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Archive for April, 2009

God Help Me To Get It

 John 5

 

‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing…’

 

‘for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’

 

Jesus knew the Father and did only the things the Father permitted, and if the Father permitted it, He did not fear what man thought of it.  The Pharisees were just the opposite; they sought the praise of man.

 

‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’

 

‘How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?’

 

When the Pharisees studied the scriptures, they did not seek the praise of God, they sought the praise of man.  They sought in order that they could impress man.  The end result was that they did not know God; they did not know His heart.  

 

If we who enjoy posting our thoughts are not careful, we can fall into the same trap.  We can study the Scriptures, not to know God, but to have something to write about.  We can focus on the praise of man rather than the praise of God – I can say that because I recently caught myself doing it.

 

Here is what is at stake: we miss God, we miss knowing His heart, we miss seeing what He might have for us to do.  If we are seeking the praise of man, we miss the opportunities to touch those who are disabled and hurting, who wait by the pool for someone to come along.  

 

The church has got to wake up.  We have lived so poor an example that the world has turned away in disgust.  The world waits by the pool for someone to come along who simply loves.  So what, if we know the Scriptures and yet can pass them by. 

 

For the very few who may occasionally read what I write, you may notice the Lord will not let me go on this.  He is wringing me out about it.  This text, along with the aid of a video I saw last night (the final ‘tour’ of ‘The Truth Project’) which included an interview with ‘one who sat by the pool waiting’, has gripped me to the core.  

 

I don’t want it to be said of me by Him, ‘These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’.  God help me to get it.

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John 3:22 – 4:54

 

As I began reading this text, I remembered it contained the story of the woman at the well.  I remembered the words Jesus spoke to her about the water that He gives and that those who drink it will never thirst again.  Months ago those words moved me deeply.  But this time there was nothing.  I read it several times, thinking I just wasn’t concentrating enough; still, nothing. 

 

Out of all I read, the only thing that stood out was 4:3.  The Pharisees noticed that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people than John.  ‘When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.’

 

One thing I’ve noticed about how God works, is that when He is trying to show you something, He layers it to confirm and drive home the point.  Most of us would have gotten puffed up over the numbers.  Jesus fled from it.

 

Well it didn’t have the umph that the story of the woman at the well had, but I couldn’t deny that it was the part that God was trying to show me, so I kept reading.  For several days I read it.  Sometimes when the obvious does not stir us, He wants us to dig deeper.  There is something there. 

 

The next verse that seemed to stand out was 4:31.  When the disciples returned and found Jesus talking to the woman at the well, they urged Him to eat something.  I wondered if this took place during His 40 day fast.  The more I looked at it, the more it appeared to me that it did. 

 

John 3:22 ‘After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them and baptized.’

 

Mt. 4:1 ‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.’

 

I guess from the way Matthew puts it, I’ve always thought Jesus went out into the desert by Himself for 40 days.  But if this is the same event, John puts it differently.  I mentioned earlier that when God is trying to show me something, He has a way of layering different ways to confirm and drive home the point.  I think in our tempting, satan does the same.

 

We read in Matthew where satan tried to get Jesus to settle for fame; here in John, He is also tempted by fame.  When He learns of it, He left the area.  We read in Matthew where satan tried to get Him to eat by turning stones into bread.  In John we see the similar temptation coming through His disciples when they tried to get Him to eat something.

 

Matthew emphasizes the head to head with satan; John the routine everyday life stuff – not only the blatant, but also the subtle, and all simply to distract our focus.

 

The water that Jesus gives may be the icing, but I believe here, the Lord has shown me the ingredients for that icing.

 

 

  

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We Must Be Born Again

 

John 3:3, ‘No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’

 

I have been stuck for several days with thoughts on this verse.  I fully intended to write them yesterday but got sidetracked.  Another topic has been on my mind so as I sat at my computer, I found myself in a struggle over which one to write about.

 

Recently I have seen several quotes from our founding fathers that convey their humility before God, their dependence on Him and their recognition of His ways as the only basis on which governing principals could be derived that would stand the test of time, life and man’s propensity to assert his own interests in it.

 

The more I sat and thought about the two topics, the topic of needing to be born again began to seem flat.  So I began writing about the other.  Last night, after watching Osteen at Yankee Stadium, I noticed a Billy Graham Classic was on next.  Having only heard him in his later years, I have never understood why he drew such crowds.  Now I know.

 

I think the title of the message was ‘What is Wrong with the World’.   It was 1958 in Charlotte, NC – the town he grew up in – in what was then the largest domed structure in the world.  It was filled to capacity with 13,000 people. 

 

Sin is what is wrong with the world and unless you are born again, man’s propensity is to assert his own interests.  It was a dynamic message.  As I heard it, my heart was gripped by the truth, the simplicity and the fact that I had allowed myself to be sidetracked – that I had allowed myself to see the need to be born again as flat.

 

To a member of the Jewish ruling council – Nicodemus – a teacher of God’s people, Jesus would say, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’.  Unless you are born again, you cannot see that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’.  Unless you are born again you cannot see that ‘God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved’.  Unless you are born again, ‘you will love darkness instead of light’. 

 

If we do not first get that right, all else is irrelevant.  But from that we have His light to light our way.  Our founding fathers, at least some of them, had this light.  It affected the way they lived, the way they believed and the way they governed.  They tried to elevate His ways.

 

It is sick today (sorry, I can’t think of a better word) to see how far we have come.  Unless more people literally get ‘born again’, from the common people to the leaders of our nation and churches, this nation, which was formed by men who did see His kingdom, will be stolen by men who do not.  We must be born again.    

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Whipping Post

 

I been run down, I been lied to.

I don’t know why I listened and made myself a fool.

In all of my tryin, he stood to accuse,

And now in one of my darkest hours

He says that I’m gonna lose.

 

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like I been tied to a whipping post,

Tied to a whipping post,

Tied to a whipping post,

Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin.

 

I hope for Your help, but so far there’s no sign.

Maybe today, says this faith of mine.

I struggle with sorrow when again You don’t come.

Nothing seems to change; hard times stay the same

And I can’t run.

 

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like I been tied to a whipping post,

Tied to a whipping post,

Tied to a whipping post,

Oh Lord, can you keep me from dyin?

 

‘My help will come; I did hear your plea.

I need you to trust and listen to me.

I’ll give you My peace and protect you each day.

Though nothing seems to change, I will sustain,

While I make a way.’

 

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like He was tied to the whipping post,

Tied to the whipping post,

Tied to the whipping post,

Oh Lord, to keep me from dyin.

 

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Just A Little Spot

 

John 2:25 ‘He did not need man’s testimony about man.’

 

A few days ago I had my annual physical.  Though my doc said I was one of his healthier patients, there were a couple of little issues that needed attention; one was a small spot on my ear.  When He became aware of it, he said, ‘Oh, I can take care of that; I’ll burn it off’.  It was a very small spot; hardly even noticeable.  It wasn’t real serious, but just better to have it removed.  

 

I had another spot show up a few days before.  This one, the Lord showed me.  He must have surely said, even if just to Himself, ‘Oh, I can take care of that; I’ll burn it off’.  It was a very small spot; hardly even noticeable.  He could have left it.  It wasn’t really all that serious, but He too must have thought it would just be better to remove it.

 

I enjoy writing.  I like to record the thoughts I have from my time with God.  Ephesians 4:16 says, ‘From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work’.  Writing is one of the means I feel God has given me to be a supporting ligament and I do my best to be faithful in that work.

 

My passion for God is at least on the upper end of the scale so I would at least think I would be considered on of His healthier patients.  But still there was this little spot.  In relation to my writing, it had gotten to where I was becoming anxious at times to post the things I had written.  Worse, I became anxious to receive feedback.

 

When I first started writing, it was in the form of journaling.  My writing was to God.  His approval was all I sought.  But then I started posting my writing for others to see.  The motive for doing so was good; I hoped it would be as helpful to others as it was to me.  But the desire for feedback, the desire for man’s approval, the need for ‘man’s testimony about man’ altered my focus.  I no longer ‘just’ sought God’s approval.   

 

It had ruined a good thing.  The Lord did not beat me over the head about it; He just showed me what had happened.  I quit posting for a while.  I had no desire to.  All I wanted was what I had lost.  It didn’t take long.  It wasn’t painful and it is much better.  I could possibly need future treatments, but at least for now, the spot is removed. 

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You’ve tried it all again and again

in hopes of finding life;

now here you are, you’ve reached your end

and all you’ve found is strife.

 

You’ve done your best to get it right

but still real life evades;

you’re warn and weary of the fight

and the messes you have made.

 

You may be saved but your mind is lost,

can’t feel or see His face;

you stand in need in tempest tossed

of His amazing grace.

 

It’s at your worst you see His best,

His love so undeserved;

and yet again He offers rest,

and yet again you’ve heard.

 

This time you cry, ‘Your plan for me

that I might truly live.

Help me Lord that I might see

the life You died to give’.

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The Best For Last

John 2

 

John 2:10 ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’

 

It seems everywhere I turn lately I am reminded of how different God’s ways are in relation to the ways of our enemy.  I think the first notice of this came years ago from when Jesus was tempted by satan.  Matthew 4:8 says, ‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor…’

 

It is satan’s way to entice with the good – never mentioning the bad – luring with the bait of all the good aspects associated with any given thing.  It could be bad things or things that are inherently good; it doesn’t matter to him.  He has one goal, and that is to keep people from the life that comes only from God.  He tried to get Jesus to settle for good by showing Him all the splendor.  That is his way – splendor first and then that which is cheap.

 

But God’s way is different.  Jesus’ reply was, “For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’.”  There’s not a lot of splendor in that, at least on the front end.  There’s not a lot that compels us to say, ‘I’ve got to get me some of that’.  But with God, what He offers may be less appealing on the front end but it leads to what is best on the back end.  His ways are truly different. 

 

The way of the world is to go after the splendor, to go after the choice wine first.  Many can waste a lifetime going after these, thinking that in them is life.  But the life we seek is not there.  I like the way Jeremiah puts it in 2:13, ‘My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’.

 

Go after the splendor, the choice wine first, dig your own cisterns – it will not hold water.  Do it for a lifetime; the results will be the same.  But if we go after God, the spring of living water, that water will not leak out; and somehow He turns it into the best wine you’ve ever tasted.  He saves the best for last.

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The Life He Secured For Me

John 1

 

Before Adam was enticed to think he could add to his life, he simply enjoyed God and all that God had given him.  Is that not at the root of all temptation?  If you have this, see this or do this, it will add enjoyment to your life.  Life is pretty good, but with that, it would be just a little better.

 

And so, for the next 4,000 years, not one person rose above this contrived means of luring away from God.  Not always a thought to do something evil, but always a thought that it will enrich life.  In the barrage of these enticements man was powerless to make the choices that would lead to real life.

 

But just as Adam in the first garden made a wrong choice that would start a chain that would last 4,000 years, the second Adam in the second garden would make a right choice that would break that chain.  Jesus was tempted to add to His life by avoiding the cross, but by choosing to endure it, He secured for us the right to know God as Adam did before the fall.  

 

John 1:12,13 says, ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’

 

It is no wonder that satan comes at us with such a barrage; he knows the extent to which God went to secure this life for us.  If he can keep us from it, he somewhat nullifies the suffering Jesus went through, and in fact, I think it adds to it.

 

Though Jesus broke the chain, still it is not automatic.  Though we may be, ‘born of God’, we still have an enemy and his ways have not changed.  But what has changed is that Jesus has shown by example how to beat him.  It is not on us to resist that we might then enjoy His fullness, but rather, it is on us to walk in His fullness that we might then have the power to resist.  You cannot do it otherwise. 

 

When John wrote this first chapter, all this was already over.  Jesus had already been to the cross.  He had already risen from the grave.  He had seen evidence of the life that Jesus made possible as it was born out in so many who had come to know Him.  I find it interesting that he begins his writing with such an emphasis.  John 1:4 states, ‘In him was life, and that life was the light of men’.

 

Tomorrow happens to be Easter – the day we remember the resurrection.  But this year I will be more mindful of an event a few days before where in a garden, He secured for me this life that I can enjoy now.  Looking ahead and knowing the ones who would find it, it so filled Him with joy that it enabled Him to endure the cross.  

 

I am reminded of the closing remarks in a sermon called, ‘Ten Shekels and a Shirt’ in which the preacher, Paris Reidhead tells the story of a slave plantation located on an island.  The owner would not allow missionaries to come to the island and once there, you were there untill you died.  ‘Two young Moravians heard about it.  They sold themselves to the British planter…’  As the young men were sailing away, and knowing they would not return, one raised his hand and shouted, ‘MAY THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN, RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING’.

 

In order that He would ‘RECEIVE THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING’, may I not miss the life He secured for me.

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Jeremiah 1-23

 

The topic of God’s judgment came up during a Bible study a few days ago.  As I listened to the various comments, I tried to recall portions of what I had read recently in Jeremiah.  It seemed so relevant.  I thought a review would be helpful.  I think the parallels are striking.

 

Nutshell

If I had to pick one verse that sums up the condition of the people in Jeremiah’s day it would be 2:13.  ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’.

 

Stop & think

2:19, 20 ‘Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me.’  “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you’.”

 

Naïve confidence

5:12 “They have lied about the Lord; they said, ‘He will do nothing!  No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.  The prophets (referring to God’s prophets) are but wind and the word is not in them’.”  To which God says, ‘The prophets (referring to false prophets) prophecy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.  But what will you do in the end’?

 

Ungodly habitation of a godly house

7:9,10 ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things?”

 

Satan’s craftsman surge while God’s tread water

Hollywood hammers out a lifestyle and adorns it with silver and gold.  As in the days of Jeremiah, as seen in 10:3,4 ‘For the customs of the people are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and the craftsman shapes it with his chisel.  They adorn is with silver and gold’.  And then worse yet, 10:21, ‘The shepherds are senseless and do not enquire of the Lord’.

 

Neglected warnings

11:7,8 “I warned them again and again, saying, ‘Obey me’.  But they did not listen or pay attention; instead they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts.”  And the sad result in 10:11, “Therefore this is what the Lord says, ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape.  Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them’.”

 

Promise for the faithful

Like an oasis is this promise in the midst of all the proclaimed disaster, 17:7,8 ‘But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’

 

It is on us

18:7-10 ‘If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.  And if at another time I announce that a  nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.’

 

Worthless words vs. Worthy words

In 23:16,17 we find the majority of the prophets of the day were promising ‘peace’ and saying, ‘no harm will come to you’.  To which the Lord says in 23:18 ‘But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear His word?  Who has listened and heard his word?’  23:21,22 says, ‘I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.  But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.’

 

The only hope

Finally in 23:28 it says, ’Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully’.  And what is His word, as stated in chapter 7, ‘Reform your ways’; ‘If you really change your ways’; ‘then I will let you live in this place’.  They were talking the talk without walking the walk.  Walking the walk is the only hope.

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Jeremiah 24-25

 

Your ways are different than our ways.  You do things different than we would.  You think differently than we think.  We would think that You would deliver us from our enemies and as a result of that deliverance, we would be drawn closer to You.  But in Jeremiah’s day, the enemies were Your instrument to draw Your people closer.  We would think of captivity as Your abandonment, but to You, it was a place of building up and purifying.  The end result was that Your people, though it was but a few, would ‘return to You with their whole heart’.

 

Is that not the goal of any adversity we are submitted to?  And if we’re not careful, we can see it as God being against us; when in fact He is pursuing us.  He wants our all and will stop at nothing to get it.

 

After the children of Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness, having had everything stripped away but God, the time finally came for them to cross the Jordan to begin taking the Promised Land.  Just when you think there is nothing else He can take, He brings out the flint knives – there’s just a little more flesh He wants to get rid of. 

 

Why didn’t He do this when they were on the other side of the Jordan, so that when they crossed they could get on with business?  Why did He wait until they were in enemy territory and vulnerable?  He wanted them to make no mistake.  He was their source and protection.  There was to be no confidence in the flesh.    

 

If He is taking and taking and taking, to where it seems He can take no more, He is pursuing us.  In His pursuit of us, we are stirred to pursue Him.  Our thinking suggests there is a purpose; that there is something He is preparing us for.  There may be but it is really incidental to His main goal.  His main goal is that He would find someone to commune with.  To a chosen few He gave this privilege.

 

I have always thought of it as us trying to find Him.  But I wonder in light of the multitudes who halfheartedly seek Him for the good He might bring to their lives, if He is not thrilled to find one who just wants Him.  If so, it would make sense that when He found such a person, that He would pursue them to the fullest?  Only those who are so driven can take it – only for a chosen few.

 

 

 

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