Hurry Up and Wait

“How can I help you, son, to feel more comfortable here?”

People in the military’s basic training always have drill instructors breathing down their necks, usually yelling. The poor recruits have to run wherever they go, and it’s never fast enough for the D.I.s.

When they reach their destination the D.I. yells at them to form up in ranks and files … and then wait for his good pleasure. That’s where the saying, “Hurry up and wait,” originated.

Hurry Up!

Since you found this on my blog, you already know I have a spiritual application in all this:

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NKJV
(1) We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2) For He says: “IN AN ACCEPTABLE TIME I HAVE HEARD YOU, AND IN THE DAY OF SALVATION I HAVE HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

First, there’s the, “Hurry Up,” part. Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, who should have already been Christ-followers. Yet, he urges them to accept the Lord’s salvation.

If you are at all familiar with the Corinthian letters, you know it was a most worldly church. In fact, it was a church in name only, and many, if not most, of the attendees were nominal Christians, and were possibly even men and women of influence, or whatever served as the church board in those days. Trouble is, they influenced the church in the wrong direction.

To Receive, or Not to Receive …

I had thought that one could either receive, or not receive, God’s grace, but this passage plainly declares that one can receive God’s grace in vain. No Bible-believing Christ-follower would say that St. Paul was wrong, but many seem to ignore it.

The letter to the Hebrews issues us a challenge, and a warning:

Hebrews 2:1-3 NKJV
(1) Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
(2) For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
(3) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

And Wait!

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Okay, the above two passages may not be topically linked, but I think they go together nicely. Evildoers, i.e., those who are easily angered, wrathful and fretful, are evildoers, causing harm to themselves and others.

Waiting on the LORD means we are at His disposal, always available for His good pleasure, like a waiter or other servant. It also means we are willing to wait for Him to direct our lives, rather than running willy-nilly, trying to get things done for Him without His direction.

That Means Patience

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Patience is one of the hardest parts of the Spirit’s fruit to get right. Patience and meekness, or gentleness, closely pair under the heading of love, which is really the heart of all the qualities of the fruit of God’s Spirit.

The longer I live in Christ, and the closer I get to my Father, the more I realize just how far I have to travel for the fruit of God’s Spirit to be fully manifested in me. Like I said, patience is the hardest part.

Loose Something?

Lost is Found

Don’t we cling to our stuff, our lives, our lifestyles! Just try to get someone to change their eating habits—or any habits for that matter. Try to get a Chevy guy to switch to Ford. Try to get a Lakers’ fan to switch to the Celtics. We cling to what we have or do, and it’s, “My way or the highway.”

Not a Fun Subject

Our lives are much more than gasping for our next breath. They include everything about us. Think about it; when you die you loose far more than your next breath or heartbeat. You loose your hopes, dreams, aspirations, as well as all your stuff.

Does that sound morbid? If so, consider that our Creator put a sense of the eternal into mankind just so we’d strive for eternity with Him. That’s why Jesus’ words resonated so completely with His audience on that hillside:

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)

Jesus wasn’t talking about giving up some bad habits, although that might be warranted. He meant giving up the title deed to your entire life, the good and the bad.

Fresh, or Salty? Good Religion, or Bad?

Brackish water is an offense to the palate, just as a life that mixes religion with worldliness is an offense to Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Apostle James had a couple of choice things to say about that.

James 3:11-12 NKJV Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James 1:26-27 NKJV If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I have to ask myself, Am I fresh water, or brackish? What kind of spiritual fruit do I bear? What kind religion do I practice? Self-fulfilling, or other-centered? Do I join in praise to God while I have unconfessed sin in my life? Those are hard questions for me … and for you.

Christian, are you following Jesus, or your own whims? Are you lost to God, or to the world? Those are lifelong questions that we must answer daily, by the hour, or by the minute if needed.

Well? There’s no time like the present.

Easy Rider

Some off-ramps don’t appear worth taking.

“Enter by the narrow gate;
for wide
is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go in by it.
(Matthew 7:13 NKJV)

Seems like everybody has written or sermonized about the broad way versus the narrow, or the easy way versus the hard. We’re talking about destinations here.

When Jesus delivered his sermon recorded in Matthew’s gospel, chapters five, six, and seven, most of His audience were common folks, like you and me. His message hit home for them, as they knew they were sinners.

The elitist religious leaders, however, were also listening, and of course He wasn’t talking to them; no one could tell them anything because they were teachers, lawyers, priests, and scribes who knew it all. That’s not to say all of today’s teachers, lawyers, and clergypeople are know-it-alls, but … well, you know what I mean.

When I examine my conscience I know Jesus was talking to me when He sat on that rock on the hillside, as the broad and easy way has always been my default path—until, that is, I decided to give myself to God through Jesus Christ. But old habits die hard; I still struggle with self-control, occasionally reverting to my old ways. Now, however, my reaction to those slips and stumbles is entirely different; where I used to seek every opportunity to sate my fleshly desires, now such slips grieve me deeply. That’s how I know I’ve changed. Another change is taking my sins to God straight away, and begging for the grace to truly repent.

Wonder why I didn’t say, “ask forgiveness”? That’s because as long as I am in Christ, my sins are forgiven. And that’s even more reason for me to feel grieved when I sin; it’s like adding another thorn to Jesus’ crown of thorns.

My reborn self doesn’t want to ride easy any longer, but I pray for God to keep me on the hard and narrow way until I can give my Savior a big hug with tears of gratitude for what He has done for me.

Promises, Promises

2 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

I believe God’s Word! When God tells me something through His Word, I know I can, “take it to the bank.” Unfortunately, actual banks don’t see it that way, but that’s their problem. If something in God’s Word seems out of whack, I know either the translation, or my interpretation, is in error, and not His revealed Word.

Apologetics

Daniel B. Wallace Ph.D. sets the record straight about alleged New Testament errors in his article, The Number of Textual Variants: An Evangelical Miscalculation. Though most Christ-followers would rather simply accept the Bible’s reliability, and that is certainly warranted, some knowledge of textual criticism helps greatly when trying to deal with skeptic’s challenges. Indeed, one of the major reasons for Christians loosing their faith is ignorance of apologetics (That branch of theology which defends the Holy Scriptures, and sets forth the evidence of their divine authority.1).

Human Promises

2 Peter 1 should give us great hope in God’s promises. Unlike Him, we mortals are quick with promises. Someone expresses a need and, with the best of intentions, we offer help.

A promise as simple as, “I’ll pray for you,” carries with it an obligation to actually pray for that person. Instead, it usually includes the unstated qualifier, “… when and if I get the chance.” And, yes, I’m as guilty as the next brother.

Those of us who have been reborn in the Spirit have no excuse for such laxity, as we are to always seek to become more like Christ. When we the church grow to where we can live by our promises, thereby completing Christ’s love in us, we will truly turn the world upside down.2

Father of all mercy, I am grieved that we who claim Jesus’ Name are so flippant about our word. By Your Holy Spirit’s power and through Jesus Name, empower us so we can complete our mission of turning the world upside down.

1 Webster’s 1913 dictionary entry for “apologetics” (Yes, Noah Webster was a Christian.)

2 Reference to Acts 17:6

A Most Unexpected Blessing

O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalms 8:1 NKJV)

As I was reading my son-in-law’s excellent book1 about worship, a nearby explosion concussed the air and resounded throughout this end of the city—this was Independence Day—and drew my attention outside my window. What I beheld nearly took my breath away. A storm cell had recently passed directly overhead and left the most spectacular, sunset-lit cumulus clouds in the distance. Then the clouds took on a deep, red glow, as if filled with fire. They were literally glorious. If not for the annoying fireworks, I would have missed the amazing scene, and an opportunity to spontaneously praise God.

As my amazing son-in-law Kenneth pointed out in his book, if we’re walking daily with God we don’t have to wait til Sunday to worship Him. Neither do we have to rely on an emotional worship service to draw tears of joy from our eyes. Whether or not we feel His presence, He is always with us and in us, if we have relinquished our lives, including all of our works and rights, to Him through His eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pity the millions who find wonder and gratitude welling up in their souls, but don’t know who to thank. Those who aren’t completely jaded by intellectualism may know it all has something to do with God, but most of them don’t have a personal, conversational relationship with Him. To most people, God is the big Codger upstairs who can’t busy Himself with our daily joys and concerns, except to grab a nearby lightening bolt to zap those who get out of line. What a tragic misunderstanding, both for their material life, and for their eternal life—and make no mistake; one way or another there is eternal life.

Whenever I think of God’s goodness and His love for His creation, especially for us unworthy humans, my emotions are split between the unexpected blessings that are just a precursor to eternity in heaven, and regret for all those whose pride prevents their admitting they are not God, and need the Savior.

Father, open our eyes to Your glory, whenever it occurs,
and lead us to spend at least a moment in spontaneous praise.

1Kenneth J. Spiller, Journey of a Worshiper (Bloomington, IA, Oxbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2016)

Don’t Be a Mastermind

God doesn’t need masterminds, people who are always the smartest person in the room. He is the only Mastermind that the world needs.

God does need mind-masters, or people for whom God’s Spirit leads their thought life. After Apostle James dealt with our need for patience in trials, he summed up the idea of mental integrity:

James 1:5-8 NKJV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

He may as well have said, “If any of you thinks that he is wise, think again, and let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (JT’s paraphrase)

How Should We Behave Toward One Another?

Regarding the way we are to treat one another in the church, Apostle Paul wrote:

Romans 12:10-18 NKJV Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (11) not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (12) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; (13) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. (14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (16) Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. (17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

While I included the whole passage, the second part of verse sixteen speaks directly to those who would be masterminds: “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” 

Verses seventeen and eighteen build on that command—and it is a command:

  • We are not to seek retribution!
    Don’t we prize our grudges, though? Someone offends us and we assume it was deliberate, so even though we may wear a Sunday smile and shake the offender’s hand, in the back of our minds we seek payback. We all know that’s wrong, “But, this is different!” Instead, …

  • We are to regard what is good!
    Even if we don’t like someone, Jesus commands us to love them. Often that takes the form of burying the hatchet, but not in their backs. Bury it in the deepest part of the sea. If we do that, the last command will take care of itself.

  • We are to live peaceably with all people!
    That doesn’t mean we must live peaceably with all our friends, but even with those we don’t like.
    Here’s a sure tip: Pray for the unlovable, sincerely, passionately, and consistently. We can be sure that if God placed a difficult person in our way, it is to gain our attention; they need prayer more than all our Christ-following friends.

My advice? Pray through James’ letter to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (Christ-followers are descendants of Abraham by faith). Make those principles and commands your passion, and God will use you like never before. But don’t stop there; take the time to pray and meditate your way through the whole of God’s Word, and through His Spirit you will be the master of your own mind, rather thinking of yourself as a mastermind.

I’m Beside Myself

I always knew I was a bit odd, and you won’t find too many to argue with me on that point. I even have the authority of God’s Word to back me up:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. (2 Corinthians 5:13)

Bible dictionaries tell me that the word rendered, “beside ourselves,” means to be out of one’s mind or insane. Most assuredly, that’s the way the world views Christ-followers, although some of us qualify as bonkers outside of Christ’s influence.

Back in the day, those who would be, cool strove to be seen as, “right on, groovy, out’a sight, and with it.” But according to 2 Corinthians 5:13 (that’s the bold printed passage above), such pop-cultural approval is exactly what we Christ-followers are not to seek.

Am I saying we need to dress in black, home spun suits, drab, ankle-length dresses, and speak in King James English? Not at all! I am saying that Christ-followers must first seek to minister to the world as did Christ, whom the religious leaders at the time viewed as at least mad, and possibly even demon possessed. Yet, the common “sinners” knew they could go to Him without fear of condemnation.

Holiness goes against the world’s rules, and those who refuse to participate with its corruption are thought a bit odd. And therein is the rub; if we’re told a lie often enough, we may begin to believe it. The world tells us that our religion needs to be relevant, so they can identify with it. The more the church accepts the world’s principles, the more those of the world approve, until all resemblance to the true, Biblical church is lost. What’s left is only a shell of human religion, with all the festering religiosity within.

Sometimes we may have to do a little church-hopping to find the true Body of Christ, but I guess that’s the cost of faithfulness. In the final analysis, what value has the world’s approval compared to God’s approval and our eternal destiny? If they see me as beside myself, so what? I’ve been called worse.

THE WIDOWER’S MITE

Today during the church’s worship service they passed the dreaded, green pouches for the offering. I had, and still have, $20 in my wallet, with no bank reserve (overdrawn, I’m ashamed to say), one and-a-half weeks to go until my Social Security hits the bank, and a quickly thinning larder.

I agonized during that part of the Lord’s Day service, and afterward, on Jesus’ story of the widow’s mites. I almost pulled that evil tender out of my wallet a couple of times, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I’m telling you this as a call for help—no, you can keep your money, unless you know God is calling you to give—for the wisdom to know what God expects of me in this, and all situations. I feel like I would give God more glory by setting a match to that accursed $20 bill, than keeping it for the groceries I need. I want desperately to give God a chance to bless me, but fear keeps my hand in a death-grip on that money.

I feel like that bill has turned into an impenetrable barrier between God and me, yet I still can’t bring myself to either give it or burn it. Please lift me up in prayer for the faith to do whatever will glorify my Lord and Savior. Thanks.

Again, please don’t think of this as a plea for funds. God will provide even though I am the least in faith. This is, rather, a plea for prayer that I will grow in faith and glorify Him in my decisions.

And may God glorify Himself in your everyday decisions.

It Seemed Significant At the Time

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had a thought while reading or listening to the Bible, but because I wanted to finish the reading I failed to write it down. When I return to the spot that jumped out at me, it seems to just blend in with the rest of the passage, and I wonder why it seemed significant.

My memory has never been stellar, but as I age, what memory I had gradually seems to ebb away. Most of my contemporaries will answer my concern with, “Oh posh! You’ve got to expect that as you get older.” Maybe so, but it is none the less frustrating.

Now, what was my point with all this?

Ah, that’s right. I seem to be exchanging my marvelous powers of recall—yeah, right!—for a broader perspective on life. I have always, and still do, pray for my Father to give me His eyes (a nod to Amy Grant here).

So easily I fall into the fleshly trap of viewing people and circumstances through the eyes of carnality. What could be an occasion for growth and blessing, I turn into a thorny problem. Will I ever learn Job’s lesson?

Job 42:1-5
(1) Then Job answered the LORD and said:
(2) “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
(3) You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
(4) Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
(5) “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.”

Before Job’s tribulations he knew of God, and that was enough for Him to be obedient, but his faithfulness during his trials matured his faith and brought him into a personal relationship with his heavenly Father. Job knew, and I’m learning, that my loving heavenly Father never allows trials without a purpose.

Praise God for His loving kindness toward us!

Public Enemy #1

How peaceful are they?

First, lets dismiss the gangsta rap group, Public Enemy, although their name gives an accurate picture of their value to society. History gives us a long list of people who were tagged with the label, “Public Enemy #1.” Back in the twentieth century that label belonged to gangsters and mafiosos. Today that dubious distinction is obsolete, replaced by the “most wanted” list that includes drug cartel kingpins, serial killers, and terrorists, both domestic and foreign.

All of that is consistent with the natural, human perspective, but there is something that the public perceives as an enemy that is more to be feared than all of the Ten Most Wanted combined. That public enemy is peace and quiet.

I tend to accuse young people of stimulation addiction, as so many of them live with earbuds permanently implanted, feeding a constant stream of loud, popular music, or video game audio into their consciousness. But young people aren’t alone in their addiction to constant stimulation. “Adults,” including myself, seek constant entertainment and news media saturation. My personal addiction is tech/military documentaries, movies and TV police procedurals. It seems I too am afraid of silence.

The prophet Elijah experienced the eternally existing One as a, “still, small voice,” and preachers admonish us to seek that sort of communication with God. Yet, how are we to hear His voice when our senses are constantly saturated with distractions?

We Christ-followers gripe about not hearing His voice, but do nothing about achieving the personal quietness necessary to hear our Lord and Savior. Even our corporate worship is often boisterous.

Habits die hard. Addictions, much harder. But are we to settle for less than God’s best for us? And His best for us is intimate communication with Himself. He made us for that purpose, and anything less promises only unfulfillment of God’s glorious promises, and frustration of our ultimate purpose.

Yes, but how?

How can we break our noise addiction? First, we must realize, and then confess, that it is quite real in our lives. Second, we must pray for God’s conviction, as to refuse to change makes it sin. Third, thank God for the infinite grace that He shows when we fail to seek His best for us. His love for us is unfathomable, and if we claim to love Him in return, yet willfully disobey Him, we reveal our hypocrisy. Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Like all addictions, electronic media addiction is tough to crack. I don’t know of I could break its hold on me cold turkey, but I can try to cut down by substituting other activities that would strengthen me, rather than continuing to weaken myself by sitting mesmerized by Netflix and YouTube.

I want to honor God with my life, but I can’t do that by staying planted at home watching entertainment. Please pray for me, and the millions of other media-addicted Christians, for God to break us free, so we can love the lost to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.