The problem of good is not unlike the problem of evil in that there must be an origination of the definition of good. There must be some singular truth besides that which pleases me.
During a recent exchange with a dear friend we were ruminating on the importance and power of prayer. That Christ Himself stole away from the crowds to pray to His Father. If one reads only a few of the early missionary biographies it is quickly seen that men and women chosen by God to take the gospel to unreached parts of the world, were people of prayer. Ravi Zacharias, recently promoted to glory, was known to have spent much time on his knees at his bedside throughout his ministry. This was cited by those who knew him best during his memorial service.
Prayer is both a solitary activity and a group activity. It does not require fancy words. In fact Christ was pleased with the prayer of a publican who beat his chest and cried out, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” Prayer need not be lengthy and should not be pompous. In that same setting with the publican, there was a Pharisee who with many words spoke in a prideful way. It quickly became evident which prayer pleased our Lord.
Prayer does not require spontaneity. Use a list so that you don’t forget something that is important to you. Some of us have so many things and people to pray for, that we need a list to remember all the people needing prayer. Always keep in mind that others are depending on your prayers, not the least of those would be our children and grandchildren.
Prayer should simply be the expression of our hearts poured out before God with the expectation that He will respond. He may respond by changing our hearts, He may respond with silence because His time is not yet, and He may change our circumstances. The question is whether we trust Him with our cares and anxieties. Oh, how often I lay an issue at God’s feet only to pick it back up in my heart before I finish the prayer! God has an eternal perspective and will work according to His plan. Our prayer ought to be for Him to align us with His plan. When our desires and His plan as revealed to us through His word are aligned, then the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
We should be encouraged by remembering that Jesus prayed specifically for us. In John 17:20 He prayed, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one …” That’s us! How did Jesus know that we would need this prayer in the 21st century? Because He is God!
If our hearts quicken at this thought and we are brought to a renewed sense of urgency regarding our personal prayer life, I think it is important to remember that this is not new revelation. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has used such a time to prick our hearts and open our eyes to see new depth of a Scriptural truth. God’s word is truth (Ps 119:160; Jn 17:17) and was given for our benefit to us for our instruction (1 Tim 3:16).
The power of prayer cannot be overstated. If it was so important to Jesus to spend time with His heavenly Father, how much more should we be laying our requests and the desires of our hearts before Him.
The Scriptures tell us to “Cast our cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.” (Ps 55:22) and “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:7) Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and the fact that God’s chosen people had turned their backs on Him. (Matt 23:37) I can only imagine that God’s people were the subject of many of Christ’s prayers. In the same way, shouldn’t our country be the subject of our prayers? Once we were founded on biblical principles that are now decried as evil, exclusive, and judgmental.
In these days of trials and tribulation, the practice of prayer and petition is essential and will be of great effect. James 5:16 tells us that we are to pray for each other and that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. The church can and must be a force showing the love of God during these days. There are many actions we can take to show Christ’s love, but prayer invokes the power of God on the hearts of men, women, and children. What could possibly be more powerful than the prayers of the faithful before an all-powerful God?
We have difficulty putting ourselves in the he ‘sinners’ category. Still is we examine our hearts we know it is deceitful and desperately wicked. #chiefofsinners #metoo #savedbygrace
1 Timothy 1:14-16
A fellow blogger whom I’ve come to respect for her faithfulness to God and His word gives us this acrostic on Peace in the Midst of the Storm. I hope you’re encouraged by it as I am.
Today’s post is an acrostic poem (I use that term lightly!) of praise and prayer, based on the phrase, “peace in the midst of the storm.” For each letter, I chose scriptural affirmations that seemed especially appropriate for this time of upheaval and uncertainty. (You’ll find the references at the end of the post.)
Why the Bible? There is no better source of hope and strength.
Abraham Lincoln expressed it this way during his time of trouble:
(Photo taken in1863, in the midst of the Civil War.)
I believe that the Bible is the best gift
That God has ever given to man.
All the good from the Savior of the world
is communicated to us through this book.
I have been driven many times to my knees
By the overwhelming conviction
That I had nowhere else to go.
While collecting biblical truths that apply to our current situation, I…
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There is an irony in these days of isolation and empty store shelves that leave multiple questions in one’s mind. My friend Mitch Teemley has provided a list of questions for us to ponder as we wander about in our sanctuaries of solitude. I pass these along for your personal musings … and perhaps a smile or two.
How did evolution begin?
- If you melted dry ice in a pool, could you swim in it without getting wet?
- What happens if you turn on your headlights while driving at the speed of light?
- Would the ocean be deeper if sponges didn’t grow in it?
- If there’s a speed of sound and a speed of light, is there a speed of smell?
- Do sheep get static cling when they rub against one another?
- If a bee was allergic to pollen would it get the hives?
- Can a pig pull a ham string?
- If you put a chameleon in front of a mirror, what color does it turn?
- If someone gets addicted to counseling, how do you treat them?
Arts and Literature:
- If Cinderella’s glass slipper fit perfectly, why did it fall off?
- Was Captain Hook called Captain Hand before he got the hook?
- Why is he called the ‘Lone’ Ranger when Tonto is always with him?
- Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
- Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard (or any body hair, for that matter)?
- At the ballet, you see girls dancing on their tiptoes. Why don’t they just get taller girls? (Greg Ray)
Language and Culture:
- Do Dutch people always split the bill?
- If a parsley farmer loses a lawsuit, do they garnish his wages?
- Are mattresses ever not on sale?
- Why don’t women put pictures of their missing husbands on beer cans?
- What do Greeks say when they don’t understand? (“It’s all _________ to me.”)
- Whose cruel idea was it to put an ‘s’ in the word “lisp”?
- If “there’s an exception to every rule,” is there an exception to that rule?
- Can an ambidextrous person make an offhanded remark?
- Why do ‘fat chance’ and ‘slim chance’ mean the same thing?
- “When you clean out a vacuum cleaner, does that make you a vacuum cleaner?”
- If a mime is arrested, do they tell him he has a right to talk?
- Why do people sink so slowly in quicksand?
- If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?
- Can a short person “talk down” to a taller person?
- What’s the synonym for “thesaurus”?
- Are female teamsters “teamstresses”?
- Are male seamstresses “seamsters”?
- If you steal a clean slate, does that go on your record?
- If pro and con are opposites, does that make Congress the opposite of progress?
And finally, the biggest question of all:
- If God sneezes, what do you say to Him?
Have an amazing day!!!
This will be a brief but hopefully succinct post …
I was reminded by a dear friend and mentor this morning that God doesn’t often spare from difficulties. The book of Daniel cites two examples of how our God goes with us through the challenges of life.
- In chapter 3 we read that three of Daniel’s friends were thrown into the fiery furnace. Still while they were there, a fourth person appeared in the furnace with them. Even though they had been thrown in tied up (bound), all four were walking around in the furnace unbound. When the king called them out of the furnace, their hair was not singed, their clothes were not harmed, and they had no odor of the fire or smoke on them. God was with them through a most intense fire.
- He was with Daniel in the lions den (chapter 6) and sent an angel to close the mouths of lions. So Daniel spent the night with a pride of hungry lions and walked out unharmed.
From these and other examples like Christ calming the wind and the waves found in Matthew 8, we learn that God goes with us through the storms of life.
In Joshua chapter 1 the Lord told Joshua beginning in verse 5, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Our God is bigger than any climate crisis we can create, He is bigger than any of the world’s most powerful governments, and He is the Great Physician and heals all our diseases. There is NO earthly power, situation or circumstance that God cannot overcome. We need to have faith, not in our government that thinks they can solve all of our issues, but in our God who can indeed supply our every need, if we only will trust Him.
He told His chosen disciples that were with Him in the boat, “Oh you guys who have so little faith!” Can we place our faith in the One who alone has power over all of this world’s challenges? You bet! I’m asking my family to demonstrate a faith that is unshakable. Taking our eyes off of the author and finisher of our faith causes us to waver. Abraham’s faith did not waver, in fact it grew (Romans 4:19-21). Paul challenged the church at Corinth to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13)
If we have faith we can be light and hope to the world around us that is bending to the fear mongering, hoarding and misinformation that is going on in our current world setting. Let’s be men of faith who are acting wisely and without fear.
Quite often when the subject of the next generation comes up the topic leads to discussion on how to best share our values with them. This blog is one of the ways, I am able to pass along biblical values that will be retrievable for years to
come, regardless of my state of health, or even my presence here on earth. The pressures of our culture are immense and biblical values are not only discarded by the world, but Christianity is unique in our world as a faith that is attacked and expressly banned from the public square. Indeed, it is singled out for ridicule as intolerant, exclusive, unloving, judgmental, and yes, even hateful.
Today I read Peter’s second letter to the church. What a great letter! If you haven’t read it lately, I’d encourage you to listen to the Holy Spirit as only Peter can express it. In chapter 1 of this letter, Peter challenges us “to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” A sermon could be preached expounding on each one of these supplements. I’m fascinated by they way that these aspects build on one another. Even that is another whole study!
But for today I’d like to focus on another point that Peter makes in his opening remarks. It seems that he sensed that his readers might be saying to themselves, “Yeah, yeah, yeah … what else is new?” So he then writes beginning in verse 12, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right as long as I am in this body to stir you up by way of reminder … And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
This is my intent with my family and friends and the purpose of these postings. That you may remember the good words that God has for you in the writings that reveal His character and His will for us. My desire is that my family would always be a beacon of the light of Jesus in the world around them. Two of our grandchildren are teachers who are being creative in ways to teach her elementary and middle school students biblical values and truths. Another is working towards the day when he’ll be able to shine the light of Jesus through the practice of physical therapy. Yet another is actively teaching junior high students from God’s word and is writing to help college students assimilate and apply what has been taught in the church college ministry. Still another is involved in the lighting ministry helping young worshipers focus on what’s important in the mid-week services. Each one using their gifts and talents to help point people to Jesus. I am a blessed man to have five amazing grandchildren who were raised by four pretty amazing and faith focused parents.
These are all great things, but in the middle of all these wonderful activities, let’s not forget why we are so engaged. The reason we are doing these things is to lift up Jesus Christ as Lord and give glory to God! I must confess that there are more times than I care to admit that my motives and objectives aren’t always what they should be. I love it when different people acknowledge and “like” my efforts. The Bible tells me that with motives like that, I have already received my reward and none will be waiting for me in heaven on that piece. We must engage in the process of daily dying to self and lifting up the name of Jesus.
Three times in Matthew chapter 6 (verses 2, 6, and 16) Christ teaches that those of us who put our “righteousness” on display for the admiration of others have already received our reward. So, let’s follow Colossians 3:5 and put to death that which is earthly in us; which includes that which is for the praise of men rather than of God.
God is big on remembering. On countless occasions through the history documented in the Old Testament, God had the people of Israel erect an altar or a monument so that their children would remember God’s faithfulness. As Christ was preparing for His death by crucifixion, He had one last meal with His disciples. He broke the bread and poured the wine as a remembrance of His sacrifice. He told them to do this in remembrance of Him.
Likewise, I write these things contained in this blog so that you will remember to return to the Scriptures, remember the Lord your God, remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. Remember the truths that are taught in the Scriptures. They are eternal, not just for the day in which they were written. Take them to heart. God’s word will bear fruit in your life. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit will help you understand God’s word. Remember the things you were taught as little children.
These things I write to remind you …
I wrote a piece recently (see previous article) challenging the reader to inquire of someone regarding the condition of their soul. If we want meaningful conversation that tells the other person we really care about them, and if indeed we do care, the most important thing we should care about would be the condition of their souls. We commonly understand our souls to be much as the 1913 Webster Dictionary defined it as, “That spiritual, rational, and immortal part in man … that is, the seat of life …” It is our innermost being, the essence of who we are as God-created humans, distinct from the animal kingdom. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed life into Him. It was with this breath of God that Adam was given a soul, that would be immortal. Depending on the choices we make on this earth, the immortality of the soul can be glorious or a literal hell. It was the very breath of God that made man into His likeness. It is with the first man, Adam, that God walked in the Garden of Eden and had a relationship with Him. God did not have the same relationship with the animals. Man had a soul and was an eternal likeness of God.
It was at the soul level that Adam and Eve had relationship with their Creator. Christ told us in Matt 10:28 that we should not fear those who are able to kill the body because they won’t be able to touch our souls. The soul is a part of us reserved for God alone. He will be the final judge of the destiny of our souls. Our souls know about our eternal nature. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” That sense of the eternal is in our souls.
So, when we consider our soul and its condition, we must consider its relationship with God, the One who will finally assign our eternal destiny. Have I placed my trust in Him alone? With the never-ending 3-ring circus that is constantly going on in our world, am I spending my time stewing and fretting about all the potential outcomes, or is my house built on the solid rock and can withstand any storm this world can throw my way?
Can you confidently say that it is well with your soul? In his third letter to the Church, the Apostle John wrote, ” Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3Jn 1:2) The songwriter Horatio Spafford penned these words,
“When peace like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know,
it is well, it is well with my soul.”
The Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to write these words in his letters to young churches: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Php 4:12) and speaking of an affliction that Paul longed to rid himself of, he wrote to the church in Corinth, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:8-10)
In other words, Paul had learned to say that it was well with his soul regardless of his circumstances, or what he saw going on in the world around him. Still, he acknowledged difficulty in life. If we don’t acknowledge our pain(s), how then are we to carry one another’s burdens? Paul wrote about living in plenty and in want, in weakness and persecution, and his letters to the churches were written to address issues facing these churches. But when all is said and done, if we remain in the faith (abide in Him), we have this confidence in Christ that assures us of the salvation of our souls. 1 John 2:28 tells us, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
Our souls are the essence of who we are. Abiding in Christ gives us a healthy soul. Our perspective on life, love and our own soul health is bolstered by abiding in Christ and His love letter to us in the Scriptures. I hope and pray that you can say, it is well with my soul. But if you can’t say that, I hope and pray that God surrounds you with people who will help guide you to a path of well-being at the soul level.
My friend Mitch has done it again with his gift of storytelling. How is your air supply? Are you willing to acknowledge that you weren’t made for this world? This is not our natural environment. The Bible says we are aliens and strangers in this world. We need the breath and indwelling of the Holy Spirit to have a proper worldview. Indeed we need to acknowledge the world for which we were made. Eph 2:19 tells us about our world, the one that holds our citizenship as believers. 1 Peter 2:11 begins to tell us how we should then live in this world, including some things we’re prone to complain and chafe over. God bless as you read Mitch’s story about the air we breathe.
“Deep Sea Diver” by TolyanMy
Connecting With God
While I was working my way through college, my buddy Dean was hitchhiking his way up Pacific Coast Highway. A few years later, I had a shiny new bachelor’s degree and was selling encyclopedias for minimum wage. And Dean was making massive amounts of money. Wait–what?
Deep sea diving! I pictured him battling giant squids. The reality was slightly less exotic, but still pretty cool: he was salvaging lost cargo. “Why so much money?” I asked.
“Because it’s dangerous. You can’t wear scuba gear ‘cause it’s too deep and you’re down there too long. And if anything cuts off your air…”
“Exactly. That’s why you can’t do it alone. One guy goes down while the other one stays up top monitoring the air flow. You gotta have enough pressure or the ocean will crush you. And all the time…
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A common greeting among people is a question posed, “How are you?” Interestingly, we anticipate and most often receive the
corresponding response, “I’m fine!” or “I’m doing great.” We have a fabulous pastor who’s standard response is “Never better!” The intended inference being that we’re one day closer to heaven so we’ve never been in better position. While well intentioned, the traditional greeting is an attempt to show concern for those we meet, while hoping the other person doesn’t burden us with the cares of their life.
But what if you greeted a friend with our title question one day? How is your soul? Woah! That brings a whole new element to the relationship! One that has not likely been introduced in the past. What would that say about your level of concern for your friend? It is a question that will require thought before responding.
I’d like to have us ponder this for a moment. I believe that we have lost the art of meaningful conversation. If you were to be honest with yourself by naming the one thing that really matters in this life, what would you say that would be? Wisdom? Being a good person? Making a contribution to our world? Saving the planet? Financial security? Providing for your family? What would be your answer?
When all is said and done and your days are over the proverb tells us that “Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.” (Prov 11:18) The book of Daniel tells us that God’s Kingdom will last forever. Christ challenged his disciples to go out and produce fruit that will last. God’s word tells us that heaven and earth will pass away. So all we are doing to be good people here in our world, to love people and leave the world a better place will one day just pass away. Where is the meaning in that? Now I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t love our neighbors, because that is the second great commandment. Nor am I suggesting that we shouldn’t be good caretakers of our world and environment. God made us the gardeners of His creation.
But, at the end of the day, what is that thing that really matters, not only in this life but also the next? I maintain that it is my relationship with my creator. It is He who formed me for His purpose. It is to Him that I will answer when I leave this world through death’s door. His instructions to us early on implore us to search for Him with all our heart and soul. (Deut 4:29) The powers and forces of this world can kill your body, but they can’t touch your soul, Jesus said. (Matt 10:28) He also told us that the greatest commandment was that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. (Mk 12:30) In closing his letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.” (1 Thess 5:23)
It is important that our spirits, souls, and bodies be kept in a right relationship with God. Often the state our spirits and bodies can be observed. What can’t be observed is the condition of our soul. So when we ask the question, “How is your soul?” we’re asking a very different question than “How are you?” We’re being intentional about the thing that should really matter to you because it matters to me.
I once had a longtime family friend greet me after not seeing one another for many years, “Well, Bill … how are things between you and God?” I must admit that I was both caught off guard and drawn immediately into conversation with him. No one had ever asked me a question that so begged an answer of eternal significance. At the same time, I knew instantly that he asked the question out of a genuine concern for me and my eternal well-being.
Asking about the condition of one’s soul will hopefully prompt a thoughtful response and generate some truly meaningful conversation that causes you both to open the Scriptures to find out what God says about our relationship with Him. It’s important that we talk about such things. The prophet Malachi wrote, “Those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. In Hebrews 10:24 Paul writes that we should not forsake the gathering together of the believers. We need to get together and talk about matters of eternal significance, encouraging one another and learning from each other.
When we die, our bodies are laid to rest in the ground, for the time being. At the moment of our death, our souls will move to our eternal destinies. There are two options for our eternal souls that are determined by the choices we make here in this world. The condition of our soul will determine what choices we make in this life. Did we place our faith in Jesus or did we put that choice off preferring to rather pursue the temporary pleasures of this world. What is important to you?
How is your soul? One of my favorite quotes comes from A. W. Tozer a pastor of decades ago. He opened his book, “Knowledge of the Holy” with this observation, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Indeed, what comes into your mind when you think about God will determine how you care for your soul.
There is much more to be said on this topic. For this moment it is important to acknowledge the critical nature of caring for one another’s souls through conversation and at a minimum beginning the conversation.