Testimony

Dog & Butterfly

dog

I’m taking here a moment to appreciate life in all of its wondrous glories. So I’m calling this another interim post, as I continue preparing the next post in the Bible Origin series.

But first I hope to expound the wisdom of remembering that:

 

What we do today will definitely fashion our tomorrows.

 

On the other hand, we can become so caught up in preparing for our tomorrows that we can miss out on the joys of today, and that’s what this little tale is about. I hope you will have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Blessings!

A Moment of Life

 

There is no other day than today

No other moment as now 

I had to be reminded 

A puppy showed me how.

 

The sun rose to its mighty strength 

Warmly proclaimed its goodness

Blazing colors of infinite length

Dancing in its beams of gently falling light. 

 

Forest green and lime and jade 

Lemon yellows crashing 

Richest browns to ecru fade 

Against a shocking scarlet hue. 

 

The mighty canopy above  

Its bluest blue bequeathed 

Caressing billowy white with love 

Creating sculptures made of cotton.

 

Trees rose up all waving  

Their many arms outstretching 

Like yawns of comfort savoring 

The sun’s bright life rays catching. 

 

Melted into a grassy field, 

My mind beheld the flowers, 

To eyes the tender petals yield 

Their beauty, their visual powers. 

 

Then sprung yips of high delight 

A puppy bouncing into sight 

About the bladed carpet there

Chasing dreams without a care. 

 

An alary monarch  

Alit playful on his nose 

Humbly wearing that royal hue  

Waving flags of striking blue. 

 

Delighting in his youthful foray, 

That enchanted puppy squealed, 

As flitting off, the butterfly,  

Went zigging cross the field, 

With doggy pouncing, always late, 

Gleeful panting, effortless gait. 

 

Round about the romp persisted, 

The chase too cute to fathom, 

To join the lark I had resisted, 

Waves of gladness rolled in tandem. 

 

Aviary symphonies rose, 

Sprightly melodies fashioned, 

Tufted spectators cheering, 

Me loving where I’m stationed. 

 

I lived within that moment, 

An eon of life enjoyed, 

In just one moment of this day, 

A lifetime of thankful joy. 

 

 

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Categories: Christian Living, Poem, Poetry, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing God

It’s an astonishing, yet elating discovery: God in all His glory and holiness is intimately interested in having a relationship with every one of His children.

I was fortunate enough to know a fair bit about God before actually meeting Him. But I had a good deal of fallacious thinking about Him too. We all do.  God overlooks the invariable false understandings people have of Him, at first. Faithfully, He will bring us to a lucid enough understanding where we’ll confidently be able to proclaim, “I know God—I have a personal relationship with Him!”

Many people construe the personal aspect of a relationship with the Lord to delude themselves into thinking they have a special and unique means of connecting with Him. That’s simply not true. Often we hear people saying things like: “Me and Jesus, we’ve got our own thing going.” It’s even in a song that’s actually sung in worship services. The next clause proclaims, “Me-n-Jesus, we got it all worked out.” They will believe that lie, thinking that each of us has our own formula for coming into the presence of the Most High. God Himself, however, is the one who ordains how we are to approach and make contact with Him, as well as how to unite with Him.

It is only through faith and trust in Jesus, His Son, that we can meet the righteous requirement of entering into His glorious presence. Faith and our submissive dependence on Christ are unwaveringly requisite, that we may be with Him.

Granted, once we unite with God our relationship with Him becomes very personal and there will be very sweet things that only you and He share together. For example, I myself have a pact with God. On His part, I am irrevocably saved, and on my part, I will never surrender to defeat in attempting to be perfectly righteous and sinless in the life I live, as impossible as that may be. As individuals, we may have widely diverse assignments and various paths to walk. One may be ordained to suffer great pain and loss for the cause of Christ, while another may be held up before the world as a powerfully used vessel for propagating the gospel and leading many souls across the threshold of life. The way into that relationship, however, remains a stringently singular path.

Even when time ends and eternity is ushered in, I don’t think anyone will know ALL there is to know about God: He’s simply too big and complex. He does, however, reveal the most important aspects of His being, which are essential to know if we are to interact with Him and become like Him in character. Here’s a good place to start: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

In the stillness of an empty mind, my soul inhaled the merciful goodness of God, as He revealed Himself in response to faith. I was silent before Him. The first towering wave rushed from His throne and washed over me—I found myself imbued with an awareness of His sovereignty over all things, most importantly over me. He is to be exalted, worshipped and praised. And suddenly I was acutely aware that the Lord’s omniscience causes Him to know my thoughts even before I think them. King David noted the same thing: “Before a word is on my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely.Psalm 139:4
The second wave came as what I call a thought-sensation, which this time communicated His pure holiness and righteousness. This, His glory, caused me to tremble in fright, because I am not perfectly holy. Yet within that same wave came the torrent of His love, expressing the merciful grace He had already lavished upon you and me. My quaking limbs were stilled. Fear was replaced with elation and praise! I had humbled myself, and so He lifted me up and gave me His joy and peace! (1 Peter 5:6)

God demands to be recognized as the awesome God He is. The bible indicates that we are to fear God in over one hundred and twenty five verses scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. This goes far beyond the greatest respect and honor that we would show to someone here on earth. With God we move into reverent worship and awe. Don’t fret, His mighty love casts out our fear, that we may have fellowship with Him, unafraid.

And yet, before we simply sashay up and talk to God, we’d best be aware of who and what we’re talking to. Our lives depend upon it. Often I’ve heard Christians speak of Jesus as if he were simply a bosom buddy, and that is reflected in the lives they live, as well as in their prayers. They don’t seem to realize who it is they are speaking with. I’ll be the first to admit that I was the same way in my Christian infancy. And God winked at my immature view of theology. But I don’t think any of the Apostles looked at their relationship with Christ that way. Sure, He is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. He demonstrated the tender compassion and mercy of God throughout His ministry, until He finally manifested the unrivaled love of the Father by willingly dying a horrible death on the cross, that we might again have a close relationship with our glorious God. But He is still God, and we are but children in His sight, and quite limited in our ability to wrap our heads around His majestic being. But one day we too shall receive glorified bodies.

Jesus is a friend who will never leave or forsake us. The Lord’s tenderness and compassion were clearly demonstrated until His ultimate display of God’s awesome love was manifested on the cross

To have a good relationship with God, and gain His favor and blessings upon our lives, there are some things we must first be aware of. We have to know how we are to approach Him. Let’s list a few facts.

  1. He is Omnipotent, meaning all powerful.
  2. God is Omniscient—He Knows all things, including all possibilities.
  3. Our Heavenly Father is Omnipresent: in all places at the same time.
  4. The Lord is infinite.
  5. God is eternal.
  6. He is Spirit
  7. The Most High is immutable: unchanging.
  8. Our Creator is not bound by the laws of physics, as He is the one who ordained them and did the math that is involved. He can operate outside of the laws He put into motion. If you need examples, do a study on all of Jesus’ miracles and see how each miracle He performed defies a particular law of science. Jesus was revealing that He is indeed the Creator of the cosmos, and: “The Great I Am”.
  9. God created time, and He is outside of the time He created, yet He often works with, and within time. He made it for a purpose.

And all that is just for starters.

Everything the Bible says about God is but half of what we learn once we actually come to know Him. That’s what I’ve been working at for the past forty years, and I still have a long ways to go. No, I’m not slow—He is just that vast and complex. We won’t know Him fully until eternity, and even then I’m not certain we will know ALL about Him. He’s a very big God!

Lately it’s gotten to the point that I even rejoice when God disciplines me. It reminds me of when my son was very young. Whenever he felt he was not getting enough attention, he’d do something to get my attention, like drinking Tabasco sauce from off of the refrigerator door, or pouring a cup of dirt onto the dining room table. It’s having the attention of our Fathers that feels so good. Even negative attention gives us the assurance that someone greater than ourselves loves us, and is in control.

But I’m talking about attention from a HOLY GOD. Many volumes cannot fully convey what holiness actually is, and what it looks like. My next book is on holiness and how it pertains to our sanctification, but about the time I believe I’ve grasped deep spiritual insight to pass along to others, I discover higher, more elevated planes of knowledge. The more I learn the more I discover that I have yet to learn. When we receive a solid vision in our minds of who God is, and what He is, it is simply amazing that He would stoop so low as to be intimate with you and me.

When we come to God’s character, His nature and His complex personality we do not have anything on earth to compare Him to. Let’s continue our previous list.

  1. God is pure holiness. The visible quality of His Shekinah Glory can actually be seen. But then you’d have no retinas left. The brightest, whitest light you’ve ever seen pales in comparison to God’s visual appearance—He dwarfs the sun’s lumens. In fact, the bible teaches that a man cannot see God and live. His holiness would automatically incinerate us—He’s that great.
  2. The Lord Most High sets the perfect standard for righteousness. He is flawless.
  3. God is LOVE!

While this is far from an exhaustive list, each of the above descriptions should be pondered individually if we hope to fully understand the importance of knowing these things about God, before we can actually come to know Him personally.

With that being the case, God reveals Himself to us incrementally. And the further we go with Him the more wondrous and amazing things about Himself He reveals to us.

God is so great that humbling ourselves before Him should be automatic. If we have properly meditated on His properties and virtues then our humility when approaching God should come quite naturally. Just listen to the Beloved Apostle John’s testimony about the time He envisioned our Savior, Christ Jesus in His glorified form. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17) What does that speak to your heart about the greatness and the glory of our God?

God called Job a righteous man. But look at this righteous man’s response when our Holy God spoke to Him. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4 Then, Job found the boldness to speak just a bit more, which is a good eye opener for us. He said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  By the way, the eyes Job was talking about were the eyes of faith. Hebrews talks about this kind of faith in chapter eleven. I like the part where it reports that Moses “Saw Him who is invisible”. The only way to see the invisible is through the eyes of faith. Believe me when I say, “Along with great faith comes spiritual eyes which demand that we conform to the new didactic and divergent sights. They are highly illuminating vistas. The information the Lord offers us is gained only through a close personal relationship with Christ Jesus. (Yes, He is also our friend, but let’s not forget His exalted position.)

I garnered a good rule of thumb from a High Priest in Israel’s history. Even though Eli failed to restrain his son’s from doing wickedness and desecrating a rite God had established, and was punished for it, He had some words of wisdom to pass along.

When young Samuel heard the Lord calling to Him twice, Eli gave great advice.

 

“So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9

When we come before the throne of God we need to allow Him to be in charge. God will hear our petitions or whatever is on our hearts. He wants to help us with that, but first things first. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” That is complete submission to God, recognizing who He is. Allow the Lord to set the conversation, and when it comes time to speak what you have to say to Him, or questions you hope to ask, you will know.

Okay, my coffee is worn off—time for a fresh pot. Blessings!

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Professor Proudy Pants

pride

Everyone loves a good educator—unless of course they happen to be unedifying and overly didactic all the time, even towards the waitress when ordering at a restaurant. “If you cook the veggies in such-and-such a way they will retain more of their nutrients.”(I may be guilty of that particular one myself). It seems that the chances of falling victim to foolish pride increases with the number of years one attends formal schooling.

In my sophomore year of high school I took “Electricity” as an elective course. The teacher was a brilliant electrician, but he did not have the capacity to teach. He wasn’t even capable of teaching someone how to tie their shoes. Having knowledge is one thing, but knowing how to convey that information to others is an entirely different matter. Over half of the class received an “F”, including myself. One fellow made an “A”, but his father was an electrician and had already taught him the trade. My apologies in advance, but I can’t help but convey to you this teacher’s name, because there is such irony in the fact that it too began with an “F”—Mr. Fink. That was really his name—I’m not making this up!

But again there is irony here because I actually did learn something from Mr. Fink: One way to not teach. His problem was that he was too far above everyone else to know how to teach it to us in a language we could understand. The man’s frustration caused his anger to flare up often.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m focusing on one pandemic problem that keeps any person from being able to convince, explain and teach what they know to others. It, of course is having pride in how smart we are. When we become proud in this area we will not even realize that we are communicating that fact to others. In their minds it sounds like we calling them stupid and proclaiming ourselves to be geniuses.

Prideful teachers usually already know all they ever will, because their horse is too tall for them to dismount and study the ground any further. They feel no need to dismount because they already know all about what’s down there, even when they don’t. To think another person, especially one with a lesser degree on the wall has anything of import they could pass along to them, well that would just be ludicrous. Even though they may never say that outright, that’s the way they make people feel.

It is for this very reason that some Christians make extremely poor evangelists. We can have not only an intellectual pride from what God has taught us, but we also could develop a feeling of spiritual superiority. We know our doctrine and have studied our bibles extensively. Perhaps we have been a Christian for a very long time. We have Doctorates in Theology for goodness sakes!—or, we’ve been teaching the bible for many years. I’m feeling the heat in this next one. We have a PhD from the Holy Spirit, just like some of the early disciples had.

I’ll never forget the time the Spirit taught me some fairly deep theology through an atheist. Well…if the water wasn’t deep at least he cleared up the muddiness a bit. I’m certain it was a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn well.

“I can use anyone as an instrument to teach you, pay attention.”—God

It’s odd how the more educated one becomes the more they seem to forget some of their common sense stuff and social etiquette. So here’s a checklist for us to use before witnessing to someone else, or teaching a class, or writing a post for that matter.

  1. Never stop being a good listener.
  2. Always be open to learning something new.
  3. God can use anyone to speak through!
  4. Try to learn the feelings that lie behind the other person’s beliefs. (There’s usually some past pain that shapes their thinking)
  5. Empathize with them, love them, and then lead by example.

Yes, pride of intellect can often play a huge role in skewing our testimonies. Pride causes us to not truly hear others. But it can also cause us to unknowingly give off signals that automatically switch our hearer’s ears and hearts to the off position. A very old adage fits this situation well: “They won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

So let’s save the lectures for the classroom. Let’s actually feel what they are saying, and learn where their understanding and thinking is at. Let’s make room for their past experiences and care about their feelings. Let’s find some common ground and agree on that first. Then maybe buy them a coffee, and wait for the Spirit to show us an opening to love them into the truth.

FYI: When sharing the good news of Jesus a person must first know what the bad news is. They must first understand that we are all sinners and that the penalty is death, eternal separation from God. Then, the good news will sound as good as it truly is! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16


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Hearing God’s Voice

This painting by Winslow Homer stirs up some great memories. Homer was a man who like me was enamored with all things outdoors.

rapids

Whether rappelling off cliffs, shooting rapids in a canoe, or performing perilous covert missions, I’ve tasted adrenaline more times than I can count.  But there’s no doubt as to the one activity that remains the grandest and most exciting adventure that continues to enrich me. Call me a thrill seeker, an adrenaline junkie or simply an adventurer, the labels do not matter to me.

So far I’ve had a life filled with wild, wonderful and inspiring adventures, and have traveled considerably. Some of the sights would scare the fleas right off of a hound dog, such as staring down the wrong end of a high caliber gun, or chasing a gang of robbers through the back alleys of Dongducheon Korea. Then there were the vistas where you feel privileged just to be there and take it all in. At times I was melted into a humble state of awe at the genius of God’s creative handiwork. One of my favorite discoveries was an underground river in Utah shooting out of the side of a horseshoe shaped canyon to form an above ground river far below.

But beyond question, the experience that was the most sensational for me came for the first time 29 years ago. It was quite unexpected how that simply communicating with God would be such a transformative and powerful thing. And it has been copiously repeated ever since then. Oh I had talked to God before then, but never felt I had the connection to really hear from Him. Yet, all it took was a full surrender to the Lord, and to capitulate with all my heart. That may sound like a cliché Christianese statement. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Yes, life is complicated.

There is one point that I hope to stress, and that is: If you’ve never been absolutely certain that God was talking to you—intimately interacting with you, then you simply have not yet lived. It’s still difficult for me to get my head around the fact that the Creator of this vast universe cares enough about every little individual person that He wants to have a close relationship with us. He gives life to the fullest!

Jesus said it in these words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b (KJV).

The New Living Translation puts it in today’s language: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Ninety percent of the time God communicates to us He speaks through His word, the bible. But then He confirms our understanding of His answers, through circumstances, and often through others. Whenever I’m truly in tune with God’s will, the answer comes in all three ways: first through the bible, then things happen in a way that illustrates that truth, and then some person actually speaks that truth without me saying anything to them about it.

Few are the times I have actually heard God’s voice in my heart and mind—twice for sure. But that was not so pleasant, because both of those times were in a negative. The first time was an ultimatum that literally scared me straight. My whole body was quaking. I was all set to commit an embarrassing sin when I heard the Spirit speak a bible verse. The words could not have come any more clearly: “Choose ye this day whom you shall serve.” I hadn’t read that verse in years, but was familiar with it as words God had spoken to Israel through Joshua. Another time it was simply one word: “Stop!”

I had planned to do my best to describe those moments spent with the Master, and how spectacular communicating with God can be, and how wonderful and loved it makes me feel. But there is no describing it. You’ll just have to experience that for yourself.

Allow me to caution you, however, that Christ is the sweetest addiction. It is strange though, how easy it is to get out of the habit of meeting with Jesus everyday for that fix. And the reason is that there are spiritual forces of wickedness at work. They hope to break our good daily habit of spending intimate times with God. When I skip just one day, the following day I seem to forget how awesome it is, and before I know it, it’s been a week. The power, joy and peace we gain by being filled with the Spirit every day can disappear in a flash, like a soap bubble in the sun, as soon as there’s a break in that habit.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” We feed on Him. Just as we must feed our bodies every day we must also feed our spirits, lest they atrophy and starve to death. Christ is our spiritual sustenance, and we cannot benefit from a relationship with Jesus unless we are constantly nurturing our intimacy with Him.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Instantly, as soon as I cease relying on Him, and I don’t consult Him on every decision, that’s precisely what I produce: “Nothing”.  That is, nothing of eternal value. We must remain in Him and the only way to do that is to maintain an attitude of prayer—maintain an open line of communication and fellowship with the Lord. We talk about meeting with Him in the mornings. But we are a part of Him and should not have to MEET with Him, as we’ve never left His presence! As for coming to Him in the mornings, this is to search for sins of the previous day, and confess them in order to cleanse our consciences, and keep our relationship good and strong. And this morning tryst is also for checking in with the boss for specific works He has for us to do each day. Perhaps there’s something we need an extra jolt of power for that day. But most importantly it is to ensure that we remain in a state of constant surrender and submission to our glorious benefactor and God.

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38

I hope you can see what makes life such an exciting and never ending adventure. It is remaining in Christ and having our spiritual senses awakened to perceive the Lord’s communication to us as individuals. But He also speaks to us corporately.  “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

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Time To Rejoice

rejoice

 

There are nearly a dozen hot button topics that have come up over the past week that I had hoped to expound. It would have drawn a lot more readers. But life kept on happening, effectively robbing me of the time I needed to plant my butt in the seat and type. But then again…

Today I want to block out all those other things bouncing around in my thinker, to relate what the Lord spoke to my heart this morning, through His word. Hold onto something now, we are entering my brain.  ☺

We hear the verse often, and most every Christian is familiar with it. I think there’s a danger in over using popular verses. When we hear them, our minds believe we’ve already received the full impact of that particular passage of scripture in the past, and so we don’t really think much about it. Opening my bible this morning, I turned to one such verse.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

I can say with confidence, I’ve read that verse lots of times over the years, and have heard it quoted even more. But let’s dig in, and see if we can draw some deeper meaning than what appears on the surface.

First, let’s list the topics that this verse includes. Certainly it speaks of God’s sovereignty: God is in control. He can do as He pleases. I’m thankful He is a good and loving God, aren’t you?

This verse also proclaims that the Lord is the Creator of time.

Trusting God through whatever the day might bring is another grand principle we need to apply to our minds, which this verse implies.

God is working out His grand plan for mankind corporately. He also has individual, personalized plans for each one of our futures. (Jer. 29:11) He is aligning circumstances and events so that His plan for you will be brought to pass. This verse shouts the topic of Divine Providence.

We should rejoice.

When we can rejoice in the Lord, regardless of what is transpiring around us, or happening to us, God is very pleased. It reveals that we are trusting the Lord, and acknowledging His sovereignty. We are showing our understanding of His providence. We are acknowledging His provision of all we need, and we are joyful over His love. So here’s the thrust of the message I received today. God led me to the book of Job to make the connection.

“He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” Job 2:10

You should already know the story of Job, so I won’t get into that, but suffice it to say that God allowed Job to suffer horrendous tragedies in his life

Yes, it is easy to trust God in the good times of plenty and health. But what about the days when my sciatica is raging, causing terrible pain in my back? What about the days a migraine headache forces me back into bed? Can I rejoice then?

Often, I think I know what needs to be done in order for me to continue growing in holiness. I have mapped out how to best serve the Lord, and what I need to accomplish in order to minister to others. I have my days all planned out. But sometimes God interrupts my plans, with His plan. He might say, “No, Sheldon, today you need a headache.” Will I trust Him still? Will I rejoice in the fact that God knows what he’s doing, and that it’s all for my own good? Can God show love to me by allowing me to have a splitting headache? Yes! I may not enjoy the pain, but I can rest assured that God’s love for me remains intact. I can rejoice because I trust in His wisdom, which eclipses my own.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should shout, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer!” I’m not going to actually thank God for my pain. But I am going to thank Him that He is using my pain to shape me into the image of His holy Son, just as He has promised. I will praise Him for aligning events to coincide with, and bring about His perfect will, because His will is better than good.

Another popular verse states, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

If I am going to rejoice in the Lord at all times, even during a sciatica flare up or a blasting migraine, I will need to trust God. I must accept the bad along with the good, as did Job. I must believe that in His providence He is working all things together in a way that will bring about all that is good for me. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Perhaps I needed to be reminded today that God is in control, and that He loves me very much. Maybe I required a refresher course in remaining joyful over my relationship with Jesus. But then, maybe God simply wanted me to write all of this out so that you would be reminded of these things. Whatever the case, the Lord is working.

Not perceiving or acknowledging God’s loving control does not hinder His plans from progressing, not in the least. But it will harm us, and steal off with our joy. Let’s lift up the mighty name of our glorious God today and rejoice in Him! Because, as we all know, God is good, all the time!

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we praise you that you are a holy God, and we praise you for your goodness and your sweet love. May your mighty name be forever exalted. We especially thank you for sending your Son, Jesus to pay for our sins and reconcile us unto Yourself. What an awesome plan of salvation! It is so wonderful that we have this precious relationship with you, and with Your Son, through Your Spirit within. We pray for your will to be done in each one of us, and across the earth. Teach us, oh God, to recognize your Lordship over all things, and to rejoice in the fact that you love us so much. Thank you for providing everything we need to grow in goodness and in godliness. We praise you for nurturing us along, as we become more and more like Jesus. We love you, Lord! We praise your mighty name, Hallelujah! In Jesus’ glorious name, Amen.

Categories: Growing in Faith, Ministry, Providence, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Father’s Wisdom

Dad

In the above image, my father Jim Bass was putting the final touches on a sign he’d built for the Chidomoyo Christian Mission compound in Zimbabwe Africa. He is now with the Lord.

It was fascinating to watch my father work. He was a true craftsman in every sense of the word. Whether working with steel, wood, rock or concrete, he could build most anything. But I was not content to simply observe.  When dad added a beautiful extension onto our Florida home, I stood watching wondrous things take shape under his deft hands. Oh how I wanted to be like him, and I wanted be a part of his improvement projects around the house. He would put me to work on tasks that would effectively keep me out of his way.

Work Crew

Above is preacher & missionary Jim Bass and his construction crew getting ready to put a roof on a building for one of the village churches of the Shona people.

Patiently, my father showed me how to add the right proportions of sand, cement and water to mix the mortar he used in laying masonry blocks. I made batches of it in a wheel barrow using a hoe to blend the mixture together. It was hard work for the little wisp of a boy that made up my twelve year old frame. At times, I’d simply be on hand to pass tools to him, and afterwards there were always cleanup jobs. But in my heart I knew the little bit of help I gave was insignificant. I wanted to do what my father was doing.

Laying those masonry blocks looked so easy. Constant badgering would finally lead to my father giving in. I watched closely how it was done, and then, finally, it happened. Dad stood up, handed me the trowel and said, “Have at it.” It was dumb luck that my first two blocks were set just right. But as I laid the third, and began to go on to the fourth, dad stopped me. Together we walked around to the other side of the wall where it was easier to see how the last block I’d layed was not level with the others in that row. And it was setting crooked. I was all ready to take that one block back out. But dad simply said, “I will take over now.”

My father did not do as you might think. He leveled that askew block, but left it as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. For many years afterwards, whenever I questioned my father’s decisions, he would take me outside the house and together we would look down at that one masonry block that stood out of place from the rest of them. Still today, I wonder at my father’s acceptance of that flaw in our wall, leaving it there, just to have a permanent life lesson for his son. Was I really that important to Him? Today, that out of place block can still be seen. And every time I think of it, there is a warm assurance of my father’s love for me. It is the most beautiful flaw I’ve ever seen.

During this, the sixth decade of my life, more changes have been wrought in who I am than in all the previous decades put together. It’s like running downhill, the further you go the more speed you pick up. At forty years old I was so certain of what I wanted my legacy to be. If only I could be remembered as a man of faith, a servant of God, all would be well. At fifty-seven I now realize that it’s not at all about what I do, but what I allow God to do, in me, and through me.

If I were to die today, I have no certainty as to what words might be used to describe anything close to a good legacy. We hope to leave behind something of ourselves that indicates we’ve left the world a better place for us having been in it. But I continuously see how inept I am to do anything of eternal significance. It is all accomplished by Christ in me, rather than by me. If there is anything to boast on, it’s merely to be a good helper. I do my best in submitting to God that He may work through me. But I need to stay out of God’s way, and not run out ahead of Him, and make certain I don’t hinder what he is doing. This involves a lot of listening, submitting and remaining available—doing as He directs. It’s the same as when I was helping my earthly father. I still feel rather insignificant in the overall scheme of things, but God thinks differently about you and me.

The bible indicates that each one of us is an important part of God’s plan. He sent His own Son to die in our behalf, that we may be a part of Him, and a part of the work He is doing here on earth.

Thoughts for reflection

  1. What flaws or scars do I have that remind me of my Heavenly Father’s love?
  2. The book of Revelation indicates that Jesus still has scars from His crucifixion. Why did He keep His scars?
  3. Am I taking credit for the things God is doing through me?
Categories: Growing in Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Unstressed Servant

unstress

As the multi-plenteous things I needed to accomplish today swirled in my head, and blood pressure began to rise, the Spirit spoke to me. You better spend some time in prayer and bible reading first. I was stressed with a capital “S”. There are just not enough hours in my days to accomplish all I hope to do. It’s possible that I have two hairs left which have not yet turned white.

Yesterday I finished my planned bible reading, and so this morning I realized that I’d failed to plan where to read next. I’ve been through the bible many times, yet it continues to teach me new things, as if it’s growing along with me. So, I did that thing that perhaps others have done at some point. Allowing my bible to fall open, I simply read whatever passage my eyes fell upon.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

That’s all it took to remind me that God is in control, and He has my situation well in hand.

As I began praising God, and thanking Him, another passage flashed through my memory. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  

My thoughts were: Christ is the one doing the work, not me. I’m just a tool in His hand. My breathing slowed to become deeper inhalations, and I began to relax. The fact that the work I do is actually Jesus’ work took a considerable amount of pressure off of me. Nobody expects a tool to rise up all by itself and accomplish this or that each day. I must simply yield myself to Christ and be available to do as he directs. He’s the one controlling and empowering the tool (you and me).

Then I flipped the pages of my bible to another random scripture and looked down to read this: (May God) equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…” Hebrews 13 (Parts of 20 &21).

“Okay Lord, I get it. Forgive me for taking your job onto myself. I’m getting back behind you—help me to follow closely. Please use me for your purposes today, and lead me. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

We can step into each day with confidence, knowing that as long as we are following Jesus everything is going to work out fine. There are still some projects I need to complete, but now I’m relaxed and confident in Christ. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, know that the Lord is with you. Make certain that you are following His lead, and remember, He never fails!

At this juncture in my day a second cup of coffee is calling my name. Mine is always fresh ground, but it would taste much better if you were here having a cup with me.

Faith, hope, love & peace to you today, and may God Bless You.

 

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Church Hopping

“There’s no place like home!” Dorothy made those words famous in the Wizard of Oz. And we all know it to be true. Ideally, there is no place more safe and secure than at home, among your family where you are loved and cared for.

God has ordained that whatever Church congregation you have joined, is your spiritual home until Jesus returns. The members of your congregation are your spiritual family, your brothers and sisters in the Lord. But all too often, when difficulties arise we look for a new church to attend. Usually, God would have us stay put, and mature through adversity.

So how often do Christians change churches because of a dispute, or we feel like we just don’t fit in? Perhaps we say we are not being fed spiritually. Maybe God would have the person who feels that way to do the feeding? Maybe some spiritual family member treated us badly. Many times the divide comes from some doctrinal difference, which in the end, has no real bearing upon salvation or the gospel of Christ.

I’m hoping to present this without giving the impression of finger pointing—Lord knows, I need grace from my spiritual family too. I’ve said and done some dumb things in the past, including changing churches for the wrong reasons.

We see it all too often today: people jumping ship when they realize everyone is not following the same spirit. In a perfect church everyone always agrees with each other and there’s nothing but love. But we all know: that perfect congregation does not exist.

I was that guy, hopping from church to church searching for the right one for me. It had to fit all of my requirements. It wasn’t until God put the thought in my heart that I needed to stop looking for the right church and simply look for a place where I could be of service to others. Rather than, a place that would satisfy my needs. What a tremendous difference this made. For a few years after finding my church home I still thought I was in the wrong church. Why aren’t these people doing what they supposed to do as Christians? I constantly wondered.

Many righteous people today work diligently for the Lord, yet they see little result or reward from their labors. Sadly, some are wearied from working alongside or beneath church leaders who seek to elevate themselves rather than Christ. I too have faced this dilemma in the past. I wanted to change churches and I asked God’s permission to do so many times. But every time He said, “NO!”

Wow, was I ever miserable. Until I finally submitted and said, “Yes Lord.”

I needed to simply remain humble, submit to God, and submit to the leaders who were over me. I had to trust the outcome to the Lord. My leaders had been selecting who they wanted to edify and support, while leaving myself and others out in the cold. They wanted followers for themselves, who would heed their every whim. Oh they did it subtly and covertly, of course. It looked to me as if they were trying to take the place of Christ as head of the church. They would nefariously hold down or suppress those they felt were a threat to their own exaltation. Part of that included refusing to facilitate the obvious spiritual gifts God had given to others. But in so doing, they sabotaged themselves, along with the entire congregation. Every believer’s gifts are for the purposes of edifying their spiritual family—building up their fellow church members, while bringing glory to God. Those church leaders would have been highly exalted by God, had they themselves submitted.

Thank God I did as He directed so that I could learn of His power and ability to transform hearts and lives!

Sometimes the answer may be to change the church family you work with. Far more often, God wants to use that hardship to grow you, and to teach you what diligent and faithful patience will bring.

  1. Trust God to work in that situation.
  2. Simply serve others, love and forgive (this is serving Christ).
  3. Reverse lead your leaders. Perhaps you are there to lead by example, even though the ones you may be leading have been placed in a position above you.

David experienced similar things from his predecessor. Just think of David’s righteous example to King Saul and his followers. Listen to his words in Psalm 37.

Verse 1:Fret not yourself because of evil doers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity.”

Take comfort in knowing that God sees your dilemma. He watches over you and takes note of your faithful work for Christ. Continue following Him. We are learning to love the unlovable, and forgive the ugliness, just as God loves and forgives us.

Verse 2: “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb.”

Yes, we are applying this to leaders of the church, whose hearts may only be half on Christ. Maybe their love is simply lukewarm. Remember, it was the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who drew His harshest criticisms. But even some of them became true followers of our Lord Jesus. Nicodemus comes to mind. Love them through it. Kill the bad with kindness and save the good in them.

Consider this: If you leave that church, how will the innocents of that congregation ever see the light of truth, having only ego driven leaders? Or leaders whose hearts are not fully set on Christ? What about the others?  They need you and your example!

*Most Importantly*

Pray for your leaders. And love them through their spiritual obstacles. Watch God work through your faithfulness and your prayers. Watch His mighty love work and watch how wonderfully He reconciles each one of His children to Himself.

Verse 3: Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and verily you shall be fed.

Continue to trust God for your advancement, and for the freedom to use those God given gifts for the building up of others in the church. You shall be fed and nourished up in Christ; our spiritual sustenance. Wait for God to vindicate you and He will lift you up.

 

The dilemmas I faced at a particular church, which I will not name, have since been resolved. Oh there are still disagreements and possibly we can get on each other’s nerves at times…but isn’t that the same with all families?

You are not free to choose your biological family. Neither are you free to choose your spiritual family in Christ (a particular congregation).

The Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) adds you to His church. And then, He is the one who leads you and dictates which spiritual family you will grow among. What an epiphany that was when God first revealed it to me!

Be certain you are walking in the Spirit and following God’s direction when selecting a church home. Then stick with it, for better or worse. But in Christ, it always gets better.

Categories: Church, Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Rising Above Adversity

Because I have traveled so extensively throughout the United States I have been blessed more than most when it comes to meeting extraordinary people who have impacted my life. There were lots of memorable characters and influential people whom I’ve had the privilege to know: scientists, professors, politicians, renowned preachers and public speakers. But the one who stands above the rest was a fiery old country woman who had no hands and no feet. She taught me more than all the others.

In this short video I tell a little bit about my time with Chloe Ares: the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. Of course, I also talk about Jesus. This story took place 30 years ago.

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