Monday, January 21, 2019

The Resort of the Believer

…and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. Mark 10:1

Who doesn’t long for a resort in times of stress and trouble? When I hear the word “resort,” I think of either a mountain cabin getaway, a sportsman’s retreat, a beachfront bungalow, or a full amenity lodge nearby popular attractions.

We feel as if a few days away from the grind of life will recharge our batteries and help us to get back in the game. Hopefully, when we make our pilgrimages to these shrines of convalescence, we can experience our much needed rest and relaxation and make some great memories along the way. Too bad, some of these resorts fail to deliver on what their ads promise. A cruise may end up on rough seas and have to be suspended. The fancy resort in the Smokies may turn out to be a one star facility. The hunting lodge may turn out to be infested with inhospitable creatures. And we return to the mundanity of life more drained then when we began our excursion. Life experienced, lessons learned. Been there, done that!

As these resorts hopefully refresh the body and mind, there exists a wonderful resort for the soul.

The Christ-dependent, soul-thirsty believer is wise to make Jesus their resort. Unfortunately, far too many resort to drink, sport, pleasure, work, music, literature, even religion for soul satisfaction. But only in Jesus is found life, peace, contentment, fulfillment, and true joy. When a person resorts to the gods of this world, they will always come away empty, more worn and torn than before. But Jesus has everything a soul would ever need or long for. 

“…As he was wont, he taught them again.” While we are experiencing our soul resort, we should expect to come away with valuable life lessons. They will always teach us the following:
*Our lack, His sufficiency.
*Our limitations, His sovereignty.
*Our need, His supply. 
*Our problems, His peace
*Our pain, His grace
*Our sorrow, His joy
*Our emotion, His love

Perhaps you’d sing this old song with me throughout your day as a reminder of these truths…

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul
Only He can change your heart and make you whole
He’ll give you peace you never knew
Real love and joy and heaven too
For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Now, if I could just hum this tune while lounging near the pool pictured above!!!

My friend Alvin Burrell wrote the following several years ago, very apt.

The Resort
(Psalms 71: 3) by
Alvin Burrell
O the place where I am dwelling, Is a land without pure rest -
I am tired of all the labor, Even though I have been blessed; And a spirit touched by worship, Keeps me looking to the Lord -
I am ever looking homeward, How I long for God’s resort.
God’s resort is so inviting, Contentment is the rule up there - Peace that passeth understanding, Where we look it’s everywhere; No one needs to be long-suffering, There’s no need for law or tort - What a blessing when we get to, The fair land of God’s resort.
We can taste of this contentment, Even in our mortal state - And be shielded from the evil, On this earth we all must face; When we lift our eyes to Heaven, Singing praises to the Lord - Pressing upward on our journey, To the land of God’s resort.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Other Side of the Sea

Mark 5:1-19

With apologies to Bobby Darin, here’s a bit of a twist on his lyrics:

Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for Thee
A crazy man stands among the tombs
And watches the ships that come sailin'

Here’s a dude that’s a perfect candidate for the sanitarium. He is fierce and intimidating to all who come near. And it’s no wonder why, he’s possessed with a thousand demons. He possesses their cumulative strength to inflict harm on himself and others. While all else go out of their way to stay out of his way, Jesus gets a boat and heads straight across the Sea of Galilee, setting a course right toward this lunatic.  

Surely the disciples had to wonder, as they did every day, what kind of bizarre situation awaited them when they arrived and what would be the Master’s handling of the incident? If they were hoping for a thrill of some kind, they were not to be disappointed.

What's on the other side of the sea?

1.   On the other side of the sea were Foreigners! (vs 1) Let’s face it, the Jews of the day were not too keen on engaging other cultures. The Romans were occupying their land, and the influence of the Greeks had pervaded their society. It was all so non-kosher. They were surrounded by gentiles and didn’t wish to further engage. Here’s what they found on the other side: Different Culture, language, tradition, heritage and religion. On the other side were gads of Gadarenes. They were a bunch of pig-farming, pork-producing, bacon-making sausage-slingers. Ugh! But across the sea we sail!  

2.   On the other side of the sea were Men in Need. This particular one is demonized!
a.      He lived in the tombs and was obviously spiritually dead.
b.     He was possessed with an unclean spirit (the kind that drive people today to drugs, lust, etc.)
c.      Their name was Legion, meaning many spirits.
d.     He was bound with fetters (chained to his sin)
e.      He was wild and no man could tame him.
f.       He was a cutter. For lack of a knife, he used sharp stones. Imagine his frustration. He was infested with multiple devils, there was no hope, no answer, no future.

Then Jesus came!
*He saw Jesus, as opposed to what he has been seeing – people fearing him, mocking him, despising him.
*He ran to Him - away from everything else, tombs and rejection.
*He worshipped Him – he fell prostrate before the Lord.

 3. On the other side were Demons on a Mission.
The demonic mission has not changed, which is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). While Jesus’ mission remains the same, to give life, and to give it more abundantly. We must be careful to separate the demons from the demonized. On demons, we must have no mercy, on the victim, we must have compassion. Jesus went out of His way for the man, not the devils.

Who was speaking, the man or the devils? Who was acting bizarre? Questions we must ask as we minister to demonized souls.   

4. Swine Feeding! On the other side, we will find disgusting, cannibalistic,      suicidal pigs. There is nothing kosher on the other side.

5. On the other side is Fear!  (vs 15) Why were people afraid? The man was now sitting, clothed and in his right mind (perhaps he was now left handed?)

*they were afraid of change. Can you imagine? Their comfort zone included a demon possessed, naked, uncontrollable mad man who lived in the grave yard!!!

*they were afraid of the unknown. Never had this kind of power been displayed. Exorcism, deviled ham, changed life, a new normal. No possessed men terrorizing the graveyard, no swine feeding on a hillside.

6. On the other side was a New Missionary (18-19)
Goodness! Without a day of discipleship, this man went from demoniac to so soul-winner, from crazed to being in his right mind. Hopefully, on the other side of the sea, we will find lives so transformed that the mission target becomes a missionary. 

If we never go to the other side, we may never witness such things. I'm sure the disciples would have been content to sit this one out, and yet, what an amazing experience.  

I know beyond a doubt, ah
My heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet beyond the shore
We'll praise just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailing

No more sailing
So long sailing
Bye bye sailing

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Signs of His Coming (Matthew 24)

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  Matthew 24:3

Note: Jesus is spot on when it comes to prophecy. Of course, He is the One that predetermines, and He is the One that performs that which has been predetermined.

A prime example: We observe and reflect in vs 2 the prophecy that He made concerning the building materials of the temple. The prophecy was very specific, not one stone would lie upon another. It came to pass exactly as He predicted about 37 years later. Please read about the destruction of the temple here:

Here are the signs of His future coming, the glorious appearing, and the characteristics of the times leading up to it, as given by Jesus Himself:

1. Widespread Deception.  (4)
2. False Christs and Deceivers. (5, 23-26)
3. Proliferation of Wars, and Rumors of Wars. These will include regional and international wars.  (6, 7)
4. Natural Disasters. Famines, Pestilences, Earthquakes.  (7)
5. Increased Sorrows.  (8)
6. Persecution and Martyrdom. (9)
7. Treachery and Hatred. (10)
8. False Prophets. (11)
9. Waning Natural Affection.  (12)
10. Perseverance of the Saved. (13)
11. Proliferation of the Gospel. (14)
12. Desecration of the Holy of Holies. (15)
13. Extreme Hardships. (16-22)
14. Meteorological, Zoological and Astronomical Signs. (27-30)
15. The Restoration of Israel, the Fig Tree. (32-34)
16. Careless Living and a Lack of Watchfulness. (37-44)

Of course, many of these characteristics might be found in any age. However, when they begin to occur  exponentially and concurrently, our attention is drawn to our Lord's prophetic specificity and what bearing it might possibly have on our proximate future.

For further reading on this subject, please request my book, Modern Fulfilment of Biblical Prophecy. It includes graphs and charts which strongly indicate we are moving nearer the Day of Christ. I would be happy to send you a digital copy without charge.

Note: These is no "date-setting" involved in this blog or in my book. I readily admit that the coming of Christ could be today, tomorrow, next week, month, year, decade or century.

Note:  The terms: Day of Christ, Tribulation, Rapture, Glorious Appearing, Millennium, and other end time designations are all specifically defined in my book. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Going There is Easier than Getting Back

First of all, the internet can be a blessing, or it can be a bane. The whole world can be accessed from our fingertips. There is no limit how deep you can go into an issue. If you choose the wrong path, and you have wound your way to some very dangerous and undesirable place, you may find your return to mental, emotional and spiritual normalcy extremely difficult to navigate.

The same can be true with the imagination. Our thoughts and emotions can take us to some pretty dark places. The trek back to regularity may be quite a challenge.

And then there are those times where our feet and hands, (mouth, eyes and ears) literally take us beyond cyberspace or some imaginary chasm to real places. Places that, to borrow from an old ditty, take us farther than we wanted to go, keep us longer than we wanted to stay and cost us more than we wanted to pay.

I have a few of those ugly places that I am trying to be honest with myself about:

1. Rehashing the tragic stories of fallen ministerial icons.  How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!  II Sam 1:25 

I am a recovering fundaMENTAList. I continue to hold fast to the fundamentals of Scripture and the faith that was once delivered to the saints. By God’s grace I will stay true to New Testament principles and my local church, as long as the latter stays true to the former.

However, I find the cultish tendencies of many fundamentalist preachers and institutions greatly disturbing and destructive. The usual modus operandi includes: unquestioned loyalty, unabashed pride, extra-biblical standards and expectations, emphasis on external appearances and behavior, ostracism of non-conformists, and a my-way-or-the-highway mentality. They tend to feel superior, be contentious, and cast judgment. Their mantra is, “We are the only ones doing it God’s way.” They are the heroes of each of their own stories. The rules they impose apply to others, not to themselves. 

They have a special relationship with God that grants them immunity from the consequences which we hoi polloi must face when we sin. They are heavy on law and light on grace, until they are the ones in need of grace.

The danger that comes with this model of Christianity (Please note: a model is a small imitation of the real thing!) is what is cautioned about in Scripture, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18.) 

The destructive path I tend to travel as a recovering fundamentalist is to spend valuable time and delicate emotions contemplating, and even relishing in, the stories of the rise, the exploits, and fall of the big guys who wowed the masses, got full of themselves and fell from grace. It helps to recognize the error of their ways and avoid the pitfalls, but I can’t afford for my soul to relive those dark-hearted attitudes that cost me so much personally. They have taken the fun out of fundamentalism, so I have to just leave it there.

Other places I really need to avoid:
2. Exploring the exploits of current pimples on the face of Christianity. See: Benny Healer, Smilin’ Joe Holsteen, Steven L. Anders Son, Westboro Badtwist Church, Liberals, Prosperity Promogulators, Bible deniers, Politically correct denominations, etc. (See, I told you I am recovering and sometimes I fall off the wagon)

3. Getting too near the lunatic ledge of conspiratorial theory. I am so right wing I have registered as an independent. I mean, Rush Limbaugh is way too liberal for me. He even has a term for people like me, KOOKS, the Keepers of Odd Knowledge Society. I suppose I am guilty. I'm learning not to buy into the conspiracy theories as readily as I once did. A person has to ask themselves simple questions regarding the classics and the conspiracy du jour. A few really good questions: 1) Would "they" readily be doing this to their own grand children? 2) Have you considered the logistics it would take to pull that one off? 3) How have they managed to keep the thousands of people who participated in this thing quiet? (I know, I know, they brainwashed them, paid them massive amounts, or killed them.)

Yes there are conspiracies. Psalm 2 is pretty clear on that. 1  Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3  Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4  He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5  Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6  Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 

But, here are a few of the more close to the ledge ones: “All doctors are bent on your demise so they can make their Mercedes payments.” “The CDC wants you to have Alzheimer’s.” “Chemtrails are produced to give you and the pilot’s grandchildren cancer and contaminate your wheat so you will have leaky gut.” “The Illuminati has infiltrated your church and will soon bring it into the National  Council of Churches.”

4. Giving time, thought and energy to those who give me one star, thumbs down reviews. I won’t give them any space in my blog.

5. Feeling slighted, ignored, inconsequential, unappreciated, unloved, disrespected or invalidated. In other words, woe is me! Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. Now, who is it that sets on a person’s shoulder whispering these discouraging lies into our ears? That would be the Accuser of the Brethren, the Father of Lies. And it’s just not true. God loves His children; they are the apple of His eye. As Max Lucado says, “If God has a refrigerator, your picture is on it!” In Christ, we are more than conquerors. We will one day reign with Him as kings and priests. God has chosen us nobodies to confound the world. Our message, to the world, is foolishness, but is, in fact, the power of God.

6. Focusing on my inadequacy. This is the biggie. This one can take me down for days and hamstring my marriage and my ministry. It’s true, I ain’t got it. But what is more true is that He has begun a good work in me and will be able to perform it until the day of Christ, for He has called me, equipped me and continually enables me. Indeed, He is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that I am able to ask or even think!

Dear friend, perhaps you have your own “Do not go there” zones from which you have to steer clear. I would guess some might admit these places would include: Gossip, gluttony, envy, lust, substance abuse, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, doubt, etc.

Let’s ask the Lord to cleanse us of our sin and fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we may put off the old nature and be led away from temptation. He desires for us peace, joy and abundant living. That can’t be accomplished when we are going down these destructive paths.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Philippians 4:8  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Professional Student

Rom 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Have you ever known the type, professional students? They will never be able to get out of the classroom and into the real work-a-day world because school is what they are comfortable with.

Now, quite the opposite is true with most of us. I couldn't wait to hear the 3:15 bell every day. I despised homework. I went to college because it was a necessary evil (too strong of a word, but you understand).

I have played with the idea of furthering my education, but when faced once again with the lingo of academia, tuition costs, etc. I cringe and faint away from such ridiculous notions. Further formal education is not in my foreseeable future. I am enjoying my work-a-day existence, thank you very much.

But is education evil? Not in and of itself. We call it compulsory education, and for good reason. Everybody needs the basics that elementary, secondary and possibly higher education afford. Education should instill study habits, basic knowledge, logic and the discipline needed for life and work. But once the sheep skin has been awarded and the tassel has been moved to the other side of the mortar board, then formal education gives way to real life. GET A JOB!!!

Now, let us relate that to today's passage. The Law of God is not what takes us through life. It is merely the schoolmaster which brings us to Christ.

The fundamentals of Law-learning give way Grace living once salvation has been accomplished by the forgiveness offered by the cross.

I see too many folks who are professional law-livers. They can't get past seeing themselves as justified before God by their own morality and good works. Foolishly they see themselves pleasing God in such a fashion rather than just being a pleasure to Him because they have graduated from "law school" to Grace Academy.

Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Land of Kabul

1 Kings 9:11 (Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12 And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not. 13 And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day.

Solomon had purposed to do something special for Hiram, King of Tyre, for all the kindness and assistance he had shown him in building the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.

So he gave Hiram these 20 Galilean cities as a gift. However, upon visiting the cities, he was displeased and called the area the land of Cabul, meaning, limitation. In other words, there wasn't a whole lot that could be done with these villages. The ground was no good for crops. There were no trade routes close by. The cities would never amount to much. They were Cabul (Kabul), limited.

I think of all the people I know who dwell in the land of Kabul, the land of limitation. They cannot see past their next paycheck, past the weekend, past their upbringing and education. They are limited in vision and capability because they refuse to pack their bags and move to a better place. It’s a place where rivers of blessing flow, where the soil is rich and fertile, where fruitfulness abounds. The Bible calls this Beulah Land. We reach an area like this by faith and hard work, empowered by the Spirit of God. I am not talking about heaven only, but about a promised land on this side of the river.

I've reached the land of corn and wine
And all its riches freely mine
Here shines undimmed one blissful day
For all my night has passed away

O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land
As on thy highest mount I stand
I look away across the sea
Where mansions are prepared for me
And view the shining glory shore
My Heav'n, my home forever more!