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Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15

 To my readers and blogging family:

Dear friends, My dad won his short-lived battle with cancer yesterday (March 22, 2012) when he was ushered through the gates of heaven to meet his Lord Jesus after following him for 67 of his 85 years. Dad entered eternal life just 13 days after his 85th birthday.

Dad was a father, grand-father, and great-grandfather as well as a pastor for over 60 years. In the days ahead I will concentrate my efforts on celebrating, remembering, crying and rejoicing in the heritage Dad left us. As a result I’ll be taking some time off from reading your blogs and sharing with you the words that God has given me.

My dad was the inspiration behind much of what I write and my number one cheerleader when I stepped behind the pulpit. He was as proud of me as I was of him. We met together weekly and I gleaned much from his wisdom. Dad was a true example of my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally. Dad, Pastor Max, will be truly missed and I can’t wait to meet him again on the other shore.

Blessings,

Mike


Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Romans 12:12 (NLT)

“I hope”

Two little words ripe with expectation and emotion.

“I hope the car starts this morning.”

“I hope the doctor calls with good news.”

“I hope the job offer comes through.”

“I hope the bank accepts our offer.”

“I hope my son/daughter grows up to love God.”

“I hope [fill in your own words here.]”

The inherent problem with hope in the physical realm is that it almost always involves something in the present, in what we can see, hear or touch. Often times ‘hope’ is focused on the results of some action we’ve taken or tried to take in order to make our lives more complete, more whole, more comfortable.

But hope built on earthly standards is often subject to the whims of others. But in God’s economy hope isn’t about this world, it’s about eternity. Too often it’s easy to build our hopes for today on our own ability to accomplish something. We look to our past experiences to build future hope. That’s all fine and well if our past is squeaky clean, but for those of us who have a past littered with broken relationships and missed opportunities, building a hope for the future on the efforts of our past is risky at best.

“I hope the grades I got in school get me into the college I choose.”

“I hope the boss looks at my work record when he considers that promotion.

As a believer in Jesus Christ our hope is on the past, but not our past. Our hope is built on the past work of Jesus on the cross and the empty tomb. Our hope is built on spiritual position in Christ and not our ability to live up to someone else’s standards.

When our hope is built on what Jesus can do for us and with eternity in view it makes the troubles of this world pale. It’s the hope of our future, not the regrets of the past or the fears of today that give us joy and patience. It’s our walk with God built on study, fellowship and prayer that empowers us to forge ahead when the battle seems too big for us to handle.

Leave your past mistakes at the foot of the cross. Seek divine power to put your focus on the hope of our future with Christ. Let his word so richly dwell within you that you are able to withstand the attacks the enemy throws your way. Hopelessness comes from focusing on the past and present. Hope comes as we focus on eternal values and goals.

PRAYER: Father God, my past seeks to cripple me. The present tries to wrap me in worry and fear. Empower me by your Spirit to set my focus on a future with you. Give me patience to endure and wisdom to know how to pray as I forge ahead on this journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 NIV

We live in a world that idolizes heroes and rightfully so. A Good Samaritan stops to pull an injured person from a burning car and then, the mayhem that follows, disappears when emergency crews arrive.

A fireman or by-stander races into a burning home to rescue a person inside, only to die in the attempt.

A mother dies saving the lives of her children as a tornado pours debris down on her. The children survive because of the body shield she made.

A child calls 9-1-1 and as a result a loved one is taken to the hospital just in time, a life is saved.

We love hearing these stories. Stories of people in the right place at the right time, performing a feat of bravery and ignoring the risk to their own lives. They make us smile. They give us hope. They become a bright light in the darkness.

But what would we think if every time someone tried to save another person that person climbed right back into the danger? The wounded person drags himself across the pavement to climb back into the burning fire; the rescued person dashes back into the burning house; the injured loved one refuses treatment once the ambulance arrives and dies on the floor.

Preposterous you may say and you’d be right. But such is the story of Jesus Christ. He went to the cross knowing that the very people he died for would continue to sin. He went to the cross realizing that for many, his death would be in vain, not because their sin was too great, but because of their refusal to seek his forgiveness.

Jesus is the ultimate hero. The heroes we read about in the newspapers save people from physical harm and death, Jesus saves us from the hidden wounds of the heart and gives us eternal life. The wounds on our bodies can heal with time, but only Jesus can heal the eternal wounds of the heart. He is our ultimate hero and he did it knowing we’d rush right back in and need to be rescued again.

As one writer said, “It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was your sin.”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus I thank you for rescuing me. There is no reason I deserve your kindness. There is no reason you should have endured the pain of the cross on my behalf. But I thank you for your mercy, grace and forgiveness. Amen.


But the wicked are filled with terror, because God is with those who do what is right. Psalm 14:5 (NCV)

The reality of God’s existence is a refuge for some and a source of fear for others.

To those who believe in the God of the universe, the God of Jacob and Genesis, the God who sent Jesus Christ to earth to be the savior of all mankind, he is the foundation of our faith.

For those who believe in other gods, Jehovah God brings fear, frustration and anger. Albert Barnes writes in ‘Barnes notes on the Bible’, “People cannot, by an effort of will, get rid of the evidence that there is a God. In the face of all their attempts to convince themselves of this, the demonstration of his existence will press upon them, and will often fill their minds with terror.”

Jesus himself warns us that we would be hated by the world because the world hates him, and if the world hates Jesus it hates the Father God of the universe. What was the first emotion felt by Adam and Eve after they sinned? When God came looking for them to take his normal evening walk in the garden with his friends they were hiding. Why? “We hid because we were naked and afraid.”

Unhealthy fear of God is expressed in many ways. Some go to any effort at all to disprove his existence.

Others show fear though anger at God. He didn’t do what I wanted. He didn’t meet my wants. Therefore he must not exist and if he does exist, he isn’t interested in me or is angry with me.

Still others become frustrated in their walk with God. They live the way they want. They follow their own passions, their own desires and when the natural consequences of their decisions produce the expected outcome they are shocked. Where is God now? They ask. If he loves me why does this happen?

Referring back to the earlier quote from Barnes’ may help us to understand a little bit more about our enemy. Our ultimate enemy of course is Satan, but he works in the minds of his children (those who refuse to believe) to instill fear in a variety of ways in order to pull them farther from the God who desperately wants a love relationship with them.

What does this mean to us as Christ followers? Perhaps it is easier for us to realize that those attacks on us that seem to put us on the defensive are really the attacks of people who feel trapped. Cornered by the sub-conscious realization that God does exist, they have two options. Fight or give in.

Our responsibility as children of God isn’t to fight back, but to love and accept them into the kingdom. Show them the forgiveness available through grace. Realize their attacks are really an indication of the realization that we are right about our belief in a sovereign God and a gracious redeemer.

PRAYER: Father, I confess to you that I get angry when I see people around me mocking your name and living in ways that don’t please you. I get judgmental and critical of their ways. Help me to see what you see, a bunch of scared people seeking relief from their fears in the wrong way. Help me show them that you are the solution to the fear and frustration in their lives, not the cause of it. In the name of Jesus, my Lord I pray, Amen.


The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

“Do you believe in God?”

The answer to this question seems to have changed over the years. Used to be that everyone believed in God, or if they didn’t, they would never admit it. It was just too un-popular of a philosophy to think of a world without God. Reality is though, the question isn’t really “Do you believe in God”, rather it would be better phrased which God do you believe in. Those that say there is no God have really set themselves as the supreme deity and their personal view on life as being their ‘theology’.

Others believe in a Supreme Being of some sort. They look around and realize all this must have come from somewhere. Even the most primitive tribes have stories of the origin of man and the universe and all include in that story some great power that gave us all this. Ironically, only our ‘sophisticated society’ has come up with an explanation for origins that doesn’t include some supreme being. But simply believing in some super-power isn’t enough. These people may believe in some supreme being but they deny that this being has any influence in this world. He, or it is a king without a kingdom so to speak.

Perhaps the most dangerous and most numerous people are the many who profess to believe in God on the outside but not in their hearts. They may go to church and have all the religious jargon down. They may not go to church but still believe in God, but stay away because of all the ‘politics’. Their religious philosophy goes something like this, “I believe in God, but I can worship him wherever and however I want. I don’t need to go to church to worship God. Besides, none of us really know what God is like.” They don’t believe in a personal God who rewards or punishes.

The Psalmist has a word for those in the above mentioned three categories. It’s the word fool. He lumps them all together in one need little package. They are all fools. They are all people who don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge the existence of a personal God.

Belief in God begins in the heart. Outward activities offer no proof of inner commitment to him. The fool may say in his heart that God doesn’t exist and show the world otherwise, but a heart that is truly committed to God will show the character of God in thought word and deed.

What God do you believe in? It will show in your actions towards those who mistreat you and who differ from you. The God of the universe, the creator and sustainer of all we see is a personal, graceful and merciful God who earnestly desires a personal, passionate relationship with you through his son, Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you today that you do exist. I pray that you would change my heart to be in tune with you so that others will see you are real because of me. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord I pray, Amen.

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