"Where are you?"

All of us who follow Jesus have the “where are you” moments when life is chaotic and He does not seem anywhere around. His disciples thought they were going to drown with Him in the boat! Mary and Martha couldn’t believe Jesus would not show up for their brother Lazarus. “Hey, Jesus, where are you??”

Our emotional and physical storms threaten to overwhelm us at times, and we ask the same question. In Psalm 43 the writer is about to explode in anguish. Yet in the end he chooses to trust in God, to put his hope in Him, even when he cannot see past the edge of his nose at the moment. He needs God’s lantern to light his steps.

That is what I choose to do today. To “put my hope in God”, even when I have no more than a tiny seed of faith because of the lighting and thunder around me. God’s heart is tender toward those who do so. My hope is in Him, period.

The Bog

When the sheep get thirsty in the arid land of Israel, they will ignore danger to get at the pools of water And they can get stuck in the mud and cannot get out without the Shepherd’s Help. Hence the analogy of Psalm 40 with the Bog and the Rock.

I found Psalm 40 very comforting this morning. It shows a God who looks at the heart, not just the “sacrifices” we think we must do to get His attention. We miss the tender heart of God in our frantic desires to “please Him” daily. He is already pleased because of Jesus in us! Keep that in mind today, please.

Forever

I read a caption of a news article yesterday, wondering if artificial intelligence will allow us to live forever. Who would want to have eternity in the broken world we live in now? Endless killing and bad actions being repeated over and over? It sounds like an old episode of Star Trek where Kirk realizes that he and the Romulans are being controlled by an entity which enjoyed killing and violence, being repeated over and over for all time.

Psalm 39 speaks of our life as a “shadow” in length. That what we achieve in this life does not matter anyway. That holding onto this life alone is so misguided.

Oh, we are going to live forever all right! We were designed that way. The question is whether or not we will spend it with God or apart from Him. And no amount of “artificial intelligence” will make the least bit of difference. There is nothing artificial about God. He is the Great I AM, and Jesus is very real today in this world, building his Kingdom in the hearts of those who believe.

Put your hope in Him, not computers and artificial intelligence. Forever is not an option, it is the Truth we face.

"Be" and "Do"

My bosses in my job always expect a certain amount of “doing” from me each month. Production quotas, benchmarks, that type of thinking. They always desire “just a little bit more”. It is easy to translate that same thinking onto God. That He is not pleased with us unless we are “doing” something for Him.

But “being” with Him is the first priority. He wants more than anything just to spend time with you today. Way back in Genesis Adam and Eve were “doing: things in the Garden. But in the cool of the evening God would walk in the Garden with them, before they decided they knew better and the Fall of Paradise happened. Can you imagine just how magnificent their evenings were with God? Their hearts must have thrilled with His approach! “He’s here!!”

Is your soul soft this morning? Can you be still long enough to have a “He’s here!” time as you read His Scriptures and be still in His Presence? As the Psalmist stated, “Be still and know I am God”.

Yes, we are called to “do” today, to rule and submit the earth, even in a small way. He is a God of Order. But it starts with “be”. Be like the little child who sees his daddy come in the door today. “He’s here!”

Fear

What are you afraid of this morning? Loss of job, not enough to eat? Dying? Not enough money to pay the bills? What else could you add to this list? Bad boss? Health issues?

So with these types of issues, how does Jesus tell us not to be anxious? Why does Paul repeat it in his writings? 

When the cares of this life crowd out the presence of the Spirit, anxiety is a natural consequence. When we come to believe that He is not enough for today, then we live our lives that reflect fear and lack of trust.

Psalm 36 speaks of those who have no fear (deep respect) for God. They have no use for Him and spend their lives conniving and scheming to get ahead. "Protect yourself at all costs" is their motto. Other people made in God's image are to used and tossed aside. Use others before they use you.

But we as Jesus' students are shown a whole new way!  We need not fear this life and its drama! Seek first the Kingdom and "all these things shall be added unto you."

I'm in process trying to live this way today. I learned self-protection very young in my life. And also fear of the unknown.  So I am learning each day now to "cast my cares upon Him, because He cares for me". I would ask you to walk this path with me of faith, not fear, today.

Presence

Psalm 34 states that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but that God delivers them from the affliction. It also speaks of crushed spirits in our lives. Following Jesus does not mean carefree living. Far from it. We are "afflicted" like everyone else in this life. But we have power inside us to help us cope successfully in the daily work we face.

When we are "crushed in spirit" we really show what we believe in at our core. And like Job centuries ago, we face a choice: Bless or Curse God?

I have found that there is nothing in this life that is better than His Presence when I hurt deeply. I cry out in misery, and I sense Someone near, in ways that are difficult to put in words. Let the skeptics scoff as they wish, I know the Truth, He is near when I invite Him in.

It does not make the misery vanish, but He gives me the strength to cope. Scripture says taste and see that the Lord is good. Don't suffer alone!

Angry Nation

As the nation watches the Supreme Court hearings, it is striking concerning the level of distrust and antagonism that exists. These hearings are about a lot more than whether or not this judge is affirmed or not. 

We are an angry nation. We cannot find joy in prosperity, when our economy is doing well as it is at the moment. In our minds, we know something is missing. Nothing on this earth fully satisfies. Power, control, riches, delicious food, sex, all are alluring but not completely quenching our desire for.... something deeper.

Psalm 33 states that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. We have fallen far from that ideal in America. So we sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. Anger and contempt for others are two by products of rejecting God, of acknowledging we are made in His image. There is plenty of that we see around us.

Psalm 33 also says to have a deep respect for God, to serve Him above the power of the government of mighty men. Don't ever let the bad news of the day or the power struggles of the strong keep you from serving Him first.

Private Matters

As I was riding the train to see my sister in Louisiana last week, at one point I happened to having breakfast in the dining car. Sitting across from me was a gabby woman who was determined to share her private information with a total stranger. I was appalled at some of the inappropriate stuff she stated about how much she makes in salary, her benefits, and a host of other stuff that should never be brought into public discourse. The poor woman simply had no filter on her mouth. I wondered how she could be so impossibly naive.

Friends, in this day and age we must be very careful about what is shared with casual acquaintances, or those who have yet to  built trust in our lives. Use care concerning what about yourself and your family you wish virtual strangers to know. Whether it is social media or a dining car, exhibit self control. 

But when it comes to daily talk with Jesus, open the faucets! He already knows what you have done, but he delights at the sound of your voice. Communication is so important to Him. Psalm 32 speaks of the joys of confession, when David found that hiding his sin brought only a heavy weight and misery to his soul. And how his spirit lightened afterwards.

Confession does not mean a perfect day awaits us. It does mean He promises to guide our steps from unnecessary things, like sharing private matters with strangers on a train. Or social media.

Windows

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he tried to be "all things to all people, that he might win some". Over the past several years I have met many agents and managers in my job at Mutual of Omaha, and I try to find common ground with them as much as possible.

I try to to gently develop trust, so that if the conversations over time turn to serious matters, I can listen and speak of what matters in my life. That being a student of Jesus is what I aspire to be daily, even when I fail. Not as a flaming evangelist, but as an average guy who has found Truth in the teachings of Jesus. And as I wait, inevitably He raises up small windows of time to share what I believe. Not with sword in hand, but a gentle word of what I hold dear.

So many have passed through my life in the business and are now gone from my sight. But I will always remember those "windows" that God gave me. What they do with it is not always known, but my heart rejoices that I met them on their turf and was faithful to The Cause.  Remember that verse, friends. Be open to "Windows"!

The Price of Integrity

Jeremiah was known as the "weeping prophet" for good reason. For all of his adult life he had been proclaiming the message that Judah was facing the Lord's judgement for rejecting Him and living immoral lives. They sacrificed their children in fire to false gods, which infuriated God.

As a reward, he is imprisoned and put in stocks. And the story does not end well for him. He is forced after the exile by the remnants who remain, to go to Egypt, where they intend to worship the "Queen of Heaven". He predicts it will end badly for them, but we don't know the end of his story.

David is Psalm 26 asks God to remember him and help him in being a Man of Integrity. He promises to praise God in helping him do so. So we have two men full of honor and integrity. One gets little honor in this life and the other gets to be King of Israel. Sound fair to you?

Paul reminds us that if we live only for this life as Christians, we are most to be pitied. So why not just eat, drink, and party? But then we have the words of Jesus, who says that even a drink of cool water given in His name will certainly receive reward in the coming Life.

Following Christ in this life may bring physical reward, or not. That is why those who hold to a prosperity gospel can be sorely disappointed. But should we just toss Integrity over the side? NO!

Jesus will never forget every act of kindness you do for others, every time you behave in a God honoring manner. We serve a Risen Christ who watches and approves of the we give ourselves away. So stay the course! Be willing to pay the price of Integrity.

An Enlarged Heart

As I understand it, to have a physically enlarged heart is not good for our health. It is not good have an emotionally and spiritually enlarged "Heart" either. Psalm 26:16-18 pictures a person in such a condition. He is overwhelmed, lonely, and his troubles threaten to crush his spirit. His "heart" is greatly enlarged. David knows he is in deep trouble. Something has to be done quickly.

What does he do? He cries out to God first to forgive his sins, to purify himself, and then he can ask God for deliverance from his troubles. He has his priorities straight. I can relate to these verses, can you? In the midst of our muddy and distressful lives, we want God to deal with our hurts and stressors right now. He wants to wash off your mud (sin), first.

Not in a ritual or long winded way. Just an honest confession that you are a sinner saved only by his grace, and ask Him to clean you up. Remember that God is for you, and not against you. Watching us suffer brings Him no pleasure. He wants to help. Crying out to your Poppa is always in season. But as David did, clean off the "mud" first. Priorities matter!

A Tale of 2 D's

When the Apostle John wrote 3 John to his buddy Gaius in the late first century AD, he mentioned two men in the church that are going in different directions in their life: Diotrephes and Demetrius.

Keep in mind that Diotrephes was a church leader, yet he turned into a power and influence driven fool. He "loved to be first", and was kicking out visitors and those who wanted to invite new people to the church. And he was spreading vicious rumors about John.

Demetrius was just the opposite. He was a man who saw need, and responded well to hurting people. He was known for his hospitality and kindness.

Being in church leadership doesn't mean immunity from what everyone else deals with: sin and selfishness. But leaders are held to a higher standard, per the Apostle James.

What is your attitude toward those who visit your church? Are they a threat and a nuisance? Or does your heart leap for joy because of this God ordained moment of introduction?

There is a moment in Lord of the Rings, when in discussing whether or not Frodo is still alive, Aragorn looks at Gandalf and says: "What does  your heart say?"

Is your heart like Diotrephes or Demetrius toward those who visit your church? And those who cross your path today? Is your heart alive?

Mirror,Mirror

Do you recall the line from the Wizard of Oz, where the witch looks at the mirror and says "Mirror, Mirror, who is the fairest of them all?"

Scripture has mirrors too. They reflect each other in the writings. You may be quite familiar with Psalm 23, but what about Psalm 22? In verses 1-18 they are amazingly accurate in the portrait of a crucifixion of a human body. Only crucifixion had not been invented yet by the Romans, as this Psalm is written hundreds of years before. Yet God knew the mirror of history, and Jesus knew this was going to happen to him.

And as the mirror of history shines forward, we see God still working on His Plan throughout time. He is still giving men and women the chance to accept his Plan to save the human race from itself, caused by our folly of rejecting Him. When all have had the chance to choose, Christ will return and take those who Believe to the Eternity He has promised.

The witch in the Wizard of Oz found out that she was not the "fairest of them all" in the movie, not even close. Jesus IS the "fairest", as the old hymn proclaims. And the mirror of history will prove His claims to be true. Be encouraged today, friends. Your work is not worthless or a purposeless vapor. Jesus knows your first name! You are among the "fairest" in the mirror of His eyes. The mirror says so!

The One and Only

There are times I have observed that when a celebrity on TV is about to be introduced, the host will say, " And now, the one and only.............!"

I read a news article recently that stated "leading scientists" doubt that Jesus was real. That claim has been going on for 2000 years since Jesus left the earth, promising to return. "Higher Criticism" from intellectuals has been dancing to that tune for a long time. 

2 John 7 clearly states that Jesus was a real flesh and blood human. He ate fish, after his resurrection from the grave. He plainly showed the scars from his feet and hands. He invited bodily touch. He even appeared to over 500 people at one time, per the Apostle Paul. 

But He was also God in the flesh. That is mind blowing and absolutely true. He was unique and powerful. Don't let others try to convince you otherwise. Mary was blown away when God informed her she was going to be the mother of Jesus. "but how?? I am a virgin!" God told her His power would make it happen, and it did. She walked by faith, and believed Him.

So Jesus is both fully God and fully human. That thought is so overpowering, and so incredibly beautiful. This is the God-man, who now waits to return and claim his adopted family to be with Him forever. He intercedes for us now before His Father, because He "gets us".

Leading scholars and scientists who doubt this will find out soon enough that this true. But you already know this, correct? He IS The One and Only. 

Diagnostics

Like most cars today, mine has an on board computer. When I go out to start the engine, the computer runs a diagnostic on all the parts of the vehicle. A few months back I was in a hurry, and did not really look at the car before I jumped in and wanted to get going. But the computer revealed that I had low tire pressure on a tire away from my view. I was not happy to see that I had a problem that needed fixed, but I was grateful that the tire wasn't going to be ruined by a nail, either.

I read Psalm 19 this morning, as part of my devotional time. It can be viewed as a "diagnostic" tool as well. Are we willing to spend time with God and let Him see if they is "low tire pressure" in our lives, which may cause us to "go flat" soon without getting help?

Have you appreciated the wonder of our Sun lately? The poetic language of Psalm 19 in regards to the sun is awesome. Have you pondered the wonders of His Creation for a while? How much did you contribute toward the making of Today?

Do you blunder into Mondays without first running a "diagnostic" on your heart? Would you consider reading Psalm 19 today and like verse 14, putting your words and thoughts before Him to be acceptable?

Don't skip your "diagnostic" with Jesus today!

Pain so deep

Where is God in the deepest days of pain? If you read Jeremiah 15:18 you get a sense of how deep pain can be. Not all of life is physical suffering. Emotional pain from life events can be just as devastating. Yet Christians can try to be overly spiritual in their understanding of pain. And by doing so, they are denying Jesus a chance to come and heal deep bruises of the mind.

Prayer and Bible Study are always helpful. They help the psyche understand that God is indeed with us, as Job did in his suffering. But in emotional pain we need to FEEL the comfort of Jesus. To know in a deeper sense His understanding and comfort in a way that only the soul understands. That the intellect cannot grasp. Because THAT is when we need Jesus the most, in the depths of hopelessness and despair.

The Gospels record the pain and agony of the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus went through. Blood like sweat, tears, and agony of a soul being torn apart. Through His Spirit today, He comes to us and says: " I get you!" I KNOW how horrible that Depression and Anxiety feels!"

And at times like that all we can do is whisper "Yes Jesus". And that is enough. So do not play a superhero if this is you today. It is ok to be a superzero in His Care, when the pain is so deep.

The Plan

2800 years ago a prophet named Jeremiah looked around him in chapter 12 and asked God a question: "Why do you let the bad guys continually get all the good stuff?" Why do they thrive and good people suffer?"

2 Peter is full of the images of what God is eventually going to do about evil. He has plans to burn up this current earth, and start fresh with a new heaven and earth, filled with people who have crossed The Bridge into Eternity. Yes the scoffers still just laugh, and say that nothing has changed, so where is this 2nd coming of Christ we believe in? They think we are idiots and fools, to believe that Jesus is coming again in bodily form, to take us to this wonderful place that He has ready for those who believe Him.

Every generation since Adam and Eve has struggles with evil. But God does not seem to be in a hurry to deal with it, at least to our minds. Peter teaches us that a thousand years and a day are the same to Him. He has his Plan, and is patient to let everyone have their choice to accept or reject that Plan. For He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, per Ezekial in the Old Testament.

I get weary of the daily news, too. Murder, rape, robbery, selfish behaviors all over the globe. For Ecclesiastes is correct in this: there is nothing new under the sun, when it comes to evil.

God is incapable of lying, it is not in His nature. So when He says we will see a New Heaven and New Earth in the days ahead, with no pain or suffering, I choose to believe Him. I may wish fervently that today was that day, but by faith I wait patiently. Although I admit, some days in the patience area are better then others!

Jeremiah was frustrated with what he saw in his day. We get frustrated with our days too. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and don't lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6. Keep going today with these words! The Plan is in place.

Practices

Did you know that the people of Israel practiced child sacrifices to foreign gods to appease them? The image is graphic, of screaming children being burned alive by their parents. And then the parents would troop into the church on the Sabbath day, to make sure they were fulfilling their spiritual check list, and so the true God would not be mad at them. Appalling, right? Does it make your stomach churn inside? 

It sure made God's anger burn! In Jeremiah he thunders to stop it! That the practice of child sacrifice would never even enter His mind. But did the people stop it? Nope.

But wait for a moment: While we in righteous indignation point our fingers in disgust at such a horrible practice, what "practices" do we do that has God upset? You know, the routine sin or chronic behaviors we hope he does not see, or just winks at? That has  become such a part of our lifestyle that we do not even think about it anymore as being a big deal.

The people of Israel became so hardened to their practices that they no longer knew right from wrong. Even prophets like Jeremiah could not shake their sin harnesses. Has that sin in your life become the same for you? God will allow you to reap what you sow. And He will allow pain to get your attention, and try to get you to stop that behavior or thought process that is wrong.

So clean up, get up, and live uprightly as He desires. Go to Psalm 15 and see what that looks like, to those who would desire to please Him.

Practices matter!

Predators

2 Peter is full of instruction about predators. These people love to teach half truths and distort teachings for greed. Psalm 14:1 states that the fool has said in his heart there is no God. 

I read yesterday about a woman who claims she channels archangels, who has over a million followers on social media. The news article was a glowing report of a day in her life. She appeals to the part of us that fights to "be like God". Ever since Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden, we have as a human race desired this to be true.

As Believers, we must stay rooted in the Scriptures. They teach us daily about how to live lives that keep our minds bound to Truth. Scripture says that "Your Word is Truth". The Spirit of God "quickens" our minds to show us what He wants us to remember or focus on during the readings. I find this to be true as I ask Him for what He wants me to say for this blog. My mind will be drawn to something He wants me to speak of. It must line up with other teachings in the Scripture, and not be torn out of context.

Friends, beware of the siren song of Predators! They claim great knowledge and secret ways of understanding. They can be mediums, false pastors, those who know how to lure the unstable, the disgruntled, those who see the church as "hypocrites".  They want your money and your allegiance. And to claim you as a follower. Seek the truth of the Spirit as He leads, don't be a gullible "fool" of Psalm 14.

How Long?

"How long O Lord"? is found in Psalm 13. All of us who have called out to Him for help have uttered those words. Are your days long and winding? Is there a boulder in your narrow path that seems unmovable? Does your heart ache after repeated attempts to deal with that frustrating issue?

Jesus in His humanity uttered a "How long must I put up with you" at one point. He gets the frustration of this world keenly. So it is ok to groan and lament a difficult situation. God allows "how long" quite a bit in the book of Psalms. He gets us because as He told Jeremiah in the Old Testament: "I knew you before I was born". 

So be real with God, owning your emotions. Tell Him what you feel inside. Ask Him plainly for help in your troubled times. But Psalm 13 ends in a verse of trust as well. Don't miss that. "He has dealt bountifully with me." He is not the parent who runs away from a fire, He is the Firefighter who runs toward it, and you.

"How long" is real to ask. But ask expectantly. Have the faith of a child who believes His Poppa will save the day. Be comforted today with this Hope!