Monthly Archives: September 2013

Standing Firmly in Faith ~ Jeremiah 26:1-24

“But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight. ~ Jeremiah 26:14

I wonder sometimes how I would react if my life were in danger because of my faith. Would I stand firm, trusting God that His will is as good and perfect as I believe it is, or would I turn against Him to spare my life?

This passage presents an interesting turn of events. As Jeremiah continues to faithfully prophesy in the Lord’s name about the disasters to come if Judah does not repent of her sin, the priests and prophets seize him and, with all the people, declare he must die. Jeremiah warns them that they are about to spill innocent blood; if they do, disaster will befall them. Then, exhibiting complete trust in God, he tells them to do with him as they will. People begin to listen, beginning with some officials and then some of the elders of the land, who remember that Micah, a prophet before Jeremiah, prophesied the same things from the Lord that Jeremiah was prophesying. As they consider Micah and other past prophets who proclaimed similar messages they begin to realize that Jeremiah truly is a prophet from God and they wisely spare his life.

As I read about God’s heroes of faith, including people like Jeremiah, Noah, Stephen, Paul and many others, I am humbled when I realize how much growing I have yet to do. Looking back over my life I see a long road of maturation leading me to where I stand today and for that I am truly thankful. However, I also realize that I still have much growing to do. As I look ahead, I am eager to walk with my Lord wherever He may lead me.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:19-20

Ponder this: When I consider the faith with which God has gifted me I am truly thankful. I wonder, sometimes, if I am doing enough to share it with the world.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, Thank You for those who have come before me and trusted completely in You even when their very lives were threatened for doing so. Teach me through their example, and equip me to be Your witness, even in situations in which the easy way out is to remain silent. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.

Light Piercing the Darkness ~ Jeremiah 25:1-14

“And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; ~ Jeremiah 25:4-5

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Po...

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Poland Polski: Okienko Zbójnickie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a Boy Scout we went spelunking on one of our weekend camping trips. We entered this narrow, wet cave in groups of eight. Each of us had a flashlight, and I had the map. As we entered the cave and rounded the first bend the outside light from the entrance quickly gave way to complete darkness. At one point along the way we all turned off our flashlights and experienced a scary, overcoming darkness. Within a few seconds we felt completely disoriented and scared. We quickly turned our lights back on and held tightly to them as we completed our journey.

In this passage, God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are words of anger and warning of consequence for sin. For 23 years, Jeremiah has proclaimed God’s wrath to Israel and for 23 years Israel has chosen not to listen. In this passage, God’s sovereignty is on full display as He lays out the consequences for Israel’s sin. (Read on, though; there is a Light to come!)

Note that God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as “servant” in describing how this foreign king will come against Israel and bring them into exile in Babylon. They will be in exile for 70 years. At the end of the exile period, God says He will punish Babylon for its deeds. After all, even in His anger, Israel is still God’s chosen people.

Human wisdom says this is unfair. However, we must always remember that God is completely sovereign over His creation. He can use whomever he wants, even those who do not acknowledge Him, to carry out His good and perfect will. This is a tough pill to swallow. We all sin and the message here is that God is angered by that, and sin bears its consequence. For Israel, the consequence was to be a successful invasion by a foreign power.

There is no good news in today’s Jeremiah passage. But in order to understand where we humans stand in relationship to our sovereign God, we must understand His wrath over sin. Is God as angered by our sin as He was over the sins of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? The Bible tells us He is. In fact, the Bible tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the punishment for sin is death. What hope do we have? Where do we turn?

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:21-23

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

In ourselves there is no hope. If we rely on our efforts, our knowledge, our works, to appease God’s righteous anger with our sin we become like a group of boy scouts trying to find our way through a dark, wet cave with no flashlight; we will get nowhere. Recognizing that fact, God paid the price in full for our sins. Justification for sin comes through the shedding of blood, and Jesus shed His blood on the cross in our behalf. The Light of the World has overcome the wet darkness of that cave of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to die, that we who believe in Him would be forgiven and spared the punishment we deserve. That is Good News, indeed!

Ponder this: At we read about God’s wrath we must never forget that God shows His love and mercy through Jesus. Isn’t it comforting to know that through Jesus we are forgiven? Who in your world needs to hear this Good News?

 My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know I sin every day. I ask Your forgiveness as I seek to turn away from my sins and live a life that glorifies You. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice in my behalf for I know it is through Him and Him alone that I am reconciled to You. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Thank You, Senator Cruz!

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians are politicians, and I’m hearing many voices questioning Senator Ted Cruz’ motives behind his marathon speech on the Senate floor. What Senator Cruz has said needed to be said; the fight needs to be fought. If he doesn’t say it, nobody in DC will. They will simply roll over and do whatever the status quo bureaucrats tell them to do. That’s how Obamacare passed in the first place. “You have to pass it to find out what’s in it,” said Nancy Pelosi and our gutless Congress did just that. That action alone is worthy of a one-way ticket out of office. That action alone demonstrates the disdain that many in government apparently have for We the People.

I’m not going to question the Senator’s motives. I’m glad he did what he did. He spoke for me and millions of Americans who believe deep down in our heart of hearts that what our federal government is doing to our country is destroying us as a nation. And once their work is done, they will look down at us from their seats of power and rule unabashedly. Heck, they already are.

Thank you, Senator Cruz, for representing me and the millions of Americans who still believe in Liberty.

Be Thou My Vision – Alison Krauss

Be Thou My Vision – Alison Krauss

I was working from home this afternoon, quite frustrated at having to redo work I’d already done through no fault of my own. While I brooded over my computer, grumbling with each entry in my spreadsheet, this hymn came to mind. As I sung the lyrics to myself, I completed my work wearing a smile. I sometimes need to be reminded that, even when working my job in corporate America, I must work as for the Lord. He lovingly delivered this much-needed reminder in the words of this beautiful hymn. May it be as much a blessing to you as it was to me this afternoon!

There Is A Gift (9/23/13)

I had to share this piece. In this age of hundred million dollar lottery jackpots, this puts it all into proper perspective. Read and be blessed!

THE RIVER WALK

Read: Isaiah 41:17-43:13, Ephesians 2:1-22, Psalm 67:1-7, Proverbs 23:29-35

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Gift

Relate: Sometimes I imagine the day it will happen. I’ll be sitting at my desk typing away, or perhaps I’ll be reading some book while all sprawled out on the couch. Maybe I’ll be in the kitchen slaving away over a hot microwave getting ready for dinner. Wherever I am, the doorbell will ring. My mind will run through the possibilities. Did I leave something somewhere and it is being returned? Am I expecting company? Is the ups guy here with more books?

I’ll walk to that front door a little hesitant, turn the lock, and open up. There they are. It is the publishers clearing house prize…

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Happy 18th to our Lovely Daughter

Someone once said “time flies when you’re having fun.” That is a true statement, indeed. As I reflect on the past 18 years I am reminded of how blessed I am.

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

Goofing off, Thanksgiving 2012

God has blessed my wife and me with two beautiful kids. Our oldest was born 18 years ago today. We left for Memorial City Hospital in Houston at about 10:00 on a bright September Sunday morning. I was delighted that my wife’s delivery room was equipped with a television set and a comfortable recliner, and we settled in to watch football as we awaited the arrival of our firstborn child. (Minnesota beat Pittsburgh 44-24 and my beloved and dearly departed Houston Oilers defeated Cincinnati 38-28). Although our doctor knew the child’s gender, we had elected to find out at birth.

As the Minnesota Vikings began to take control of the game in the third quarter, I noticed that my wife wasn’t cheering as enthusiastically as before. Her nurse noticed it, too. Time for me to exit the room as the merciful epidural was applied. As her labor intensified, we turned off the television and prepared to welcome our firstborn into the world. A few short hours later (well, they were short to me; my wife might disagree with that assessment) Olivia arrived and with a piercing cry took her first breath. Dr. Hansen cut the umbilical cord and laid her on my wife’s chest. We looked at her and cried tears of joy.

Olivia & Shadow

Olivia & Shadow

Although that was 18 years ago, in many ways it seems like it was last Sunday. Yes, time flies. It flies as they take their first steps and graduate from diaper to “big potty”. It flies as they board the big yellow bus for the first time and head off to school. On their own. Without mom & dad following behind in the car. It flies as we celebrate the first report card, enjoy the first slumber party, and stand strong for them through the disappointments we all face in life (we don’t let them see us cry; we do that later, in private). Next thing we know, they’re in middle school and the hormones are raging as they begin to transition from child to young adult. We survive that phase together. That freshman year in high school is exciting as the senior year seems so far off into the future. Then, all of a sudden, they’re enjoying the freedom delivered through the driver’s license, we’re touring colleges and universities, ordering the class ring, and looking forward to senior day at the football game. As we reread the university acceptance letter and watch the kids enjoy the 18th birthday surprise party we realize that our beautiful little baby has grown into a lovely young woman.

Accepted to the University of Arkansas!

Accepted to the University of Arkansas!

As I type this, I have a small lump in my throat, a tear in my eye, and a big smile on my face. Yes, the past 18 years have flown by. I tell young parents all the time to cherish every moment of every day with their children, for soon it will be time for them to leave the nest. As we celebrate my daughter’s 18th birthday we cherish the memories, celebrate the milestone, and look forward to the future. I pray that God will continue to grow and mature her faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that He will guard and protect her as she ventures into adulthood. On her own. Without mom & dad following in the car (not close enough to be seen, anyway).

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. ~ Psalm 127:3

Redefining “Seeker Sensitive” ~ Jeremiah 28:9-40

“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 23:28

I carry a burden for the American church-at-large. Many churches today proclaim they are “seeker sensitive” – an honorable mission on the surface, but in reality a mission that too often results in a message tailor-made for a people who want nothing to do with a sovereign God. My burden for the American church is cast in the mold of false and watered-down teachings.

Dilution-grenadine

As I read Jeremiah, there can be no question as to how God feels about sin. But I also see a repeated theme that talks about those who prophesy falsely – those who claim to speak for God when they do not. In doing so, they mislead His people. God’s anger is stoked against them as well:

“For both prophet and priest are polluted; Even in My house I have found their wickedness,” declares the LORD. “Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; For I will bring calamity upon them, The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD. “Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray. Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 28:11-14)

Today, many churches refuse to discuss sin or God’s anger with sin. They don’t talk about God’s sovereignty over His creation, of which we are an integral part. Yes, they talk about forgiveness and love – but forgiveness from what? If one who does not know God shows up Sunday morning, what does she hear? Does she hear about her sin, her need for redemption, and the redemption our sovereign God offers only through Jesus Christ? Or is she told that she should seek to live her best life now because God wants her to feel happy, fulfilled, and pleased with herself? Is the unbeliever introduced to the sovereign Lord of Creation who wants so badly to be in relationship with His people, even though we sin in every way imaginable, that He sent His Son to save us from the eternal damnation we rightfully deserve? Or is he introduced to a casual, fun-loving god who is only out to make new friends as he grants our wishes for happiness and prosperity?

Without a full understanding of our sovereign God, and absent a complete understanding of how our sin positions us before God, a discussion of forgiveness is meaningless. When the church changes the message to appease the crowd, the unbeliever may walk away feeling darn good about himself and thinking all is well when, in reality, he is unprepared to face his holy and righteous judge. As the passage above says, “…they (those communicating false teachings) strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness” (verse 14). When the church conducts itself in this manner, it is not serving God and God is not pleased.

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Sout...

English: 4 days of Evangelism Training in Southern California provided by LivingWaters Ministry. Obeying the great commission of Jesus Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone” Mark 16:15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The primary purpose of the church is to offer worship to God while equipping believers to go out into the world and witness to the Gospel as Jesus commanded. The church was not intended to be a religious Field of Dreams (“If you build it, they will come”). Want to be truly “seeker sensitive”? The first step is to be honest. Help the unbeliever understand who God is – His awesome power, His sovereignty, and His love. Speak in love, not Pharisaical condemnation. Talk about the fact that we are all sinners, deserving of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. Once they understand that, share the sweet fruit of the Gospel and trust the Holy Spirit to grant the gift of faith. The Truth will set them free; anything less than God’s Truth only serves to tighten the binds of sin.

Ponder this: I take great comfort in the fact that God is completely sovereign over His creation. I treasure the fact that His Word is eternally true; I can build my life upon it with confidence, knowing that my destination for eternity is set through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who don’t yet know Him deserve to know the truth. Are you ready to share it? Is your church sharing it?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You have placed this burden on my heart for a reason. Help me to respond to You according to Your will. I lift up Your church and all who preach, teach, worship and learn there. Expose false teachings, Lord, and cause a holy reawakening to take place based on Your Word and Your Word alone. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

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