Moving towards the hope that was foretold.

Why do we not know the country whose citizens we are? because we have wandered so far away that we have forgotten it. But the Lord Christ, the king of the land, came down to us, and drove forgetfulness from our heart. God took to Himself our flesh so that He might be our way back.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Please don't let me die."

"I don't want to die. Please don't let me die."  - Hugo Chavez  28 July 1954 – 5 March 2013

The last words of a dying man are a bit self defining, I think.  When the king lays dying, all the pomp and circumstance, all the false pride, all the honors of state, all the medals pinned to a uniform, and all the accolades of your 'supporters' come to an end.  What you have left is the stark reality that you are leaving all this behind.  The illusion of power fades and the uncertainty of eternity is real and imminent.  I have no way of knowing where Mr. Chavez's heart was, but I can look at his life, study the fruit on the tree.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Matt 7:16

I am seeing more thistles than figs in the life of this man.  In an attempt to put a spin on things, this was the response from his government.

"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips ... `I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,' because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," Gen. Jose Ornella 

Well General Ornella, I beg to differ.  I do not think it was love of country that brought those words to his lips but rather a fear of falling into the hands of a just and righteous God.  For the citizen of Heaven, death is when life truly begins.  A grave is just a doorway cut into the sod, a turf portal to a place of rest and the close presence of the God we love....where our faith shall be our eyes.

We have a promise regarding that and God is able to keep his promises.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also...."  John 14:1 and FF

But not for the unbeliever.  For them, this life is as good as it ever will get.

I hope that Mr. Chavez, in that final moment,  reached out to God for mercy and forgiveness.  God is willing that none should perish.  Because when the last breath was breathed, he stood before God and all those medals and powers and puffed up importance were of no worth at all.  Presidents or paupers, God looks at the heart, humbles the proud, lifts up the weak.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first.  How is it that the powerful ruler of a country, a man who held lives in his hands, will fear death while a poor and humble servant of God, someone of no importance, of no great worth or standing in this life, can slip away with a smile on his face and peace in his heart?

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. - John 14-27

And only things done for Christ will last.  

What Does the Lord Require?

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

But for the wicked....

11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales
    and with a bag of deceitful weights?
12 Your rich men are full of violence;
    your inhabitants speak lies,
    and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.
13 Therefore I strike you with a grievous blow,
    making you desolate because of your sins.
14 You shall eat, but not be satisfied,
    and there shall be hunger within you;
you shall put away, but not preserve,
    and what you preserve I will give to the sword. - Micah 6

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reading from Ravi Z this morning...

On whether God is just an invented crutch for weak persons:  "For the Christian it is a relationship with God that brings humans this genuine fulfillment. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal put it beautifully:There once was in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace. This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, because the infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself. St. Augustine famously said of God, “Thou movest us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Billboards and the hinge of history.

Much was made about the recent posting of a billboard in Times Square, New York, that was funded by an atheist group.    It created quite an uproar among Christian groups and individuals as they decried the thing and the message behind it. It is yet another shot fired in the barrage-like attempt to expunge all traces of God in the public square.  It got me thinking about just how much I, as a Christ follower, should care about this if at all.

Finally I came to this conclusion.

It is irrelevant.

Let's put this in perspective.

I heard the other day that the fastest growing Christian church per capita is in Iraq.  Iraq, where choosing to follow Christ can and likely will mean censure, isolation, prison, torture, or death, often at the hands of your own family.  There, knowing Christ has a real cost.  Do you think that, even for a moment, that a believer in Iraq would care at all about a sign with a message such as this in his town square?  Here today, gone tomorrow.  In the midst of a spiritual battle with a firefight raging all around you, do you stop to read billboards?

But in America we apparently have so little to actually do for Christ that we can afford to focus a great deal of attention on this.  I have heard it said that Christianity in America is a pool that is thousands of miles wide and a half an inch deep.  In Iraq they are in the deep end.  Committed is a word that just falls short.

So if a group of secular humanists with an agenda and a advertising budget wants to expose to the world the symptoms of their unyielding hearts and unbent knees towards God, then so be it.  "If you toss a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps got hit".  The emperor is displaying a robe of reason, clear thinking, and modern scientific fact.  And he is naked except for the chains he wears.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  John 3:19

But this season is about the Bringer of Light and the Breaker of Chains.  Chains that hold the world in bondage to sin and despair.  Chains in Time Square, chains in Iraq.  Chains in the hearts of those who bought and paid for a billboard that decries the Light of the World as a myth...chains that lay broken at the foot of a manger long ago, chains shattered by the small cries of a baby born to a virgin.

The hinge of history is on the door to a stable.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why can't I pray my heart's cry?

I was listening to a radio broadcast where a person was dying in the hospital bed.  Surrounding him were church folks...the sick man was a Pastor...and they were praying the typical 'church words' prayers.  They were lovely and elegant and spoke of God's will, His comfort, etc.  Now all this is true.  God's will is sovereign and He is the great comforter.  But this man was dying and he had a family and a work of pastoring the church.  He would be missed and he was slipping away.

And old elder from the church came into the room, helped by two canes.  He took in the scene for a moment, dropped his canes and laid across the dying man's body.  In a booming voice that bespoke of age and wisdom, he cried out to God, "Lord, We love this boy.  Save him so he can live a life of service to you."

No quoted verses or flowery language.  No if or buts.  Just a prostrate man of God, calling on the Lord he knew so well with the urgent desire of his heart.  Do not take this boy from us.  Do not let him die.  Let him go on with his work.  Give him life.  And as if to hold down the soul of that man, he laid across his body in a plain gesture.  He was 'all in', both in word and actions.

I saw this again the other night when a spiritual mentor of mine prayed from his heart in such a simple and eloquent way, that it struck me.  Plain words spoken plainly from the heart.

So why, despite all the things I know, all the spiritual truths I can explain, all the lessons I could teach...why do I equivocate in prayer when things on on the line?  Fear?  Doubt?  In Vegas talk, was I 'hedging my bets'?  The understanding of allowing for God's will in all things is a basic but not often understood part of Christianity, but had I allowed that to get in the way of plain and earnest petitions to God?  Say what you mean.

I think somehow I blended it all...a desire to be cover all the bases..."Yes Lord, I want this to happen, but what do YOU want to happen?".  "Let's do that one, OK?"  And fear of asking for something earnestly and plainly..."Save that life!"  " Heal that marriage."

God will work out what is best for those who love Him and are called according to HIS (not our) purpose.  But I think I need to take a lesson here and give Him the best, most honest desires of my heart in unequivocal terms, then be patient and praise Him for whatever the outcome.

James 5:17

New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I was watching the original Toy Story movie off and on today during lunch.  There was a scene where Buzz Lightyear is struggling with the realization that he is not a real super hero but is, in fact, a manufactured toy.  He now sees himself as just one of a hundred thousand mass produced look-a-likes that are not unique or tasked with a special purpose but will end up on the trash heap of discarded, used up toys.

Then, Woody the cowboy toy tells him that he is indeed special, that he has special qualities and has a purpose as being one of Andy's toys (the boy who owns him).  Right then, Buzz turns over his foot and written on the bottom of his boot is Andy's name.  He realizes that he is loved by Andy and that he has a special value after all, even if he is not a super hero.  He belongs.  He has a destiny and a purpose.

If we have, in truth, recognized our need for Christ due to our inability to deal with our sins, accepted Him as our only way to salvation, repented, turned from our sins and chosen to follow Him, then He writes His name on the bottom of our boots.  In a world full of people with no sense of a ultimate meaning to life, where many see themselves as just another mass produced product of evolution with no unique soul or intrinsic worth, where 15 year old girls hang themselves from school signs because life seems to have no purpose...God sees our value, gives us a purpose, provides hope.

Jesus, the almighty God that created the universe with a spoken word has written His name on your boots and your souls.  We belong to Him.  Walk like you believe it matters.  Because it does.  It is everything.

John 10:14
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—

This Old House

Ever see those reality shows that highlight a run down house or failing restaurant and the contractor comes in and saves the day by cleaning out the clutter, the old worn out things, and renews the property so completely that is is hardly recognizable to everyone that knew it?

When we are dead to sin we live in a house where clutter fills our time there.  The foundation is set on shifting sand.  The timbers are rotten, the plumbing leaks.  No matter how hard we try, all our home improvement projects come out less than we dreamed they would be.  It can be a dark and lonely house...a house we are trapped in with no hope of ever paying off the burdensome mortgage.  In fact, that house will be condemned and we can do nothing to change that.  The notice will be nailed on the door of our shack.

Then, when we come to realize our need for Christ and we accept His sacrifice for our lives and trust Him, something amazing happens.  The doorbell of our house rings.  The reality show 'This is Your Salvation' shows up to renew your home and bring it up to God's standards, preparing it for useful service and preventing the notice of 'condemned' that would have been nailed to the door.

But when the Holy Spirit comes in with His toolbag to begin work, we have concerns.  He says that this will be hard and a bit painful.  Sometimes the projects will hurt and will seem like they are taking forever to complete.  We did not expect that.  We begin to question the project a bit.  So, we walk through the house and come to the basement.  He shows us the new timbers set on a solid bedrock foundation. "When did you do that?", we ask?  He says that it happened the minute you signed the contract with Christ to begin the work in your life and that this is just the beginning!  You are amazed and for the first time you have reason to hope!  You envision a new house, one that is warm, inviting, clean and is used for all the right things.

Then you walk through the house a bit more and come to a room that is very messy.  You have been hoarding bad habits and foolish things in there.  You close the door, promising that you will neaten this up before He can work in there.  The Spirit of God pleads to let Him help and together you can bag all the old stuff and toss it out but you want to do it yourself.  He checks His list and suggests another improvement.  "How about we tear this wall out and open up this room?  It will be brighter and more useful".   But you want to keep that wall.  It has been built stud by stud by stubborness.  It was plastered with a coating of pride and painted to look nice so it hides what it is made from.  We feel safe behind that wall.    It is the mask our house wears.

Walls hide things and hide us. 

So God's contractor suggests we start small and organize that closet over there, pointing to a shut and looked door.  Oh no....not that closet.  There are things in there that I do not want God to see.  Dark things.  Selfish things.  Dead things.  That is where we keep our pornographic magazines or internet sites.  It is where we keep our money.  It is where we keep the sins that we love to have locked away where we can go all by ourselves and visit them.  Unforgiveness.  Hate.

The Holy Spirit puts down his blueprints and tools and waits.   

We begin to rationalize that the house we live in is not so bad after all.  We promise to clean-up that room tomorrow and then God can really get to work, but we get distracted by some shiny un-important thing in there and we are carried off again. 

That wall is what we are certain is supporting our house.  How can we remove that?  God must have made a mistake in the planning.  Besides, you worked very hard building that wall and others just like it.

Then there is the secret closet.  Well that would be embarrassing.  We cannot open that and show it the light of day.  Oh no.  I cannot let God in there.  Other places, but not there.  Other days, but not now.  After all, I have that wonderful new foundation to count on, and isn't that really enough after all?  I mean, I am better off than I used to be, right?

And God waits with plans for an amazing house while we shut the door to our miserable shack.

1 Peter 2

 1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
   “See, I lay a stone in Zion,
   a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
   will never be put to shame.”[b]

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Face of Sin

The older I get the less I like sin.

Now that is a good thing, but it pains me.  At work the TV was on and the reality show COPS was playing.  I used to watch the drama played out and shake my head, thinking how foolish folks are.  The drugs, alcohol, poor life can be amusing to see how stupid people can be.  Then after a time I came to realize that they are lost, blind people in need of a Savior and but by the grace of God go I.  So it was not so amusing anymore, but still entertaining at some level.

But now I think I have turned a corner.  Today, watching a mother and daughter scream at each other, toss possessions into the yard, hearing that dad is an alcoholic and wants a divorce....well there is no entertainment in that.  The pain, hurt, and wounding, some self inflicted, some not, is sad beyond words.  I buried my head in my hands and nearly cried.

The girl was pretty and 16 years old.  The house was nice, not a ghetto.  She should have been planning for the next school social or dreaming about boys with her friends, asking questions to mom like, "how did you know dad was the guy you wanted to marry?"  Mom and dad should be clinging to each other like life depended on it and protecting that girl while they prepared her for life on her own.  The house should be a home.  It should be, when all other places fall short, a safe place.  Her parents should be, when all other people fail her, there to support her, guide her and help her through life's hardships.  Jesus would be there amongst them, the spirit of God indwelling that family.  There should be love.

But we lost so much in that garden moment.  Sin is not safe, loving, caring, warm.  It cares not for a young girl's dreams or her cries for mom and dad to just love each other like they should.

Sin destroys everything it touches and that day it was destroying a 16 year old girl's life.  I think that it is a sign that I am growing in the Lord and likely growing old as well, that I am coming to hate sin and what it brought to this world.  I cannot begin to comprehend how God feels about it.

No wonder Jesus wept at the death bed of Lazarus.  It was not supposed to be this way. And it will not always be so.  I so look forward to that moment in time when there are no more tears, no more pain or sorrow and we are in the presence of God for eternity.

Sin promises a lot of things it does not deliver.  It puts on a face of fun and excitement.  But the true face of sin was shown in that 16 year old girl on a TV show.  How could I have not seen it before?  Shame on me, but thanks to God for His patience and grace to allow me to see it now.