Friday, October 24, 2014

We are coming back!

After considerable energy and labor, we appear to have our computer and programming issues behind us.  Current plans are aiming at the return of our regular posting schedule to resume on Monday.  Thanks for your prayers, your suggestions, and the help of those more "savvy" than me, in helping us to overcome the obstacles which prolonged our absence. 

Please continue to pray for our blog and the lives of all our readers, here and around the globe.  Thanks in advance for your continued support.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Trouble Comes

Note: We are addressing the computer issues and should have things back on schedule by the middle of this week.  Thanks for your patience.   --RonB

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;  the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.
 The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land
    and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.

So David begins with these words, recorded in Psalm 41. He recognizes the weakness of man and the power of the Lord who delivers in times of trouble. David knew some times of trouble and the strong arm of God to deliver. In addition, David says it is the Lord that protects and preserves life, and offers blessings in the land, and will never surrender him to his enemies. 

As the Psalm continues, David is seeking mercy from God and confessing sins. Then he mentions his enemies, those who speak bad of him, those who speak falsely of him, and those who slander him. Even his close friend in which David had placed his trust had failed him.  So David knew what it was like to live in troubled times. 

The end of the Psalm shows David's confidence in God. He seeks God's mercy again, knowing it is God who raises him up. He experiences God's pleasure with him, and because God is pleased, David's enemies will never beat him down.  Now look at verse 12:

In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.

David knew he had enemies, but he also knew that he was living a life that pleased God. He knew he was a sinner but he also knew God had forgiven him. He had trusted in the Lord for deliverance, protection, preservation and victory. 

In our day, we would do well to pay attention to David's actions, and especially the way he places his confidence in the Lord.  We are also living in a world where there will be those who continually accuse us, reminding us we are sinners. Satan is always ready to fulfill his role as the accuser.  We even have friends and brethren who might disappoint us or turn their backs on us. We are no different from David when it comes to facing times of trouble in our lives. 

David is our example for overcoming adversity. Like David, sometimes our troubles are brought on ourselves, and sometimes it might be the fault of others. The bottom line is this; regardless of where the difficulty has its origin, the answer always lies within the power of God. 

I refer you to the opening verse of Psalm 41 again. Learn to trust in the Lord for your deliverance. Know that it is God  who sustains us and protects us.  Believe in God's victory for your life.  You, as well as David , can know " In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever."


Friday, October 17, 2014

We are the children of God

Note:   Due to technical problems, we are unable to access some of the program used to create new posts.  We will be publishing our weekend post in the form of a re-run. Thanks for your patience while we work on the computer troubles.

1  John 3:1-10
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,  we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

What a marvelous description of the children of God. By describing us as God's children, John also gives some indication of who is not a child of God. Look again at what he says. 

1. If someone's life is controlled by sin, he is of the devil, and therefore not of God. 

2. Anyone who doesn't do what is right is not a child of God. 

3. Anyone who does not love his brother is not a child of God.

However, the first part of the chapter brings hope and joy to those which the Father calls his children. John says, "That's exactly what we are because the Father's great love has been lavished upon us." Look at some of the attributes mentioned.

1. When Jesus appears, we are going to be like him. 

2. No one that lives in him keeps on sinning, because God's seed remains in him. 

3. The child of God is on that shows love to his brother. (Read 1 John 3: 11-24)

The last verse of the chapter, verse 24, sums the entire issue, "Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."


Thursday, October 16, 2014

It Stinks!

Any child which finds its roots in a Christian home where the Bible is front and center in all things, can probably tell you the story of Jonah.   I suppose most of us immediately think of Jonah and the time he spent in the belly of the big fish, but just like all the stories and events in the Old Testament, they have lessons to teach and truth to be believed, even for New Testament Christians.   Let's look at the story a little closer.

 "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."    Jonah 1:1-3

Jonah was a prophet now commissioned by God to deliver a sermon to the residents of Nineveh, to let them know God had issues with them because of their wicked and sinful lives.  Just how Jonah would accomplish this must have weighed heavy on his mind.  Put yourself in his shoes.  Suppose God told you to go into a city and start proclaiming to its residents, that they were sinners and viewed through the eyes of God as being totally wicked.  Jonah was no dummy.  He knew a message like that from someone unknown to the people of Nineveh would probably lead to his demise.  So he decided to do what we would probably do.  Go the opposite direction, away from Nineveh, in an attempt to hide from God. 

Jonah paid the fare for a trip on a boat headed for Tarshish.  Perhaps he could attempt to justify his decision by assuming he was saving his own life.  Like us in our unfaithfulness to God, Jonah could  feel safe if he just convinced himself he was doing the right thing. 

The verses that follow our text tell the story of Jonah running from God and the subsequent wind and storm that came up, the fear of the sailors, and how each one of them was crying out to their own gods for safety.   All the cargo was tossed overboard to lighten the load.  During all of this, Jonah found a comfortable place below the deck and went to sleep.  Ultimately lots were cast to determine who was responsible for the impending calamity.  The lot fell on Jonah.  This led to their questioning about Jonah, who he was, where he was from, who were his people? 

When Jonah revealed to them he was a Hebrew, and a follower of the Lord, the crew was terrified, because Jonah had already told them he was running from God.  Jonah then made the suggestion for them to toss him into the sea because he knew all this was happening because of him.  They tried rowing back to shore, but the waves were too great.  They then prayed for forgiveness for what they were about to do, and they threw Jonah overboard.  Verse 17 says, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
I don't know about Jonah's immediate reaction, but mine would have been, "It Stinks."  Fish smell bad enough on the outside, but I can only imagine how bad they smell on the inside.  And that teaches me, if I choose to run from God, and go in a direction opposite from the one he has chosen for me,  I can expect to know I am in the wrong place and living the wrong way because, "It Stinks."   Do a little spiritual "sniffing" in your life.   Learn the love of God as he directs your steps. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reflections on Our Worship

In the 1970's, we were given a trip to Acapulco, Mexico. It was exciting to see and experience the Mexican culture, beautiful buildings, market places, exotic restaurants  and a beautiful hotel on the beach of Acapulco Bay.  From the beach, looking back towards the mountains , I remember seeing some kind of huge monument which drew my attention.  I originally thought it was probably some historic spot which reflected their culture or religion. Although a visit to the monument was not listed on our tour, it still fascinated me and I kept wondering what it was all about.  I researched it when I got back home and learned it was a monument erected to two American investors who had taken a chance and a lot of money and transformed Acapulco from a tiny Mexican fishing village, to one of the most popular tourist locations on the globe. The citizens of Acapulco had all, in one way or another, improved their economic status because of those two men, so in a culture that was always anxious to build a monument, it seemed only natural to build one for these men that had changed their lives. 

One time Paul visited a city and was amazed at all the monuments and structures he saw, because each one had been built in honor of various "gods."  Perhaps there was a monument for the god of the sun, the god of rain, the god of mothers-in-law......the list is endless. In fact, for everything that you can name that was a priority to someone in that city, it had a monument. These were places where the gods of everything could be worshiped and adored.  

I can imagine the look on Paul's face when he read the inscription on one monument and it said, "To an Unknown God."  Just in case these people had overlooked some god , and they sure didn't want any god to be mad at them for being left out, they had this one built for the Unknown god. Or perhaps there was a god that was greater than all their gods put together, and although they did not know him or what to call him,  they sure wouldn't want that one left out either. Here's what Paul said to them, recorded by Luke in Acts 17, "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."  Paul used the opportunity to teach them the God who is unknown to them, can be known, and loved, and worshiped, and adored.  We worship some strange things these days; popularity, prestige, money, worldly goods. Perhaps we should examine our priorities; our devotions; the objects we worship. Ask yourself, what comes first in your life....WHO comes first in your life?   
Aren't we a blessed people when we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The blessing continues when we devote ourselves to the God who loves and forgives, and brings us into his family. Only the foolish would worship anyone or anything else.   


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where do you live?

Let's return to some familiar verses from the teachings of Jesus.  They are recorded in John 15, where our Lord is speaking to his closest followers.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;  and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."

What does it mean to you when Jesus commands and then explains the importance for us to abide in him?    While you think about that, consider a little more complex statement in verse 4,  "Abide in me, and I in you."  

Every gardener knows the relation of the vine and branches.  Jesus is letting us know that is an adequate picture of the relationship we should have with him.  His description follows in the latter part of the verse,  "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me."   Don't forget, he is the vine and you are a branch.  That's why Jesus tells us that we, a branch, cannot bear fruit by ourselves.  We cannot successfully bear fruit for him unless we abide in him.

I ask again, what does that mean to you to abide in Jesus and for Jesus to abide in you?   The scholars tell us the word abide in these verses literally mean "to take up residence."  So now we should be asking ourselves if we have taken up residence with Jesus.  Do we follow his teachings?  Are we obedient to his commands?   Do the lives we live reflect we are actually living or abiding in him with our speech, our decisions, our steadfastness?

Consider the extent to which he has gone to live and abide in you.  The Bible describes him as being "slain from the foundations of the world."  That means before you ever committed your first sin, Jesus was already going to be paying for that sin with his own blood.  Before there was ever a sinner, there was already a Savior.  It's his eternal and unfailing love for you that makes him want to abide in you.  He promises his abiding presence in you.  So vital is the reality of you living in him and in him living in you.  

In your time of reading and meditation, continue looking at the next section of John 15.  Especially see the other things related to abiding in Jesus.   You are very loved and cared for when you allow him to live in you, and knowing you live in him. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Real Horsepower

Psalm 20
May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
Now this I know:
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
    Answer us when we call!

The psalm is a prayer for King David, with reflections forward to the coming King Jesus.   As important as that is for us to read and learn, there are some other messages in these nine verses. 

In 1968, Ford Motor Company had already been producing the Mustang for a couple of years.  That car was at the head of just about every young person's wish-list.  The popularity of the Mustang spread far and wide.  Then along comes the Chevy Camaro and the Mustang now had some competition.  To this day, the boasting and arguments continue as to which is the better car.   Off road races were popular, some won by the Mustang, some by the Camaro.  Many continue the claims of superiority, depending on which car they own. 
Now look at verse 7 above.  Some were trusting in their chariots and some were trusting in their horses, just like we might trust in our cars, our homes, our bank accounts, our physical appearance, our popularity, or any number of things we proudly call "ours."  Then the alternate is considered in the second half of that 7th verse, "but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

Even in bible times, trusting in horsepower was replacing trust in God's power.  Trusting in what is ours, what we have built up, what we have accomplished, can lead to our spiritual ruin if we do not see our real trust firmly in the power of God.   It's by God's power we rise up and stand strong.  "Lord, the victory belongs to our King!"