December 30, 2014

This morning I was struck with the same thought has been circulating occasionally in my mind.  It is so easy for me to get stuck in the muck and mire of sin, constant distractions, and the struggles and pressures this world.  I have become so accustomed to living with sin, and the continuous pounding of this noisy world that I only focus on the present situation, and my past failures.  One of the biggest victories of Satan over Christians is to block our view of our Glorious future.

We will not be in this world forever.  I have to remember this is only temporary, and there, beyond this veil of tears, is the Light of the Glory of my Risen Lord and Savior, waiting for me.  This earth and universe will cease to exist.  The God of Heaven will create a new, better earth and heavens for us, the children He has loved for we are His children indeed.  What a tremendously overwhelming thought.

Jesus saved us through His teaching, challenging the religious authority, suffering through humiliating taunts, scourging, beatings, hanging on the cross, burial and resurrection, and His rising up into the clouds.  He saved me from myself, and He does it everyday.  I do not have to go to Hell.  I do not have to spend eternity without Him.  Utter darkness and pain is not in my future, it’s in my past.  I will be resurrected into His Glory because He could not live without me.  Praise be to God for His magnificent plan of Redemption!

I am so undeserving of this gift.  That is the beauty of God’s plan.  While I was still in sin, God loved me so send His Son to die for me.  And even though I continue to struggle with sin, His Grace and Mercy is more than sufficient.  God is outside of the constraints of time, thus Jesus’ sacrifice and redemption is also outside of the same constraints and covers the sins of the span of history, including mine.  Glory be to God for His unending love for us sinners!

December 29, 2014

I had a dream once, some time ago when I was younger.  In the dream I had a house.  The rooms of the house were nice and neat in appearance.  The furniture was not top of the line but not cheap either, and it was in good shape.  I had a nice kitchen with plenty of space and good appliances.  The bedrooms were kept clean, the beds made and the clothes where they belonged.  The tools in the garage were in their place on the wall.  The lawn mower and snow blower were parked in their spots, out of the way.

The attic and basement were a different story.  They were filled with clutter and useless junk.  It looked disorganized but I knew where everything was if I had to find it.  There were items in there that I should have tossed out long ago, but I kept them because they were tied to things I did not want to let go.  I thought they were things I needed and were forever apart of me.  I believed I would miss them, and wouldn’t be the same without them around.  I cherished them despite the fact that having them around hindered me.

One day I was cleaning my house when the doorbell rang.  I got to the door, and was surprised when I saw the person who waiting there.  It was Jesus.  He had come by to visit me and see how I was doing.

I let Him in and showed Him all around the house.  I showed Him the clean and nicely appointed living room.  Then I showed Him the den, family room, the bedrooms and the kitchen.  All of the rooms were clean and orderly by all appearances.  The last room I showed Him was the kitchen.

As we were sitting at the table He said to me, “Your house seems very nice and clean.  But what’s behind the two doors you didn’t open, that one over there and the one upstairs?”

“Oh, nothing much,” I answered.  “Just some dusty old relics I keep around and out of sight because they don’t fit in with the rest of the house.  I can’t seem to get myself to throw them away.  You don’t need to bother Yourself with them.  I like having them around in case I want reminisce and get lost in memories.”

“I’d like to see them.  Please show them to Me and I will help you dispose of things you don’t need,” He replied.

“No, thank You, that’s quite alright.  All that stuff is dirty, dusty and not much to look at.  I’ll deal with the junk when I think I have time to spare.”

He looked at me, stood up, rolled up His sleeves, and said, “You do not need that useless junk in your attic or your basement.  I am going to remove all of them from your house, one by one.  You will see each item go and you will understand why I did it.  You cannot accept what I want to give to you with this useless junk cluttering up your space.  You have to let go and move on.  I can’t use you if you are unwilling to depart from this junk.”

December 28, 2014

The formula for getting ahead in society: be successful, which leads to money, which leads to connections, which leads to more money, which leads to power and influence.  Power is the one thing in this world that is as intoxicating and addictive as any drug.  It seems to be a thrill when national leaders are waiting on your call and you can influence decisions concerning government policy.  Your phone call goes straight through to the leader of this nation.  The stock market seems to wait for you to make business decisions and announce your next business deal and transaction.  The world is at your fingertips and there seems to be nothing that can knock you off the top.  You have power and all that comes with it.

But, unfortunately, there have been others that have come before you with the same type of power and influence you have.  The same thing will happen to you that happened to them.  You will die, and your power and influence will be buried in your casket with you.  You will have strived and worked and will end up like everyone else.  You will be buried in a pretty box by yourself.  No power attained during your lifetime can help you now.

Two thousand years ago someone was born.  He was born into poverty to parents who were humble and willing to serve.  The sacrifice for his temple dedication was what was available to those who could not afford the proper sacrifice of a bull or a ram.  He lived in a small town, presumably learning his father’s trade as he grew.  When he reached the age of majority, he followed his true calling, the true purpose for his being born into this world.  He came to do what all of us are not willing to face: our death.

But die he did.  And when he died he became what we desire in life, the most powerful person ever to be born.  Unlike us, he did not come into his power until he died.  He did have power when he was here on earth because he did many miracles and healings while he was here.  But the power he had before his death does not compare to the power he received after his death.  His name is Jesus.  He is the most powerful man ever to be born of a woman.  What makes him the most powerful man is that he is still changing the world after his death.  We can read about other people but that is history.  Jesus is still writing his story through those who have His spirit living within them because after he died he was resurrected, alive again, so that we, too, can have victory over death.

Life is not truly lived until after we have died.  Not until after we have died to ourselves and have physically died.  And when we have that second life we will know true power when we see our Savior face to face, power that cannot be duplicated here.  That power exists only during this temporal life and will avail us naught when we die.  The power we receive in Christ lasts for all eternity.

December 27, 2014

The church has not been immune to chasing fame and the fortune that comes with it.  Where the church has mostly fallen victim is the arena of sports for their kids.  They take their kids to games or weekend tournaments and skip the Sunday worship.  Making sure they are attending their soccer championship is of greater importance than making sure they are attending a worship service.  We are raising a generation of children who are being taught that God can always come later because He is always around, your opportunity to excel in sports or anything else will not.  Is there a possibility of a healthy balance?  I would have to say there is not because most times when there is a schedule conflict, God always loses out.  In and of themselves these are not wrong.  They become wrong when they take priority over the One we say we adore.

When the world looks at us they see people who do much the same as they do but the major difference we attend church when we can.  We have become career driven and financial security worrying church-goers.  We focus more energy on our temporal retirement security instead of our eternal surety in Jesus Christ.  Again, this is not a wrong thing to do but when we are working eighty hours a week to save for retirement but our eighty minutes with God happens only on Sunday mornings.  We forget the teaching of the parable of the rich fool.

As a church we have wandered away from the deeper truths of God.  We only scratch the surface of the vast knowledge of God.  We are cheating and depriving ourselves of a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with the Father.  We tend to focus on the benefits we receive, His mercy, grace, love, compassion, and neglect to actually teach and study about Him.  While it is true those are part of His nature they are not His only attributes.  The cause and effect of this is that we have started to become more like the world and less like Christ.

Who we are as followers of Christ is not found in popularity and showers of praise and attention from society.  Our identity should not be found anywhere in the culture we live in.  We should be one with Christ.  When the world looks at us they should see how the cross is the difference for us and is making a difference to us.  They should see Christ.

December 26, 2014

Romans 7: 24-25: 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Why do we continue to sin? Why do we struggle and remain in the same cycle of sin? Why do we continue to live as if His submission to the Father’s Will to be our payment for sin is not enough to cover all of our sin, but only a few of them? Why do we cling to that secret sin in our lives believing it our area of refuge when times become difficult? Why do we blame our environment for our tendencies to commit the same sin over and over? Why do we allow ourselves to remain a victim of our circumstances and not trust in the Lord? Why do we not accept responsibility for our lack of faith and continue to point the finger of blame at everyone and everything but ourselves?

Read this account in Genesis 3:

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

We have been pointing the finger at all things since the beginning. We are not willing to take responsibility for our choosing to sin. We always have a choice, and we always have a way out of temptation. This is a promise from the Father. His Spirit is ever present within us, waiting to lend us the strength we need to overcome this world and the sinful flesh that still entraps us.

Christ’s death provided victory over our sin. This victory is not only available when we die or are called up when He returns, it is available to us now, today. His payment is sufficient for our past sins, present sins and future sins. Take hold of this truth and praise God that we do not have to sin anymore. This does not mean we won’t. This means we do not need to believe we are a victim of our circumstances anymore. He is the Lord of our circumstances. He is Lord of our lives. He is the Lord God Almighty who will give to us everything we need to overcome this world because Jesus has already defeated this world.

Turn to God and repent of our excuses and weakness, and let Him show us how to live a life of victory.

December 25, 2014

It is dark.  The stars light up the night sky.  There is no sound except the shuffling of the hooves of the sheep, their random bleating and my walking around, and the occasional thump of my staff.  It was a typical night in pasture.  I was leaning on my staff talking to the other shepherd, the usual gossip and things that we were going to do later on when we were done.

I was in the middle of a story about what happened to me the last time I went to the market when there was a burst of bright light.  Right there in front of us was a  of people in man in white robes, so white he seemed to shine.  I was just starting to think of how it was possible that he made it out here without us seeing him.  He began to speak.  He told us about something that happened.  A baby had been born, in the city of David, a Savior, the Messiah.  Just as he finished speaking  another group of people, dressed like him, appeared.  And they started singing, a hymn I never heard before, in voices I never will hear again.  Amazing.

The people left the pasture just as suddenly as they appeared.  We talked about what the man in white had said.  The city of David is Bethlehem, and we will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in a feeding trough.  We have to see this!  So we gathered our robes and ran to Bethlehem like we have never run before.  God had been silent for over 400 years and now He has sent a Messiah.  Why in an animal hold?

So we arrived, breathing heavy, and there he was, just as the man had said.  The promised Messiah has come.

December 24, 2014

In our justice and court system a defense lawyer only has to create enough reasonable doubt in the jury in regards to the facts of the case to get an acquittal.  The defense does not need to prove that the defendant did not do the crime or prove that someone else did it.  They just need to blur the facts just enough so the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision of “guilty”.  The similarity between that and Satan’s methods in confusing the facts presented by God is ironic.

Satan does not need to convince us there is an alternative to special creation by God.  He does not need to have demonstrative proof or credible data to support the assertion of any alternate explanation of our existence.  He just needs to convince enough people to take up the cause of atheism, and influence their thinking and writing so that it is taken up by others.  He does not need to prove it at all.  He just needs to create enough doubt in us about the revelation of God through the bible to sometimes accept secular teaching, and try to reconcile secular theories with the historical account written in the bible.

What God has had written in the bible through men can be accepted as a literal account and historical fact.  What has been written has been proven through archaeology and other sciences.  For example, for the longest time the bible was the only written record for the existence of the Philistines.  Archaeologists did not find any evidence for their existence outside of the bible until recently, within the last century or so.  Satan is the original mudslinger.  He will keep hurling gobs of mud and manure until the water of truth is so muddled that we cannot see our hand just beneath the surface.

We are always talking about having in the providence of God, usually referring to future events.  We need to remember and have faith that that same providence was true in past events.  We cannot be sure His providence will be true for future things and question His past providence as possibly untrue, or there exists an alternative explanation.  We must be consistent in our faith because He is immutable, He never changes and therefore is always consistent.

We will never understand everything concerning God and His actions concerning men, but we certainly can understand that Satan is out to confuse us concerning God’s truth and we must be ever vigilant against his attacks.  Do not let the evil one undermine the foundation of God’s truth found in His written word and on His Son who is the fulfillment of all things.  We must arm ourselves and put on the armor of God, as Paul told the Galatians, and be able to stand on God’s truth.  We cannot do it on our own, only the power of Christ’s Spirit can enable us to endure to the end.

 

December 23, 2014

The majesty of God is displayed in the heavens and the earth.  The splendor is spread across the sky.  The display of His awesome power cannot be contained in one area of the sky.  The canopy of stars observed by all is captivating. The canvas of colors in the autumn forest is amazing to behold.  The beauty of a fresh, winter snow when the sun shines is unmatched.  The sun reflected through ice-encrusted branches is a sight to behold on a crisp winter morning.

The ability of an ant colony to exist in moving harmony is astounding.  The ability of bees to tell others in the hive where to find a source of nectar is incredible.  The ability of the monarch butterfly to migrate to Central and South America, and to migrate back to North America a few generations later is a mystery.  The ability of salmon to return upstream to their spawning grounds to begin the cycle again is remarkable.  No two leopards have the same pattern in their spots.  The stripes on zebras confuse the lion when they move in a herd.  It is the dung beetle’s responsibility to break down piles of manure left by elephants, rhinos and other large animals.

The spider spins a web to catch insects or we would be overrun by the insects.  The caterpillar forms a chrysalis to transform into a butterfly.  We can make fabric from the bulb of a cotton plant.  We make clothing from the web spun from a silk worm.  Herds of caribou, schools of fish and flocks of birds can move and change direction almost as if of one mind.  The scavenging and gathering of animals for food is industrious.

Volcanoes erupt in destructive beauty.  The array of wildflowers in the countryside is breathtaking.  The splash of colors across the sky as the sun sets is mesmerizing.  The reflection of the moon across a body of water is calming.  The buzz of the insects and call of birds is soothing.

All this harmony, balance and order exists by the Will and Providence the Lord.  All of it corrupted by our sin.  The birds sing their songs in minor keys.  Storms rage and wreak havoc on the world.  The flood waters rise, and lack of water causes drought.  Plants grow and die in their season among weeds and crop-killing insects.  Animals kill other animals for food.  Insects kill other insects for food.  Insects and some animals carry deadly diseases for humans.  The pinnacle of God’s creation is a breeding ground for a myriad of diseases and infections that destroy our bodies.  Man kills insect, animal and other men for sport, food and just because we have become so depraved in our sin.

We can see the evidence of the consequences of our sin if we choose to pay attention to it.  The effect it has taken on the world is astounding but we choose to ignore it.  It is difficult to imagine we Christians are holding back some of the decay.  We are the salt of the earth, preserving it until Jesus comes back for us.  We are the sole reason God is restraining His Wrath and Judgment on mankind.  The church is losing its saltiness because we have chosen to remain stuck in our ruts.  We choose to believe we can exist in God’s creation as a new creation in Christ and do our own thing, take care of our own needs and satisfy our own lusts and desires.

We have lost our vision.  Our leaders have become blinded by their own arrogance and false pride, believing they have received special insight from God.  They have chosen to add padding to the Rock that shatters people and instead have caused people to be crushed by that same Rock.  We need to repent of our selfish and arrogant ways and return to the Lord before He tires of us being lukewarm and spits us out.

Revelation 2: 3,4: 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

FHA loan nonsense

We are in the process of purchasing a home through am FHA 203k loan, which is a home rehab loan.  We had a FHA rehab consultant go through the home and tell us what had to fixed and we also added things we wanted done while the contractor was there.  That part went pretty well.

As part of the process the FHA consultant provides an estimate of what the cost should be for the repairs.  He sends a list of the repairs with the estimate.  Along with that list he provides a similar list that does not include his cost estimates which we are to submit to the contractor.  Eventually, the contractor came back with his estimate and we were shocked.

For the sake of a demonstration, I will give some fictitious numbers to give an idea of our frustration.  The consultant’s estimate for the cost to make all the renovations was $1,000.  We had some hope, which turned out to be false hope, that the contractor would somewhere close to $1,000.  We thought there would only be a variance of 10-20%. in the contractors estimate.  We were wrong.  He came back at double what the FHA consultant came at.

And it gets better.  We sent a copy of the contractor’s list to the FHA consultant to see if his cost estimates were reasonable in the real world.  He responded and said the contractor’s estimate was reasonable.  We were like, What?  How can the FHA consultant approve a contractor’s bid which was twice as much as his estimate?  Why did he not give us the real numbers in the first place?

It made no sense, until we learned that the FHA guy got his original numbers from a book provided from the government, I suppose.  Well, that explained it right there.  The government doesn’t work with real world numbers.  They work with fuzzy math.

December 22, 2014

We are a reclamation project.  We are that house that you see in the distance, a large beautiful Queen Ann e Victorian home.  Around the perimeter of the yard you can see a perfectly measured hedge with possibly flowered trellises covering the entrances into the yard.  As you get closer you see the beginning deteriorate, some peeling paint, a few loose boards and several missing shingles, but it is still an amazing structure.  Your curiosity is piqued because you have this urge to see the inside.  There must be some incredibly beautiful details in the interior that you have to see.  You decide to trespass. 

Inside it is a horribly decaying mess.  It is possible to see some of the original work, elegant scrollwork on the stair bannister, door and window trim and the mantle but a lot has happened to it.  Some of the trim boards don’t match because they had to replaced, obviously by an inferior workman compared to the original.  Most of it painted over with an atrocious shade of some color that may have green at one time.  Plaster has peeled away in chunks, some pieces hanging from the ceiling because of the horsehair mesh, and pieces of marble and granite missing from the fireplace.  You are appalled that something with so much potential for beauty has allowed to not only decay but to be made worse by poor attempts to cover things up.   

As you start to climb the stairs the banister falls away as soon as you grab it, but you decide to brave the stairs anyway.  It is the same as the first floor.  Horrendous.  The attic is full of so much useless clutter that you cannot figure out what the former inhabitants were thinking or what made them decide to keep this junk around. You walk back down the stairs, and decide to be stupid (I mean brave) and go to the basement.  The situation is worse.  There are stones missing from the foundation and the bare wood is rotting and decaying.  The foundation which was expertly made is in danger of collapsing.  You leave the house disappointed, heartbroken as to how what was once an obviously beautiful home, built with such incredible attention to detail, would seem to be deliberately mistreated and abused.  Your wonder if anyone is crazy enough or capable enough to restore this rubble. 

Weeks later you decide to drive by the house.  An old truck is in the driveway.  It appears to be an old U-Haul truck because the outline of the letters are still visible despite being scraped off.  Scaffolding has been setup around the house but your attention is drawn to a man in the yard surveying the work ahead.  He is neither tall nor short, nor exceptionally built, tools and tool belt are old but well-kept but he has that certain thing about him that tells you he knows something about this kind of work.  Then he turns and makes eye-contact and you understand.  He is not a man who just patches things up and moves on.  He is a master craftsman who not only restores the original details but adds his own touch to his work. 

It is no coincidence that Jesus’ earthly father was a carpenter.  A carpenter was capable of all stages of construction during that part of history.  He worked with stone, wood, plaster and every type of material needed for building a home.  A carpenter could restore things back to their original beauty.  But Jesus came to restore something a whole lot more important to Him, and that’s us.  We were the pinnacle of His creation.  We were His masterpiece, created in His image, but we destroyed what was once beautiful and have been miserable failures in trying to repair it ourselves.  We destroyed the spiritual relationship with Him and the earthly vessel that housed the spirit.  Jesus came to not only restore the original relationship, He is building a better home for us to live and will give us new and improved bodies to enjoy it. 

Restoring that house was going to be a long project.  It was not something that would be quick nor simple, but worth doing in the end.  We are no different.  We are a lifetime (our lifetime) project.  He does not just save us from our sins and leave us to stumble our way through life.  He continues to work on us, changing us back into His original intent, shaping us into His image so the imprint of His mark is evident in all that we do.  In spite of all destruction and garbage we collected that has left us in shambles, He found us worthy to be restored.  He has found us worthy to share in His inheritance.  He has found us worthy to live with Him for all eternity. 

He has found us worthy, period.  And that is all we need to know.