Monday, January 4, 2016

The Last 6 Days of December...Plus One



Nestled among the last 6 days of December are the two Eve’s, Christmas and New Years. These two events kindle the end of the year, and we usually either steam roll, or stumble, through them.   
The plus one is New Year’s Day, which, along with Christmas and New Years Eve, completes a triad of year-end events.
The trio so curls-up in the sub-conscious of the world that traditions become the norm. The world submits every year. It’s like a petting zoo; touch one species to see what it’s about, and then it’s on to the next exhibit.
Christmas is commercialized, New Years Eve is glorified, and, if nothing else, New Years Day is aspirin and football.
Still, we may find that within that triple play is a communion, which means all three have a common possession, thought, meaning, or direction.   
As always, the sun rises on January 1.What do people see when they look into the deep blue sky?
For some, the New Years Day sun may appear nobler and brighter; it arches higher into the heavens.
For others, the sun may not have its usual brilliance; it doesn’t seem to find a lofty place in the upper atmosphere.
Why would a New Year’s Day sun not appear as brilliant, or why would it look like it’s not as high against the skyline? Could it be because some people haven’t decided what’s the common possession, thought, meaning, or direction of the last 6 days of December…plus one?
What about this thought? Respectively, Christmas, New Years Eve, and New Years Day follow spiritual, secular, and speculative patterns. Christmas is a spiritual beginning, New Years Eve is a secular ending, and New Years Day is an either - or type situation.  
Christmas is spiritual because it celebrates what Believer’s believe is the birth of the Son of God. It’s a beginning because Christians believe the Son of God is the Pathway to heaven.
New Years Eve is generally a secular way of ending a year and “welcoming” in the New Year. Traditionally, it revolves around a party.
Wrapped around other traditions, New Years Day is a time to speculate, and sometimes speculate retroactively.
Speaking of retroactively, is there something you’ve missed in the last 6 days of December…plus one?
Happy New Year.


Friday, December 11, 2015

God's Provision for a Sanctuary



As Believers we sometimes seek shelter and security from a fallen world, but where do we go to find that refuge?

Psalm 71:1says: “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed.” In that statement the psalmist proclaims two things: 1) The Lord is his refuge. 2) He trusts God and is never ashamed to seek refuge.

A refuge is a safe haven. It’s a place we trust and feel secure. I want to discuss two types of sanctuaries, or refuges, God provides for His children.  

First: The man-made sanctuary in a church. Depending when we visit a sanctuary, we find either a one-on-one refuge with God, or we seek refuge with Him, along with other Believer’s.
   
Being alone in a sanctuary, with no disruptions, away from a world of heartbreak and distress, we find God always has time for us. We don’t have to knock; His door is always open. It’s almost like He’s expecting us.

He’s there to listen and talk to us, about Him.

As the body of Christ, Believer’s meet in a sanctuary and worship God. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says “For where two or three have gathered in my name I am there in their midst.”

When we’re in the sanctuary of a church, we’re in the midst of God’s refuge.  

In the sanctuary we’re with others who believe as we do. Together, were alone with God in meditation and prayer. We’re not ashamed. A feeling of oneness permeates the atmosphere.

Second: The sanctuary hidden within each of His children, which is the Holy Spirit.

In John 14: 16, 17 Jesus tells His disciples:

“I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

The time a Believer spends with the Holy Spirit is often spiritually intense. The Holy Spirit knows both our thoughts and the thoughts of God, and He harmonizes them. Regular visits with the Holy Spirit transform a Believer’s relationship with God. The visits lift up and do not shame the Believer.

The sanctuaries of God fulfill different needs in the lives of Believers. God is a spiritual water fall, and both Believers and sanctuaries belong to Him and are in His House. So, whenever they want, through prayer, His children can go home and shower in His warmth, love, acceptance, and security.

They may repent, find strength and assurance, or just give thanks; whatever they need. He’s always home and listens; no appointment necessary.

God’s sanctuaries, or refuges, are for those who belong to Him; His children. He provides them as a bit of heaven on earth. In His sanctuary Believer’s find Him, and the key that unlocks the chest of blessings He has for us.

All scripture is from the NASB

Monday, July 27, 2015

Christianity: A Relationship with Jesus Christ



Jesus Christ called, and now that we're Believers are we trying to install a relationship with Him but don't feel we're making progress? If so, maybe it’s because our basic relationship with Him is already there, and we're trying to institute something He's already established. A relationship with Jesus Christ is foundational for Believers, but it doesn't emanate from us; it began with an empty tomb.

The price for sin is death, but when a sinless Jesus died in our place on the cross He paid that debt.  Therefore, when He arose from the dead His empty tomb proclaimed the victory. As Believers, because His tomb is empty we have victory over death from sin, just as He did.

Because He's the Son of God, was victorious over sin, and called us to Himself, He’s the author of our eternal relationship. We will spend eternity in heaven with Him.

On the other hand, we're responsible for our daily Christian walk and the road is not smooth; it has hills and valleys because of our sin nature. Nevertheless, even though sin negatively affects our growth in Him it does not affect our salvation. That remains secure because His tomb is empty.

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, we should bask in it and enjoy Him; secure in the knowledge we’ll someday experience Him as He really is. In contrast, we should concentrate on our daily walk of obedience. That we can control.  If we're not sure in what areas He wants more obedience, just ask Him. He promises us wisdom, but at the same time He expects us to respond in a positive way to what He says.
James 1:5.

Scripture is from NASB

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shiny Hearts: A Gift from God



Along with Young, their only offspring, Papa and Mama Kodiak relaxed on the deck that unfurled behind their home. Their stomachs stretched after gorging one of Papa’s colossal culinary delights.

A breeze whispered through the woods that meshed with the boundary on the west side of their backyard. Sunday evenings were for ritual-like feasts from Papa’s prized charcoal- powered grill; a survivor from another era.

“As usual, my dear, delicious, think I’ll make it to morning,” said Mama. 

“If I were in charge, a week would have more than one Sunday evening; oh my, look at the sun settling over the woods. It’s so peaceful.”

 “I, too, may burst,” Young said. “But, before I do, Papa, I have a question to ask you.”

“Sure, we can talk while we clean up. Along with a steel pad to keep your hands busy, the podium is yours.”

 “Which side of the pad do I use?”

 “Use either si…what do you mean which side to use? Oh, wow, got me, gotta give you an “attabear” for that one.

“Oh, by the way, try the side that’s down.”

“Stop it, both of you. Do I need a referee’s shirt?” Mama said.

“He started it,” her males replied in unison.

“I can’t take anymore; after I put these dishes in the dishwasher, I’m going catch up on some reading,” Mama said. “So, keep your voices down.”

“Yes, dearest, you wish is our command. Enjoy your book.”

“I intend to,” Mama Kodiak said as she went into the house with a tub of dirty dishes.

“Young, you were saying?”

“Ya, Pop. In Sunday school, Mr. Grizzly said God gives us a shiny heart. I’m not sure what he means. He says he’ll talk more about it, but I’m curious, I don’t remember the phrase ‘shiny heart’ in the Bible.”

“You’re right; it’s not in the Bible. It’s a reference to your spiritual life. ‘Shiny heart’ is a synonym for spiritual maturity.

“How come you know so much about it?  I’ve never heard you mention it before.”

“Whoa, slow down. Awhile back, Mr. Grizzly read a book about having a shiny heart for God. The book impressed him, and he gave it to me to read. I read it, and I’m glad I did.”

“Gee, I’m thankful you and Mama don’t read at the same time. If you did, I’d never get anything to eat.”

“Ahem. The book is about a three step process beginning when God draws someone to Himself; you know, salvation. The next step is illumination; God shining into you, and the third step is sanctification; God shining out from you.

“Why don’t you run into the house and grab a Bible for us; please and thank you.”

“Yepper.”

“Don’t forget Mama’s reading, so be quiet.”

“Shhh, be right back.

“Glad you’re back in one piece; that means you didn’t bother Mama. Look up Matthew 22: 36-39 and read it.”

“Don’t think she knew I was in the house. I’m stealthy. That’s why you two never know when I get home at night.”

If Papa heard the remark he ignored it.

“It says,” said Young. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And He said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’

“Those verses describe a shiny heart; a mature Christian,” Papa said. “Now, let’s look at a shiny heart around the angles of salvation, illumination, and sanctification. Remember what they mean?”

“Sure,” Young said, “salvation is God drawing me to Him, illumination is God shining into me, and sanctification is God shining through me.”

“I’m impressed. Speaking of remembering, remember when the three of us went for a walk in the woods and inadvertently found honey?”

“You bet that was a good time.”

“Why did we go on that walk?” said Papa.

“Maybe exercise, fresh air, or togetherness? Probably felt we needed something.”

“Your right, we felt we needed something. It could’ve been those things you mentioned or anything else. But, instead, we found honey, and realized we needed that. We’d walked quite a ways and were pooped. The honey tasted good, reenergized us, and the taste and texture warmed our insides.

 “That’s how God initiates our salvation; thru the Holy Spirit we realize it’s something we need, and it fills a void. Now, if you would, read Romans 3:10-11.

“You bet this is interesting. In Romans it says, ‘as it is written, there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God.”

“Young, this is important, in your own words, what does God say in that verse?” Papa Kodiak said.

“Gee. God says no one is righteous, understands Him, or looks for Him. The emphasis is no one. So, if no one seeks after God, then He must use other ways to draw people to Himself.”  

“Your right, Young. It’s similar to us finding honey that day.We weren’t looking for it, but when we realized we could use it for our benefit, it got our attention. Why not? It’s right there, it tasted good, and we found something delicious we didn’t know we were looking for.

That honey satisfied a need we had. Likewise, on a much larger scale, salvation satisfied our eternal need for redemption from sin.

“That’s awesome Papa; now explain how God shines into and out of us?”

“Gladly, let’s use our experience of finding honey to illustrate both illumination and sanctification.”

“Hurry, because I really want some honey,” said Young. “We may have to go into the woods tonight and find some.”

“By the time we get done with this, I believe you’ll have enough to think about inside the boundaries of our property. And, as for me, I’m sweet enough.

“Moving on, through the Holy Spirit, God shines into us when we walk the path of learning about Him. The sensation of learning is sorta like eating honey. As the taste and texture of honey flows throughout our system, learning about God follows the same pattern. Starting in our mind, knowledge flows into our heart. As our heart pumps it throughout our spiritual system, its sweet aromatic richness permeates the very soul of our existence.

“Spiritually, nothing matches learning about God. After the first taste, the core of our being yearns for more. We make many trips to God’s hive of knowledge because the experience never loses its flavor.”

“Wow, Papa, I kinda feel that way now,” said Young.

 “Told ya you wouldn’t need honey tonight.”

“Then, said Young, as God shines in me with knowledge, it flows out through sanctification, right?”

“You bet, as part of God’s Church, you’re prompted to share your spiritual warmth, and knowledge, with other Believers.

“As a result of this perpetual spiritual flow, God’s Church will experience mature growth through salvation, illumination, and sanctification.”

“You know, Papa, “these God-given gifts are like waking on a spring day from hibernation and not being hungry. The spiritual energy we receive satisfies, and we’ll never be hungry or thirsty for righteousness again. Our spiritual life is a world of honey; it’s sweet, nourishing, and never ends.”

“Well said, Young.”  

To God be the glory for all He has done.

All scripture is from the NAS version of the Holy Bible.





Saturday, June 13, 2015

Defiant: Jesus and His Cross Loomed into the Heavens



When Jesus walked the earth, the infamous Roman Empire embraced the cruelties of crucifixion for capital punishment. Crucifixions intrigued Appius, a platoon leader in the Roman guard, so he requested a permanent appointment to those tortuous events.

With sadism his guiding principal, Appius watched condemned criminals respond to the mental and 
physical agonies of crucifixion. 

They knew of their upcoming scourging, which would leave their backs and shoulders a bloody mass of torn flesh. Lying over their gruesome wounds, they knew they’d carry the heavy and coarse top bar to their cross to Calvary where crucifixions took place. 

They knew they'd be stripped and laid on the cross, and the executioner would nail their hands and feet to the wooden beams.

They knew guards would stick that cross into a pre-dug hole, and they’d hang there until they died.   

They knew they may hang and bake in the desert sun for two or three days before death brought relief from the brutality.

For each doomed criminal, Appius outlined their response to the ruthlessness. Later, he charted and categorized what he saw into different ways to die on a cross. 

With special interest, from conviction to crucifixion, Appius noted every detail of Jesus' rite of passage. Jesus' claim of being the Son of God intrigued him, and he wanted to watch Him die.
But, after Jesus’ death, he realized He didn't fit any pattern of dying he had in his scrolls of death.

Calm, under control, spewing no hate or hostility, Jesus projected an aura of compassion that overshadowed the ruthlessness of Calvary. Appius felt Jesus understood things about His crucifixion others didn't.  

After Jesus died, Appius lingered to see if anything would disturb the silence that outlined the three crosses at Calvary.

Though darkness would soon embalm the site, some people arrived and huddled around Jesus' cross. As they talked, they gestured toward the beams of death. Appius determined they were discussing how to get Jesus off the cross.

Then, as if not to jostle Him, they lifted the beam from the hole and gently laid it down.

Next, as if to not further bruise His battered body, they gingerly pried the nails from His hands and feet and freed Him from the cross.

In a meticulous manner, as if neatness mattered, they wrapped His body in a cloth and tucked it around His head and feet. 

Finally, as if they held a precious commodity, they cradled the bundle in their arms and carried Him away.  

Motionless, Appius watched the scenario. He wondered why they worshipped a dead madman. Nevertheless, observing the impromptu ceremony energized his desire to know more.

Shrugging off the stench of savagery that permeated the crucifixion site, and its aftermath, he trudged home. He poured a cup of wine and sat down at his writing table. His scroll stared back at him like a puppy waiting for a bone. But it remained blank because his mind couldn't construct the words to reveal the roots of something he didn't understand.

What was it about Jesus that cheated Appius out of adding to his gallery of gore?  Why couldn't he forget those two statements Jesus made from the cross?  

He sipped his cup of wine and licked the rim. He summoned up the stench of Calvary and scoured it for clues. He watched the guards lay the naked criminals on the wooden crossbeams. He heard the screams of anguish as hammers struck the nails.

He smelled the sweat of death caused by the barbarity crammed into that station of despair. He believed Jesus’ statements had a common core. But, where would he find that essential quantity?

At last, words began to merge in his mind and expose his thoughts. He penned that Jesus and His cross loomed defiantly into the heavens. Appius felt that defiance forecast a victory. 

But, what was the victory? Like moisture dripping from a cloud the thought saturated his mind.
He wrote how Jesus' crown of thorns pierced His head. How blood trickled down His forehead and dripped from His nose and beard.

He wrote how Jesus' eyes met those of the spectator's. How the spectators would either look away or sneer at Him.

He wrote how the Roman guards, hardened by these carnivals of savagery, ignored it all.

He wrote that he didn’t know why Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

"Why should their ignorance need forgiveness?" He blurted to a house with no ears.      

Gulping the remaining wine in his cup he needed a break. Maybe a late night stroll along the streets of Jerusalem would crystallize the thoughts that ricocheted inside his head.   

Along with the first one, Appius wanted to dissemble, inspect, and reassemble the second statement Jesus made from the cross. To one of the thieves He said, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be in Paradise with me."

His mind groped at nothingness, “Why did spectators and guards need forgiveness, but the thief went to Paradise?”

He walked outside into the still and heavy air; he deposited Jesus' two statements on the thought processor that traveled through his mind. He hoped to secure the frayed ends of the day and find more space in his tank of comprehension.

Methodically, one foot followed the other on his trek for knowledge and discernment.   

As he walked, for how many times he wasn’t sure, Appius relived the crucifixion. But, this time he stopped because what went through his mind demanded he stop. “Is it possible,” he said out loud, “the key to unlock the door to Jesus comes with believing He's the Son of God?”

He remembered one of the thieves asked Jesus to remember him in paradise and Jesus told him He would. “To say that,” he said, “the thief believed Jesus had that power and authority, and Jesus’ affirmation proved He did.”

Now streaking, Appius’ naked thoughts ran on.

The spectators and the guards; certainly they'd heard Jesus speak in the synagogue or market place. Certainly they'd heard His “I’m the Son of God” claim, but they didn't believe. So, when He prayed for them, He didn’t mention anything about Paradise because they didn’t believe He’s the Son of God.

But, to the thief who believed Jesus mentioned Paradise.

Through this walk and, again, reliving the scene at Calvary, Appius allowed his thought processor to eliminate the unbelief in his tank of comprehension. Once the muck dissolved, Appius saw brilliance radiate from the key to Paradise.

He now understood that Jesus is the Son of God.     

Like an internal brake, that insight pulled the reins on Appius’ galloping mind. He turned around to go home; no need to walk anymore because he had the answer. It was time to fill his scroll with the good news about Jesus Christ.

He understood why Jesus and His cross loomed defiantly into the heavens.

In the world, death is victorious over life; in the world there’s finality in death. But, after the cross, as the Son of God, Jesus defeated death by going to Paradise for eternity. He lives on

Thus, to those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, death, no matter how or when it comes, loses to Paradise where they’ll spend eternity with Jesus.

Wow!

All scripture is from the NASB translation of the Holy Bible