Friday, October 18, 2019

Keep Your Feet (Don't Stumble)

"But Peter said to Him, 'Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.' Jesus said to him, 'Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'” Matthew 26:33-34

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be experiencing his last night before being hung on a cruel cross and dying. Spending time with his inner circle, he had just partaken of what we know as the Last Supper and informed them that one of them would betray him. Subsequent to this, however, he told them that they would all fall away (or stumble). He quoted Zachariah 13:7 which states, "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." We all know that it was Judas that betrayed the Lord but what of those who stumbled? What does it even mean to stumble? And why was Peter pointed out in particular?

The simple truth is that most of us avoid trouble at all costs. Jesus was considered to be and treated as a criminal and the apostles were his closest associates. On that same night, while in the company of some of them, he was arrested, beaten and taken to trial. That is most certainly trouble. As it was predicted, the apostles, with the exception of John, all scattered. Peter in particular followed Jesus to the trials at some distance but did in fact deny him three times when people recognized that he had been one who walked with Jesus. It is also known that the apostles did not busy themselves carrying out the training and mission they had received but instead hid, returning to their prior vocation as fishermen. This is stumbling.

Beloved, we must ask ourselves if we ever stumble in our faith and purpose. Though Jesus is no longer physically being dragged through the streets and falsely accused, his cause is still under indictment by some. When atheists attempt to legislate the Lord out of our lives, do we make our voices heard? When we are attacked for our stance on God ordained relationships do we hide and cower? When Satan tempts us personally do we give in or tell him to go away? The potential to stumble most surely continues to exist among the followers of the Lord. Even the most ardent, such as Peter, can find themselves out of position. We therefore must guard against the impulse to flee the one who left heaven to seek and save us. Let us not stumble but let us keep our feet.

Pursuing a transformed life,

Lee

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When You Are Down Look Up

"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." Psa 30:5

David was a man of vast experience with God.  He is well known as one who was "after God's own heart."  Also well known are both his triumphs and his utter failures, yet he maintained his vast love for the Father and never ceased trying to please Him and live according to His will.

There were times that David endured the depths of despair.  There were times when he was literally punished by God, but the love between them never ceased.  David realized that among the most temporary things in life were God's anger with him and the commensurate suffering he endured.  Vastly more prevalent was the grace and mercy given and the resultant joy experienced.

Beloved, we all have times in life when we are down.  Sometimes it is because we have brought it upon ourselves.  Other times it is due to happenstance.  Regardless of the causality, we must remember that we are God's own and that He will never leave us or forsake us.  If we be chastised know this: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" Heb 12:11.  If it be happenstance or even persecution know this: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Each life is filled with things that are good and things that are not so good.  It is part of the human existence.  The Christian, however, has hope in the One who made all.  When you are down, look up.

Pursuing a transformed life,

Lee

Friday, October 4, 2019

Trials, Trust and Love

"Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'” Genesis 22:10-12

It is well known that God promised Abraham a legitimate son through whom nations would be built long before He delivered on that promise. It is also well known that Abraham was 100 years old when the child was born thereby proving the hand of God in his life. One can only imagine the overwhelming love Abraham must have had for his son Isaac. Contemporary parents are head over heels after nine months. Abraham must have been out of his mind with adoration for his child. Can it be at all imagined what it must have been like to hear God tell him, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,” Genesis 22:2?

Beloved, as was the case with Abraham and many others we read about within the pages of inspiration, God tests us. Through these tests, it is not He who learns things about us (He knows all) but we learn things about ourselves. More specifically, it is through our trials that we can see where are love truly is. When the night is darkest and our health is failing, a loved one is hurting, our finances are flagging, our relationships in trouble and our hope threatened, to whom do we turn? Do we seek the face of God for our relief or do we become angry with Him for allowing the situation to occur and seek other means of relief and resolution? Could any of us have done what Abraham did in Abraham's circumstance?

As much as he loved his son, Abraham loved God more. If you are anything like me, the words "how," "what" and "why" come to your confused mind when you consider how Abraham could have done such a thing even if he had 26 children. The word of God contains the answer in Hebrews 11:19: "He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." Abraham loved, trusted and believed God so much that it did not enter his mind that he would not walk back down that mountain without his beloved son (Genesis 22:5). Through our trials, whatever they may be, let us prove to ourselves that God is first in our lives.

As an epilogue, consider the fact that Moriah is likely the place on which Jerusalem was built. That being the case, the same mountain on which Abraham offered his son was the same place God gave His. Like Isaac, Jesus even had to carry the wood. When the scripture mentions that Abraham received Isaac back "as a type," it means that it was a foreshadowing of us all receiving Christ back from the dead through the power of God that we all might live, and that the promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) would find their delivery. What an amazing display of love.

Pursuing a transformed life,

Lee

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Handling Adversity

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour." John 12:27

Soon after Jesus' triumphant and final entry into the city of Jerusalem, he shares yet another prediction of his own death with his apostles.  He begins by saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," John 12:23.  This statement is loaded with meaning.  What caused it to be said was a request by Greek proselytes relayed to Jesus by Philip and Andrew, to see him.  Referencing his coming passion, not only does it mean that the Lord, having completed his mission, would regain his heavenly home, but that having done so, these same Greeks (and the whole world) would have access to him that was not available at the moment.

At the same time, Jesus in his humanity was conflicted about the ordeal through which he was about  to go.  Most of us are familiar with his plea to "let this cup pass from me" plea in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The foreknowledge of such a painful death and more importantly, the taking on of the sin of the whole world must have caused unimaginable agony that exceeded even that of the suffering of the cross.  Yet, we are also familiar with his faithful and committed, "Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Beloved, each of us is faced with a variety of monumental situations and decisions throughout our lives.  Though none of them carry the weight and implication of Jesus' sacrifice, there is much that can be learned from how he responded to the most difficult circumstance in history.  Of course this is not an exhaustive list but consider the following:

  • He stayed on mission-Jesus knew who he was, whose he was, what he came to do and accomplished the task to the benefit of all mankind our of love for and obedience to the Father.
  • He persevered under dire stress-Jesus clearly agonized but remained focused.
  • He understood the importance of succeeding-It was so much more about us than it was him.  Not only was the defeat of Satan, the fulfilment of prophecy and our deliverance at stake but so was the example that millions would follow.
  • He understood sacrifice-Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice.  Had he not been willing to be that sacrifice, nothing would have been achieved.
  • He held close the ultimate faith-Being willing to die, he placed himself in the hands of God, trusting that all things would work together for good and launched himself into the unknown territory of death.
Let us think on these things when we enter diverse trials and tribulations, when we are attacked, when we are temporarily overtaken by sins, when we are delivered from our afflictions and when our eyes are opened to the need of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to hear this vital story of love.

In pursuit of a transformed life,

Lee

Thursday, September 19, 2019

What's in Your Heart?

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." Luke 16:45

It does not take spending much time on social media, or simply watching the news for that matter, to understand the current quality and content of communication and interaction in society today.  It is not unusual to see conversation deteriorate into vitriolic name calling and character assassination over the most mundane things.  Interestingly enough, this is particularly prevalent when things can be said in relative anonymity. Tragically, membership in the household of faith does not seem to exempt some from engaging in wars of words or the levying of aspersions.

When considering the source of some of the amazing things people say to one another, the answer is obvious: it comes from the heart.  While we are typically expressing something honestly and earnestly when we claim that it comes from "the bottom of our hearts," it is suggested that nearly everything, good or bad, that comes out of our mouths, does.  More succinctly put, it cannot come out of us unless it exists within us.  A current credit card asks the question, "What's in your wallet?" We must consider, "What's in our heart?"

The good news, beloved, is that the soothing, comforting, reassuring and encouraging words we speak also come from the heart.  While these things can surely be insincere, the truth is born out over time by other factors that will support or discredit them.  It is written of the tongue, "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not be this way.  Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?" Jam 3:9-11.  Instead, we are encouraged to "let (y)our speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person" Col 4:6.  In order for us to be able to accomplish this, we must continually strive to sow goodness internally so that it may be shared externally.

Let us remember that it is not those things that we take in that can corrupt us, but those things that come out of us (Mk 7:14-15).  Seek righteousness that we may: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from (y)our mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" Eph 4:29.  This surely pleases God.

In pursuit of a transformed life,

Lee

Thursday, September 12, 2019

One Thing


"Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, 'One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property."  Mark 10:20-21

Most every Christian is familiar with the story of the rich young ruler.  Famously, he approached Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus directed the man's attention toward six of the Ten Commandments.  Parenthetically, each of them had to do with how we are required to treat others.  The young man assured Jesus that he had obeyed all of those commandments since he was a child.  Then Jesus, with love and compassion for him, uttered the words, "One thing you lack."

Fully embraced and understood, those words are jarring, shocking and terrifying.  Before reading further, close your eyes and meditate on them and what you think they mean.

***

Imagine going through your life and doing the very best you can to serve and please God.  Imagine feeling that you had done everything that you knew how to do to adhere to being the type of person the Creator of the universe made and desires you to be.  Imagine feeling really good about it and being ready to take the next step to secure your eternity. You've attended worship faithfully, prayed and studied daily, sacrificially given of your means, been morally upright and shared the gospel with others. Now imagine having it revealed that there is "one thing you lack." 

Beloved, it is critical that we are cognizant of any such "one thing" that may exist in our lives.  This means that we must constantly take inventory of anything that could cause us to turn away from God, despite our best efforts to live lives that honor Him.  For the rich young ruler, it was his unwillingness to give up his vast and valuable earthly possessions that cost him the heaven that he had modeled his life to obtain and specifically requested.   

What can be required of you by the Lord that you would refuse?  Do not be quick with your answer.  Recall, for example, that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his promised son.  Would any of us do that?  And let us not simply focus on things we may be asked to do on the spot.  The implications are far greater when we consider the things that do not please God that are a part of our daily lives, despite our Christian claims.  These are things to which we might have become blind or we may be fully aware of but unwilling to cease.  Do not let "one thing you lack" keep you from the place that has been prepared for you. 

Remember this also: despite claiming to keep all of the commandments all his life, his decision to not share his wealth for the benefit of others showed the truth about his claims.  We are rarely as pious as we might think. 

In pursuit of a transformed life, 

Lee

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Reassurance for the Tired and Afraid 9/5/2019




"Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.' And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.'  1 Kings 19:2-4

Have you ever done all that you think you can to lead a righteous life while doing the work of the Lord only to feel like you have accomplished nothing and still experience fear at the hands of your enemies?  This was Elijah's problem.

Elijah had just famously taken on 450 prophets of the god Baal in an epic "whose God is real" showdown and prevailed.  In so doing, Yahweh was proven to be alive, real and responsive and powerful.  This resulted in the demise of the false god's prophets and the turning of people's previously corrupt hearts.


Of course, the person who introduced the worship of Baal and therefore managed the prophets was the king's wicked wife Jezebel.  As might be imagined, she was none to happy about such a stunning loss.  She therefore threatened to end Elijah's life in the most vehement way she could.

Beloved, it was human of Elijah to run, hide and request to be removed from God's service. Depending on one's level of activity and commitment, the work of God is not for the faint of heart.  While many of us make excuses about not attending worship, sharing the gospel, helping our fellow human being or reading God's word, this man had stood alone with God against a king, 450 adversaries and an entire nation that was not rooting for him.  Even after prevailing, his life was in danger.  It is natural for us to become weary. This is particularly the case when those who claim to be members of the household of faith and should be standing with us, retreat or even array themselves against us. It is at times like these, however, that our faith must be at its strongest, because it is at times like these that God makes his presence felt most.

Elijah slept.  An angel from the Lord woke him and instructed him to eat, drink and refresh himself with nourishment the angel himself had provided.  Once done, Elijah laid down and the same thing happened again.  This time the angel told him about a great journey ahead of him and how he needed to strengthen himself for it.  The effects of this meal lasted 40 days.  And when the journey reached its conclusion, God met Elijah at the entrance to a cave in the form of a small whisper on the wind.

If you are tired and afraid, know that God has you, God provides for you,
God sustains you, God protects you, God still has work for you to do and in the end, God will meet you.


In pursuit of a transformed life,

Lee

(In prayer for my covenant brother)