HAPPY? 071818

In Matthew 5:11-12, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

How is that?  Blessed is often translated “happy”.  How can you be happy when people are reviling (insulting) you and persecuting you, and saying all kinds of lies about you because you trust in Jesus?  Rejoice! Whoop It Up! Because it is sooo neat that you love God and God loves you; and it really doesn’t matter what those other people think; certainly not when you compare it to what God thinks, and how great it is to have a close personal relationship with the One True God!  Hallelu-Jah!

As for the last part of this verse, that “your reward is great in heaven”; I like that.  But I keep wondering how it could be any better than this; knowing that it’s heaven to have the Spirit of the Living God right here in our own hearts, right now. I’m rejoicing because I have a close, personal relationship with God, just like the prophets.  It’s a sign of God’s loving care and your trust in Him when you can rejoice even when you’re being persecuted.

 

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DO YOU KNOW IT BY HEART? 062118

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  .  .” Deut. 6:6

“Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psa 119:11

“For the word of God is living and powerful, .  .  .  and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

When I was a little kid, when my Momma wanted me to memorize something, she’d say, “Can you say it by heart?”  Like my ABC’s, or the Pledge of Allegiance, or the Lord’s Prayer,  or the 23rd Psalm. “Do you know it by heart?”  And the funny thing is, I’m 69 now, and I still have those things memorized.  I still know them, and can say them, By Heart!  Makes me grin.

And the Lord has been telling me for a long time now that we as disciples of Jesus should memorize God’s Holy Word.  It has all kinds of benefits.  After Deuteronomy 6:6, the passage goes on to say, “You shall teach them [His Words] diligently to your children; and talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk down the road; when you lie down and when you rise up.  .  .”  You should memorize God’s Words so they will be available, on the tip of your tongue, when you talk to others about Jesus; you will have HIS words to say, because it’s not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit.

You should know God’s Word by heart, so you won’t sin against God, just like David said.  Knowing God’s Word by heart forms a barrier, a wall, against all the tricks of the devil, when he says, like he did to Eve, “You don’t really believe God really meant what He said, do you?”  And if you’ve spent enough time thinking about Bible verses to memorize them, then you KNOW that you really DO believe what God says.

And that last verse quoted above, about the Word of God being “alive and powerful, and piercing  .  .  and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart.”  I’m convinced that if you memorize God’s Word; if you hide it in your heart; if you obey God as He commands that “These words shall be in your heart”; then you will be able to discern what is going on in peoples’ hearts; both in other peoples’ hearts and in your own; so you’ll know better how to pray for them and for yourself.

I have a list of about 250 separate scriptures that I’ve been memorizing over the last several years.  I take one new one a day and work on it that day.  About the third time I come to it on the list, I have it memorized.  If you’d like I can send you a copy.

JOINED AT THE HEART.052418

What happens when you are really in a bind, you don’t know what to do, and there’s actually nowhere to go?  I guess the right answer is to do what you learned in church, to do what your momma and your daddy taught you about God.  But many questions are subject to interpretation.  There are a lot of gray areas.  In the meantime there’s a lot about what you believe, and who you can trust: God, the church, people who claim to be Christians, and those who really ACT like it.  Often there is nothing you can do except to lean on God, and hope to goodness that all that stuff you said you believed is really true.

So what do you really believe?  Well, I believe in leaning on God, trusting in Him.  Like Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding . . .”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) Like the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, where they said, right before they were thrown into the fiery furnace, “The God we serve will deliver us, . . . but even if He doesn’t, we’re not going to bow down and worship the image you made.” (Daniel 3:1-30)  Talk about leaning on Jesus.  Whoa!  To get to that level of trust in God, you have to spend a lot of time getting connected to Him, joined at the heart, so when the time comes you’ll be ready.

PRAYING FOR OTHER PEOPLE.042518

Latin Teenager Praying

My relationship, my spiritual relationship, with God is based on the six great themes of the Bible: love, humility, gratitude, trust, obedience and service; all of which are founded on the underlying concept of surrender.  All the themes, one way or another, are brought to life, they’re empowered by surrender, to God and to other people.  In a supernatural way, this is the attitude of Jesus that flows through us when we surrender to Him.

When I pray, I usually begin by ‘praying through the themes’ one at a time, as they relate to me and my relationship with God.  Every time, I see something new about how I should love God; humble myself before Him; be thankful for all the ways He blesses me; renew my trust in Him as it relates to all my other relationships, my cares and my troubles; confess my failures in obedience and renew my commitment to do His will and not mine, to have His attitude and not mine; and as my act of service, to deny myself, die to myself, and follow (surrender to) Him; so He can use me for His purposes in this world today.

So I was praying for my son today, my youngest son Ian, who is a freshman in college and is going through some major, life-changing events and decisions that will affect him for the rest of his life.  It is a challenging time, but a truly exhilarating time, to be alive in his world.  He has asked me to pray for him, which I am always happy to do.  I do pray for him every day anyway.  Today, I started a new practice, of praying for Ian the way I pray for myself.  It opens all kinds of new doors for me to think about in praying for him; not just about what he should do or not do; but also about all his relationships, with God and with others, that I can meditate on and consider how God is moving and working in Ian’s life and the lives of those around him. (They may need a little prayer too!)

There’s a limited amount of time to ‘really’ pray (like this) for all the people that are close to me; so I think I’ll need to spend more of my ‘unstructured’ time (formerly known as leisure time, ha!), when I’m driving down the road, or waiting in the doctor’s office, or waiting for an appointment, praying in this way for others.  God only knows what the results might be, for them and for me.

 

FORGIVENESS (ADVENTURES IN JESUS).042218

hands of a prisoner behind barsI spent last weekend in prison.  I was a member of a team from the Jubilee Prison Ministry, that goes in to prisons for three days to talk to the inmates about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian.  While I was there, I gave a talk on forgiveness: In the middle of the talk I gave a personal testimony from life as it relates to forgiveness.  My testimony went like this:

When I was a young man, about 20, I met my future wife and I asked her to marry me.  She said, ‘Yes!’  Neither one of us had any money, but we had love, so it was OK.  Pretty quick we had two sons, and then one daughter.  My wife and I grew up together while raising our kids.  Finally, I got a better job.  I was making $125.00 per day.  We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  Oh, I had to spend a lot of time working away from home; three weeks away and then one weekend at home.  There was a lot of stress, but we both thought it was worth the sacrifice.  This sort of work went on, for 6 or 7 years, over and over, till one day, when we’d been married about 10 years, I found out my wife was having an affair with another man.  At the time our kids were 10, 9 and 3.  At the time I thought it was all her fault, but I’d forgive her and forget about it, if she’d just come back.  Well, eventually she came back, after a long separation.  But you know what’s crazy?  Throughout that hard time in our lives, I never even considered all the way I contributed to that event.  Like never being home when my wife needed help.  Or when she wasn’t feeling good, or the kids were sick, and she had to deal with it all by herself. Probably the worst is that after she got the kids down, when she finally went to bed, she was all alone.  She needed someone to love her, to hold her; to be with her.  Here I am 30 or 40 years later, and I’m just now realizing all the ways I failed to love, honor and cherish my wife; all the ways I wronged her; all the ways I harmed her.  I’m a sinner and I desperately need forgiveness. Continue reading

Have You Made Peace with God? 040518

All my life I’ve struggled with how to start a conversation with someone about their relationship with God.  I’ve longed to find some way to get started without offending them or making them mad, or driving them away.  It’s a very personal subject, one that many people are uncomfortable talking about.

One time 3-4 years ago, I had a friend named Evelyn, who was dying of pancreatic cancer.  She worked part-time for the same guy I worked for.  She was about my age.  She was in the hospital, fading fast and I went to visit her.  I didn’t know whether she had a relationship with God or not, but I wanted to talk to her about it.  I didn’t know how to start or what to say.

I don’t know if it mattered, but I took her a prayer blanket that had been made by ladies at our church.  They even prayed over it and anointed it with oil, especially for her.  Now that I think about it, maybe God used that prayer blanket to touch Evelyn and me both.

Anyway, I was standing there beside her bed, trying to think of something to say, when God says, “Ask her if she’s made peace with God.”

So I did.  Right out of the blue I said, “Well, have you made peace with God?”

She thought about it a minute and said the most amazing thing, “Since my husband died about 9 years ago, me and God haven’t had much to say to each other.”

After I thought a second I said, “Evelyn, God loves you; and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or failed to do, He forgives you; and all you have to do to get right with God is to trust Him and accept His forgiveness.”  She said she’d think about it.

She must have done it though, because after she died, her daughter told me that after we talked, she was at peace, happy and thankful; free of all the fear and anxiety she’d had before.

Praise the Lord!

THE FUNDAMENTALS.040318

Life is a lot like baseball.  In order to play you just need to understand a few rules, get down the fundamentals, and then practice.  How much you practice has a big bearing on how you get along.  A coach in Texas used to make his players follow the “Rule of 100″.  Every player had to throw 100, catch 100, hit 100 balls EVERY day.  Sounds like work. But he produced some great baseball players and some great teams.  Went to the State championship a lot of times.

Life in Jesus is like that.  To be a follower of Jesus you just need to learn the rules, get down the fundamentals and then practice. What are the fundamentals?  Talk to God, listen to God; trust God and obey Him. EVERY day.  Pretty simple, but not easy.  Takes practice.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  The reward is that you develop a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe and He comes to live in your own private heart.  Life just can’t get any better than that.Like I said.  It’s like baseball.  When you get on a losing streak, what do all good coaches recommend?  Get back to the fundamentals.  When you stick with the fundamentals, it’ll turn your game and your life around. Thanks Tex