In The Storms

Michael W. Smith, in his devotional Still, writes this:

Recently when I went to the mountains, they were hidden by a thick layer of smoke from wildfires. Their beauty was concealed. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t see them! Then the next day it began to rain. The temperature suddenly dropped and the rain turned to snow. The strong winds blew the snowflakes around in heavy swirls. It looked like a blizzard in September! When the storm cleared away, the mountains were revealed in striking beauty. The smoke was gone. The trees and mountaintops were blanketed in white.
The following day, the snow melted and the green appeared. The birds sang, the creek flowed, and the sun warmed us. As the land appeared to wake from death to life, God spoke to me and awakened my heart.

What a beautiful and apt analogy of the some of the things we go through in our lives. We can be in the midst of the ‘fire’, in complete darkness and chaos in our lives, smothering in smoke and flame, thinking things can’t be any worse. We want to give up in despair and hopelessness. Then the rains come. These can be soothing, healing rains, dousing the flames and giving us hope, or it can be a deluge, causing us to feel as though the last of our hope is being washed away. Life can turn into a blizzard of confusion, where we can’t see our hand in front of our face, lost and not knowing where it is safe to step. Am I on the path, or am I about to step off a precipice?

God is there. He is with us throughout these disasters.

In a fire, even with all of their protective equipment and training, people who fight fires can get burned, sometimes badly. Fire can be deadly, even to the most well trained firefighters.

In floods, rescuers wear flotation gear and take precautions, yet some are injured or killed every year.

In blizzards and storms, in avalanches, rescuers have specialized gear and training, and still some sustain injuries and death.

The LORD God is our protection. He is our trainer. His Book provides us the training we need, and the Holy Spirit provides our protection. Learning God’s Word outfits us with our armor, the protective gear that we need to survive the attacks of the enemy.

I feel like a majority of my life has been spent in the fires and the storms of life, without a lot of calm. Many poor decisions on my part have contributed to this, and because of the long reaching consequences of some of those choices, I don’t expect that my life will ever be ‘easy’. Even knowing this, there are many opportunities for me to see the smoke clearing, the rain ceasing, and the beauty of God’s Creation. The green appears. The birds sing, the creeks flow, and the sun warms me. The land – my land, my life, wakes from apparent death to life; God speaks to me and awakens my heart to His Beauty. I may forget, momentarily, but He always reminds me.

For the last few days, my city and state have endured an historic ice storm. Thousands of trees (and consequently vehicles and houses) have been utterly crushed and destroyed. Fierce winds have broken branches and snapped telephone and electric lines. Thousands are still without power. Millions of dollars in damage. Where is the good in this? How can God possibly use this?

Even before the first 24 hours were up, people were posting on social media that they were willing and available to help anyone who needed it, to remove branches, cut down trees, carry debris to the curb. That’s the Spirit moving! Even non-Christians are caught up in it, even if they don’t understand it. What an opportunity for God’s people. In the middle of our personal storms, we have the opportunity to reach out to others and show God’s Love.

The temperature is rising, the rain is stopping, and the sun is coming out. Today will be a good day.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NASB1995

I don’t know God’s plans for you. I don’t even know what His plans are for me! What I do know is this. I have to rely on Him, because without Him, I am utterly and completely lost.

ALL LIVES MATTER

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13‭-‬14 NASB

I’m so tired of seeing my nation, my world, being divided by color of skin. We are Americans. Not African or Irish or Chinese or Mexican or Italian or any other country. We can’t let politicians, who are really only interested in themselves, divide us! Seriously, people! If you hold dual citizenship with another country, then by all means identity with it! Any British-Americans? German-American? Guyana-Americans? See what I mean? I honestly don’t understand why someone wants to self identify as part of a country other than the one they were born in, unless they want to move to that country to live. African-American is very widely used and claimed by hundreds of thousands of Americans. Why? Are they or their parents from Africa? Besides which, Africa isn’t even a country. It’s a continent. I know, we Americans have appropriated the name of the continent we are on as the name of our country, but understand that the world also refers to citizens of the United States as Americans. Are people from Ethiopia considered African, or Ethiopian? Kenyan, or African? Ugandan, or African? See the question?

Racism is promoted and perpetuated by the insistence of some people to identify as anything other than as Americans. I really don’t understand. I was actually polled the other night (a first!) and when asked what race I was, I answered “American.” I know it’s not a race, but neither is African-American. I should have answered “human”, because there is only one race. Sure, we have thousands of cultures and as many colors, but there is only one race, human. It would behoove us all to grasp onto that fact.

I love my country and the melting pot that it is. I will continue to pray for my country and that somehow, people will see through all this “racial” divisiveness, and I will do everything in my power to defend my country from our enemies, both within and without. Celebrate the diversity of all of our beautiful skin colors and cultural differences, but, please, don’t fight over them!

Jesus is the answer. The only answer. Come to Him today. Jesus said:

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6 NASB

And This Is LOVE

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7‭-‬8 NASB

The nature of love:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,” 1Corinthians 13:4 NASB

LOVE is defined by the cross, not by culture; Sacrificial Love, for the best and highest good of others. It is Patient, it is Kind. Read verses 4-7 to understand the SPECTRUM of love, the components of love.

What exactly is Love?

Love is showing patience to people, and it is long suffering. We don’t know what anyone else is dealing with, so how can we judge them? Love is being kind, easy, mellow, and comfortable – easy to receive, difficult to practice.

Those words should describe all Christians, the people who are supposed to be like Jesus. We are to cultivate contentment and gratitude and Love by focusing on God’s Sovereignty.

“The LORD is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB

“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 NASB

THIS is Love:

The New Earth

“But the Day of the LORD will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of GOD, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:10‭-‬13 NASB

What an intense passage! This is the only passage where the end of the world is described. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief: after the Tribulation and the 1000 year reign, the earth and heavens will be remade. Read chapters 21-22 of Revelations. This will not be an “edit” of the earth, but a total re-make. In the above passage Peter says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.” Literally, the atoms, the building blocks of the Universe, will become a cosmic conflagration, causing complete destruction of the earth and the heavens. God made it, He will destroy it, and He will re-make it all perfectly.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.” Revelation 20:11 NASB

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Revelation 21:1 NASB

The earth will be new in quality and nature. What a thought! (Read all of chapter 21.)

The Day : it’s on God’s calendar; it will happen. In history, “the day of the Lord” refers to when an entire military campaign took place in one day, so any time God intervenes directly and decisively is a day of the LORD. The day referred to here by Peter is THE Day, like D-Day, only amplified at least a million times! In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are told that the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night, and in Matthew 24 “…..even so, the Son of Man is coming like a thief in the night…..” This means any day, any moment. No one knows or can predict the exact time.

So what should we be doing while waiting? I like the way our pastor says it: Clean up, Look up, Speak up. Living holiness and godliness in plural, living them over and over. When you fail, and we all will fail, because we are sinful humans, confess it and move on. MARANATHA; “our LORD comes. We can speed up the coming of the day of the LORD by speaking up through preaching, teaching, evangelism, mission, prayer, and godly living. Live for the Eternal. When Jesus returns, let us be found doing our job; our duty.

“I have not written to you because you do not know the Truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the Truth. Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is Righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.” 1 John 2:21‭, ‬28‭-‬29 NASB AMEN.

Forgiven

“If You, Lord , should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” Psalms 130:3‭-‬4 NASB

This reminds me of this phrase: Because I say I am a Christian doesn’t mean I’m perfect (far from it!); it just means I am forgiven.

There’s a song the Newsboys sang called You Are My King, and this is the beginning verse.

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well
Your Spirit is within me
Because you died and rose again

If Jesus hadn’t voluntarily left heaven and accepted living as a human, and then died as our sacrifice for our sins, where would we be today? If Jesus hadn’t voluntarily hung on that cross, forsaken and condemned, where would we be today? If Jesus hadn’t conquered death and hell, and walked away from the tomb, where would we be today?

It is because of His sacrifice that we live.

Have you accepted that? Because of Jesus, all of my sins are forgotten! Without Jesus, there would be no peace in my life. I pray that you find that peace today!

The Peace of GOD

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The LORD is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GOD. And the Peace of GOD, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4‭-‬7 NASB

Shakespeare wrote in his play Macbeth: “Double, double toil and trouble….”

Sometimes that’s how the world feels to me, all caught up in a witches brew of trouble. Since the Garden and Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, that’s exactly what the world is. A cauldron of evil, orchestrated by the enemy of God. Even as I write, people are falling ill, succumbing to diseases, victims of accidents and of evil deeds and persons. People are dealing with financial issues. Think about the women trapped in abusive relationships, the children caught up in the slavery of the sex trade. It’s an ugly world. So what can I do? What are Christians supposed to do? Paul tells us.

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” Philippians 4:4‭

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, …..” Philippians 1:18

Still worried? With this pandemic of COVID19 and worldwide social distancing and quarantining, it’s easy to worry. If you’ve been following me for long, you know I’ve struggled financially for some time now. It’s somewhat ironic that with so many thousands of people losing their jobs and having to drastically reduce their spending, that mine is somewhat level. I feel your pain! I know what it is to struggle, and how easy it is to fall into the enemy’s arms of worry and despair. It’s more importantly now that it has ever been that we lean on the LORD.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:6‭-‬8 NASB

Do I still worry? Yes, because I am human, and a sinful being. It’s hard to let go of things and allow God to do the work He intends to do. I want to direct His Hands. What a disaster that would be, if He allowed it! My absolute best decisions pale to nothing next to Him. Let the Peace of God enter your life by allowing Jesus into your heart, accepting Him as your Saviour. It may not change the circumstances, but it will definitely change your heart and mind and spirit!

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20 NASB

Rest your heart and your mind. Allow JESUS the Victory over death He claimed over 2000 years ago! He is Risen; He is Risen, INDEED!

The Rescue

“GOD rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the Kingdom of the Son He Loves so much, the SON Who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.” Colossians 1:13‭-‬14 MSG

I don’t know about anyone else, but this verse resonates deeply with me. I’ve been in those dead-end alleys, the dark dungeons, the black pits. That’s what happens when we do what we decide is right.

No matter how deep you are in trouble, or how much you despair of ever seeing the light, I promise you this. Lift up your head and your hand, and Jesus will be there. It doesn’t take much, just make the effort. It’s all that He’s waiting for, and He will lift you out of the trouble, and carry you until you can walk again.

No worries. No doubts. He will never, ever leave you. Never. Ever. Always by your side. Forever and ever and a day. Just call out His Name and the devil will run!

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

AMEN!

Testify!

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God! Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:28‭-‬29 NASB

When I was 5 years old, I knelt with my daddy and prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. Yes, I was rather a precocious child. Strong willed. Over the years and into my teens, we had numerous missionaries in our home and church, teaching and preaching and discipling. Active in all aspects of church life, going to camp in the summer and lots of activities revolving around Jesus, it was easy for me to believe. As a teen, I knew I was called to serve God as a missionary. At 18, I left home to attend college, determined to follow my LORD. I attended a Christian college where I would be surrounded by by my peers, and I would be supported on my journey.

Life; the world, intervened. Let me assure you, Satan is alive and well at Christian colleges, looking for any cracks and openings in our shields of faith. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

He found my weakness, and I fell to his tempations. I strayed from my Lord and stayed away, running from God, for many years. Like Moses, I spent 40 years in the wilderness, only mine was a wilderness of sin. God gave me many opportunities to see His Mercy and His Grace. I mostly ignored Him, and chose to blame Him for my circumstances. I even fell back on that Mercy when I found myself in dire circumstances, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my worldly ways, so I would plunge back into that life.

I have compared my lost years to the Israelites 40 years of wandering in the dessert. I started out trusting God, then I slipped away from Him. The Israelites received His Mercy many times throughout their journey – manna and quail when they were hungry and had no food; water where there was none; deliverance from the Egyptians. His Mercy fed and clothed me at times, and He delivered me from certain death more than once. God didn’t destroy the Israelites because of the prayers of the righteous, and He didn’t destroy me – or allow the enemy to destroy me – because of the prayers of my family.

Some of us have to hit our “bottom” before we can see Jesus. We don’t take anyone’s word that He is real, He loves us, and He wants to forgive us. Sometimes we are like Thomas, Doubting Thomas, and we think we have to “put {our} fingers into His wounds” before we believe.

“One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the LORD!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His Hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at My Hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My LORD and my GOD!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE WITHOUT SEEING ME.” John 20:24‭-‬29 NLT

I’m so far from perfect, it can’t be measured, but the LORD GOD of the Universe thinks I’m worthy of His pursuit. What a humbling thought! I continue to sin and to stumble. I have doubts and I worry. But…..

I am so grateful that He doesn’t give up on us; on me!

Jesus and The “Littles” …

How did Jesus treat children? Not, as some people do, expecting them to “be seen and not heard!” Blessing children is scriptural from Genesis and on throughout the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament.

“And they” (the Greek word used indicates the fathers as spiritual leaders bringing their families, their children) “were bringing children” (infants up to 12 year olds) “to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.” (The disciples are blocking people instead of being a bridge to Jesus. They were acting as bodyguards, trying to hinder or stop anyone from coming to Christ, when they should have instead been encouraging.)“But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant” (angered) “and said to them” (His disciples), ” ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child” (with empty hands, coming as they – weak, helpless, dependent) “will not” (the Greek word translates as never ever) “enter it at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” – Mark 10:13‭-‬16 NASB (also see Luke and Matthew)

** Side note: This passage is not about infant baptism; it is about blessing the children. Baptism is an outward, public declaration of putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ; i.e. entering the kingdom, by being immersed in water, representing the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.

We must come to Jesus as a child; we can offer nothing to Him because He is the Creator of all things. Without Him, we have nothing. From the hymn Rock of Age, written in 1763 by the Reverend Augustus Toplady:

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Vile, I to the fountain fly
Wash me, savior, or I die