Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sun is Always Shining

The Sun is Always Shining
December 29, 2014
Psalm 118:24  "This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

I appreciate uplifting people and their heart to encourage.  Encouragement is truly one of the Lord's greatest gifts, because everyone needs it and we seem to be in short supply.  I can even appreciate the people who try to encourage themselves, filling their own heads with motivating self-talk, an internal and emotional pep rally to continue on in life.  Encouragement can come in many forms and we seem to subscribe to it whenever we need it most, regardless of the delivery method.  It comes in the form of gentle words from a faithful friend, colorful sayings on wall hangings, or cute pictorials on social media with hand-selected Scripture verses.  Whatever the method, encouragement has been needed since the beginning of man.  There has always been a time of gloom in every person's life, a valid reason for needing encouragement.  The psalmist needed it and so he penned many words of encouragement, first and foremost for himself, and now for you and me to read.

One such encouraging word found in Scripture is pretty famous.  We've heard it in this fashion:  this is the day that the Lord has made so I will rejoice and be glad in it.    We quote it in order to pull ourselves up from the bootstraps when life is tough, determining to find a reason to be thankful while trying to stand tall under the little black rain cloud.  That particular psalm, though not really written like we seem to quote it, was written when the psalmist was recounting gloom yet looking forward to the moment of salvation.  The moment of salvation being the day that the Lord had made.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter of Psalm 118, not just the one isolated verse.  It is quite alright to quote it to yourself if you need encouragement, though, realizing there will always be tough days ahead as you look forward to spending eternity in Heaven with the Lord.  It is important to determine to be thankful and glad even in the moments of the little black rain cloud.

I've personally come to realize that no matter how rough the moment of now, the sun is always shining.  No, I am not an eternal optimist who always finds things to smile about.  I've just come to realize that the sun, the huge ball of fire in the sky is always burning strong, even when I cannot see it.  The warmth of the sun is always coming down; it just might be blocked by the situation of the earth.  The rays are continually bright, but sometimes dimmed or covered completely by the clouds.  In life, there will be new moments of clouds but the sun is still shining.  Realizing this is an opportunity to encourage yourself, that the moment of now is simply situational, not a permanent stance.  It may FEEL permanent, but according to the psalmist, according to the Word of God, there will be an end to our time of suffering on this earth.  Salvation is coming, in fact salvation is here.

Our days on this earth are numbered and yet we feel like they are an eternal sentence.  The sun is truly shining, even right now, though you may not be able to see it.  It is shining in the literal sense and shinning on your not-so-encouraging situation.  I challenge you to allow your heart to be encouraged this new year, not with blind optimism, but with the knowledge that whatever may come in life, it is only a moment of cloudiness with an eternity of sunshine ahead.  Know that in your daily life, you may not be able to fully see the sun, it is there.  In the moments of cloud cover keep vigilant watch for the rays of warmth that will push though the cracks, beaming down on your face.  If only for a moment in your situation, you can be encouraged that this sun IS still shining.  The reality of your situation is this:  if the Lord is truly Lord of your life, then your salvation is here despite your circumstances, despite the situation of the earth.  You have far more reason to have hope than despair.  Your life WILL have more days of sunshine than rain.  In fact, your life will have an eternity of sunshine.  I guarantee it.  This SON is always shining!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 118, Col 1:5

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All I Want for Christmas

All I Want for Christmas
December 22, 2014
John 3:16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

If you've spent any time in a church the last few weeks or on social media, devout Christians have been doing a great job reminding us what Christmas is all about---the birth of our Savior.  I don't know if it is genuine or not, but Christians seem to work hard at keeping our focus, at least outward focus, on what we are really celebrating, the birth of Christ.  Nonetheless, we still buy tangible gifts for other people and work hard so our children have plenty of gifts to open, too.  If we are aware of children who may have it rough this time of year, we even work hard to make sure they also have Christmas presents.  Aside from the amazing birth of Christ for a moment, it is also a fantastic time of year where people are a little bit more giving to others.  It's nice to see hearts warmed through giving.  It's also nice to see other hearts warmed when they receive at Christmas time (even if they are expecting something).

In fact, that's what the Lord was doing and a large part of what Christmas is fully about.  Yes, Jesus came as a baby in a manger, but the Lord gave His one and only Son to us.  It was the most lavish gift we could receive from the Lord, His Son, Jesus.  And even more important than that was WHY God did it.  He told us all it was coming, a Savior would be born.  Mankind was expecting it, the gift of a Heavenly King, incarnate.  But God did it because He loved us.  He loved you and me when He sent us His Son, and He loves you and me even right now.  There is a huge message of love in Christmas, and it is demonstrated through gifts.  The first gift was Jesus and it was the most loving gift the Lord could give, a gift we never deserved.

So, in keeping with a sometimes controversial tradition at Christmas time, I would like to tell you what I want for Christmas, and it isn't quite as unselfish as peace on earth.  What I want for Christmas is to feel the love of the Father.  Cognitively, we know He loved us when He sent His Son, but when was the last time you felt genuinely loved by the Lord for no reason at all.  I want people everywhere, at Christmas time, to sense the magnanimous love of the Lord in their hearts, not just one day out of the year but every day.  I want the love of the Father to permeate our beings whenever we think of Jesus, salvation, forgiveness of sins, or even when we see the symbol of the Star of David.  I want the Love of God be to so present in our everyday lives that it changes our behavior, our demeanor, and our attitude.  I want people, especially myself, to be filled with so much love of the Father that is exudes from our pores.  I want to be filled with so much love that other people want what I have.  Yes, it might seem selfish, but it's what we all want.

This Christmas, when you give a gift to those on your list, remind them not just of Jesus coming as a baby, remind them WHY Jesus came as a baby.....because the Lord loves them.  Read the story of the birth of Christ at Christmas, but don't forget to tell everyone the Lord loves them, that you love them, too.  Christian, you may not FEEL very loved right now, but that does not negate the unexplainable love of the Father.  He loves you and wants to remind you of this today.  If you can't feel the love of God, then stop making up reasons as to why He would have to love you.  So often, we shove out His love because we can't think of a reason to be lovable.  When you realize that He loved you BEFORE you were even born, then you realize His love was never based on your actions, but simply for the person of you.  So, it's OK to feel loved today, because it's true.  Merry Christmas.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, John 15:16, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 4:19

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Logical Faith

Logical Faith
December 15, 2014
Joshua 24:15  "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Most of us don't steal.  We realize taking things from someone else is wrong and that decision is woven into the fabric of our being.  We just don't steal and aren't even tempted to steal what doesn't belong to us.  We don't have to analyze it or wrestle with it.  If it can be defined as stealing, we don't need to decide if it is a good decision or not.  It rarely becomes an issue of temptation and if it does, the logical portion of our being rationalizes as to why serving jail time makes it simply not worth committing the crime.  It is not emotional; it is logical.  Faith, however, is not usually described as logical.  But I would submit to you that your faith should become logical over time.

It takes faith to believe in a God.  It takes faith to believe Jesus was crucified on a cross, rose again, and can forgive your sins.  After a while, you are able to experience God and His work in your life so much that it does not have to be questioned.  Your faith almost becomes a fact of your life, woven into the fabric of your being.  If you've been a believer for any length of time you become convinced of the Lord and His work; it no longer requires a leap of faith to consider.  You KNOW He is Lord and you never have to doubt it.  Your faith has become fact, or logical to you.  It is not emotional and you never need to wrestle with the existence of God or analyze His ability to forgive sins through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross.

This fact of your faith becomes the basis for continued maturity so the Lord's work in you can be complete.  He uses men and women who are sure of their foundation in Him.  The more wishy washy you are in your belief system, the least likely you are to be effective in your daily Christian walk.  The logical fact of your faith becomes something you can build upon and translate into every area of your life.  It affects your actions, your speech, your decisions, your future, your even your daily routine.  If your faith has not affected every area of your life, then maybe you should evaluate what you truly believe.  Deciding what you believe is critical, resolving that some things need not be questioned moving forward.  The Disciples KNEW Jesus was Lord and it didn't ever need to be argued.  They were then able to build on that knowledge in an un-emotional state, being effective in their lives without question.

If your faith can become logical to you, it is much easier to take a stance on every other area of your own personal life.  This isn't debating on whether murder is acceptable but making better personal decisions in the areas of divorce, abortion, and other lifestyle choices.  When your faith becomes logical to you, it is easier to make choices based upon the foundation that has become woven into the fabric of your being.  Those choices then become woven into your daily personal habits, which only make life so much easier.  Decide today what you really believe and solidify it as fact for your life.  Then move forward with this belief system intact, never doubting what you know to be true.  You'll be so glad you did.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 43:10, John 6:68-69, John 10:38, 2 Tim 1:12

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get In The Boat, II of II

Get In The Boat, II of II
December 8, 2014
Matthew 14:22  "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd."

After the Disciples' first ministry tour across the Sea of Galilee, they came back.  What a relief; they made it successfully.  Though there was that initial scary storm on the way there, Jesus calmed the waters and the ministry across the lake was positive.  They made it back home just fine.  After a few more miracles and life changing instructions from Jesus, He suggested it was time to go on another ministry tour back to the scary side of the lake with all the heathens again.  This time, though, Jesus told them to go on ahead of Him in the boat and He would catch up with them on the other side.  The Disciples reasoned Jesus would hitch a ride on another boat but they were confident enough this ministry tour to head out as instructed by the Son of the Living God.

Since, again, it was a long ride across the lake, the Disciples had much time for conversation.  Surely they might have discussed Jesus, His impact on their lives and their families, what they might experience on this next ministry tour, maybe a little conversation of the recent miracles or possibly some banter about the Pharisees.  Whatever the conversational distraction, they were shocked by what they experienced next.  They saw a ghost hovering over the waters.  Now this story is covered in three of the gospels and if you read it in all three places, you'll find at this moment that: Jesus MADE them go on ahead of Him, the Disciples were about four miles into the lake and had been rowing all night, it was now approximately three in the morning, it was the darkest part of the night, the lake waters were getting rough again, and there was a storm brewing.  And THEN they saw a ghost.

You'd think the Disciples had learned on the first ministry tour across the lake that Jesus was in control, but apparently not.  They were experiencing their second fright night and this time a ghost was coming at them.  They were afraid because Jesus wasn't in the boat with them; He couldn't rescue them this time.  Surely this time was different and they were all gonna die out there, drowning in the lake.  When it was clear enough so see the full figure of the ghost, Jesus had to TELL them it was Him and to relax, to not be afraid AGAIN.  Jesus was shocked at their fear and they didn't believe it was really Jesus.  Recall Peter questioned Him to prove it by allowing Peter to walk on the water.  Then Peter got distracted away from Jesus again.  Of course Peter began to sink in the water after he stepped out of the boat toward Jesus; he was afraid.  He was afraid on the first tour across the lake, and he was afraid this time around.  He wasn't fully confident yet in the person of Jesus.

This second ministry tour taught the Disciples another valuable lesson.  Though it may not seem the Lord is there, you are never beyond His reach.  Though it is in the darkest part of the night, the storm is brewing again, and you can't see Jesus, He is still a bigger God than your circumstances.  Jesus sent the Disciples on this ministry tour and He wasn't gonna let them die by drowning, despite their fears.  They left with confidence but since they were not looking at Jesus surely disaster was upon them when things got rough again.  Not so.  If you know the Lord sent you and if you know the Lord is bigger than your circumstances and if you keep your eyes looking for Jesus, then it will all turn out just fine in the end.  The problem is, like the Disciples, we aren't always looking for Jesus and we stare at the circumstances around us.  We get so easily afraid, forgetting the power of the One who sent us.  It is easy to get fearful but the Lord would say to you the same thing He said to the Disciples out there on the rough waters, "Don't be afraid, it's Me."

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
Matt 14, Mark 6, John 6