CHANGE

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS when you surrender to God through Christ.

  1. You get sick and tired of sin’s filth; the smell, the hurt, the guilt.
  2. You notice that your desires have changed.
  3. You make a conscious, volitional approach to God through Christ Jesus.
  4. With sincere desire you pray, “Lord God, I’m in desperate need of you. Get rid of the “whatever” in my life. I surrender. Come into my heart.”
  5. Strange, but as you live in that attitude of surrender, you get more and more hungry for His wonderful peace and purity.
  6. You realize you don’t know it all, but you get more and more hungry in your heart. You desire to be holy!
  7. Sometimes, the desire to be like Jesus, to have His presence , is so overpowering you may cry.
  8. Then, all hell breaks loose. You may fall back a little; seems Satan gets ahold of you, but that strong hunger speaks deep in your soul again and again. You do not give up.
  9. You struggle. You question. You pray. You hurt. You ask why. You’re still hungry. You’re tempted. You want to give up. You’re ready to give up … again.
  10. Then He speaks softly. You start to sing:  🎼🎶🎹

“Come to my soul, blessed Jesus.

Hear me, O Savior Divine

Open the fountain and cleanse me.

Give me a heart like Thine.”

11.  The hunger returns. His Spirit speaks. You repent. You believe. You give up. You surrender. That astonishing, breathtaking, overwhelming, eye-opening joy expands your heart.

12.  Peace.

Row, Row Your Boat

DO YOU KNOW HOW TIRED YOU WOULD BE IF YOU ROWED A BOAT FOR 3 to 4 MILES IN CHOPPY WATERS?  That was the dilemma in which Jesus’ followers found themselves. Oh how they were aching for the Prince of Peace! They were yearning, longing for His Presence- but when? When? Will He ever show up again?!  They were carrying around the beauty of His message in weakened bodies. You’ve been there. The hurts, the questions! Are you destined for a watery grave, an eternity of hopelessness? But by faith you didn’t give up. Like the Apostle Paul you kept looking into the darkness –

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ 

Isn’t it amazing!  Jesus always shows up “when we have exhausted our hoarded resources.”

“When they had rowed the boat about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water, coming toward the boat. The followers were afraid, but Jesus said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.””

‭‭John‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭(ncv)  

“‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,Whose mind is stayed on Thee.’

When the shadows come and darkness falls,

He giveth inward peace.

Oh, He is the only perfect Resting Place!

He giveth perfect peace.

‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on Thee.’”

(Vivian A. Kretz) 

 

The Good Life

OK. HERE I AM WITH A MINI ANTHOLOGY [whatever that is]!
Years ago, I was the executive assistant to a man who was the largest contributor to a major political party in a certain state [left-wing, of course]. Let’s face it – I had just come out of the ministry and now I was associating with …, well, you know, The Left!  
 
I needed a whole new wardrobe, someone to watch over my kids and a different way of thinking.  It seemed my future as it had been from  youth was totally upended.  To put it another way, the rug had been pulled out from underneath me, albeit floating in money. 
For many years my life had been spent associating with church people, living from hand to mouth financially and always thinking “what will other people think?” Now I had money, associating with well known people and in many cases with the rich and famous; the political class, the unbelievably wealthy and the Hollywood crowd. The biggest issue, however, was the separation from the church culture.   The people in the Hollywood/monied/political world seemed to be free of restraint. They talked freely, joked raucously, and laughed without restraint (some were irritating).  And I noticed something else – they had no need to secretly gossip. They just blurted it out!
There WERE A COUPLE OF THINGS that bound them all together – well 90% of them – IDEOLOGY. 
 
Yes, I know many of them were terribly insecure even though they may have been rich and famous.  But that yawning and gnawing skepticism of anything related to “America the Beautiful” and/or Evangelical Christianity got on my nerves.  It was all about making deals and how to screw their foes  (and in some cases, those perceived to be below them). I have often stated that arrogance should have been included in The Ten Commandments.  I’ll admit, sitting next to movie and TV stars, politicians of note, and spending the night in the mansions of the internationally known,  was somewhat heady.
On the other hand, “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.” (Mark 8:36)
                      🎼🎶🎹                               
I’m telling you, when Jesus brings peace to your heart, the lifestyle of this world will never satisfy! My mother sang in church, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand “Than to be the king of a vast domain Or be held in sin’s dread sway; I’d rather have Jesus than anything this old world affords today.”
(Rhea Miller)

WHY?

ISN’T IT  INTERESTING THAT IN EVERY BOOK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT THAT the Apostle Paul wrote, with the exception of Hebrews (he may have not written Hebrews), thirteen (13) in all, for his introduction he uses the words GRACE and  PEACE! Is there a subliminal message there?

The definition of GRACE is:  “a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior:”  Synonyms are: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness, lenity, leniency, reprieve.  An allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied. Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension, freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity, a state of tranquillity.”

In Theology GRACE may mean “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”

The definition of PEACE is: God’s plan for your life is PEACE!  It is “a state of mutual harmony.  The end of hostilities.  a cessation from strife and dissention.”  If you don’t have it, you may justifiably ask why.  It was understandable for Jesus to cry “with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, WHY have you  forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34 (kjv))

Jesus paid the penalty with his justifying Blood for our sin. SALVATION (1) TOOK PLACE AND (2) WAS TAKING PLACE!

Paul was the guy named Saul who went through the countryside murdering Christians.  The Lord saw fit to knock him off his horse, blinding him in order to give him GRACE and PEACE.  No wonder Paul spoke profusely of the GRACE and PEACE that Jesus gives!

“To all that be in Rome, … Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 1:7 KJV

To those in Corinth he wrote: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   1 Corinthians 1:3 KJV

“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”   2 Corinthians 1:2

And to those in Galatia: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,”  Galatians 1:3 KJV

Ephesus: “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:2 KJV

Philippi: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Colossians 1:2 KJV

“ … Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Thessalonians 1:1 KJV

“Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”             2 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV

“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Timothy 1:2

“To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”   2 Timothy 1:2

“To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”  Titus 1:4 KJV

“Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Philemon 1:3 KJV

THEREFORE, THE GREAT GOD OF HEAVEN PLANNED FOR US TO HAVE GRACE AND PEACE THROUGH HIS JUSTIFYING BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.

 

LOSING SOMEONE

LOSING SOMEONE FOREVER – MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF IT IS BY DEATH OR DIVORCE – IS A HEART RENDING EXPERIENCE.  THE HURT IS ALWAYS THERE.  I think it was in 1935 when a Rabbi by the name of Harold Kushner wrote his book.  For many years, I misunderstood the title.   I thought it was “WHY Bad Things Happen To Good People.”  The correct title is “WHEN Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

Too often we misunderstand what God’s role is in the grand scheme of human existence.  There is nothing in the Bible (with proper understanding) that promises absolute, 100% camouflage in all circumstances. Jesus, God in the flesh said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Matthew 5:45 (niv)

Cherry picking a verse of the Bible here and there without context may leave the impression that good people will never have problems; never suffer.  Even Jesus suffered.  The Apostle Peter was crucified upside down.  Saint Paul suffered as few have and St. John was banned to the Island of Patmos.  Please carefully read the following :

“People who do what is right may have many problems, but the LORD will solve them all.”

Psalms 34:19 (ncv)

It may be that, as Elkhart Tolle wrote in A NEW EARTH:

“SUFFERING has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego.”

“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

Isaiah 66:2 (niv)

“So don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid, because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you.”

Isaiah 41:10 (ncv)

THROUGH FAITH THERE IS PEACE AND STRENGTH IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR!

Where is your faith?  It may help to read Hebrews 11 again.

BROKEN

I CAME CLOSE TO GIVING UP!

Time and again I cried out to God. Satan crushed me into the dirt, but God said to me, “This isn’t the end.  My grace is sufficient.”  But I persisted by singing,

🎼🎶🎹

“Precious Lord, take my hand

Lead me on, let me stand

I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.”

(Thomas A. Dorsey)

“Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (msg)

The best thing that ever happened to me was when God allowed me to be broken.

🎼🎶🎹

“When I am swept by the tempests of life,

Jesus is all I need.

Peace He imparts, whatsoever the strife.

Jesus is all I need.

“All that I need He will always be,

All that I need till His face I see,

All that I need thro’ eternity.

Jesus is all I need.”

(James Rowe)

HONOR CAREGIVERS

RONNIE MILSAP SANG, “Please don’t tell me how the story ends.”  It’s about the end of a love affair,  but one of the lines caught my attention when THINKING OF CAREGIVERS.  It says,

“Just let me go on loving and believing – ‘till it’s over.

Please don’t tell me how the story ends.”

Children of the elderly or spouses, are susceptible to the pathology of depression, guilt, anger, fatigue, arguing, insomnia, anxiety, resentment and exhaustion when acting as CAREGIVER.  In fact, being in the assisted living business, it has been necessary for my administrator to ask a caregiver to take some time off due to their being overwhelmed.  The constant drip-drip of demands  and activities of daily living such as toileting, dressing, eating, ambulating, medication, etc., start to bring on frustration exhibited by impatience and yelling at the patient.

As a general rule, caregivers don’t recognize their mental and emotional anguish. The sad thing is that in many cases the caregiver will take on the symptoms of the person they are caring for – even death.  Or, they start to neglect their own care and health.

Caregivers are givers and hesitate to admit their exasperation and guilt.  Little by little a dark resentment gathers steam in their heart and mind.  Too often they will say, “I don’t know if there is a God, but if there is, he sure doesn’t know what I’m going through!”

To caregivers I say, “if you really, really want to, you could find a way to take a day or two off – frequently! You may need sleep. You may need to eat a quiet, healthful meal with someone.  You may need to talk with a friend. Mothers of small children should talk with an adult … frequently. Seeking out professional help should be considered.”

YES. YOU. CAN!   If you want to.

Here are seven things to think about from the pen of Paul.

“(1) Don’t worry about anything; (2) instead pray about everything.

(3) Tell God what you need,

(4) thank him for all he has done.  (5) Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.

(6) His peace will guard your hearts and minds

(7) as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7    🎼🎶🎹

“Does Jesus care when my heart is pained

Too deeply for mirth or song,

As the burdens press, and the cares distress,

And the way grows weary and long?

“Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,

His heart is touched with my grief;

When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,

I know my Savior cares.”

(Frank E. Graef)

“God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have …  plenty left over to share with others.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 (nlt)

CAREGIVERS ARE GOD’S HELPERS AND NEED OUR LOVE AND SUPPORT!

LOVE!

LOVE! THE TRUE MEANING HAS BEEN PERVERTED FOR SO LONG  BY HOLLYWOOD USING SOUND AFFECTS, PICTURES and PLATITUDES disguised as profound until we’ve essentially resorted to making it entirely physical.  A good example is the 1970 movie with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, LOVE STORY.  A memorable line is, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  [O how sweet!]  Not too many people can define LOVE. Our culture, philosophy, education and experiences all influence the way we think of LOVE.  

I guess Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald defined and sang LOVE this way:

“I’ve got the world on a string

I’m sitting on a rainbow

Got that string around my finger

What a world, what a life; I’m in love.”  (Ted Koehler)
In the 1960’s our culture redefined LOVE to mean a whole list of decadent behaviors.  Our American “enlightenment” has proven The Scriptural statement:  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7 (kjv))  Using the ’60s definitions & behaviors, one could do anything, act any way, and as long as its called love, all is OK!  I think the 60s is when the innocuous statement got started, [gotta sing it] “luv yeew.”  No you don’t and I don’t!  But as long as we kind of sing it, it legitimizes it. True LOVE goes beyond and above.  LOVE is willing to go to the mat, make any sacrifice, lift any load, go the second mile, and do all this without complaining. 

 Do I have the ability to define LOVE apart from the Word of God?  No!  But the Apostle Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  penned one of the most memorable, declamatory and eloquent chapters in the Bible writing to the Corinthians.  

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t LOVE others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t LOVE others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t LOVE others, I would have gained nothing. LOVE is patient and kind. LOVE is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. LOVE never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But LOVE will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and LOVE —and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (nlt)

“Because of His great LOVE for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

Ephesians 2:4-8 (niv)

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the LOVE of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (nlt)

“Greater LOVE hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (kjv) 

🎼🎶🎹

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

“Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure—

The saints’ and angels’ song.”

(Frederick M. Lehman)

THE ANSWER

DO YOU REMEMBER GOMER PYLE?  His famous statement was, “Surprise! Surprise!”  Permit me to surprise you.  There are some things that I just don’t know!  And neither do you.  

When I walk into my garage, get into my car, and turn the key, I don’t really know if the car will start.  When I drive down the street I am believing it will be a safe journey.  I make plans for tomorrow, but I don’t know if I’ll be around, make it through the night.  

I have so many questions about life, things that happen; why people suffer, why this and why that?  I just don’t know why my heart hurts.  Why did things happen the way they did?  Will I ever make it?  Where is God when I suffer?  You’ve been there, haven’t you!

Things happen in life that seem to be disastrous.  You may have unsolvable marriage problems.  Your business may be on the verge of bankruptcy.  You went to a formal banquet with your employer and you coughed tea through your nose.  You stumped your toe on the bed frame.  You or a family member developed a devastating health crisis.  Why, O Lord, why? 

The natural response to bad things is to say, “God, if you loved me, why did you let this happen?”

Surprise! Surprise!  We don’t need to know everything.  What we need to know is the comfort in knowing that the One Who is in charge knows exactly the answer and He has the power to work things out to our good and His glory!

How does this work?

“Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in —insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

“Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

“So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? ‘Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!’  Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.”

Colossians 2:11-15, 18-23 (msg)

In my book, Write It On My Heart, some of my readers were puzzled about the chapter on Peace.  I think it was because I used the word, ESSENCE!  It is the last chapter of the book.  I quote: 

“Eureka! I’ve got the answer.  It suddenly dawned on me.  Essence! (Remember that word.) We want stuff now. No waiting in line, no diversions, no excuses, no problems, no sorrow, no worry, no hurt, no pain, no misunderstanding, no suffering, no stink, no bum-rap, and no complaints!  Sorry, Charlie! It ain’t a-gonna happen on this earth!”  There is a Greek word,  that means slave – δολος.  It is used all through the Bible in the context of surrender to the will of God through Christ.  “So make up your mind.  If you are going to follow the Master, give it up!  Surrender!  There is a peace that passes all understanding.  It goes far beyond your pain.  It goes far beyond your sorrow.  If you want that liberating release from misunderstanding, blame, and God-questioning hurt, you just gotta make up your mind to be a slave of the one who is saving you for eternity.  That’s the essence of it all!”  

Jesus, in John 16:33 says: “In the godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart! I’ve conquered the world!”

“Coming to Jesus,

My Savior I’ve found

Wonderful peace, wonderful peace.

Storms in their fury may rage all around;

I have peace, sweet peace.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace!

Peace, peace, glorious peace!

Since my Redeemer has ransomed my soul

I have peace, sweet peace.

(Haldor Lillenas)