Monthly Archives: June 2016

Listen to His Voice

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

Have you ever been rejected? Probably at some point or another, we all have. For some, rejection has occurred quite frequently. To be excluded, to be shunned, to be cast aside, to be made to feel of no value for whatever reason.  Those are the experiences and feelings no one wants to have. Imagine however if the very people who refused you were the ones you came to save? Imagine the people who treated you in such a manner were the people you were trying to rescue, the people you were willing to die for, the people you gave your all to love.

This verse in John tugs at my heart because it explains the intent of Christ and the manner in which humanity received him. He came as the light of the world, the answer to our imminent death, the Savior of mankind; yet, we had become so familiar with ‘darkness’ that we did not recognize what God was trying to do.

I often wonder what I would’ve done if I lived in Jesus’ time. Would I have readily accepted Him? Would I have known He was the King the prophets talked about? I’m not sure. And what about now, 2000 years since His birth? Do we accept Him fully or are there parts of us that still reject Him?

Not too long ago, I came across a wounded bird in the field. He appeared dazed and stunned either by hitting a tree or a car window. I didn’t know. As I carried him in my hand back to my house, I noticed his beautiful feathers and coloring. His breast was spotted with brush strokes and his wings were several shades of brown. The details alone on this bird blew my mind. I couldn’t fathom the time God had taken just on this particular bird. How much He must love His creations!  As I viewed that  bird, I couldn’t help but realize God’s grace in us.  As the Psalmist has said, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Like the bird, the intricacies of the human body mesmerize the careful observer.  I am amazed at the magnitude of God’s love for us.

Yet, by our lifestyles we reject Him.  Today I challenge you to listen to His voice.  Choose to embrace Him as Lord of your life.  Instead of choosing to reject Him and walk in darkness, allow the light of His voice and life to fill your daily experience.  He deserves to be accepted by us.

What God has asked you to do

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”

God had a job for Jeremiah. He wanted him to tell the people of Israel to repent and return to God or face dire consequences. It wasn’t a message Jeremiah wanted to deliver and because of it, he made excuses to God. But God knew Jeremiah was the man for the job, and He encouraged him.

God never asks us to do something He does not equip us to do; yet, we question our abilities. Maybe God has called you to do a particular job for Him but you do not believe it is possible. We can understand how Jeremiah might have felt. God’s words to Jeremiah are no different from the words He would say to you or me. “Do not be afraid…I am with you.”

God has work for you to do. Whether or not you do it is up to you. Listen to the tug within your heart. Respond to His voice and call on your life. Don’t let your doubts and insecurities prevent you from moving forward and doing what God has asked you to do.

What casts our fear?

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

I once heard someone say that “do not fear” was written in the Bible 365 times – one for every day of the week. I loved that; but then I realized it wasn’t true and after studying the subject further, found that ‘do not fear’ is commanded a little over a hundred times. Still, God says it quite a significant amount of times.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. 

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Scriptures such as these encourage me. You and I have nothing to fear because God’s love casts out fear. He is the protector, the provider, the rock. With Him, we have nothing to FEAR.

Deuteronomy 6:13, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.”

Joshua 24:14, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.”

Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

The very instructions not to fear in the Bible, which is found some 100+ times; the very same word is used in the context of God to fear Him. To take these scriptures and rationally lay them out – we are told “do not fear;” “love God;” “perfect love cast out fear;” but, “fear the Lord.” Looking at it this way, it seems contradictory and confusing.

Perfect love casts out fear but the fear of the Lord brings wisdom. When we sin, we fear the consequences. When struggles come our way and hardships surround us, we fear the outcome. Because of the love of Jesus Christ, He took the burdens of our sins and trials and hardships and conquered them on the Cross. The only thing to fear is being without God; being away from His presence; being outside His protection. The fear of the Lord is being outside of Him; but His perfect love for us forces our fears away. He is BIGGER than anything we could ever encounter. He is STRONGER than anything that could ever harm us. He is more POWERFUL than any evil force that could influence us. What we have to do is stay in His perfect love and fear has NO hold on us.

Today, pray about your fears. Understand that your faith in God doesn’t prevent scary things from coming into your life; your faith in God equips you to handle them.

How ’bout a bowl of Rooster Dumplings

Matthew 26:31-34, “Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ 33 Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ 34 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’”

It is the night of the betrayal by Judas Iscariot of our Lord and Savior. For thirty pieces of silver, Judas brings the authorities to Jesus. Earlier in the evening, while having dinner with His disciples, Jesus explained to them He would be betrayed by one of them. He describes for them what is ahead; but, they cannot understand Him.

We are all a little like the disciples. We have the Word of God before us. We are told how we should live our lives and what will happen if we do not follow God’s Way; and yet, many do not. Many boldly reply as Peter, “I will not fail you Lord! I’m here beside you. I will not fall away from You.”

And then the rooster starts crowing…maybe it is the lie you told your spouse…maybe it was the one last hit of drugs…maybe it was the alcohol, the judgment of others, the cheating…maybe you did not defend Jesus in order to be politically correct. You justify your actions because it is a business matter and business is business. You turn your head away from those who need help because you don’t want to be involved. Maybe it is the pornography…the one last attempt to strike it rich…the juicy bit of gossip. Do you hear that rooster crowing?

If I could translate rooster into the English language, he would be saying, “You failure. Cockadoodaldoo! You sinner. Cockadoodaldoo! You unworthy, no good, piece of nothing. Cockadoodaldoo! You’ll never measure up.”

Is that what your rooster is crowing? Because if it is, he’s feeding you a bowl full of chicken feed lies.

You are worth dying for – even though you deny Him – you are so valuable and so precious to Jesus. There is nothing you can say or do to make Him love you more or less. And if He needed to do it, He’d die for you all over again, because He loves you.

Silence your rooster. Chop his head off and serve him up for dinner. Stop listening to his crowing and start listening to the One who created you and loves you and wants what is best for you.

Tonight, I think rooster dumplings might just be on the menu for me. How about you?

But I am willing to pay the price

Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

What interests me the most about the Apostle Paul’s comments is his contrasts of emotions. He is suggesting that we get rid of destructive behaviors such as bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander and replace them with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. Easier said than done, isn’t it?

I saw a quote recently. It was actually on a shower curtain in the guest bathroom of a couple with whom Connie and I spend time. “Forgiveness is admitting we are like other people.” The phrase stuck in my head for several days until I could rationalize what it meant to me. Interestingly, we see others for what they are. We see ourselves for what we are striving to become. When others make mistakes, we measure them by the mistake they made. When we make mistakes, we reconcile the action with our circumstances and strive never to do it again. We find the potential in ourselves and disregard the potential in others.

Forgiveness comes when we see ourselves in others.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

Christ came to us in human form to experience our struggles, our temptations, our grief, our mistakes. He came so that He could connect to us in a way no one else ever could. And because of His willingness to do so, He paid the price for our sin – IN FULL – accepting the pain and suffering for us. It is difficult to relate His action with ours but I see it in this way, when someone apologizes to us for hurting us, we tend to respond, “It’s ok. No worries.” In actuality, we’ve probably told 3 people what they did to us. We don’t really want to be around that person and while we think we’ve forgiven them, we really haven’t.

Forgiveness comes when we say, “Yes. You hurt me deeply. But I am willing to pay the price and love you. I’m willing to accept the pain and the betrayal and continue our relationship.” That is what Paul meant when he wrote those words in Corinthians.

But how do we truly know we have forgiven? 3 Ways to be assured you have forgiven a wrong doing.

1. The act does not consume your thoughts any longer. When we are betrayed, we tend to play it over and over in our minds. We talk about it and refer to it on a regular basis. Sometimes it becomes who we are. It is how we relate. When we forgive, we are able to put the action aside.

2. It doesn’t hurt anymore. While forgetting would be a great thing, most of us don’t have the ability to erase our past; but, when we forgive, we remember the action, but it doesn’t have power over us anymore.

3. We can love the offender. The toughest part of forgiveness is willingly showing our love for the one who hurt us. We do not react differently in their presence. We display genuine acceptance when they are around.

Today, realize there is someone in your life you need to forgive. Start on the path to turning “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander” into the kindness and compassion of God.

Under New Management

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

Finding Peace

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The Hebrew word for fool in this context, and in other places in the Old Testament, is a word which means morally defiant. The fool Solomon describes here is very much like a snake, deaf and unable to charm. Until the fool is willing to know God, he despises Godly instruction.

According to the psalmist in Psalm 58, unredeemed people are seen as wicked in the eyes of God, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer however skillful the enchanter may be.”

Some of the psalmist’s words are hard to understand. The important part to remember is, when David wrote these words, he is asking God to punish the wicked; he is not asking God to allow him to punish them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, anti-Nazi, and one of the greatest martyrs for Jesus Christ wrote a small book called Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Bonhoeffer lived his life according to the richness of the Book of Psalm. He understood from his prison cell in Nazi Germany what it was like to be tormented by the wicked. He felt the depth of evil, as David is describing in Psalm 58. He knew well of the existence of the ungodly.

Many times in the Book of Psalm, the authors cry out to God to punish the wicked; to declare judgment upon them: “The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” The words are very sombering when we consider our God to be of love and light. David meant here simply the wicked will die and the righteous will not.

So what do we do with Psalm 58 and others like it? First, the important words to remember are, David was asking God to handle those who harmed him. It is no different from what we pray when we turn people over to God; those who sin against us or are cruel to us; those we believe are unjust and unfair. We lay them at the foot of the cross; we place them in the hands of God. It is not for us to handle but for God to handle in His time.

Secondly, we were all wicked before the redemption of Christ; before we were reborn in Him. Whether we want to accept such a thought or not, until we drenched the blood covering protection of Jesus Christ over us, we were/are considered lost among the wicked. That is why the battle for souls is so important to God and so important to Satan. Every soul counts.

Because Jesus was human on earth, He understands what it feels like to be treated cruelly and unjustly at the hands of mean and hateful people. The Psalms are the prayers and cries of human beings to God; humans in desperate situations; humans who believe in a God who protects and defends them against evil.

Bonhoeffer writes, “It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God, and who stands in our place and prays for us.” Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, page 20-21.

Most of us will not experience the depth of evilness as David, Bonhoeffer, and many others tortured for their beliefs; but, some of us understand what it is like to face unfairness, hatefulness, and cruelty. Some of us know the deep emotions of betrayal and heartache at the hands of another. As David, we must turn those feelings over to God to handle. Only He can punish fairly. He is the only just Judge.

Today, as you pray, ask God to help you find peace with your enemies. Put them in the hands of God. Let Him deal with them. Remember who stands in your place and prays for you.