You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘God’ tag.

In  our Friday night Bible study last week we took a look at Matthew, chapter 8.  The whole chapter, and that of chapter 9 as well, are chuck full of miracles. You got your basic calming the storm, casting out demons, raising the dead and 7 healings, including the blind seeing, lepers cleansed, fever gone, paralyzed man walks, and a  woman’s bleeding is stopped.  Matthew writes in 8:16 that Jesus healed ALL the sick, and that this was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah; “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

DSC02270

Nathan and friend

In my last post I wrote about Jill, an ordinary Christian who helps out at the home for needy children in Oaxaca,Mexico.  I also mentioned she adopted two children.  The youngest is Nathan, whom she began to care for when he was an infant.  He is now two years old.  When she began to care for him, she was told that he had hepatitis c.  His mother was a drug addict.  Nobody would ever guess Nathan had this disease.  He was the picture of good health.  I took to calling him Bruiser because he looked so healthy and was so big.  Everything went along fine until about three weeks ago when his eyes started turning yellow.  Jill took him to the doctor who had tests done.  His liver count was about a hundred times higher than normal, and he was still hepatitis c positive.  His liver was failing.

Jill and Nathan got on a plane for the States, and saw a doctor in Chicago who specializes in children’s livers.  He took two hep c tests along with a host of other tests.  He told Jill to go back to Mexico, as there was not a lot that could be done treatment wise.  Nathan was showing some signs of improvement.  His body was fighting the virus, and all they could do was to monitor his liver.  The doctor told Jill that the hep c tests would not be ready for a week or so, and that he would contact her when they were ready.  Back in Mexico, little Nathan continued to improve.  So much so that Jill was able to travel to Foundation For His Ministry  (FFHM) children’s home in Morelia, to help them with a situation of a little girl who had fallen into a coma, and needed specialized treatment in Mexico City.  While in Morelia, a lady came up to Jill and told her that God had healed Nathan.  Jill was incredulous and simply said “Thank you.”  Shortly thereafter she received the results of the U.S. hep c tests.  Nathan had tested negative.  His body was clear of the hepatitis c disease.

But, he still has an abnormally high liver count.  He was healed of hepatitis c, but there is still a problem with his liver.  He didn’t receive the “whole healing”.  Why not?  When Jesus healed people they received the whole healing immediately.  But not Nathan, and perhaps, not you or me.  Sometimes we ask God fervently for healing of our aches and pains and diseases, and we are not healed.  After beginning my study of Matthew 8 + 9, I injured my back and was in pain.  I remembered what the leper said to Jesus, “if you are willing you can heal me.”  Jesus said, “I am willing” and healed the man.  So I said to Jesus, “if you are willing, you can heal me.”  Jesus seemed to say to me, “I am not willing.”  My back still hurts.  Why would Jesus say to one of his followers, one of his disciples, “I am not willing to heal you”?  I think the answer revolves around faith.  Faith is mentioned many times in these two chapters of Matthew.  Because of a person’s faith, or great faith, or the faith of friends or family members, people are healed.  So are we not healed today because we lack faith that Jesus can heal us?  Quite the contrary.  Any Christian who takes even a cursory look at the gospels sees that Jesus healed anyone and every one who came to him asking for healing.  Most Christians have no doubt that Jesus can heal them, which makes the question even more perplexing.   The issue is faith, but not faith that God can heal you or me, but faith in the idea that God loves us and wants us to be happy. If we believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then, even if we are not healed physically,  we will rejoice in God our maker, because in his wisdom and knowledge, he knows what we do not know about our future, namely, that somehow, someway, we will be happier by not being healed immediately of our physical infirmity.

Carmen is a good example of this.  I mentioned her in my last post as well.  She works in the mission school and is married to Fabian, the administrator.  She shared in devotions a couple weeks ago about having bone cancer when she was 15 years old.  She said it was a painful time; a scary time; and a time that she wouldn’t trade for the world.  Why?  Because of what she went through then, helped transform her into the happy person she is now.  She told the story of the prognosis – bone cancer in her ribs.  Her doctor said they would take out a couple of ribs, and then begin chemotherapy.  Sure enough, they took out two ribs, and after recovering from surgery, she went back to the hospital to begin chemo.  The doctors prepared her for the treatment, and then discovered that Carmen had not eaten anything, and she needed to eat something, so she went to the cafeteria to get some food.  In the meantime, the doctor received some test results back from the Mayo Clinic.  A doctor there said that if one more rib was taken out, that might cure her and she wouldn’t have to have chemo.  The doctor at the hospital discussed the situation with Carmen and her family, and they decided on removing the third  rib.  After the rib was removed, she was tested for cancer, was found to be cancer free.  She was checked regularly after that for eight years and remained cancer free.

Carmen and Ollie

Carmen and Ollie

Ask her if she would change anything about that time in her life and she would tell you, “NO.”  Why not?  Because during this difficult time in her life, a lot of her friends grew distant and stopped coming around.  She said that was a good thing, because girls from her church became her new friends, comforting her, helping her, being there for her.  Later on in life, some of her old “friends” got involved in drugs and one even went to jail.  So that was one positive – New Friends, which became True Friends.  Secondly, she thinks about all the adolescents who fight and argue and rebel against their parents, especially their mothers.  If she didn’t have cancer, she could see herself going down that path, but with the cancer, her mother became her primary care giver, and they developed a close bond that continues to this day.  Because of the faith of  her friends and mom, she grew in her faith and dependence on God.  Her love for Him grew incredibly.  After high school she went to Bible College and then began serving God along with FFHM in the Baja peninsula.  Now she is enjoying and glorifying God here in Oaxaca.

Finally, the mission pastor here showed a few short video clips of an incredible man named Nick during his sermon last Sunday.  Nick was born without arms or legs.  He begged God to heal him, to give him arms and legs, as a boy.  He wanted to be normal, like all the other boys.  God didn’t give him arms and legs.  He begged God for a reason why He made him so different from everyone  else.  He tried to commit suicide in the bathtub at age eight.  He wasn’t successful, partly because he thought of the great love his parents had for him, and how bad they would feel if he killed himself.  Finally he came to the realization that God loved him and wanted him to be happy.  On the video clips he looked like one of the happiest people I have ever seen, as he travels the world telling people that God loves them and gave his Son for them, so that, they too, could be full of joy, peace and purpose.

Ultimately all Christians are healed.  Sometimes they are healed by a supernatural touch from God. A lot of times they are healed by the bodies natural healing process.   Other times they are healed by medicines and doctors.  If they die, they are risen to new, healthy lives, living in the immediate presence of our loving heavenly Father.  One way or another, we all experience healing, the whole healing, and nothing but the healing, so, thank you God!

*****          *****          *****          *****

It is not the miraculousness of God’s acts that constitutes their significance, it is their redeeming and informing and instructing content.  God’s miraculous activity is not against nature but against sin.  A miracle is not an abnormal or unnatural occurrence presupposing the normality of nature, but a redeeming reinstatement of the normality of world and life through the new dominion of God, which stands antithetically against the kingdom of this world.  Miracles cause surprise because people have become accustomed to the abnormality of sin and its curse of death and terror.  Terrance Tiessen in Providence and Prayer

As part of Jesus conclusion to the sermon on the Mount, he says “Enter through the narrow gate….small is the gate and narrow gatenarrow is the path that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  I read those words of Christ and began to ponder what it was that Jesus wanted his hearers to take away as they headed back down the mountain to their homes.  I wondered what Jesus wanted me to learn from this statement as I was about to begin my day of work at the home for needy children in Oaxaca,Mexico.  I couldn’t quite get a handle on it, so I gave up and went outside to begin my day.

The first thing that I encountered was a big mess of fruit and vegetables that needed to be cleaned up.  Somebody made a mess and I needed to clean it up.  I was upset.  Inwardly I began to grumble and complain.  It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  I began to think bad of the brother who had made the mess.  I began to judge him.  Then it hit me.  I was not entering the narrow gate that leads to life, but was trundling down the broad road that leads to destruction.  My negative attitude had destroyed my peace and joy.  In a way I had destroyed my brother in my mind.  I felt God saying to me, “Get with it and go through the narrow gate!”

Doesn’t Come Naturally

Now I was beginning to understand.  Entering the narrow gate means going against what comes naturally, and following the principles that Jesus had been laying down in his sermon.  Principles of having a kingdom heart.  Principles like not judging; forgiving; loving those who do wrong.  Jesus was saying that it is easy to follow the flesh and do what comes naturally – that is what the crowd is doing who enter the wide gate and go down the broad road that leads to destruction.

The last story he gives us in his sermon is the well known story of the wise builder and the foolish builder.  In his introduction to this parable Jesus says, “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”  Jesus could just as well as said that everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who entered through the narrow gate.

What are some of the other words that Jesus said that we need to put into practice?  Other things we need to do to enter through the narrow gate?

Jesus said don’t be angry with your brother.  Don’t lust.  Don’t do acts of righteousness to be seen by people so that you will be honored.  He said his disciples are to love their enemies and pray for those that persecute you.  He said to turn the other  cheek and give to those that ask and go the extra mile. He said we are to treat others like we want to be treated.  These are not easy things, but are marks of a true disciple with a kingdom heart who strives to enter the small gate and go down the narrow path.

Does God Really Want Us To Be Happy?

If we really believe that God is good and that He loves us and wants us to be happy, then we needn’t worry about anything.  At the end of Matthew chapter six, Jesus teaches his disciples that not worrying is part of what it means to enter through the narrow gate.  Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”  He goes on to say that your Heavenly Father feeds the birds and dresses the flowers and you are more valuable than they are.  People without Christ in  their lives worry about many things; get stressed out at work and home, and are headed down the broad path toward destruction.  Worry and stress destroys a persons health, mental outlook, happiness and relationships.  Trusting God to meet our physical and spiritual needs leads to health, happiness and life.

Everyone wants to be happy.  C.S. Lewis writes that God desires our happiness more than we ourselves desire to be happy.  God has provided explicit, written instructions on how to be happy in the Manual of Life called the Bible.  Those who enter the wide gate that leads to unhappiness and destruction disregard God’s Word.  Those who love God and trust him and put into practice His principles found in the Bible enter through the narrow gate that leads to life.  C.S. Lewis writes, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to  go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus put the question to the crowd and to his disciples, are you going to be wise and put what you have just heard me preach into practice, or are you going to be foolish and ignore what I have just said?  Are you going to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, or continue going down the broad path that leads to destruction?

I ask in the vain of C.S. Lewis,  are we going to happily make mud pies the rest of our lives, or are we going to make sand castles by the sea?

*****          *****          *****          *****

The narrow  gate is not, as so  often assumed, doctrinal correctness.  The narrow gate is obedience – and the confidence in Jesus necessary to it.  We can see that it is not doctrinal correctness because many people who  cannot even understand the correct doctrines nevertheless place their full faith  in him.  Moreover, we find many people who seem to be very correct doctrinally but have hearts full of hatred and unforgiveness.  The broad gate, by contrast is simply doing whatever I want to do.        Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy

FOCUS ON GOD

It seems to me that because God loves us and wants us to be happy, that when we go to church we should focus on Him. We should thank Him, glorify Him, and honor Him.  Our attention should be on God.  But if you think about the words in most of the songs we sing, the attention and focus is mainly on us.  Particularly me, myself and I.  “Here I am to worship”.  “I surrender all.”  “Above all, He thought of me.”  When I go to church, I don’t want to think about me.  I want to think first of all about God and His mercy, grace, love, power, kindness, compassion, gentleness and presence.  Secondly, I want to focus on the community of faith around me, the called out ones.  God brings us together as the family of God, and its proper for us as a community to worship and adore Him with songs and words that reflect our togetherness; words like “us” and “we” and “our”, rather than “me”, “myself” and “I”.

ONE DAY LESS
It seems to me that everyday we should thank God for one day LESS.  A lot of Christians thank God everyday for one day more.  One day more to enjoy God.  One day more of life.  One day more to live for God.   While that is all good, I think it’s better to think about the best – and the best thing that will happen to us is that one day we will see God face to face.  We will be in His immediate presence, engulfed in His love, free from this world and its sin and pain and  suffering.  Each day we live is one day less until we are with God.  Paul says in Philippians one, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”  In the second chapter of Peter’s second letter, he describes the awful wicked world that we live in.  In the following chapter, Peter writes, “You  ought to live holy and godly lives as you LOOK FORWARD to the day of God and speed its coming.  That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise, we are LOOKING FORWARD to a new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  Sounds like Peter and Paul were thanking God for one day LESS.

IT’S IN OUR HANDS

It seems to me that everyday we should thank God for putting the day in OUR hands.  I hear a lot of Christians telling God that they are going to put the day in His hands.  I don’t quite understand that because everything is in God’s hands, including the days.  As far as I can see, the real miracle, the real special thing, is that God puts the day in OUR hands, and gives us the freedom to use it as we see fit.  We can use it for good or bad; for blessing or cursing; for making the world a better place or worse place; to bring beauty and productivity into the  kingdom, or ugliness and destruction.  God has put the day into OUR hands, and it seems to me we should thank God for that and seek His guidance for the best way to use the day to glorify and honor Him.

LIVE IN THE CHURCH

It seems to me that Christians should not live in the world and go to church, but that we should live in the Church and go into the world.  God calls us into a community of faith, into the Body of Christ.  We best flesh out our “personal relationship” with God, within the framework of fellowship within the Church.  God doesn’t want no “Lone Ranger” Christians who don’t participate in a Christian Community.  “Lone Ranger” Christians who want to live in the world and occasionally go to church.  No, God calls us to follow Him as a body, as a group of disciples whom He sends out into the world to be salt and light; to be healers and helpers; to be pro-claimers of the Good News that God is inviting people into the Kingdom of God.

*****     *****     *****     *****

In the plan of the Great Dance plans without number interlock, and each movement becomes in its season the breaking into flower of the whole design to which all else has been directed.  Thus each is equally at the center and none are there by being equals, but some by giving place and some by receiving it, the small things by their smallness and the  great things by their greatness, and all the patterns linked and looped together by the unions of a kneeling with a sceptred love.  Blessed be He!       C.S. Lewis in Perelandra

The staff at Cristo Por Su Mundo (Christ for the World), a home for needy children here in Oaxaca, Mexico, which is part of FoundationFor His Ministry, recently began a five day study of what it means for Christians to live in community.  I felt like this was an important topic for us to delve into, since we are a faith community with almost two dozen staff members and sixty children, and we had never had an in-depth study of what the Bible or Christian leaders have to say about this important topic.

A book that has heavily influenced my perspective on Christian community, is called Life Together,  by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I took the first devotional/teaching session to present Bonhoeffer’s ideas of what living in community is all about.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian, professor and pastor when Hitler was in power.  He was ultimately executed by Hitler for his anti Hitler activities.  He was head of a Christian community in Germany for awhile and wrote his little book Life Together to help other Christians who lived in community or who were considering the idea.
In our first devotional study time I handed out two pages of quotes from Life Together.  Here are some of my favorites:

The goal of Christian community – Meeting one another as bringers of the message of salvation.

Be thankful – Enter into common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients.

Jesus Christ alone is our unity – Through him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.

Priorities – It is more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to his son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.

Learning – Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship; both begin with the call of Christ.

Meditation – The period of personal meditation is to be devoted to the scriptures, private prayer, and intercession.  If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness.

Meekness – He who would learn to serve must first learn to think little of himself.

Helpfulness – We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.  God will be constantly canceling our plans by sending us people with needs that we can meet.

Jill, the assistant administrator of the children’s home also spoke about living in community.  She looked at community from a theological point of view.  She used the book called Community 101 as her guiding light.  This book talked about how community began with God, the Trinity, three in one, the first community.  Then God created Adam, and God declared that it was not good that man was alone.  Man was created to live in community, and God created Eve, from one of Adams ribs.  Thus the first human community.

Satan hates all things that God creates as good and beautiful, and seeks to destroy them, especially community.  His first attack was against community.  An essential element of community between God and man, and mankind living in community, is trust.  Satan attacks community by attacking trust.  He convinced Eve that God could not be trusted, and thus destroyed the perfect community that man had with God, and in the process, the community Adam and Eve had.  Satan continues to try and destroy Christian community, and those living in community must be ever vigilant regarding their thoughts, words and actions, lest the Evil One drive a wedge between its members.

Below are some quotes from Community 101:

Primacy of oneness – God is  eternally one.  When he created us in his image, he created oneness.

God’s gift of oneness – God’s supreme achievement was not the creation of solitary man, but the creation of human community.

Centrality of oneness – The quality of human communities depends on our willingness to be dependent on God.

Commitment to community – For a church to develop and maintain oneness is not a take-it-or-leave-it option.  It is a priority and a mandate.  We need to be constantly reminded of our true identity as a community of oneness.

God calls us to have a “personal relationship” with Him.  But that is not the end all and be all of what it means to  be a Christian.  God brings us into right relationship with Him, so that we can be part of the “called out ones”; the church; the community of faith; the  body of Christ.  God created community because He loves us and wants us to be happy.  I know that is true for me.  Although I have gone to church most of my life, and been a member of different churches, and done church for most of 50 years, I have not experienced such joy and happiness and fulfillment since I became part of this Christian community in Mexico called Cristo Por Su Mundo.  Instead of “doing” church, we are “being” the church that God called His followers to be.

Thinking on this, I am reminded of the breakfast illustration of ham and eggs.  In the making of this breakfast the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.  Most Christians are involved in a Christian community, living at the fringes of what God truly intends for His disciples.  I think God wants all His children to take the plunge, and commit to living in community.  That is the way He wired us in order to truly glorify Him by enjoying Him.

****          ****          ****          ****

There are many things which a person can do alone, but being a Christian is not one of them. As the Christian life is, above all things, a state of union with Christ, and of union of his followers with one another, love of the brethren is inseparable from love of God. Resentment toward any human being cannot exist in the same heart with love to God. The personal relationship to Christ can only be realized when one has “come to himself” as a member of His Body, the Christian fellowship.

William T. Ham

I have been stuck In 2 Peter chapter one for a couple of weeks now.  It is a rich chapter and also a bit difficult to understand in certain places.  I don’t like to leave a chapter until I have sucked all the meat out of it that I think is possible .  Thus I am still I this chapter.  It’s amazing how you can spend so much time in one portion of scripture, reading it and rereading it, and about the time you think you are ready to leave it, something jumps out and surprises you. That happened a couple of days ago.  I was surprised by divine nature.  Peter tells hos readers that God has promised we are participants in God’s nature.  I had read that verse a dozen times and never thought much about it.  This time it stunned me to think that God wants me to participate in his divine nature.  To be his servant , sure , that’s obvious.  To obey his commands, of course.  To be a part of his kingdom and to work for it, I think all Christians understand that.  But to participate in his divine nature?  That is definitely out of this world.  I can much more readily identify with Paul when he says that he is the worst sinner (I thought I was);  I know where the guy is coming from who said “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief”;  it is easier for me to understand King David and his foibles  then to imagine God wants me to participate in his divine nature.

So what on earth could Peter possibly mean about participating in God’s divine nature?  Peter says in the previous verse that God has promised us this.  I have been reading the bible for at least 45 years, and I couldn’t recall any promises to this effect.  I was mentally seeking out these promises and was drawing blanks.  One promise I do remember is that those who seek will find.

The next morning, during the regular devotion time we have at the home for needy children where I participate here in Oaxaca,Mexico, the person that was speaking had us look at the gospel of John, chapter 14.  There they were, a whole bunch of promises from the very lips of Jesus.  He promised his followers that the father would dwell in them, Jesus himself would be in them, and if that wasn’t enough, they would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  The whole trinity is in me! How’s that for participating in the divine nature?

John 14 promises – I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…

                                        I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

                                         If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Also John 15 – If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.

                               If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

So there it is – God has decided that us frail, mortal, weak, humans can participate in His Divine Nature.  God certainly loves us and wants us to be happy!  Enjoy God and His Divine Nature, today and everyday!

*****          *****          *****          *****

Jesus was now in charge; he was already, now, calling the nations to account.  And he was going to do so through his followers, those to whom he had given his Spirit.  This, whether we like it or not, is where we come in.”  N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus

*****         *****          *****          *****

Next blog – Released From Prison

 

 

Last week the Family Schwab went on a little vacation to Puerto Escondido, our favorite sea-side city.  There is a tiny cove we like to go to.  Normally the waves aren’t so big and Sally and Kelly can play in the water.  Last week was strangely different though.  The waves were huge, and it wasn’t safe for my little ones to go into the ocean, so they contented themselves playing in the sand on the beach.

 

playa carrizalillo

playa carrizalillo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an elderly man that was not content to simply lie on the beach and just take things in.  He was in the water sitting  among some rocks.  One wave crashed into him and down he went.  I was concerned that he had whacked his head against a rock.  He looked a bit discombobulated for a few moments, and then returned to his original position among the rocks.  I settled into a comfortable position to read my book, occasionally looking up to see how the octogenarian was fairing.  He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

 

At one point, an unusually large wave hit the beach, and down went the old man, tumbling wildly, flailing away helplessly, as the surf did its best to pound the guy into submission.  His wife noticing what had happened, jumped from her beach chair and rushed, as fast as an old lady can rush on sand, toward her husband.  I wondered how she could possibly help him.  Then I realized she wasn’t going out to help him.  She was going out to laugh at him.  Making her way to the waters edge, she was busting a gut, she was laughing so hard.  Her spouse finally got to his feet, got stabalized once again, and then he too, started laughing.  It was a wonderful sight to behold.   An elderly couple, laughing like children, at the beach, thoroughly glorifying God by enjoying Him and His creation.

 

Later that evening, Anita, the kids and I were at our hotel, which has a large, common balcony overlooking Puerto Escondido and the bay.  I enjoy relaxing on the balcony, looking at all the night lights reflecting off the water.  One light was from a light house.  It was flashing and rotating, warning sea captains away from the jagged cliffs.  Another light that caught my attention was a great search light, moving back and forth in the night sky, probably inviting tourists and townsfolk alike to some kind of grand opening or special event.

faro de puerto escondido

faro de puerto escondido (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course there were thousands of normal lights fringing the bay, illuminating houses, and making the streets and walkways visible and safe.  The main highway through Puerto Escondido runs right in front of our hotel.  Looking out from the balcony, I can see a fairly constant flow of traffic.  Lots of taxi’s, trucks, buses and motorcycles.  At one point I saw a motor scooter coming down the way.  It carried a what seemed to be a family of three.  The driver stopped his scooter at a wide spot in the road, right in front of our hotel, under a street lamp.  The lady and child got off the bike, and then the man parked the motorcycle as far to the edge as he could.  The lady opened her backpack and proceeded to take out some food and something to drink.  It seemed they were having a little picnic, under the street light, on the edge of the road.  There was a small ledge there for them to sit on.  They seemed not to mind the traffic flowing by.  They had a light to see their food, to see each other, and the cars speeding by could see them.  What could be better?

 

Thinking about these different lights reminded me of Jesus.  He said he was the “Light of the world”.  I thought his light as a lighthouse, keeping people from making shipwreck of their souls on the rocky cliffs of sin, bad-gunky, and evil.  I thought of his light as a search light, spanning the world, inviting people into the kingdom of God, into a right relationship with him, into community.  I thought of His illuminating light that offers people a safe place to enjoy communion with him, to enjoy peace, while the mad world whirls by.  His light that shows me the truth of his love, mercy and grace.

 

I am so happy for His light in my life.  His protecting light.  His inviting light.  His illuminating light.  And I know that He wants me to reflect this light in a dark world.  He wants me to shine a protecting light, an inviting light, and an illuminating light.  God wants all of us to make this world a brighter place.  Let’s do it.

 

****          ****          ****          ****

 

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

 

****          ****          ****          ****

 

Next blog – Participating in the Divine Nature

 

One day God said, “You know, I think I’ll make a billion stars today.”  He didn’t have to, but he did,

billion stars 2billion stars 3

billion stars

.

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

.

God didn’t have to give us sunrises and sunsets, but He did,

sunrise sunset

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make oceans and beaches, but He did,

ocean    beach

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make the Rocky Mountains,

   rocky mountainsrocky mountains2

The Grand Tetons,

grand tetons grand tetons2

Or the Sierras, but he did,

sierra sierra2

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to make pink roses,

DSC08836

Purple bougainvilleas,

DSC08838

Or birds of paradise, but he did,

DSC08843

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us good scents, like star jasmine, citrus blossoms, and lavender, but he did,

star jasmine citrus blossum DSC08906

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us pineapples, mangoes, and grapes, but he did,

pineapples mangoes grapes

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to give us puppies, and kittens, and goldfish, but he did,

puppies kittens goldfish

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to be born in a stable

jesus birth

And be crucified,

jesus death

And rise from the dead, but he did,

jesus resurrection

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

God gives us all good things,

So that we will glorify him by enjoying him forever.

****          ****          ****          ****

“Only wonder understands.”  Gregory of Nyssa

****          ****          ****          ****

Next blog – Waves and Lights

Life with Mikey

Life with Mikey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ten year old daughter Tifani had broken the rules and needed to be punished.  I don’t remember what offense she had committed.  I just remember looking at her, shaking my head, letting her know that she had disappointed me by breaking the rules and that she was going to be punished.  She looked up at me with big, sad eyes and said, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy,  I need help.”

When I heard her utter those words I burst out laughing, all my anger gone, knowing that my budding little actress had obviously picked up this line from some movie she had watched.  All thoughts of punishment had disappeared and I asked her where she had heard those words, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help.”

She had recently watched a movie called LIFE WITH MIKEY, and in this movie, a young girl about Tifani’s age was a pickpocket on the streets of New York.  She gets caught and an angry man accuses her of stealing his wallet.  A small crowd gathers around her.  Michael Chapman (Michael J. Fox) shows up.  He had just had his wallet stolen by this same girl.  He is the head of a child talent agency, and is always looking for new talent.  He sees the way that this girls is playing the crowd, and realizes that she is a natural.  He intervenes, telling everyone that she is his daughter.   Crocodile tears pour down her pretty little face and she exclaims, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy, I need help.”

She made the confession, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help”, not out of any realization of her true nature, but in the hope that people would feel sorry for her, give her a break and let her go.

Her words, though, have great significance for those who want to enjoy God.  The life of enjoying God begins with the startling revelation that we are all bad.  That we really and truly Know that we are bad and that without help, we are doomed.

This thought, for many, is the hardest part of enjoying God.  In fact, it seems ridiculous!  When confronted with the possibility that we might be bad, we immediately present our first list of all the good things we do.  We give to charitable organizations and donate time to worthy causes and don’t beat our wives or children and work hard at the office and never cheat or steal.

Our second list is made up of truly bad people like murderers, rapists, thieves and those who cheat on their spouses and take advantage of the poor.  We can always point to those who are really bad and thus exonerate ourselves.

Everyone has their own categories of who is bad and what is bad and we certainly don’t fall into any  of those categories.  But, the category that matters most, is God’s category.  Since He is the one we want to enjoy, and it is He that gives the joy, it is His standard of Good and Bad that we need to take a look at.

In the Bible God reveals His character and ours.  He shows us His standard of goodness and also how far removed we are from that standard.  The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that because we do not live up to His standard of Goodness that we are His enemies (Rom. 5:10). Indeed, we are dead in our badness.  Dead in our sins as Paul puts it Ephesians 2.  Sin is just another word for bad, a type of bad that utterly offends  a perfect God, and totally blocks our any chance of enjoying God.  In Romans 3:12, Paul quotes Ecclesiastes 7:20 saying, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  Even the good deeds we do, the random acts of kindness we perform, the rewards we receive for helping others, are all a stench in the nostrils of God, if done apart from being in right relationship with him.

Help Is Available

This is where the Good News comes in.  We can’t enjoy the God the Good News if we don’t first understand the bad news.  The bad news is that we are bad.  The Good News is that help is available!

The last phrase the girl pickpocket declared when confronted by the angry victim was, “I need help.”  She was insincere in her claim of needing help.  If we truly believe from the bottom of our hearts, that we re bad and desperately need help, God is more than willing to come to our aid and rescue us.

I lived in Sonoma County, California, for a number of years.  There were a few years that we experienced terrible flooding.  I lived close to the RussianRiver and during a particularly bad flood many of the residents were surrounded by high water and had to be helicoptered to safety.  Those residents recognized they were in a bad way and were glad to be helped.

I remember one especially dramatic photograph that appeared in the local paper.  A man was being rescued from the raging river by a fireman who was in the river with him.  The fireman was roped to other firemen standing on the bank.  The drowning man was rescued and the photographer went on to win a Pulitzer prize for the photo.

When we come to a point where we realize that we are drowning spiritually, when we realize that joy, peace and contentment are not the hallmarks of our lives, and that the turbulent waters of depression, disappointment, frustration, anger and disillusion threaten to overwhelm us, and we call out to a merciful, compassionate and gracious God (Daddy), He will rescue us!

In a way, God is like the fireman who jumped into the river to save the drowning man.  God jumped into our hopeless, helpless situation, into our badness, in the person of Jesus Christ.  And all those who became aware of their badness, and followed this God/Man Jesus were rescued, and are still being rescued and given new lives.  Lives filled with joy in God and delight at being delivered from the turbulent flood called existence, and brought onto the safe shore called Life.  Life enjoying God.

Some, like many of the religious leaders of Jesus day, didn’t realize how dire their plight was, and chose to cling to the slippery and perilous branches called self-righteousness and good works. They perished without ever experiencing the joy of knowing God.

Bad Gunky

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of doing bad things.  While we celebrate and rejoice that our Bad Existence was put to death by Jesus, we still struggle with doing bad things.  Martin Luther said we are at the same time righteous and sinners and that we continue to wrestle daily with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.  I call these things Bad Gunky.  In Stephen King’s novel LISEYS STORY, one of the main characters explains to his wife, Lisey, all about bad gunky.  As a child he lived with his father and older brother.  At various times they were attacked by what his father called “bad gunky”.  This was an evil presence that would, without warning, fill either the father or one of his sons with a violent anger that would cause them to want to kill.  The only cure that normally worked to rid the family member of bad gunky, was the shedding of blood. One of the family members that was not being attacked by the bad gunky would have to inflict a large, deep cut on his own body, to set the other family member free of the evil known  as bad gunky.

This is a wonderful picture of what our Brother, Jesus, did for us, giving himself up freely to be crucified, to let his blood pour down the cross, so that we could be free from bad gunky, the power of sin, of badness, that caused our spiritual death.  Bad Gunky, with a capital B and a capital G is no longer a threat to our eternal relationship with God, to our eternal life.  However, bad gunky, small b, small g, still nips at our heels and barks in our ears on a daily basis.  This bad gunky tempts us to do bad things.  Tempts us to leave the Lord we love.  We fall victim daily to bad gunky.  Jesus tells us we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. He tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We fail at this everyday.  In fact it is an impossible task.  So what sets followers of Christ apart from the rest of humanity that fails everyday?  It is the fact that as followers of Christ we have as our life goal to love God with all our being, and to love our  neighbor as we love ourselves.  We know this is the surest way to a life full of joy with God and with each other.  We begin the day in prayer, asking God’s Spirit to come along side us to help us love as He wants us to love.  And, if we are to be honest, end the day in prayer, noticing the ways we have failed to love, and confess to God that we have not loved Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.  That we have not loved our neighbor as our self.  And we rest assured, knowing that God is faithful to forgive us our sins, our bad actions, our lack of love.  We sleep peacefully, knowing that our merciful, compassionate, patient God has washed away the bad gunky of the day.  We look forward to the morning when God’s mercies are new and we can experience afresh the joy of God.

****          ****          ****          ****

The great power of God appears in bringing a sinner from his low state, from the depths of sin and misery, to an exalted state of holiness and happiness.  Jonathan Edwards  (1703-1758) from his sermon God Glorified in Man’s Dependence

****          ****          ****         ****

Next blog – God Didn’t Have To, But He Did

Sometimes kids think they have the worst parents in the world.  And then, when they go out into the world and live by themselves, all of a sudden, they realize, they have had the best parents in the world all along.  When I look back on my life, I realize I have the best parents.

Many are  the reasons I think I have the best parents, but one of the main reasons is that my parents were always making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  What I mean by this is that my parents were, and still are, very generous people.  Growing up, I remember, that when they saw a need, they tried to relieve that need.  They were always kind towards people in need, and sought to relieve those needs.  They were continually making deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.  In helping others they were storing up treasures for themselves in heaven.  Storing up treasures for themselves in heaven was not their motive, but it is a biblical principle.

An example:  When I was about ten years old, there was a poor family in our church that seemed to me like the most hard luck family that I had ever seen.  They suffered from a variety of health and economic issues.  I remember that they had an old, beat up, station wagon.  The engine died one day and there was nothing they could do about it.  My dad found out about the situation and towed the car it to our house.  He worked on it for about a week, rebuilding the engine at his own expense.  When he was done fixing the vehicle, it ran better than it had in a long time.  He returned the car to them at no  cost.  For the hard luck family, it was an awesome answer to prayer.  For my family, it was a deposit of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

Many times my father helped people in need with his mechanical skill or his skill in construction.  Neither one of these skills was his “profession”.  He taught himself most of what he knew in these areas and used this knowledge to benefit our family and many other families.  My parents have always, faithfully given to their local church and supported foreign missionaries.  On occasion I have had financial needs and they have been generous in helping me.  All, deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

The Bank of Goodwill is run by God.  He faithfully takes care of the deposits and sees that they give a good return.  And the interest is out of this world!  He tells us that “we reap what we sow”.  We harvest what we plant.  We receive back what we put into the Bank of Goodwill.

God tells us that He is generous to those who help the poor; that when we give of our time, talents and treasure, He gives back in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.  For me, those are all expressions of what happens when we make deposits of kindness into the Bank of Goodwill.

My parents are retired now, at least from jobs that give them a regular paycheck.  They live comfortably in a nice, little house on a nice little piece of land in Colorado.  They are ever thankful to God for the blessings that they enjoy, praising Him because He loves them and wants them to be happy.  They continue to glorify God and  enjoy Him by continuing to be faithful givers to their church and to missionaries abroad.  Dad continues to help others with  his construction skills.  If he had a business card, which he never had in his life, I think  it would read – Have Nailgun, Will Travel.  Mom helps “the least of these” in a hundred different ways.  In other words, there is never a time to quit making deposits of kindness into the Bank  of Goodwill.  I read a bumper sticker once that said Practice Random Acts of Kindness.  Perhaps it’s better to Practice Intentional Acts of Kindness.  Or, how about today, We All make a deposit of kindness  into the Bank of Goodwill.

*         *          *          *

The truth is, those who flourish always bring blessing to others – and they can do so in the most unexpected and humble circumstances.  John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be – Becoming God’s Best Version of You

*          *          *          *

Next blog – “I Am Thirsty”

Purple litter on  lawns; on ponds.

It’s scattered in streets, in lanes, in boulevards.

Purple litter mounds in gutters; against stone walls.

It’s blowing through the air;

falling on the ground.

Purple litter all around.

Purple litter above my head.

It’s on my mind and in my soul.

Beautiful purple litter of

Oaxaca’s jacaranda trees.

Billions of blessed purple flower petals.

God’s good gift;

the beautiful flowers falling on the ground,

the dirt,

the grass,

on the pavement.

They are beautiful  purple gifts from God,

signs of His gracious love

bringing joy to hearts,

happy thoughts

of God.

Reminders to enjoy Him

and glorify Him forever.

(pictures below)

****          ****          ****           ****

Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.  ~Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858

****          ****          ****          ****

Next blog – Making Deposits of Kindness into the Bank of Goodwill

_______________________________________________________________________________

Pics of Oaxacan Jacaranda trees and their beautiful purple petals.

DSC00519IMAG0166

DSC00574

DSC00577

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.