KNOWING HIM WELL

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. [Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)]

spiderwortMy husband and I have been married for fifty years now and there’s not much that surprises me about him anymore. Even the surprise birthday celebration he planned for me earlier this year wasn’t a surprise. Oh, the way he managed to fool me into thinking I was just going to a business dinner—that truly was a surprise; that he chose to do something special for me was not. I was sure that, true to form, he had something wonderful up his sleeve for my 70th birthday; I just had no idea what it actually was!

After fifty years of togetherness, more often than not, my husband and I think alike. When one of us makes a suggestion, the other usually admits to having the same thought and, with at least 97% accuracy, we know what the other will order at any restaurant. We recognize each other’s voice in a crowd and probably have a good idea what the other is saying! After half a century, we’ve seen one another at our best and worst; there’s nothing left to hide and any awkwardness, embarrassment or shame is long gone. I know when he needs some nudging and he knows when I need words of encouragement. Appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we rest comfortably in the knowledge that we love, trust, and honor one another completely. It’s not boring in the least; it is relaxed, pleasant and peaceful. Even though we usually know what to expect, as my birthday celebration proved, we can still surprise one another in beautiful ways.

The covenant relationship of marriage is much like our relationship with God with one major difference. Through five decades, both my husband and I have changed to complement one another. God, however, doesn’t change and any changing that must be done is done by us, not by Him. As in any relationship, the more time we spend in His presence, the easier it is to recognize His voice and to hear the Holy Spirit’s whisper in our hearts. The more we read God’s word, the more likely it is that our prayers will be in harmony with His plan. As we draw closer to Jesus, we become attuned to His rhythm and pace and we’ll even begin to walk like Him.

At its most basic, Christianity isn’t a doctrine, philosophy, code of ethics or a way of life; it is a relationship with God and believing in Jesus is not the same as having a relationship with Him. We have to spend time in His presence, praying, listening to His voice, and reading His word for that relationship to flourish and grow. No relationship is developed overnight; it took decades for my husband and me to get to this point in our marriage. Fortunately, developing a deep relationship with our triune God doesn’t take nearly that long. Like marriage, however, it is a relationship that continues to mature and mellow through the years.

After fifty years, I can ask myself, ”What would Bob do?” and pretty much know the answer. As we develop our relationship with God, we’ll be able to ask, “What would Jesus do?” and know that answer as well!

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. [1 John 2:6 (NLT)]

You must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. [2 Peter 3:18 (NLT)]

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ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. [Deuteronomy 32:11 (NLT)]

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! [Psalm 103:5 (NLT)]

bald eagleThe eagle is mentioned more than any other bird of prey in the Bible. References are made to its swiftness of flight, ability to soar high in the air, excellent vision, the way it sets its nest in high places, and the strength of its wings. The above two verses about eagles, however, are more figurative than literal and have no scientific basis. Although mother eagles do hover over their young, they cannot carry them. A bald eagle’s lifting power is only about a third of its weight. An eaglet ready to fly is as heavy as its parents. If Mrs. Eagle tried to carry junior, they’d both fall! The second verse about being renewed like an eagle is probably connected to an ancient belief that every ten years the eagle disappeared into the sun, dove down into the sea with the setting sun, and emerged young again. There’s a similar urban myth that at 30 years of age, the eagle flies to a high mountain top and makes the difficult decision between death or the painful plucking out of all of its feathers and the destruction of its beak and talons. After waiting several months for everything to grow back again, it will be transformed and the refreshed bird will be able to live another 30 years. Not so; like the rest of us, when it’s time to grow old and die, the eagle has no choice. Like other birds, however, when the eagle molts, old worn feathers will drop and new ones will replace them.

The Bible’s figures of speech have more scientific basis when they refer to the eagle’s wings and ability to fly. Isaiah tells us that trusting in the Lord will allow us to soar on wings like eagles. An eagle’s wing span can be over seven feet and yet those powerful wings weigh less than two pounds. Nevertheless, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane! By using the wind and updrafts that come off hills and mountains, the eagle’s wings can carry it as high as 10,000 feet and move it faster than thirty-five miles an hour. During migratory season, those wings can easily carry an eagle over 125 miles in a day.

Isaiah is correct: trusting in God truly will allow us to fly like eagles. With faith in God, we will have strength and stamina and, like the eagle, we can rise to great heights. Just as the eagle uses the wind to propel himself up and through a storm, we can use God’s power to fly through the storms of life. When we trust in the Lord, we can soar like eagles. May you soar today!

You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren. [William Henry Hudson]

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)]

For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. [Psalm 91:3-5 (NLT)]

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ENTERTAIN ME

So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it! [Ezekiel 33:31-32 (NLT)]

maccaw - naples zooEzekiel proclaimed God’s message to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. As the Lord’s prophet, he was commissioned to deliver words of both judgment and hope. Some of the exiles recognized him as a prophet but more did not. Although they found Ezekiel’s message entertaining, they had no intention of putting his words into practice. There’s a lesson here for today’s churches: pews filled with people there only for the music, amusement, food, or activities mean nothing if God’s word is not planted in people’s hearts.

In an effort to fill their seats, many churches are moving toward a liturgy of entertainment and many church-goers are becoming more interested in show than substance. I’ve attended services featuring ice skaters, a fighting cage, a t-shirt cannon, ballerinas, a live camel, an angel flying on an aerial hoop, a dragon-like Satan, wide-screen TVs showing popular movie clips, and even the Blues Brothers. While those were memorable services, I wonder if the line between entertainment and witness is getting blurred. The purpose of worship is to please God, not us, and it’s more about offering ourselves to God than offering applause to the band, singers and pastors. Church is about being active worshipers and learners, not passive listeners and watchers. Liking the sermon is not as important as learning from it and changing because of it. Jesus was never boring and, while His parables are interesting, He definitely was not about entertainment when He walked the earth. If entertainment had been His goal, there would have been far more miracles and far less talk of things like discipleship, sacrifice, cross-carrying, self-denial, commitment, and separation from the world.

For churches to be trendy and entertaining, they must keep reinventing themselves with bigger and better gimmicks. While a certain amount of entertainment might get us into church, it is commitment, depth, and community that should keep us there. Let’s not confuse filled seats with saved souls! It is God who is the star attraction at church and a relationship with Him is why we attend worship services. A.W. Tozer cautions us not to be like discontented spoiled children who, instead of a piece of candy, must be wooed into God’s house with promises of amusement, refreshment, fun and games. God might capture our attention with the big things but, as Elijah learned, God isn’t in the whirlwind, earthquake, or inferno; He is found in the gentle whisper.

Worship is not about my enjoyment. It is about my enjoyment of God. It is not about my pleasure or my delight or my satisfaction. It is about my pleasure, delight, and satisfaction in God. Worship is not simply about glorifying God. It is about glorifying God by enjoying Him forever. [Sam Storms]

And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. [1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)]

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THE TRILEMMA

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NLT)]

spiderwort - wild flowerIn C.S. Lewis’ children’s fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the youngest child, Lucy Pevensie, happens upon an enchanted armoire and steps into the magical world of Narnia. Upon returning, she rushes to tell her siblings of her astonishing adventure. Hearing such a tall tale and finding no concrete proof of its truth, her older siblings assume the story to be a figment of her imagination. They take their concern over her falsehood to their wise elderly uncle. He cautions them to use logic and consider Lucy’s story carefully. He points out there are only three possibilities: either she’s lying, crazy or telling the truth. After pointing out that lies are usually more plausible than Lucy’s tale, he asks if she’s lied before. The children admit she’s always been truthful. After pointing out that none of Lucy’s behavior indicates mental illness, they all agree she can’t have gone mad. He then suggests that since she’s neither a liar nor crazy, they could consider the possibility that Lucy’s story is true.

Interestingly, this is the same line of reasoning Lewis uses in what is called the “Lewis trilemma” or his “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” argument found in Mere Christianity. Lewis uses this logical argument when people claim to believe in the existence of Jesus as a great moral teacher but not as God (which, unfortunately, many people do). Jesus talked as if He was God. He professed to be able to forgive sins and to be the only way to the Father. He claimed to have existed since the beginning of time, that He was a heavenly king who offered everlasting life, and would judge the world at the end of time. Lewis points out that we have only three choices about those fantastic claims: Jesus was either a liar who perpetrated a fraud, a madman with delusions of grandeur, or the Lord. The one thing Jesus couldn’t have been was just a principled man or an excellent teacher of morals and ethics! Jesus was either a very bad or troubled man or He was divine and exactly who He said He was!

There are many people who consider Jesus simply to be a Jewish version of Buddha or Socrates: a great man, filled with compassion and love, who had some profound and noble ideas. That whole Messiah/Son of God thing, however, just doesn’t sit well with them. We should remind them that neither Buddha nor Socrates claimed to be God; Jesus did! The Pevensie children soon learned the truth of Lucy’s claim and, hopefully, others will see the logic and truth of Jesus, as well!

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. [From “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis]

The Father and I are one. [John 10:30 (NLT)]

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. … Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. … And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. [John 14:6,11a,24b (NLT)]

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I BELIEVE

Kandersteg-Lake OeschinenI passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)]

When visiting our mountain church last year, we sang one of Hillsong United’s hits: This I Believe (The Creed). I don’t think I’ve ever been more enthusiastic when declaring my faith in our triune God and it was a joy to sing out my belief. Recitation of the creeds is usually not a part of that church’s worship service and it was wonderful to have the whole congregation join in loudly singing a united statement of our faith.

I believe in life eternal; I believe in the virgin birth.
I believe in the saints’ communion And in Your holy Church.
I believe in the resurrection When Jesus comes again,
For I believe, in the name of Jesus. …
I believe in God our Father. I believe in Christ the Son.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in one.
I believe in the resurrection – That we will rise again,
For I believe in the name of Jesus.
[“This I Believe (The Creed)” by Hillsong United]

The Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds are the most universally accepted and recognized statements of the Christian faith and many of us regularly recite one of these creeds during worship. Unfortunately, we may say the same words so frequently that it’s easy to have them roll off our tongues without engaging our brains. Last month, during the Father’s Day service, our pastor exchanged the traditional Apostle’s Creed with a paraphrased version. Using different words to say essentially the same thing made me think about what I actually was declaring. That creed’s source is unknown, it isn’t an official part of our church’s doctrine or worship service, and its words aren’t over 1600 years old as are those in the traditional creeds. Nevertheless, its words are a beautiful interpretation of those ancient statements of faith.

We believe in God, the one who comes before us and goes behind us, creating life and opportunities to love and care for the world. We believe in Jesus Christ who walks with us into real life each day. He is God, yet human like us and experienced all life’s joys and pains and challenges like we do. But his love is so great that not sin nor suffering nor even death could stop it. Today the love of Jesus lives and continues to bring new life to the world. We believe in the Holy Spirit who comes like the wind and blows in and through us to bring God’s power and light to all the world. The Spirit breathes life into us, the body of Christ we call the church, and enables us to follow the way of Christ. We believe in God, who goes before and behind, with, in, and through us, bringing hope and life and newness to the world. Amen [Source Unknown]

What is it you believe? We’re told to be ready to explain why we have the hope we have and our Christian creeds are a good place to start. As we’ve seen, they can be simplified and paraphrased. They answer the simple question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. [1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)]

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MEMORY WORK – FATHER’S DAY 2017

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. [Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (MSG)]

Great-Grandpa

Perhaps you’ve come upon the charming viral video of Tanner Hemness, a delightful four-year-old boy from Tyler, Texas, who has a unique twist to reciting the ABCs—each letter is followed by a Bible verse beginning with that letter. The youth minister at his church challenged members to learn Bible verses as a family for every letter of the alphabet. Tanner’s dad wasn’t sure his then three-and a half year old could do it; nevertheless, they gave it a try. Every week they worked on another letter and verse. Seven months later, Tanner was able to recite his ABCs in Bible verses. I had enough trouble convincing my children that they couldn’t use “Jesus wept” as their personal Bible verse at their confirmations and here’s a four-year-old who knows twenty-six somewhat lengthy Bible verses! Rather than “Jesus wept,” for the letter J, the youngster learned, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8]

Although there were many positive responses to seeing this sweet little boy happily reciting God’s word, there was also criticism. Among other things, his father was accused of brainwashing, psychological indoctrination and child abuse. Oddly, if he’d spent seven months teaching his son how to swing a bat or pitch a fast ball, those same people probably would have applauded his dedication to the boy. This father did exactly what Scripture told him to do: teach his child. The Israelites were told to tie God’s word on their hands, wear them on their foreheads, and post them on the doorpost, so writing a different Bible verse on a chalkboard each week doesn’t sound extreme at all! It speaks of love — a father’s love for his children — the same sort of love that gave us Jesus. It’s never too early to teach someone about our glorious God. Sadly, if we don’t teach our children to follow Christ, the world will teach them not to!

The Bible is the basis for our belief – all of our doctrines and practices are guided by God’s word. Unfortunately, many of us are at a loss when it comes to knowing what the Bible actually says. That four-year old boy is further ahead than many adults I know. Of course, Tanner’s dad knows that his work is not done. He understands that many of those verses don’t have the same meaning to a child that they do to an adult. Knowing his work is not done, he and his wife will continue sharing God’s word, and the meaning of those verses, with their son. “Now the hard part,” added Tanner’s father, “being the kind of dad who helps him live these words.” He’s made a great start!

Thank you, God, not just for our dads but for all of the men in our lives who took the time to share your message and teach us your word. Thank you for the men who have shown, not just to their children and their children’s children but to all who know them, what it means to live in God’s light. Fill them with your Holy Spirit so they may continue in your good works.

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best. [Bob Talbert]

Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost. [Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)]

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