Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God Bless America

God bless America. These are words we all heard a lot after September 11, 2001. Everyone was saying this and it was written on signs all over the country. As truck drivers we got to see it and probably many of us had signs like this on our trucks. One day after 9/11 I was driving through Las Vegas and on one of the casino signs that usually feature some entertainment were the words God BLESS AMERICA. Frankly as a disciple of Jesus I was a little offended. But it got me to thinking about the phrase, “God Bless.” And I thought that in the Bible that phrase does not appear. But we as Christians often use this greeting or blessing. So what is the big deal? Maybe nothing but I sometimes tend to be a detail nerd, so stick with me a minute ‘cause I am going somewhere that may be worthwhile.

In my life changing experience article I mentioned Proverbs 9:1, and how that got me praying about the seven pillars of wisdom. I don’t remember exactly how it came to me because there seems to have been several things pointing to this but it occurred to me that there are seven blessings at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount that are a result of my behavior. Yes I realize there are nine blessings in the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, but the last 2 are dependent on the actions of others, and possibly on the first seven.

So now the secret is out. These seven blessings have become for me the seven pillars of wisdom. As I meditate on them at least one of them will stop me and I will have a prayer time about how I need to be more mindful of that characteristic. I pray for grace. I pray for wisdom. I pray for faith. Now I have been doing this for a few years and I want to tell you that God answers prayer. My mind is being changed and made new.

Over the years I have heard many testimonies of how people came to the Lord and zap flash bang everything was new and changed. Well, I just don’t know anything about that kind of experience. But I do know and can testify God is using this in my life.

So why the beatitudes? I can only guess. First of all as I prayed, that is what became evident to me. They seemed so simple and so common. That may be a very good reason. God seems to hide the best stuff right in front of us, and we stumble over it for years looking for it. It has led me to many other verses and chapters that have expanded each one of the blessings.

Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Mat 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Mat 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

This all seems so very weak as I read what I have written. But even if it sounds weak to you also, please believe me when I tell you it is having an effect in my life and I am being changed. Please take me seriously when I encourage you to take the time to memorize these verses and repeat them to yourself each night before you go to sleep. Meditate on them as you drive. Let God use them in your life. Jesus didn’t just blabber off some good sounding stuff to get the message going. There are true words of life here, and I don’t see any end of searching the riches of these words.

I have almost completely stopped using the phrase “God bless you.” God’s Word tells us who he blesses. It is my sincere desire that you find the blessings of God as you live the life you have to live, therefore my blessing to you is “Be faithful!” As we work with these things God is always Faithful, and he is eager to pour out blessings on those who are being conformed to the image of his Son.

Finding grace to help in time of need.
Your brother Rick,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Hero

When I was a young fella Roy Rogers was probably my biggest hero. I watched him every chance I could. I even remember the older Roy Rogers movies and that I was shocked when he took off his hat and he was bald. But heroes are people we admire for different reasons. Recently I have gotten a new respect for the apostle Peter.

Peter is wonderfully human. I think I like him so much because I see many of my own tendencies in him. The thing I see most is how impetuous he seems. He always has something to say, even when it would often be best to be quiet. Yep I’m like that, a lot. On the mount of transfiguration he says let’s build three shrines (Mark 9:5-6). God answered that from Heaven. After he answers Jesus question about who he is correctly, he has to open his mouth again and get corrected very strongly by Jesus (Matt. 16:23). After Jesus was crucified it was Peter who said “I’m going fishing”. And when Jesus told him that he would deny him three times Peter proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus and said “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.”

Now we know how this ended up not only did he deny that he knew Jesus he did it cursing (Mark 14:71). Something needs to be pointed out here lest we begin to say I never did anything like that. Peter was the one who followed Jesus. All of the others were scattered. He went into the area where they were trying Jesus. But in the end he denied him, but the point is what happened next.

(Mat 26:75) And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter went out and wept bitterly. He saw his inability to be faithful in acknowledging his relationship with Jesus. When I see how unfaithful I am, it is very discouraging. Some don’t like the word discouraging, but I’m not trying to sound spiritual, I’m just telling you how life is for me. But Jesus has told us how to respond.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

I need to find the way to mourn like Peter did. Have I learned to weep bitterly over my sin? Have you? But I long to and I have seen some progress here. I know a little of how poorly I do in many areas where we have clear instruction in God’s word. One of the areas where God has spoken to me powerfully is what most people call the love chapter. Starting in verse 4, “love suffers long and is kind, love does not envy, does not behave unseemly (that means rudely)”, “Thinks no evil”. Then in James 3:2 we read if any man does not offend in word he is a perfect man. Jesus said to judge not. If I take these areas seriously I can see many areas where I fall tremendously short.

There are many other areas where I see my lack when it comes to living the life I am called to live before God and man. The matter of judging is huge. What is my response when I see the sins of others? Do I set myself as a judge or do I mourn for them because I know that the wages of sin truly is death and the end of their behavior is very sad. So because of my own sin and because of the sins of others I have much reason to mourn.

What we saw in Peter was that he wept bitterly. I need to find this place of bitter weeping. This takes time and I know we are hurried by many things and to find this time may be difficult. For myself I see that if I spend more time seeking the things of God and less time looking for ways to be entertained and made comfortable, God will show me how to find the time of mourning, and for all other truly good things he has for me to do.

Something profound happened to Peter at this time and shortly after this when Jesus met him by the sea, after they had been fishing all night (John 21:15-17). After they finished eating Jesus took Peter aside and said “do you love me”. He said this three times and each time, when Peter affirmed with building anxiety that he did love Jesus, Jesus gave Peter a greater ministry assignment. “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” Another thing I noticed the other day is that Peter is recorded as the first to perform a healing miracle after Jesus’ ascension.

Jesus said we would be comforted. The first comfort that I see is the forgiveness of sin. What a great comfort to know that even when I fail God has provided forgiveness in the cross and the blood of Jesus. But I believe there is more comfort. As I mourn I am stirred to action by the Holy Spirit to find the way of victory. So that the next time I am tempted I can resist and be successful. We have a great comfort in Jesus in Hebrews it says

Heb 4:15 For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

When I have sinned I need mercy. When I am tempted I need Grace to help. That is my time of need. This is a great comfort.
If we truly learn to mourn perhaps we will be blessed as Peter was and be able to find a place of ministry. Peter was not given a ministry until he learned to mourn. I suspect that this may be significant.

Sometimes we learn faithfulness by seeing more clearly how unfaithful we have been. When we do let us mourn before our heavenly father so we can receive the comfort he longs to give us.

Your brother learning to be faithful

Friday, October 9, 2009

An Acquired Taste

Some time ago I got to go to Sunday school with my niece. Boy what an experience. I am sure it is more common than I know but here were about 60 young people, and me, in this black room with stage lighting and a rock band. Wow. There was a really energetic worship time, thankfully the words were projected on screens in the front, and there was actually one song that I could get into. Then an enthusiastic young fellow got up to deliver the word for the day. He had some really good points to share. Basically he was encouraging us to develop good habits. He used the word HABITS as a memory tool to help us remember the habits that were important. Apparently this was the 6th lesson in the series. I remember “B” was Bible reading, “T” was money (tithing), and “S” was study. I have thought a lot since then about the Bible reading and study parts. Really be honest with yourself. We have heard over and over that we should read and study God’s Word, but we have made many false starts and we determine that we will do it and for a few days or a few weeks (I’m sure some of you have made it a few weeks) we go along fine. Then we forget for a day or two and then a few weeks go by and we remember that we forgot to be reading God’s Word. Then we feel really guilty and promise to make up for lost time and, “I will read 10 chapters a night for the next week.” I don’t even get the first night done. It’s enough to make you begin to doubt a lot of things.

How do I develop faithfulness in this beginning area? This is important! What is my problem? Maybe the second question should be first.

Have you taken a really serious look at yourself and then tried to see who and what God is? There is a pretty big difference there. Maybe I should say an inexpressibly huge difference. In most cases, when I look at how I am, God is the way the other side of opposite. We have gone along for many years deciding for ourselves what is good and what is not. And we have done OK. At least that is how it looks to us. Now this is true for all of us whether we have been a Christian for a week or several decades. The problem is that because of sin all of my own thoughts are based in sin and I need to get my mind fixed. It is my nature that when anyone or anything tries to help me see things in a way that is not in agreement with the way I naturally think, I get bored really fast with that program.

God’s Word is full of God’s thoughts and naturally they are contrary to my natural thoughts. So until I begin to get a new mind (Romans 12:2) God’s Word is going to be contrary to my thoughts, and therefore boring to me. This prompts me to think that this may be some of the reason so many of us want to develop doctrines that have nothing to do with how God wants me to act, speak and think. We, each one of us must develop a taste for the Word of God.

God’s word and the things of God are an acquired taste. But how do I acquire that taste? I can only tell you what has worked for me. First I must see how wretched I am. I must say with Paul “I am chief of all sinners.” This does bring me into intense need. I desperately need help to become of any worth at all. Those who are poor have no trouble asking for help. I must beg God for the help to receive his word. When I humble myself and plead with God, He is very merciful to help those who cry to him for help.

If you read Hebrews 11 you will notice several stories of faithful people who did great things ‘by faith’. I need faith that motivates me to action. Noah worked for over a hundred years building the ark. He had faith that motivated him to action and sustained him in spite of everything he could see. When I see my need and I pray for grace to receive God’s word, then I must act. Only need will move me to action. Once I act, God will help me receive the things that I need. Some may not like the fact that I say I must act before God will move. But I can only say how God has worked with me.

As I have read the word in a spirit of need, hoping that God will help, He has been faithful and his word has become living and I have gotten hope and help.

There are many ideas about how to read when it comes to what sections and how much at a time. I personally have tried a few. Right now I am concentrating on reading the Gospels. I try to read 1 book a week. Often I don’t manage it but I am regularly reading at least 1 or 2 chapters daily. This is usually helpful and if I am in a good spirit (poor in spirit) I get something to work with in my day. Some use one year Bibles, and others use devotional guides. Whatever you do be sure you are reading God’s word and not just some other mans thoughts. Other people’s thoughts are helpful, I hope, but they are not the Word of God. The Spirit of God is active in His Word as nowhere else. I need God’s word desperately, and so do you. And we have very easy access to it so please do not neglect this vital resource of life.

I am your brother learning faithfulness

Just Some Words to Consider

These are some meaningful words that God is using in my life these days. He is especially using them by making them meaningful to me and then giving me opportunity to apply the meaning to my life. I share what I have received and hope that it can be of some encouragement to others.

Sin is a word that is surrounded by confusion and opinion. But for me it has become simple to define though not always easy to pinpoint. Romans 14:23b, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” There is no need to talk of cloths, tobacco, vocations, or any such things. If my activities and speech are in response to faith there is no need to discuss these things. But I must be ever growing, listening moving toward God and his will. God’s will is defined for me in Romans 8:29 “…to be conformed to the image of his son.” If someone has this as his standard there is no need to talk of other things, if not there is no profit in talking of other things.

I was listening to a preacher today or yesterday speak of sin and the devil. He spoke as if sin was something that comes from outside my body. As if the devil puts ideas into my head that I would never have thought, on my own. We need to understand what we are made of in order to come to the right conclusions about how God wants to work in our lives.

James 1:14-15 says “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it brings forth sin.” So sin comes when I entertain lust. And there is an abundance of those in my flesh that come up regularly and want to entertain me. As I wrote this I thought of the strange woman in Proverbs 7:6-23. She entices the young man and he succumbs. I don’t know if women can appreciate this, as much as men, but for me it is a clear picture of how lust draws me away and entices me. As soon as I consort with the lust in my mind I have sinned.

Jesus came to save us from our Sins. There is significant evidence that this means more than just paying the debt for sin. That is redemption. To be freed means to be loosed from the power of some force. When the slaves in the south were freed, their former masters had no more legal right to control their lives. Some slaves remained servants in the hire of their former masters, but some left and lived lives free of their former masters. To be free from sin then indicates that I now have the power to choose and a will to choose to not sin. So I am coming to understand that Salvation is an activity that begins after we are redeemed and continues until we become like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). This is a calling that I must actively work with God to achieve (Phil. 2:12-13).

“The Word of God is living and active and sharper than a two edged sword dividing between soul and spirit… and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12. This is the tool I use to decide if I have heard the Word of God or just some words. This makes God’s word much more prevalent in unsuspected places and for me helps me judge my life. The question is ‘does this word have power to point out or show me where I am and where I ought to be?’ If the answer is yes then it is The Word of God. If not then for me right now it is not. This is clearly illustrated in the different translations of the Bible. I prefer the King James Version, but some others cannot understand that version. For them it would not be the Word of God because it would have no power to reveal God’s will for them, to them. Revelation is God speaking and man hearing. This is different in all but we can judge by the fruit whether the revelation is from God or not.

I know so little, but I do believe I have learned a little. God’s Word says much about faith, and I have sought Him for practical understanding that I can use. In Luke 18 Jesus speaks to the disciples about offences and how to respond in the right way to offences. After this the disciples ask him to increase their faith. I believe the disciples used a word that was practical for them, but for us has a somewhat vague meaning. There seems to be a strong belief involved in faith. “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you will say to this sycamine tree, “be thou rooted up and planted in the sea.” and it would obey you.” It is a belief in what I am saying or doing. If we are talking about faith toward God then we must believe that what we are saying or doing is what God would have us to say or do. So then after Jesus explains how to deal with offences, he says “After you have done all things that you are commanded, say ‘we are unprofitable servants, we have only done that which it was our duty to do.’” Faith involves action. Action in response to revelation.

I know absolutely nothing about prayer. But I am sure it is communication. God communicating with man and man with God. God speaks by his word and in my heart convicting me of sin and righteousness. I cry to God in need and thankfulness, and far too often in unthankfulness. Once in a lifetime is grossly too often. There is also something of coming to a divine consciousness. Having the mind of Christ. I have experienced these things in the smallest of ways, and thankfully my Father has and is giving me more and more hunger to know him and to live and move and have my being in these things.

“In me, that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. (Rom 7:17).” The problem for me and for all of mankind is that we have lived all of our life obeying the dictates of our flesh, and are not even aware of what we are doing. There is a lot of talk in religious circles about how Jesus was crucified and how that was a violent and cruel type of execution. I have become aware that God’s word also speaks of my crucifixion. Gal 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ…” Gal 5:24 “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its’ lusts and desires.” And this is my responsibility and calling, and it is violent, but the only appropriate way for me to live if I want to fallow Jesus and call him Lord.

Proverbs speaks a lot about wisdom, but these days James 1:5 is LIVING. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives too all men liberally and upbraideth not.” I find that I am crying out to God in more and more areas pleading for wisdom. I am also finding that when I do that in faith (with the intention to obey) I realize the right way to go. This is practical for me and is a great encouragement.

All of these things are tied together in the life of faith. There is so much that our Father wants to do in us and give to us. We must throw ourselves with abandon on his will. He is our Father, His love for us is fathomless. We will make mistakes along the way but we need have no fear if we are committed to living by “the faith of Jesus Christ.” Gal 2:20.

I recently heard a comment by a man who had quit taking some very vital medicine because he believed that he had heard from God that he was healed. He said “I’d rather die believing than live in unbelief.”

Be Faithful, Rick

A Life Changing Experience

“That was a life changing experience!”

Have you ever heard or said those words? I sure have. What do they mean? Sometimes they seem to mean that there was a strong emotional experience. But the fact is that, though I can remember the experience with very strong feelings, my life has been unaffected. I still speak, understand, and think in the same ways and therefore behave and live the same unchanged life.
So! What’s the big deal?

  • Jesus is my savior and
  • I live a good life,
  • I’m not a drunk,
  • I’m faithful to my wife,
  • I belong to a good Bible believing church,
  • I even tithe.
Do you have a list of why your life is good? Why do I constantly and persistently think I am ok because I am better than someone else?

When I was a boy growing up in Ohio, with Mom and Dad and my brothers and sisters, at different times we would back up to the woodwork around the door from the kitchen to the basement, and someone would make a pencil mark on the woodwork behind us to measure how tall we had grown. Sometimes our name would be written on the line and maybe a date. As I got older this became progressively less satisfying as my baby brother (10 years my junior) began to catch and then pass me by. It ends up now that my mark will be the closest to the floor. I was comparing myself to my brothers and sisters and since I was the oldest I had a head start on them, so for a time I was the leader. But as time and genetics did their work the comparison changed. Something happened or should I say stopped happening along the way about the time I turned 17. I may have been in my 40s before I stopped feeling inferior because I could walk under a 5’ 8” anything and not muss my hair.

Should I compare myself with others to decide if I need to have a change of life? An important fact is; if I do that, I am selective of whom I compare myself too. I also make excuses for my short comings.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
II Cor. 10:12

What is my hope? Do I have a hope? Why should I hope for more than having my sins forgiven and going to heaven? Isn’t that wonderful? These questions are very significant in thinking about getting my life changed. When I back up to the door jam, am I hoping to catch up with someone, or am I just happy that I am still ahead of others?

Our Father has a better hope for us.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Rom. 8:29

For me this is sacred ground. I see a need to take off my shoes and bow down in the presence of this verse. My flesh shudders in fear when I think about backing up to this wall. This is the hope that Our Father has for us. Is this wonderfully terrifying for you? God’s intention is for me to be like Jesus. There is no question now about needing a life changing experience. I absolutely must find what will change my life!

In this desperate need, I am finding some help and I am hopeful that as I continue along this way more will be revealed to me. In Romans 12:2, I am powerfully encouraged to be transformed (changed) by the renewing of my mind so I can prove the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

I went to a men’s meeting some years ago and there was a meeting where Proverbs 9:1 was read and the question was asked. “What are the pillars of wisdom?”

Many good answers were given and it was a very inspiring meeting. But I was left with a little different question. What are the seven pillars? I asked brothers that I look up to about this; I prayed and meditated on this question.

By the grace of God, I found an answer. I am not sure it is absolutely the one right answer. But I am sure it came by the grace of God, because it has proven to effect change in my life toward being conformed to the image of Jesus.

After I found the answer that satisfied me in God’s Word, I memorized it then, every night as I was in bed and frequently through the day I repeated it to myself. As I do this I am always seeing how I miss the mark and then have a need to pray for more grace to be conformed to the Word of God. Little by little my mind is being changed (renewed, made new). My words, thoughts and understanding are being changed.

Someone has mentioned that I have not said what I found the seven pillars to be. That is correct and at this time I will refrain from sharing that with you, because I hope that your curiosity is a little aroused. If so, may I recommend the method I ended up using to find my answer. Pray and ask God for wisdom in this area. He is faithful. James says,

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
James 1:5

Then work with the answer to see if God will use it in your life to bring about change.
I sure have not made some brand new discovery here. The Word of God is full of strong words about meditation and hiding God’s Word in our hearts. All I have done is experience that these things are true. Praise God. I hope this little article can help someone take these things more seriously and experience more of the tremendous love and grace of God.
Please be faithful,