He Restores My Soul

Monday, October 27, 2014

When King David wrote: "He restores my soul" in Psalm 23:3, he seemed to have in mind the sheep that was 'cast' due to its thick wool fleece. Sometimes sheep would roll onto its back and due to the thickness of its wool fleece it could not right itself. Gases would immediately begin to build up in its abdomen and, if not righted in a matter of minutes, it could suffocate. A watchful shepherd would come to the aid of this 'cast' sheep and restore it to its upright position and thus save its life.
The soul of man represents our mind, will and emotions. It is in this area that we are often cast down and lifeless. Hopelessness and despair have its roots in the mind, will and emotions. David looked back over his life and thought of all the times he was a 'cast sheep' who could not right himself. All those moments when hopelessness ruled the day and governed his heart. However, the watchful Shepherd would come to set him upright and restore his life to him.
God has always been about restoration. Ever since our forefather Adam disobeyed God and caused humankind to fall from the divine relationship with its Creator, God has sought to restore the creature to his rightful place in HIM! The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah in these words: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord..." (Isa 61:1-2a).
In Luke 4:18-22 we see Jesus fulfilling this prophecy when He, as a visiting rabbi, read this passage from the scroll in the temple. He then closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and with all the eyes of those in the synagogue fixed upon Him said: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing".
Isaiah's passage about the favorable year of the Lord speaks of the Year of Jubilee. The fiftieth year where losses were returned, captives were liberated and prisoners were set free. Jesus is our Jubilee. Through Him we have access to our heavenly Father. Through Him we are set free from our fears of tomorrow and our guilt of the past. Through Him losses are recovered. We are living in the "acceptable time" or "favorable year" of Grace. What we lost, through wrong choices or through the sin of others, can be restored through Christ. Thank God for a GOOD SHEPHERD who keeps constant watch over His Sheep. Thank God that HE RESTORES MY SOUL!


Hope In A Hopeless World

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Scripture Text: Hebrews 2:5-8

What do we do when we are overwhelmed with the circumstances and situations that surround us - When the depressing thoughts come in like a thick fog, engulfing our minds and spirits? When we find ourselves in this place of hopelessness, we need a new view of Jesus instead of focusing on the problems of this world.
The writer to the Hebrews was addressing just such an audience. Believers in Christ, who were facing very difficult circumstances and were entertaining the idea of going back to their old ways of believing and behaving. To this audience, the writer lifts up Jesus as better than anything they hold dear. He is better than angels, better than the Priesthood, better than Moses, better than blood sacrifices - Christ is better!
In our text we find that none of the angels were destined to rule over all things - that position of complete authority is reserved for Christ alone. All things have been placed under His feet - no throne or dominion, no principality or power - nothing has been excused or left out of this promise to Jesus Christ. All things are placed under His feet. However, the next line is a great source of encouragement to me. "But now we do not yet see all things put under Him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God might taste death for everyone"(Heb 2:8b-9).
What we see with our natural senses is a world seemingly gone mad. We see hatred, genocide and racial tensions that seemed primed to explode. We see a nation adrift - loosed from its moral anchors and, without divine intervention, headed for destruction. We see the loss of values that have given us purpose and direction for generations. We see a hopeless society. We see families in chaos amid financial and social struggles. The elderly and the youngest of our society are at great risk in today's climate of expedience.
Yet all these things have been placed under Jesus' feet! We do not presently see all these things put under Him; but we do see HIM...namely, Jesus. This is a key to our hope in a hopeless society. We see Jesus! You see, the answer does not lie in our situations and circumstances; it lies in our vision of HIM. Ultimately He will rule this world with the 'rod of iron'. Demons and principalities, rulers and despots will bow before this King of Glory. Sickness and disease will give way to this One whose back was stripped for our healing. Even death will give way to the One who was dead but is alive forevermore.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem that has become a Christmas Classic, "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" in 1864. Longfellow's wife had burned to death when her clothing caught fire in 1861, and his son had been critically wounded in the Civil War in 1863. In this poem we find these words:

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
of Peace on earth, good will to men"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doeth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
with peace on earth good will to men."
Sometimes our situations cause us to despair and bow our heads. There are cases where our faith may wane and we become disillusioned due to the circumstances that engulf us. However, when we see HIM we are reassured that God is not dead, nor doeth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men!
I learned this chorus years ago when attending Youth Camp, and reflect on it often in my own desperate situations:  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus look full in His wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace."


True Rest

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mark 6:31-32 NASB
31 And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.
It's difficult for us to imagine Jesus needing rest. I mean, He's JESUS; the Creator of all things and the One through whom all things consist! However, the human Jesus, "the Son of Man" needed times of rest and relaxation. His body became weary and sometimes His thoughts became grieved.  Mental tiredness is as taxing as physical tiredness. In fact, I have found it much more difficult to relax when I'm mentally tired than when physically exhausted.
Usually, in the Summer we begin making plans to take a vacation.  We long for a place to quiet ourselves and renew our energy. However, most of our vacations take more effort than the work from which we are trying to escape! We travel great distances and fill our itineraries with as much as we can in the short time we have. I have often heard someone remark, after taking a vacation, "I had to come back to work so I could get some rest!"
My wife and I just returned from vacation of visiting our family. We traveled approximately 1,000 miles and had a great time catching up with our family. While at our daughters, I had the great idea that we take the granddaughters to a river that is famous for its tubing. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed out for the two-hour trip to the river. We rented the tubes and walked the fifteen minute path to the landing. Things got exciting right off when we saw a water snake while putting the tubes into the river at the dock. They did get into the tubes and I was the last one to 'launch' and they were already drifting further away from me. Therefore, I made the faithful decision to dive into the water and swim to catch up with them and then get into the tube. Have you ever tried to get into a tube on a swiftly running river? It is impossible to get into the tube, so I just kind of 'hung onto it' as they were all laughing at me hysterically. Then the rain storm came! Thunder and lightening and pelting rain, (like the scene from the Forrest Gump movie). We were able to get out at the next landing and decided to eat our picnic lunch while the storm passed. Once we finished lunch, we did however, complete the river trip and all in all had a great time. Then we had the two-hour drive home! It was indeed a day of making memories, but not much of a day for rest.
Mark tells us that after Jesus and the disciples got away in a boat to a secluded place, "The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them" (Mk 6:33). I suspect that you have had such incidents take place in your plans for rest. Some of you know what I am talking about; you try and get away but the problems seem to go ahead of you and meet you at your "secluded destination".
Jesus demonstrates a true rest that is not attached to a secluded place or an Utopian experience. He shows a calm in the midst of chaos. The rest He exhibits comes from His deep abiding relationship with His Father. From this chaotic time, He feeds the multitude with five loaves and two small fishes. This is the only miracle He performs that is recorded in all four Gospels.  He rested in the Belovedness of His Father!
You and I are invited to enter into His rest! He said, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28-29). The writer to the Hebrews also sheds light on this rest in the third and fourth chapters of Hebrews. I will close these musings with his words: "For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest,  Heb 4:10-11 NASB
So if you want real rest then run to Jesus. Cast your cares on Him and rest in His Strength and Spirit.


Promises Hidden in Bitter Situations

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Scripture Text:  Exodus 3:22-26; Ruth 1:19-21; Luke 22:39-42

These three narratives have a common denominator of the participants facing bitter circumstances. The children of Israel at the bitter waters of Marah; Naomi with Ruth upon returning from the land of Moab as widows; and Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to His arrest and crucifixion. The children of Israel rejected God's plans at the waters of Marah, Naomi did not understand the affliction of God and the direction God was leading her upon returning to Bethlehem; and Jesus submitted to the Father's will instead of following His own will in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Being a Christ follower does not mean that we will not have trials and situations that are distasteful. I have noticed in scripture, many hindrances following a divine call of God upon a persons life. There is always the temptation to become bitter when facing the bitter cups of which we have to drink.
Moses, fresh off the encounter at the burning bush, finds great hardships from Pharaoh in Egypt. His response was to say to the Lord, "O Lord, why has Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me? Thou has not delivered Thy people at all" (Exodus 5:22-23). However, as Moses grew in faith and saw the hand of God in the delivering the people, he could confidently say at the Red Sea: "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent (Exodus 14:13-14). In other words Moses was saying, "Don't do something, stand there!"
Israel was moved to worship and song after the waters of the Red Sea covered their long time tormentors. However, they were moved to complaint at the waters of Marah. The text suggests that God led them to these waters for indeed Moses was leading at the command of God.  The text also reveals that just beyond these waters was an oasis of twelve springs and seventy date palm trees. Why would God lead them to the bitter waters first? He knew they had gone the maximum time allotted to human beings without water in a hot desert. No doubt you will answer that He did this to reveal that there is always an antidote for the bitter waters in our lives. This was done through God directing Moses to cut a tree and cast it into the waters, causing the bitter chemicals to precipitate to the bottom and the pool of water becoming sweet. I certainly believe that God has already provided a way of escape for each bitter situation we face. However, I wonder if this text is revealing an even greater purpose of God in the lives of these people.
Jamie Buckingham in his book: "A Way Through the Wilderness" writes of these pools of water being laced with magnesium and calcium which are ingredients for powerful laxatives. He proposes that God may have been purging the Israelites of the parasites they were carrying when they left Egypt. He also states that these ingredients are found in a drug called Dolomite which athletes use when laboring in the hot sun. This drug helps give muscles stamina and keeps them from going into spasms. God had taken the children of Israel out of Egypt and now it appears, He is taking Egypt out of them. God was purging them from their past bondage and was preparing them for the arduous journey ahead. However, Israel rejected the bitter pools of water. God's giving them sweet water, in this scenario, would be His second best miracle. Buckingham's commentary on this passage is thought provoking.
When Naomi said, "Call me Mara for I am bitter", she was looking at her present situation, and at the present, had no idea of the grand plan God had for her and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. Naomi could not see that through Ruth and Boaz's union, her past would be redeemed and her future would be greater than she could ever imagine. Naomi becomes the grandmother of Obed; the great-grandmother of Jesse; and the great-great-grandmother of David. This would be the kingly linage through whom Jesus would one day descend. Unlike the Israelites, who outright rejected God's bitter water; Naomi would began to see God's greater plan and help in bringing this plan to fruition.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the bitter cup to pass from Him. However, He submitted to the will of His Father and said, "Not my will but thine be done". The writer to the Hebrews states that He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. Joy in drinking from the bitter cup that seems for the moment, most distasteful, but sweet indeed when our eyes are lifted off the present circumstances to see God's greater plan for our lives.
Like Naomi, may we begin to see the greater picture of God's plan for our lives. Like Jesus, may we say, "Not my will but Thine be done!"


This Is My House

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mark 11:15-17 (NASB)
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a robbers' den."

All four Gospel writers share about Jesus cleansing the Temple. John records that Christ did this at the beginning of His ministry. Matthew, Mark and Luke records Him cleansing the temple at the end of His earthly ministry. Some think that these events are one and the same and that John got his chronology wrong. Others, myself included, believe these were actually two separate events. While there are several similarities in the narratives, there are some differences as well. They all state that this event took place at the beginning of Passover. Each evangelist writes about Jesus' wrath in overturning the tables and driving the moneychangers out of the temple. In John's account Jesus said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise." Matthew, Mark and Luke write that Jesus said: "My house should be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a robbers den."
John writes about the religious elite asking for a sign and Jesus' response: "destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and You will raise it up in three days?" John states that He was speaking of the temple of His body and after His resurrection, His disciples remembered what He said, and they believed the Scripture.
Matthew records healings taking place in the temple following this cleansing. The blind received their sight, the lame began to walk. Children, when seeing the power of God manifested in Christ, began giving praise. This moment was not lost on the religious leaders, and they asked Christ if He heard what they were saying?
Whether these are two separate events or one event recorded in various ways may be debated but should not be divisive. Our eternity does not hinge on one or the other viewpoint. However, there are some points to these narratives that I think we should seriously consider.
1. Jesus is angry when His house is used more for merchandising than it is for prayer. I remember hearing a sermon many hears ago by Vance Havner, concerning these narratives, in which he said : "What begins as a place of merchandise ends up as a den of thieves." We must remember that the original sin took place in heaven, where Lucifer began to merchandise in his gifts to become like God. Ezekiel 28:16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence... 
2. Jesus is angry when His house is not opened to all people. "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? There were exclusive measures to keep Gentiles away from the temple. There were legal hoops that other nations had to 'jump through' in order to be somewhat accepted. Jesus never intended that His house be only for a select few. Any barrier that keeps people of different races, ethnicitys, or social standing from the Father's house is appalling to Christ.
3. Jesus is angry when religious practices take place over a vital relationship. The religious were more concerned with children praising God in the temple than they were with unscrupulous men 'ripping off' the parishioners in the outer courts. They were more concerned with the phrase 'destroy this temple' than they were that prayer, healings and praise were not a common occurrence in the Father's House.
I find it encouraging that Jesus declares the church to be "His House". I believe He is coming to His house to do some house cleaning. He will over turn and reveal what is presently hidden.  The results of this cleansing will be a release of the supernatural for healing and an overflowing praise - even from the children.
Jesus' coming may be disruptive at first, but the results of His cleansing His church will be wonderful. Therefore I pray "Even so, come Lord Jesus".


Identity Crisis

Monday, March 24, 2014

For several weeks now I have been teaching from the book of Ephesians on Identity Crisis. It seems to me that far too many Christians really do not understand who they are in Christ. Because of His victory over death, hell and the grave we are now victorious. This is not the work of our determination or the basis of our intelligence. It is the work of Christ by Grace. It is the gift of God to us through Christ (See Eph 2:4-10).
Satan is trying to usurp God from His kingdom and blind you and me from the truth of the gospel. If he can get us off the hope or ground of the Gospel then he can make it easy for us to fall into various sins. If however, we remain steadfast and secure in Christ, then we can withstand all the attacks that Satan and his kingdom brings to us.
The Apostle Paul takes the first three chapters of Ephesians to emphasize the point of our rest in Christ. He then establishes how this rest will look as we walk in wisdom and the Spirit in this present world. At the end of the letter he talks about spiritual warfare. The truth is, if we have not had the revelation of our 'seated position in Christ' then we cannot walk in wisdom in this earth. If we are not walking in the Spirit, then we are no match against Satan in a spiritual battle.
Most are defeated, at the outset, because they are trying to gain a victory that is already won. Satan has already gotten them off the ground of Christ's completed work. Through their own efforts, many sincere believers are defeated because they are not resting in Christ's work, but setting out to war against Satan in their own energy and determination. That is why most of the warfare armor that Paul mentions is defensive. We must stand firm on the ground of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We war from the victory not to the victory! We are not fighting to win a battle - we are fighting to defend the battle that Christ  has already won.
I pray that God will open our eyes to this tremendous truth. Jesus Christ has won the war - it is finished. We are invited into His work - we are His workmanship.