Friday, July 11, 2014

A man on the run

The man was on the run.  His pursuers were close behind.  Fear filled his entire being.  Not knowing where to turn, not feeling the safety he longed for, he felt alone and afraid. 

Have you ever been that desperate?  Afraid of what might happen if you were overtaken by those who were chasing you, and seemingly having nowhere to turn, no way of escape, alone and afraid, what would you do?

The man in our story is David.  His pursuers were the Philistines.  David was in quite a predicament. The account of what he did about his situation is recorded in Psalm 56.  Look at the beginning verses of the Psalm.  

Be merciful to me, my God,
    for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
    all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
    in their pride many are attacking me.

David cries out to God in his desperation.  One lesson we learn from him here, is David's prayer to God  comes before his own attempt to solve the problem.  Yes, he was in trouble, but as the verses which follow will show, David has not forgotten God.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

We find ourselves in disturbing circumstances, too.  If you read the remainder of Psalm 56, you will find more of what David faced, and more of how he depended of God for his deliverance.   The latter verses of the chapter tell us again of David's trust in the Lord.  But there is even more.  Look at verses 12-13.

12 I am under vows to you, my God;
    I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

David had learned, as we must learn, even in desperation, God longs to demonstrate his power and willingness to rescue his people.  When we do not know where to turn, God says, "turn to me."  You see, the phrase, "In God we trust," is not only the mark on our currency in America, it's the mark on the heart of every child of God. 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

It's "Bob" story

Someone asked me recently about a blog post from almost 2 years ago.  I remembered the post when they told me it was the one about a man named Bob, who was incarcerated in prison, and anticipating his meeting with the parole board.  I went back through the list of posts and read again the words I had written about Bob, some of which were taken from a devotional booklet written entirely by prisoners.

Here is Bob's story again.  You may remember some or all of it.  Read it again and let it soak in.

Meet "Bob," who has been in prison for 10 years and has his first opportunity to go before the parole board and seek his release. Bob is the picture of genuine conversion since early in his incarceration.  He has been quite active in worship, classes, and personal one-on-one teaching for almost 10 years. He is anxious to be released so he can have the freedom to tell everyone he meets about the saving power of Jesus Christ. 

The day comes for his meeting with the parole board. He enters the room, with letters from prisoners, letters from pastors, his good conduct certification, recommendation for release from a couple of well known business leaders. More than anything else, he is armed with the power of God and finds great strength because of his constant life of prayer. 

In boldness and confidence, Bob addresses the board. After the presentation of all his accumulated recommendations, Bob felt sure his parole was imminent.  The board, however, came back with a ruling of  "five more years of incarceration."  Bob was devastated. 

From his prison cell, alone with his thoughts, Bob cried out to God. His agony was evidenced by his tears. His prayers seemingly weren't being heard, and if they were heard, they weren't being answered.  When Bob was leaving his cell for the evening meal, he felt God saying to him, "They are watching you."  He prayed again and thanked God for the reminder. Then Bob describes his walk to the cafeteria by saying, "When they look at me, all they see is His righteousness."

Note: I have not heard anything else about Bob since I first wrote about him. I have no idea if his situation has changed.  What I do know is, the message of God's righteousness being seen through his life is powerful, regardless of which side of "the wall" we reside.

Maybe you are where you are today because that is where God wants and needs you to be. Regardless of our location, situation or our circumstances, may we be so devoted to Him, that when others look at us, they see only "His righteousness."


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

After the Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:14-15
"14 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.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Those two verses come from the Sermon on the Mount and are the words of Jesus immediately after the Lord's Prayer.  And remember, it is in the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus said, "This is how you should pray,"  and it includes the part where we are taught to pray for God's forgiveness in the same way we forgive one another.

What prohibits us from having this type of forgiveness toward others when we pray?  We who are so ready for God to forgive us, so ready to experience the freedom of his forgiveness, cannot come to grips with God's insistence for us to be forgiving toward others.  God says we either forgive those who sin against us, or he will not forgive our sins.

The remedy for this dilemma lies in the depth of our understanding of the love of God.  God must really love us because he keeps on forgiving us.  That should lead us into another truth.  The reason we have difficulty in forgiving those who sin against us is because we have not learned to love them.

We love our families, some of our neighbors, we love sports, we love cars, we love golf, we love fishing, we love God.  When it comes to someone sinning against us, we want justice.  They have acted in a way that does not deserve forgiveness.  They may try to make things right, but we have the tendency to hold their sin over their heads from now on. 

If you remember nothing else today, remember God forgives you, and in every sin you commit, you do not deserve his forgiveness.  He forgives you because he loves you.  You can only experience God's forgiveness when you are forgiving toward those who wrong you.

Draw close to God as you need and seek his forgiveness, but draw closer to each other as you are forgiving toward them. 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Here are your benefits

Psalm 103:1-5
Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I love hearing words of praise to God.  When we know a prayer has been answered, when we know a problem in the church has been conquered, when we know a hardened sinner meets Jesus and knows sins are forgiven, these are instances of praise to our God. 

You can think of your story, instances in your life when God moved and worked, bringing those changes which began or expanded your relationship with the Father.  That's a time when your heart leaps with praise and adoration of God.

Look at the printed text above and especially verse 2.  "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits."   Wait!  Benefits?  We like benefits.  In this one verse from Psalm 103 David gives us the encouragement that we should never forget the benefits from God.  The verses which follow list them. 

1.  God forgives all your sins.
2.  God heals your diseases.
3.  God redeems your life from the pit.
4.  God crowns you with love and compassion.
5.  God satisfies your desires with good things.
6.  God restores your youth like the eagle's. 

These are not necessarily benefits we anticipate from an attitude of "What's in it for me?"   Just remember God tells us a Father gives good gifts to his children.  We are such a blessed people when we realize God is saying, "These things I love giving to you."  Read the list again and again. 

Because of God's love for us, and our remembrance of all his benefits, we are eager to live our lives in constant praise of Him.
"Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name."


Monday, July 7, 2014

Life in the flesh, and life in the Spirit

I have always been a fan of Romans 8.  Much of the terminology from scripture, dealing with the blessing of knowing God, in the form of His Spirit, resides within us, comforting, leading, supplying, and directing His power in and through us.  

You are encouraged to read aloud, the entire chapter, but for the sake of our blog lesson today, I want to give you just several things which "jump out" of the written Word, while showing you a major part of your identity in Christ.  All verses are taken from Romans 8, the writings of the Apostle Paul. 

Verse 5  -  "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires."

Even for the Christian, there is the constant battle between the flesh and the Spirit.  It's true, the death of Jesus on the cross brings our victory, but while in this life, Paul is letting us know that we make the choice of being led by our fleshly nature, or by the power of God's Spirit.  The way we can check is to look at our own personal life to see if we set our minds on doing the things of the flesh, or the things the Spirit desires. 

Verse 10  -  "But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness."

Paul is making sure you understand this.  Your body will die because of sin, but in spite of that, the Spirit gives you life.  This makes it all the more important for us to live our lives motivated by the Spirit. 

Verse 15  -  "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship."

Inviting God into your life does not make you like a slave living in fear.  He is in us to bring an end to fear, because it is the Spirit that brings about the life of the Christian belonging in God's family. 

Verses 18-21  -  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."

Your belonging to Jesus could lead to sufferings.  Paul would have us to know those sufferings fade into oblivion when compared to the glory that will be revealed.  The freedom we will be knowing in Jesus is going to be applying itself to all creation, which waits for the children of God to be revealed. 

This is a sampling of the blessing that awaits those who choose to be led by the Spirit.  You will be blessed by regular reading and application of Romans 8.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrate Our Nation

Enjoy your July 4th weekend.  Pray for our great land and our leaders.  God bless.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Say So!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.   Psalm 107:1-3

It was a cold winter evening in west Texas when a fishing buddy called, reminding me we had a baited trot-line in the creek .  The coming winter storm  was described by the forecasters as being accompanied by strong winds and freezing rain.  Our plan was to make a quick trip to the creek to retrieve our trot line so it wouldn't be destroyed when the storm arrived. 

There we were in a flat-bottom boat, rolling up the line which stretched across the creek.  Suddenly the line became tight and began to move around quickly.  We both had a hand on the line, attempting to pull in our catch, but I was about to decide this fish was trying to catch us.  I caught a glimpse of the fish's head and open mouth when it made a jump out of the water, landing right next to the boat and drenching us with extremely cold water. The fight continued and we ultimately brought in the 25 pound yellow catfish. 

I told you my fish story just to get to this part. When we arrived back in town, carrying the fish in the back of the truck, we went to the homes of several of our friends and woke them up to come outside in the cold, just to see that fish.  Most became excited, just like us.  Others thought the news could have waited until morning.  Personally, I wanted everyone to know about that fish. 

The Psalmist in chapter 107 gives us pictures of redemption. Some were wandering in desert wastelands, not knowing one direction from another. They were in hopeless situations experiencing hunger and thirst. They were lost and they knew it. Their lives were ebbing away. When they cried out to the Lord, he delivered them and led them to a city where they could settle.

Some were in prison, suffering in darkness and the pain of being in iron chains. Their disobedience and rebellion had brought them to rock bottom. They cried out to the Lord, and he delivered them from their distress. 

Still others were suffering the results of their rebellious ways and suffered afflictions because of their sins. In their cry to God, he sent out his words of healing and they were literally rescued from the grave. 

Is it any wonder, the Psalmist started the Psalm with the encouragement for the redeemed to tell their story?  Or, as other versions say it, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!"
We have some stories to tell.  More important than our fish stories, investment stories, grand-kid stories, or any other stories, let's be the redeemed of the Lord, telling our story.