Dead Leaves Blown By the Wind

The wind picked up while I was swimming this morning. Some leaves were blown into the water. I observed them as they floated around me. Some of the leaves were still green, some were completely brown, and some were half green and half brown. There were many different shapes and sizes. I was fascinated by them. Each was unique and perfectly designed.

As I prayed and pondered, I was reminded that although the leaves were beautiful, they were dead. They no longer served their intended purpose. They are no longer helped the plant they had once shared life with. The plant could no longer provide the nourishment and support to the leaves.

I began to think about the people that blow in and out of my life every day. Many are spiritually dead. Each is unique. Each one is created by God Almighty and they all display His handiwork. They are beautiful.

Nevertheless, if they don’t know Jesus as their savior, they are dead, spiritually dead. They are floating through life, blown by the wind, disconnected from the Source of Life. Some still seem fresh, they may not even look dead yet. Others have had most of the life sucked out of them and they are dry. Sin has taken a toll on them. They are unable to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. Because of their deadness, they do not give God glory or enjoy Him.

But there is good news for those that are spiritually dead. God wants to do a miraculous work and make them alive in Him. He will be their nourishment and support. “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:33–35, NIV) It is a free gift.

Once I was floating around dead in my trespasses and sin. Someone shared the good news of Jesus free gift with me. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV) I am no longer disconnected from the source of life and nourishment. I have eternal life.

I am thankful for life in Jesus. I am thankful that someone noticed me being blown around by life, disconnected from God. I will be eternally grateful that they shared the good news of Jesus with me.

Lord Jesus, as I go through life today, let me notice those that are drifting aimlessly blown about by the winds of this world. Let me see beyond their beauty, intricate design, and uniqueness. Give me a concern for their eternal life. Help me to share with them about the source of life and nourishment. Let me speak boldly about Jesus.

Change a Nation by Making Disciples

It is a wonderful thing when a people group follows God’s rules and principles. Whether they believe in Him or not, following His rules brings blessing. He created us so He knows what is best. So ideally, we as Christians would like to live in a nation that upholds God’s principles because we know it is easier and healthier. But the unsaved population in our culture has a loud voice and is pushing a different agenda. What can we do?

As I prayed for our nation and the unsaved people who are dictating its laws, I asked this question. What can we do? As I read the Bible and looked at Jesus response to sin, I realized our response is the same as it is in a culture that holds to Christian mores and traditions. It is to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NIV)

I think it is essential that we remember that we are to first make disciples before we teach them to obey. Sometimes we get this backwards. We want people to live as citizens of God’s kingdom and follow his rules even though they are citizens of the world. Keep in mind, I am not saying it isn’t nice to have a country that lives by God’s principles. I know there is some benefit to following God’s rules without knowing Him. It does make for a healthier society. But God is more concerned about eternal consequences. It is His desire to save the lost from everlasting destruction. I need to join Him in this pursuit.

I need to make disciples. I need to share the good news of Jesus. Once my friends and neighbors know Jesus, it is my responsibility to teach them to obey. If each Christian purposes in their heart to join me in this pursuit, we can change our nation. We can turn from the destructive path we are now following. We can change the course of history. But true, lasting and eternal change only happens one individual at a time. Let’s make disciples.

In Light Of Recent Events

I have been grieved this week over the lack of love I have seen on social media. I have been grieved over the anger and lack of humanity. One post that I saw said, “You and your sister are morons #LoveWins”. I cried. Love hadn’t won. So I have been praying. I have been asking God what I should do. In light of the recent changes in our government’s stand on another sin issue, I have had to take some time to reflect and meditate.

Don’t get me wrong. I am sad that the government has given more freedom to sin, but this is not new. Unregenerate man usually picks pleasure and conformity over God’s moral standard. They are not part of His kingdom, why should they follow his rules? But I am really concerned over the lack of love and hatred that is being spewed. So what am I to do in light of this tension and upset?

I know that God has placed me here for a purpose. It is uncomfortable to live in a world that celebrates sin, but I must focus on God’s view and the reason he has me here, not on my comfort. I’m pretty sure I know what to do. I am to carry on the work of Jesus. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV)

So I must follow Jesus. Does that mean I should work at social change? Does it mean I should run for office? For me I don’t think so. I don’t think that work is political activism. I don’t ever remember Jesus working on government change. He was more concerned about individual lives changing.

I don’t think I am called to preach destruction and condemnation to those who are lost either. Those that have rejected light are condemned already. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:18–21, NIV)

What I am called to do is proclaim Jesus as the Savior of the World. I am called to let people know that real love exists. I am called to exhibit it. This love is not of human origin, it is greater and surpasses and the momentary pleasures that we enjoy in this life. It starts and ends with God, so it is not temporary. It is eternal love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NIV)

This is my purpose. It is to proclaim the goodness of God. It is to share His love. My calling is to lead people to Jesus, the Savior of the world. I am to join with Jesus in calling people “out of darkness into His marvelous light”.

Will you join me? Let us who know Jesus proclaim the love of God to our lost world. We need to share about Jesus, the Savior of the world. We need to tell a lost and dying world about the free gift of salvation. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7, NIV)

Making the Best Choices

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9–11, NIV)

Today I did some good things. I think back on my day and it was packed with activity. I did some household chores, cooking, washing dishes, and yard work. I went to work at my job outside of my home. When I returned home, I took a few moments out and read a good book. I sanded a chair that I am refinishing. Just a few more chores and off to bed.

I stopped to write for a few moments. I stopped because I started wondering if I had done the best things today or if they were only good things. I wanted to stop and reflect on this because I know that I often settle for what is expedient or easy. I don’t always choose what is best.

I didn’t choose what was best when I picked my food today. I had better food in the refrigerator, but I picked easy food. I ate something less healthy and less tasty. When I started thinking about that, I realized that I am often lazy about how I decide to spend my time. I often pick what is less healthy and less rewarding.

Sometimes I turn on the TV and can’t find anything worthwhile to watch, but I don’t turn it off. I leave it on as background noise. Why do I need incessant noise playing in the background of my life? I often find myself annoyed by what I hear. It is healthy and it isn’t enjoyable but still I choose it.

As I look back over my day, I realize that my lazy choices are the choices that are less fulfilling. The things I do mindlessly are the least fulfilling. So how can I live my life in a fulfilling and rewarding way? Philippians 1:9-11 tells me.

My choices need to be based in love, love for God, love for my fellow man, or love of myself. This means they need to be decisions that are planned and have a purpose. They should not be choices that happen by default because I am lazy. To make the best choices you must have thought through the alternatives and chosen one option as more excellent than another. This requires some mental effort.

It also requires knowledge and discernment. As I learn more, I can make more informed choices. Again, this takes effort. It requires a plan. And there is a good reason to discern what is best. It is so that I will be filled with the fruit of righteousness and will bring glory and praise to God.

Today I will pray this prayer for you. Dear Lord, “it is my prayer for each person that reads this blog, that their love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that they may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9–11, ESV)

We Can Have Peace in Fearful Times

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)

I have been struggling with fear. I see my country headed down an immoral slide. The slide seems to be getting steeper and we are picking up speed on our downhill run. As a nation, we are choosing a path that is contrary to the righteousness of God.

At another time and place when Israel was working in opposition to God’s laws, these were the prophetic words given to that nation. “Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low. But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.” (Isaiah 5:15–16, ESV) And, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!” (Isaiah 5:20–23, ESV)

This past week I felt an overwhelming sense of dread as I realized our nation’s disregard of the righteousness of God. We are calling evil good. We are calling good evil. We are calling darkness light. We are disregarding the Light of the world. Many people are finding out too late that what they thought was going to be sweet is actually very bitter. Many in leadership are full of pride, wise in their own eyes and feel free to trample on the rights of the little guy. Partying and illicit gain seem to be the new national pastime, forget baseball.

I know that the “Woes” in the passage are warnings. Woe is an interjection with a negative connotation. It is inextricably tied to grief and denunciation. It is a term of anguish and pain. “Woe” often precedes judgment.

So this week when I found myself crying out, “Woe to America for its unrighteous acts and ideology”, it scared me. And then I read John 14 through 17.

Jesus warned the disciples of the difficulties they would be facing. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1, ESV) “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18–19, ESV)

He also comforted them by reminding them that they had eternal life. Jesus also declared victory over the sin of this world. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

I serve this same, Jesus. I have eternal life. I can take heart and let go of worry and fear. I may have tribulation. There may be trouble. But Jesus has a plan for my eternal good and I am on the winning team.

The Coming Storm

“I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”” (Psalm 55:8, ESV)

This morning, I am sitting outside watching the clouds roll in. A storm is coming. There is a hurricane off of Baja California that is headed my way. It is a powerful storm that is expected to do damage in Mexico. And all of the signs and predictions indicate it will arrive in Arizona soon. Not sure yet what to expect.

I read Psalm 55 this morning. It is a Psalm about a storm, a hurricane of destruction. It is an emotional and spiritual storm. It is a tempest caused by evil people who are opposing righteousness and truth. The evildoer is threatening to bring ruin and the Psalmist cry’s out to God for help and salvation.

This passage really spoke to my heart. “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” (Psalm 55:4–5, ESV) My heart was in anguish this week. As I saw the anger, hatred and evil that is pervasive in the American culture and media, horror overwhelmed me. I grew fearful this past week as I observed the storm rolling in.

Like King David, the author of this song, I cried out to God. “And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”” (Psalm 55:6–8, ESV) I just wanted to go and hide. I wanted fly away to a place of safety. I wanted to avoid the storm.

My next thought also mirrored David’s thinking. Get rid of the sin and evildoer. Stop the enemy. Stop the madness. “Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city.” (Psalm 55:9, ESV) Keep the storm at bay, Lord. But it isn’t that easy. We can’t just shut it out.

As the storm rises and the threat grows, we realize it isn’t something far away in another country or place. It is right here causing pain and suffering. The storm isn’t just the media and those outside the church. The distorted and perverse thinking has come home. It is in our families and churches. Evil is insidious and the lies are permeating the institutions that once stood for truth.

David laments, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.” (Psalm 55:12–15, ESV)

As I watch the storm of evil flood our society, it grieves me. The destruction that is left in its wake is painful to witness. It is even more painful to see those that I have worshipped with opposing the truth of God. Some of my familiar friends are standing with our fallen culture. I feel afraid and worried. I must find shelter and safety from this raging storm.

Thankfully I have a safe place. “But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.” (Psalm 55:16, ESV) And if you are looking for a safe place to in the wake of the disaster that the storm of evil is bringing, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)

I see the storm coming. I am not sure how it will affect me. I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I know how to prepare. It is simple. It’s all summed up in the last verse of Psalm 55. “But I will trust in you.” (Psalm 55:23, ESV)

Confession: Washing The Feet

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”” (John 13:3–10, ESV)

Our pastor gave a sermon on confession yesterday. He referred briefly to the above passage during the lesson. It caught my attention, so I thought I would share what I learned.

Jesus had been with the disciples for three years. All but one had acknowledged his Deity. They had come to know Him as Jesus, the Son of God. They were his family, his children. They belonged to the Kingdom. They were saved.

Jesus sets things up one night to wash their feet. He becomes the servant, doing menial labor, a low task that should have been done by someone else. Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach the disciples. This was not just a physical need being met. Jesus is illustrating a spiritual principle.

Jesus is the Servant. He came to cleanse people from their sin. Baptism is the outward expression of the inward change that takes place at salvation. Our old self is buried and our new is raised in the likeness of Jesus. As my pastor always says, “Buried in the likeness of His death, raised in the likeness of His resurrection”. We have been washed clean. Amen!

Although we have been washed, we also know that we still get dirty. Our feet collect up dust from walking through this world. It needs to be washed off. We don’t need a whole bath again. We are clean. This is what Jesus explained to Peter. So how do we get rid of this dust?

Here is the lesson. We need confession. We need to expose our dirty feet. We need to bow before our Savior and allow Him to wash off the dust we collect on a daily basis. We need to sit quietly before Him as He cleanses, touches us and soothes us. We wait patiently while He gently washes away the grime and then sends us out again.

Jesus told the disciples that they need to do this for others. I think we do too! We need to help others learn about washing off the filth and grime that collects from walking down the path of life. We need to direct people to Jesus for foot washing. We need to encourage confession. We do this best by example.

It must have been awkward for the first disciple in that room to sit still while the King of Kings washed his feet. I bet it was easier for each one after as he learned by example that it was a loving act by God who came to be a Servant.

I pray today with King David, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2, ESV) It isn’t easy to humble myself and allow my filth and grime to be seen. But it is good! It is healthy! And it is Right! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)

As I reveal my dirty parts today Lord, wash me. Refresh me. Clean me up in preparation for the next part of the journey. And thank you for being the Humble Servant who washes away all our sin and guilt.

When Death Comes

265There was a death in my family this week. My 99-year-old grandmother, who I adored, passed away quietly in her sleep. This was a great loss for me, but a great gain for her. She knew Jesus. He was her Savior and Lord. And He has now saved her from her earthly decline and raised her to the heavenly realms. She is now free from the limitations of an old failing body. This is good, but I will miss her.

In my sadness, I have been looking to Scripture for comfort. I realized that I have a choice to make. I can either focus on temporal or the eternal. I can focus on my temporary loss or my grandmother’s great gain. It seems clear that I must learn to let go of the temporal and cling to the eternal. It is all that really matters.

“For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:53–57, ESV)

This is so true, but still, it isn’t easy to keep this focus. The temporal reaches my five senses and inundates them with clamor and noise, demanding my constant attention. My feelings of sadness and loss are unpleasant emotions and they feel overwhelming at times. It comes down to this. I have a choice on how to deal with it. I can waste time allowing the temporary nature of this life consume me. Or I can make the most of my time and effort by doing work with eternal consequence.

Thoughts of death encouraged the Apostle Paul to keep an eternal focus. He was able to persevere through great difficulty and loss because the temporary had no power over him. He lived with an eternal view. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, ESV) He also said, “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20–21, ESV)

Grandma has gained!

Putting God First

Over the last few days, I have been thinking about the importance of putting God first. I got this idea from a news program that mentioned the basis of law. I thought if we would just go back to basing things on the Ten Commandments we would do well. Then I realized that I could base my own life on the Ten Commandments and do well. So I began thinking through them.

I got stuck on number one, ““You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, ESV). It occurred to me that a lot of things get in the way of me putting God first. Many of them are good things. Already this morning I have done a number of good things, but God was not first. I know in my heart and mind that he deserves the preeminent place in my life.

It amazes me that I believe in God and yet there are moments, sometimes days, that I live like a practical atheist. I put all kind of false gods ahead of the one true and living God. The false little god that I seem to worship the most is me. I put my thoughts, feelings, ideas, desires and will in first place in my life. If I am going to live by the Ten Commandments, I need to start with number one and make sure that God and his will takes first place in my life. That means all my moments and days, not just Sunday and Wednesday night.

To regain my focus, I have decided to worship and pray using this hymn as the cry of my heart.

Take My Life and Let It Be
1 Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
2 Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
3 Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee.
4 Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose,
Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
5 Take my will, and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
6 Take my love—my Lord,
I pour At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself—and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee,
Ever, only, all for Thee.

Lord, let me worship by putting you first.

Hurt by Immaturity

This week I realized how easy it is to hurt someone else without even realizing it. I learned this lesson while spending time with my grandchildren. My granddaughter, Greta was sitting on the floor playing. Her brother, Cohen, who is only 7 months old, was sitting on his mom’s lap nearby. He reached out and grabbed Greta’s hair. He pulled hard, and, of course, Greta screamed.

My daughter-in-law Kelly handled the situation beautifully. Greta was soothed, Cohen was moved out of reach and life went on. As I witnessed this situation, the Lord touched my heart. I realized that I am a little like Cohen. OK, maybe I am a lot like Cohen. In my immaturity, I do not mean to hurt people. I don’t even understand that what I am doing will hurt them. And still, others around me are left screaming in pain.

When I look back, it is easy to see situations where I have harmed others without understanding. There are times when people ask for help, but I am preoccupied. Without thinking, I give an abrupt, seemingly rude answer because I am just distracted without realizing how it appears to them. There are times when I am joking about a situation without considering my audience. I realize later that they may have been offended by my comments. I relate to Cohen and his lack of understanding. I still need to learn about what causes pain in others so I can be kind to them.

I also relate to Greta. Great needed to understand that Cohen really didn’t mean it. He acted out of ignorance not out of malice. That’s a hard lesson. It hurt whether he meant it or not. To be understanding when we are hurting is very difficult.

I hate it when someone causes me pain. I feel like screaming and sometimes I do scream. I get mad at the person who caused the pain. In that moment, I do not usually take the time to think through the situation. It is difficult to stop screaming and consider the other person’s maturity. But this is necessary if we are going to love one another. We will hurt each other. Often it is out of immaturity. Although the pain feels the same, understanding and patience needs to carry the day.

I also learned something by the way Kelly handled it. First, she made Cohen stop causing pain. She comforted Greta. Teaching and doctrine came after all parties were appropriately dealt with. It was important to get control and have the right behavior established before explaining to each person what they could learn from it.

It is not comforting for anyone to hear that the pain they are suffering from is not intended and a mistake. When someone is in pain, they just want it to stop. That is why it is important to do everything we can to help others alleviate the pain before we tell them to be understanding. Kelly did not just tell Greta to “be kind to your brother.” She didn’t just say, “he is young and doesn’t know what he is doing.” She first did everything in her power to alleviate the pain and then to comfort Greta.

If I am going to help others, I must learn to soothe and comfort. I must intervene and help to stop the pain. I must have a genuine concern for those that are suffering. I must love and console before I teach and train.

I learned all these lessons from one small situation. Imagine what I could learn if I paid better attention to the circumstances of my day!