Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunrise in Ur

(Written Easter of 2009, Tallil AFB, Cob Adder, Iraq)

I am living on Tallil Air Force Base, Iraq.   It's Easter.  We had a sunrise service.

Services were held at the archaeological digs where they have excavated the home of Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees.  This site is right outside the gates of our base.

In a few weeks, the U.S. government is going to hand this piece of property back to the Iraqi government. The opportunity to tour the site will be gone. (at least for the time being) Possibly the opportunity to worship the LORD at this site will not occur again this side of Jesus' return.

How honored and humbled am I that of all the people in the world and all the people in time, I was allowed to participate in what could be a once in history event.

I know I haven't done anything to deserve such a thing. But I am so grateful that God included me.

There were maybe 200 people attending. A praise team was playing acoustic guitars and leading us in worship and then one of the chaplains stepped up to a podium, opened his Bible and read Holy Scripture there on those age old grounds. We sang again  and I could not keep from crying as I sang along with the others praising God in this place where God spoke to Abraham, "Go!"    

The chaplain stood on the reconstructed wall of the ancient home of Abraham and presented the Word of God.   Adam and  Eve.... to Noah... to Abraham.... all the way to Jesus.   He explained the covenant God made with Abraham and how we are a part of that covenant.  He shared about the resurrection of Jesus.

He asked us to respond to him when he proclaimed "He is risen!" and the congregation would loudly respond "HE IS RISEN INDEED!" It became the theme for his message.   It is the proclamation of Easter!   

The sun has risen in Ur.     God's covenant promise to Abraham continues to be fulfilled.

I can't explain how filled with the Holy Spirit I am... how He pounds in me with every breath.   What words could I use to describe such an incredible resurrection morning in which I am privileged to stand on this spiritually holy place?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Other Side

"When Jesus saw the crowd around him He told his followers to go to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you any place you go”.  Jesus said to him, “the foxes have holes to live in and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.”    Another man, one of Jesus’ followers, said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”   But Jesus told him, “follow me and let the people who are dead bury their own dead.”  Matthew 8: 18-24

I want to follow Jesus to the other side of the lake, the other side of the world, the other side of this life.        He tells me to follow Him and let the things of this world take care of themselves.  He tells me that it is not easy... that every living creature has a place to call home except those who follow Him. 

However, if He tells me to go to the other side, then it means that I will get there.  It might not be an easy trip. I may not be able to see the road ahead of me.  There won't be any shortcut.   But there is no doubt about it.   I will get there.

"Let the dead bury their dead."

I am following Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dare I Sing?

Singer : Illustration of a Singing Smiley

Songs of joy and childish play filled my days when I was young.
I knew the Lord would laugh and smile at the songs that I had sung.

With the faith of a young heart and eyes that saw no pain,
I grew and flourished sweetly in the wonder of His name!

My eyes became distracted by the world and all its gain.
My heart, yes it did fracture  as death called loved ones by name.
Days grew dark and heart grew heavy as the years they tolled away..
Death, despair and then self pity  claimed my song of life each day.

Long I wandered in a valley broken heart on sharp edged path,
I knew that He was somewhere.
Yet my vale, it was so vast.

Where was joy and young heart laughter?
Where was faith and hope gone now?
Surely God must be gone playing with a child that pleased Him more..

Looking up and searching for Him
I recalled how it had been
when my song had brought Him pleasure.
Dare I sing to Him again?

Do you hear me, Lord my Savior? Do you see your wayward child?
Have I hope in Your forgiveness?  May I talk with You a while?

Yes! He answered!  Yes! He cried!  Yes! I love you! He replied!
Long you wandered brokenhearted  when I yearned to give you peace.
Come to Me now my Beloved...Lay your pain upon my breast.
With arms open wide as Heaven, with a heart that knows no bounds
My Lord wrapped His love around me,
This wandering sheep had now been found.

Lord! I thank You and I praise You! Forevermore I will proclaim!
Your love is lasting and eternal!  God of Love is Your wonderful Name!
Now I sing again with new joy
for He has touched my broken parts.
Made me new and everlasting.
Wrote His Name upon my heart!

Say What?

You can go to any hospital... any city... and find people in desperate physical need. Need for healing. Need for faith in something bigger than themselves.

Each of us probably knows someone in our circle of friends and family that have suffered from cancer,  heart problems,  disability, disease and on and on. They are seeking for a cure. Looking for answers to their pain.

Most likely we find even more in our circle that are crippled or diseased spiritually.   They are walking and talking, but they are lost.

"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.'   At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!'  Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say: "your sins are forgiven." or to say, " Get up and walk"?   But.. so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...   Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home". And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this they were filled with awe, and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."   (Matthew 9: 1-8)

Because of the faith of this man's friends and because of his obvious need, Jesus reached out to him. He offered forgiveness which was also the most immediate need of this man.  Without forgiveness, physical healing would not mean a thing.

Without Jesus and His forgiveness, we are dead and our bodies and brains just haven’t noticed yet.

Jesus realized that the "religious" would attack him for such audacity. These teachers of the law  that were looking on with judging and critical attitudes were Jewish. The Jewish people's life was ruled by the Old Testament Law handed down by Moses.  Ritual sacrifice was made to God for the forgiveness of sin at the proper place and time.    Only God could forgive sin.   No one  on earth .. no mortal man had the power to forgive sin.

These learned men did not recognize Jesus for who He is, and accused Him of  blaspheming God. They thought He had no authority to forgive sin.   They looked at each other and said "Say what?  This guy is either insane or he is deliberately profaning the LAW.  We gotta do something about that." 

To prove otherwise to them, Jesus  told them that he could read their minds and then He provided the physical healing.   Only then were these guys impressed.   They were finally in awe and praised God.

A healing miracle was okay with them, but the power to forgive sin went beyond their ability to believe. 

He asked the question "Which is easier?"    Jesus had every intention of healing this man physically, but He was attempting to show the authority and reality of God at work in a way that was new and probably a bit frightening to those in ‘power’.

Jesus had “authority” which means power.    “To exercise power” “to act on your own authority.. To have dominion”

To the One that spoke all of creation into being, healing a man's crippling disability was as easy as breathing.       Forgiving the same man of the sin  inherent in his nature took the torture and death and resurrection of the only Son of God.   Which was easier?

The Pharisees had no idea that their promised Messiah stood before them.

The paralytic's life was completely changed.

Just as we ‘know that we know’ that something has happened within us when we are saved, this man “knew that he knew”  something inside of him was different.   He had just been washed clean and pure by the God of all creation.    He probably wanted to jump up and shout Hallelujah!

However, just like so many of us that are saved, even though he had been forgiven he was still bound up in the physical crippling of this world.  It kept him nailed to the ground until Jesus spoke.

A new Christian, without instruction and help to grow, will easily become entangled in the ‘world’ that he was just saved from.

What the teachers of the Law could not see was that without the forgiveness of sin, even though the man was physically healed, he would still be spiritually paralyzed.

When Jesus forgave this man, he was saved at that instant. His life would never be the same. What happened in his spirit was far more important than the physical healing that came next. He was blessed over and above the teachers of the Law who simply witnessed a miracle and still did not understand what was going on before their very eyes.

Healing was simple for Jesus.  No problem for him.  But the order in which these things took place is important. This is about His authority.

Do we acknowledge His authority in our lives? His authority to forgive us?   If we don't forgive ourselves for things that the Lord has forgiven us already, then we are putting doubt on His authority and ability.

If God forgives, it is over and done with.    He wants us to live in His forgiveness, uncrippled any longer by our sin.

Living in His forgiveness also empowers us to walk in His grace and power in His kingdom.   We are no longer crippled by the sin that held us to this world.

How many times do we go to prayer asking for material or physical things? Lord.. please send a miracle... Lord please help me with my finances... Lord I really need for my kids to do right... Lord, please help me with this problem... These are physical needs and they are important to us and to God.

Unless we have met Jesus spiritually and have asked for and received His forgiveness.. asked Him to be our Savior, these physical things  that we think we need are irrelevant.   We are like the Pharisees, accepting the physical miracles but rejecting the spiritual victory.

We beg Jesus for things. Please meet my physical need... My earthly need.  We are so determined to provide for our physical body which will rot and die, and not too concerned at all about asking Him for spiritual things. Forgiveness, restoration, joy, peace, spiritual maturity, growth.

These are spiritual gifts that come from a relationship with God himself.   These are the things that will be with us for eternity.

Without these spiritual blessings, we are the paralytic.   Our bodies and our spirits dying and dead.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Duh? That's Radical

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend  it.    (John 1:1-5)

Do we even begin to understand or comprehend who Jesus is. Who is this Word that is God?  Who is this being that set everything in motion and holds it all in place?

He is right there in front of us  speaking to us, shedding His light on us.. on our lives... our thinking.. and we can't seem to grasp the simplicity of His message.

In everything He says 'I love you.  My heart longs for you.  Please turn away from the darkness. Choose Me.  Live in my light.'    It is the age old truth and message of Jesus Christ:  Believe, Repent, Be Saved from Eternal Damnation in Hell.

What don't we 'get' about that?   

He created us with the ability to comprehend simple things, complicated things, imaginary genius concepts and more.

He put in us the longing for something more than the ordinary.. more than the darkness.

He is that 'more'.

It is that simple.      That 'big thing' that you have longed for all your life.  That 'thing' you can't quite put your finger on that seems to be missing.   That 'more' that you want for yourself and your family?    Jesus Christ is just that.

Let the light bulb over your head shine.    That genius idea that swirls around inside your mind.  Duh!?  He is it.

That aching inside of you that won't go away?   He can fill it with the light of His joy.

Don't hide in the darkness of incomprehension any more.

He is life.    He is the life that you have always longed for.

Don't shield yourself from it.   Don't spread some more sun screen to prevent it from affecting you.
Let Him shine brightly on you.    Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved from darkness.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Do You??

"Let's go do something."
"Where do you wanna go?"
"I don't care.  Where do YOU wanna go?"
"It doesn't matter to me... whatever you want.."

Does this sound familiar?   It seems that we have this round robin conversation on a daily basis with family, friends, co-workers.    Nobody seems capable of just making a simple decision:   Let's do THIS.

You have a preference but don't voice  it.    Frustration sets in.   Aggravation follows.   Stagnation.    All those 'ations'  ....All because we don't make a decision.   We don't voice our true preference.

It's time to decide to decide.   What is important?   What do you want?  What do you want to do?   Who do you want to be?    Where do you want to go?

Shakespeare wrote "To be or not to be... that is the question."   I agree.    To be.   But not just to be.

We have preferences.    We must make a decision.       To be what we believe.   To do what we believe.   To live without compromise.   To choose.

"Choose this day whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

That's a real choice.   A sound decision.    In choosing to serve the LORD, we choose love and life.

Okay, we choose love.    That means we actively and intentionally  love.   We love God.   We  love people.    We  love the life God has given to us.   We choose to love and to be content in whatever circumstance He places us and we choose to trust Him in it.

Making that choice and living by it curtails a lot of frustration, aggravation and stagnation in our lives.   In fact, making that decision enhances our entire life.   It is the only decision that gives us abundant life.  It gives us Kingdom of God life.    

Wow!   That's a lot of choices!   Now if I could just decide what's for dinner.