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Jul. 5, 2021

A BEHIND THE SCENES GOD

 

“God is our refuge and strength,

 a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

 

Go back with me in your mind’s eye to a time described in Joshua 5:13-15. The year is 1541BC in the land of Canaan just north of the Dead Sea at a place called Jericho. Joshua and the Hebrew people have just miraculously crossed over the Jordan River into the land promised to them by God. They thought they would just walk in and settle the land with no effort on their own, but God had a different idea. In order to keep the land safe from hostile invaders, they had to learn to be warriors.

After crossing into the promised blessing they come before their first on-the job military training exercise the fortified garrison city of Jericho!  This was a seemingly impossible task for the Hebrew recruits. Joshua had come across Jericho 40 years earlier as one of the 10 spies Moses sent to scout out the land and was a formidable fortress. Being a fortress city, it garrisoned thousands of seasoned and highly skilled military troops. In case of an invasion by enemies on the east side of the Jordan River, their task was to crush them there or if not, to hold them there until help arrived.

Jericho was about 9 acres in diameter and was known to have the oldest known protective walls in the world. There were two walls protecting the city. The first was a 12 ft high stone wall with a narrow road on top. Behind that was a 30 ft wide steep upward land mass to be used as a killing zone. Then adjacent to that was another stone wall with watchtowers and a road that could fit two chariots on top. It stood 28ft higher than the lower ground level.

So, we find Joshua out alone facing this very intimidating obstacle. He praying to God and wondering how to fight this battle. It seems impossible and daunting as he pours his heart out to God for direction.

No sooner has he finished praying when he looks up and sees a warrior with a drawn sword standing before him. Now a warrior doesn’t unsheathe his sword unless he intends to use it. Joshua was preparing himself to battle this man alone in the desert. Joshua asks, “Friend or foe?” The warrior tells Joshua that he is not part of either army, but the Commander of the Lord’s angelic arm, and has come to lead the Hebrews to victory! Joshua recognizes this is a human appearance of Almighty God and worships Him. Joshua surrenders leadership of the Hebrew army and nation to this Divine. He asks the Lord what His orders are. Joshua has found his answer – when facing impossible situations, the battle is not his, but the Lord’s!

Joshua follows His Commanders seemingly silly orders and the city walls came tumbling down outward, and it was taken without a Hebrew loss. They were to march in procession once around the city, one time per day for six consecutive days with trumpets blowing continuously as they marched. The seventh day would be different. On that day, Joshua instructed the people to march in absolute silence seven times around the fort. Then they were to stand still and at Joshua’s command they were to shout a war cry. Upon doing so, behind the scenes, the Lord and His angelic army pushed the walls from the inside out. Once the obstacles fell the Hebrews could take the city.

The good news is that in whatever Jericho you face in life, Jesus is already behind the scenes working on your behalf. Follow Joshua’s example of faith, prayer, and obedience and you will discover that God is indeed with you. Take heart for there is nothing you and God cannot get through together!

As always, see you next time and have a great day!

Apr. 16, 2021

DEALING WITH THE BILLIARD BLUES

 

“Let everything that has breath, praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

Psalm 150:6

 Sometimes life is like racked billiard balls. Just when you feel that you finally have it together, out of the blue – “Wham!” We get hit, all our plans and relationships are scattered, and then to top it off the cue ball tracks us down to pick off our remaining places of peace one by one. But then what did you expect living on a pool table? We live in a fallen world, so “billiard moments” will happen.

 You were made to praise the Lord. God has placed within each redeemed soul a remedy for the “billiard blues”. He has set a spiritual song of praise in your heart.  It is a Divine key to unlock the prison doors of worry, fear, confusion, and hopelessness that capture your soul. Praising the Lord causes you to transcend your circumstance and rest in the love of your great God. Your life is to be a song to the glory of God. You are the trumpet of Jesus proclaiming His grace to all.

 What are you praising when trouble troubles you? What you magnify gets you.  When captured by circumstances what do you do? Grumble or sing? Are you a whiner or a winner?  Praise recalibrates and refreshes your spirit. God works best for those who leave the details to Him. He is the God of infinite possibilities. If you're feeling depressed, praise the Lord!                    When you do, you will find peace in the storm, and joyful hope for tomorrow. Singing praise is like placing sandbags to stem the raging floodwaters of emotion that can overwhelm your soul. In prayer, you tell God how big your problems are; in praise you tell your problems how big your God is!

 There are two realms in which praise plays a part in your life. He will either deliver you out of the trial, or grant you His grace to endure it. Either way God is glorified. When “stuff happens” you can look from your discouragement to the God who is your refuge and strength in all things.

 That’s what Paul and Silas did in Acts  16:16-26.  Talk about a bad day!  Paul & Silas were in the dark damp prison because they had cast an evil spirit out of a slave girl who was daily harassing them. Her owners lost money from her fortune telling, so they accused them of destroying their business and ruining her as their property.  They were taken prisoner and dragged by horses through the city streets. Their backs were torn open because of the sting of the whips.  Their hands and feet were chained, and they could hear the scramble of rats scurrying across the dark prison floor. At midnight Paul lifted his head and asked, "SiIas, are you there?" Silas answered, "Yes, I'm here.” Paul replied, "SiIas,  I feel a Hallelujah coming on!"  Silas answered, "OK, you start and I'll join in." So together they began to sing praises unto the Lord.  The sound of their rejoicing filled the dark cell, made its way out into the hall and through the roof and up into the outside air.

 It rose through the atmosphere, ionosphere, stratosphere and every other fear.  It made its way right up to the throne of God. God was sitting on His throne and leaned over to the angel Michael and said, "I hear a song." Michael said, "Lord, heaven is filled with song." But God leaned forward, put His hand to His ear and said, "This isn't just any song. I hear Paul and Silas singing a duet of praise.” God began tapping His foot. Down on earth the dungeon quakes and the shackles holding them are loosed. The Bible says heaven is God’s throne and earth His footstool. As God tapped His foot, the ground quaked in the prison below and Paul and Silas were freed!

 The good news is that when the “billiard blues” hit, you have a key to overcome them – by praising the wonder, powerful name of Jesus Christ! So sing loud! You will be glad you did.

 As always, see you next time and have a great day!

Mar. 6, 2021

** BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND **

 

I LIKE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

 

“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

Acts 11:26

 

 I have to get something off my chest. My heart is bursting to tell everyone a simple fact. And that truth  is that, “I like the Christian life!” That’s right. I really do appreciate what Christ has done for me. I take pleasure in living for Him. Call me crazy, call me a fanatic – but,  I’ll say it again so everyone can hear. Make no mistake about it - “I like the Christian life.”

 In my life’s journey, I have become acquainted with, and have embraced wholeheartedly, the realities of Christ alone as being the only way to eternal salvation and life. I have learned much in my journey of faith while on this earth. I have experienced many Christian denominational trappings along this journey. I have appreciated the uniqueness that each part of the body of Christ brings to the world. 

 Although my outer religious practices may have changed over the years, my basic convictions have always remained steadfast – that I am sinner, that I need mercy, that I need salvation through a personal surrender and communion with Jesus Christ. My greatest pleasure in life has been to be a beloved child of God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, and to share in the Holy Spirit’s outpouring of love with others. I like to pray, worship, attend church, and to hang around Christians.

 Embracing the Christ of Christianity has been the best thing that ever happened to me. In January of 1970 when I surrendered my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, all my buddies told me, that  I should have waited. They said that I would be missing a whole world of fun. Most walked quietly out of my life shaking their head at the change that overcame me. Their kind of fun I could live without.

 I have always said that when I arrive in heaven there will be a mighty rushing wind. The wind will be all of heaven’s inhabitants opening their mouths to gasp in shock, “You’re here!”  That’s right, this ‘ol boy made it.  I am a mercy case sought by, saved by, and cleansed by Jesus Christ.

 I have learned that you won't lose a true friend, by heading God's call; for what is a friend, who'd want you to fall. Others find pleasure in things I have rejected.  In my 51 year walk with Christ, I have never been bored, or regretful of my decision. Life may not always have been easy, but because Christ was  with me there has always been a sense of enthusiasm, calm assurance, and hopeful challenge.

 I live as a traveler through this life. I do my best to be  a responsible citizen that brings honor to God. The reality is I have an eternal home awaiting me in heaven.  I've got a mother, a father, a son, and many friends and relatives already there who will greet me as I step cross over  to that eternal shore.

 Now I told you all of that to say this... “Yes, I like the Christian life.”  In it I find truth, love, peace, joy, hope, and satisfaction. I respect the beliefs of others, but I wish they too could experience the blessing of knowing Christ. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and to be named amongst His followers. I like to honor God by living in faithful humility, not self-righteous conceit. Thank God, I have not been perfect – just forgiven.

 The good news is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Yes, “I like the Christian life!”  How about you?

  As always, see you next time and have a great day...

Feb. 26, 2021

WHERE IS GOD IN ALL THIS MESS?

 

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would

see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13

 

 Life is full of messes. There are relational messes, personal messes, political messes, health messes, financial messes, social messes, economic messes – the list is endless. Christians live in an imperfect and fallen world. When we find ourselves in a big “mess” of a situation we can feel helpless as fear sets in. Many times in frustration to find a rational reason “why”, we end up blaming God, and some even lose their faith wondering if there even is a God.  Let us briefly look at two Biblical heroes who found a blessing in the midst of their messes.

 The first is  Gideon (Judges 6:11-14). Israel at this time had no governing ruler. God was to be their king. When a need arose, God would raise up a champion to fight the cause. Under the oppression of the bad guys, God’s people, were reduced to starvation. It was as if God had abandoned them. He had to press grapes in secret at night. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon with the message, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”  Gideon, living within Israel’s plight, in essence replied, “If God is with us why are we in this mess? Where is God in all this mess?” and “Where are all the miracles we have heard and read about?”  He made the common mistake of thinking that Israel was entitled to God’s protection and blessings despite the nation’s waywardness from God. The fact is that God owes us nothing. We are all mercy cases!

 The second Is David. In Psalm 27 he writes, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” David found God and a hope for the future in the midst of his messes.  And he had a lot of them. In David’s life he suffered through many hardships. To name a few: he lost a baby boy that was the offspring from an adulterous affair. He was hunted by an evil king who dedicated his life to killing David because he was jealous. He dealt with his own family issues – the rape of his daughter by her own half brother and then the murder of that son by his another brother, a coup to overthrow his throne by a disgruntled son, an adulterous affair that ended up in murder and the loss of a child. This is but a small portion of David’s life story.  He survived only by the power and grace of God. Throughout the psalm David goes back and forth remembering how God has delivered him in the past. This is what kept him going. The psalm starts and ends with patience, faith, and hope.

 As Christians when life gets messy, we need to stop, listen for and follow the voice of God. It is about keeping our head and heart when all about us is a mess. We can entrust ourselves to the care of your all-knowing God. The message to take with us in hard times is that when we cannot see His hand, we can trust His promises, and realize that He has not forsaken us. When trouble comes, when we feel alone and our strength is weak, and we ask where God is in it all - remember that God is right there with us to see us through the trial.  You have His Word on it.

 The good news is that because Christ is with us in times of trouble, we need fear, despair, or give up. The grace of God can be found even in the ugliest messes of our life. We sing the chorus, “God Will Make A Way”, and we should live our lives as if we believe it.

 As usual, see you next time and have a great day...

Feb. 12, 2021

 

A CUP OF COFFEE

 

“The light of the righteous rejoices...”

Proverbs 13:9

 

 Imagine with me, that you are in an afternoon coffee break room. It could be any break room, any place, anywhere. You are seated with other co-workers, acquaintances, and friends waiting for the fresh pot of coffee to finish brewing. The group begins sharing about the events of the day so far. The conversation soon turns into a complaint session about the stresses felt in both the job and home life – work conditions, long hours, kids, marriage, finances, relational drama, and the such. A common theme arises:  that life is hectic, full of discontentment, and that happiness seems to be forever elusive.

 On the counter is a large pot of hot coffee and an assortment of clean cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite.  One by one the individuals got up from the table, reached for a cup, and poured themselves some steaming hot, freshly aromatic coffee. When everyone was seated again with their steaming delight in front of them, one observant fellow thought out loud to himself,  "You know, we all grabbed for the  nicest looking and most expensive cups  leaving the plain and cheaper looking ones behind.”  The people sitting around him who overheard his comment looked at him in bewilderment as they sipped their coffee and continued to complain about the deplorable condition of their lives.  

 Oh well.  Such is life – or is it?

 The observant man was beginning to tap into a truth greater than his own shallow experience about life. As he quietly contemplated the significance of the coffee cup in his hand, he realized that while it may be  normal for people to want only the best for yourselves, that  this misguided perspective  was perhaps the very source of their problems and stress! He thought to himself, “A cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.” He began to realize that in most cases the more expensive looking cup was just a prettier container that like the less expensive one. And they both serve to hide what is on the inside.

 He began to see that what he and his friends really wanted was the coffee, not the cup!  They had missed the point, as they consciously reached for the best cups and foolishly thought that the coffee would taste better, or that the experience would be more meaningful.  Then as a little larceny in their souls set in, he observed they had even begun to eye each other's cups! He quietly continue to consider the drama playing out before him.  With all the chatter going on around him the thought, “Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain the ‘life’. In most cases, the type of cup does not define, nor change the quality of the ‘life’ we live.”  

 “Bingo-Bango-Wingo-Dingo!” A light went off in the observant man’s head. “Ahah! That’s it!”, he exclaimed. With a smile on his face, and sense of contentment  in his heart, he declared under his breath, “When in life, we concentrate only on the cup, we fail to appreciate and enjoy the blessing of the coffee God has provided us! God brews the coffee, not the cups... so I should learn to simply be thankful for and enjoy His gift of life to me! Yes, that is the source of true peace and happiness." Those sitting around him, who heard him, just shook their heads and continued their diatribe of communal grumbling.

 Now, I said all that to say this... The happiest people don't have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.  They love God dearly, they thank Him continually, they live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and treat others fairly. And yes, they know how to sit back and really enjoy a cup of coffee!

 As always, see you next time and have a great day!