I just need to write some thots down. I’ve been pretty introspective since Mom died in December. I’ve been surprised by a sense of loss, more than just the loss of a parent, but the loss of a place called “home.” Home is both a temporal and spiritual concept, but what strikes me is how strange and difficult it is, the journey from one to the other.
I observed, without really realizing what I was seeing, our mother slowly give up everything that had ever meant anything to her in this temporal world. She wouldn’t have chosen that in her temporal life, and yet she did choose that many years ago, when she surrendered all the Christ. It seems that God knows we will lose everything here and has therefore made provision for us to gain everything there. Hmmmm…. isn’t that the Gospel after all?
In the last week I have had the rare privilege to visit two special friends in the last hours of their lives. I witnessed there the same thing I saw in my mother. Unless the Lord has numbered our days short of our full course of life, we will slowly and gradually surrender everything of this earth until, in the end, it is just us and God, and He then becomes everything.
So I thot, when does this journey from everything to nothing to everything begin. Perhaps at birth, but from a conscious perspective, I think it begins when we cross over the peak of physical prime. Slowly we begin to notice the degeneration of physical agility. We fight it with exercise and diet plans, but gradually it takes over whether we like it or not, and continues for the rest of our lives as the aging process plays out. At some point we realize we have lost our childhood and all we have left of it is memories and mementos. Our hometown begins to change and it feels strange when we return to visit, yet we return periodically, because home is still there (at least this has been my life). Then a parent dies, and things change more and certain comforts of relationship are lost. We notice that we are capable of doing less and less of the things we used to be able to do as age steals progressively more of the things that have been our delight. We have photos of what once was but now the landscape becomes more and more barren. Finally the remaining aging parent can no longer maintain the old home place and so it must be sold. But because the parent still lives, though in ever declining capacity, home still seems to exist in a virtual kind of way. But then the end comes for that parent and home is gone forever. The comfort of childhood can never be recovered, even for a few fleeting moments. Now we are afloat in a world where it is difficult, if not impossible, to find that place where we can feel ever so briefly, free of adulthood.
It happens so slowly, incrementally, one thing at a time. Tools, equipment, activities that were once very important, cease to be used and are perhaps sold or given to others. I stand here in my office and see the shelves full of books that have been my comfort and craft, and realize that one day they will be on someone else’s bookshelf. My calling will narrow in focus more and more, always moving from everything to nothing to everything.
Why do I cling to the things of this world so tightly? Why do I grieve their loss when I know I can’t keep them? I am reminded of the famous quote of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” When I was a youth we would sing with great gusto that chorus, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” I had no idea.
Since it will in the end come down to just Jesus and me, Lord, let me hold the things, and relationships of my life, in gratitude and joy, but loosely, for surely I am moving from everything to nothing to everything.
Heavy thots today,
I was just thinking about the account in Mark 3 where Jesus is accused of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, and how He explained to the people that Satan is not divided against himself. He went on to explain that to raid a strong man’s house you must first bind him and then you can take what you want. Jesus is not talking about burglary here, but He is talking about something that is critical to our spiritual lives.
Most of the time this passage is quoted with reference to spiritual warfare – binding the devil with binding prayers, etc.. That is true, but it is much more than that, and very relevant to us in our everyday lives. The first and most important way we bind the strong man (the devil), in our lives is through repentance. When we repent of being a natural sinner, and of wrong thinking, speaking, or doing, we remove ourselves out from under Satan’s authority and influence. In essence we bind him from having any further power over us. Most of the sin trouble we have in our lives is the result of trying to stop sinning without truly repenting.
The truth is that Satan has no problem with people confessing Jesus as a god. Hindus will welcome Jesus as another god to their pantheon. Animists will welcome Jesus as another god to their world of spirits. Even hedonists will welcome Jesus as another path to pleasure. Secular humanists will welcome Jesus as a designer god that comforts them but has no real influence on their lifestyle priorities. As long as Satan can stay in control he has no problem with people confessing Jesus. The devils themselves confess Jesus as the Son of God, (Mark 3:11). But when we repent of sin and allow Jesus to be Lord of all, we bind the strong man and he no longer has power over us. Repentance is necessary to be forgiven of sin because it moves us out from under the domain of the devil and under the domain of God. In God’s domain, (the Kingdom of God), there is freedom from the power of sin and life everlasting.
One further caution occurred to me. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, (Mark 3:1-5), the Jewish leaders attributed this good work to the power of Beelzebub (another name for Satan), Jesus said it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to attribute the power of the Holy Spirit to unclean spirits, Mark 3:30). I need to be very careful about criticizing the ministry of God’s Spirit through His people. This could be spiritually fatal.
Something to think about !
I have often wondered why it is so hard for people to see and understand the wonderful love of our God and the forgiveness He offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Well today I think I learned something about why this is the case. Really it is not all that complicated. Perhaps if I had done my regular eye exams I would have seen it sooner.
Jesus said: “And why seest thou the mote, that is in thy brother’s eye, and perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother, Suffer me to cast out the mote out of thine eye, and behold a beam is in thine own eye. Hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of they brother’s eye,” (Matthew 7:3-5, 1599 Geneva Bible).
Two thots occur to me as I think about this challenging Word from our Lord. First, the Christian ministry (not just professional), is all about helping people get the mote out of their eye so they can see God’s truth and respond appropriately. We all get a mote in the eye from time to time and often don’t realize it. We might feel some discomfort, but not recognize that there is a mote causing our blurred vision. Sometimes we have lived with a mote or a beam in the eye for so long it just seems normal to us. In fact it is that mote that keeps people from seeing the truth of the Good News of God’s love for them and the sacrifice of Jesus.
The second thot I have is that I need daily eye exams to make sure I do not have a beam in my eye. It is amazing how quickly a huge beam can come flying into my eye and I don’t even flinch. Ministry with a beam in the eye is what qualifies one as a false prophet. We may well prophesy, cast out demons, and do great things in the Name of the Lord, but have lives that betray a beam in the eye. Jesus called such, “hypocrites.”
So, perhaps we should stop criticizing people for not being able to see through the mote in their eye, and do an eye exam on ourselves so we can more clearly see to help them with their mote. That makes sense to me.
Something to think about,
I have some questions for God today. Perhaps my questions are not that much different from yours at times. If you are reading this, please grant me the grace to speak candidly. Writing out my thots helps me hear the voice of God, and to think a matter through. Today I want to write out my thots as a dialogue with God.
Father in Heaven, forgive me for speaking so boldly the thots that hang heavy in my soul today. Frankly Lord, I can’t help but wonder, what on earth are You doing? Your ways are such a mystery to me. How is it that after all Your promises to answer prayer, our prayers remain unanswered? I look upon the suffering of your people, and for that matter the victims of this world. How is it that You seem so slow to come to our rescue?
Rodger, it is the age-old question: “will my people trust me or not?” Go to My Word. Consider Habakkuk’s response to the evil He was so troubled over. “For the fig tree shall not flourish, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the sheep will be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no bullock in the stalls. But I will rejoice in the Lord: I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength: He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places,” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, 1599 Geneva Bible). “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV84). “The just shall live by faith,” (Habakkuk 2:4, NIV84).
Rodger you are looking for answers to the problems you have prayed over, and it troubles you that you have not received the answers you want. You wonder about the many issues of life, where My people suffer, and victims seem to multiply across the face of the earth. Don’t you see? I AM the answer! You must believe that! The life of a Christian must be lived by faith. “Everything that does not come of faith is sin,” (Romans 14:23, NIV84).
Is it really that hard Rodger? Is not the problem that you want to be in control? You want to use me like your own personal Genie. Grieve for the suffering of your brothers and sisters. Kindly comfort them and love them. Pray for them and bless them. But then build up their faith. Learn the lesson of Habakkuk. I am Alpha and Omega. i hold the world in the palm of My hand. Nothing is to great for Me. I know what My children are going through, and I will not forsake them. The question is, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith upon the earth,” (Luke 18:8 NIV84)?
There it is Lord, the answer is clear. YOU are the answer! That is what faith is; just knowing that no matter what is going on in our lives, You are the answer. Thank You for blessing my thots today.
What is it that triggers God’s judgment upon a person or a nation? I’ve been reading the prophets now for several months, and I must say it can get pretty heavy. What I mean is, heavy in the sense of constant warnings of devastating judgment from God. Today some thoughts came together for me as I meditated on the last verse of the little book of Nahum. “There is no healing of thy wound: thy plague is grievous: all that hear the brute of thee, shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy malice passed continually,” (Nahum 3:19, 1599 Geneva Bible). Here it is in the NIV 84: “Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”
Nahum is a prophecy of judgment upon Assyria. Assyria is an example of sinful human nature, having run its course and filled up its cup of sin. I remembered what God said when He sealed the great covenant with Abraham, promising to give his descendants the land of Canaan. “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure,” (NIV 84). God waited, with Israel in Egyptian bondage for 400 years, for the people who occupied Canaan to fill up their full measure of sin, before He brought judgment upon them.
I thought about what Jesus said as He pronounced woes upon the Pharisees: “So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the sin of your forefathers,” (Matt 23:31-32, NIV 84). Then there was the statement the Apostle Paul made about the Jews who clamored for the crucifixion of Jesus, and persecuted the apostles: “”They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last,” (1 Thess 2:15-16, NIV 84).
Assyria was an evil, brutal nation. It showed compassion on no one. It consumed upon itself people, animals, goods, riches, and all that the earth possessed. Wealth, power, fame, beauty, pleasure…, was the food of the Assyrians. They would stop at nothing to satiate their appetite for more.
Obviously the revival in Nineveh, led by the great prophet Jonah, was short-lived. God had sent Jonah there to prepare that king and nation for their calling, that they were to be the ones to execute God’s judgment upon Israel. They did repent and God turned His wrath from them. But once they saw that they could rule their universe and the wealth of the nations could be theirs, they quickly forgot the warnings of God. In the process of fulfilling their calling, they filled up their cup of sin. So it is with people everywhere. How short our memories are!
I thought to myself, this is what Jesus was talking about when He said: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul,” (Mark 8:36, NIV 84)? Whether a person or a nation, Satan will seek to strike a bargain — wealth, power, and fame, in exchange for your soul. So he tempted Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), to no avail. When the cup of sin is full there is nothing left for God to do but award the just payment. But for those who overcome, wonders as never before conceived await in our Father’s Kingdom!
Thinking — Hallelujah!
Reading the prophecy of Amos today startled me, and threw me into a bit of a crisis. Amos 8:11(1599 Geneva Bible), “Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Word of the Lord.” A famine of hearing the Word of the Lord??? How bad is that? Then I thought, if we don’t have food and drink we starve to death, and that is a terrible way to die. What happens if there is no hearing of the Word of the Lord?
When Moses gave the people of Israel the Law (Word) of God, he said: “…man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord,” Deuteronomy 8:3 (NIV84). Jesus defeated the temptations of Satan with this very passage, quoting God’s Word as a sharp and deadly weapon, Matthew 4:4.
Surely famine of the Word of God is far worse than any lack of food or drink. It is the Word of God that gives life, nourishing the soul and spirit of people. Jesus said: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeit his soul,” Matthew 16:26 (NIV84).
Then I thot to myself, God’s Word, in the form of the Bible, is abundantly available in America, and there is no lack of prophets, preachers, evangelists, and teachers. Surely there is no famine of God’s Word here. Consider those lands where the Bible has been banned, and people languish and die in desolation. But wait! That is not what Amos said. He didn’t say, “a famine of the Word of God.” He said a famine “of HEARING the Word of the Lord.” Oh WOW! That is a whole different thing.
God’s Word will only go forth where it is welcomed and obeyed. Prophets can call for repentance until they have no voice left, but unless the people obey, there is no hearing. When rebellion reaches critical mass all that is left is sickness, oppression, and death. We see it everywhere in the world today.
In America the voices of rebellion have already removed the hearing of the Word of the Lord from the institutions of our society. Today the Word is only supposed to be heard in churches and private settings. If it is spoken publicly, it is only a courtesy for emphasis or image, but seldom honored or obeyed.
Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s Word: “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” John 1:14 (NIV84). If there is any Word of God that is not welcome in the public institutions of our nation, it is Jesus. There is life in the Word of God. To not hear it is eternally fatal.
Then I thot, I’ve been preaching the Word of God for 52 years, and I wonder if we have been truly hearing it. It is good enough that God knows. But Oh Lord, open the ears of my people that we may hear and live!
Hosea 13:14 (1599 Geneva Bible)
“I will redeem them from the power of the grave: I will deliver them from death: O death, I will be thy death: O grave, I will be they destruction: repentance is hid from My eyes.”
Just thinking about the grave today. I wish I had more and better photos for this post. Britta’s and Olian’s graves are in the background. There are so many other graves of precious family and friends that I don’t have photos for. But I am reminded that the earth and sea are full of the bodies, for every person who ever lived upon this earth with the exception of Jesus and a couple of others whom God decided to just translate on into heaven. After Eden, the earth became essentially on giant tomb. What hope does any person have. This is what we all have before us. Today as I look at each of these grave stones I take particular comfort in the promises of our good and gracious God. One of the reasons He says he will destroy the earth with fire someday, must surely be to destroy the grave. It is a glorious thot, that on the new earth, there will be no graves! O happy day!! One day, if there was repentance in our hearts (the Lord knows), I will see these people again, and there will be no more death. Some I will meet for the first time. Is our repentance hid from God’s eyes? Not if we have turned away from our sin. In Hosea 13:4 God said: “Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no God but Me: for there is no Savior beside Me,” (1599 Geneva Bible). Aren’t you glad we have a Savior?! I am in the very depths of my soul, today more glad than these humble words can convey.
My thots today,
(I’m not sure of the content of this book but I thot the title was appropriate for these thots today.)
I wonder, have you ever thot about the worst thing that can happen, and why is it the worst thing? Why would anyone want to think about something like that? Well, pragmatists often tell us that we need to think about the worst case scenario so we can be prepared. What is the worst case scenario? I mean, not just in a given situation, but the worst possible scenario anyone could ever experience?
I’m pretty sure I ran across the worst thing that can happen in my reading today in the prophecy of Hosea. In 9:12 God says with respect to Israel, “woe to them, when I depart from them” (1599 Geneva Bible). Why would God depart from someone? Verse 17 answers that question: “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him….”
I immediately was reminded of Samson, the infamous strong man, who lived his life in the fast lane, until the woman Delilah cut his hair. The Scripture says that when the Philistines came upon him, he awoke and shook himself as in times past, but did not realize that God had departed from him. He was captured, his eyes put out, and made a slave and laughing-stock for the amusement of the Philistines.
Hosea wrote in 9:9, “They are deeply set: they are corrupt as in the days of Gibeah: therefore He will remember their iniquity, He will visit their sins.” How is it that human beings, and yes, even nations, can become so set in sin that we will not repent? What happens when God remembers our iniquity and visits our sin? The answer according to the Bible, is that God departs from us. Why is that such a big deal?
When God departs; when He withdraws His Presence, all that is left is evil. When evil is the dominate presence, sickness, pain, suffering, cruelty, murder, and every kind of wickedness is the norm. The acute difference between God and Evil is this: God takes people and nations from death to life. Evil takes people and nations from life to death. The two are mutually exclusive. This is the difference between heaven and hell. God is Present in heaven and therefore all who are there have eternal life. God is not Present in hell and therefore all who live there have eternal death. God takes us from life to life. Evil takes us from death to death.
There is a clear alternative to the worst thing that can happen. Jeremiah said it first in Jeremiah 31:34. The author of Hebrews 8:12 assures us that it is true; when He is our God and we are His people, He will remember our sins and iniquities no more.
I’m just thinking, the worst thing that can happen is for God to depart. Jesus fixes that.
Just my thots today.
I suppose it is common to all of us, to run into circumstances that we just can’t make sense of. It happens constantly in life – stuff that just doesn’t add up to our way of thinking about what is right and good, or even just common sense.
The book of Daniel is a book that is full of stuff that leaves me wondering. For example, I read through chapter 11 and it left my head spinning with confusion. In one chapter God gave Daniel revelation about a dozen different nations and kings. He seemed to know exactly what nations would rise and fall and which kings would rule in those nations; how they would come to power, and how they would be overthrown. He didn’t identify the nations or kings by name. He is telling Daniel these things long before they would occur. I read through all that and thought, “Lord how is anyone to make sense of this.” I wondered if Daniel felt the same way.
Now we have an advantage over Daniel. We have the perspective of hindsight. Scholars can pretty well look at history and nail down the specific nations and kings that God was telling Daniel about. It is amazing that the revelation gives enough details that the identities can be made with a fair measure of certainty.
So as I pondered all of this, I thought about the world we live in today, and all the chaos among the nations. Wars, nations rising and falling. Political leaders boasting great things and yet each of them are sooner or later swept away with the winds of change. When I look at my experience as a citizen of the world over the last 70 years I realize that God knew every detail of political upheaval, cultural chaos, and human suffering. The wise man says: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Proverbs 21:1 (NIV)
So if God knows all of this before it even happens, why does He continue to allow evil people oppress and pour out injustice upon others? As I look at chapter 11 in Daniel’s book, I realize that what I see, even over a lifetime, is a small snapshot of life. I can’t even really see the whole picture of what happens at any given moment of the day. But God does, He sees it all. He is very much involved in what is happening. God is all about justice and that is exactly what He is working out in the nations and in our lives. There is no way we can make sense of it because we can’t see the whole picture. Daniel and other prophets help us understand that God can use even evil kings and cruel nations to execute justice. In so much as they deserve it they too will feel the sting of His judgment.
There are three verses in chapter 11 that caught my attention and helped me realize that no matter how unfair or out of control life might seem to be, God is using even these circumstances to sanctify me, purify me, and prepare me for Himself. In the midst of all the confusion of the rise and fall of nations and the tremendous suffering that God’s people would experience He wrote this:
Daniel 11:33–35 (NIV84)
33 “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
So what’s my takeaway? Rather than spending all my time and energy fretting over all the evil in the world and the confusion I feel over injustice, TRUST GOD!
I think I don’t need to worry about it, He’s got it, and I just need to trust my life to Him. Makes sense to me. It all just comes down to trust.
For many months now I have been focused upon praying for men. Mostly my thots and prayers have been for the men in our little church, but not exclusively. I find myself praying passionately at times for men in my family, both immediate and extended. At times the Holy Spirit calls to mind men who may or may not even yet been redeemed. I love to pray for the men. Not that I have no heart for women, but perhaps because I am a man, and I see God’s love for men whose hearts are fully given over to Him in Scripture.
So today as I began to pray for the men, I heard the question in my spirit, “how should I pray for the men?” I have prayed many things, prompted by what I read in Scripture, and by my own hearts desires, but powerfully echoing in my mind is the question, “What does God expect of a man?” More than this, as the specific men’s faces pass through my mind, what does God expect of that man? Can I pray effectively on target for each man if I am petitioning God for the same thing for each man?
I feel like God told me a year ago that He is naming the men of our church as “Sons of God,” “Leaders in the church,” and Bravehearts of the Faith.” So I have prayed for them to step into this identity and be such men. A couple of days ago I felt like He wanted me to challenge them to, “Dare to be a Daniel.” But what does all this mean in any given man’s personal life? What is God’s expectation for any specific man in the context of his DNA, his spiritual gifts, his family situation, his career, his health, his financial strength or lack of, or any of the other many factors that a man must navigate through each day? This is not a simple thing. How is it possible for me to know when often times the men themselves do not know God’s expectations for them. I do not believe God expects us to relate to Him in broad generalities, but how can we find that “sweet spot” of God’s expectation to pray over?
It occurs to me as I think about this that success in such praying depends upon two things: first, my willingness to do the hard labor of prayer and not give in to the temptation to be quick and casual; and second, the interceding ministry of the Holy Spirit. When no one else knows God’s expectation for sure, the Holy Spirit does and somehow in the midst of the labor of prayer, He does what the Apostle Paul taught us in Romans 8:26-27.