Month: April 2019

It’s mine :-\

A friend and I were talking about Notre Dame and the French backlash to the large donations by some wealthy people and employers. He asked me, “Do you know the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution?” I said, “No?” He said, “The Americans didn’t want anyone to be a king while the French wanted everyone to be a king!”

It has amazed me to read about French protests against the people and employers that are contributing to the rebuilding of Notre Dame. PBS published an article about this.  I guess I shouldn’t be amazed since this is the natural, worldly response to acts of love. Just read Luke 12:3-5:

Luke 12: (NIV)
3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,
5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”

That’s the same spirit we see today when someone gives something of great value. Instead of rejoicing, people in their greed say, “Give it to us, instead!” But when we read Christ’s parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) we see Jesus affirming the right of a person to give their money as they chose. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 20:13-15, “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

Praise be to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and its ways. Through Jesus, we too overcome the world (1 John 5:4).

Always

My dad, having been an educator, taught me the value and subtleties of words. He would quote that old saw, “Don’t use a 50 cent word if a 10 cent word is better.” But, he liked 50 cent words. Of course, when he told me that saying, 50 cents would buy a meal at the local diner.

In logic, a tautology is a formula or assertion that is true in every possible interpretation. My dad loved tautological words; I inherited that love.  In today’s passage of Scripture, God has given us several tautological words but I would like us to consider the word “always”. Here’s the passage:

Hebrews 7:
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 
24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Verse twenty-two defines the context: a better covenant. Within this context, now let us consider verse twenty-five: Jesus always lives to intercede for them. That statement is tautological; it remains true in every possible interpretation. There are no logical contradictions or contingencies.

Having entered the “better covenant”, we know that no matter what circumstances, what trials, what spiritual attacks we find ourselves, we have Jesus as our intercessor, always, That’s good news!

Photo by R. Mac Wheeler on Unsplash

Toxic

I spent many years owning businesses, working on the mission field and in churches, and managing teams. One of the things I learned from these roles was that there will always be a group of people that disparage you, that can never be placated, and will always work against anyone in a leadership role. That just goes with the job.

I’ve been lied about, stabbed in the back, drowned in corporate politics, and betrayed. I thank God for these and pray God will bless the people that did these things and that God will open their eyes.

No, I never prayed, “God, give me hateful people.” I never needed to;  I got them with no effort at all! The reason I am thankful for them is that Jesus had this same environment. We see this in the account when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Let’s read John 11:33-37 (NIV):

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

There it is: “But some of them said…” If we are to rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:4, Romans 5:3-5), then it seems right that we should rejoice when we are counted worthy to share in the same kind of toxic environment which our Lord so graciously passed through.

An easy road will never prepare us for the great spiritual battles which God desires for us. God’s love is beyond comprehension. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” (James 1:2)

Photo by Jules D. on Unsplash

Dry as a bone

Gary’s Lament

Having never been to Israel or any part of the Middle East I don’t know how the dust of Elisha’s tomb felt that is of spoken of in 2 Kings 13:21. However, I do know dust.

I’ve baled hay when it was so hot and so dusty that my nose clogged, and I had no saliva to spit the dust out of my mouth. Mud covered me from the soil mixed with sweat which instantly dried, turning into a patchwork of dried, mud tiles that covered my body, up my legs and down my arms. Hauling the bales up into the top of the barn while the temperature was easily 140 degrees caused every inch of my body itched.

So, yes, I know dust, And, I know the dehydration that comes with it, but even baling old hay doesn’t come close to the dehydration of my soul. Empty, useless, dry and dead, are what my senses tell me.

I know I’m not dead for I know Christ lives in me, and at times the Holy Spirit stirs in my writing. Yet, still, I’m so parched. Living water is my only hope. I am as the dead man described in 2 Kings 13:21.

2 Kings 13:21
Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

How I long to be thrown into Elisha’s tomb, to fall against that which seems dead, dry and turned to dust but, in truth, still has the power of God’s anointing upon it. A touch from that which has touched God is what I need. Where is he? Why is there no one to transfer God’s refreshing from Him to me? Even Elijah was refreshed by ravens.

Do it yourself, I can hear some say, but I know what my soul needs. So many of the modern churches are designed to make dead people comfortable not the lost uncomfortable, and certainly not to refresh the weary; to bring the empty into contact with God’s anointing.

Oh God, refresh me and restore me I pray. Plant me among “lively stones,” (1 Peter 2:5) people that are alive and know how to impart Your life to the dry, dusty and seemingly dead. Revive me I pray. Renew me I cry. Restore me I plea. As you’ve done in times past, do it again I pray. Amen.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Zoom It, Henry!

The dream of almost every child in America is to have a chance to play in baseball’s World Series. In the 1993 movie, “Rookie of the Year,” the lead character, a young boy named Henry Rowengartner, gets that chance. It’s a favorite family movie of ours.

Throughout the movie, Henry’s coach called him every name in the book except Henry until the very end. Nevertheless, Coach always kept his eye on Henry and made sure he was cared for.

Likewise, we can rest in our walk with Christ. We read in Isaiah 41:13 (NIV), “ For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” and in Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

All the politics and opposing team’s tricks can’t thwart the will of God, and faith in God’s Son puts you right in the middle of where the action is! That’s the place to be and the place where you are the most protected. Remember, you’re in the big leagues! And, that’s good news.

What’s been handed down to you?

One of my wife’s favorite hooks from a TV commercial is one from Verizon. This young guy looks at a cute girl and asks, “Did it hurt much <pause> when you fell from heaven?” Back in the day, I was never that quick on the uptake.

While reading this morning’s “Verse of the Day,” on Biblegateway.com, I nearly missed the gem sitting all nice and pretty in the middle of this verse. I’m still slow on the uptake. Here’s the verse:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

The important message here is the precious blood of Jesus. That is Paul’s purpose for writing this sentence. Still, there’s an extra gem, sitting there.

Paul writes, “…the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors.” Now, many of us were raised in Jesus-centered families. Our parents, grandparents, and even further back, all served Jesus with vigor. What is the Holy Spirit saying to us?

What I see is that God has no grandchildren. The sin of Adam still runs through my blood as it ran through that of my fathers. From my biological lineage, each ancestor was a sinner, an empty life, which was carried forward in their progeny.

To enter into redemption each one of us individually comes to Jesus and are reborn, but that new birth is non-transferable. Mine is for me. My dad’s was for him. My grandpa’s was for him.

I’m probably failing to communicate what is stirring inside. There is something beautiful and emboldening when I consider that the lives of my fathers (and mother) are testimonies to 1 Peter 1:18-19. For each person looked and saw the emptiness of their mortal, corruptible inheritance and exchanged it for the incorruptible inheritance in Jesus.

For everyone that cannot look back and see Jesus, what a tremendous opportunity for you to begin that legacy. To refuse an empty inheritance and receive God’s gift to you through the blood of Jesus.

There is a beautiful song written some time ago by Twila Paris called, “70 Years Ago”. It fits well with this devotional.

Photo by Jana Sabeth Schultz on Unsplash

Deep, Mommy, Deep.

When my second oldest son was just a toddler, my wife took him to swimming classes. She wisely thought it would be good for him to know how to swim to the side of a pool in case he ever fell into one.

One day, while at the pool, he did fall in. He didn’t swim, he just sank. And, of course, he fell in the deep end of the swimming pool. He didn’t panic, but my wife said that when she rushed to pull him up, he had his eyes open and was looking up at her.

When she got him out, he turned to her and said, “Deep, Mommy, deep!” We’ve teased him about that for decades.

In today’s Bible reading I read 3rd John. It got me thinking about Christians that I don’t know and, yet, they are my brothers and sisters. As it says in 3 John 5, “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.” If my natural family is hurting I’m going to do all I can to help. Shouldn’t I do the same, or more, with my Christian family even if I don’t know them?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to connect with my Christian family, even if they are strangers to me. This is the heart of foreign missions. I pray you would call, provide, anoint, and bless those that hear Your call and launch out into the deep waters, to those who are your children and those that will hear, believe, and become your children. I pray they would trust you with the same child-like faith that my son had. That they would look up, trusting you to save them when they are in need. I ask this in the Name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Photo by David Perkins on Unsplash

Embezzling from God

For so many Christians, books by Tolstoy, Churchill, Austen, and Lewis gather dust on their shelves. CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and MP3s from Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Chuck Swindoll, and others sit in their cabinets. Bibles are likely found in nearly every room, concordances, too. They have Biblegateway’s app on the iPhones and Watchman Nee’s “Sit, Walk, Stand” book can be found in their bathrooms.

They are surrounded by vast knowledge, grand declarations of the one true God’s charity towards humanity and His profound, powerful teachings and prophecies, yet, none have touched their soul, none have affected their character. They starve in a garden of abundance.

Starvation usually leads to shameful actions.

In Amos, chapter 4, verses 4-6 we read, “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do declares the Sovereign Lord. I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me, declares the Lord.”

The Israelites were rich in the things of God, but they wanted something else, so they starved.

God further says in Amos 7:11-12, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

Amos was prophesying to the chosen people of God. How much worse will it be for those of us grafted into the True Vine? We are already seeing a famine of God’s Word in the world.

Today, in our society, can we speak openly about the blood of Jesus? Can we say God judges people? Can we say that Jesus is the only way for salvation? That without salvation a person will be judged and damned to an eternity in hell? Can we warn the lost so that some may be saved? We can, but not without being “damned” by churches, by Christians.

Sinners need the righteous person to sin. You can see that by just being around an alcoholic. They cannot tolerate a person that won’t drink. That’s the same compulsion of a person trapped in sin. They can’t tolerate a person seeking righteousness.

Amos was filled with sorrow over what he saw that God would do to Israel; for God is a just and righteous God. Sin was celebrated, righteousness was degraded, and the poor receive neither justice nor mercy. The rich got richer while the poor poorer. As God said in Proverbs 29:7 “…the righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Sound familiar?

When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, take Communion / Eucharist, and then pray for things that are blatantly contrary to the will of God, they are using God’s name to pray against the one true God’s intent (i.e., will). This is embezzling! That’s right; if they do that, then they are signing God’s name to a check that He never authorized them to cash.

I pray that none of us will fall into the trap of using God’s name against the will of God. Always remember the words of that little book stuck in the back pages of the Old Testament; the book of Amos. God is an unchanging God.


Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

By Name

My wife posts a “Daily Treasure” on her site, “ “My Daily Treasure.” She started this site because God showed her that each day if she looks, she would uniquely find Him, and she does!

What a joy the Christian life is! Circumstances may be screaming at us to become angry or downcast. And, sometimes, we have to search really hard to find life’s treasure in our day; it’s like a treasure hunt. But we can always find God when we humble ourselves, pray, and turn from any worldliness that we’ve let in.

We learn from Jesus in John 10:3-4, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

I just watched a documentary that showed a goat herder in France letting her goats out of their winter pasture and then leading them up a mountain path in the Alps and into a vast, open land where they could graze for the summer. The shepherd walked ahead, followed by one hundred goats. How could I not write about The Good Shepard and His sheep after watching that!

Jesus calls his own by name. Hey, Gary, follow Me! Hey Diana, follow me! Hey, Jill, follow me! We have not been left to fumble through, to stumble around, to catch as catch can. Jesus has not only miraculously caused us to be reborn (how’s that for a treasure!), He goes ahead of us and calls us by name so we can follow Him! Now that’s a daily treasure.

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

Go ahead

As a young man who had recently rededicated his life to Jesus, I attended a meeting that featured David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruz, with music by Dallas Holm. I will never forget Reverend Wilkerson’s challenge. I can’t quote it verbatim, but basically, he said, “If you are a Christian then live like Christ.”

Christ Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45)

Now, if all goes well, we know that the very first cell (i.e., the zygote) that is grown in a woman when she becomes pregnant contains two sets of 23 chromosomes, one set from the father and one set from the mother. Inside that first cell is the DNA uniquely for that person, and that DNA will be replicated, exactly, in each of the trillions of cells in the baby’s body.

When Jesus shed His blood for us, it was absolutely unique blood, blood that never had been and never would be again. Christ’s blood was Emmanuel, “God with us.” At the most intimate level possible within a person, God was with mankind.

In the blood is life (Leviticus 17:11). Each cell of Christ’s blood was the Son of Man and the Son of God; not half man and half God, but fully man and fully God. How God made Jesus’s DNA, I don’t know, but I do know who Jesus is.

Christ’s blood poured out from the crown of thorns on His head, from the whip marks on His back, from the nails in His hands and feet, and from the spear in His side. He had surrendered His Spirit, died, and was buried. God’s gift to us seemed to have been wasted.

But, Jesus told us ahead of time, in John 12:24, “..unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” And that is what God has done and is doing. Presently, there are about 2.9 billion people that identify themselves as Christians in this world.

Then, on the third day, Jesus arose! God made forgiveness available to us through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, and we received the hope of resurrection into the kingdom of God when Jesus rose from the dead.

Dallas Holm had not yet written, “I’ll Rise Again,” when I heard him sing at that revival, all those years ago. But, I can’t close without bringing it to our remembrance:

Verse 1
Go ahead, drive the nails in My hands;
Laugh at me, where you stand.
Go ahead, and say it isn’t Me;
The day will come, when you will see.

Chorus
‘Cause I’ll rise, again,
Ain’t no power on earth can keep Me down!
Yes, I’ll rise, again,
Death can’t keep Me in the ground.


https://youtu.be/RM0LJDoOHWQ

Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

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