Monday, March 12, 2018

We all need to Go Back....

Referencing an old Byrds tune, "Going Back." The song essentially refers to returning to the simplicity and innocence of youth. 

If we take Jesus at His word, it appears that we are in need of being like children even to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus frequently admonishes his disciples to allow the children access to Him.  Our church contains a print of Jesus, looking very European, gathering a group of children to Himself. The point is that there most be a set of characteristics found in children that we would want to emulate as adults.

The terms child-like and childish are obviously quite different. For an adult to be childish, one must return to behaviors that I am sure Jesus isn't championing, here. We all know that there is a wearing down of characteristics like trust, surrender, lack of concern and worry and unconditional love that accompanies getting older and dealing with the stresses and responsibilities of this life. 

We cannot say that little ones are not affected by sin; yet, it would seem that their sins, especially at an early age, are innocent of pre-meditation.

So how is it that we can revert or turn back to a more child-like existence, as the Lord Jesus seems to be stressing? I would suggest that those who have accepted Christ and been ind-welled by His Spirit are well on their way to being more Christ-like and, I would add, child-like in their hearts. The Fruit of the Spirit are, in many ways, representations of a heart that thinks like a child. These are wonderful sign-boards that point toward Sanctification of those who are a part of God's blessed Kingdom

Can we make these changes on our own? I would suggest that the answer is 'No." Like so many things, God must be the One who initiates and supports a changed heart and a desire to love others and worship God.

So let's Go Back. We don't give up adult responsibilities and issues. We do look backward to
a living style that is more full of hope and excitement, joy and love. It's not so very difficult.
Just takes a desire to be like a child.

Praise our God.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

God's messed up, broken, wonderful creation

It's a messed up world out there! One really can see this, quite easily, while driving in traffic or in interpersonal relationships. God's perfect creation was tainted by sin, broken and cursed. What was it meant to be like? Scripture hints at it, Jesus embodies it and Revelation promises a re-creation, of sorts.

Yet....   There are countless, breath-taking examples of God's magnificent creative abilities. One can see this, quite easily, as well. My favorite scenario: A walk in a piney woods perhaps in the Great Smokies, just taking in the sounds, sights and smells. The peacefulness that comes from siting beside a stream and just taking it in. The smell and feel of a baby, the energy and naivete of a toddler, snuggling along with a favorite pet. Can you imagine the list we could make of the beauty all around us? Want to make one?

The same concepts can be associated with us humans. WE aren't what we were intended to be, are we? We are haunted by our flesh, our sin nature. We were born with it, and with it comes a life-long battle to overcome it. We don't do what we internally realize we ought, as Paul suggests. It is frustrating.

Yet....   There is glorious freedom in knowing that God has created us with a value based simply upon His Glory. We are loved and valued. He has sent His begotten into the world to provide us with forgiveness. He has patiently waited for us to hear his voice, feel His welcome and accept His Grace. So we live with this battle between who we are and who we were meant to be.

There is wonderful beauty and hope in this creation. It will be even better; so much better that we cannot even imagine it. Thus with us. We will be resurrected and new, yet we have inherent value in being God's children. That hope spurs us on to work at living a life that glorifies a most amazing Creator, Father and King.

Praise our God.

Monday, January 8, 2018

It's worth the try, but do not expect success!

It's nasty. Pervasive. AND God does not accept or condone any of it!

In His wondrous grace, He fashioned a plan to send His son as the only possible solution for the chasm between Himself and His created. It would only work if Christ was completely able to do His will. 

He Was! Praise God.

So, what do we, then, about the fact that we still sin... daily. We have been changed, forgiven in Christ, who God actually sees when He looks upon us. Righteousness of Christ- not our own flawed righteousness.

Out of appreciation and gratitude for this Grace, we are tasked with joining the Spirit in eliminating sin. We are on a path, with the Spirit, to Sanctification or Holiness, a path that leads towards Christ-likeness.

YET.... WE still sin. Within us remains the tainted flesh, the sin nature constantly in conflict with our attempts to eradicate it. Alone, we cannot do it. Even with the Spirit of God, it remains a conflict- daily.

Do we just give in? Not if we adore Christ!
Do we find guilt daily in our inability to overcome sin? Not if we trust that we are Forgiven forever.
Do we work at every possible means of turning away from those actions that God abhors? Absolutely.

We owe complete effort ,along with the realization that we cannot be separated from the grace of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.

Keep the fight! You are loved by God.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

So WHO really will be saved?

There could not be a more controversial topic, when discussing theology, than the topic of the width and breadth of salvation. I will admit, right here, reader, that I do NOT have than answer, but I do have some thoughts. I will bet that you do, too.

The determiner: GOD. He is, after all, sovereign over creation which includes the events that occur within His domain. It's all His. He can do with it what He desires. That immediately bothers some folks. It used to bother me, a bit, but not anymore.

Because God is in charge, He can play by whatever rules He determines. When we read the Bible, we are faced with the concept of election or predestination. It is there in the Scriptures. God has, it seems, chosen those who will populate His Church, before the beginning of time. He is in possession of the Book of Life, and names will appear there that determine salvation.

Since we are called to go out into a darkened world and seek disciples, it would therefore make sense that those folks we encounter are ones that God has placed before us. He, not we, brings faith and eventual transformation to these people, but He uses you and me to make a connection. We get the ball rolling, as it were. We start the ripple. He then works out salvation through His saving Grace.

Will everyone who calls on the name of the Lord be saved? Not, it seems to me, according to Jesus, Himself. He says that many will say, "Lord, Lord..." There will be many of those who He fails to recognize because He reads their hearts. They, it seems, were not meant to be among those destined to be in God's royal family.

There must be an acceptance on our parts; we must want to be saved, but getting back to God's overarching foreknowledge, He already knew what our response would be. 

Unfair? Only by man's standards. These are God's standards, and He is free to do His will. That child who is still born, that infant who dies before the age of accountability? God has that covered.

IF we have been regenerated, transformed in the heart, made alive in Christ... how wonderful is that? Lucky? No. Fortunate? Yes. Blessed beyond words by a grace that is bigger than any of our sins.

Praise God!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Expect to be heard!

Prayer. It's a very interesting phenomenon. Hopefully you pray often and from the heart.
When one thinks about the very nature of a God who, despite being totally above and different from His creatures, asks that they talk with Him, it boggles the mind a bit.

How can He listen to all those prayers simultaneously? 
How and when will He respond to our prayers?
Do our prayers have an impact on His sovereign plan?
Do prayers have to be spoken?

I could go on, but Spurgeon, in one of his many quotes, suggests an important reality. He basically says that unless we expect God to listen, He will not. According to Spurgeon, God responds to out faith.

I don't know about you, reader, but I struggled for a long time with praying. For the longest time I didn't really feel like there was a Listener. I wasn't really comfortable with what I should pray, what my expectations should be and how I could establish a pattern that would encourage daily communication with our Father. I haven't successfully gotten through all of that, but I no longer have any doubt that my prayers, in whatever form and length, are heard and valued.

So in many ways, we have to depend on the faith that God instills in us to come to a place where, at least in Spurgeon's view, God really does listen. For me, it was a sudden realization that He was there, which, of course, led to more frequent and personal prayers. Like so many things, God provides what we need to accomplish glorifying Him. 

Lately, I have been 'thinking' prayers. I don't even speak them in my head; I just think to Him and know that He can hear those thoughts. For whatever reason, I tend to not get distracted as much a mentally wander off during the prayer.

Okay, enough of me. How about you? Where are you in your prayer life? Trust in the fact that our God seeks your communications. Just talk with Him, you don't even have to be asking for anything. Praise Him and worship Him through your words and thoughts. Just consider how amazing it is that you and He can talk!

Praise our God!!!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

God knows!

The pastor at the Sutherland Springs Church where the worst church massacre in US history took place was asked, "Why?"

His answer, paraphrased: "I do not have the answer. But God does."

That is so very difficult to wrap our brains around when we are mourning the senseless deaths in such a situation, coming so close to the unbelievable mess in Las Vegas. We want to cry out and ask God how such things could possibly happen of He is, indeed, sovereign.

It's a bit like the question, "How can bad things happen to good people?" R C Sproul's classic answer: It only happened once, and He volunteered!

This world is upside down. It is wrong. Stained. Evil. The people in it are all sinners because people have a sin nature from conception. The more people, the more evil. It IS difficult to understand that nothing that happens takes God by surprise. Everything, in ways that we areunequipped to understand, is as it is planned and everything, in one way or another, brings glory to the God of all creation.

I just invite you to imagine a world where God wasn't sovereign. Can you imagine uncontrolled chaos? Anarchy abounding? No ethical behavior, whatsoever? Man's ability to be cruel and self-centered is written in the very pages of history, and we are adding pages each day.

I believe the Holy Bible is full of predictions that suggest that things will get Very Bad before Jesus Christ returns to judge the entire creation. Depending on one's eschatology, that could look different ways but He will arrive at the perfect, most needed time to shepherd home His church.

In the meantime, we have to place out trust in God. We have to know that He is good, righteous, light, loving. He IS in control, even if there are times when it is hard to accept.

Praise our God. Trust Him completely!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ten things!

What if someone challenged you to pick the ten things you most wanted to thank God for? (Can't believe I ended that sentence in a preposition!)

It IS an interesting challenge, isn't it. It is especially interesting in light of the fact that a lot of folks thank God for nothing! Yep. They feel entitled and in charge of a life that actually doesn't even belong to them. If you are still reading this, I would wager that you do not fall into that camp.

So where would we begin? I would start with LIFE. Life is totally amazing. Being alive is a true gift that represents the fact that God placed you and me here for a purpose. Life is precious and fleeting. It has happiness and sadness. So easy, isn't it, to just expect to wake up each day, place those feet on the floor and proceed. Yet, not only did God give us life, He sustains every part of it.

I would thank God for Jesus, His son, our Savior. Only through His thirty-three some years of walking this earth at all times toward a death that would break the curse of sin could those who believe have the chance to be eternally in God's family. Oh how can we thank Him enough?

I could go on, but you know what? This is your challenge. What would start and end YOUR list of thankfulness? I'd love to know.

Praise our Loving Magnificent God!