Turn Your Eyes On Jesus

Here we are facing the festivities of fall and winter, thinking about the turkey and the beginning of Christmas and the shopping we have to do and the family we will get to see as we gather once again together. I wonder if the ordinary activities of the season have caused us to neglect the meaning of the season. Yes the turkey is delicious and the ornaments and gifts exciting, but what is the real focus of the season. Has it become a backdrop rather than a primary focus?

Thanksgiving is a time to turn our thoughts to the goodness of our Lord and what He has done for us over and over again and Christmas a time to remember His greatest gift – the Savior who gave His very life to give us eternal life in a glorious setting. Have we let the turkey and the tree cloud the real issue – a time to remember what life is all about and why we are here today and what we should be doing with His glory on our faces that transfigures a downtrodden world? Shame on us if we have!

The Word of God tells us In the beginning and goes on the describe the rise and fall of humanity through the years until He sent another reminder of His purpose – a Son to save us from our own shabby ways. And still, we have not learned! What is wrong with us and what can we now do to overcome the failings that have progressed as the years have passed. In truth there is only one answer – we must refocus on the reason for our existence. We were created to be a source of the greatest light we can imagine – a time to turn our thoughts to the God who loves us and longs for our presence in a world where there is no sin.

So where do we go from here? Maybe we should start with reading our Bibles more and then asking and listening to what our Lord has to say specifically to us. We were each created with a specific job to do. Do we know what it is and if so how to go about it? We may not have been created to be a missionary in a foreign country, but we do exist in a specific spot in an oppressed world with many holes and a need for filling. Yes, it is true, that we may feel our efforts, small as they are, can be of little use with a big problem. However, if you are a reader, you will realize that many small starts have become great achievements. Also, you, yes you, were created with a specific job to accomplish. Do you know what it is? And surely you won’t tell the Lord you are too busy; you will try to work it in tomorrow?

There are not many in this world who understand all they should, but you should remember that there were only twelve disciples in our early existence and although they suffered mightily they accomplished much. Can you imagine where we might be if not for them? The same is true in today’s world. A little salt can make all the difference in what we eat; a little truth can also make a much-needed difference in how we act. None of the disciples realized what their efforts could accomplish in a world that didn't know God but look at where we are today. Yes, you’re right, it has not done as much as it could, but it has certainly made a difference in many lives. Just one life can often make a huge difference. You have probably read about many in our history books. Can you be one of those that matters to even one soul?

One day someone may read in a history book about an individual who made a difference in another person's life. You may not be that one, but then who knows; YOU could be one.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

How Do I Love Thee?

I would say all of us have heard this expression before although it might be asked in a different way.  We all want to know how much we are loved, but there are not many times when we will question ourselves about how we love the individual we are talking to.  I wonder why that is – have we managed as we have grown to make everything of importance simply about our lives and how we live and what we have accomplished?  What did you say – ouch!  Just maybe we should spend a little time thinking about this

When you really love someone the relationship will by its very nature bear fruit.  The Bible talks about fruit over and over so it must be important.  Adam and Eve were placed in a garden and told which fruit they could eat and which they could not.  As you well know they were tempted to try the very one that was forbidden.  Times haven’t changed very much, have they?  In spite of our many warnings we still are tempted by the very thing that is forbidden.  Why do you think that is?  As human beings are we just naturally tempted to try to do something that has been denied us?  Surely it can’t hurt just to try.   

If you have children you know well how they have always pushed the limit.  Were we simply born rebellious?   Do you remember saying “I can do it myself”?  There is nothing wrong with simply trying to achieve one’s goal, but when it has specifically been denied that is another story.  God knew the ramifications of evil and how our arch enemy, the devil, would try his best to get us diverted from the Heaven that belongs to our Creator.  He specifically warned us and yet we have had to ask forgiveness many times because apparently we are hard headed.  I wonder why we even try yet we have been specifically warned that hell is definitely not the place we want to end up. 

In today’s world we all know and appreciate the value of gold, but the author of Proverbs tells us in his reference to wisdom that My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold  (8:19).  I don’t need to remind you how gold is valued in today’s world and how we would all like to have some.  Is it possible to give the same value or even more to the love of the Father?  Most of us would say “yes” without another thought and yet our actions often deny our words.  Do you ever wonder how you will be graded when it comes time? 

The one thing that will help us is the remembrance of how very much our Father loves us.  He gave more than we ever deserved to show us His love.  Surely we can reciprocate the gift by trying our very best to return the favor.  The life of His beloved son, Jesus, was more than we ever would have thought would be considered and yet He loved us all so much that He gave the best of what was His to give.  In all good conscience can you deny Him the gift we owe; the same love for each and every one of His sons as He has already given us?  We don’t need to assume or try to figure out just how much that means.  His Word tells us plainly as it is recorded in John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have ever lasting life.  That is not only the bottom line; it also should warm our hearts with such passion that we have no desire left but to honor and serve Him with all that we have, even as far as giving our lives to His service and loving His other children as part of our larger family.

We give Thee but Thine own, whate'er the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.
And we believe Thy Word, though dim our faith may be;
Whate'er for Thine we do, O Lord, we do it unto Thee.

Food Enough

We all know that food is a necessity of life.  If we are blessed to know what is good for us and what is not we can maintain a healthy body, but there is more to living than just existing so how do we come to know what is encompassed in the life we were actually created for?  Many of us were fortunate to come from the homes of yesterday when there was more emphasis on going to church on Sunday, on memorizing scripture and being sprinkled with holy water in baptism, if our local church did not have a baptismal for dunking; but you have to admit in today’s world the emphasis has changed more than we realize.  It has become more of an incidental than a requirement losing the necessity of actually following our Lord’s instructions.

We find in today’s world that many are starving, but it is not always from lack of what goes into our mouths.  What then is really necessary for living life?  Mark told us long ago that He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (16:16).  Does that then mean that life is not only dependent on what we eat?  It is true that when we look at today’s needs we find ourselves being reminded that there are many who will die if they are not provided with food for their body’s nourishment, but will that provide the eternal life that our Lord tells us is available to us?

Understanding eternal life can only be discovered if we study and properly interpret what we read.  That is the purpose of the Word of God that has been written by those that personally walked with Jesus, listened to His words of knowledge, practiced them and passed them down through the ages.  It was originally God’s purpose for us to acknowledge the lessons learned in the past and fulfill them.  He knew that one day we would need His help to survive in a world that has grown in the ways of evil from man’s ego.  He knew we would have to experience evil before we would be able to lean on and practice what He originally planned for His children and that He has caused to be preserved through the centuries.

Consider what the Word says in Acts and Galatians: Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27) and if you are Christ’s, then you are….heirs according to the promise (29).  Nowhere in either passage does it indicate that the actual food we eat is the solution to life.  Yes, I do realize that our earthly bodies have to have nourishment in order to continue to exist, but if we are to have what I believe we all want, which is eternal life, then apparently there is a requirement more important than the edible food we put into our mouths. 

So then the question becomes what is it we need to fill our bodies with to become the spiritual bodies we were meant to be and will one day confront?  The obvious answer is there’s food enough found in our Bibles. not in the local grocery store.  Have you ever really asked yourself if you spend enough time in the Word of God?  I imagine that most of us would rather not be asked the question because we already know the answer.  Can we overcome the problems we have allowed?  Maybe we should listen to that little inner voice, the one our Creator gave us to help us remain on the road to our mansion in the sky.

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me
As Thou didst break the bread by Galilee:
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word.

Strength in Weakness

How many times have you felt the need of strength, but sensed only that you are in actuality weak?  I imagine that many of us have felt that way and yet if we really think about it there has always been a solution for weakness.  It is not found in vitamin pills, or in regular exercise activities, or in any particular philosophy of life.  There is only one real solution to weakness and that is found in the sacrifice of life’s greatest strength, the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When God saw that His creation too easily fell into disobedience and hence weakness, He came up with our only key to success.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  We have all heard and probably believed at a very early age, but have we really understood the wealth found in that one verse?  It may even be true that this scripture is the first one we ever memorized and yet how often in our need do we remind ourselves of God’s promise?  It is so easily memorized and yet at the hardest times of our lives do we recall it?  Do we actually go to our promise first or has it become a last resort after we have tried everything else?  I am not trying to see if your memory is any better than mine, but I am trying to remind myself that there has always been an answer to the many problems of life.  We have been so richly blessed and yet you may want to ask yourself, as I have, why we have such a hard time accepting His gift.

Today we look at how fast evil has come upon our world and how many lives it has taken as we try to fumble our way through life.  Have you ever wondered why the simplest solutions are so often forgotten as we attempt to make things easier?  Aren’t we a foolish people?

We have read about and may even know some great examples of a rich life and yet we still try to come up with something new and different that we can claim for ourselves.  We are not very good receivers of someone else’s answers.  I am sure you probably have heard over and over again the expression “I can do it myself”.  Well, I guess you have to know by now that we can’t and never have been able to accomplish this formidable solution adequately.  So why don’t we just simply accept the gift and give thanks to our Creator for coming up with the only realistic solution? 

Weakness is not something any of us enjoy, but then we find that with little effort (a simple please Lord and thank you) we can do whatever is required.  It gives us the strength to continue with life in this very confusing and ugly world and hopefully able to make some difference.  I am sure it also pleases our Lord to hear a thank you from the people He so lovingly created.

It may take some thinking to understand, but God told His people in 1st Corinthians 1;27 that He chose the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty and in 2nd Corinthians 12:19 Paul tells us that when I am weak, then I am strong.

When we read the Sermon on the Mount found in the book of Matthew we find what we hope to hear one day – Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord  (25:21). 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.

No Second Chance?

Now that’s a scary title.  We’ve spent many years thinking there is always another chance if we make a mistake the first go-round.  Can we live with that reality; are we going to continue believing that our Creator, being who He is, will always be willing to give us another opportunity to get things right?  If you give that some serious thinking you might realize that He has probably given you more than a second chance already, but how many times will you try to claim that reality?  Maybe it is past time to take that item off your list and do some serious talking to your Creator.

For myself, as I look back on my life, I have to admit that even considering the bad times my Creator and Lord has always loved me more than I deserve and has always agreed to give me another chance to get it right.  However, He might just be tired of the continual renegotiation of life’s possibilities so maybe I should get a little more determined to become the person He created me to be.  Deep down isn’t that what I really want, to be who He created me to be? 

Over the many years of my life I think I have finally begun to realize that growth is a slow, but ever-changing process.  It doesn’t always end up where we intend, but in the long run we begin to see that without some failure we cannot fully appreciate our arrival in God’s intended spot.  It simply is not possible to see life’s glory if one has never experienced the natural muddiness of life.  Most of us would probably rather avoid the hurdles, but you would have to agree that the joy of overcoming is worth understanding the bottom of the heap.

So where do we go from here?  You probably have heard the expression “flying like the eagles”.  It gives one the picture of really reaching the pinnacle of life.  It might be a little scary at the time, but isn’t it what we all long for?  Not only will we understand, but we will do so by seeing for ourselves the glory God has planned for all of His children.  The Psalmist declared But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me (13:5-6).  What a wonderful way to look at life!

At this point you might be saying to yourself – but look at how things ended up.  That was an awfully stiff price!  Yes, you are right; it is and was a huge price, but when you look at the results aren’t you grateful that He cared so much for the Father’s creation.  It does make you want to do your best to show your gratitude and to hear the wonderful words – Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21). 

In this day and age there seems to be a tendency to experiment or take a chance.  We have convinced ourselves that the Lord will forgive our indiscretions with no consequences, but do you think it is worth the risk?  Wouldn’t it just be easier and without risk to do it His way?  We are told in the book of Matthew – Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (7:12).  Well, you will have to admit that says it well and easily.  Can you imagine how our lives would be if all of mankind were to take this one verse to heart.  It would most definitely take care of all the troubles and problems of this world and we, each and everyone, could go about our days without worries and with the joy that was always intended to be ours.

Time like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.
Our God, our Help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
Be Thou our Guard while troubles last, and our eternal Home.

Available Grace!

Grace. Where does it come from and how important is it?  I would venture to say that you must be from some other planet if you have never needed or wished for grace.  It happens to be as valuable to you as gasoline is for your vehicle.  The blessed truth is that grace is something that already belongs to you if you are a believer in Jesus Christ.  Too many of us take grace for granted without realizing it is a most precious gift from a loving Father blessing us because we have already blessed another of His children.  Unlike many things in this life you will find that it is given you specifically in abundance as you continue to give it away and it will continue to multiply if treated as God intended.

You might remember that there was a time when the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth….but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord  (Genesis 6:5-8).

Through our history on this earth we have seen over and over again how we have failed our Creator and how we have been redeemed until God finally played his trump card.  We find recorded in the book of John – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (1:14). 

No matter what the circumstances, no matter how far off track we have gone God’s grace has never since left us.  His allowance of His Son’s crucifixion paid the greatest price for our sins.  Do we not owe Him something for the terrible price He paid?  We are living in a world that has grown in many ways.  We have learned about love and we have learned about sin and death.  Do you ever wonder why so many times we have chosen death rather than life?  The price for our lives was paid a long time ago, but it seems we have chosen to forget the cost and not to consider that our very lives can show our refusal to accept His offer of grace.

You may excuse yourself in this day and time by attempting to claim the fault in not yours, but you can’t deny that you have accepted the ways of our world today without giving your best to try and change things.  You don’t have to tell me, I already know that all of us believe that individually we cannot change the evil in our world.  However, God still loves His children and with the death of His precious Son He has given us each a choice.  The question is whether we will take it seriously or assume He will not condemn us because individually we have not deliberately been or done evil.  But there is more to the issue than whether we have done evil; the real question is have we done what we were created to do.  God’s Word tells us that we should love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  Those words must be important because they are repeated in Matthew 5:43 and again in Romans 13:9.

Our Creator and Father, has been more than gracious to us.  Isn’t it time to take the effort to be gracious to His other children, our sisters and brothers, whoever and wherever they may be? 

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace now like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee;
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

Jeremiah

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger – I am also wondering why I got out of bed on this rainy morning to write down a title that makes no sense.  Good morning, Lord, I am listening – what is it You are trying to tell me?  My Jeremiah just happens to be a stuffed bullfrog and surely You don’t want me to admit that I have such a weakness as to still be sleeping with a stuffed animal.  What – You really do have something to say!  Okay, I am listening. 

Jeremiah was a young priest when he began to prophesy, but he was wholly committed to God and he warned the people that unless they repented of their sins their city would be destroyed.  Is this what You are trying to tell me – that unless America chooses to repent of our sin that we will one day be destroyed?  You would have to admit that our times are increasingly subject to either destruction or salvation.  I wonder what we will choose and will we be willing to accept the price.

Jeremiah was a remarkable man…in tears most of the time.  God chose this man…to deliver a harsh message of judgment which broke his own heart (J. Vernon McGee).  I can imagine how hard it would be in our time to either find such a man or believe him if found.  We, as humans, have a way of thinking we, ourselves, can turn the tide if we would just put our hand to the plow.  I have news for you…we cannot.

So, just what is the answer?  You may have noticed that while churches still meet on Sunday it has become more of a habit than a desire of the heart.  Could it be that it is time to reconsider our habit and to begin to pray for a resurgence of the passion which the early Christians felt and honored?  Our God has always been faithful and you must know that He has not given up on His children.  Many of us are aware of how busy our days have become and how we sometimes long for the peace and strength we once had.  What could it possibly take to return to the days when our Lord would smile on His children?  You know the answer as well as I.  He desires for a resurgence of the love we once had and honored.  It is not yet too late!

Jesus once told the people – Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).  It sound so easy; why do we make it so hard?  I sometimes think it goes back to our beginning when we became too confident that we could do it ourselves.  Shame on us!

While it is true that time has granted us much in the way of education we are beginning to learn that this is not the answer.  We have progressed in this world to more than just guns; we now have the knowledge that makes total obliteration a very real possibility.  Just how far are we willing to go?  And if it is a matter of desire, what is wrong with trying the way our Creator first planned for the children that He loved.  It may not be as dramatic, but it is more effective.  Surely growth should come with reality – we were planned to become God’s children.  What does that mean?  It is the same thing we still consider as our own children begin life – that we would become fruitful and multiply with the knowledge and desire of our Creator – to bless and become a blessing.  Maybe it is time for us to reconsider the desire of our hearts rather than the faulty desires of our minds.

Lead on, O King Eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And Holiness shall whisper the sweet Amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
But deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly Kingdom comes.

Past Time!

Here I am, sitting in the computer room, thinking about the world’s current events and wondering how the Lord would respond if I ventured to express my opinion.  Another volcanic eruption should be enough to draw our attention back to our Creator, but then I wonder if it will draw anyone’s attention to the desires of our Creator.  Do we really simply accept the happenings in today’s world, while tragic, as just normal events in a technical world?  It would seem so because here we are reading about Israel and more of the same, how God’s people in God’s country are being persecuted and the world is so busy that we often do not even pray.  What should we be doing?  Maybe it is past time to simply say “thank you, Lord” which we rarely do and begin to plead for mercy; maybe it is time to reevaluate just where we place value and what we are willing to pay for mercy and actually how thankful we can and should be.

Many of us do realize that prayer can move mountains, but we often fail to utilize its benefits until we have a problem.  Could it be that God is trying His best to help us understand that we are simply frail, often not smart, individuals who need a Heavenly Father’s wisdom and heart?  He is probably saying to Himself that He left us a book of instructions, the ability to read and understand and a Savior to rescue us when we failed.  What else could He have done?

I believe that our God loves His children, but every parent knows that eventually a child can only learn through the events that happen in his life.  Reading and study help by showing us pictures, but until something actually confronts one these days it is all too easy to put off answering the question – what can or should we do now?  We do our best to prepare for a new job, but just how much time do we spend preparing for an eternal home? 

I believe we are living in a time when more of us think about our eternal home, but time passes so quickly and we continue putting off until tomorrow.  Just maybe we shouldn’t do that anymore.  James told us in his book …you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (4:14).  Most of us live with the thinking that even though time is passing we will have tomorrow, but that might not be the wise thing to do.  Lately, we have been made aware of how time can instantly change.  There are people in this world that had a home yesterday, but today many of them are without.  Can we afford to put off decisions that will affect us for eternity? 

Jesus said Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  To him that overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:20-21).  I think all of us, deep down in our hearts, know that is what we want to do for eternity, but we also have a tendency to believe that we can start doing those things tomorrow; surely that will be soon enough.  True, it might work that way for some, but we have to know that we cannot be sure and we might not end up a part of the some.

It is true, isn’t it, that most of us will take out insurance just in case our health fails, or we have a loss that we simply cannot afford to replace because the money is just not there.  I do not know of any insurance that we pay for that will be our assurance of entering into God’s kingdom, but I do know that there is One who has paid the price for my entry if I will just accept his payment and follow as He leads.

And He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.(Romans 10:3)