Monday, July 28, 2014
As I was reading in Psalm 38 & 39, I found myself wandering onto a strange road, and asking myself, “What do men think that God sees in them?”
David is pretty punked out. He is the King, and yet he sees himself as a great offender of God. He has sinned and he is suffering the consequences. He needs to talk to someone, but who? He is the King after all; to whom can he trust his personal thoughts? So he keeps quiet. He holds his thoughts close. But, eventually he realizes that he will break apart, spiritually as well as physically, if he does not talk to someone. So he finally opens up to God; spilling out the truths of what is bothering him.
While speaking about the sins in his life, he asks God to not bring down the punishment these sins deserve; but to give him Grace and to allow him to move among men again, showing that Grace to the people, once more before he dies. It is a prayer of contrition and submission to the righteous judgement of God. It is what God needed to hear.
I could speak all day about the implications of this in our lives, but what it really brought to my mind was all the verses in the Bible that declare a man blessed.
David was a man “after God's own heart” and there was a reason for that: In all his troubles and successes, he never once thought of giving up on his God, the God of his Fathers and his personal guide and Lord.
One impression which may be just my own interpretation, but bothers me, is that men have very little to hang there hats on when it comes to “How does God see me?” I know that there are verses and I know that there are lessons taught that intend to give men a good perception of themselves, but I feel that sometimes the only people that guys have to measure against is heroes in the Bible and leaders in the church. I am sure that many have the feeling that when God looks at them, they don't look good at all.
As a woman, I have dealt with the issue of beauty over and over again. Women do that. And women go out of their way to help each other see the beauty in themselves because of Jesus Christ in their lives. There are all kinds of Bible studies on this subject and there are unending conversations going on in support of each other about this subject.
But what about men. Do men ever think of themselves as beautiful? Do men have any realization of being beautiful in God's sight. Would a man even consider thinking of himself that way? Men are supposed to be handsome, not beautiful.
I searched the word “handsome” in the Bible and I came up almost dry. The Revised Standard Version uses the word in Psalm 45:2, but other versions more commonly used, such a King James and NIV, do not use that word.
One verse – Song of Songs, verse 1:16 – is consistently translated handsome, but it is speaking of how a woman sees a man, not how God sees that man.
In my mind, I thought Saul was called handsome; it is not coming up; though he was definitely described in ways that add up to handsome. But it really doesn't matter, because most men do not consider themselves handsome anyway... most men.
Women are taught that they are no longer caterpillars, but are now butterflys – if they have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. Doesn't that apply to men as well? Doesn't it?
How many times does the phrase, “Blessed is the man who...” come up in scripture? More than I can count, that's for sure. But these verses come with a catch: being blessed requires living blessed. And everyone of these verses declares a life style of seeking God. This is not that we must live correctly if God is to see us as beautiful; it is about us being beautiful in Jesus Christ, and then showing our beauty and growing in our beauty by making God our focus as we live out our lives.
(Note: If we find salvation and then sit on our backsides watching the world go by, or refuse to listen to and learn from God – we will not be blessed or beautiful in our lives.)
So God sees us as butterflys because of the shed blood of Christ and the veil of Christ's blood between Him and us. We have been given a new existence, a new us. He sees us as beautiful when He looks at us. And he sees it now, not waiting for the day we arrive in Heaven, changed into our heavenly bodies. He sees us that way right now.
So how can manly men come around and begin to see themselves as beautiful, even though they may not think they are handsome in their own eyes? I'm thinking that they can make a point of remembering the verses that declare them blessed and substitute beautiful:
“Beautiful” is the man who... And that is not beyond probability. After all, the blessed men of Matthew are in a list called the “Beaut-itudes.” Okay... there is no “u”; but close, right? These verses, and others that use blessed, are telling us that the man who follows after Christ with his whole heart is a beautiful man. That man is a butterfly and that man will be seen as a butterfly by God for the rest of his life, here and in Heaven.
If you want to get the “feeling” of what I am saying, consider reading Psalm 119; substituting the word beautiful for blessed. David is telling us why he is blessed (beautiful) and how you can be too. Basically, if you seek after God with your whole heart, mind and soul you will be beautiful; to others around you, as well as to God. And don't forget my favorite, Psalm 1:1.
So what is the basic requirement for achieving beauty; Knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and aiming, every day, to keep his presence alive in your lives. Beautiful is the man who...
Gentlemen, allow yourselves to be beautiful. Seek after God throughout everyday; pray to live in the power and beauty of the Fruit of the Spirit; and enjoy being beautiful.
May we all, men and women, seek to be beautiful in God's eyes, and not worry so much how we rate among others. May we strive to be beautiful God's way, rather than man's way. And may we keep watch over the one whom we know really matters in our day. Amen
Consider this view:
Matthew West Hello, My Name Is
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Today, in this world, we cannot imagine not being able to get wherever we want to go by one means or another. While studying or just reading about the past we easily learn that transportation has taken many forms and many unbelievable strides. Centenarians who passed away in the 20th Century had lived to see unbelievable change in modes of transport from horse and buggy to spaceships.
In the beginning, transportation was by foot. And that continues to be a popular mode, even today. Then came the domestication of animals and a whole new animal dependent transport system came into being; from oxen to horses to camels and even mules and donkeys, not to mention ostriches and elephants. Much of this type of transport was encouraged by the invention of the wheel and the development of the harness and yoke. It was a surprisingly long time before we moved beyond that type of transport. But when we did, we really did!
Today, we are “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” travelers; not to mention boats and ships of so many sizes and purposes they cannot all be named. And, beyond that there are rockets and spaceships and a “travel home” that circles the earth over and over again.
We have sent humans to the moon and we have sent equipment and sight-seer mechanical objects into space to see things closer up so that we can experience with our eyes what we cannot be present to see for ourselves, just yet. It would seem we can go just about anywhere now and even more places later on.
But there is one place we will never reach by man made means. We cannot get there from here on our own: That place is Heaven, God's Home, which is outside this universe; unseen and unreachable through the works of man. Not the works of our hands, but only by the Grace of God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lord. The Way – the only way – “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” “No man comes to the Father but by me!”
If you doubt what I say, “Google It.” Go out there and search for what the Bible actually says about how to get to heaven. But while you are looking, do not be led astray by your assumptions about the Law. The Law did not ever save anyone! It condemned them, and it condemns all of us. We are sinners and the Law was used to try to keep some order in the lives of those stiff necked people who kept wandering off from God and His Love: looking for love in all the wrong places. The Law was a reminder of the purity and Holiness of God; a standard to guide the people back to Him when they wandered away.
The Law never saved anyone, nor did good works teleport anyone into the home of God. Only God can bring someone into His Home, by invitation and acceptance. And His invitation has always been – Look to my Son!
But “keeping” the Law is not the only behavior that will not get you into God's family and into His home. Being a good person will not work either. Yes, Jesus wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to comfort and support the poor. But He does not ask anyone to do this in order to be saved. He is talking to people who are already following Christ about good ways to behave as a representative of Him. Being nice, being good, doing good deeds without knowing Christ as Savior will add up to zilch.
There is nothing a woman can do or say or design or build that will get that woman into God's Heavenly realm. The only thing that a woman can do that will get herself into heaven is to answer God's loving invitation to look to Him and to trust Him to forgive her sins and to make her a new person in, and through the shed blood of Jesus Christ His son; by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you do that you will know that something happened in your heart and spirit that is stunning and powerful and life changing.
From there you will start traveling down a road you never knew existed and you will do that in partnership with the Holy Spirit.
You will still be bound, temporarily, to this earth and man made transportation; but you will have a hope in your heart for the transport of a lifetime, into the arms of Jesus Christ, and into the Heavenly realm that is His family home. Now, that is a trip to look forward to. And that is a trip that can only be taken by those who have surrendered to the Saving Grace of the One True God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, His Son.
May we all be aware of this “limited time” offer and turn to God for all that we need. And may we all love our neighbors enough to share this message with them before it is too late. God bless you all. Amen
Monday, July 7, 2014
TOUGH LOVE FOR CHANGE
GOSSIP – information about the behavior and personal lives of other people.
But not all information about people is gossip. Nor is all gossip about people.
Take Paul for example: When he wrote his letters, it was generally because he had “heard” something about the church to which he was writing; good or bad. That is how news traveled in those days and that was an acceptable way to pass information on.
As we follow the life of Paul as told in Acts, beginning at Chapter 14, we find this in action. And when we read his letters we discover how “personal” these messages could be. Yet, they are not considered gossip, just reporting the news and responding to it. [As far as I am concerned, "gossip" is any information passed on to anyone who does not need to know it by someone who wants to gain by it.] Gossip is almost always mean. Information shared in love is almost never mean. But it can alert others to a problem that needs attention.
As I read the sinful practices going on in Corinth, particularly as found in 1 Corinthians, I take a moment to realize that, even with the horrors we deal with today, there is nothing new under the sun. I seems that all the things we are trying to strike out against right now were hugely present in Corinth at that time.
It can be clearly seen today that the issues that bring people away from God's Word now, are not any different than those which confused and tore at the churches in the early days of the Church. The prevailing pressures and sins are very much the same.
Yes, we have glaring sin going on all around us until we can hardly stand to read or listen to the news. Yes, we have abhorrent ideas being administered into our system of life. Yes, we have things happening around us that make us want to throw up when we hear or see the next ugly thing.
But, so did they.
They were “young” Christians, very young. Even though the Apostles, who were grown men of various ages, they were nevertheless also young in their faith. They had three years of walking with Jesus, but it was still an eye and heart opening event when they actually became the Sons of God that knew wholly and completely the salvation of Jesus Christ, revealed to them through the Holy Spirit. They were just babies when they first preached. Yet the power of God was in and with them and they spoke out like old souls in Christ. They also took on the responsibilities of old souls: seeing to the salvation and growth of new souls, babes in Christ.
Paul's opportunity came a little later, but it was no less miraculous and soul changing. He was put into immediate service and immediate training. He had to “grow up” fast. He was not on “milk” ever, I think. It was immediate steak.
A week ago the sermon was about Paul's travels and companionship with disciples traveling with him. In chapter 17, we were shown that for all his travel's and all his changes of companions, Paul never once veered from the central core of the Gospel: The death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And the result never changed: Some, even many, and many more, were saved. The Apostles preached and God handled the results. But it was necessary for the Apostles to preach the Gospel, and that alone, for the result to happen. Getting the church started was an enormous task that only God could ultimately accomplish.
However, raising these babes fell into the hands of those whom God allowed to bring them into the family of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. The Apostles and their companions stayed with the new Christians whenever time allowed and with the help of the Spirit, proclaimed as much of Christ's teaching as they possibly could; using the minds and knowledge that God gave them, with power from God. There were more disciples in the crowd of believers that followed Jesus and stayed with the apostles than we actually usually think about. Many of those assisted in teaching and training as it went on.
Thus, Paul's letters.
And, by the way, the verbal “grapevine” of Gossip is obvious to me, as a reader of these letters; there definitely was a “grapevine” that served as a news network.
But, back to the point, without gossip in those days, nothing would be known, whether good or bad. And Paul was hearing a lot of it, by letter and by word of mouth. This was a good thing. Even though some of the reports were bad news about bad behavior, it was what Paul needed to hear if he was to be prayerfully, or otherwise, influential in the growth of his children. Paul needed to know and Paul responded to what he was told: Good news or bad. And Paul's responses were sent in love, but not the wimpy kind. It was tough love all the way.
And when Paul knew, he wrote. He wrote to the Church at large (including us) by writing to individual churches and seeking to have them share the letter with other churches. It was never his intention to be secretive about these letters. He praised and admonished with the entire church in mind; so as to teach all of them the lessons that he taught to any single church. The truth had nothing in it to be secretive about. Perhaps sometimes the truth of a situation needs to be told publicly to inform and to stop gossip.
Anyway – I find the topics that Paul gets into to be quite relevant today. And I find that the things that break our hearts today, broke his in his day. Things like the list of sins that can be found over and over again throughout the Bible, Things like the rise of homosexual influence and power. Things like hate mongering. Things like human trafficking; the killing of innocent babies; the laziness of relationships that leads to many kinds of immorality; the crush of society by those who rise in wealth and power. It all goes on today just as it did then and before then.
But the example that Paul sets for us is that he paid attention and that he responded, good or bad. He never let anything ride. He never varied from aiming people's lives back to the Gospel, and to everything it means to us in our lives and in our deaths. He dealt with it all and he prescribed the remedy and sent it with much prayer and thanksgiving for the people he was addressing.
I think that in this day we must pay attention to the threats going on around us and around our loved ones, in and out of the church. And, in this day, we must speak up. We must take a stand: Paul told the Corinthians to “stand firm” against the evil invading the church and their personal lives. We must do the same. If we are to love one another and follow any of the “one another” commands that God gave us, then we must speak up for one another as if our lives depend on it – because they do. God is in control and could stop it all if He wanted to. But Paul knew that, too, and he did not sit back and let it all happen just because he knew what God could do.
He knew that it was his responsibility to speak up and to send out all the help he could possibly send to each and every crisis.
We are in crisis. We are in jeopardy. We need to speak up. We need to stop some of these things that are happening. We need to wise up and stop letting the Government and the world around us creep up on everything that can be good, but is being changed to bad. We need to take some lessons from Paul and the other Apostles and disciples and get the word out that we are not going to sit still for this; and then we need to keep moving, and moving hard to rid ourselves of these influences on us and on our neighbors and on our collective children.
WHY get involved? Perhaps because God told us to love our neighbors as ourselves and our neighbors need some serious protecting right now. Paul lived every single day knowing that his life would end early. He also lived every day knowing that Christ could come any minute, and praying for that to happen. But he never, ever, sat back and said, “Well, one way or another things are in God's hands, so I am going to stop what I need to be doing and sit and watch for His adjustments to these things. He is in charge. He will take care of it somehow.” Never, never, never, ever did he say or do that. And neither should we.
One continuous theme in Paul's letter is that we are to not only protect ourselves from this world, but we are to set out to protect this world from this world.
We have a responsibility to have a voice and a vote in what is going on around us. And to have a voice in declaring the same Gospel that Paul never veered away from. Love your neighbor as yourself means more than being nice. It means doing all that we can to protect them from themselves and from others who would take them down. Why? Because that is what we do for ourselves, if we love ourselves.
May we reach out and love our neighbors enough to try to help bring this country back to some semblance of itself: The country that was established on Judeo/Christian values and common sense; the statements of which were established in writing In the Declaration, the Preamble, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. So long as we are still here on this earth we must be actively seeking change to the good in this country – our neighbors. If we love them we need to protect them in every way we can.
May God bless us today and everyday as we struggle together to make a difference in Christ's name.