Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Beauty of Having a Heavenly Father

"For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." 1 John 3:20

"Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8

     The hardest thing I ever had to do was to leave my dad at the rehab facility. He was brought from the hospital in the evening; I met the ambulance there to help my dad become acclimated with his new "home." He's 90 years old, blind in one eye, survivor of a stroke, has dementia and, now, a fracture in his spine. My heart went out to him, this hero of mine, now so feeble and lost. The very sum of the surroundings and the futility of the situation weighed heavily on my soul like a sinister fog.

     He won't be able to return to his home, the humble place that's been his since the 1950s. Will never again sit at the round, oak table he'd refinished, where our family had countless gatherings. He can no longer read the classics, research a topic in the encyclopedias or even go upstairs, for that matter.

     Now garbed in an ugly hospital gown and in need of a shave, I have to leave him in the care of complete strangers in this glaring, yellow room. The flourescent light outlined the homliness of the place and the direness of life. My heart sank.

     Then the fog lifted and the light of God shone through my depression as He reminded me: "I am your dad's Heavenly Father. This man is not lost to me; I know exactly where he is because he is my son. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow. Your dad's name, Russell, is written on the palm of my hand - he is mine and I am his."

     I went home and slept like a child - a child of God.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Did God Really Say That?

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say...?"
Genesis 3:1

    Satan's first technique used to deceive mankind was to plant a seed of doubt by asking Eve, "Did God really say?" He still uses that device today because, apparantly, it works.

     Take Adam Hamilton, for example. He is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City and author of the book, "Making Sense of the Bible." In chapter 21, he addresses the account of Noah's Ark. Here is what he has to say:

     "So, is the Noah story true or not? Great question. As many ask it - meaning, did it happen exactly as recorded in the Bible? - the answer is 'sort of.' Did Noah bring two of each of the millions of species on animals that otherwise would not have survived a global flood onto an ark? No, I don't believe so. Did water cover the earth to twenty feet above the highest mountains? Again, I don't think so...Could there have been a Noah who built a boat and brought his family and some animals on the boat...Did God destroy every animal and human being on the planet except Noah and those on his boat 4,300 years ago, or ever? I don't think so. The story seems to me to be anchored in historical events that happened at the end of the last Ice Age but it is not entirely historically accurate." (emphasis mine)

     Now, let's see. What did God really say about Noah?

     "And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days, the floodwaters came on the earth. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more that twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished - birds, livestock, wild animals and all creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out...Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark." (Genesis 7: 7-10, 20-23)

     Why can't Mr. Hamilton believe what God has said? Remember that age-old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Mr. Hamilton, as evidenced by what he says in previous chapters, believes in evolution. He thinks the earth is 4.57 billion years old and that a giant asteroid struck our planet, eliminating the dinosaurs. He believes prehuman hominids evolved through a process of genetic mutation long before Adam and Eve met the serpent, disregarding God's account of creation. He has placed his faith in the "chicken" of evolution, then tried to cram the "egg" of God into the puzzle somehow.

     This is all wrong! God is the consummate scientist, historian, creator of all who has told us how it all began and how it will end through the gift of his Holy Scriptures. To read, digest and believe man's account, then see how God might fit in, is Satan whispering in your ear, "Did God really say?"

     Yes, He did! And I will believe in every letter of the Bible before I'd listen to one word of Darwin's.

    God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

This Means War!

"Then the dragon (Satan) was enraged at the woman (the nation, Israel) and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring - those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus."
Revelation 12:17

     Earlier in this chapter, it tells me that Satan is "filled with fury because he knows that his time is short." (vs. 12) Scary stuff! An enraged dragon is filled with fury and determined to make war. Good thing I know how this story ends.

     Have you ever watched one of those movies that has a really bad antagonist who perpetrates pure evil? He may have even started out as a nice guy who gained the trust of others, but as the movie gets closer to the end, the evil increases, like a Satanic creschendo. The viewer is on the edge of his seat wondering if the protagonist's strength will hold out just a little bit longer. After all, he must overcome evil and save the others!

     Satan is depicted in the Bible, aptly enough, as a foul, enraged dragon. Probably has yellow teeth, red beady eyes and rancid breath. Who does he attack with vengeance? Those who obey God and hold on tightly to the testimony of Jesus. That means me! The smelly dragon is waging war on me. Shall I quake in my boots? Run for my life? NO! By the power vested in me, infused by the Holy Spirit, I hold the cross of Christ high and remember: Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world." With patient endurance and stalwart faith, I know that my Redeemer lives and he has overcome. He is my protagonist.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Bottom Line

"You shall have no other gods before me."
Exodus 20:3

     Perhaps one day, an Islamic terrorist will take me by the hair and demand I convert to Islam or die. This has already been happening in various parts of the world so I will not be naive enough to think, "It can't happen to me." How will I react?

     In the third chapter of Daniel, this type of persecution happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were ordered to worship the golden image of the king or be thrown into a fiery furnace which  meant certain death. I adore their courageous, faithful response when they said to the king:

     "We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3: 16-18)

     You see, this is not a question about your life; it's not about you. This is about the strength, the holiness, the absolute power of the God you serve. The bottom line is, Allah will never love me so much that he would send his son into the world, not to condemn, but to save me. Allah was not the fourth man in that fiery furnace, walking unbound and unscathed by the flames. Allah did not rouse from death by crucifixtion to sit at the right hand of God in all his glory, nor will he be coming back again to rapture his loved followers to eternal life in heaven. No sir!

     Whether I live or die, I gain because I have Christ, the Living One, reigning in my heart. He is able to save, to rescue me. I will not serve any other god. Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Cage Door Has Been Opened

"Before this faith came, we were prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."
Galatians 3:23, 24

     Do you have a certain one of the ten commandments that makes you squirm? Maybe it's "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain" because you have a hard time restraining your tongue. Or maybe it's "Honor your father and mother" because they were horrible parents. Maybe you'd rather be on the golf course on the Sabbath. Maybe the memory of a shoplifting incident weighs heavily on your conscience. Have you had an affair? Told a lie? "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

     The law has a way of convicting us, showing us our dirty deeds like an embarrassing stain on our shirt, but it need not lock us in a prison of guilt, thanks be to Christ! If you are guilty of adultery, confess it and let it lead you to the cross, for it's by his stripes we are healed. He paid our debt to set us free - but NEVER take that lightly! He despised the shame of hanging naked on that cross, being mocked and spat upon, becoming sin for us while the face of the Father turned away in disgust.  Hebrews 12:2 says, "Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

     To repent of our sin means to confess it, turn from it and change your ways. Open the locked doors of your heart. Christ came to set you free, to break the chains that bind. You are forgiven now go and soar like an eagle!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

God = Love

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

     "God IS love." How can anyone BE love? I can be loving, but I do not embody love, like God does. When we have God dwelling in our heart, we have his qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. This is why, when a Christian friend of mine was harrassed by an angry driver, she did not become aggravated. Rather, she prayed for that person. That is love.

     Jesus commands us to love one another as God loves us. Once you begin to talk to people and really listen to their stories, it's easy to see why this is such an important commandment.

     During the course of a day, just by conversing with those around me, I have heard some heartbreaking stories, reminding me of the need for love. One man's family is estranged from him; his grandson omitted his name from the invitation list for his wedding. One acquaintance told me she'd been raped when she was a teen. One of my best friends lost her daughter in a terrible accident. She must somehow endure unbearable burdens. There are those who struggle with alcohol addictions or hampering anxieties. This one lost a sister to cancer. That one's father has demetia and wants to "go home."

     Everyone has been created with a God-shaped hole. Everyone has stories of disappointment, discouragement or disillusionment. Are you willing to listen, offer prayer and be a bit of Jesus?

     I've loved this poem, though I do not know who wrote it:

Love One Another
"Love one another, as I have loved you"
May seem so very impossible to do,
But if you will try to trust and believe,
There are many great joys that you will receive.
For love makes us patient, understanding and kind,
As we judge with our hearts and not with our mind.
For as soon as love enters the heart's open door,
The faults we once saw are not there anymore.
And the things that seemed wrong begin to look right
When viewed in the softness of love's gentle light.
For love works in ways that are wondrous and strange,
And there is nothing in life that love cannot change.
PS: for added emphasis, replace the word "love" with "God", then reread the poem


Monday, September 22, 2014

Mercy > Wrath

"You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them."
Jeremiah 32:18

"For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
Exodus 20:5

"Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
Exodus 34:7

     I imagine every parent has trouble with their kids now and then; I know I have. But is the Lord punishing them for something I or their father did? Or maybe something we failed to do? In 1 Samuel chapter 3, the Lord told Eli he would "judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about." (vs. 13) His sons were wicked but Eli did not restrain them. Also, King David's son, Adonijah, tried to usurp the throne. The scriptures say, "His father had never interfered with him by asking, 'Why do you behave as you do?'" (1 Kings 1:6)

     Proverbs 29:15 says, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother."

     As parents, it is our responsibility to "train up a child in the way he should go." I know I told my children about God's love, about Jesus' sacrifice. I prayed for them and with them. We made a birthday cake at Christmas time for baby Jesus. We spoke of his resurrection at Easter, not of bunnies and eggs. I'm sure I could have done more, though.

     I can honestly say I don't understand these verses about the father's sins being cast upon the next few generations. Our sins are placed on the shoulders of our Savior, are they not? I would cringe to think that punishment for my sins was thrown in the laps of my daughters. They should not be held accountable for what I have done.

     I do glean from Exodus 20:5 that God's mercy is greater than his wrath. I have never hated God so I would think he'd show his love to "a thousand generations of those who love me," even though I have failed to always keep his commandments.

     This is what I firmly believe: "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...The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53: 5,6)

     Although I do not always understand what I read, I rely on God's wisdom and discernment to guide me and my descendants through this life into the next.