When Heaven is Like Brass

Psalm 77 footprint sea2William Cowper, poet and hymn writer, faced a mind battle. Even as a believer he felt as if heaven had slammed its doors upon his thoughts. He considered suicide one night but providentially the cabbie’s horse taking him to the London Bridge simply rerouted him back to his home. Like Asaph in Psalm 77 he was spiraling down, falling for the “deadly d’s” our enemy resurrects. Both of these men found a solution to God’s silence; Asaph in years prior wrote a psalm, William Cowper wrote a poem:

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform, He plants his footsteps in the sea and rises upon the storm.

We may not understand as Cowper, Asaph or even Job why God is silent but we can learn how to face those silent times and come forth rejoicing. It begins when we recognize that whatever our foe it can be banished when we focus on God and His holiness. The winds and waves obeyed God at the Red Sea, the Jordan and on the Sea of Galilee and when God steps into our sea of despond, we can be certain that His power will be revealed. When He acts the sea closes, He leaves no footprint behind for He moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

Where do you need to not only believe God when He answers but believe and trust Him when He is silent?

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Do You Know How to Face Goliath?

Psalm 73 one simple stone2AHere’s your sneak preview of the post on https://www.facebook.com/bible.org which will be published on July 27th.

Just as physical waves toss about, the waves of the world try to toss us about. We face the giant Goliath’s that David faced whose “bodies are strong and well fed, arrogance is their necklace, violence is their clothing.”  Goliath thought he had the victory all sewed up but David knew differently. Goliath defied the God of Israel and he tried to intimidate the Living God’s army. We have to be careful that we do not fall into a similar trap called envy. Goliath’s strength was only outward and it took just one stone to bring him down and it only takes the word “JESUS” to bring Satan to his knees.

The Army of God was floundering in the waves of uncertainty. We too can flounder if we try to wear someone else’s armor as Saul wanted David to do. Or, sometimes we flounder when we hear the words “you can’t do it, you are too young” or the XYZ reasons. But, if we sit and ponder God and His plans in the Temple or in His Word we find peace and encouragement. It is there God can and will dispel the arguments of the Goliath’s. It is in the quietness of the sanctuary that Asaph was reminded that one day the destiny of the fool who lives for the moment will find his end before the holiness of the Almighty. In fact, Asaph notes that they will be desolate in a mere moment and terrifying judgments await them. It was in the valley that David told Goliath: “This very day all will know that the Lord will deliver.” [1Sam 17]

Take time to be quiet before the Lord and come away knowing that all you need is one simple stone with this one simple word: “JESUS.”

Just a reminder: See this post on https://www.facebook.com/bible.org on July 27th.

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Walk In Love  — Sarah Maat

We must help lift others up, not pick at each others weaknesses and flaws because we ALL fall short of God’s expectations. Even I, so who am I to judge? But, with a clear and sober judgement, set aside a good example of how we are to treat each other, without saying a word. So […]

via Walk In Love  — Sarah Maat

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What is True Compassion?

MaTTHew 15 compassion2

The Apostle Matthew, the tax collector, knows true versus false compassion.If there was on Apostle that truly understood rejection by the religious establishment, it is Matthew. That is why it is important that we see this chapter through his eyes and why he intertwines the religious leader’s false faith and the Canaanite woman’s true faith so we might have a heart for those who are seeking mercy and healing.

Do we recognize true faith as Jesus did or are we like the religious leaders who were guided solely by their traditional faith path which says: “Truth is what you’ve always been taught.” (Mark Mittelberg). This is where we all need to learn compassion and Jesus used this lesson to bring that home to their and our consciences.

The disciples were only concerned that Jesus had offended the religious leaders but Jesus wanted them to learn a higher lesson: prejudices and hypocrisy rule those who are blind. To further teach this lesson Jesus takes the disciples to the area of the Gentiles,to the Canaanite area that the Jews so despised. The disciples were concerned that Jesus had offended them but Jesus will teach them that those who are truly seeking will come and not be offended when the truth is revealed. This Gentile Canaanite woman clearly understood one truth that we all need to know:

Jesus is not only the Son of David but He is Lord and He is merciful.

He wanted the disciples to see themselves for who they really were: hypocrites no better than the religious leaders because they allowed prejudice to rule their compassion meter.

How often are we dependent upon our traditions or are ruled by our prejudices? True compassion sees the crack in the heart which needs healing. He who “knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.”[James 4]

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Crisis Response

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Matthew 14 “The “I AM” – Worship Him”

Herein we have the story of the disciples whom Jesus had compelled to get into the boat and row to the other side. Many theologians have dissected this story and each seem to find a principle that we can use to strengthen our faith but it is the last line of this story that should grab our attention.

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

As a child, I experienced the wind and the waves as I followed a friend into a raging river. Just as the disciples I began to fear and remember somewhat my cry for safety. It was not Jesus who came to rescue me but a collie dog. Looking back I can see God’s hand of lovingkindness reaching out to me and once again protecting me. I am sure you have experienced your own panic times but the lesson before us in the disciple’s response should remind us of what we are to do when the crisis ends.

Do we usher forth a quick thank you God prayer or do we stop and worship Jesus, the “I AM” who created the wind and the waves as the psalmist said “You rule over the proud sea. When its waves surge, you calm them.” Or as Job noted “he alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea;”

Photo Credit: Unsplash: Anton Repponen + Author’s caption

 

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FAiTh or No FAiTH ?

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What does the word faith mean to you? Mark Mittleberg in his book “Confident Faith” describes the different paths that people take to faith. Some take the relativistic road to  faith–that is all things are relative, what works for you and for me is not the same. How do you trust it then? How do you know you are on the right path to faith? What about traditional faith? You follow the path your ancestors have followed without question. What if your ancestors were sincere but sincerely wrong?  Then there is the authoritarian faith path, you believe because you have been told this is the way, do not digress to the right or the left. Is this the right path? What if what you were told was not correct? How about the intuitive path, it “just feels right.” But what happens when your feelings change? Is there a problem with this path? Then there is the mystical path, I believe because God told me–hmm, really?  Could you have mistaken that voice? Lastly is  the evidential faith by which you examine and search out what faith is and what it is not. You read, you ask questions, you listen and then you either come to faith or after seeing all of the evidence choose to walk according to your own path. Which path is right? Jesus has the answer…it is “FAiTH” with the small letter ‘i’  in the middle.

The question before us is this: Which path is right? Jesus has the answer…it is “FAiTH” with the small letter ‘i’  in the middle.

The Apostle Matthew is writing to prove to us that Jesus is indeed the long awaited Messiah. Jesus has been preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand just as John the Baptist had been doing. So this is the listening step. Then he taught what it means to be blessed in the Sermon on the Mount. This the step of pondering His words.  Now in chapter 8, the scene moves to the powerful evidence, his credentials of being the Messiah through healing.  This is the step of observing the results. Whether preaching, teaching or healing He has been proving that God has sent him. He is the long-awaited Son of God, the Messiah, that Moses prophesied about long ago.  He is challenging the people to “follow him” and “listen to him.” He has been giving oral evidence of faith and now will move to the  visual healing evidence of faith.

A leper came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” The man knew and trusted the evidence but was unsure if Jesus would be willing to step out and heal him and if he did, how would he do it? So he observed, questioned and then stepped out to test.  The second encounter was with a Gentile Centurion. He sought healing not for himself but for a servant. He too had faith that Jesus could heal but saw himself as unworthy. Although unworthy he trusted the evidence that he had heard but tested the actual evidence—would Jesus heal–even from a distance?

Both had FAiTH. with the ‘i’ in the middle. Think of it this way: After you have gathered the evidence and you can see that it proves to be true, you must  make a  choice. You determine or make a  choice to say I will  Follow, Abide and say “i” Trust Him. That is what faith is all about. It is not about you or me or works but about HIM. Jesus is saying you have to have faith with “i” in the middle, not first or last. He must be first and last, When we take that step we will be wrapped in his love and his embrace. He will not leave us nor forsake us. The leper and the centurion came to Jesus, which is our first step, and then they chose FAiTH.  They exhibited the willingness to trust Christ and His power and both received healing.

Will you place your “i” in the middle? Will you let Jesus lead and you  follow, abide and trust him to accomplish his will in your life or will you like those who offer excuses for not now, not his way? Faith is the key: put yourself in the middle of His way, follow, abide and trust Him.

Photo Credit: David Watmough/Dreamstime.com

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The School of Hard Knocks — God Calls it Refining

Proverbs 17 Is 48 molten-metal-puregold2Prov 17:3 “The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the Lord tests hearts.” Isaiah 48:10 “ Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery”

We have all been there and we do not like it one bit and, in fact, we probably have had a few choice words for the God we serve as to “why me? Or why now? Or what is this all about God?” So when we read verses like these we have to stop and answer those questions.

These are the “ouch” verses and we really find them uncomfortable when we try to understand the love part with the affliction/misery part. We just want the “God loves me” and the fluffy part, not the refining part, but God has a higher purpose. God is saying I am refining you just as a metalworker would do to remove the dross. The refiner is an assayer, one who is able to determine not only the quantity but the quality of the product and only God has the inner view of our heart. (Jer 17:9) He knows our secret sins, what fears we harbor, what attractions the enemy has placed before us, where we might be prideful, where our love is impure. And so like a refiner of gold God steps up the fire.

If you can face the fire your faith will be stronger, your grace measure in abundance, and your obedience pure. If you pass the test you will come forth just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, with no smoke upon you. You want to be able to say like Job “if he tested me, I would come forth as gold.” So be ye thankful, Beloved, that God has considered you worthy to step into the fire. You want to shine like a diamond reflecting Christ and His image. So, Beloved, thank  God for your refining school of hard knocks.

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Psalm 68 “God Springs Into Action…”

The pdesert clouds Nick Tong2salmist beautifully records his thoughts about God in all of his glory as he exalts him in the descriptions as the true God, the God of the heavens who rides his chariots upon the clouds and across the desert sands. God’s perspective is from on high and from there He leads for He who goes before us is also blocking the way of the enemy who seeks to harm us. Chris Tomlin’s praise song “Whom Shall I Fear” captures some of these thoughts:

“I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always by my side”

Also, Paul visualizes this powerful majestic God when he writes:  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul knew the truth that when our archenemy is on the prowl “God springs into action.” Thus, He alone is worthy of our praise whether he rides on the desert or in the heavens in his chariot. He is our victorious leader and we are to extol his virtues for he cares for the least and rescues them.  His power is limitless and his compassion is revealed:  “He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.”

In these challenging times continue to cling and trust him. God is performing his work in your life that his name might be glorified. There is a purpose and a plan that we may not see but this one thing we do know; 1Co 2:9 “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

Photo: Unsplash.com/Nick Tong

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Discipling 101: Come and See

john 4 ron sumners well2Jesus gave us a mandate: “GO and MAKE Disciples.” To teach us what he meant and the “how to” He went to the little town in Samaria and there he shared Himself as “Living Water.” He met made a new disciple; simply known as the Woman at the Well. She not only became a disciple but she began the discipling process by telling others about her experience with Christ.  She told the villagers  “come and see….”

Listen to the villager’s words after she shared the change in her life: “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.” And that is what a discipler is to do today as they meet new people who are unchurched or churched but do not know. She was the presenter of the words of life but they made a decision for themselves.

Don’t you wonder what happened after Jesus stayed there for three days? Where did the words of life go as they and other disciples of Christ shared their life altering experiences that came to them as they accepted Christ as their personal savior? They were sent around the world and you and I are the recipients. Jesus said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” and that is the premise where we must begin. We are the “now” generation to go and tell, to say “come and see…” in order that we may be fulfilling the “go and make disciples” command.

As you begin with your new disciple you must, as Matthew recorded; have a hunger and a thirst for God’s Word just as Jeremiah. “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;” As we begin our journey with a new disciple we first say: “Come and See.” He told me everything I ever did. We want our new disciple to come and see the  Christ and from there to plant a hunger in the hearts of those to whom we are sent. Our prayer and our desire is that they too find God’s Word a joy and a delight.

The how to is simple but must be determined by you. Next time we will discuss training the disciple One2One.

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Family Reunions & God’s Plans

Matthew 1 wading family reunions unsplashaFamily reunions are both a blessing but sometimes an embarrassment such as when “Uncle Judah” shows up. Memories flash through our minds of his two wives and his unrighteous sons. We feign welcome but our minds reel at his latest episode of impregnating his daughter in law unsuspectingly.  And here he is in the line of Christ along with that daughter in law Tamar. How did he get here? The sovereign hand of God shows us that He will make us part of His family when we seek His face and His forgiveness. He used people who were righteous such as Abraham but also those rascals such as Judah. And how did that happen?  “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”[ 1Co 6:11]

It was not until 14 generations had passed that God sent His Son to be born of a virgin and join this genealogical lineage and he would do it through the Holy Spirit. And then God would provide a righteous earthly father to shelter the virgin. God’s plan in eternity past came to fruition that we might behold His glory, Emmanuel, God with us and the very radiance of God himself.

God had a master plan for Judah and He has one for you. He sent His Son to save you from your sins so that you could be included in his family reunion. Have you had your name written in His book?

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com (Joao Silas) + Author’s Caption

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