Terrifying Beauty

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Have you ever seen images of novas, or of night eruptions from a volcano? There is a terrifying beauty that is often visible in things being crushed or destroyed. A disturbing thought is that we would never experience the beauty without the tragedy surrounding it. The crushing pressure that takes away all that they are is what transforms them into the thing of beauty we see.

I’ve heard similar things surrounding flowers, except in this case it is more about the fragrance rather than the beauty. At first glance we see the beauty and think it is absolutely perfect, who would want to destroy it? But it is said that a flower is most fragrant when it is crushed, as it is only then that the oils are released.

Going through a crushing like this in our own lives, or watching a loved one experience this can be excruciatingly painful, hard to tolerate or watch. Our first impulse is to beg God to remove the bitter cup!

I think of Peter, and can only imagine the kind of devotion he must have had after walking with Jesus for nearly three years. Watching the many miracles take place at His hand, getting to eat with Him daily, asking questions and getting answers no one else was given, knowing he was blessed to be caught up in the middle of THE MESSIAH come to earth. It must have been amazing!

It was no small wonder then that when Peter heard Jesus tell them He had to suffer and be killed, he instantly reacted out of his emotions, emotions he confused with love and devotion, when he asked for God to forbid it and insisted it should never be! He could not imagine or understand how the crushing of One so perfect could ever be part of God’s plan or used for His glory! Where is the possibility of beauty or fragrance in that?

Jesus reply was direct. “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”” Matthew‬ ‭16:23‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I can only imagine how such a rebuke must have made Peter feel in the moment. But even then, Peter was being prepared for his next level of faith on his journey, and would learn soon that it was crucial for Christ to suffer and die on the cross, for it is only on the third day after the resurrection that we begin to recognize the terrible beauty, and to smell the fragrance of salvation! Relationship and fellowship  with Father God was once again possible!

When you are caught up in the emotional side of wanting to do everything in your own power to prevent suffering, and realizing you cannot, are then crying out to God to stop the pain, remember Peter. You are not alone. Then remember too, the beauty we would not have seen otherwise that came about as a result. What if Peter had been successful at convincing God that His own Son should not suffer or be destroyed on that cross? Where would you and I be now?

It might be interesting to point out that Peter changed his perspective about suffering after that, and we can see this in 1 Peter 2:19-24.

Am I saying that God Himself causes the suffering in our lives?  No.  But long before you were ever born, He knew where your path in life would lead and what you would face as a result, and He already set a plan in motion to take the suffering we experience here and use it for His plan and for His glory.  Know this: Although His ways appear mysterious to us (Isaiah 55:9), you and your loved ones are in the hands of Almighty God , a God who can be trusted to turn ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3).

Am I saying don’t pray? No. I am saying don’t use your prayers to stand in the way of God being able to use that destruction, what the enemy meant for evil, for His greater purpose and glory instead. Don’t miss out on the beauty and the fragrance! Am I saying it is wrong to pray for miracles, healings, mercy, or blessing?  No, of course not!  We can pray for any and all of those things. Pray too that God’s will be done, for His grace to be given so we can endure with patience, for trust to be unwavering, and for faith to be increased.  He wants to prepare you for the next level of faith.  Are you ready?

Whether you are reading this post as someone going through trials or someone who is learning how to effectively pray for another who is, I pray you are comforted by these words.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)

 

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To Love to the End

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Dear Daughter,

I am so sorry that you have to walk this path, and feel the pain of ending a relationship you thought would last a lifetime. I know you said you are fine and that you have been thinking about this a lot over the last few weeks.  While this may be true in the moment, there is a part of the healing process that takes time.  As the days go by and the hurt begins to surface, I want to encourage you to stay close to the Lord.  As you allow Him, the Lord Himself will begin to minister to you, speaking gently to your heart on ways you can glean from this hurt and pain the life lessons that are designed especially for you.  Life lessons designed to infuse your future with destiny and purpose.

In one of our recent conversations, one thing that came up was a hint towards a lack of partnership, or a lack of willingness on his part to work through some of the issues the two of you were facing. I heard you say “I’m done”, and I made a bad attempt at the time at trying to express my thoughts surrounding this, so was hoping to clarify a bit.

You know how I like Beth Moore! In a clip I watched of her recently she was saying as women, we often can express feelings towards one another like “Oh I just LOVE her” when what we really mean is we like what that person represents to us, but not necessarily that we truly value or care for them deeply enough, seeing that we don’t really know them well enough to treasure them.  In reality, there are very few people we truly deeply value and take the time to know well enough to treasure.  In that same clip she continues by saying “We will miss our most expensive treasure if we look past the hardship and pain”.  Remember that.

Those few relationships we value and take the time to truly treasure, like a spouse, are the ones we invest in. As a Christian, through the patience of the Holy Spirit who so continuously works within us, over time we pour into those we treasure a love, respect, and servant hood that we see reflected in Christ Himself; a tender preference that can only be found in Him.

For Christ, His treasured circle of relationships included the 12 men given to Him by the Father. Not only do we see in John 13:1 that He loved them unto the end, but also in the first portion of John 17, His love demonstrated to them in the High Priestly Prayer (and for us, too, later in that same chapter).  And though He lost Judas, we find that it was not Christ’s choice to walk away from Judas, it was the other way around.  There was no time at all that Christ ever walked away from Judas or made the decision on Judas’ behalf to end that relationship.

I know one day you will heal, and you will meet another who becomes the desire of your heart. The time will be right and he will be the one. So how is the love, respect, and servanthood that Christ demonstrated reflected in a marriage?  The marriage covenant one makes with another is by far deeper than just the partnership-like commitment one makes in a dating relationship.  It is you giving of yourself to another person 100% of the time, at all times, no matter what the circumstance.  It is not conditional and has nothing to do with a keeping of the scores as one would in a partnership.  Partnership implies that “here is where I draw the line and will go no further, because it is up to my partner to step up to that line on their side – and if they don’t, well then that is that”.

Covenant, on the other hand, implies “till death do us part”. Practically speaking that means even if my spouse makes the decision or finds himself in a position where he never gives, never respects, never prefers, never loves, never “steps up to the line”, because of the covenant I have made in Christ, I have no right to walk away.  I don’t keep score.  I have no expectations placed upon my spouse.  Regardless of what he does, my obligation is to love, respect, and have a servant’s heart towards him anyway, until death do us part. We can do this because all our expectations and hopes are not on our spouse to fulfill, but are rather on Christ Himself.

You may find yourself in the situation I describe by his choice, which is often a cause for divorce these days. Or you may also find yourself in this situation due to other circumstances, such as disease or a tragic accident. Not by his choice, not where he would want to be.  But you will always have the choice in whatever circumstance to love him as Christ loves you, even if he cannot return that love; even in times where he would not be able to provide for you the way the world dictates a man should; even in times when it appears no one else is having to go through those same experiences, and you find yourself weary in well-doing.  Remember, when we are weak, Christ is our strength.

I do not want you to think I am advocating placing oneself in harms-way, I am not. We do what is necessary to preserve the relationship and to also preserve and protect life, and hopefully we all make better decisions than to covenant with one who, of their own choice, does not wish to keep that same covenant. There is always that risk.  But, as we take the time to really treasure and get to know one another, we can trust God in the Holy Spirit to work within each other to blossom and grow the love in the relationship in ways we could never have imagined, especially in times of weakness.  And we too can join Christ in saying that we loved our treasured ones “to the end”.

So as you move forward from this experience, I hope you take my words with you. I hope you think about them within the relationships around you that God has given you, and are able to apply them to those treasured ones the way Christ does for us. Keeping the right perspective in any relationship is key to its survival.

 

Why Did Uzzah Have to Die?

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I was reading from 2 Samuel chapter 6 recently and came across the story of poor Uzzah, who died after reaching out to steady the Ark of the Covenant.  They had placed the Ark on a cart that was being pulled by oxen, and the oxen nearly caused it to overturn.  Uzzah stretched out his hand to steady it and keep it from falling.  It seemed like such a noble thing to do, right, to steady the Ark so it wouldn’t fall off the cart?  So I could not help but wonder to myself why God chose to smite this guy right there on the spot.  I had heard this story several times before, but never with a fuller understanding of what was the big deal, and why it cost poor Uzzah his life.

So I decided to turn to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, and have highlighted a few interesting tidbits:

  1. Uzzah may have been a Levite, but only priests were allowed to touch the ark.
  2. Uzzah’s offence seems small, but scripture was very clear, they must not touch any holy thing, lest they die. Num. 4:15 .
  3. Good intention will not justify a bad action.
  4. Uzzah was long familiar with the ark. The thought is that perhaps he wanted to show everyone how he could make with the ark, with it having been so long in his care he presumed God would wink at his actions.
  5. God saw the presumption and irreverence of Uzzah’s heart.
  6. David afterwards owned that Uzzah died for an error they were all guilty of, which was carrying the ark in a cart. Because it was not carried on the Levites’ shoulders, the Lord made that breach upon us.  1 Chr. 15:13
  7. If it was so great a crime for one to lay hold on the Ark of the Covenant that had no right to do so, what is it for those to lay claim to the privileges of the covenant that come not up to the terms of it?

What led up to this event?  The Philistines had stolen the ark, but had had given it back after a time because it literally caused a plague to fall on the Philistines in whatever city they tried to keep it within.  In the process of giving it back, it wound up within the personal home and care of Abinadab and his two sons, Ahio and Uzzah.  It stayed in this home for so long it was nearly forgotten by the younger generation, and Saul, the previous king (although he wanted to be blessed by God) seemed to care nothing about it.  But when David became King over all Israel, he wanted the Ark to have a place of honor, and was intending to move it from Abinadab’s home to the city of David (Jerusalem).

Here is a sacred, holy object that represents the very presence of God and is a type of Christ, and Uzzah has been the one caring for it for many years now as a result.  Somewhere along the way, he seems to have developed a sense of entitlement and privilege that Matthew Henry refers to as “familiarity”.  He was too casual with the Holy Presence of God, and as a result became irreverent.

The last point in my Matthew Henry list (#7) speaks about the laying claim to the privileges of the covenant that one has not come up to the terms of, and so I could not help but wonder what holy things of God we have also become too casual with?  Acts 4:12 says “and there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved”.  Do we presume upon His blessings without meeting the terms of His new covenant?

How does this tie in today with our programs, works, and service to God?  Have we become complacently familiar with our ideas about Christianity?  Do we see Him as holy? Are we willing to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily to follow Him (Luke 9:23), or have we become so familiar that we don’t recognize His holy presence when we see it, and choose to be irreverent in the process?  Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me”.  These are the terms of the new covenant. Maybe, like Uzzah, it becomes necessary for us to “die” (to self) as well, so that we can live in Him!

 

The Measure of a Nation

Further explore Genesis chapter 15 with me and discover what I mean by “The Measure of a Nation”, how that applies to the United States, and what we can do about it.

This is a call to action. If you love America, I hope you will take the time to read this, pass it on, and join with me in prayer for God to extend our measure.

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Is America doomed?  Over the last decade as I have watched this nation plunge warp speed into darkness, I have often asked that question and wondered what should I, or we as Christians, do about it?  What could we do about it?  Is it too late to do anything?  Where in the middle of this is a Christian today supposed to land?

Interestingly enough I was reminded recently of a conversation I had years ago with one of my cousins.  As she and I were pondering some of what we considered at the time to be big deep mysteries of God and life, one question that came up between us was why God would allow for ancient Israel, after wondering for 40 years in the desert, to just waltz right into a land that had already been settled and built up by other tribes and nations, annihilate everything and just take over?  If you are at all a student of history then you know this happens quite repeatedly with peoples throughout the world. But on that day, we found ourselves wondering why God would not have shown mercy to these people by sending the Israelites to some unoccupied territory instead.

Don’t ever think that God is not listening to the questions you ask, even the ones you ask silently.  He is always listening, and sometimes even if you think He has forgotten or doesn’t care to answer, in time He always responds.  The question is, are you listening?

So it was that a few days ago as I was reading my favorite devotional, I came across a verse that prompted me to once again read the covenant God made with Abram (who later became known as Abraham) in Genesis chapter 15, and that is when I stumbled across it – the answer to our question from those years back, and just how it all ties into our situation here in America today!

To quickly give you a bit of background, God is telling Abram that his heir was going to be a son born of his own body.  Then he took Abram outside and asked him to count the stars, if he could, and said “so shall your offspring be”.  Now that is one big generational family!

The Lord also told Abram in verse 7, “I am the Lord , who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But first there were things that had to take place, and things that had to be accomplished.  And that is when I saw it…

“In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” ‘ Genesis 15:16 (emphasis mine)

Now the Amorites were one of the larger, stronger tribes occupying the land at the time.  Did you know that from the time Abram first received this promise until the time the Israelites first took possession of that land was approximately 650 years?  What can we learn from this?  Here’s a few things I picked up from Barnes Commentary (parenthesis added):

  • The Lord foreknows the character of people (this is not to say He predestines them to behave in such manner, only to say He knows ahead of time their character and the choices they will make).
  • The Lord administers the affairs of nations on the principle of moral rectitude
  • Nations are spared until their measure is full (and I believe individuals are as well).

We see other passages referencing the full measure in Jeremiah 51:13, “O you who dwell by many waters, Abundant in treasures, Your end has come, The measure of your end”, and  in Matthew 23:32 with Jesus speaking to the scribes & Pharisees “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers”.  See also 1 Thessalonians 2:16.

So the Lord, in all His long suffering and loving kindness towards His creation, allowed the sin of the Amorites to continue some 650 years until their sin as a nation had reached its full measure. It was only then that He brought judgement upon them in the form of Israel.  Now that is what I call mercy! It might be interesting to note, too, that Israel was enslaved in Egypt for 400 of these years while they waited, so there was a lot of preparation taking place there as well.

The question being, how does this tie into us today?  Has the sin of the nation of the United States reached its full measure?  Can the measure be extended?  We only need to turn back to scripture to get our answer.

Take the story of Jonah, for example.  It’s a short book and doesn’t take long to read, but verses to highlight include Jonah 1:2; 3:10; and 4:2.  The wickedness of Nineveh had come up before the Lord, so He sent Jonah to preach to them and urge them to repent.  Nineveh repented, and the Lord relented!  Now there’s a great headline for you!

There is also the story of King Hezekiah, found in 2 Kings 20:1-7.  Hezekiah was mortally ill, sick unto death.  When he was told of this, he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord extended Hezekiah’s life for another 15 years!

I believe what these accounts tell us is that yes, the measure can be extended!  I also believe the key to the extension is prayer and repentance.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (emphasis mine).

My people.  If you are a Christian, that’s you! Are you a Christian living in America? Will you continually bow your knee with me and beg God for mercy on the behalf of the United States of America, so that we as a nation may once again experience a time of refreshing for us, our children, and our grandchildren?  Can we agree to repent from our Laodicean, lukewarm ways, and once again embrace His holiness?  I pray we will.

The Gift

Have you found what you’v been looking for?

Somewhere along life’s journey we each go in search of something to try and fill a void, a hole in our hearts that we cannot explain and often don’t even realize is there, but is that thing we’ve been pursuing our whole lives. Love? Nirvana? Personal truth? Money? Family? Power?Control? Heightened sensuality? Fill in the blank.

Author A.W. Tozer once said “to have found God and yet still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love”. Why? Because he discovered the One who could fill the void! The One who put eternity into our hearts in the first place,

  • So that we would seek to know Him
  • So that we might discover again and again the unending and vast treasure that He is, this Creator of the universe who chose to be born as one of us
  • So that we might become one with Him
  • So that we might know what is absolute Truth in an upside down world, where apart from Him nothing makes sense

My friend, are you on this journey? Jesus said when you seek Him, He will be found of you. He is the only One who can begin to unravel for you the mysteries of your life, reveal to you His purpose, and help you see how deep, how wide, and how vast is His love for you.

It is the gift of salvation given to us. There is no limitation to how much God can fill you with His love if you are willing to open that gift.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Merry Christ-mas!

Chasing the Messiah

I watched a movie last night called “Chasing the Star”, intrigued by a possible story of the Magi in search of the Star of Bethlehem, proclaiming the birth of the Messiah, the Christ child.  I wish I could tell you I liked it, I really had high hopes.  As I thought of why, or what made me not like it, I realized it wasn’t so much the unusual artistic style, it was more than that.  It was a sense of knowledge cloaked in shallow truth, but lacking in Spirit.  The Magi of the bible were in search of the Christ child, and were very sure of their purpose and destiny.  The story line in the movie portrayed the Magi in search of their own path to salvation (sounds nice, right) – except the “salvation” they received in the end had nothing to do with Christ.  It was a “universal god” instead.

I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar or historian.  I don’t have a formal degree in theology. What I do have is the mystery of God within me, the presence of our Lord and Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  He is the One True God of this universe, and the only path to the Father above.  With His Holy Spirit living inside of me, to be my teacher, my guide, my comforter, and the one who completes the work of redemption within me, I realized that through my intimate relationship with the living God, I had more insight to the truth than the message this film delivered.  I realized, too, that in my desire to know God, my daily reading of scriptures provided me with answers this film was lacking.

Why do we so often find ourselves satisfied with half truths, gobbling up half baked speculations as easily as we would a Thanksgiving turkey?  We have been conditioned by our culture and society to not think independently, allowing ourselves to be shamed into not holding an opinion contrary to the popular flow of ideas.  The path of least resistance makes it easy to believe in a god who is only merciful and loving but somehow not just or holy, one who would allow any and all paths to lead to a blissful eternal dwelling whether it was deserved or not.

Even in this movie we find the character representing Satan arrogantly boasting that, although God may have cast him out of Heaven, He would never destroy him.  I have news for you, Satan, your days are numbered!  I know that because the Word of God through scripture has spoken it, and the words of God never fail, they always accomplish His purpose.

The message of the Universal Church is not aligned with the teachings of scripture.

Have you found what you are looking for?  Do you have a drive within you that you cannot explain, one that is leading you to seek and to know what is truth?  The message of the Universal Church will tell you there is no absolute truth, that all is relative, and each person must discover what is their own truth.  How is that working out for you?

The bible tells us that we can know the Truth, and that the Truth will make us free.  There is only one God, and one path to Him, and that path is through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself.  Why?  Why is His blood necessary?  We don’t like to think in those terms today because it seems gruesome (and yet we often can watch horror and violence on TV all day long). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.  Yes, I said sin in a singular tense, not a plural.  Sin, as a whole.

Sin is the thing that keeps us separated from God.  Jesus Christ shed His blood to save us from our sin, and to reconcile us with the Father.  He paid the price required, because He knew that there was nothing we could do in and of ourselves to earn it.  The sacrifice He made is a gift, offered freely to all individuals throughout time. The choice is ours.

Are you chasing after the Messiah this Christmas?  Have you found Him?

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”  Isaiah 55:6, NASB

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”  Deuteronomy 4:29, NASB

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:31-36

The Golden Thread

I could not remember the last time I saw the light.  It must have been sometime early in my childhood.  For years now, longer than I can remember, I had lived in a world of darkness. It was not a welcome place.  There was no one here that was genuine. Like the veneer surfaces you see on furniture, hiding the cheap wood underneath, laughter and happiness here were superficial. It seemed contradictory in a place where there were no rules, as you would think if we were all free to do as we pleased, we would be pleased!  That was not the case.  Instead, it was a dark world full of dark hearts, people groping about, void of warmth and light and love.  Kindness was a cloak for an ulterior purpose.  The landscape was harsh and unforgiving.  The culture was everyone for themselves.  It was a way of life.  Trust and hope were not part of the vocabulary here.

Sometimes I used to lay awake at night and dream with my eyes open.  I dreamt about the light and tried hard to remember what it was like.  Even though this was my world, where I lived, where most of my family was, along with those who claimed to be my friends, there was something deep within me I could not explain that longed for it still.  This present darkness may be all I knew, all I was used to and actually comfortable with most times, yet still I was drawn by the light.  A light that no one here talked about and if they did, it wasn’t long before you never saw them again.  I wondered sometimes, was I alone?  Would I ever see light again, or was it all just a dream?

Then I saw it!  A golden thread.  It was a small, tiny glimmer of brilliant color so bright that I was fixated on it. I had to touch it!  Reaching out, I grabbed ahold and pulled.  It kept going!  Hand over hand I kept grabbing hold of the thread, following where it led.  Soon the thread began to grow thicker.  The color wasn’t just gold, it was a gold that radiated like a warm lightning bolt that didn’t hurt to touch.  As it became thicker it was like a string, then a ribbon.  Sometimes it wasn’t always laid in a straight line.  There were twists and turns, highs and lows.  At times, it seemed to even disappear and yet I always found it again.  Or did it find me?  Either way, I did not care, it looked so much like light I was compelled by it and I gladly left all to follow it.  It was not long before the thread, turned string, turned ribbon, turned into a road that I found myself walking on.  I was now walking on a road of light that led to a great city of brilliant light, so beautiful off in the distance that I could hardly keep from getting emotional!

As I bowed my head and tears filled my eyes at the beauty that lay ahead, I saw and felt a river of blood flowing around my feet.  There, in the middle of the road of light, was a cross with a man hanging on it.  The blood was his.  In horror, I looked up and our eyes met.  “I did this for you”, he said.  For me, I thought?  Why would anyone die and agonizing death like that for me, for what purpose?  But I swallowed hard because I instinctively knew.  The world of darkness I had left behind was a world I had chosen myself to live in, and the darkness that cloaked the light was sin, a sin that kept the light hidden from me.  In a rush of sorrow, I felt unclean, and wondered how anyone like me, full of darkness and sin, could ever live in a city of light.  Then his words echoed in my heart.  “I did this for you… ”

I looked down again and noticed for the first time that my feet were white as snow!  There was no darkness, nothing unclean about them.  The blood had washed them clean!  I looked up at the man, who by this time had breathed his last, and I understood that it was only by his blood that I could be washed clean from my sin and darkness, so that I, too, could live in the presence of the light!  Without hesitation I dove into the river of blood.  There was something within me that died whenever I bathed in it.  Raising up out of that river, I felt newly alive, unlike anything ever before!

I had no sooner began walking back down the road of light when I was met by a stranger.  I say stranger, yet somehow, I felt as if I had known him for years.  Oddly enough, there were times when, out of the corner of my eye, he looked… just like… the golden thread!  Could it be?  I rubbed my eyes a time or two as he came near.  “Hello friend”, he said. I had heard that familiar voice before, and it was then that I realized it was He who I had been chasing after in my dreams.  How comforting to know He had been with me all along, even in the darkness.  He had been the glimmer of hope that turned into the golden thread, that became a string, that became a ribbon, that became a road, who revealed Himself to me first as my Savior, and then as my Comforter.

I knew then that I would never again feel alone or unloved.  Soon there were others all around me that were also walking the road of light.  One by one I began to recognize some as having been in the world of darkness with me.  Now we were no longer there, and together we walked hand-in-hand on this journey with our Comforter, towards that great city of light!

In Remembrance of Joann

Who are the “invisible ones” in your congregational gatherings?  You know, those who perhaps come into the service a little late, prefer to keep to themselves or don’t speak to many people, and tend not to hang out after the service has ended. They show up on occasion, and then several weeks go by before anyone notices they are no longer around.  Do you know of anyone like that?

We often spend much time and effort strategizing over marketing campaigns designed to bring people in.  We have bulletins, flyers, invitation cards, banners.  We develop programs and offer gifts and free food.  We dedicate time in service helping to man stations, direct parking, make coffee, and greet warmly.  All so they can feel welcome while we all collectively listen to our pastors and leaders encourage us in the faith.  All of which is good. But do we ever take it beyond these touch points?

The truth is, no program is enough in and of itself to sufficiently replace individual discipleship through one-on-one relationship.  One-on-one, not one-to-many.  In many ways, our gatherings have become sound-bite communities, assimilating information in small chunks that require no depth or length of time.

If by thinking we have done our part within these organized meetings only to then give no particular focus towards these people the rest of the week, then we rob ourselves of the richness and blessing that comes in connected fellowship.  It is a level of fellowship that goes beyond surface courtesies, into the realm of long-term sacrificial love for each other.  It is the realm that allows us to be open, honest, admit our faults, struggles, and weaknesses, to build one another up and encourage each other to become one with our Lord and one with each other as the body of Christ.  The Christians of the new testament did life together.  They went as deep within conversation as we go wide.

I pray that none of our christian gatherings ever grow so impersonal that one can leave being the same stranger they walked in as, and that we remember it is not the numbers but the individuals that matter most to God.  The one-to-many is only a small part of where life happens.

So, the next time we see these “invisible ones”, may we all make an effort to reach out, to connect, to fellowship with, listen to, and pray for them.  As we are being discipled ourselves, we can disciple in turn.  Not to create “mini-me” versions of ourselves, our beliefs, for our own agendas and purposes, but to look together towards Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith, and to His glory.

NEXT TIME YOU THANK A VETERAN…

The next time you thank a Veteran,

  1. Thank them with your vote, to help ensure the freedom they sacrificed for, and secure it for future generations.
  2. Thank them by teaching your children to love, honor, and respect our history, our flag, our country, and those who sacrificed for our freedom.
  3. Thank them with your passion, to take the time to educate yourself and learn the lessons of history, so we all avoid evil from being repeated and revisiting future generations, thereby promoting peace and keeping other veterans from having to pay the ultimate price like those no longer with us today.
  4. Thank them with your prayers, for those currently in service, for those who have suffered injury and loss, for those struggling with their experience, some homeless, and many often in search of hope.

This is not to say you cannot thank them with your words, but to ensure your words and their sacrifice do not become meaningless.

That is the best way we can say thank you to our Veterans.

Every step this country takes towards a socialist society is a step backwards, not forwards. It is a step away from the forward thinking of our Founders and of the constitution that guarantees the rights of the individual, not of the masses, to a place where freedom is denied from one human to another.

Esau I Hated

“but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.””
‭‭Malachi‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I believe there is a reason why the Lord wanted us to know He hated Esau. This verse in Malachi is echoed again in Romans 9:13. It is the only time we see God specifically mention that He hated rather than loved, so I believe it is worth paying attention to.

Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. If you remember, his brother Jacob received the birthright instead. Jacob, who was later called Israel, and by the promise made to Abraham, through him all the nations of the earth are blessed. That could have been Esau, but he chose to trade the eternal for the immediate. Not only did Esau cheat himself, he also cheated his descendants.

Are you willing to trade Heaven later for all this world has to offer here and now? Are you willing to sacrifice your family for a “bowl of stew”?