A Clear and Present Danger

advisoryAn article in the Saturday edition of the Washington Post caught my attention: “The U.S. military has boosted security at all of its stateside bases and stations, broad recognition that the United States has heightened its awareness of a possible attack inspired by the Islamic State militant group, U.S. officials said Friday.”

With this report following on the heels of the recent incident in Garland, Texas, it was a frequent topic of discussion on Saturday morning.  When the security level is raised it gets a person’s attention.

Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren said: “The military believes there is an increased and predictable security threat at home, with extra precautions, ID checks and searches launched across the country. It does not mean that an attack is considered imminent, however.”

How would your behavior change if you were told the danger is most certainly “imminent”?  You may not be aware of it, but here is a statement that warns you are in grave danger!

Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering.  ~I Peter 5:8-9

Watch your back, there’s a lion on the prowl.

Celebrating God’s Goodness

people-celebrating-1202x500When David wrote Psalm 62, he was in a desperate situation.  Men, who were full of evil, were scheming against  David, and even threatening to kill him.

David did what he usually did when he found himself in dire straits, he looked to God for help. Psalm 62:7-8, gives you a glimpse into the mind of this troubled king, and reveals his concept of God:

In God is my salvation and my glory;

The rock of my strength,

And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us.

Notice the first word in each of the last three lines:

  • Trust: You are to trust God in the good times as well as the bad.
  • Pour: Instead of trying to fight your battles by yourself, confide in God and pour your heart out to Him in prayer.
  • God: To really comprehend this verse, you need to make four sentences out of it, and contemplate each one of them:
    1. God (Creator of Heaven and Earth)
    2. God is (Not was; He is a present tense God)
    3. God is a refuge (Fortress and place of safety)
    4. God is a refuge for us. The Creator of all is always present as a fortress to meet your personal needs)

Celebrate the goodness of God today and praise Him because He is your salvation and your glory; the rock of your strength, and He is your refuge.

A Walk On The Water

images (3)There’s a passage of Scripture in the book of Isaiah that speaks about God’s wonderful love, care, and protection of His people.  In Isaiah 43:1-3, it says:

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.”

When I read this Scripture from Isaiah, a couple of thoughts came to my mind, and I want to share them with you:

  • You can have confidence in God, this is why he said: “Don’t be afraid.”
  • You can have a relationship with God because He has redeemed you; He knows your name; and, He claims you as His own.
  • When times are tough, and you feel like you’re in over your head, remember that Jesus knows something about water.  He walked on top of it, so He can certainly walk you through it.
  • When you encounter the raging rivers of life, Jesus can see around the bend. He will chart the best course, and He still knows where the still waters are (Psalm 23:2).  “You

To claim this verse as your own, speak it to yourself:  “You are my personal God.  I know you have redeemed me and know my name. I know you claim me as your own, and I give thanks to you for You are the Holy One and my Savior.”

A Normal Failure

images (2)Success and failure are the topics of many discussions.  In the Proverbs, Solomon draws a contrast between the “God-loyal people” and the “wicked” and how they manage the difficult times they face:

“Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.” ~Proverbs 24:15-16

When a person is successful, he hears the cheers of the crowd; however, when he fails, the whispers of the same people are heard as an agonizing shout.  Failure is, however, a normal part of a person’s life.

With this in mind, let me share my Top Ten Failure Quotes:

  • Failure is not falling down: It is staying down.
  • “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
  • “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  • Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett
  • Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ~Lloyd Jones

When I think of a God-loyal person, I think of Tim Tebow.  This young man had a stellar career as a college quarteback.  When his professional career came to an abrupt halt, some peole labeled him as a failure.

Tebow stayed in shape, continued to work hard, and he signed a contract with the Eagles this week.  He is anything but a failure, and he is a living example of Solomon’s words: “God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet . . . “

Follow the Leader

Follow_the_Leader_Photo1When I woke up this morning I was thinking of the word “follow” and the several times Jesus spoke this word.  I did a quick scan of the four Gospels, and I found a couple of interesting concepts.

In Mathew 4:19-20, Jesus said:  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men, and they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

  • Principle: If you do not follow Jesus you will be snared by the net of the world.
  • Principle: Fishing for fish is good, but fishing for men is better.

In John 8:12, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

  • Principle: If you don’t walk with Jesus in the light, you will stumble without Him in the dark.
  • Principle: Jesus does not HAVE the light of the world, He IS the Light of the world.

In John 10:27, Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

  • Principle: Obedient sheep hear His voice and make the choice to follow Him.
  • Principle: When you deny and won’t comply, you are easy prey for the wolf.

Here’s the simple truth:  You can follow or be hollow.  When you are hollow, you will search for fullness, satisfaction, contentment, and love in all the wrong places.  When you follow Jesus you can be fully holy.

The wisdom of Solomon is a fitting conclusion:  “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves him who follows righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).”

TV Time

o-CHILDREN-TELEVISION-facebookAs I was watching the nightly news, I became curious about TV statistics.  Based on research by statistics brain, I found that:

  • 99% of households in the USA possess at least one television.
  • The average child will spend 1,480 minutes a week watching television.
  • By the time a child is 18, he/she will have seen 150,000 violent acts and viewed 16,000 thirty second commercials.

With these statistics in mind, answer the following questions:

  • Who or what is having the greatest influence in the life of your child or grandchild?
  • If 1,480 minutes are being spent in front of the TV, how much time is being spent reading the Bible, praying, or engaging people in a positive way?

There are two warnings from Paul that are worthy of mention:

  • He said you should not be like a child who is “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every false wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).”
  • Make sure that “no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8-9).”

The 1,480 minutes of TV wouldn’t be so bad if it was healthy and wholesome; however, I think much of it is detrimental to a person’s well-being.

 

Look at the language Paul used. How much of the 1,480 minutes is captivativing philosophy that can be describe as the “trickery of men, craftiness, deceitful scheming?”

Friday: A Day of Signifiance

6187141-crown-of-thorns-hung-around-the-easter-crossIf you could travel back in time to history’s most important Friday and relive that day in 33 AD, what would you hear as you walked the streets of Jerusalem? The city had swelled in size because it was Passover, but the conversation was not the annual rites at the Temple.  No, that significant sacrifice was overshadowed by the crucifixion of Jesus.   As people contemplated the events, they exclaimed:  Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you have been following has been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer with Messianic aspirations, and your dream has ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you wonder:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair hangs heavily on your doubting heart as you try to make sense of the disaster that has disrupted your life.  Friday has been an arduous day, but at least there has been a lot of activity.  When you woke up Saturday morning, you hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream; however, when you looked into the sunken eyes of your fellow disciples, reality buckles your knees:  Your Hope has been crucified; Jesus is dead; and, Saturday drags on and seems like it’ll never end.

From that Friday of 33 AD, to the Friday of today, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  All the disciples of 33 AD had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death, but you have the benefit of history.

You know the story doesn’t end with that dramatic death on the cross. You know there is an encore to what the disciples thought was the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the mobilizing power of the resurrection and the proof of what can happen when a group of people are infused with hope . . . people just like you.

I encourage you to share the hope and live the message as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday.

Who is Jesus?

easter01This is a momentous week in the life of the church.  Because it has been framed by two monumental events of history, it is the week traditionally referred to as “holy week.”

It’s a week that began with Palm Sunday, and it will end this Sunday with the celebration of Easter.  Palm Sunday is associated with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and Easter is the joyful recognition of His resurrection.

There’s a three word question that was asked by those who observed Jesus on Palm Sunday. As He rode a white donkey through the narrow and dusty streets of Jerusalem, they asked:  “Who is this?”

The Gospel of John presents a group of witnesses that offer a line of testimony that answers this question:

  • John testifies that Jesus turned water into wine at the marriage supper of Cana.
  • The nobleman gives a detailed account of how Jesus simply spoke and his dying son was healed.
  • The man who had been crippled for 38 years jumps in the air and clicks his heels together to show the miraculous manner in which Jesus healed him.
  • The little boy holds up an empty lunch pail and says: “It had just enough food for my dinner, but Jesus blessed it and there was enough to feed 5,000 people.”
  • The seasoned fishermen relive the moment when they thought their boat was going to sink and they were going to drown: “The Master appeared out of nowhere, walked on the waves, commanded the water to be still, and we were saved.”

After listening to all the testimony, a man rises and says:  “May I speak?  I think my evidence is conclusive.  You see, I was dead, but somehow I heard the clear and loud voice of Jesus:  ‘Lazarus come forth,’ and I shook off the chains of death.  I’m living proof of who Jesus is.”

Who is this?  Jesus is:

  • The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
  • The Bread of Life.
  • The Light of the world.
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • Resurrection and the life

Who is Jesus to you?

A Joyful Heart

Beautiful smiling cute babyMy concept of God might be different than yours.  I believe God is loving, caring, and full of joy.  God gave us our sight so we can have the pleasure of seeing rainbows,  butterflies, and majestic mountain ranges.

I thank God that He blessed me with the sense of smell, so I can enjoy the aroma of a freshly baked cake; and I am overjoyed that He created me with taste buds, so I can savor the flavor of apple pie topped off with a big dip of vanilla ice cream.

On my journeys into the wilderness, I’ve enjoyed the solitude of silence that is only interrupted by the chirping of a bird, the whistle of a quail, or the refreshing sound of a flowing river.

I’m glad that God wants His people to experience the wonder of joy and the fruit of happiness.  Solomon wrote of this in the Proverbs: “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit . . . a cheerful heart has a continual feast (15:13, 15).”

A couple of chapters later, Solomon draws a contrast between the joyless and the joy-filled:    “One with a twisted mind will not succeed, and one with deceitful speech will fall into ruin. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (17:20, 22).”

Since a joyful heart is good medicine, here’s a medicine chest full of quotes:

  • The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things. ~ Henry Ward Beecher
  • I think I began learning long ago that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others. ~ Booker T. Washington
  • If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it. ~John Templeton
  • You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, Your God has anointed you with the oil of joy. ~Hebrews 1:9
  • I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. ~John 15:11-12

The key to living a life of joy is found in the words of the Psalmist:  “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” ~Psalm 16:11

Three questions come to mind when I think of the verse above:

  • Since God reveals the path of life to you, why take a detour?
  • If abundant joy is found in His presence, what do you have when you refuse it?
  • If eternal pleasures are in God’s right hand, what is left? Temporary and unfulfilling worthless worries?

I’ll close with the words of Paul:  “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” ~Philippians 4:4

The Meaning of LIfe

meaning-of-life-37When you first see the word, you may wonder if you will remember how to spell it.  When you try to read it, you may think you will mispronounce it.  The word is Ecclesiastes, and it is one of the Wisdom books of the Old Testament.

Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s attempt to find the meaning of life.  When you get to the last chapter of the book, Solomon makes a summary statement:  “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

There are some places in this book where you will find a phrase is repeated several times.  The fourth chapter is a good example:

  • 4:1: “the oppression that is done under the sun”
  • 4:3: “the evil work that is done under the sun”
  • 4:7: “I saw vanity under the sun”

The three repeated words, “under the sun,” reveal the key to Solomon’s frustration.  His attempt to find meaning in life was difficult.  “Under the sun” places the emphasis on a horizontal perspective at the expense of the vertical dimension.

What Solomon initially failed to grasp, was firmly gripped by Paul.  Notice how he accentuates the vertical perspective of the Christian life: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth  (Colossians 3).”

Paul’s use of the word “above” calls attention to the vertical perspective and contrasts it to the “things on earth,” or the horizontal realm.  Which one of these orientations guides you?

The answer to this question is found in what you wear:  What have you put off and what have you put on?

  • Paul said you should, “Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.
  • Once you have put off the horizontal, you are ready to put on the vertical: “Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created you.”

There were times when I was a kid that I would frustrate my parents and they would ask:  “What in the world do you think you’re doing?”  That’s not a question you need to answer; however, you might think about this:  How are you living under the sun, and what have you put off and put on?