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
Advertisements

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”?

Fearless

Fear is a strange thing, isn’t it?  Have you ever been gripped by a fear that firmly held you into place, paralyzing you so that you were unable to clearly think or move forward?  There is every kind of fear imaginable; fear of heights, fear of death or dying, fear of living, fear of speaking, fear of harms way, crowds, clowns, spiders, flying, being alone… I could go on, and there is a unique name for all of them!

One fear in particular that I imagine touches us all at one point or another in our lifetime is the fear of death.

The more I move into a deeper relationship with my Creator, the One True God and savior, Jesus Christ, the less fear I experience in my life.  I realize His presence is the absence of fear, and under His wings I can sing for joy.  I realize that it does not matter if I am at home with family or in harms way on a battlefield with bullets whizzing past my head, the number of days my God has ordained for me was written long before I was born.  If today is the last day I am ordained to live, no circumstance can change that.  If today is not my last day, no circumstance can change that either!  Death does not discriminate, but it does not have the power to do its own thing.  It is subject to Christ!

I don’t know about you but I find that very freeing!  Fear has lost its grip and I am free to move, live, and have my being!  I also know as a child of God that my being is encircled, wrapped in Christ.  Does that mean I am bullet proof?  No, of course not!  The Lord may know my last day on this earth but I certainly do not.

What I do know is this, I can live my life in service to God, fulfilling His purpose for me, and glorifying Him free of fear in the process.  Why?  Because whether in life or in death, I am in Christ.  So if the “process” finds me in harms way, the circumstances do not change the fact that I am hidden still in the shadow of His wings.  I can do as He leads, go where I am called to go, do what I must, and I can teach my children to be fearless warriors in Christ!

You can be free of fear as well.  Do you know Jesus Christ?  He tells us in Proverbs 8:17 that “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me“.  The scripture also says in 1 John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love”, and John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.  Do you believe?

Perhaps you are already a believer and know there are fears in your life you need to let go of.  Here are a few verses that may help:

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” Acts 17:28

“For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.” Psalms 63:7

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” Psalms 4:8

Faith

Hoping to catch some fall colors and breathtaking views, recently my husband and I decided we would take a trip through the Wet Mountains to see the Sange de Christo Mountain rage just west of WestCliffe, Colorado.  We had been watching the weather forecast closely, as heavy clouds and rain was being predicted over most of the state, and this area seemed like our best chance at decent weather.

In the morning prior to heading out I had been once again reading Hebrews chapter 11, called by some the “Hall of Faith”, as it walks us through multiple examples of those who have gone before us.  The common denominator in all of them was they had chosen to demonstrate to us the meaning of that very first verse : “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. 

As we were on our way out of the city, the clouds were so heavy and low it was almost like fog in some places.  Not always rain but very wet. I was constantly having to wipe the windshield.  My husband said “I don’t know, honey, I’m not so sure we will get out of this.”  “Well”, I said, “the weather forecast for Westcliffe was partly cloudy with only a 15% chance of moisture”.

Several times along the way, my husband continued to expressed doubts that we would be able to see anything at all.  There was a certain ridge, however, on the passage over the Wet Mountains that I had become very fond of, as once crested, became a window to the entire Sange de Christo range.  It was so breathtaking!  My hope was that once we reached that height, we would pull out of the thick cloud cover and all would be well.   To that my husband said, “perhaps, but we’ll be looking down on the clouds then and still may not see much of anything.  I laughed, but began secretly to wonder if he may be right.

That was when the Lord reminded me of that first verse in Hebrews 11.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for…” The weather forecast certainly gave me hope!  “…the conviction of things not seen”.  I had seen previous evidence and certainly had the conviction, the belief, that the sun was shinning beyond the clouds, and was sure hoping we would pull out of those clouds sometime soon.

Then, all of the sudden, it happened at exactly the point I had predicted.  BOOM, there was an abundance of blue sky and sunshine overhead as we drove right out of those clouds and left them all behind.  In front of us was one of the most glorious views of those mountains I had ever seen!  It had snowed on top of them the day before, a local told us later.

It was spectacular in more ways than one, as I was able to experience first hand a very practical application of what it meant to have faith.  And the faith I was expressing was in the weather forecast, no doubt!  But it allowed me to catch a glimmer of what faith in God Himself could really do, and for that I am grateful.

Who have you placed your faith within?  What is it that you are hoping for?