Testimony

Jesus Offers Refreshment

 

“For your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.

Matthew 6:32b KJV

 

In downtown Indianapolis my wife, Becca and I often spotted a homeless man with a long beard who had a mental and emotional disability. Even though the summer heat was sweltering, he wore an extremely dirty, torn up insulated jacket. He always carried nine or ten of those plastic grocery bags stuffed with all sorts of things tearing through the thin plastic. The man would stand for hours and hours in the sun, holding those bags and sweating.

We had to wonder at why he didn’t set the bags down; maybe sit himself down in the shade, and rest. Whenever we attempted to hand him a few dollars, he would simply wave us off. After many attempts to speak with the quiet fellow, we could never get a response from him. The only thing we could do for him was pray.

I think God sometimes views us in the same way that Becca and I would view that poor mentally challenged man. Often we may we carry a load of burdens, worries and fears, but refuse to come to the Lord to receive the rest and refreshing He provides. We struggle with problems that, to God are so simple to solve. He has all the strength and wisdom we could ever need, along with the solution to our difficulties, and yet, we continue to struggle and sweat.

 

Coming into God’s presence is like stepping out of the sweltering heat and into the
refreshing shade. When we release our burdens and difficfulties, setting them at the feet of Jesus, we find rest for our souls.

In His arms of care there’s comfort, direction, peace and purpose.

 

After seeing that same fellow downtown dozens of times, always in the same clothes and with that heavy, tattered coat, one day we were pleasantly surprised. It was last August that elation filled our hearts when we saw that very same man, but we barely recognised him. There he was in the same spot we’d seen him many times before, but he looked totally different. He had on a new, clean set of clothing and was clean shaven. He’d even  received a haircut. And he wasn’t carrying a thing! Becca and I looked at each other with big grins spreading across our faces. We both had the same thought and actually said it simultaneously.

“It had to be Jesus!” The obvious transformation in that man looked to us like it had the Lord’s fingerprints all over it.

 

The following week we we’re finally able to communicate with him. He informed us that his name is Walter.

I told him, “You’re really looking good today, Walter.”

He responded, “Thank you. It sure is a nice day that God has given us, isn’t it?”

The conversation continued, but we won’t get into that. Suffice it to say that the conversation is still ongoing whenever we are blessed to see Walter, our new friend. He even let’s us buy him a cold drink and donuts at at local coffee shop, where the three of us sit together, and talk about Jesus.

 

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 KJV

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Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Jesus, People, Street witnessing, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blood of Life

In his book Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a girl who was suffering from a disease that would soon take her life, unless… Lisa was told that without a blood transfusion her death would be imminent. Thankfully, she had a little brother who shared her blood type, which was very rare. The fact that he’d defeated this same disease three years earlier offered the doctor even greater hope for success. So the physician carefully explained all of this to Lisa’s little brother, Dennis, discretely informing him that without the transfusion his sister would surely die.

 

“For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Lev. 17:11

 

“Do you think you would be brave enough to give your blood to your sister?” he asked. Dennis’ lips trembled nervously as he contemplated the situation, but finally, he smiled and said, “For my sister, yes, I’ll do it.”

 

As the two children were rolled into the hospital room, Lisa’s body looked enervated and pale, while Dennis appeared quite robust. The boy smiled at his sister. Together, they watched the blood make its way through the clear plastic tubing as it flowed out of Dennis’ arm and into her’s. Eventually, the smile began to fade from the boy’s little face, and he lay there feeling weak. Looking intently up at the elderly MD, he asked, “Doctor, when am I going to die?”

 

Dennis thought he would have to give all of his blood to Lisa, believing he was trading his life for his sister’s. Because of his love for her, he was prepared to pay that price.

 

When the Son of God became a man, coming to earth revealing God to mankind, one of the memorable truths He disclosed sheds light on that young boy’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his sister. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

 

That’s precisely what Jesus came to do—to be the Christ, the Savior—to offer Himself as a sacrifice to pay the terrible penalty for the sins of the whole world. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

 

Since no other person who has ever lived on earth is perfect, this was the only way a perfectly innocent sacrifice could be made. God Himself had to provide the Lamb for the sarifice.

 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

The good news of Jesus Christ has come, been declared and preached. This news concerns the greatest love ever known, and the greatest love ever shown.

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 

God loves us. Jesus sacrificed Himself, giving His life blood to save you and me. God wants us to repent of our sins—turn to Him, and simply believe on His Son, Jesus Christ, and trust Him to be the Lord of our lives.

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Devotional, Jesus, Love, Medical practice, sacrifice, Salvation, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are God’s Masterpiece

Have you ever noticed how adeptly Jesus addressed the issues of life? He always goes straight to the heart of every difficulty, and shines the light of truth to expose the root of everything that’s wrong with the world, along with the real cause of every sin. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)

I find it to be so very awesome to have a relationship with Christ Jesus—His wisdom is beyond the scope of my comprehension. And yet, He knows how to convey truths to each individual person in a manner that can be clearly understood. But there are some qualifiers—things He requires of us before He does so.

 

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He sets it forth like this—“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

“Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1)

We love from our hearts, or from the center of our being, at the very root of who and what we are.

Jesus Christ is “The Truth.”  Love desires to know the Truth.

Love desires to obey Truth—to act & speak in a manner consistent with and faithful to the Truth.

Love remains in the light—it doesn’t hide in darkness from the Truth.

A child of God who has been born from above, lives moment to moment seeking to perfect this Love.

Jesus has planted that seed of love in our hearts—in each of those who belong to Him. We are given a new nature and a softened heart that can be shaped by the hands of the Master. As the gardener of our hearts, our heavenly Father is faithful to nurture, prune, test, grow, and constantly tend that love until it finds completion on the glorious day when Christ Jesus returns.

God continues to impact who and what we are with His dynamic love, which produces transformation in us. Then He begins to love all others through us, for we have entered into Christ, and He dwells within us through His Spirit.

I have discovered a fantastic truth. The more I let God’s love flow out of me to others, the more of His love He pours in! So I say, let His love flow!

 

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Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Devotional, God's Faithfulness, Growing in Faith, Jesus, Love, new nature, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prison Poetry

Television networks like A&E make a fortune off of airing footage from inside state prisons. People seem intrigued or curious about what goes on inside those walls. There’s even a site online that sells memorabilia once owned by infamous prisoners. There’s a great deal of art, music and poetry that flow out of the prison systems as well, and often hand crafted products. I’ve known dozens of fine Christian men who are incarcerated, and I enjoy visiting with them. Some have now served their time and been released. Today I’m offering up this short poem written by one of those friends. You may find it odd, or different. It was written by my friend, Frank H. in Westville Correctional Facility, an Indiana State Prison. He has since gone to be with the Lord.

In honor of Frank H., a man completely transformed by the love of Christ. Miss you bro!

Image result for man penitentiary window

Solo Party

 

Havin a party—it’s here, inside

No, you can’t come in, cause I’m me alone

It’s just a cup of joe

A penitent man and a radio

Walking down this beaten path

That’s winding through my brain

Listen now, and hear me laugh

A bend in time to kill the pain

Outside my window, upon the horizon

The sun paints colors there

Inside my windows, a glimpse, just one

Freedom blazes a gala fair

Behind the walls, inside the fence

The state penitentiary

My body’s here, they have this dust

But my spirit, it is free

 

Living a Christian life behind bars is not easy, and Frank had many challenges, and faced physical danger daily. Yet whenever we corresponded, he was always more concerned with how I was doing. He constantly assured me that he was praying for me, and he loved to share the bible with others.

 

The next post from Series On Doing God’s Will is coming very soon.

Please subscribe to be notified of future posts. Thank you and have a suprememly blessed day!

Categories: Christian Living, Incarceration, Jail House Religion, People, Poem, prison, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gore & Love Intersect

pexels-photo-208315.jpeg

“The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22 

 

As a boy of ten years, I kept a scrapbook filled with images of lions and tigers hunting. Many of them depicted gory kills. Several decades later, I can still picture the blood covered faces of those vicious beasts. One day my mom happened upon the bloody pictures I’d been saving. Understandably, she became concerned that I might be turning into some sort of twisted, sadistic kid. Blood has a tendency to make us recoil in horror. But my fascination had to do with a compulsion to understand death.

 

Many old Christian hymns include references to the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Here’s one example—an old favorite performed by some promising musicians. “Nothing But The Blood” 

 

It’s the blood of Christ which cleanses us from our sins. What picture could better display the awful consequences of sin upon the world than grisly blood? God has a good reason for the use of blood in the bible. The blood used in the old sacrificial system of temple worship was a foreshadow of the blood of Christ. Justice demands blood.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it drastically changed mankind—even the earth was changed by a curse. The consequences of sin are exceptionally horrific. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a  

And, God says that life is in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Leviticus 17:11a  

And so, spilled blood is synonymous with death—and death is the penalty for sin.

 

As a lasting and stark expression of sin’s staggering cost, God clothed Adam and Eve with dead animal skins. This signified the horrors that the world would experience as a result of sin. Sin brought with it; sickness, war, a curse, slavery to sin, and death for every person since Adam and Eve. Some of the animals changed from herbivores into carnivorous creatures—the images of which I kept in that childhood scrapbook.

 

God has taught me that I should be aghast and horrified at the prospect of sin. It should make me shudder in horror—the same response one would have to a bloody, gruesome death.

But it’s in man’s fallen nature to trivialize sin, rather than to acknowledge its true devastating make-up.

 

Because of God’s awesome love for you and me, Jesus allowed His own blood to be spilled, taking that awful death penalty in our place. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord, (from John 10). The macabre sight of His blood flowing down to puddle in the dust, proclaims God’s monolithic love for you and me. Do you see the importance of the blood? If not, you do not yet understand the way of salvation that God has provided for us. His blood equals love, atonement, propitiation, forgiveness and salvation.

Bloody gore and love intersect at the Cross of Jesus. ©

 

Below is Alan Jackson singing  Are You Washed

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Cross of Christ, Devotional, Faith, Salvation, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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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


Categories: Christian Living, Ministry, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

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