Friday, June 29, 2012

How Can We Press on in a World Where Hopelessness is Overtaking So Many

1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. 3For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. 4No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. 5 They hatch adders' eggs; they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. 6Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. 7Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8 The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. 9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. 11 We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: 13 transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. 14Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. 15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. 17He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. 18According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. 19So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. 20"And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression," declares the LORD. 21 "And as for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," says the LORD, "from this time forth and forevermore."

I have read this scripture several times, and each time I have been conscious of how very accurately these words describe what is going on in the world around us right now as we live and breathe.

Just the other day, someone said to me (paraphrased):  "God speaks to some people, but He never speaks to me."  In my conversations with this person, it has become evident that, while this person believes in God and believes that Jesus is the Son of God who came to restore mankind's relationship with God, my friend has never surrendered control of his life to Jesus.   He has openly spoken to me of sin in his life and about acts of violence, hatred and bigotry that he feels toward various people.

There have been times in my walk with God that I have felt that He was far from me.  Verse two puts it very succinctly:  your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  

This is why is so important to examine ourselves daily and to confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness.   God has nothing to do with sin and when we sin, it causes a separation from Him. 

I believe that verses 9 and 10 very aptly describe what the world is like right now:

9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. 
 As I read or watch news information, I see a world filled with pain and suffering and hurt.  People are experiencing hopelessness and are disenchanted with the world systems (money, government, employment, etc.) and are looking for something new, something better, some way more "fair"  in which to operate. The expressions on peoples' faces are ones of worry and fear and distrust.  There is no justice in our courtrooms, our governments are corrupt, weather patterns are not what we are used to.  Each day brings uneasiness about whether we will still have a job at the end of the day, and the shakiness and apparent failing of the world's financial systems has many on edge about what the day will bring.  Mankind appears to be stumbling around in the darkness just as described in those verses.

I find verse 15 very aptly puts the way the world looks at those who follow Jesus today.   Each day the worldview of Christians or more accurately,  the worldview of those who truly adhere to following the teachings of Jesus has changed.  "Christians" are being labeled as troublemakers, the "religious right", and when you tell someone they are not living right with God, you are speaking "hate".  

It is vital at this time in history that those who love God and are called according to His purposes be the voice of reason; calling others to peace and love for others.  We are not to join in the violence with either words or deeds, but to call forth a spirit of love and peace and reason. 

The world looks to be spiralling out of control, but in actuality, God's Word is filled with prophesies that describe what the world would be like today.   God told us in advance so that we could be assured that He is in control; that He knows exactly what He's doing and why and that we can take refuge in Him and be at rest and without worry.  No matter what the day brings, if we dwell on Him and the inheritance He is offering to us as His children, while the world is raging, we can walk in assurance that nothing will touch us today that He has not okayed.  When you walk like that, you steadily put one foot in front of the other, you tilt your face upward toward Him, you reach out your hand, asking Him to hold onto it and you keep on going.   He will walk through it with you.  He will be your strength, your strong tower, your courage, your endurance. 

I know He will.  I have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death for the past 15 years, and He has been faithful to me every step of the way...even when I have not been faithful.  But He does require us to:   examine ourselves, repent of sin, trust Him and follow Him wherever He leads.  He will restore your soul, your peace, your ability to walk on.

Lord God Almighty, the world is in an uproar.  People are trusting in governments and mankind when they have always failed to live up to that trust.  You alone are our refuge.  You alone have the answers to today's problems.  God, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive you.   Give us the ability to be a voice of reason and peace and love in a world filled with violence, war and hate.   Draw us near to you.   Inspire us to love what you love and hate what you hate.  Help us to be kind and understanding and forgiving.  In other words, Lord, help us to be like you.  Let us be the salve that brings healing to all who are around us.  We praise you for who you are and for your great name and for your great ways.  Who is like you, Almighty God in love and compassion and patience?  There is none!  We need you Lord like rarely before in history.  I pray for each and every man, woman and child in the world who does not know you.  May your Spirit and Word go forth today in power.  You don't need us to accomplish your purposes for you have all power.   But we ask, Father, that you would use us, those who love you, in bringing the knowledge of you to many in these last days.  In Jesus' name.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Encouragement for YOU Today

Life on the planet has experienced a tremendous change in the past 20 years.  Maybe because I am aging, I don't know, but I seem to be particularly sensitive to it, and so, maybe, are you.  For this reason, I feel compelled to share these words of encouragement with you because they SO encouraged me. today:

 He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.   Colossians 1:15-23

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authorityColossians 2:1-10

Why do these verses encourage me? 

First, everything that exists was made by Jesus Christ for his purposes.  He existed before anything else.  He HOLDS everything together.  He is IN CHARGE.  In spite of everything seeming as though it is spinning out of control.  He has not a whisper of sweat on His brow or above His lips.  He is as cool as a cucumber.  Just as He was during the immense storm on the ship, He could be taking a quick catnap if He wanted to be, but the Bible says that He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He is watching everything that is happening and NOTHING happens that He does not ALLOW to happen. 

At one time, I was far from God and there was a huge breach between us that I could not cross until Jesus came and died on the cross.  NOW, I am destined to inherit all the riches of heaven right alongside of Jesus, my hero; my savior, my God and my King.   Thanks to Jesus, I am holy and blameless and can approach Him with all my thoughts, my desires, my requests and He is worthy to receive ALL of my praise.

Second, Christ lives IN ME.  He holds ALL THE TREASURES OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE, and I have direct, immediate access to Him.  I am being rooted and built up in Him, and so I have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwelling inside of me.  So, if someone tries to persuade me with some other malarky (bull) that they have come up with, I have the ability to know that that is what it is...bull.

My prayer for you today, my friend is that God will give you a complete understanding of what He wants to do in your life and that He will make you wise with spiritual wisdom.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others.  All the while, you will learn to know God better and better. 

I also pray that you will be strengthened with His glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance that you need.  May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God's holy people, who live in the light. 

We have SO much for which to be thankful.  He has rescued us from the one who rules the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son.  God purchased our freedom with His blood and forgiven ALL our sins (if we have repented and asked Him to do so!!!).

Have you done so, my friend?  If not, oh please, can't you see how much you need Him?  I implore you; search yourself, determine the ways you have sinned and repent.  Ask Him to forgive you.  He will do it.  He wants you to belong to Him and be a co-inheritor with Him of all the glories and riches that heaven affords. 

Heavenly Father, I don't know if anyone will read this, but you do.  You know exactly who needs to read it, and I pray that Your will be done.  The Bible says your Word will not return void, and that is what I am sending forth today...your word.   Bring the one who needs encouragement here today, I pray, in Jesus' name.  Amen.