Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peace


I grew up in an era where it was not uncommon for someone to hold up two fingers and say, “Peace.”

Likewise, the “peace” symbol was common on clothing and jewelry.  It’s still used in “retro” fashion.

Back then, “peace” was a one-word protest against the Vietnam war.

While I have no intention of dredging up all that nastiness once again, the point is that our concept of “peace” is much different than how the word is often used in the Bible.

We think of “peace” quite simply as the absence of war. But two thousand years ago, an angel of the LORD suddenly appeared to a group of shepherds near Bethlehem and the night sky burst open with brilliant light. The shepherds were terrified, but the angel (as they almost always do when they appear to a human) told them not to be afraid.

The angel went on to say that he brought them good news of great joy for all people because the long-awaited Savior (the Messiah!) had been born. The angel told the shepherds that the baby would be found wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

And then, in one of the scenes of the Bible which I so wish I could have seen, the night sky is suddenly FILLED with angels and they are singing:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)

Now, history records that at that time, the Roman empire was not engaged in war of any kind. To our way of thinking, the world was truly at peace.

But that’s not what the angels meant.

The Greek word used in the Bible is “eirene” (pronounced “i-ray’-nay”) and it means “to join or tie together into a whole.”

The angels meant that the news they bore would make us whole, to be at peace, not with our fellow men—but with God.

It means they were announcing that the Messiah was now here and all the peoples of the earth could now be at peace and whole with God, not through anything we had done, but because of God’s own good will for us! God had taken the first step--the only step—that could restore our relationship with Him!

As Jesus conducted His ministry, he used that same word many times. Often, he tells someone he has healed or whose sins He has forgiven to “Go in peace.”

Go and be whole. Be at peace with God.

As I was reading various verses where Jesus used that word, I came across the scene right after He had washed the feet of His disciples. He had explained that He must go away, but they would not be left as orphans. And the words He used to tell them the Holy Spirit was coming echoed back to that night when the sky was filled with angels:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

Despite protests and gestures and symbols, many wars have been fought since then.  As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in 1867:

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.


Even Jesus said wars and rumors of wars would continue up to the very end. But despite having seen the horrors of the Civil War, Longfellow concludes that same poem (which would later become a Christmas song) with an acknowledgement that the LORD God is victorious in the spiritual war:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the Right prevail.
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Today’s Praise

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians4:7 ESV)

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Red Kettles



All across America, one of the most common sights of the Christmas season is people standing next to red kettles ringing bells.

I used to enjoy hearing my change clink in one of those kettles as I exited a store at Christmas time. But  as we convert to a cashless society, I find my bank card doesn’t generate loose change.

We’re all familiar with the Salvation Army, but a couple of paragraphs in David Jeremiah’s book, “Signs of Life” intrigued me into doing some research on this Christian organization that is so visible at Christmas.

Founded in 1865 in London, England, by William Booth and his wife, Catherine, it was originally called the East London Christian Mission. Booth was a Methodist minister but his insistence on preaching to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute on the streets of London rather than from behind a pulpit led to disagreements with mainline church leaders and a split with the church.

Additionally, many churches did not accept Booth's followers because of their past. Undeterred, Booth challenged those Jesus had pulled from the pit to save others like themselves. Soon, they too were preaching and singing in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.

From its inception, the Salvation Army drew controversy. Pub owners, who found their business falling off as alcoholics and other “frequenters of public houses” were converted, formed the “Skeleton Army” which disrupted Salvation Army meetings by throwing rocks, bones, rats, tar, and other debris  at members.  

In fact, the bonnet designed for women by Catherine Booth in the early days of the Salvation Army was designed to deflect projectiles like these as the ladies ministered in high-risk areas of London.

The familiar Salvation Army brass bands were originally formed by a father and his three sons to protect William Booth from attacks by hooligans.

Historian E. H. McKinley wrote that Booth’s concept of the Salvation Army was for “wife-beaters, cheats and bullies, prostitutes, boys who had stolen the family food money, unfaithful husbands, burglars, and teamsters who had been cruel to their horses.”

Apparently, there was no shortage of “those people” at the time as 250,000 came to Jesus through the Salvation Army between 1881 and 1885.

Today, the Salvation Army operates in over 125 countries and provides services in 175 different languages. It has over 1.1 million soldiers and 4.5 million volunteers.

It is one the world’s largest social aid organizations in the world with 2004 operating costs in excess of $2.6 billion. It is the second largest charity in the United States and helps more than 32 million people in the United States per year. (That’s just over 10% of the population.)

The Salvation Army has been instrumental in relief and aid for both natural and man-made disasters for over a century. They are often the first organization on the scene of a disaster.

Since 1885, it has operated a tracing service to help find missing loved ones. It has missions to help veterans, prisoners, the elderly, the homeless, the hungry, to combat human trafficking, to offer youth camps, to help with Christmas gifts, and to free people from addictions.

Oh, and the tradition of those red kettles goes back to 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was at a loss as to how to fund a Christmas dinner for 1,000 of San Francisco’s poor.

I think Christmas might be just a little merrier if I were to stop by the bank and pick up a roll of quarters.

Today’s Praise

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 NIV)

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christian Media



 
As we look around at the world today and see (through the lens of the secular media) what seems to be an ever-increasing spiral into greater and greater sin and immorality all around us, please allow me to share some statistics with you that you won’t hear on the 10:00 TV news:

An estimated 45% of American adults tune into a Christian television program at least once a month. That’s over 109 million adults.*

An estimated 35% of American adults read a Christian magazine at least once per month. That’s almost 85 million adults.*

And who hasn’t noticed the recent wave of Christian movies?

In 2002, Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, began a movie production company called Sherwood Pictures with a donation of $20,000. Its first film, “Flywheel” was produced on a budget of that same $20,000, grossed $37,000 at the box office, and sold 600,000 copies on DVD. Subsequent films by the same company included Facing the Giants which made 102 times its budget, Fireproof which grossed 67 times its budget, and Courageous which made eight times its budget in the first ten days after its release.

The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Heaven is for Real, God’s not Dead, and many others have all been huge at the box office.

Hollywood has even taken notice, terming the phenomenon, “The Bible Boom.”

And speaking of the Bible:

Even though Americans bought $572 million worth of Christian books last year, that figure does not include the Bible. No list of current best sellers includes sales figures for Bibles because its sales tower above all other books. Bible sales range between $425 million and $650 million per year.

The Guiness Book of World Records estimates that six billion Bibles were printed between 1815 and 1975 and The Economist reported that 100 million new Bibles are being printed each year. The Barna Group found that 92% of American households have at least one Bible and the average is three per household.

A decade ago, Christian websites weren’t even on the radar screen of most people, but today an estimated 17 million adults spend at least some time visiting a Christian website at least once per month—just like you are doing now.*

And, since I am writing this for a Christian radio ministry, let’s not forget the almost 112 million American adults who listen to Christian radio once per month and the 39 million American adults who listen to Christian radio every day.*

Christian radio reaches 17 million people per year who never attend church.*

While there is no contesting the increase in lawlessness and the decline of morality all around us, you are not alone in your faith, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Truly, the Good News of Jesus Christ is not dead and there are literally millions out there ready and willing to hear it.

Today’s Praise

"Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Isaiah 55:3 (NASB)

 

*All statistics marked with an asterisk were obtained from a 2005 study by the Barna Group.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving



 
I recently had the privilege of listening to a sermon about envy in which the pastor used the parable of the workers who all received a day’s wage no matter how long they worked. (Matthew 20:1-16)

When the workers were paid at the end of the day, the ones who complained were those who worked all day, not those who received a full day’s pay for only two hours’ work.

In a way, it was unjust. It was unfair-- but not to the people who worked all day. They got what they deserved and what they agreed to.

It was unjust to those who only worked a short time but received a full day’s pay.

The landowner argues that it’s his money and he can do with it whatever he wants. “Or do you begrudge me my generosity?” he says.

And there it is.

Why is it that we think another person’s good fortune somehow cheats us? Is it because we view the world with only so many pieces of pie? Is it that if someone gets more than us we are certain it will somehow diminish the number of pie slices in our pie bank account?

But that’s not true at all. As a country, we have far more pie per person than at any other time in history. We have better health, bigger houses, better cars, and more of just about everything than our parents did.

Truly, we have more to be thankful for than ever before.

And yet, we are largely unsatisfied. We continue to strive for more and more.

As our daily bread falls from heaven, we gather it up. And even though we have more, it’s not our supplies that increase--it’s our desires.  It’s a never-ending viscous circle.

But the parable is not about our stuff, or even our daily bread.

What Jesus was saying with this parable was that those who come to believe, even at the last minute before death, will receive the same amount of eternal life in heaven as those who have believed since childhood. Some Bible commentators also conclude it’s about salvation for the Gentiles, who do not have the long history of belief in God the Jews did.

But no one I know begrudges the LORD this generosity. Yes! Lord, we say let all who come to believe worship you forever!

And when I consider the parable, it strikes me as just a little bit prophetic for what would later happen between Jesus and the thief on the cross next to Him.

“And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 ESV)

The thief, even though he lived a sinful life, comes to belief and repentance at the last minutes of that miserable life and he will enjoy the full reward of life and joy in heaven forever.

It’s not fair.

The thief doesn’t deserve it. Presumably, he didn’t strive against sin and temptation his whole life. He didn’t go to church every Sunday and tithe and feed widows and orphans. If he visited anyone in prison, it was probably one of his fellow criminals. He didn’t do any of the things “good Christians” should do. He says so himself, admitting he is receiving the just consequences of his actions. (Luke 23:41)

True, it’s not fair. He doesn’t deserve it.

But none of us do.

That’s why it’s called “grace.”

On this Thanksgiving, LORD, I thank you for the most precious, wonderful, amazing gift of all—the grace you showed us in sending your only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, to rise again, to take away all our sins and give us eternal life. Amen.

Today’s Praise

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Struggle

 
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)

Things have not been going so well lately.

Yesterday, I told my wife I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff that’s been going wrong.

But, I am not going to give the enemy of my soul the satisfaction of typing out a list of whining about that stuff.

 Don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving credit to the enemy for my troubles. At least one of them is my own fault and the rest are things that have happened just because they are the unavoidable result of things wearing out.

 As I was mulling over my woes this morning while driving to work, Announcer Steve Ware played a song by Holly Starr called “God Is.”

When all you see is here and now
and everything  is crumbling, falling the ground
this is just is a moment this is not forever.
But God is, God is,
greater than the fear you’re facing,
greater than the storm that’s raging.

The problems I have are temporary and passing away. They are momentary in the light of eternity and I absolutely refuse to let any of them diminish the glory that is due the LORD our God.

So, my response will be to praise the one true God!

Thank you, LORD, for creating the universe, the earth, and everything in it that shouts praises to your incredible wisdom, your indescribable beauty, your amazing creativity, and your unending love!

Thank you, LORD, for the light you spoke into being! I praise you that every day dawns with a glowing proclamation of new mercies!

Thank you, LORD, for all the blessings you grant me each day that I take for granted but shouldn’t. Thank  you for clean water, for sanitation, for food, for clothing, for transportation, for housing, for freedom from parasites and disease that people struggled with for centuries  but now are largely forgotten because of your incredible love and mercy.

Thank you, LORD, for all these conveniences around me that make my life so much easier. I thank you that you gave people the ability to conceive of, refine, and produce devices that make our lives easier than they have ever been since Eden. I praise you even when they fail because it reminds me that nothing made by human beings will ever be as perfect as you are, LORD! 

Thank you, LORD, for health for my family and I and your protection over us!

Thank you, LORD that you have set me in the midst of a free society where I can openly praise you and proclaim your great glory!

 Thank you, LORD, for the ministry you have given me in my work to love you and love others by serving them.

Thank you, LORD, for all the people in my life who help me with these minor, temporary struggles!

Thank you, LORD, for all the people in my life who love me even when my attitude does not honor you!

But most of all, THANK YOU LORD FOR JESUS!  Thank you that even though I am worthy of nothing good, out of your grace and mercy you sent your only begotten Son into this world to die on a cross for all my sins so that I and anyone else who truly believes in Jesus could spend all of eternity worshipping you and praising your holy name in the glory or your kingdom!

And thank you, LORD, that as I was driving home, Announcer Allen Jones played “The Struggle” by Tenth Avenue North. 

TODAY’S PRAISE
Hallelujah!
We are free to struggle
We're not struggling to be free
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children, drop your chains and sing

Hallelujah!
Death is overcome and we are breathing!
Hallelujah!
Our stone hearts become flesh that's beating!
Hallelujah!
Chains have been undone and we are singing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blessed Redeemer



 
Saturday’s are my “project days.”

Being a homeowner means I almost always have some project to complete on Saturday.

Saturday’s make me grateful that the LORD commanded Sundays as a day of rest.

When I first woke up last Saturday, my project list didn’t seem all that intimidating. While there really wasn’t that much on my internal list, it quickly grew as the clothes dryer quit drying clothes like it should,  a project I had forgotten came back to mind and could not be postponed, and the first project I tackled turned out to take two hours instead of twenty minutes.

Actually, that’s fairly typical.

And, I admit it had me pretty frazzled. In Biblical terms, the weeds of irritation, worry, and anger were rapidly growing up and choking off the wheat.

As I was driving on the way to accomplish the next task, my mind was swirling with all I had to do, how I was going to do it, what could possibly go wrong, what to do when it inevitably did go wrong and…

Then, “Blessed Redeemer” by Casting Crowns came into the car over Kinship Christian Radio.

Up Calvary’s mountain one dreadful morn
Walked Christ my Savior, weary and worn
Facing for sinners death on the cross
That He might save them from endless loss

Suddenly, the image of Jesus on that cross came clearly into my mind’s eye.

Blessed Redeemer, precious Redeemer
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading
Blind and unheeding, dying for me

Seems now I see Him...dying for me.

“Father, forgive them,” my Savior prayed
Even while His lifeblood flowed fast away
Praying for sinners while in such woe
No one but Jesus ever loved so

Ever loved so…

Gratitude washed away my worry. Humility brought perspective. All the problems I faced were nothing in comparison to the cross. Nothing.

And yes, I did finally accomplish my last task of the day late that evening.  Supper was late, and I hit the pillow very tired and worn.

And all the weariness and worry and endless lists of things to do that won’t last past that day fade away in the light of the truth contained in the last verse of that song.

Today’s Praise
Oh how I love Him, Savior and friend
How can my praises ever find end
Through years unnumbered on Heaven’s shore
My songs shall praise Him forevermore!

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Right Now


For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

A pastor I know recently raised an interesting point:

‘What will you be doing when Jesus returns?”

That can be a frightening thought.

The Bible says that when Jesus returns, no one will be expecting it but everyone will know it is happening.  (2 Peter 3:10 and Matthew 24:30-31 are two verses that tell of this, but there are many more.)

I don’t know about you, but it would be very embarrassing if the sky split open, there was a huge trumpet blast, and suddenly Jesus was coming down out of the clouds just as I was uttering words I would later regret directed at the driver in front of me who had committed the terrible infraction of driving exactly the speed limit.

Okay, scratch the word “embarrassing” in that last sentence and insert “heart-wrenching.”

But I do it all the time. Every day. 

Seriously, I could have a t-shirt printed with Paul’s “wretched man” lament:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:19 NIV)

That’s one reason every radio I own is currently tuned to Kinship Christian Radio.

What comes out of my radio is the full armor of God. Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, and God’s own Word are there whenever it’s on --reminding me that my real enemy is not the gentleman in the Buick with a light foot, but the enemy of my soul.

Even as I write this, Kinship Christian Radio is playing a song with the lyrics:

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet.

(Casting Crowns, “Jesus Friend of Sinners.”)

And the beauty of it all is that it’s all happening right now. Every day, 24 hours a day, God’s love and mercy and truth flow out over the air.

And it’s not just for some 56 year-old guy in a plaid flannel shirt who is convinced he needs to scream at the driver ahead lest he arrive at his destination ten seconds late.

It’s for the mom struggling to raise her children who needs a word of peace. It’s for the farmer working overtime in the field who is so very tired. It’s for the teen who is under a heavy burden of peer pressure to be like all her friends. It’s for the grandmother or grandfather who wonders why the kids don’t visit more often.  It’s for those who struggle with a loved-one’s illness.  It’s for the dad who works day in and day out but the money never seems enough and he worries how he’ll pay for it all. It’s for the one who just can’t seem to find a job. It’s for the prisoner behind bars who finds freedom in Christ that he never knew he could have. It’s for that person whose life of what used to be “fun” now seems shallow and pointless and just plain stupid-- and he wonders if all that stuff about Jesus is really true.

It is true, friend. Jesus is LORD. He died and rose to life for you. He loves you and He is waiting for you.

Right now.

Today’s Praise

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25 NIV)

 

 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Right Spirit



 
As a child, I remember being afraid of ghosts hiding under my bed or in my closet. They were shadowy, scary things and, even though Dad told me there were no such things as ghosts, it still felt like they were hiding in the dark corners of my room ready to…

Come to think of it, I guess all a ghost could really do was scare you. I don’t remember even the scariest ghost stories really having much more of point than some variation of the ghost jumping out and saying, “BOO!”

Still, I do remember lying in my bed somewhere between the ages of five and ten and repeating over and over, “There’s no such thing as ghosts, there’s no such thing as ghosts…”

It didn’t help much when we went to church and the pastor would say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…”

I considered it a welcome change when churches and clergy began using “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost. “ There was enough of the culture assigning meanings to “ghost” that ranged from evil poltergeists to Casper.

The thing is, even though “Holy Spirit” is a better description, the third person of the Trinity is much harder to get a handle on than the Father or the Son.

I think that’s because we picture the Father and the Son as having human features. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is most often depicted as a dove because of the imagery mentioned in Mark 1:10, John 1:32, and Matthew 3:16 at Jesus’ baptism. I think it’s important to note that all three of the passages of scripture above describe the Holy Spirit’s movement as being dove-like, but not His actual appearance.

If you really start to look for the Holy Spirit in scripture, He’s not hard to find. He comes up in the second verse of the Bible, where the Spirit is described as “hovering” over the waters of the formless and empty Earth. As we go through the creation account, it was God’s word and the power of His Spirit that created the universe and everything in it.

The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power in the book of Judges and the Spirit gives Samson power to tear lions apart and defeat enemies.  Samuel receives power from the Holy Spirit in 1 Samuel 10, then it comes upon Saul, and then upon David. Micah says he is filled with the power of the Spirit in chapter three of that book, and Mary is told it is the power of the Holy Spirit that will overshadow her and cause her to be the mother of Jesus.

Acts 10:38 says Jesus was anointed with power and the Holy Spirit to do good and heal those oppressed by the devil.

Jesus Himself tells His disciples: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV)

When that day comes, as described in Acts 2, it is a powerful event with a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire resting on the disciples. Those drawn from all over Jerusalem were “cut to the heart” by Peter’s sermon on that day and three thousand were baptized.

In Romans, Paul tells us the power of the Spirit has freed us from the power of sin that leads to death and that we will overflow with confident hope through this power.

In First Thessalonians 1:5, we are told that the gospel comes to us not only in word, “but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

And, in 2 Timothy 1:7, it says, “… for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Far from being some scary specter hiding in a dark corner and waiting to jump out and scare us, it is the Holy Spirit that created us and the entire universe, that fortifies us, that brought Jesus to us, that fills us with the power to witness, that frees us, that gives us confident hope and guidance, that is our guarantee of salvation, that directs our prayers when we have no words, that fills us with love and self-control and all the fruits of the Spirit, and that enables us to say, “JESUS IS LORD!”

It is that Spirit that is present every day on Kinship Christian Radio in word, in preaching, in teaching, and in song and it changes hearts and minds and lives for all eternity.

Today’s Praise

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 KJV)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Right Word

 

Words have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the words “See Dick run” at the bottom of the school-book page. Reading and writing came easily to me. (Not so much with the ‘rithmetic.)

Many years later, I would attempt to major in some of the sciences, but I seemed inevitably drawn to a major in English with a concentration in writing. (Yes, that had something to do with the ‘rithmetic.)

This occurred despite it being made abundantly clear that, although being a writer is considered “glamourous” by some, 99.99% of writers definitely do not make a lot of money. I believe the exact words were something to the effect of, “So, you want to be a writer? Well, be prepared to live under flat rocks and eat bugs.”

I suppose that’s because we live in a world where words are common and almost anybody can put words on a page.

And that’s where the Bible is different.

The Bible goes way beyond what mere human beings are capable of in terms of words on a page.

As a writer, I am amazed and astounded by its complexity, the uniformity of its symbolism and metaphor, its cohesiveness, its depth, its breadth, and the timelessness of this, the greatest book ever written. Nothing compares to it.

While the Bible is fascinating and miraculous to me as a writer, it’s overwhelming, astounding, and breath-taking to me as a Christian. In other words, it’s not the words in themselves or the way they are arranged, it’s the power behind those words.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 KJV)

That’s a familiar verse to many, but I recently stumbled across this verse about His Word:
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29 ESV)

Indeed, it was the fire in His Word that convicted me when my life had slipped into sin and broke my heart of stone. It was His own Word that brought me back to Him.

When I was fearful, it was His Word that told me that I have nothing to fear, even if I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23:4)

When I was confused by all the differences in doctrine and theology, it was His Word that reminded me to keep the main thing the main thing. (Matthew 23:24)

When my heart was broken by the death of a loved one, it was His Word that assured me we would be reunited. (John 3:16)

When I doubted my faith, it was His Word that assured me the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life is an absolute guarantee of my salvation. (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Cor. 1:22, 2 Cor. 5:5)

When I have been tempted, it is His Word that assures me there is always a way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

When the news of the world seems overwhelming, it is His Word that assures me we shall overcome. (1 John 4:4)

After all, it is His Word that created the universe and every good thing in it, simply by speaking it into being. (Genesis 1) It is by His Word that we live. (Matthew 4:4)

It is His Word that is the sword we carry into the battle against the enemy of our souls. (Ephesians 6:17)

His Word is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing soul and spirit, cutting to the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

And, it is His Word in the living person of Jesus Christ that became flesh and walked among us, bringing us new life and light and which will never be overcome by the darkness around us. (John 1: 1-4, 1 Peter 1:23)

It is that Word which goes out over the air from Kinship Christian Radio every day, 24 hours a day.

And it is undoubtedly the right Word.

To God be the glory!

Today’s Praise

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 ESV)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

God in a Box





If you look back on the blog post for August 27 of this year, entitled “The List,” there is a picture of one full column of my actual vacation list. The heading for the second column (which you cannot see) is labeled “VACATION BOX.”

The Vacation Box is a plastic tote which holds many of the items I regularly take on vacation like extra fishing line, a spare pair of sunglasses, a filet knife, a rain suit, and other items. Many of these items are permanently stored in the Vacation Box. Since these items do not entirely fill it, the Vacation Box also doubles as my suitcase, carrying clothes, toiletries, and other items.

It’s very handy to have everything one needs in a big rectangular bucket.

Well, I recently had occasion to enjoy a mini-vacation in the Brainerd area. The forecast included rain, wind, and cold, so I diligently packed quilted flannel shirts, flannel-lined jeans, (My fondness for all things flannel is not a secret—particularly if it is plaid flannel.) warm socks, and a rain suit.

I had planned to depart on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., but there were bills to pay, garbage to take out, and seemingly endless scores of minor details that absolutely, positively had to be done before I left.

Finally, at 1:20 p.m., I plopped my exasperated self in the driver’s seat of my truck with my boat in tow and the back of the truck loaded with a mini charcoal grill, a heater, an inflatable bed, a bucket of camping kitchen utensils, rods, reels, my tackle box, a folding chair, and numerous other items.

Before I turned the key, I prayed out loud, thanking the LORD for the opportunity to enjoy this time, asking for safe travel, and that He keep my family safe while I was gone. I ended the prayer with, “And, LORD, if there is anything which I have forgotten which I need, please bring it to my attention now.”

I paused.

There was no voice from heaven. The LORD was silent.

“Amen,” I said, and drove away.

Four hours later, at 185 miles from home, with only about 30 miles to go to my final destination, I stopped for one of those “necessary” breaks and purchased some dish soap. As I put it in the back of the truck, I did hear a voice:

“Where’s the Vacation Box?”

It was my own voice, and it was very shortly answered by the very same voice saying,

“Right next to the door where you left it.”

All my warm clothes, my toothpaste, my toothbrush, my filet knife, my sharpening steel, my, my, my…

And my blood pressure pills, too! (You can insert your own punch-line after that sentence.)

Why had the LORD not answered my prayer? Why had He let me drive away without all that stuff I needed? How could He let me ruin my vacation like that? All I had was the clothes on my back! What If I got wet? What would I do?

As it turns out, a pharmacy in Brainerd was easily able to contact my local pharmacy and provide me with a five-day supply of my prescriptions at a reasonable cost. Likewise, the Brainerd Salvation Army Thrift Store provided a very nice dark blue corduroy shirt (Okay--not plaid flannel, but at $3.95, who’s complaining?) a white T-shirt, and a like-new pair of brown denim jeans. (What’s wrong with brown denim?) A big-box store had warm socks on sale, and toothpaste and a toothbrush certainly didn’t break the bank.

My vacation was not ruined. I had a wonderful time in God’s creation and truly did not suffer at all. I even caught some fish.

On the drive home, I realized Jesus had conducted His entire ministry with nothing more than the clothes on His back and that which His Father had provided in exactly the right amounts and at exactly the right times.

There was no suitcase at the foot of the cross--only my sin.

God had indeed answered my prayer. I had specifically asked to be told if there was anything I needed which I had forgotten.  I didn’t actually need any of that stuff in that box because that box could never, ever contain all of God’s love, grace, mercy, blessings, and power.

Today’s Praise

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

(The above is verse three of “The Love of God” by Frederick Lehman, written in 1917. Lehman said these words were found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave.)