Happy To Welcome You To The Hallelujah Chorus

I will exalt you my God, the King, I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and exalt your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1-2

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"These Things Remain"

Pain, frustration, disappointment, futility, unresolved anger, hopeless etc, are words that define life for many whose lives seem to be a proverbial "black hole" where they are caught in a vacuum of chaos. But, there is nothing new here, at least not in the way of cause and effect. The cause is still the same as it has been from the beginning and the effect remains exactly the same as for Adam and Eve and their struggling family after God set them on their own course in the world.

Jesus came to make a difference - a BIG difference! Although he walked among us for a relatively short time, what he left behind makes all the difference in our daily life if we so choose. He warned us that he came not "to bring peace, but a sword". He told us some of our most cunning challenges would come from within our own families and we would have to make a difficult choice between "father, mother, sister, brother" etc., and serving our Father. BUT, anyone can make a better choice and live in the chaos with absolute peace. Many, many have done so and continue to do so.

Paul, whose life was daily chaos too, wrote these comforting words:

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

The Corinthian disciples seemingly spent so much time posturing and measuring each others "gifts", they overlooked the greatest gifts. Prophecy, speaking in tongues and even healings were not what life in Jesus was about. Paul told them plainly that all of those were temporary "gifts", NONE of which was the "GREATEST GIFT". So, their many debates and discussions were childish when viewed in a larger perspective. Then he made the statement quoted above.

In essence, what remains makes it all good - regardless. I realize how difficult that conclusion can sometimes seem when you're swirling around in that "black hole" of despair. We've all been there, are there or are just a breath away from there. But it all goes back to Adam and Eve in the Garden. The prince of darkness always knows just the right time and place to manipulate our thinking to put us into his swirling vacuum. He tried it with Jesus but Jesus wouldn't bite. I shouldn't either.

FAITH, HOPE and LOVE, are what remain as our primary arsenal of weapons to fight what Paul called "the good fight" all the way to the end. With those weapons I can win the war. I wont win every battle because Satan is capable of outsmarting and outwitting me sometimes. But if I can just see his fingerprints on whatever situation I am confronted with, I can do just like Jesus and say "NO!". I can make a better choice, one that shores up the internal resolve to resist Satan.

The things that remain, things given to us by Jesus through his Holy Spirit, are more powerful than ANYTHING Satan can dream up. His "black hole" can seem very scary sometimes but we have weapons to fight with that Satan has absolutely no way to defeat because he simply doesn't understand them.

So, hang in there struggler. Fight the good fight with faith, hope and love. God will not allow you to lose, you're his child and he will fight with you. HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Three Score and Ten!"

Although most Christians probably think of David as the original psalmist and singer among God's people, he actually wasn't. Moses was the original singer and psalm composer. It's a bit odd that only one of Moses' songs is included in the canon of Psalms because he appears to have been quite prolific as a singer and composer. But the one Psalm attributed to him is rather sobering.

"All our days have passed away in your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For as the fear of you, so is your wrath. So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:10-12 NKJV

I vividly recall the first time I seriously read this Psalm as a young preacher and struggled to grasp the depth of its meaning for me. Now that I am at the "seventy years" milestone I am able to read it with greater appreciation for Moses' mental state and understand a little better what he wanted me to see about life in the presence of God.

In my 70 years I cant really say that I have witnessed or experienced the wrath of God like Moses had. He may have written this Psalm soon after God had told him that he would not actually enter the "promised land" but only view it from afar. He died at 120 years old, alone, in some unknown, remote mountain area. His funeral was attended only by God and maybe Jesus and the Holy Spirit and who could possibly count the number of angels in the chorus!

Now, at 70 years, I have learned to "number my days", to realize that my life will continue to trudge onward one day at a time toward that final breath. I, like Moses, may not experience the end I had expected, but I am thankful to have had at least these 70 years. And, if I reach 80, as I expect, I will still be where I am right now regardless of what happens from now till then. I will still be in the presence of my Father, my family and my friends.

Numbering my days has encouraged me to not take today for granted, as though it will produce exactly what I wanted or expected. There is nothing wrong in having wants and expectations, setting goals and making plans. But my plans are always secondary to the will of God, who alone can bring me through any mine field Satan can lay in my path.

One of my dearest sisters in the kingdom asked me a question a few years ago that kind of sums it all up for me. She asked what I regret most about my life. After a few seconds I replied, "You know, I really don't have any regrets because I have lived long enough to have outlived each and every one." Are there things I wish I had done differently? Absolutely! But I can't go back and change any of that and my Father has helped me keep going in spite of my sins, my ignorance, my immaturity, my selfishness.

Now at 70 years, my family still loves and respects me in spite of my mistakes and that's what matters most to me, after the loving forgiveness God has freely given to me in Jesus Christ. Numbering my days isn't a fearful or angry exercise in futility because doing so has made me wiser than my real enemy, Satan. I now know he will NOT defeat me because the one who is in me is greater than the one who rules the world. John wrote that as he numbered his days from the perspective of a persecuted exile on a barren island. If he can see that, so can I!

Here's the bottom line - 70 ain't so bad. HALLELUJAH!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The Wise Man's Conclusion"

All of last year I was uplifted, instructed, challenged and encouraged by a daily study of David's 70+ Psalms. This January I began to journal through Solomon's Proverbs and found much that I can identify with in my daily life. However, as I began to journal through Ecclesiastes in early May, I have found myself scratching my head in wonder at most of what Solomon wrote about life, about God and about other people. He began this book by affirming that as the "Preacher/Teacher", he felt the need to teach his people and others. I understand that motivation having been there myself and dealing with the desire to learn in order to be qualified to share with others.

Solomon has finally worn me out! By the time I arrived at chapter 10, I felt a deep sense of sadness for his lack of positive faith in God's love. His incessant pessimism has gotten to me. So, I am ready to move on to something else that lifts up Jesus as Lord and truly teaches us WHO our God and Father is and WHAT he has done, is doing and will do in my life for my good.

However, I cannot go there until I first visit the end of what Solomon wrote at the end of the book - "Here is the conclusion of the matter; Fear God and keep his words for this is the whole (duty) of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, good or evil." Eccl 12:13-14

"FEAR GOD"? Really? Is that best this "wisest man who ever lived" can come up with after a long life of privilege and blessing? I am way short of the level of wisdom and knowledge Solomon is said to have received from God and that made him famous among his peers and countrymen. However, "fear" is a poor reason to serve God because at best, it won't last very long.

I grew up on that kind of preaching and teaching and although "fear" obviously has some value in our relationship with God, with parents and others, if it fails to mature into something much more it will only produce loyalty to God in short-lived fits and spurts.

I realize that what Solomon may have meant by his "conclusion" could encompass more than terror of what God can do to me. But in my lifetime the ways I have heard this used by preachers and teachers has always left me in a dark place. So, here is what "fear God" means to me as a mature Christian man:

I think Isaiah got right it Isaiah 50:10, "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, TRUST in the name of the Lord and RELY on him." So, to me "fear God" means:
(1) Always live before him with deep respect as the only true wise One
(2) To honor his Fatherhood and revere his name above all others
(3) To daily meet with him to thank him, praise him and express my love to him
(4) To tremble at the prospect of ignoring his love and disrespect his words.

In the 27 New Testament books, there are about 270 billboards that warn men of hell! So, there will be a final judgment when men will be called to account for all they have done in the body. However, because of Jesus, I no longer live in "fear" of that prospect. He has delivered us from that horrible outcome and taught us how to "love" God as Father. HALLELUJAH!

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Unpredictable Life?"

"I have seen something else under the sun; the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned, but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come." Eccl 9:11-12 NIV
"No man can predict misfortune." Eccl 9:12 MSG

Those words contain a lot of truth because all of us have experienced those times when we did everything right and the result just didn't quite work out the way we had expected. Sometimes "swift" isn't enough to win the race, nor "learned" good enough to gain expected favor. How do we explain that?

You may have your own way of interpreting misfortune but in my experience, most of it has been the result of my own lack of knowledge, skill, commitment etc. Its easy to convince ourselves that "I did/am doing my best" but if we're truly honest we might admit that is rarely the case. We can virtually always do it better if we are willing to invest time and energy in learning how to do so.

I think Solomon maybe should have said, "SOMETIMES the race is not to the swift" etc, because when taken on balance, more often than not, the swift, the strong, the wise, etc. come out on top. However, I also think the wise man was unwise to leave God out of his equation. He is right that "No man can predict misfortune" but there's another force at work in the lives of those who are called of God, a force much greater than any misfortune.

Paul said, "We KNOW that in all things God works for the good of those that love him - if God is for us who can be against us?!" Romans 8:28,31

I guess Paul's experience of a life of ups and downs was very different from his ancient ancestor. He always knew God would bring him through whatever misfortune came his way. And God did!

I'm standing with Paul on this. Although everything in my life hasn't always met my expectations and I have seen much that Solomon saw, God has always been at work to make it all produce something "good" for me and multitudes of others who can share the same testimony as Paul. If I am honestly open to learning what God wants to teach me, he will always bring me out on top! He has and he will regardless of any misfortune and I think that is just a huge HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Light At The End Of The Tunnell"

Nearly 50 times in Ecclesiastes Solomon described "life" as "meaningless". His narrow view seems to be that "since life ends in death, all of life is meaningless". That common denominator for all of us, rich/poor, wise/foolish, learned/ignorant, seems to him to be the inevitable result that proves no one can find meaning in his/her life.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is (nothing)." Eccl 9:10 NIV

At v:7 he says "Get all the good our of your life NOW because NOW is the only gift God has for you."

I believe that to be an accurate statement, BUT only for those who ignore God's love and his word. Paul seems to paraphrase Solomon - "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord - since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward." Colossians 3:23 NIV

Paul's words addressed to Christian slaves, carry a deep meaning for all of us who have put our faith and trust in the love of God and the price paid for our sins by Jesus. He also told us that "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, we must all be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:50

So here is my takeaway for today. Yes, Solomon, its true we all will one day take our final breath in this human body. However, God has much more planned for us after that event occurs than all we ever experienced while in the flesh. We have an eternal "inheritance" that we will never "outlive". Although death may appear to be a dark tunnel with an even darker dead end, because of Jesus, there is light at the end of that tunnel. Solomon either never knew that or was unimpressed with it.

Me? Hey, I can see it in the near future and I'm looking forward to it! That's HOME!