Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mistaken Identity

 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;  and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. Matt 10:16-18

   Anyone with the slightest familiarity with history knows how frequently and chillingly these prophecies have been fulfilled. The fact that many of us in the West have for so long been largely exempt from the worst features of such persecution has let us lower our guard—even Christians may think that a hassle-free life is something that society owes us. But as the Judeo-Christian heritage of the West weakens, we may one day be caught up in realities that missions specialists know but that the rest of us sometimes ignore: the last century and a half have seen more converts, and more martyrs, than the first eighteen centuries combined.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Courageous Conversations...

They said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach.  The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”  So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:3-4

  Most of us spend our lives trying to project an image of beauty and competence.  Certainly, we want others to think highly of us, but one of the things I respect most are people who exhibit ruthless honesty about themselves and their situations. They are rare. I don't know if I am one of them. Nehemiah was however. 
  Nehemiah had a great job.  He was working closely with the king and he lived a life of luxury.  His heart, though, beat in unison with God’s heart.  He cared about the things God cares about and when he heard that the people in Jerusalem were suffering his heart broke.  He didn’t minimize the problem and he didn’t fly into a panic of mindless activity.  Instead, he let the brutal truth sink in, and he responded appropriately:  He sat down and wept.
  Nehemiah had a courageous conversation with the messenger and then he had a courageous conversation with God.  Only courageous people are known for their honesty.  It’s a lot easier to look the other way when we see needs in our lives or in the lives of people around us.  We can give the excuse that we’ve tried as hard as we can or that we don’t have time to help a person in need.  But excuses don’t cut it.  Like Nehemiah, we need to let the God's truth sink into our hearts so we can respond with genuine compassion. The Lord sacrificed His perfect Son that we might live and bring Him glory. How shall I live my life in light of this?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Who is God?

 “To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?" Isaiah 46:5
If our thinking about God is not correct then every other doctrine we apply our minds to will also be incorrect. This is the most important doctrine yet people seem to think they are free to make up their minds as to what God is like. So some who call themselves Christians say, ‘My god would never send anyone to hell.’ Such a statement is only possible if you ignore all that the Bible has to say and just impose your own thoughts on the subject. This attitude is responsible for what is possibly the greatest sin a person can commit—to reduce God to terms that are acceptable to us (Psalm 50:21). This is why in the Old Testament one of the sins that grieved God the most was idolatry. This is to substitute man-made objects and ideas in the place of the one true God (Jeremiah 10:3–5). It is a slander on the character of God and all worship that flows from it is worthless

Friday, January 4, 2019

Sincerity is not sufficient.


 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

  “God doesn’t care what you believe, as long as you’re sincere,” say many of our culture today.  “All religions lead ultimately to the same reality. It doesn’t matter which road you take to get there, as long as you follow your chosen road faithfully. Don’t be critical of the alternative roads other people choose.”
   To those who accept the Bible as God’s Word, this is crazy. What does the Bible say about following your chosen road faithfully? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 14:12). Jesus said, “The gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it” (Matt. 7:13). 
   It is Satan who doesn’t care what we believe—or how sincerely we believe it—as long as what we believe is error. To portray God as tolerant of all forms of worship is to deny the God of Scripture. After all, this was His first commandment: “I am the Lord your God.… You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:2–3).
  If we believe the Bible, we cannot concede that other religions might be true as well. If we believe that Christ is Lord of all, and if we truly love Him, we cannot go along agreeing with the doctrines of those who deny Him (1 Cor. 16:22). We must stand firm against the schemes of the devil by being firmly immersed and knowledgeable in God's Word, His Doctrines, and His Truth. 
  The content of our faith is crucial. Sincerity is not sufficient. We can be sincerely wrong.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

God's word....for War or Peace?


  Like many people, I use Scripture to defend my views. But so does Satan. In Matthew 4, the devil says: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ ”. In turn, Jesus responds with Scripture, “Again, it is written, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test’ ”
   While the devil used Scripture for his own purposes, Jesus used them for God’s. This teaches us that Scripture alone isn’t enough: it must be contextualized and balanced with other Scripture.
This story raises the question, “Will we use Scripture to defend our own positions, or use it to defend God’s?” It’s easy to quote Scripture only to defend our personal theological position. Sometimes we are too focused on being “right” and not necessarily on helping other believers. However, while we might believe that being “right” will ultimately help them, it’s possible that we’re inhibiting the gospel message instead. We might even be the one driving them away.
  When we use Scripture for our own gains or battles, we are acting like Christ’s tempter—not Christ. We might think that we are defending the gospel, but if it’s not about Christ’s virgin birth, suffering, death, resurrection, or continued presence in our lives, it’s really not about the fundamental truths. It’s about our battle—about what we want. Instead, let’s act more like Christ. Let’s use Scripture in the proper context, balancing it with other Scripture.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

No whining.....


“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. Revelation 22:12
We are to be rewarded, not only for work done, but for burdens borne; and I am not sure but that the brightest rewards will be for those who have borne burdens without murmuring. On that day He will take the lily, that has been growing so long among thorns, and lift it up to be the glory and wonder of all the universe; and the fragrance of that lily will draw forth ineffable praises from all the hosts of Heaven. (-Andrew Bonar)  

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Choices.


Therefore will we also serve the Lord; for He is our God. – Joshua 24:18

   To every person there comes that time when we must use our greatest power—freedom of choice.  There are set before us the good and the bad, the high and the low, the great and the small, the false and the true, the big and the little.  Out of all this we must choose.
   It is a pity that so much of our human power is consumed in making choices between those things that are material and temporal. Fading away.  So often we are content to choose only between the bad and the low, the small and the false.  It would be so much better to confine our choices to that which is good and high and the great and true and big.  It would be so much better for man to choose God.
But....we have to know Him. His word, His truth, His ways. That takes time, commitment, perseverance, ordering priorities.
   There is something final, satisfying and eternal in choosing God.  When we choose him it affects all minor decisions.  I pray I will sets my eyes more and more on Him and that the things of this earth, this life, will grow dim as I see His surpassing glory!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Pressing on....

... but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

  Paul was the greatest leader in the history of the church, but he wasn’t cocky.  He knew he was still a work in progress.  Paul’s days were filled with starting churches, managing leaders, and taking the gospel to everyone in the known world, but he reduced his job description to “one thing.”  We’d interpret his comments in management terms as the rigorous commitment to a singular objective that has two parts: not dwelling on the past, but reaching ahead to achieve the vision of the future.
  The past can bog us down in two distinctly different ways: Some of us feel ashamed by failures in our personal lives or in business, and our minds are haunted by those memories.  Every decision we make is colored by our grief and the fear that we’ll make the same mistake again.  Others of us, though, live in past glories.  We’ve enjoyed stunning success, but instead of using our gains as a foundation for future growth, we keep reliving those memories.  Living in the past, whether failed or successful, takes our lives out of focus.  Paul says, “Forget the past and move on.”  As a new year begins, I need to press on. This world, this nation, this life, have so many things that can get me distracted and take my eyes away from the Lord. I pray I will be more intentional in running His race as the new year unfolds. Welcome 2018.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas 2018


   2018 is almost over. This year was an emotional one marked with good times as well as an abundance of tears.
  The hard part was the sudden death of my brother-in-law Mark. He was diagnosed with cancer in early March and within 29 days passed away. He had turned 65 a few months earlier, not been ill, not had any symptoms, and was loving his retirement. Then gone. I spent many weeks in Ohio throughout the year helping my sister Debbie work thru her grief and all the “stuff” that takes place after the loss of a spouse.
    The good news of the year is that I retired completely from my pharmacy career at the end of December, 2017. It was time. Too many changes happening in the profession, so many new drugs, laws, regulations, insurance issues to keep up with. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. 40 years was enough. The timing was perfect (although I didn’t realize it then) since I was free to go to Ohio and help my sister and family as long as needed. I have totally enjoyed retirement ...no regrets.
    Mike loves retirement and has had a successful year with his lawn and landscape projects. Our yard resembles a small private park thanks to his labor of love. Exquisite!
    We both continue to enjoy hiking,  jeeping and living in Northern Arizona. Tons of  beautiful places to check out within a days drive of Sedona. We plan to do more “exploring” this coming year.
    I turned 65 this fall and am now a Medicare recipient. Hard to believe!
I am grateful that Mike and I are both pretty healthy, all things considered.
   As this  year winds down, I am reminded to embrace each day as if it may be my last one and to love the people that are in my life whether they are agreeable or not. Cookie, at 16+, is still my little senior bundle of joy.

    Thanking the Lord for a difficult but blessed year. 
             Have a Wonderful Christmas season!  
   

Seasons of Love




Lo, 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.  Song of Solomon 2:11-12
Romantic relationships, as well as our relationship with God, go through seasons.  Sometimes, we feel as if we’re in the midst of winter, mustering the discipline to keep going even through there’s little warmth.  The deadness of plants in late winter symbolizes the barrenness of our hearts, but it doesn’t last forever.  Soon, the first signs of spring appear, warmth returns, and hope fills our hearts.
We can lean a lot about walking with God by observing mature marriages.  They began with the heat of passion and the idealism of pure love, but when the honeymoon ended, reality hit husbands and wives hard.  A time of reassessment was necessary but challenging.  If they failed to rebuild their relationship based on realistic expectations and good communication, the marriage became an empty shell.  However, if the winter of discontent ultimately led to richer conversations and deeper affection, the marriage flourished as never before.
In the same way, many of us began our Christian experience with great joy and high hopes.  In those early days, God gave us wonderful experiences to confirm our faith, then sooner or later, He chose a more difficult curriculum for us.  Struggles, disappointments, and misunderstandings about the nature of the Christian life threatened our fledgling faith, but the winter season provided the opportunity to go deeper and grow closer to God.
In the seasons of the year, in romantic relationships, and in our walks with God, the beauty of spring doesn’t come without the dormancy of winter.  If we develop greater trust when it’s cold and dark, we’ll experience more love in the warmth of spring. (-Zig Ziglar)