty and adjustments.
Labors of ministry, victories and defeats, joys and sorrows.

In every time of our life together, Lola has been a blessing to me - a "help-meet" - fitting partner - complement - encourager - counselor.

I love you, Lola, with all of my heart!
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face, let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.  (Song 2:10–14 ESV)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Collecting Rubbish

I don't know about you, but I like to collect rubbish.  Eventually I will need to sort out my sock drawer because there are many things in there besides socks.  A lot of what is in that drawer needs to be thrown out because it is rubbish.  Same with my desk drawer.  Same with the basket next to my chair in the living room.  Also true of some boxes left over from our move three years ago.

There are trinkets and mementos and broken odds and ends.  There reams of forgotten papers and piles of rusted paper clips.  There are old keys to doors left far behind.  There are old calendars and souvenirs from businesses that are now out of business.

It is all rubbish and I am a rubbish collector.
(Philippians 3:7–8 NKJV) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
In my experience this is more difficult than it sounds.  Paul gave up his prestige as an upwardly mobile Pharisee in Israel in order to obey the truth about Jesus Christ and become an itinerant minister of that truth. Now he is hated and despised by those who once respected him.  Now he lives in poverty, danger and uncertainty.

But it doesn't matter to Paul.  His goal is Christ: not material wealth, not human respect, not physical comforts, not a secure retirement.
(Philippians 3:9 NKJV) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
The security that matters to Paul is in Christ.  It is not something Paul has developed for himself through his achievements.  It is not something that can be attained by human goodness or effort.  It is a right standing with God provided by God through faith in Christ.

This righteousness of God is a gift of grace, but it costs Paul everything.  The rich young ruler was told to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and follow Jesus.  (Matthew 19:21)  He didn't, but Paul did.  The original disciples "left all" to follow Jesus.

I would suggest that this is necessary for EVERYONE who really follows Jesus.  To follow Jesus is to follow Him regardless of the cost, the disrespect and the difficulties.  Jesus said, " narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life." (Matthew 7:14)
(Philippians 3:10–11 NKJV) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 
Fellowship means sharing.  Following Jesus involves sharing in His sufferings.  Jesus warned his disciples that they would have the same hostile reception that He had in this fallen world.  (John 15:18-20)  They might even be put to death.  Most of them WERE put to death.  Paul was ultimately put to death.  But even that didn't matter.

Why doesn't it matter?  Because our goal is not ease in this life, but "the resurrection of the dead."

We believe that God provides us with eternal life in Christ.  By faith we follow Him through thick and thin, regardless of the cost, in spite of the difficulties, even to death if necessary.  And then we believe His word that we will have life forevermore with Him.

Our goal cannot be our own pleasure, our own comfort, our own safety, our own reputation.  Our only goal should be the glory of God - our Savior.  We must stand for Him and His truth against all adversaries until we see God face to face.

Lord, help me to put down the rubbish and take up the cross - everyday.
(Matthew 16:24–26) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

If It's Broken...?

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
OK, but what if it IS broke(n)?

I am gradually learning that many broken things cannot be easily fixed.
In fact, many broken things cannot be fixed at all - by me.

This is true enough in the world of physical things that break.
It is far more true in the realm of people and the things that break their souls.

The impulse to DO something is a dangerous impulse.
Should I attempt neurosurgery with and old hammer and a socket wrench?

Things get broken in people's souls and we need to do something.
But often what we need to do is wait, pray, be patient.

It can't be forced.  It is beyond our reach.  It is up to God Himself.
So we give it to God and wait on God and cry out to God.

And God works.  He changes hearts.  He brings repentance and faith.
God reconciles sinners to Himself and makes new creatures of them.
(1 Thessalonians 1:5 NKJV) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Genuine Value

Yesterday I was frustrated when I called our cell-phone company about our bill.  A month ago we jumped through all kinds of hoops and spent hours on the phone to take advantage of a 15% discount through Lola's union. 

This month we found out that all that hassle did not result in a 15% discount, but an 8% discount.  And the 8% discount was not on the whole bill, but just on the one phone line.  And the $6.40 we saved was off-set by the fact that they charged us a month advanced payment so our first bill was half again what our previous monthly bills were. 

With our new discount we will break even in about fifteen months.  WHAT A DEAL!  And we still have all the inconveniences of having a "new" account - which so far  will not let me pay online, etc.

What a SCAM!  Somebody is laughing all the way to the bank, but it isn't us.

What we need is a REAL VALUE!
(Proverbs 4:5–7 NKJV)  Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
(Proverbs 16:16 NKJV)  How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. 
Here is a biblical value - Wisdom.  Wisdom will always pay dividends.  So where do we find wisdom?
(Psalms 111:10 NKJV)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. 
Wisdom begins with a right relationship with God and obedience to God's Word.  In submitting to God's righteousness - salvation by Grace through faith in Jesus Christ - there is ETERNAL VALUE.  Living in obedience to God's word yields eternal dividends. 

In Christ there are no false promises and no disappointments!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Moment By Moment

(Matthew 6:34 NKJV) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Sometimes I look at my planning calendar and get a panicky feeling!  "I have too much scheduled.  How will I ever get everything done?"

God says, "Relax and trust Me."

I only have the present moment.  I need to give this moment my attention.  When this moment is over, I will deal with the next moment.

The moments will pass.  The hours will pass.  The days will pass.  The weeks will pass.

I can't handle everything all at once.  For that matter, I can't handle one thing at a time.  I can only trust God and look to Him moment by moment. 

God is completely sufficient. My confidence must be in Him. I must always depend on Him.
(James 4:14–15 NKJV) whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”