Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #162

#162 "Don't Even Know What To Call This One"
August 26, 2008
"Mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12: 15b)
Casey Anthony sits smugly at home in Orlando, Florida this morning. She's wearing her ankle monitor, having hot showers and saying absolutely nothing to investigators about what really happened to her three year old daughter, Caylee, who has been missing since the middle of June. Mind you, Casey didn't even report Caylee missing until weeks after the fact. In the meantime, she was out partying with her friends and doing who knows what else. (Read more at http://www.foxnews.com/)
Closer to home, here in Detroit, another mom is grieving the loss of a baby, only a few months old. I received the news last night that as the family was getting ready for church, the baby was found dead and it looks like SIDS. 
I don't even know what my point there was, but I just saw the contrast between the two, and had to write about it. I'm sure that this young mom in Detroit would give anything to hold her baby in her arms...alive. The young mom in Orlando...I don't even know...seriously!
God's Word tells me that He is a just God. So that's where I leave Casey Anthony today. To the Judge, who will see that justice is carried out. "Jesus, you know exactly where Caylee is. Reveal that to those who are still searching. We hold out hope in You that she is still alive."  Jesus...
Here in Detroit, there is no media, no bounty hunter and no bail bondsman. There is no hope that this baby will ever come back. There is just a simple family with unimaginable pain and there are those of us who know them, wondering what to do. Praying for them, words fail and all I can say is... Jesus...
When you search the Scriptures you can find many verses that deal with death, dying and eternity. But what does the Bible have to say when the pain is so deep, and the words just seem to fall flat? As I searched concordances, expository dictionaries, and websites, only five little words seemed to fit. "Mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12: 15b) Seems to me that being present for grieving people is not about what we have to say, but entirely about what we do. Mourn with those who mourn. Be present. Be a shoulder to cry ON. Be a friend who cries WITH. That's our part.
The prophet Isaiah wrote long ago about One who would come and "bind up the brokenhearted" and "bestow the oil of gladness instead of mourning." (see Isaiah 61:1-3) About 730 years later that One walked into a Jewish synagogue, picked up a scroll, and read from that same passage in Isaiah. After He finished reading, "He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down". Then He spoke, saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4: 14-21) He still sits today. Only now He sits at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1: 3) In the Greek, "sat" means to "settle, hover or dwell." He sat down when the work was done, when the words were fulfilled, when He said, "It is finished." Jesus Christ is alive, not predicted. And He is the only One able to bind up broken hearts and give gladness for mourning. I don't know how He does it. I can't say when He will do it. But I know that He will. And I entrust this grieving mother and extended family to His care, knowing that I know, that He is the only One who is able. That's His part.
There is no answer to the "why?" Job never did get an explanation as to why he lost seven sons and three daughters all at the same time. Let none of us be presumptuous or so full of ourselves to think that we can tell families like this why tragedy entered their lives. Don't be like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite who thought they had all the answers and made God very angry. (See Job 42: 7-9) Be honest enough to admit that you don't have a clue! Sometimes there are just no words when the unthinkable hits a life. When it doesn't seem fair. When one mom doesn't care what happened to her daughter, and another mom longs to hold her baby in her arms and her heart is a big, giant, gaping hole. Mourn with those who mourn. Call on the name of Jesus...That's all I know.
Fall to your knees with me today, whether you know this family or not. Intercede for them that God would bring His comfort and tend deeply to each one. Ask Him to lift them up in the coming days and months as they struggle to go on. Never forgetting their precious little one. Pray for God to be God and provide strength, sustenance and His love. I heard Kathy Troccoli tell a story of her time of intense grief after the death of her mother. As she sat sobbing in a chapel, God said to her, "Am I not still God?" He is still God! Hallelujah! And because He Is, He is the only One who can heal and mend and bind up the broken pieces of our shattered lives. 
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21: 1-4) Eagerly wait for the day of God to come.
Jesus...For the Anthony's in Florida and for this family in Detroit....do what only You can do, in the way that only You can do it. We'll do our part and we are more than confident that You will do yours, in Your perfect way, and in Your perfect time. Amen.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #161

#161 "Do You Know His Voice?"
August 19, 2008
"When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10: 4-5)
There was a priest in New York City who went to Ireland to visit his relatives. While he was staying at his cousin's farm, they decided to have some fun with him. After doing some chores in the fields, they told him to come in for dinner just as soon as he was through rounding up the sheep into the pen. After nearly an hour of chasing after sheep, trying to push, poke, prod, and even pull them with no success, he gave up and asked his cousins to help. They sent out their five-year-old daughter, who simply called out to the sheep, and within minutes they had all followed her through the gate into the pen. (Sermon Central Illustrations) Why couldn't the priest get those sheep into the pen, but a five year old little girl could? They knew her voice.
My children know my voice and the voice of their father. My oldest children always say that they could pick out their dad's laugh in a room filled with a thousand people. They've spent time with us. They've listened to us. They know us. Therefore, they can recognize our voices.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to us about the Shepherd and His Flock. He is the Good Shepherd and He says that "he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (v. 3) He continues by saying that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. You can search the "Tuesday's with Jesus" archives for my dissertation on sheep, but let me just say that our wooly friends aren't the smartest crayons in the box. That being said, don't get offended when I tell you that they have us beat in the smarts department when it comes to knowing, and following the voice of their shepherd.
Planet Earth is a noisy place. I was having my morning time with God a few days ago, and promptly at 8AM the silence of my backyard was done. It was as if someone sounded the work siren and every lawnmower started, every truck decided to use my street for their route, every air conditioner decided to turn on, and every dog began to bark. After the initial jolt, I just sat for a minute and listened. Underneath all the noise, when I tuned my ears closely to listen, I could still hear the birds singing. I could still hear the wind rustling through the tree above my head. It reminded me that underneath and amidst all the voices and noise of our world, God's voice is still speaking. More often than not, His voice is quiet. It's not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Elijah heard the voice of God in a gentle whisper. (see 1 Kings 19: 11-12) And so will we, if we just tune in and listen.
And hearing the voice of God is the only way to recognize the voice of God. Let me say it again. Hearing the voice of God is the only way to recognize the voice of God. Many stranger's voices cry out to you on a daily basis. The stranger's voice is coming from your television, your CD player, the magazines you subscribe to, and the voices that proceed from the mouths of people. Stranger's voices tell you what to wear, what to eat, what size you should be, what you should own, what will make you happy, and what defines a successful life. Stranger's voices will tell you that you need Jesus plus some other method. And sadly, we spend more time listening to those voices than to the voice of God. So it's no wonder that good Christian folk follow the voice of the stranger and get led astray. 
Just as the sheep know their shepherd's voice and only follow him and just as my children would know my voice anywhere, we should be able to recognize the voice of our Shepherd because we have spent time listening to Him and getting to know His heart. The only place to hear His voice is in His Word. The only place to become familiar with His voice and know His heart, is through reading His Word. I'm not talking about going to church on Sunday and hearing your pastor's voice. I'm not talking about watching Christian television. Both good things. But I'm talking about daily, consistent time spent in the personal study of the Word of God, so that you are familiar with His voice...the only Source of truth. Then when the stranger speaks and calls your name to come, you will do just what Jesus said. (My favorite part of this passage, by the way) You will "run away from him because [you] do not recognize the stranger's voice." As a result of "knowing" your Shepherd and the sound of His voice, when you are presented with a concept, a theory, a method or an idea that isn't in line with His Word, you will run for the hills!  
You can choose to stay ignorant and easily be given over to deceit. God will never force you. But here's what happens when you follow the voice of the stranger. The wolf will come to destroy you and the stranger will run away because "he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." The thief, the stranger, the hired hand comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. But your Good Shepherd comes that you may have life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows. (John 10:10 AMP) Your Good Shepherd lays down His life for you, His sheep. But you must know His voice. It's up to you.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #160

#160 "What's Your Hurry?"
August 12, 2008
"Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." (Exodus 3: 5)
So the mums have arrived in front of the grocery store. Really, I saw them yesterday. Shaking my head, I told my groom that it's no wonder they're dead by mid-September. They become available for purchase way too early in my opinion. I'll bet the stores are just about ready to put out the Halloween garb(age) any day now as well. Granted we were able to enjoy a weekend of unusually fall-like weather, and those mums seemed to fit right into the mood, but for heaven's sake, it's only the second week in August! My annuals are still in full bloom! What's the hurry?
When we're little, we play grownup. When we're teens we want to be adults. When we're single we want to be married and when we get married, well, some wish they were single again. (Not me...I love my man!) Childless, we want children and then when we get them, we want them to grow up. Kids are growing up way too fast experientially and according to science, physically as well. But their emotions aren't so much caught up. We want them to walk earlier, talk earlier and go to pre-school at age two. My daughter told me some shocking news...babies are now skipping the crawling stage and going straight to walking!  Can you believe it? What's the hurry?
The great New England preacher Phillips Brooks was noted for his poise and quiet manner. At times, however, even he suffered moments of frustration and irritability. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing the floor like a caged lion. "What's the trouble, Mr. Brooks?" he asked. "The trouble is that I'm in a hurry, but God isn't!" (The Daily Bread) God is never in a hurry. Much to our frustration, I might add. According to 1 Timothy 6: 17, He has richly provided us with everything for our enjoyment. But I think we're in much too big of a hurry to receive what He has given us to enjoy.
We have to be purposefully intentional about enjoying the holy ground we are standing on in this particular stage of life. And whether it seems like it or not, there are beautiful things to experience and wonders to behold, wherever our feet happened to land when we got out of bed this morning. Cherish the husband who lies beside you tonight as you fall asleep. If you're going to bed alone, revel in the freedom that you have right now to pursue your dreams and serve God without being tied down. Enjoy every precious moment with your children and grandchildren. Take lots of pictures and laugh...a lot! Time passes by so quickly. Stop for a second on your way out to work in the morning. Hear the birds singing? You're standing on holy ground! Every bird's song, every flower that blooms, every sunrise and sunset, every moment of laughter and tears with those you love, all testify to the nearness of your Savior. I can't say it any clearer than this, dear one....SLOW DOWN!
The world around us is moving at warp speed. Everyone's in a hurry to get nowhere. Like rats on a wheel, spinning and spinning, around and around, we're not doing any sight seeing. We're not enjoying any of the gifts that are right in front of our eyes. Take off your Nike's and "set a spell". Oh, so soon, you'll wonder where 30 years of marriage have gone. You'll stand in the doorway of your daughter's bedroom and hear the empty room echo with your crying, as your heart aches from missing her so. You'll watch as your son replaces you with another woman. But he'll always be your little boy. You may find yourself sitting at the bedside of your dying parent. And over the years, in each relationship, in each and every single day, there were moments. Moments of beauty. Moments of laughter. Moments of love. Holy ground moments that you wouldn't have wanted to miss for the world.
Pet your dog. Eat an ice cream cone. Call a friend. Smell a flower. Hug someone who's hurting. Enjoy each and every moment of your today. Light the lamp at dusk and sit back with contentment from a day well-lived. A day filled with holy ground moments. "Oh, praise the Lord! This earth is crammed with heaven! Oh, praise the Lord! And, Christian, look around! For every bush you pass with fire is flaming, and every spot you tread is holy ground." (Anne Ortlund)
PS...As I look forward to eating a big juicy tomato grown right in my own backyard, I must tell you that Hallmark has put out the new Christmas ornaments. Sheesh!!!
All my love,
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #159

#159 "Jesus...Period"
August 5, 2008
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."
(1 Corinthians 3:11)
Today's "Tuesday's" is prompted by my very heavy heart. Usually it can be safe to assume that if something just doesn't sit right in our spirit, it isn't right. Right? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... Over the past year I have encountered a host of different issues that just have not sat right in my spirit. They looked like ducks. I guess because I'm a Bible teacher, folks come to me to "check out" different things that are being presented to them. Lately, I have become painfully, I mean painfully, aware that the Church of Jesus Christ is in grave danger. Not the institution...but the church...the body of Christ...believers like you and I. Today I write from this perspective. I write because I care for each and every one of you. Deeply. I am not writing as a representative of any church, organization, or people group. I am writing as a believer in Christ, using my God-given ministry as my platform. Don't write to me and say that I am targeting any one group or person. The opinions expressed in this "Tuesday's" are not necessarily the opinions of....(fill in the blank). If you find something in today's reading that fits...wear it. If not, heed the warning and move on. But in the words of Bill O'Reilly..."Caution...You are about to enter the no-spin zone."
Paul's words in Galatians, Chapter 1 echo through the ages with the same warning that they carried over 2000 years ago. "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" Is anyone preaching a gospel to you that has its foundation in anything or anyone other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ? Are you being promised anything that will come as a result of something other than what Christ will do for you?  Don't answer that with an "of course not" too hastily...you may be deceived. I speak that truth in love. Let it be said that I have been deceived over the years and would not be hypocrite enough to condemn you. But I would be remiss if I didn't warn you.
New Age teaching, false philosophies, and methods are spreading through the church like gangrene (2 Timothy 2: 17). The truth of God is being exchanged for a lie (Romans 1: 25). And these teachings are so effective because they are so subtle and deceptive. They incorporate the name of Christ into the teachings so as to make the Christian comfortable with the philosophy. But when the same method is employed with non-Christians, (which they are, BTW), the name of Christ can be replaced with any spirit or god that a person professes. One size seems to fit all, whatever your belief system.
False teachings are so easy to fall for because they don't seem to inherently have anything wrong with them. Weaving Christ and appropriate Bible verses into a philosophy only serves to promote the deception. Promises of healing, restoration and deliverance from whatever ails you make the teaching and methods very attractive. And sadly the most vulnerable are those who are hurting very, very deeply. When we're hurting, we grope and grasp for just about anything that promises relief and the proponents of these New Age methods know this.
Simply asked: Is Christ not enough? Is His love and forgiveness and power lacking in anything? Do we need Christ, plus anything? The new philosophies would seem to say that He is not enough. The new philosophies would seem to say that what is set forth in His Word is lacking and that we need to add a certain method, outline, form of prayer, or exercise to make what He says really work in our own lives. Remember ... His name is used, so it can't be that bad right? So Dead Wrong!!! 
Satan is a murderer, a liar and the father of lies. (John 8: 43-44) He masquerades as an angel of light. And his servants (sometimes unknowing) masquerade as servants of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15) He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) In Kelly Minter's bible study "No Other Gods", she quotes Michael Wells of Abiding Life Ministries who says, "Satan will tell us what's true, but he never tells us the truth." False philosophies and methods are so deceptive because they all contain an element of truth. We tend to latch onto that truth and believe that it crosses out the lie, if we're even discerning enough to catch the lie.
The only way to discern the lie is to know the truth. Jesus said His Word is truth. (John 17: 17) To quote Kelly again, "When we stray from God's original words to us, it becomes amazingly easy to get caught up in deception and counterfeit options." If we are not proficient in the Word, we can't distinguish the truth from the lie of New Age and counterfeit philosophies. Counterfeits have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. The Bible says, "from such turn away". (2Timothy 3: 5 KJV) Words like "The Course", visualization, self-actualization, pantheism, monasticism and meditation (unless you are chewing on God's word), and guided imagery have no place in the Christian's life. Those words, methods and philosophies are not found in the pages of my Bible. How about yours? Our mind must be renewed by the Word of God alone. (Romans 12:2) God said that He has exalted His name and His Word above all else. (Psalm 138: 2) 
Do not let anyone or anything control your mind except Christ, through His Holy Spirit and His Word. "...evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3: 13) Don't be too hard on those who try to bring you these deceptive philosophies and methods. They are just as deceived! And, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6: 12) This is serious business, nothing to play with, and is out and out spiritual warfare. Put on the full armor of God and take your stand with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. (Ephesians 6: 13-14)  "But as for you, continue in what you have learned (and if I might add...if you haven't learned it...learn it now) and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3: 14-17) Only Christ can set you free. And if anyone tries to tell you any different, they are trying to deceive you. 
Hollow man-made philosophies will fail you. But when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8 36) It's Jesus plus nothing. No-thing. It may sound good. It may sound like truth. It may promise you healing and restoration and deliverance from your pain, but even a hair's breath away from Christ and His Word, is still away from Christ and His Word and is false teaching and deception. I'll tell you what the Lord impressed on me..."Run far and run fast!" Bring your thinking in line with the Word of God. Lay out your Bible and compare it to the philosophy promising you the world. If the two don't line up, if it's not in the Word, see the danger and run from it. (Proverbs 27: 12) "Demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10: 5) All I can do is keep giving you the Word. "Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." (1 Timothy 6: 20-21) 
It is impossible for God to lie. (Hebrews 6: 18) There is no other Savior but Christ. Christ Alone. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." (Acts 10: 38) Whatever power you're under today, Christ is enough. He is El Shaddai, the Lord God Almighty. He is El Elyon, the Most High God. He is Adonai, the Lord and Master. He is Jehovah Nissi, your Banner. He is Jehovah Raah, your Shepherd. He is Jehovah Rapha, your Healer. He is Jehovah Shammah. He is there right where you are. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, your righteousness. He is Jehovah Mekoddishkem, the Lord who sanctifies you. He is El Olam, the everlasting God. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider. He is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is peace. He is God all by Himself. You need no other. Jesus plus nothing. Christ alone. No methods. No formulas. No philosophies. No New Age psycho-babble. Jesus...Period!
The spin stops at Genesis 1:1 and ends at Revelation 22: 21. That is the true "no spin zone". Commit yourself to the study of God's Word. Know the truth so that you can discern the lie. Do not allow yourself to be deceived my friend. I care about you too much not to warn you. I re-commit myself to preaching nothing but the true Word of God from the pages of His love letter to me, my Bible. I re-commit myself to stand for Christ and His Word alone. I re-commit myself to serving you as the Lord leads and anoints in the power of His Holy Spirit. The only true Spirit of God. May He never be quenched or grieved by my falling into deception. If you found something here that fits, then wear it. If not, heed the warning and thanks for listening. I truly did try to speak the truth in love. This is a pretty heady subject and I will open up a post on the LTW blog if you have any comments. (See the link below) 
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