Monday, February 29, 2016

He's My Shepherd

It's been over 40 years since Phillip Keller published his book, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23."  I still like to open the paperback copy I have, and look at the list of questions he asks, and encourages all his readers to ask.
Today, spend some time with Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Here are the questions:
1.  Do I really belong to Him?
2.  Do I really realize His right to me?
3.  Do I respond to His authority and acknowledge His ownership?
4.  Do I find freedom and complete fulfillment in his arrangement?
5.  Do I sense a purpose and deep contentment because I am under His direction?
6.  Do I know rest and repose, besides a definite sense of exciting adventure, in belonging to Him?

And my question:  Is the Lord my shepherd?


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Worthy of Our Worship

God is worthy of our worship.  Read and consider these verses:

23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

27 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

28 Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
                                                                                                     1 Chronicles 16:23-31
1 The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.
2 Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy.
4 The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.
5 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORDand he answered them.
7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
8 LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.                                                                    
9 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy. 
                                                                                                   Psalm 99:1-9  
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
                                                                                                   Romans 12:1-2     
Worship God today in spirit and truth.                          

Friday, February 26, 2016

Are you a fan?

I'm known to be a fan of the San Antonio Spurs.  Not that I get to go to many of their games, but I rarely miss the TV coverage of every game.  From all I can tell, the Spurs have a top-notch program with quality people in their players, coaches, and administrative staff.  For a few minutes, remember I said in the first sentence, "I am a fan."

This week I stumbled into a book by Kyle Idleman called, "not a fan." (Lower case title is intentional.)  I haven't finished reading the book, however, in the first few chapters I am getting the main idea.  The author wants his readers to learn, there is a difference between a fan and a follower.  Early into the book there are some questions asked, which may determine the depth of a person's relationship with Jesus. There are also some groups in which we might place ourselves, taking a measurement of our relationship with the Lord.

I'm pulling one section from the book which strikes with a revealing message for Christians as they examine themselves by asking, "Am I a fan or a follower of Jesus?" Before you ponder that too deeply, I have pre-pondered for you and can tell you, without a doubt, there is a huge difference between someone who is a fan of Jesus and someone who is a follower.

Think for a moment about the times when watching an NFL game and sometimes an NBA game and someone is sitting in a place, sure to be seen by the TV cameras, while holding up a sign which says "John 3:16."  That's ok with me.  I like seeing scriptural references like this at sporting events.  The sign could possibly be the only opportunity for some to learn the message, "For God so loved the world that he gave is only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  We know from that one verse, God loves us, Jesus died for us, and eternal life is ours through him.

Have you ever seen a sporting event where someone held up a sign which said "Luke 9:23?"  That one might not be as easily quoted, but it says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."  It's an important verse but don't expect to see anyone painting those words on a sign and showing it off during sporting events.  Here's the difference in the verses:

John 3:16 emphasizes believing.  Luke 9:23 emphasizes following.    We must  learn we cannot believe Jesus without following him, and we cannot follow Jesus without believing him. Our problem with believing without following is that it makes us a fan, and that is where a lot of people stop.  They want to believe in a Savior, a God who loves them, and who brings eternal life, but actually following him by self denial and taking up our cross, requires more than some are willing to give.

So now let me repeat from the first sentence above, I am a fan of the Spurs.  Then let me add, I am a follower of Jesus. So where do you and I fit in?  From what I can tell, we are the one to determine that.  Believing might make us a fan, but God is calling each one of us to be a follower.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Let me ask a question....

There was a question raised when a group of Christian leaders were having lunch.  It's one of those questions which we have probably thought about before, yet without arriving at answers which seemed adequate.  Here's the question:

Are we guilty of professing to the world around us, if a person becomes a dedicated Christian, totally yielding to the writings of the Bible, then he is in for smooth sailing through life with everything turning out in his favor? 

Think for a moment about your take on that question.  If you decide on an answer like most, you will readily admit since you became a Christian, there have been things which did not produce smooth sailing, and maybe you can count numerous occasions when things didn't turn out in your favor.

While we wish to encourage and assist those on the outside to become followers of Jesus Christ, we do them a disservice if we infer they will never have another problem, never another illness, never another crisis in their family.  We who are already in the Christian family, the church, can testify about the problems of something called "life" still plagues us.

Here is the main thing we need to understand.  Even while living as a Christian in these present days, we are still on the human side of eternity.  It's true, Jesus lives in us which makes our lives prepared for eternity, while we live in this world we are going to face those troubles which are common to all people.

We believe that we are IN this world but the child of God does not have to be OF this world.  That's why you will hear Christians praying when crisis arises.  That's why we continue to seek the lost of the world with the gospel message.  That's why we strive to live our lives as upstanding members of society.

Yes, we are subject to car wrecks and cancer, business failure and even the death of some when they are still young.  These tragedies occur in the world in which we live.  Yet while these are happening around us daily, there is another thing we should understand.

The Christian continues his life in the world, yet when disaster occurs, he is equipped with the presence of God, who is always concerned with his people.  That gives us somewhere to turn when we face the problems.  You will hear Christians saying, in the face of troubled times, "I do not think I could have faced  this disaster, had it not been for my faith."

Jesus instructed us we would possibly face persecution and suffering.   We still have burdens to bear, trials and temptations, and yet through all of this, we face the reality of having our own individual "crosses to bear."

Because this world is in contrast with our eternal home, Biblical truth still points us to work in faith toward our citizenship in the eternal presence of God.  It may not always be easy, it could be painful, but Jesus died so we could be prepared and even anticipate his return when he will take us home.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Give me a drink

"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  So began the conversation between Jesus and a woman of Samaria.  She was there to get a pot of water to take back home.  Jesus was there, resting while his disciples had gone into the nearby town for food.   

The main attraction to this place was the well, Jacob's Well, near the village of Sychar, and close to the property Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  People of the area had depended on the water supplied from that well for generations.  So that was the drawing card of this place.  People came here for water.

Any human will admit to their need for water.  The physical body cannot function properly without it. Those from Sychar were blessed to have the well so close.  It provided something their bodies needed regularly.

The conversation Jesus started with this woman continued for a while, and included the masterful words of Jesus which ultimately brought him to tell her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Without announcing a change in the subject matter of the conversation, Jesus had moved from talking about the physical necessity of water, to the spiritual necessity of what he calls "living water."

Jesus continues, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Just as your physical body knows thirst, and the need of water, Jesus wants us to know of this living water that only he can give, and which is as vital to our spiritual life as the water from the well for physical beings.  I want that water from Jesus which will become in me, a spring of water which wells up to eternal life!

There is nothing more refreshing to our bodies, on a hot summer day, than a cool drink of water. We know it's good for us and our bodies receive what is needed for us to keep going.  It's time for Christians to recognize the living water Jesus longs to give us. Living water is our connection to the life of the Living Lord who dwells within us.  Living water is the boost, the power and the motivation bringing us closer and closer to eternal life. Jesus invites us drink freely.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Getting Back In Step

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  Galatians 5:1

If you are reading this as a citizen of the good ole' USA, then you know how important the word, "freedom" can be.  We who are citizens of this great country are aware of the tremendous cost of our freedoms and we often spend serious moments thinking of those who have given their lives to defend our country.  It is imperative for us to continue in freedom.  We were born with our freedom and none of us is interested in losing it.

Paul wrote to the Galatians about freedom.  The verse above indicates we Christians have been set free by Jesus.  Because that freedom is ours through Christ, then we should always be ready and alert as we "stand firm," not allowing ourselves to face the burden of Satan's slavery.

A lot of Paul's letter to the Galatian Christians, has to do with God's children walking in the Spirit. Look at what Paul has to say, starting in Galatians 5:16,  " So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. "  And again in verse 25. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

These encouraging words are given so we can learn to walk in the Spirit,  (I like this part) and keep in step with the Spirit.  Walking and keeping in step can be a challenge, especially when we think of the many ways Satan tempts us. He can make sin look so appealing.  He can and will place obstacles in our way.  He can even get us squabbling among ourselves and bring havoc to our unity and freedom. The only sure way for Satan to be defeated is for us to continually walk and keep in step with the Spirit of Christ.  

We have seen in previous studies how the Holy Spirit leads and directs us, comforts and helps us, and keeps us yearning for Christ-likeness.  My encouragement for you today is to continue to walk in the Spirit, and check from time to time to make sure you and keeping in step with the Spirit.

Monday, February 22, 2016

I'm a wreck!

The young boy was filled with excitement.  He was in an area he had never been before, and being the typical boy, he had to see everything and touch everything.  His parents were new vendors in a building where I have rented space for antique sales. 

One afternoon, during the three-day sale, the boy was leaving his parent's booth with his sister.  They were picking on each other and taking harmless swats at each other.  Harmless, from the perspective  of not hurting anyone, but my nerves were really active when they got to the part of the isle near my booth.  My tables were filled with collectible glassware, which I had purchased for the purpose of resale. Needless to say, I was very protective of my investment, and I sure didn't want broken glass pieces which would be worthless. 

I warned the boy and his sister, asking them to take their fun outside.  They hurriedly disappeared into their parent's booth and that situation was handled.  I continued working on a display of Christmas collectibles, including the assembly of a Christmas train, with whistles and noises.  I wanted the train to be running during the show when customers walked by. 

I suddenly questioned my decisions about putting the train together and leaving it running on a table, but in a few minutes it was running and had drawn a small crowd.  Everyone watched the train go through its trip around the track, listened to the whistles and bells, and then walked on.  Everyone, that is, except the young boy. 

Within a few minutes I noticed him doing something with the closing and locking mechanism of a door on the building.  I walked over and asked if he was having trouble getting the door to close.  He  readily admitted he was disassembling the closer because he need a piece of wire that was part on the latch.  I asked him what he planned to do with the wire to which he replied that he wanted to lay it on the train track so he could watch the train wreck.  (At that point, I was the only train wreck in the building.)

As closing time neared, I was relieved to see the boy helping his parents hauling their goods out of the building.  I had been upset with the boy for his antics, and his parents for not making their kids behave.  I will admit, to the boy, none of this was a big deal.  To me, it was a threat on the property I had purchased for resale.

Now that the show is over and all breakable items are safe again, I have had  time to do some serious thinking.  Even now I am wondering why God still loves me when I continue to be a sinner, doing things I know I shouldn't, and failing to do things I know I should.   Yes, even some instances could be described as train wrecks.  And I wonder why God keeps putting up with us.

I paused to pray for that boy and his parents, that they can all learn to appreciate the property of others and treat it with respect.  And I pray that I may be more thoughtful of God's ways, God's commands, and God's plans for me.   I pray also, that I may yield my ways to His way and recognize that as the better way.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Water Walkers

Genesis 7:17-19
"17The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered."

It's a story we have heard from our youth......all those animals and a family of faithful humans, saved from the destruction.  God's instructions were clear to Noah.  God's intentions were to destroy the very people he had created, because "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."  Genesis 6:5.

God knew of the righteousness of Noah and his family, so they were given the construction contract for the ark.  They also carried the responsibility of rounding up all those animals, two by two.  They were faithful to their orders, and the scene was set for the oncoming flood.  Now go back and read the three verses at the top of the page.  This is where they fit in.  Focus your attention on the middle part of verse 18, "and the ark floated on the face of the waters." 

I must tell you at this point, my renewed interest in the details of the flood, Noah and his family, the animals, and the ark, started at mid-afternoon today when I received an email from my younger brother.  He had done some research into the original Hebrew word from verse 18 which is translated to the English word "floated."  Before today, I didn't have any doubts about my lifelong understanding of all the details, but today, I learned the Hebrew word which our English versions translate "floated," is literally translated "walked."  That's almost funny in my mind....thinking of seeing a huge ship walking across the water. But that's the literal translation.

Now, follow me to the New Testament to see a group of the followers of Jesus, in a boat which is floating and in danger of sinking.  The anxious people in the boat then see Jesus, walking on the water and coming to them.  Peter was invited to step out of the boat and for a while he walked on water, too.  Then he lost focus of Jesus and began to fret about the winds and the waters and he began to sink.  Is there something in these two events, one of an ark walking on water, the other of Jesus walking on water, that makes a connection for us?  Do you think these Jesus followers had ever considered a water-walking ark?  

I have only speculation about what they must have been thinking, but I have learned something new about God's love and the salvation of his people.  That water-walking ark became the salvation of Noah and his family.  And the water-walking Jesus becomes salvation for you and me. Following Gods plans Noah and his family came to escape the destruction of the wicked.  Following Jesus, we learn how much our Father loves us, and brings our salvation through the gift of his Son.