Monday, July 20, 2015

You are Being Fiddled.

Jesus: If you love me, keep my commandments

Satan: Just don’t be fanatical!

Your enemy and your extended family know how to play you like a fiddle. You are their foolish Christian marionette as they dance you on the end of their strings.

They plan family birthday parties on Sunday night, announce their visits to you on the Lord’s day, invite you to the Wednesday night sports programs, and insist that you attend their reunions. If you don’t accommodate them (in favor of being faithful in church) you are unloving, have bad priorities and are part of a cult. If you do acquiesce, they stash your hypocrisy away to use against you at a convenient time. You hope against hope that the sacrificing of the assembly in the Lord’s house will pay off someday in them becoming a believer. How is that working out so far?

Suggestions: When you are compelled to attend a family event, ask them to attend church with you first and then you will accompany them to the function immediately after the final amen. Or, if they choose to visit you on Sunday, invite them to come with you, it’s only one hour!!! If they decline, simply invite them to make themselves at home and you will be back as soon as possible for a lovely lunch. You don’t have to act pious or condescending or ugly. Just let them know they are high on your priority list, just behind the Lord.

Which blood is thicker? The blood of those who mock your faith and refuse your advances when you attempt to witness to them? Or the blood of the One Who gave His all for you to make you part of His redeemed family?

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are playing… will you dance to their tune or be true to your Redeemer?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Go Forth

Mark 11:1-6   
And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, 2  And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. 3  And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. 4  And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. 5  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? 6  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. 7  And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

Jesus sent His two unnamed disciples to make preparation for the events that would save your soul. They had to procure transportation for the triumphant entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

How might things might be different had refused their task?

One disciple might have responded to the Lord's command with, "I have other things pressing my agenda today. Sorry, you'll have to get somebody else."

The other disciple might not have felt like loosing donkeys that day. His knee might have been bothering him, his blood sugars might have been off a bit, or, he could have had a family birthday get-together to attend. Maybe his wife had been on him about being gone so much lately.

It strikes me that these disciples, who could have offered all the lame excuses we claim when tasked with some service that Master has for us, jumped to the task without hesitation.

I, for one, am very appreciative of their immediate obedience. It got the Savior from the Top of Mt. Olivet down into the city where His passion would be played out, resulting in the purchase of my salvation.

Do you suppose the Lord has a task for you today that could bring someone nearer to eternal life? I would feel safe betting on it. But what will be our response when the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and whispers His orders to our heart?

Will I defer to other disciples so I can complete my ever important to do list?

Here's what my abstract list kind of looks like today:
1. Learn something rich enough to share with others.
2. Avoid discomfort, confrontation, and drama at all costs.
3. Enjoy my day while dispatching my duties.

Shallow, I know, but honest. Having considered the willingness of these unknown disciples, I think I will add a new number one on my agenda: follow the prompting of the Lord to further His work, glorify Him and move Him closer to the hearts of needy souls.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Compassion of Jesus

Mark 8:2 “I have compassion on the multitude...”

Confronted with decisions, we sometimes ask the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" One of the things we can know for sure, Jesus was one to show compassion where it was needed.

The answer to the question “WWJD” comes to us by studying the gospels and dissecting His ministry here on earth during the three and a half years that changed the world.

In today's verse, we are struck by the character of Jesus' compassion on those who were in legitimate need.

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus is found having compassion on people because they were as sheep having no shepherd, because of sickness and disease, blindness, demon possession, because they were in great debt, hungry, faint, grieving, injured and astray.

In reading the many passages displaying Jesus' compassion, we are struck by the tender heart of the One Who left the comforts and adoration of heaven to suffer earth's deprivation. He took upon Himself flesh prone to fatigue, temptation and sickness that He might feel what humanity feels, experience people's plight and know the afflictions and limitations of our condition.

Because of His experience and example, we are encourage to know that we have a high Priest Who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities.

That is Jesus, my friend - God of compassion, Healer of affliction, Supplier of needs.

Therefore, when we find ourselves in the path of an oncoming, powerful, destructive affliction, we are assured that we have an all-knowing, all-compassionate and all-powerful Savior Who is ever-present to deliver us from our plight.

No doubt, you are this week, perhaps this day, in need of His compassion and the merciful miracle that will accompany His pious pity.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jesus needs a few good men

Jesus used 11 men to "fill Jerusalem with this doctrine" and "turn the world up-side-down." That 11 soon became 10s of 
thousands in the first church in Jerusalem.

Only 102 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic for freedom's cause. This small group was the seed for the American Colonies.

Three preachers, Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, were used by God to fan the flames of 
America's First Great Awakening, an overwhelming spiritual revival in our nation, which led to the 

Only 3% of the American Colonists sufficed to start the Revolution that birthed our nation, 
now over 300 million strong.

God has repeatedly used just a few praying, preaching, soul-winning, faith- walking men of 
character, strength, backbone and godliness to change the  world.

God is still looking for some ordinary men to stand in the gap, to rise up above their claim to comfort, to be empowered beyond themselves and to change their families, churches, communities, nation and their world for Jesus Christ.

I Cor. 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

Dads, men, are you willing to be one of the few good men for whom God is looking?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Heaven and Earth are Filled With His Glory

Isa 6.1 In the year that king Uzziah died 
saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, 
high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Everything as it ought to be and will be...

*God exalted (ensconced in power,         

  glorified, emmanent)

*Heaven singing (God is the lyric)

*Earth ringing

*Angels serving

*Man worshiping (humbled, repentant, 

 cleansed and forgiven, volunteering)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Somebody Died For You

One died for you who never knew you.
One died for you Who knew all about you.

One left home and comfort to suffer deprivation and discomfort and do battle.
One left home to comfort those who suffer and give rest to the battle weary.

One was all about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One was all about eternal life, soul liberty and the pursuit of God's glory.

One enlisted to see the world.
One saw the world and gave Himself for it.

One lies in a grave resting from his country's victory and awaits resurrection and glory.
One gloriously resurrected and gives victory over the grave to all who believe in Him.

One is honored and loved for his service and ultimate sacrifice.
One is honored and served and honors those who sacrificially love others.

Yes, somebody died for you. The best thing we can do is remember them, honor them and live so their death is not in vain. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Price of Sin

Without the shedding of blood there is no remission (of sin)

Hebrews 9:22  And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

A little over 6000 years ago, a man had a back yard full of  animals. He loved them, gave each and every one of them a name, spent a lot of time with all of them. But, of all the beautiful animals he had... of all the cute, furry, little creatures; the graceful deer, adorable bunny rabbits, romping little puppy dogs, of all the wonderful animals of the Father's  creation, animals that were his to pet and love and care for, he had a favorite.

You should have seen the ponies out in the pasture of an evening, feeling their oats and frolicking among the purple-flowered alfalfa.  You should have witnessed him being visited every day by the big cats, by bears, by owls and eagles.

But First Man had a favorite, a ram he had nurtured since it was just a wee lamb with its spindly little legs barely able to hold up its body. Wool as white as snow and thicker than his wife's gorgeous red hair.

He had named the ram Pascal and personally fed him every morning and evening. He was also the Father's favorite. They both would play hide and seek with Pascal sometimes in the evening at just about dusk.

There came a day when First Man was combing some of the grass out of Pascal's rich coat when suddenly he heard his wife's voice, urging him to come as quick across the garden as he could. Never had he heard such urgency in her voice.

He patted Pascal on the crown of his head and stroked one his majestically curled horns. Amazing, at not even 2 years old, how quickly he had matured into such a beautiful and powerful ram. Yes, truly, he loved this sheep more than anything except his gracious Father and his precious wife.

Hurrying into the very center of the garden from where his wife called him, he thought he saw the movement, maybe the end of a tail of something slithering under a bush. Here, the trees stood tallest. Here the fruit was more luscious than anywhere else. Was it the nearness of the river, the richness of the earth's floor, or the proximity to the tree of life? This is where he was born from dust. Here is where his wife was fashioned from his rib. It was cool here, the air was fresh with the scents of flower blooms, a slight, comfortable humidity, and the gigantic ripe fruit clinging to the trees.

It was then he glimpsed his wife, standing over in the shade of the forbidden tree. It stood there, complimenting her beauty in every way. As shapely as she was, so the curvature of the tree magically drew the eye. The fruit hanging ripe from its limbs rivaled the lusciousness of her eyes.

Her eyes, however, seemed heavy, half shaded with a strange look. An elusive word with which he was not familiar made its way into his conscience, "embarrassment." What was this strange concept working at his mind? And this countenance she shyly expressed, it was, at the same time, alluring, demure and yet, he was put off by it. What's more, she couldn't return his gaze for more than a momentary glance.

"Is something troubling you, my love?"

"No, well, yes, I think. I don't know."

"Strange" he said, "I've never seen you like this. What has happened?"

She glanced momentarily at the tree behind her, then at the fruit hanging over her head from an extended branch. Then at him. A puzzled look came across his face. Its now or never, she thought, as she reached up to the nearest ripe piece of fruit and snatched it from the limb.

"But this is the tree I warned you about." He said with a twinge of frustration in his voice. "The Lord told us not to eat of it, and I told you not to even touch it."

"Just eat!" She responded, as she handed him the most lovely, colorful, plump, ripe fruit either of them had ever come encountered.

She had no ill intent in giving him the forbidden fruit. She just wanted him to taste what she had tasted, smell what she had smelled, experience this strange new feeling she was feeling. He had never had any reason to distrust her, or, for that matter, to distrust anyone or anything he had ever encountered.

And thus, he began to debate within himself, dare he disobey the Father? Part of him wanted to toss the food the the ground, turn his back on his bride and march away. Another part of him wanted to find a place to sit and consider what was happening, to process this war beginning to rage within his being. It was as if something new was about to be born within his soul, or, perhaps maybe something he had always known was about to die.

Die? What was that? Another new concept to his brain, yet, there it was, as real as if it were a truth, and yet, it was not a part of his experience.

Oh, so many strange emotions! But there he stood, his wife extending to him once again the fruit he had returned to her moments before. Suddenly, it was as if his whole life passed before his eyes; the creation of his wife, the naming of the animals, the care of this wonderful garden and most vividly, the daily fellowship of the Father as they wound through the serene paths of the garden at day's end.

Eve looked deeply into his eyes with a pleading, hungry, gaze. There were two people on earth, yet one unit, and one Father who met daily with them. She now sensed that they were about separate onto two divergent pathways, unless she could convince him to eat the fruit. As well, he knew they stood at crossroads. Either he would obey the Father, and his own better judgment, or he would take his first bite of that which was off limits and become complicit with his wife.

And then she spoke, "Adam, my husband, my love, have I ever given you cause to doubt me? Do you not trust me now? I know something you don't know...yet. I know that you have never tasted anything like this. And I am not just talking about the sensation of the food on your tongue, but the taste you will experience in your soul. Just one bite, Adam, and you will be changed. It's strange, but you will see things in a whole new light, everything will change for you, Adam. For us! Please eat!"

He looked around, then at Eve, up to the tree, at the bush in which he had seen something take cover. He looked toward hallowed path by which the Father entered daily. It would be a while before His arrival. Would He even know?

From the path, his eyes returned to the fruit and finally rested on his wife. Looking deeply into her eyes, he raised the rich, red fruit to his mouth. Then, as he bared his teeth, a voice within him screamed, "DON'T!!!"

And then he bit. As the juice exploded in his mouth, as Eve looked expectantly to him for approval, something else exploded in his inner being. This was a new feeling, but something more than a feeling, it was a knowing, and even more, a nagging. The fruit was good, no doubt about that. Sweet, tart, a mixture of some his favorites in the garden. As the first bite made its way down his throat and the first drop fell from his chin, he sensed that things would never be the same. "What's the big deal?" he scolded himself. "It's just food. How can a bite of fruit be such a fuss?" and he took another chomp, as did Eve, from the same fruit. She had cradled it, along with Adam's hand, firmly in her own hands and bit, while looking into his eyes.

Now, a new feeling came over him, over both of them. Not a feeling, but several emotions rolled into one. Each one new, strange and troubling. If they could have defined them, they would have expressed guilt, blame, shame, remorse, disgust and most of all, fear.

"Quickly, let's go," he urged her down the path and away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He wanted to be as far away from the garden's center as possible when the Father paid them His nightly visit.

"What have we done?" She asked.

"I don't know for sure, but it was not the will of the Father." Adam replied.

"Adam, I am not comfortable meeting the Father this evening as I am."

He stopped so suddenly in the path that she ran right up against him. He turned to her, looked her up and down, taking her in with his eyes as if he'd never seen her before, not as he was seeing her now, anyway.

"You are right," he said with a grimace, "we are not presentable. We are naked, but it's more than that. It's not just our forms I am embarrassed about, I feel my heart is naked and, and..." he could not find the words to finish his sentence.

Strange, thought Eve. Her Adam was always so confident, so in control, so able, and 
never at a loss for words. He always seemed to have a mastery of everything. But now he seemed lost, like what she imagined a very young human being might act who didn't know how to have dominion over land and sea and the animals. They both felt as if they had lost control, like they were moving and thinking in slow motion. It was if the sky was suddenly a few shades less brilliant, and the deep green of the garden had faded into a pale verdancy. All confidence was gone. But most of all, they both sensed fear and guilt, especially concerning their first meeting with the Father...after the fruit.

"What would that be like? How do we face such a dreadful task?" She asked herself quietly.

Adam reached for, and picked several large leaves of a bush nearby. He tore a thin vine from a small tree and fashioned a makeshift covering for his wife's body, then one for his own.

They donned the strange new outfits which felt completely inadequate and comfortless.

"It will have to do." He said with a terseness she had never witnessed from him. "Time is short, we must prepare for Father's visit."

Adam felt a nudge on the side of his hip, it was Pascal. He looked down at the ram who hesitatingly looked back at him. "Odd," he thought, "but I sense a shyness in my little friend, almost a dread. I wonder why he is acting so strangely." As he reached down to caress the sheep's head, Pascal shied a bit, then warmed to his strokes. Adam filed this strange exchange away in his mind. He would revisit this thought later.

"Sorry little guy, but we have some things to attend to." It was a lie, another first for either one of them, and a bit of a stab to the heart, and they left the lamb standing by the path.

As the sun crept toward the horizon, the pair sensed an imminent confrontation with their Creator. It was still a while before the appointed time, but they felt the need to find cover in the thick brush, rather than greet Him face to face as if all was well. They sensed all was anything but well.

"One piece of fruit," he mused "and now all this fuss?"

Eve felt a sharp pain on the side of her leg just below the knee. A branch from the bush bore a very sharp thorn, no more in length than her eyelash. As it pricked her skin, a slight scratch appeared on her leg, about as long as her little finger, and then, a small drop of blood oozed out. She had no idea what this sanguine fluid was that was leaking from her body like juice from the forbidden tree's fruit. All she knew, it was a most unpleasant sensation.

The Father's holy presence preceded His arrival, as always. However, it was not received with delight by the pair as in the past. Rather, with dread. Next to reach their senses was the light which brightly emanated from Him, and then the sweet savor of His smell and finally, God, in person, if such could aptly describe His being. He was more spirit, more soul, than anything else.

As welcome as He was on all other days, today was different. For the first time, they would rather not have met with their Friend. If only today He would stay away. If only today they would not have eaten that cursed fruit!

"Adam!" God called out to both of them. He always used Adam's name for the married couple. "Where are you?"

They looked at each other as if to ask, "Really? The One Who knows all asks where we are?"

"Well, here we are," Adam whispered to his wife, "hiding in a bush with prickly thorns making things very uncomfortable, and with fig leaves covering our nakedness. Yeah, this is where stealing fruit gets us."

She backhanded his tricep and flashed him a disapproving frown.

"Adam, Eve, where are you?" He asked again.

"Over here." He finally mustered. "We were naked and ashamed and  afraid you'd see us." They sheepishly exited their cover and humbly approached their Friend, wondering if He was still such.

"Naked, Really? Who told you that? Did you eat from the tree that I told you to leave well enough alone?"

Adam took a small step away from Eve, as if distancing himself. It was only the breadth of three or four hands, but seemed to Eve the width of the universe. The two that God had made one, were now two again, separate from one another and separate from God. This was subtle tragedy. Her countenance fell as if she had just lost a half of herself. But she was not prepared for the devastation that came with his next words.

"It was the woman! This woman you gave me," as if the blame for sucking the syrup of the fruit was the fault of both God and Eve, "she handed me the fruit and she compelled me to eat it."

For a moment, Eve's mouth hung agape in disbelief and betrayal. She felt all alone, as if on another planet, separated from God and her beloved. But then, she steeled herself. "If one can play the blame game, then two can play as well." She mused. 

"It was the snake!" She exclaimed. "He gave me a speech about how good it was for food and how smart it would make us. That's why I ate it, that's why I gave it to Adam." She turned sideways, crossed her arms in a huff, exhaled deeply and pressed her lips into a pout.

The Lord's anger flashed. His heart broke. As monumentally tragic as this was for the fallen pair, they had no clue as to the implications on the cosmos or even on His own relationship with His triuneness. He ordered the serpent out of hiding to give an account. Now that the truth about this cataclysmic disaster was discovered, God pronounced a curse upon the serpent, upon Lucifer, the fallen angel, upon the earth, upon the woman for her part and upon the man and all of his prodigy for their complicity in sin.

The dastardly deed had been done and consequences meted out. But what came next was the biggest shock of all to Adam. It was then that the Father called Pascal to His side where, before Adam's incredulous gaze, God gruesomely slew that which was most precious to the man, His beloved pet and companion. Yea, even God's own favorite. Blood gushed from the animal and splattered onto the couple.

"NO!" Adam exclaimed. "Anything but this!" 

With tears emanating in His compassionate eyes, God declared that "only the blood of a pure, spotless, innocent lamb could suffice to cover your disobedience and renew our relationship. Where there is no blood shed, there can be no payment for your sin and no fellowship with me."

Pascal, the beloved lamb, the innocent pet, had been sacrificed so that Adam and Eve could live.

Had Adam only known, as he fondled that forbidden fruit, as he debated within his conscience the matters of disobedience and longing...had he considered, as he bargained in his soul and justified in his mind what possibilities lie on the other side of his actions...had he only known that the price required would be more dear to him than he could have ever imagined...could he, would he, should he have tossed that fruit as far from him as he could and simply walked away?

But, lust had its way, temptation had its sway. Eve ate, Adam ate, and they both swallowed the serpent's lie that "it's no big deal." And from that time until now, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.