What in the world is going on?

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus, Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  Acts 4:32-37

binoculars-1209011__340.jpgYou don’t have to watch the current events on the news long to realize that we are on the brink of something.  If you dig deeper, you will see people predicting that our financial bubble is soon to burst.  In fact, this time it won’t be a downturn in just the United States, but a global meltdown.  I have heard the ‘Chicken Littles’ come and go, but now there are so many of them from so many directions that it is getting hard to ignore.  Read Ron Edwards’ blog to get his stats about many current related topics: Living Eternal Now

This is a quote about world-drought from Hackett Financial Advisors,

“Things are happening that haven’t happened in a long time,” said Hackett. “It’s just the beginning.  We have data that goes back to the 1600s and 1800s from ice core samples, tree rings, and from actually written testimony of the kind of problems that they had,” said Hackett.  “We are not doomist and gloomist, that’s not our modus operandi,” he said. “But the world we are heading into is a world of food scarcity and local famines.  “It’s not going to be pleasant. It’s going to be a very difficult time. We’re going to have to come up with new ways of growing food in this more difficult environment.”

And then there is the political climate of hate, coming from both sides.  It is like a pressure cooker that is soon to pop the lid off.  I am old enough to remember pre-Watergate years when things were not divisive and there could be a sense of unity regardless of who had the majority in the House.

All of this is to say what echoes in the back of many peoples’ minds, including my own: “Are we headed into the End Times?”  This is a very real question.  Like, what would you do if there was a global financial collapse and money wasn’t any good anymore?  Further, all of your savings that you banked on for retirement and security suddenly vanished?  Or, what if drought really began to take over and food resources become so scarce that grocery stores didn’t have shelves of food anymore?  And hyper inflation took over, driving prices through the roof?

My husband and I have made some new friends recently that are real life ‘Dooms Day Preppers.’  This other couple are not Christians, so they aren’t operating from the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.  We have to remind ourselves of the promises of Scripture, like in Matthew 6:31-32 where it says, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

We have had many good opportunities to share about Jesus with them.  I believe that they are in our lives for a specific reason.  They are challenging us to get ready for a coming physical crisis by storing up food and supplies.  We are wanting to communicate what it means to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and where thieves do not steal.  My prayer is that one day soon they will join the family.

As my husband and I look at what is going on currently, we can’t blow off our prepper friends.  Their take is that if the economy collapses and our money is no good, then stored up food and dry goods are worth more than a whole bunch of paper bills.  They foresee that the drought will cause issues with the non drought areas because people will migrate here and take over our resources.  They are also convinced that an EMP is a credible threat (electro magnetic pulse that would wipe out all computers and electronic devices).  We know that nothing that will happen that doesn’t come in and out of God’s hands.

However, that doesn’t negate Acts 4 and the kind of community that we may have to become.  My view of the End Times is a PreWrath Framework.  That means that I don’t believe that believers will be raptured up before any specific tribulation will come.  I take Scripture at face value, which means that in Matthew 24 for instance, when Jesus gave a  timeline, He was telling us something.  That timeline includes wars, famines and earthquakes, tribulation and false prophets, lawlessness increasing, and the love of many growing cold.  That’s just the beginning of the birth pangs.

But then there is the specific chronology of events starting in vs. 15: The Abomination of Desolation (in the Temple in Jerusalem), THEN the Great Tribulation (Satan’s wrath cf Rev. 6:12), and then the return of Christ in the clouds, along with the gathering of His elect from the four winds.

I have written a novel that puts a story line to this framework, The Gathering.  The link is there.  It is on Lulu.com, just in case you want a little summer reading.  My conclusion is that we must live in a community of believers much like the Acts believers did.  In order to do that, we must have things to share–hard goods.  My admonishment is this: you might want to ask yourself the same question: What in the world is going on?  And then do something.  Pray and ask God to tell you what you need to prepare.  It might be radical.

What we are doing is kind of radical.  We aren’t spending our money on a summer vacation.  It’s going into canning and other resources that will we will use in the future if the cost of things spiral out of control.  We have an eye on how this can be used to share with others.

 

 


The secret to being blessed financially

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you, and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  Malachi 3:8-10

 This isn’t one of those speeches that you’ll get when you turn on a church channel where you see a guy with all kinds of diamond and gold rings and watches on. He says, “Send me money and you’ll be blessed. God will double your income.” No, it isn’t. But here God says that His people, the Jews, the keepers of the Temple and the words of the prophets and Moses, were robbing Him.

Robbing Him? Yes. They were supposed to give God a tenth of their bounty and they money bags.jpgweren’t. They were keeping it for themselves, and they were under a curse from God. God told them to test Him and see—if they would start to give a tenth of everything they had, He would open the windows of Heaven and pour down blessings on them.

Now some people look at this and say, “Now that’s the Old Testament. That’s not for today. There are enough things in the New Testament about giving to indicate the very same thing. A tenth of what you have, or a tithe, is just a good place to start. Listen to Luke 6:38: Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 Paul wrote, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

If you are generous with your money, God will multiply your spiritual seed for sowing. In other words, there is a link between how generous you are and your harvest of righteousness. If you don’t see any spiritual fruit being reproduced in your life, maybe it is because you have never learned the discipline of giving. So I get to be the one to tell you this very important secret!

I can tell you from my own experience, the more generous I am with the money that God has blessed me with, the more money He blesses me with. And, the more opportunities He blesses me with to share Jesus with others. If you are struggling to make ends meet, maybe it is because you are under the Malachi 3 curse. Start giving God a tenth of what you have and trust Him to multiply it. He said to test Him and see. Do it.

Give to God off of the top, not with what’s left. Matthew 6:33 tells us to Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added onto us. He means it.

There is this neat little book by Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving.  It is by Multnomah Press, 2001.  He has a lot more to say in his bigger book, Money, Possessions and Eternity.  That is by Tyndale House Publishing and it was done in 1989 and 2003.  Both open up a whole new perspective on storing up eternal treasures.  Alcorn tells how to do develop a treasure mentality, not only because earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns, but because Jesus commands it.

In fact, in his first page in Money, Possessions and Eternity Alcorn sites that the Bible devotes twice as many verses to money (about 2350 of them) than to faith and prayer combined.  Boom.  It’s a big deal.  So stop and think about how you view money, how much you give to God, and whether you are storing up treasures on earth or for Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal, as Matthew 6:19 states.  And be blessed!

*Image from ‘The Sacred Path’ Blogger


No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


No longer a ‘Sneaky Pete’

If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:31, 32, 34-36

My sister got me hooked on this Amazon Prime series, “Sneaky Pete” and I binge watched it sometime over the last month.  While it is cleverly written, I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘must watch’ because it’s filled with the f word, and it is based on continual lies and deception.  In other words, ‘Don’t try this at home.’  But talk about people being a slave to lies.  The basic plot line is that Pete is a con man and he pretends to be someone he’s not.  He gets involved with this family where basically everyone is a conning everyone else.

handcuffs-160062__340I wonder what the series would be like if one of them were to become radically saved and were to get fired up with the truth, in the midst of a very crooked back drop.  Jesus told the Jews who believed in Him: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” We are all ‘Sneaky Petes.’  We all are prone to the faulty habit patterns of deception, manipulation, white lies, exaggeration, and blame shifting.

We think we are the master of deception, but it really masters us.  We’re enslaved by it.  We try to stop stretching the truth, taking things that aren’t ours, or manipulating, but it comes so naturally.  In John 8, John went on to write about the origin of our problem: Satan.  Jesus was debating with religious leaders about who their father was.  They said it was Abraham.  Jesus said it was the devil because they were trying to kill Him and they didn’t love Him.

Jesus went on in verse 44 to say that, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Only Jesus sets us free from those habit patterns.  And only in soaking in the truth of the Bible, letting it transform our hearts, do we begin to see those habit patterns of lying, cheating, and manipulating get brought to the light and changed around.

I remember working with a woman that had become a Christian, trying to disciple her.  She had come out of a life of much drinking and gambling, and a few other vices.  She used to say things like, “No, now I’m going to walk in the truth.”  It was like she had to say out loud that she was going to tell me where she really was, instead of making up a story.  This was contrary to her old habit patterns.  It was a constant struggle for her.

I worked with her on memorizing specific Bible verses to combat some of the lies of Satan that she struggled with the most.  While she memorized them, she soon slid back into her old life.  Looking back, I learned that there is a second key ingredient to fighting off the old life and its lies–the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-6 announces, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…

Without the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, or in someone else’s life to overtake the grip of sin, so often the old life wins out.  I’ve seen it over and over with the women I have attempted to disciple.  They need the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of the bondages that have gripped them.

The truth of God’s word sinking deep into the crevices of our heart drives away the habit patterns of deception that used to enslave us.  It sets us free from the bondage of being a Sneaky Pete, and that’s a great place to be.

*Image from Pixabay


What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.

 


On the Other Side of the Lake

A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons.  He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid.  Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed.  And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept them…

On the other side of the lake the crowds welcomed Jesus, because they had been waiting for Him.  Then a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, plead with Him to come home with Him.  Luke 8:35-41 NLT

I am struck by this contrast on the two different sides of the lake.  On one side, Jesus did something huge, setting a man free from a legion of demons.  Everyone in town knew him as the crazy man in the caves, who probably screamed out at night and scared the kids.  Now he’s clothed and in his right mind and Jesus did it.  Yet they begged Him to leave because they were afraid.

Hebrews 3:12-15 warns us about not having the same reaction: Take care lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin…Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

Waiting for Jesus on the other side of the lake were people who needed healing, people with faith, with a welcoming heart and open arms.  One lady knew if she could just get through the crowd and touch his robe she’d be healed.  Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.  The opposite of faith is fear.  The thing that made the people drive Jesus away was fear across the lake.

One of the things that makes us drive Jesus away today is fear.  When we say that Jesus doesn’t do miracles like that today, or that He can’t fix this or fix that…or whatever it is that makes us not come to Him in prayer believing that He can impact a situation–part of our unbelief is mixed with fear.  When the disciples called out to Jesus in the boat and said, “Don’t you care if we drown?” it was fear.  He rebuked them for their lack of faith.

In 2 Timothy 3 when it says that we will have a from of godliness but deny God’s power, is it fear that makes us comfortable with a lack of power?  We are comfortable with our own power, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit, because maybe we’re afraid of where God is going to take us, or what He’s going to demand of us, or who He’s going to ask us to love…So we stick to a less-than power out of fear.  woman-at lake.jpg

Or, as Hebrews 3 calls it, “an unbelieving heart–an evil, unbelieving heart.”  And that heart condition causes us to fall away from the living God.

Which side of the lake do you live on?

This link if my graphic.  It is an infographic and it can’t be loaded on this page.  Please click it, and then pray about the answer to my question.

On the Other Side of the Lake


Oh The Places He’ll Take Us

That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?’  They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’  Mark 4:35-41

“We’re going to the other side,” Jesus announced with a grin; He knew there was a storm ahead, as He told them to get in.  He promptly went to sleep just to see if they would choke; and sure enough the boat looked like it would go up in smoke.

“Wake up Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?  What kind of prophet are you?  We’re all going down!”  “Relax you ninnies–have you no faith?  I’m the God of these storm clouds, the wind and the waves.”

“Be not afraid!  So please stop your big whines.  I’ve got places to take you that have no confines.  Your faith now is small, but grow it you must.  Place it not on the storm, but in Me and you’ll bust–

stick people motion.pngRight out of your boxes and fears and small boats, and soon you will be preaching to thousands, and you’ll host–all kinds of events and church gatherings, you’ll see.  That there’s no end to what I can do in you through your faith in Me.

 

Don’t tell Me to wake up–it’s you that needs awakened.  I want to do things that will shake you and keep shaking.  I have places to take you so wrap your heart around it; give Me your faith and I’ll equip you–now let’s get it started!”

*Photo from Pixabay

 


The River of God’s Delights

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.  Psalm 36:8-9

I am in earlier stages of studying through the Gospels chronologically.  As I embarked on this, I prayed that God would do a fresh work in me, that He would surprise me new things as I took another walk through the life of Jesus.  I love the song by Meredith Andrews, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” with some of some of its words:

The Gospel changes everything, the turning point in history, even now it’s changing me from who I was; The story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross, The Gospel changes everything and it is changing me…

Jesus changes everything, there is no greater mystery, that God would come to rescue me from who I was; The kindness of my Savior calls me to the wonder of His love; Jesus changes everything, and He is changing me!

I was pleasantly surprised this last week as I felt God answer my prayer, bubbling up within me.  I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier to spend more time with Him in the mornings, and quite often lately as I’m going through the Gospels He just puts things on my heart.  I was at our State capitol this last week to receive an award for our school.

The small group that I was with was walking to dinner the evening before and there was a gentleman talking loudly to himself on the street corner.  He caught my attention.  As I was eating, I had way more food than I needed and God brought the man to mind.  I stopped eating and asked for a to-go box.  I told my party that I hoped the man would be there on our walk back to the hotel.  They too had extra food and I thought they might follow suit, but didn’t.  But they did help watch for the man as we walked.

 

thank you river of delightsI couldn’t spot him and I was dashed.  But as I looked, there came another street person, a woman.  I stopped her, touched her gently on the shoulder, and asked if she would like some food.  She smiled broadly, took it and said, “Have a blessed evening.”  I walked away so happy inside, knowing that this was something that bubbled up from what I had just read from the Sermon on the Mount that morning.

 

God had put it on my heart, and the joy I experienced was from the river of God’s delights.  The neat thing is that God doesn’t just give us water, He establishes in us a fountain of living water that bubbles up from within. I don’t have to conjure this up, or vow each day to “be a nicer person,” He does it through me as I drink deep from Him.

*Image from Google Images

 


‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places and high places

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:24-31

I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights.  I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could.  The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible.  She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”

He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes.  He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits.  That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face.  We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’  She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.

I used to think they just came to get out of their cell.  Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them.  There is a boomerang effect with many of the women.  They are back in again and again.  I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch.  Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.

This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them.  Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’  Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’  Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before.  “I am here to tell you about a God you can know.  He has a name, and He knows your name…”

The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers.  They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:

  1. God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
  2. He is  unchanging (not relative).
  3. God has a name.  He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
  4. Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose.  He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
  5. One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.

Acts 17.jpgThese are our reference points, fixed and unchanging.  You can call them ‘absolute truths.’  Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us.  I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use.  Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”

What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it.  He didn’t use Jesus’ name.  He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.

The struggle today is over so many things.  We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth.  We’ve made truth relative and individual.  We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here.  You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago.  All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’  You have no reason for being here.  Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident.  You can do things–but what if you can’t?  Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)

The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me.  One day He is going to return and set the wrong right.  We will give account to Him.  Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them.  We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God.  They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…

 

 

 


Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.  God has done it, so that people fear before Him.  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.  Ecclesiastes 3:11,14,18

There are three ‘so that’s’ or ‘that’s’ in these verses.  The first one is: God has put eternity in our hearts yet so that we can’t find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  In other words, God has put a longing in our hearts for the infinite, or the eternal, but He has rigged it so that we can really only know the finite.

We have a longing for eternity but yet we can’t figure it all out because we’re limited in time and space.  We  have a yearning for something more, because we have souls that are eternal.  We are really made for a relationship with God almighty.  We all have a God sized hole in our hearts that is only filled with Him.  Some people figure it out, some never do.  Those that don’t spin around in all different sorts of directions, filling that hole with a variety of things.

The second ‘so that’ is that God is eternal and His works last forever.  God has made it that way so that we would fear Him.  Solomon doesn’t embellish this fact much, he just states it.  God is infinite, and we’re not, so we ought to fear Him.

The final ‘that’ is in verse 18: I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they are but beasts.  In other words, God is God and we are not.  He wants us to know how much we need Him.  The thing we all have in common is that in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  In that way, we are like the beasts of the fields.  There has to be a meaning to the life we are given, because one day we will die.

There is a classic little book, A Confession, by Leo Tolstoy.  He wrote it in 1882.  It’s an Tolstoyinteresting read, not very long, and although he was a Russian intellectual, it’s very easy to follow his logic and his journey toward God.  I highly recommend it.  In his search for God, he read Ecclesiastes, as well as Buddha and Schopenhauer (a German philosopher).

Tolstoy’s real faith was in himself and in his own perfect will, to be better in the eyes of other people.  But he found it all meaningless.  He realized that he was paid well to be a teacher, but he really didn’t know much of anything.  By the age of 50 he was obsessed with suicide, keeping loose ropes away from himself lest he hang himself on a beam.

His question was, “Why do I live?”  His answer up that point was, “In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on the earth.”  ( From Chapter 5)

Another way of saying it: “You are an accidentally united little lump of something that ferments and become life.  Then one day it disintegrates and there will be an end of the fermenting and of all the questions.”  If that’s true, then why do we cry out for our ’15 minutes of fame,’ as Andy Warhol first tagged it?  Or, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, (pg. 9) why did ever people want to be ‘The Oscar Meyer Wiener’ where everyone will be in love with me?

Tolstoy eventually moved from having faith in himself and in only the rational knowledge, which brought futility to having a faith in irrational knowledge which was found in admitting that there was a God.  He didn’t find this faith by being with the other rich intellectuals.  In his search for meaning, he found it by spending time with the peasants.  They worked in heavy labor but were content in life.  He spent the rest of his days living a simple life with them, sorting out a faith in God.

Tolstoy discovered in his late fifties what Solomon wrote about.  Our hunger for meaning in life and significance is a signal of what God planted in us.  It’s who we are and why we are here.  We were made by an infinite, eternal God.  We bear His image.  We were meant to count, just like water is made to run downhill.  God has placed eternity in our hearts, with souls that live on after we die.  That’s what makes us different than animals.  One day we will all stand and give an account to our Creator.

So if you get an urge to try out for ‘American Idol’ or to  do something to make a mark, know it is because God has placed eternity in your heart.  You were made to count because you’re more than just an accidental lump of something that evolved from some primordial goo.  You were made by a God who loves you, knows you by name, and has a plan for your life.  You don’t have to worry about having loose ropes laying around, and that’s good news.