The Spiritual Eclipse

Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…”

They arrived a few weeks ago, in a neat, plastic cover via Fed Ex. I opened them with enthusiasm, for they were a reminder of the approaching event. This is the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century. The last one occurred in June of 1918 and crossed the United States from Washington State to Florida – a path similar to the one we will experience today.

Like many of you, I tested them out. They are designed to view the brightest moments of this solar experience and as I walked outside, my new eclipses glasses pressed firmly to my face, I gazed up. The sun was surrounded by black. The most beautiful light in the universe; most powerful source of energy; the basis of all life on earth – it beamed in the vast openness of the sky, encased in black.

How should we respond to this phenomena? Maybe today is much more than a solar eclipse. Maybe there is much more to realize as we stand in awe of the unexpected beauty and wonder. As I have been experimenting with my glasses, I’ve contemplated the spiritual eclipse which at times lives within each of us. The moment when we block the light of God from our lives with sin, disbelief, and disregard. We walk complacently ignoring the words of the scriptures, believing our special glasses will protect us.

The moment the day becomes dark is very much like a person who is lost, and only until that person is found, life will be void of light. The question for each of us today, as we use our special glasses and gaze at the eclipse, what in our own lives is blocking God’s light? How do we see His brightness? How can it flow in and through us?

Today, spend time with God. Enjoy His wonder. Reflect on our Creator and the uniqueness of your relationship with Him. I challenge you to place your glasses in a place to remind you not to allow anything or anybody to block you from His light.

John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”


Understanding Your Part

In the New Testament, Christ gives us promises; yet, almost always the promises are conditional. Often, in fact almost always,we must do something to receive the gift of His promise. I like to read the scriptures and underline my part – highlighting what I have to do to experience the fulfillment of His promise in my life.

John 6:35 – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

John 16:33, “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.”

Many years ago, I worked with an incredible leader whose philosophy of “Team” was simple: if you have a problem, bring with it a solution. His expectation in meeting with one of his team members required a presentation of the problem and a presentation of an answer. He would then contemplate both and come up with a resolution. That way, we all had ‘skin’ in the game. We couldn’t just come to him and complain expecting him to answer all our problems.

Christ is presenting a similar platform for us to follow. He wants us to bring our problems to Him but in doing so there is something expected of us. We must understand His requirements. He gives this, we give that. Salvation is a “TEAM” effort. Christ requires us to live in accordance with His words so that we become a part of His Team.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!”

Salvation is not about works; it is about the mercy and grace of God. When we are saved, we become new creations in Christ. A transformation occurs in our lives. We are no longer our old selves and our new selves long to obey His commands.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Luke 9:48, “Then He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.'”

Walking in the Promises is a two-way street. Many people miss what they have to do and see only what Christ has done for them. If it were simple, why the sacrifice? Why suffer humiliation in the hands of evil? Christ died so that we might live – because He knew what we will face every day here on earth; because He believed in our ability to remain faithful to Him; but above all, because He loved us enough to give all so that we might live with Him in eternity.

Understanding your part in receiving the Promises of our Lord and Savior is a key element in our daily walk with Christ.

John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Luke 11:28, “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'”


His Way is Perfect

Awwww…the perfect life. No worries. No decisions. No grief. No pain. No sickness. Where do I sign up?

Psalm 18:30, “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.”

Sometimes I read this scripture and that is what I ponder. By perfect, what does God mean? No struggles? No trials? If I just do exactly as God says to do every second of my life, do I get the perfect life? Well, if so, we’d have to remember Christ’s life, it was perfect, but definitely not free of suffering.

Because of the fall of man, we are faced with many issues and obstacles. Trials, struggling, pain, grief are all inevitable because of Adam and Eve. The secret is following God’s way in dealing with them all. He has all the answers – every last one. His directions will NEVER lead us astray. We may run into trouble; but He knows the way out. We may suffer for a period of time; but He knows the perfect remedy. We may fall down and get hurt; but He will pull us to our feet every time. If we let Him…

I know life is not about luxury. Life is about learning. Life is about building our character and giving us the integrity we need to fight the spiritual battles daily. God’s way is the perfect plan, if we will just obey it.

My dad was big on making us follow instructions, from how to mow the lawn to cleaning up the church, there was a certain way to do everything. As I entered my teenage years, it bothered me tremendously. I knew a better, faster, more efficient way to do it! Woe be unto me if I should alter his directions. Now that I am a grown man and a father myself, I am grateful to my dad. It wasn’t about doing it “his” way, it was about following directions.

God is the same way and He gave us an instructional manual and sent His Son to reiterate it. It is up to us to actually do what He says. Believe me, He isn’t looking for someone to tell Him a better way to do it either. His way is PERFECT…period.

If you are struggling, maybe you need to step back and look at how you are dealing with a particular issue in your life. Is it the way God would have you to deal with it?  If not, read the Word and find out “how to deal with it.” If you are handling it in a Godly way, then be assured, you will be “out-of-it” soon. He will never forsake His beloved children.


Blazing Fire

Isaiah 42:13, “The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior He will stir up His zeal; with a shout He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over His enemies.”

It is very clear in the Bible that God is a warrior. Revelation 19:12-16 says, “His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood – His eyes are like blazing fire – Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword – Wow! He is one tough man of war. It isn’t really the picture of Jesus as depicted in the New Testament, is it? There is a real contradiction and at times it can confuse us, as Christians, as to how we are supposed to be.

Matthew 5:39, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” That doesn’t sound like eyes blazing…

Matthew 5:41, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” That’s not really someone whose robe is dipped in blood, huh?

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Hmmm…it does not depict David in the Old Testament holding the head of Goliath, now does it?

There are times in our lives when God will call us into battle. Yes, He will. There are also times in our lives when God will judge and fight the battle for us. Yes, He will. The key is knowing when to fight and when to wait.

Ephesians 6:10-20, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

When we arm ourselves in the Word of God, we are ready for any battle that comes our way. We become His mighty warrior at the appropriate time and place. Sometimes the fight is about loving our enemy; and sometimes the fight is about running toward the battlefield and defending our own. Sometimes we have to battle for what is right and what is God’s; it all depends on His orders – our Commander.

Are you ready to hear God’s call to battle? Would you know it if He called? Pray today and ask God to help you be the warrior He needs for you to be – at the right time and right place.


The Path to Eternity

There is a dangerous myth floating around. What side you believe is the difference between life or death for you. It is the belief that there are no eternal consequences for our actions here on earth. It is a cultural crisis imposed by a nonchalant, politically correct, live life my way attitude. For the most part, people believe God exists, the crisis comes when we live as if He doesn’t exist.

Life without consequences is a life filled with selfish desires and chaos. There are consequences for everything you do – good or bad. No action occurs without some reaction. Newton’s third law of motion, “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.” In other words, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Don’t fool yourself, what you do today will have a consequence tomorrow.

The greatest tragedy is the consequence of not following and believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior. It is extremely clear in John 5:24-25, Jesus tells us, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; He has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”

There is a religious teaching which indicates one need only pray the sinners prayer. Understand, Jesus makes it clear in His word, when you are saved, you are a new a different person. Don’t be fooled by thinking because you said a prayer you can continue in your sinful lifestyle. The consequence will be as Matthew wrote in 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”

People fall short in their definition of “believe.” Jesus’ definition of believe is doing what He tells us to do and living as He instructs. Matthew writes in 19:17, “‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.'”

I struggle with the shock some are going to experience when they realize Jesus did not know them. It is senseless to come to the end of your life and hear those words when Christ makes it very clear how to know Him. Consider today your relationship with Him. Do you read and study His word? Do you practice daily following His guidance and His laws? Do you communicate with Him through prayer and worship? If you answered no to any one of those questions, today is the day to make the change. Start living your life on the path to eternity.


Up to Seven Times?

Matthew 18:21, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Peter is asking Jesus what everyone of us have asked Him before, “What do I do with forgiveness when the person hurts me over and over – the same way?”

Jesus’ response to Peter was simple, “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

The parable that follows is one of the greatest examples of forgiveness for us to follow and one of the toughest. It is from Matthew 18:23-27 and it tells of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. There was a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. The king requested that the man be brought before him. When the man told the king he could not pay him back, the king ordered for the man, his wife, his children and all his belongings be sold to pay back the debt. The man pleaded with the king and assured him he would pay him back. The king felt sorry for the man, forgave the debt, and let him go with no consequence.

He didn’t extend the time to pay the debt back; he didn’t work out additional terms of the loan; the king CANCELED the debt the man owed.

When people hurt us, we believe we are owed something. The question is what?

Money? Time? A new relationship? A do-over?

What could someone actually do to repay you for what you have suffered?

The real answer is not “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; the real answer is “Do unto others as Jesus Christ did unto you.” But that is really hard.

The conclusion of the parable brings quite an added twist. When the man who was forgiven his debt by the king leaves, he goes and finds a servant who owed him. When the servant explains he cannot pay him back, the man has him thrown into jail. When the king hears of the man’s handling of his servant, he calls the man back in and has him thrown into jail and tortured until the debt is repaid.

Matthew 18:35, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Forgiveness is a “heart issue.” It comes when we realize those who have hurt us do not deserve our forgiveness; but, they receive it because we have been forgiven by Jesus Christ. The harsh reality is we believe we forgive for the other person; but, we forgive for ourselves. For our hearts. For the protection of our souls. Forgiveness is a decision to cancel the debt; to walk away and say, “You owe me nothing.” It is a decision to stop telling the story; to stop hearing the wrong over & over in our heads; and to choose to say, “He/she doesn’t owe me anything.”

Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

 


Warfare

Have you ever thought what the flip side of victory is? Some of you may say defeat but actually it is warfare. Without a fight, there is no victory. 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

When we stand firm it means we are unmovable, steadfast, and faithful. Like David who charged after Goliath, in order to experience victory, we must not give up the battle. We cannot let the enemy wear us down.

I’m a sports fan, particularly football and baseball. Like football, in order to win the game there has to be an opponent. What would it be like if our favorite team walked out on the field, threw a few passes to one another, and the coach shouts, “Alright team! Good game! Shower up!” Would you even be a fan?

Life is like football. The battles bring the victories. The question arises though, who is the enemy and what is our weapon? Since the rebellion of Satan and his dismissal from Heaven by God along with 1/3 of the angels, we have been engaged in combat. Satan’s mission? “to steal, kill, and destroy all that belongs to God and is Godly.

The weapons at your disposal? Prayer, scriptures, fasting, faith, the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, the gifts of the Spirit, and anointing. You are also not alone. Jesus tells us that He is our advocate and He actually prays for all believers from the time He leaves the earth until He returns, so we will stand as one against Satan. John 17:20-23, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” He is praying for you and me.

When we fight for the Lord, our labor is not in vain. Victory will come to us, as long as we do not quit. Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”     

Remember you are fighting the good fight. Today, focus on the weapons you have to defeat the enemy of your soul. Arm yourself and charge. Victory is at hand.