Friday, April 30, 2010

Back in the Day -- Little Ones

One of the most prolific songwriters of his era has been Phil Keaggy. He is a talented musician (plays acoustic and electric guitar) but I've most admired his songs played on the acoustic guitar. Those have always touched me as being thoughtful, reflective and sensitive to one's relationship with God.

There isn't a lot of public discussion on the subject of abortion today, perhaps because of the role situational ethics has had in our society. It's difficult for a person to both acknowledge the life and viability of a child while simultaneously deciding to terminate a human life.

Perhaps someone reading this post has had an abortion, is comtemplating one or knows someone who's faced or is facing this decision. This post was not written to condemn anyone but to affirm that God loves you and unborn children.

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." -- 1 John 4:10, NASB

Who will speak up for the little ones?
Helpless and half-abandoned.
They've got the right to choose life
They don't want to lose,
I've got to speak up, won't you?

Equal rights, equal time, for the unborn children.
Their precious lives are on the line,
How can we be rid of them?
Passing laws, passing out
Bills and new amendments.
Pay the cost and turn about,
And face the young defendants.

Who will speak up for the little ones?
Helpless and half-abandoned.
They've got the right to choose life
They don't want to lose,
I've got to speak up, won't you?

Words and Music by Phil Keaggy
Copyright 1980 Sparrow Records

Phil Keaggy -- Little Ones

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Back in the day -- Hound of Heaven

I first heard Daniel Amos in the late 80's. By then they had musically migrated from country music to rock. As a Christian band, their lyrics fused with a solid rock rhythm. One of my favorite songs was Hound of Heaven. Their music often focused on the society we live in and our apathy toward God.

He got lost among the stars
Hollywood flash, cash, mansions and cars
Deep sea diver Lear jet flyer
Will this thing go to the moon?
Give me elbow room, and for heaven's sake
Take this aching away

You can't run, you can't hide, from the hound of heaven
You're free to choose, can you refuse the seeker of souls

Words and Music by Terry Taylor
©1980 Cancel and Eat (ASCAP)

Daniel Amos -- Hound of Heaven

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back in the Day -- That's the Way God Planned It

I'm having surgery on Friday so I'm not sure when I'll return to blogging. I thought this week I would leave you each day with a song that hopefully, brightens your day. Be blessed!

My familiarity with Billy Preston precedes my days as a Christian. When I learned he produced a gospel album, my interest was immediate. This song (which reminds me of Romans 8:28) also includes George Harrison (a member of the Beatles), Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Keith Richards. Billy often toured and played with the Beatles and Rolling Stones during the 60's. He played keyboards (organ and piano) with an excitement and energy that often got the audience up and dancing.

In his later years, Billy faced health complications from kidney disease. He died on June 6, 2006 from malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure. I will always remember his contributions to gospel music.

Why can't we be humble
Like the good Lord said
He promised to exalt us
For love is the way

How men be so greedy
When there's so much left
All things are God given
And they alll have been blessed

That's the way God planned it
That's the way God wants it to be, didn't He
Well, that the way God planned it
That's the way God wants it to be, for you and me
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

lyrics by Billy Preston

Billy Preston -- That's the Way God Planned It

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back in the day -- What Kind of Love is This?

I first heard Danniebelle Hall singing with Andrae' Crouch and the Disciples; her voice just grabs a hold of you and touches deep inside. On the song, Ordinary People you can hear the gentle sweetness of her voice letting you know, God looks for folk just like you and me. She faced health-related trials some of which included being an insulin dependent diabetic, surviving a mastectomy due to breast cancer and left leg amputation below the knee. I guess that's just a testimony to the life of an ordinary Christian, that she lived without a lot of fanfare. Danniebelle Hall went to be with the Lord on December 28, 2000.

I'm sure you'll enjoy this moving song that probes the love of God for us from 1 John 3:1-2.

What kind of love is this He has bestowed on me?
I am a child of God and I speak of a mystery.
I don't know how it is or how it shall be, (oh no)
But this one thing I know (yeah) that when His face I see,

I shall be like Him, for I shall know Him.
In all of His beauty and glory, I will behold Him,
And I'll trade this robe of flesh for immortality.
Then I can tell you, I'll tell you how this love can be.

Lyrics by Danniebelle Hall

What Kind of Love is This? -- Danniebelle Hall

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back in the Day Friday (on Monday)

Note: I pre-empted my Back in the Day Friday music post with a post I needed to share from my heart. So without further delay, here is a back in the day song. Be blessed!

In the beginning, I was a novice when it came to Christian music. I didn't know any of the artists or the songs they sang. I can remember a few songs I heard as a child like Bringing in the Sheaves (I actually thought they were singing Bringing in the Cheese). Amazing Grace was another song I remember hearing but that was essentially my limited exposure to Christian music.

One day I walked into a Christian Book store and told the owner that I was interested in familiarizing myself with some of the current artists and she took me to the back store room. I spent hours pouring over album jackets, studying the artists who wrote their own lyrics and musicians who sang or played with other artists. When I finished, I had about fifty albums which I wanted to take home and listen to. I also wondered how to work it out to pay when the owner said, "No charge, you can have them." I've never forgotten that kindness and I patronized that Christian business until I moved to another city.

The thing I liked most about the Sweet Comfort Band was their soulful sound; their music contained a jazz-like quality to it. When you listen to this song, you'll notice how the guitar intertwines back and forth to the vocals of lead singer Bryan Duncan.

I Love You with My Life is sung from the perspective of Jesus Christ to His followers. It is personable, as if He is speaking individually to each one of us. I hope you like this song, it is one of my all-time favorites.

I would like to say,
Just before I leave you,
I’ll be back someday,
And with me I will take you
So do not be afraid,
Only watch and pray,
And wait for my return.

I’ve done what I must do,
My work here is completed,
It’s all been done for you,
Believe what I have stated,
And I will give you peace
Through all your tribulations,
Until I come again.

Please know that I love you,
I’ll stay by your side.
If only now in spirit,
I’ll still be your guide.
You will not suffer long,
For I have suffered for you,
I love you with my life.

Lyrics by Bryan Duncan
©1978 Lexicon Music, Inc. (ASCAP)
Used by permission. All rights reserved

Sweet Comfort Band -- I Love You With My Life

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where Are You Lord?

Have you ever had that feeling that you’re all alone? I once watched a very sad movie about two guys who found themselves lost in a desert with no means to make it through. A series of decisions had put them in this predicament that would ultimately cost the life of one. The movie begins with two friends driving along an isolated road through the desert. For some unexplained reason, they decide to go on a hike with no provisions. They finally reach a point where they decide to turn around and head back to their car but by this time, they’ve lost perspective and direction. They are lost but refuse to admit it.

One seems certain in the direction and the other seems skeptical. They separate going off in different directions but ultimately find each other again. By now, hunger, fatigue and physical stress have taken its toll. Both can barely walk another step but sheer will seems to propel one, while the other is ready to give up and die. It’s one of the saddest movies I’ve ever watched because there is very little dialog; just images that convey the emotions felt.

Life seems that way at times. We make decisions that at the time seem innocent, but later on we find ourselves in a place that offers no shelter or sympathy. We reach a point where we decide that we’ve gone too far to turn back but we have no idea where we’re headed. We’re lost but either we don’t realize it or we refuse to admit it.

Recently, I was in that kind of desert; not physically, but certainly spiritually and intellectually.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.1

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.2

I cried out in prayer, and yet, I could not sense the presence of God. It made me feel alone, forgotten and questioning.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?3

I found myself asking God, Where are you Lord? Why don’t you answer me? I don’t know my way; I’m leery of taking another step unless you give me direction. I’m glad the Lord knows me and allows me to express my doubts and fears. As a man, it is an area I’ve struggled with. Trust, it’s a word that sounds so simple but when my mind and my experience stand in opposition to it, I find myself in the desert; waging war with myself.

I begin to imagine things that aren’t real; things good and bad. I searched the scriptures for direction, for help and for relief. I began to read the third chapter of Ecclesiastes which discussed the timing of everything in life. Even in the midst of disorder and chaos, there is an order, structure, symphony and melody to all of life’s events. I asked myself, What is the timing of this present experience? What is it that I’m not seeing?

To a man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.4

…casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.5

Suddenly, it finally hit me where I was; my questions had been answered. The simplicity of God’s truth so often blows me away; especially when I’m looking for some cool oasis, filled with all kinds of food, desserts and cold, clear water. God keeps it simple for me, because I couldn’t handle it any other way. Technologists strive to establish a Standard Repeatable Process (STR) which is a sequence of procedures that are performed manually or using automation. It is the principle which drives the assembly line approach to manufacturing.

The bible says,

Casting the whole of your care---all of your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all---on Him; for He cares for you affectionately, and cares about you watchfully.6

But when faced with adversity, worry, doubt and fear, the human mind says, cast my cares on me. It is a process which we have experientially repeated numerous times throughout our life; so much so that it is involuntary. We don’t even think about it!

God doesn’t want me internalizing my doubts, fears, anxieties and worries; He wants me to voluntarily hand them all to Him, every time. This requires a change of habit and a change in thought process. Three keys to changing the process would be:
  1. Focus on God and not on the problem.
  2. Trust God is working the situation out in my best interest.
  3. Remember how God has proven Himself before.
By looking to God for the answer, I am training myself to measure the problem against God. Regardless as to how immense my problem may seem to be, it can never measure up to the infinite size, strength and ability of Almighty God. The bible says,

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,7

This takes discipline but over time the thought will become part of a new way of thinking. Looking to Jesus serves as a spiritually healthy reminder whenever I face a problem.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…8

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it,9

God is concerned about each of us. So much so that He wants to guide us throughout the course of our life. Supplying us with peace and contentment; living above our fears.

God is not forgetful but oftentimes, we are. That is why it is so imperative that we remember how God has demonstrated Himself to us before. What if I don’t have any memories? I can use the memories of others (those I personally know or those in the bible). What God has done for others, he will do for me.

Remember the days of old…10

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,11

Focus, trust and remember. These are the keys to casting my doubts, fears, anxieties and worries to God rather than casting them internally to myself. Understanding that I can’t handle them, nor can I change the course of my circumstances helps me realize that I need the Greater One.

  1. Psalms 42:1, NASB
  2. Psalms 63:1, NIV
  3. Psalms 22:1, NIV
  4. Proverbs 16:1-3, NIV
  5. 1 Peter 5:7, NASB
  6. 1 Peter 5:7, Amplified
  7. Hebrews 12:2, NASB
  8. Romans 8:28, NASB
  9. Psalms 37:5, NASB
  10. Deuteronomy 32:7, NASB
  11. 1 Chronicles 16:11-12, NASB
  1. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Bible), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quanto Costa? (What is too high a price?)

Recently two people that I love suffered a breech in their relationship. Emotional pain, disappointment, frustration and anger were subsequently followed by harsh words. I found myself in the middle of this strife and I was at a loss as to what I should do; I began to pray. I continued praying only to see the tension escalate. I cried out to the Lord asking for help. I read Psalms but still the tension grew even higher.

I read 2 Samuel about the fractured relationship between King David and his son Absalom. I read how his own son plotted to overthrow David. Recognizing what was taking place, David fled in shame, his head covered, barefoot and weeping bitter tears.

And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went, and his head was covered and he walked barefoot.1

As I read this, I asked myself, Why did the king of all Israel cry? Was it because he felt the pain of betrayal? Was it because he saw the damaged relationship between him and Absalom? Whatever the reason, I believe David experienced loss; a loss more costly than the crown of a kingdom, David felt relationship loss.

There is a cost to keeping a relationship alive and valued, often many will say, “It’s too high a price!” There in 2 Samuel, I read something which caught my eye. It seemed to be an almost nondescript entry which by itself has no importance but there it was.

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why will you also go with us? Return and remain with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile; return to your own place…Return and take back your brothers; mercy and truth be with you."

But Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.2

As I read this, I realized the cost of a relationship is one’s life. Ittai said he was willing to either live or die with David; that was the price he would invest in their relationship. I thought about how cheaply I had valued relationships. I had never contemplated giving my life for someone. In certain situations, I would certainly fight to the death to save those I love but I do not believe I've ever truely invested myself in another person; I held part of me back, reserved what I valued. It saddens me to say that (in the past) I would never sacrifice my life; particularly when my relationship to someone was threatened.

These few verses aren’t as voluminous as the book of Ruth, who says to Naomi,

But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.3

I then read the book of Philemon, where Paul writes a letter about a slave who had stolen from his master (Philemon) and then run away. Somehow, the lives of Paul and Onesimus (the slave) meet and a slave discovers the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul sees value in a person once considered valueless. He writes that the slave is more valuable now because he is a slave no more; he is a valued brother. Not satisfied with recognizing the value of Onesimus, Paul continues:

But if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account…4

Offenses carry a cost associated with them. Too often, we value the offense more than the relationship. When the question, Quanto Costa? (Or how much) is raised, some will say, It’s too high a price!

A relationship costs the investment of one’s life. It is not something you can half step your way through; it's the price you must willingly give.

Jesus paid that price so that we could have a relationship with the Father. When He looked at the cost for you and me, He hung on a cross and died. That’s the price of relationship.

May each of us understand that relationships have real value and that nothing is greater than the life of someone; no offense can amount to the value of a life or a relationship.

  1. 2 Samuel 15:30, NASB
  2. 2 Samuel 15:19-21, NASB
  3. Ruth 1:16, NASB
  4. Philemon 1:18, NASB
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Bible), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why Are You Hiding? (Part 2)

Does this mean it’s alright for you to live a flawed life, a life without purpose? If that were true there would be no need for the word correction. The experience of Adam and Eve teaches us that hiding serves no useful purpose. It also teaches us that flaws come at a cost that must be paid. For Adam and Eve, God sacrificed the blood (life) of two animals to cover their nakedness. For each of us, it is the blood of Jesus Christ.

When I hide, I replace God (on the throne) with myself so that I can cover my weaknesses and flaws. Cosmetic surgery can enhance a woman’s face and body, but no amount of surgery can hide vanity and pride. They say, “Clothes make the man.”, but clothes can’t hide selfishness and greed.

Hiding your flaws simply means you’re a slave to the thinking and behavior that keeps you living in fear. I never like to hear someone point out my flaws. It means that I was unable to hide something about myself which I fear. I immediately feel the overwhelming need to justify why I am the way I am. I feel vindicated and relieved because it allows me to continue hiding. Who am I hiding from? I’m already exposed and I’m still trying to hide? Does that behavior even make sense?

I’m slowly learning to accept that I am a flawed person. I’m also learning to trust God and others with the truth about my flaws. This does not mean that I will live with my flaws and tell others, “That’s just me, deal with it!” It means I will use the biblical concept of Aram (aw-ram’) of standing before God and acknowledging my guilt, allowing God’s Holy Spirit to smooth the flaws (the rough edges of my life); both inside and outside. I no longer have to be afraid.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.5

I believe there are three benefits to being transparent instead of hiding in the shadows of deception:
  1. Liberation
  2. Peace
  3. Spiritual empowerment
There is liberation in being honest about myself because the truth sets us free from fear. Being transparent expels the fear about me, enabling me to understand that God really does know and love me as I am. Because I am known by God, I’m also forgiven. When I reach the place where I no longer am afraid, I can stand before God and others and not feel shame. The bible says,

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.6

Fear robs us of power, love and a disciplined life. It also destroys our confidence. Fear and lack of confidence go hand-in-hand in distorting our identity and self-image; perverting who we are and how we see ourselves.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.7

The real measure of one’s confidence is in (and from) God. It is through our identification with Jesus Christ that we discover who we really are. We recognize the truth about God and our self. This instills confidence because we are liberated from our basic fear of God; realizing the truth that He is our Father.

A second benefit of spiritual transparency is peace.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…8

Peace dispels the anxiety, worry and fears I had about my identity; in other words, who I am. I am growing in that truth and as a result experiencing a new found comfort with who I am. I begin to experience the calm guidance of the Holy Spirit in the same way that Peter did when he followed Jesus out onto the water.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.

And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’

And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

Inner peace includes confidence in the Lord; allowing me to trust Him in every area of my life.

The third benefit of spiritual transparency is spiritual empowerment.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…10

The Greek word for power is dunamis (doo’-nam-is) which means force (literally or figuratively); specifically, it means, miraculous power. Dunamis comes from the root word dunamai (doo’-nam-ahee) which means, to be able or possible:--be able, can, could, may, might, be possible, be of power.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is (literally) the power of God resident in the believer. What does the power of God mean in my life? Literally, it is the inexhaustible power source which resurrects my life (spirit, soul and body) to live for God. I am empowered by God to live holy, honestly, truthfully and right before God and those whom I interact with. I am empowered to be a living example of Jesus Christ. It is not the Lord’s intent that I merely talk about Christ; I must honestly reflect Christ in my life. That is true power! It is a power which cannot be mimicked; it is only reflected from God through the believer.

Once I understand that I have liberation, peace and spiritual empowerment, I no longer need to be afraid and hide. I can reflect the life of Jesus Christ in my life and live a life of transparency. I am Aram (naked) before God, who is smoothing out the flaws of my life; both inside and outside.

I no longer need to hide.

  1. Hebrews 4:16, NIV
  2. 2 Timothy 1:7, NASB
  3. Romans 12:3, NIV
  4. Romans 5:1, NIV
  5. Matthew 14:27-29, NASB
  6. Romans 1:16, NASB
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  4. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Are You Hiding? (Part 1)

I recently read the following:

No one wants to be weak, so we find ways to appear strong.1

As humans, we detest any sign of weakness. We expend tremendous effort, cost and time covering up our flaws. A strong man will use his muscular body to bolster his confidence. A beautiful woman maximizes her face and body to gain the approval she seeks from others.

Where is your strength? What do you depend on when exposure to your flaws is at risk? When confronted with the truth about yourself, do you hide your flaws?

Adam and Eve faced this dilemma in the Garden of Eden. After eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they realized they were naked. When God called out to them, they hid from Him. It was a trait they would pass down to each human descendant; hiding from God.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He walked in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, 'Where are you?' He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.'2

We all seek to maintain a level of confidence about our identity; confidence gives you a sense of worth. What gives you confidence? Perhaps you are intelligent. Maybe you are beautiful. Your muscles may bolster your confidence. Maybe you are an excellent cook or you know how to fix things. Maybe your job gives you pride and confidence about who you are. Is it a uniform you wear or the kind of car you drive? Each of us has something that we use to mask the fear deep within us; a fear of revealing the truth about who we really are. It’s the primary reason we hide.

We can’t afford to allow anyone to see us weak. We tell ourselves, “I can’t let them see me like this.” But what we’re really saying is, “I'm afraid, because of who I am, so I hide the truth about myself.

I believe in God and because of that I believe that God is honest, truthful and the standard for integrity; qualities which He wants to reveal in us. We need to be transparent before God and others. I believe that God put that need in us. I also believe that oftentimes who we really are, is revealed by our own sabotaged attempts at deception. We don’t want to reveal the truth about ourselves and yet, the steps we take to avoid exposure reveal that very truth.

The thief gets caught, an immoral politician exposed, a Ponzi scheme discovered, an athlete with a secret life; all exposed to the revealing light of truth. Why? Do they subconsciously want to be honest and truthful about their life? Adam hid among the trees and yet, he still confessed before God.

In the biblical definition, nakedness doesn’t just mean without any clothing. The Hebrew word Aram (aw-ram’) means to be (or make) bare. This Hebrew word is derived from the concept of smoothness, being without flaw. Outside, there is nothing visibly wrong to be seen; like a smooth pebble which has no rough edges. Inside, there is nothing hidden, stored or perishable. This is contrasted with a piece of fruit which looks ripe and delicious on the outside only to reveal that it first rots from within. There is a clear, clean honesty in the concept of Aram (aw-ram’); that honesty was put there by God. I believe God wants us to be transparent; visible, honest and unafraid.

God made Adam and Eve bare (or Aram). Why? In His creative work, God made them without flaws so that they would have open, honest, face-to-face communication with Him in the Garden. It’s what God wants from all of us; to be unafraid so that each of us has open, honest communication with Him.

Although Adam and Even hid from God, were they truly invisible? Even though Adam was afraid, fearful and hiding, he heard the voice of God call him. He acknowledged his fear in the presence of God by standing before God and confessing.

I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid…3

How do you respond when you are called to account for yourself? When the truth about you is about to be revealed, do you hide behind your intelligence, your beauty, your talent, your youth, your money, your job or your family? Are you afraid that seeing your flaws will diminish how others view you? Maybe you’ll appear as someone not that smart or pretty or strong. Perhaps God is calling you out, but because of your fear and flaws, you choose to remain hidden.

None of us are perfect no matter how much we cover ourselves. The truth cannot be hidden. You cannot make yourself right! No matter how good you make yourself, no matter how good or tight your game is; you remain flawed.

It is good to know that God no longer holds your flaws against you.

Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”>”4

I have found this to be the case in my life (particularly when I'm questioned about something I prefer to remain hidden from others). I can think of numerous times when I was lost driving but rather than acknowledge it, I would give my wife an alternative explanation for where we are.

"Is this still the interstate?"

"No, I got off because I was looking for a service station."

None of us are perfect now, no matter how much we cover ourselves. The truth cannot be hidden. You cannot make yourself right! No matter how good you make yourself, no matter how good or tight your game is; you remain weak.

It is good to know that God no longer holds your weakness against you.

Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.4

Tomorrow, I will discuss the benefits of living a transparent life before God and others.

  1. Strength in Weakness, Julie Ackerman Link, RBC Ministries
  2. Genesis 3:8-10, NIV
  3. Genesis 3:10, NIV
  4. Romans 8:1-2, NIV
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  4. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back in the Day Friday

Like to see people smile...
and not frown
Like to see people up...
and not down
Like to see people share love
and not hate
Like to see people value time
instead of being late

That's makes me happy
Well, well
That makes me happy
Tell you that it gives me joy

Lyrics by Leonard, Melvin and Doug Williams

I've always loved music. Back in the day, my friends and I would sit around a turntable and spin records in kind of musical Can you top this song competition. Each of us had to weave a song into the theme of a previous song or initiate a new theme which everyone recognized as better. It was great times and always fun.

When I became a Christian and discovered the inspiration and energy of Christian music, I couldn't get enough of it. I met this fellow Christian who played in a rock band who asked, "Have you ever heard of Andrae' Crouch?" When I listened to Andrae' for the first time, I didn't realize Christian music was that good. Pretty soon I was listening to every type of Christian artist from Stryper to The Mighty Clouds of Joy.

One group I never tire of hearing is The Williams Brothers. They sing with such energy and joy.

The Williams Brothers -- Joy

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Forgive Them (Part 3)

The bible gives several examples of how God responds to our unforgiveness of others:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.6

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?'

Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me he begged, and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

What this is saying is that we who have been forgiven much by God must forgive the little things from others. Should I expect God to forgive me for every sin I’ve committed while I won’t forgive someone for a slight? I need to remember this when I pray because I want God to hear me, I want God to forgive me and I want God to bless me. To forgive means that I accept the atonement of Jesus Christ, not only for myself but for everyone else as well; His blood covers us all. This enables me to forgive.

The final step to forgive is restoration. This means to give back that which was lost. When someone offends me, they lose value in my eyes because what they did becomes more important to me. This is contrary to what God did for us.

…it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ…8

The Hebrew word for restore is shuwb (shoob) which means to turn back. My thinking of biblical restoration is to return to the starting point. It’s like taking a sheet of paper and folding it in half; the beginning edge of the sheet and the ending edge are both at the same point. Anything written on that sheet of paper becomes irrelevant because the folding has covered up all the writing.

The blood which was shed by Jesus Christ serves as an eternal atonement for our sins. This does not give me a license to go on sinning. On the contrary, it means that I should live my life in the best possible way to please God. It does not mean if I sin I am lost again, because I have an advocate with God the Father. That advocate is Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for me (always).

…I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense---Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.9

As a result, we are restored to our status as sinless before the eyes of God. Restoration is critical to forgiving. When I no longer place value on the offense (through substitution), I am acknowledging that Jesus Christ atoned not only for me but for everyone else as well, I see others as God sees me; forgiven.

Restoration is not the same as reconciliation or repentance. A person may never acknowledge they hurt me but I will not put any obstacle in their way hindering them. What I'm learning is that the responsibility to forgive is with me.

If you are harboring hurts, memories and pain from others, you need to free yourself and those who hurt you. Don’t be like the Three Stooges, following a Niagara Falls scenario through life, turning back, time and time again. That would be like a DVD that won’t track because of a smear or scratch on the disk. It’s time to let it go and give value to one truly deserving, Jesus Christ. Won’t you forgive? I often find that it helps when I answer the question, What is of greater value to me?
  1. Jesus Christ, or
  2. the offense
Let us forgive one another and be an example of Christ to others.

  1. Matthew 6:14-15, NIV
  2. Matthew 18:21-35, NIV
  3. Ephesians 2:5-6, NIV
  4. 1 John 2:1, NIV
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Forgive Them (Part 2)

Biblical forgiveness is the work of God to make us right with Him; without this action by God we would all be condemned for eternity. I believe the bible reveals three steps that enable us to forgive:
  1. substitution
  2. atonement and
  3. restoration
To forgive us, God provides a substitution for all. Through substitution, God places greater value on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ than on my sins.

…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but have everyone to come to repentance.2

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.3

There is no Hebrew word for substitution but the biblical concept is documented.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.4

But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.5

Any one of us can pay the cost of sin in our life by accepting the punishment of death but what’s the benefit in that? None of us wants to be condemned, punished and die for the sins of our life. I suppose for some, choosing salvation may seem a coward’s way of facing the consequences of sin but the truth is that each of us looks for a way of escape. When you’re stopped by a policeman for speeding, you don’t say, “I broke the law, give me a ticket officer”. No, you offer a substitute (an alibi) in an effort to excuse your actions. When the officer says, “I’m not going to give you a ticket this time. Please drive the posted speed limit.” You don’t get angry and demand a speeding ticket. No, you say, “Thank you officer” and go on your merry way. Yes, the world's answer to consequences is escape. People take their life (e.g., suicide), sabotage (e.g., addiction) their life and frustrate their life (e.g., greed) in an effort to escape.

The same is true for salvation. You and I know we deserve the just punishment of God but none of us would argue with God when He freely accepts the substitutionary life of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (you, me and everyone else). When we accept Christ as savior, God sees His life poured out as a sin offering for all. As a result, no further substitution is necessary. God forgives because of the substitutionary act of Jesus Christ. God values Jesus Christ more than sin. When someone offends me, I need to substitute Jesus Christ for that offense; giving greater value to who Christ is than what someone has done to me. To do otherwise would mean that the offense is more important to me than Jesus Christ. Recognizing Christ is greater than the offense towards me enables me to forget.

The second step towards forgiving is atonement. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar (kaw-far’) which means to cover. In God’s eyes, atonement can only be achieved through death; blood must be shed, someone must die. When I look at the biblical form of forgiving, I recognize that God requires atonement (or covering) for sin. Each of us is guilty of sin and the verdict of death has been given. Either I must die or someone must atone for my sins. That sounds harsh but that’s the just penalty for sin. Someone has to die for your (and my) sin before God is satisfied the punishment has been executed. The interesting thing is that because we all are under sin, not one of us can atone for someone else. The truth is that even if I could die for your sin, so that you would live, I wouldn’t choose to. It’s like being on the ship Titanic, everyone on board knows the ship is sinking and everyone behaves under the rule of, every man for himself. I can’t help you because I’m too busy helping myself.

I need to understand that the blood of Jesus Christ covers me (once and for all). This means that when the accuser of our brethren condemns me, God sees the blood of His Son; I am righteous before God. This is my vindication. In accepting the atonement of Christ on my behalf, I must now see others as God sees me.

But how does the forgiveness of God help me forgive others?

Tomorrow I will conclude atonement and the final step to forgiving.

  1. 2 Peter 3:9, NIV
  2. Romans 5:8, NIV
  3. Genesis 22:13, NIV
  4. Isaiah 53:5, NIV
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forgive Them (Part 1)

Note:This post was written some time ago. At the time, I was blogging my thoughts on faith so I decided write down these thoughts that were initiated during my morning prayer; hoping for the right time to post on this topic. I am always blown away by how the Lord is patient with me and I give Him the praise. This topic has three parts so I hope you extend me some grace for writing a scroll.

Have you ever found your thoughts drifting to something you forgot about while praying? I have. I found myself doing that this morning as my mind remembered someone who offended me. I’ve come to realize that forgiving isn’t easy for me, especially when I think someone else is wrong. I may lose sight of what someone said or did but that doesn’t mean I've forgotten or forgiven them. Thinking along this path brought me to the question:

What does it mean to forgive?

I’ve heard it said that, “to forgive means to forget and never remember again; to not condemn a person for a wrong they’ve committed”. But what does it mean to forget? How can I forget when remembering is so easy to do? This morning I allowed myself to drift from prayer to meditation; contemplating the subject of forgiving.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.1

To have the ability to understand, that human thought is incapable of knowing how to do what is right without guidance from God, is truly remarkable. Only God has that ability; to know and do what's right. Understanding that we just don’t know what is right also means that we often don’t know what we’re doing.

How do we tap into the mind of God and forgive others? Well, I understand that I’m not God but when it comes to unforgiveness, I tend to act like a little god. I hold on to those past hurts, offenses and grudges. Why? Because I believe someone needs to be punished for what they said or did to me. I take things personally, very personally! I want vengeance, I want to return the hurt and I want to know you are being punished.

While I was meditating, it occurred to me that before Christ died for us, God knew the kind of rebellious person I would become when I entered the world, but He didn’t tell His Son, “Never mind”. Before the beginning (of creation), God (always) knew what each of us would be like and yet, He made a covenant with mankind to save us from sin and death. Every wrong act of betrayal, every rebellious act of indifference and every lust-craving attempt to satisfy our lives meant that God would have to forgive and forget.

Forgetting is the key to forgiving. How do I forget?
Have you ever misplaced something and couldn’t remember where you left it? I know that’s happened to me more times than I can count. Losing track of or misplacing something or someone is an unconscious act; we’re just not aware. That’s exactly what the thinking is behind the Hebrew definition of the word, forget.

The Hebrew word for forget is shakach (shaw-kakh’ or shaw-kay’-akh), which means, to mislay. In other words, to forget is to become oblivious of something due to the absence of memory or attention. Forgetting is putting something down and having a mindset that says, “I don’t value this at all”, so that I’m not aware of it as I walk away. I don’t typically lose things which are important to me; I value them. Something (or someone) can grab my attention causing me to lose focus and walk away from something I value. When I realize that thing I value is gone, I use my memory to recall where I last left it. I re-trace my steps until I return to that place, and there it is, just where I left it! This is why I appreciate structure in my life.

However when it comes to forgiving, you need to do more than lose focus; you need to mislay what was said or done in a way that you can no longer remember it. You see, we remember because we always go back to that place of offense. We retrace every word and action, bringing back the pain someone caused us.

I remember watching a Three Stooges sketch called Niagara Falls. Every time the phrase, Niagara Falls, was spoken, it served to remind Moe of his quest to find the man who stole his wife. It was the line, “Slowly I turned. Step by step. Inch by inch”, that always preceded a beat down of Curly. That’s what we do in remembering an offense; we turn around and go back, moment by moment, replaying every second of the offending event. We do this because:
  1. We are unwilling to devalue what happened so we make ourselves unwilling to forget.
  2. We are unwilling to forget what happened so we refuse to forgive.
  3. We are unwilling to forgive what happened so we condemn a person to punishment.

Tomorrow, I will begin discussing the steps to forgiving.

  1. Luke 23:34, NIV
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA

Friday, April 9, 2010

Back In The Day Friday

Whenever I get to reminiscing about anything taking place more than twenty years ago, my sons and daughters would chide me with the phrase, "Back in the day". The ensuing discussion would end with me conceding that not everything was all good.

In any case, last Friday a discussion with my daughter seemed to spark some memories and I thought I would use the remaining Friday's in April as my very own Back in the day theme. If anyone would like to participate, feel free to post a song on your blog and leave me a link in your comment.

This song takes me back to a man who witnessed and mentored me in the word of God. Each day for two months, we searched the scriptures as he opened my eyes to God's truth. I remember going to visit him some time later and was told, "Oliver died". I was saddened but in looking back I see how God used that man to help me learn to study God's word. He was a witness to me.

Denny Correll -- The Witness

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have Faith In God

Previously on My Thought-filled Journey:

we believe but we are tormented with the question, Will God? We just don’t know if God will…we doubt the character and faithfulness of God. Not always openly but certainly subconsciously. We doubt the will of God, usurping it with a mixture of mistrust and uncertainty. We either don’t know or we’ve forgotten who God is; so we seek assurance elsewhere.

Throughout scripture, the overriding point of emphasis is to trust God. God expects this of us. He anticipates this from us. God awaits this from us. Why? I do not know but I believe it is because God seeks preeminence in every aspect of our lives.

Think about this, throughout the Old Testament, the recurring cycle of events is that the nation of Israel would experience apostasy, oppression, repentance and deliverance; and throughout the Old Testament, God remained faithful. Time and time again, a generation would worship the gods of other people. This was usually because they no longer knew the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As a result, apostasy would initiate a new cycle of the same events.

This cycle wasn’t just confined to the Old Testament nation of Israel. There may no longer be a worship of Baal or Dagon but the gods of greed, lust, selfishness, cruelty, hatred, discord, jealousy, dissension and envy are religiously followed and worshipped. I can’t have faith in God if I practice these things in my life. There is no room for God and other gods in my life.

In the Gospel of Mark, he states that:

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves…Then he said to the tree,May no one ever eat fruit from you again.…In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus,Rabbi, look! The fig you cursed has withered!’ ‘Have faith in God,Jesus answered.1

God wants me to trust Him to the degree that I agree with Him. My faith in essence is agreeing with God. I do not believe I’m required to know the intricacies of God’s plan for me but I am required to trust that plan. The thing is, I don’t believe God needs (or depends) on me to fulfill His plans. By that I mean that if I yield to God's will, He can use me. If I don't yield to His will, He will still accomplish His purpose. God told Jonah to tell the people of Ninevah to repent but when Jonah refused, God used a whale to get his attention and obedience. God is never caught off guard by my actions or responses; because he intimately knows me. If I don’t trust God, it does not nullify the faithfulness of God. God will fulfill His purpose however and through whomever He chooses. If it’s through unfaithful me, it will just take longer. Not because God is slack concerning His promises; I am the slacker.

The bible says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God…2

Why is wisdom important? It enables me to understand the purposes of God in my life, so that when I pray, I’m asking in faith; agreeing with God to allow His will to work in and through me.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.3

How do I have (possess) faith in God? The bible identifies three components to having faith in God:
  1. Believing in God
  2. Trusting in God
  3. Accepting the will of God
Believing God has an imperative for the Christian; knowing God. Knowledge of God comes from planting His word in me, empowering me to agree that God is truthful. The bible teaches that God is in agreement with Himself but for my faith to bear fruit, I need to reach agreement with God. The struggle for me is intellectually, emotionally and physically; these parts of me resist agreement with God. This is no surprise to God; it is however, a surprise to me. My mind tries to comprehend the things of God but often I’m unable to deduce (intellectually) how or if God will answer my prayer. My emotions grapple with fears, inadequacies and worry reminding me the worst possible scenario is about to play itself out in my life. My body echoes the reality of limitations or its threshold to pain bringing me to focus on myself.

In each of these areas of my life, I’m turning inward to myself, focusing on me; insulating myself with my thoughts, emotions and physical limitations. But this is where belief conquers doubt. Belief overcomes and transcends my thoughts, emotions and physical limitations, empowering me to agree with God. God does this on my behalf through the power of His word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in me. God does not leave it up to me to believe Him; that is an impossible task for me alone. God has put the Holy Spirit in me, empowering me to agree with Him. The word of God gives me a basis of knowledge about God, enabling me to learn more and more about His love, faithfulness and concern for me. As I learn more and more about God, I gain the awareness that God is the embodiment of truth. Knowing that God is truthful with me positions me to agree with God’s word in my life.

Trusting in God takes me beyond simply agreeing with His truth. Trust is more than acknowledging God’s truth; trust embraces the truth of God’s word. Trust assures me that I am not alone. Trust is the realization that God goes before me; no matter what I am faced with in life. Trust is a confidence in God and not in me.

The bible says,

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.4

It is a reminder that I am not alone. The Lord is at work demonstrating His life, power and salvation in my life; producing His character in me.

All my life, I’ve struggled with patience. I can remember walking up to the express counter in a store and changing to another line because it was taking too long. When I became a Christian, I prayed for patience and God gave me opportunities to produce fruit. Instead, I tried to deal with the challenges that tried my patience on my own; I wouldn’t trust God. I had to know God, learn about God’s patience and believe that God was patient with me. These opportunities for patience, were my one-on-one practice sessions with God; teaching me to wait on the Lord.

Today, I continue to have opportunities for patience but I’m not that same man; I trust God now. I don’t mean to say that don’t fail in demonstrating patience; I do. But those instances of failure have significantly decreased over time.

Accepting God's will for me is the final component of having faith in God. It is the understanding that God’s will for me is perfect; in spite of my circumstances and environment. As my knowledge of God increases, I’ve learned to accept His will for any area of my life. When things do not occur as I’d hoped, I don’t blame God for deserting me, I thank Him for knowing what’s best.

I believe God is looking to demonstrate Himself in the life of each Christian. The Marines may be looking for a few good men and women but God is looking for people of faith. I remember years ago, we had this old clunker. It leaked oil, was always in need of a tune-up and was misaligned. One day it just died on me. As I rode in the tow truck, I wondered what it was going to cost to repair it. When the mechanic gave me the estimate, it was close to three hundred dollars. It didn’t matter to me. He could’ve said three dollars, three hundred dollars or three thousand dollars; I couldn’t afford to pay any amount. In that moment, I began to pray for the money.

In my mind, I knew I didn’t have the money so it needed to come from another source. It was then that I was reminded that the Lord will never leave or forsake me. I had this thought in my mind which said, “This is an opportunity for me to demonstrate that I am God”. I remember thinking that God wanted me to allow Him to prove Himself in my life. In that moment, I totally accepted God's will for this circumstance. Instead of a miraculous infusion of money; we paid the repair bill over time because the owner of the shop extended grace to us. God answered my prayer and I was willing to accept His plan for this opportunity. God also answered a subsequent follow-up prayer; that was the last used car I ever owned.

Belief, trust and acceptance. If you practice these three, you will have ample opportunity to have faith in God.

  1. Mark 11:12-15; 20-22, NIV
  2. James 1:5, NIV
  3. James 1:6, NIV
  4. Hebrews 13:5, NIV
  1. Is it, Will God? or God Will!, My Thought-filled Journey
  2. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  3. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126

Friday, April 2, 2010

Blessings to All!

I'm thankful to God that in the past week I've been able to read blogs authored by fellow Christians. When I began this blog, I prayed that the Lord would direct me and that each post would impart love, peace, wisdom, encouragement and fellowship to others.

Recently, my thoughts, prayers and reading have centered on topic of faith in God, so I began my blog on this subject; sharing my thoughts and personal experiences.

Today, rather than post on the subject of faith, I am offering a gift of song to all of you. Through His suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has dismantled the partition between God and mankind. The emotions of sorrow and pain that many of his followers felt when He said, "It is finished" was replaced with overwhelming joy upon the news of His resurrection. I wasn't there but I rejoice too.

That is the resounding message that will echo and reverberate throughout this weekend.

He's alive!

Note: This video clip can be expanded to fullscreen by clicking the four arrow directional icon on the bottom right.