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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"This I Know - God Is For Me"

If you've ever had a trusted friend suddenly, and for no real reason, turn on you as though you were a stranger, then you can relate to David's sad lament at Psalm 55. His prayer was probably written some time in the middle of his 40 year reign over Israel and later turned into a song for worship with stringed instruments. That's just a guess on my part but having studied his life and his Psalms for a long time, this is one of many that sound like they fit with David's struggles during that period.

"My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me and horror overwhelms me." V:4-5 ESV
"For it is not an enemy who taunts me - then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me - then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together, within God's house we walked in the throng." V:12-14 ESV
"My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was as smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords." V:20-21 ESV

We can be surprised by a long list of possible tragedies in this life. But betrayal of any kind is especially upsetting and difficult to get past. It's hard to trust anyone after an incident like David has described be it friend, employer, spouse, fiancee, relative or as David seems to intimate, a brother in the Lord. You just expect better from someone who has cultivated your confidence and given you every reason to trust them. But, it just doesn't always work out that way.

If you are struggling with ANY kind of tragic outcome from the breakup of a marriage or engagement to a seemingly irreversible breakdown of your health or someone you love, indeed if you are suffering in any way at all, David has a word for you that he too learned from bitter experience -

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." V:22 ESV
"You have kept my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. THIS I KNOW, THAT GOD IS FOR ME. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?" V:8-11 ESV HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Life - Death - LIFE!"

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24 NIV

So what does one do with the knowledge that death is imminent? I'm thinking right now of several brothers and sisters for whom I and many others have been interceding in prayer for their healing, comfort and peace. Just in our spiritual family we have been praying for more than twenty people who are directly connected to that church family who are battling with cancer. A few have died, a few more are staring death in the face and some have had successful treatments that have prolonged their lives a bit longer.

Mortality is the one fact of life that is inescapable. We're all headed down the same path and whether today or tomorrow or forty years from now, reality catches up to us and we have to deal with it. I don't sit around and think about dying, well at least not very much, because I'm still healthy and able to carry on with my life. But, I am realistic enough to know that my body is deteriorating faster than I had expected. And, I think it a healthy exercise in living to give serious consideration to the end of my life as I've known and lived it.

What I DO think about a lot is what I have to look forward to. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have been given the GREATEST BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL, God my Father. Actually, that, for me, constitutes the greatest blessing of life, PERIOD! Peter said it very clearly at 1Peter 3:18 -

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."

Because of Jesus Christ, God has reached out to me and drawn me back to himself and that just absolutely TRUMPS everything else in my experience. Of course I had to respond to God's love with faith and serious obedience, but the payoff beats everything else I might have achieved or received in this life.

When I served as an elder in a Dallas church, I went with one of our deacons to visit his neighbor who was dying with cancer. As we entered her bedroom, her mother, who had come from Tennessee to care for her was silently weeping in a nearby chair. I sat down on the bed beside the lady and took her hand and asked how I might serve her. She looked into my eyes and said, "I'm afraid of dying. Can you help me to not be so afraid?" Very gently I began to question her about her relationship with Jesus Christ and her faith in God. She affirmed both but I could tell neither was really strong or real enough to help her see past her present condition. So, I opened my Bible and read Jesus' words from John 5, then turned to Hebrews and read these words to her -

"Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid." Hebrews 13:5-6

We prayed together, I prayed then she prayed then I prayed again. Three days later she died. Her mother told me she died in faith, without fear and thanked me again for encouraging them both.

When we really see the truth Jesus came to show us, death is merely one huge step in a better direction. We can take that step with courage and faith, even in the midst of horrific pain and suffering, because we now can feel the greatest blessing of the gospel, God has embraced us in love. I've been very privileged to actually witness that pivotal moment. HALLELUJAH!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Thinking About God"

Many years ago on a deserted stretch of beach in San Juan, PR, I made the life changing decision to LOOK UP for the first time in a long time. At the end of a long night of introspection I came to the realization that I had literally lost my mind. So, just after dawn that Sunday morning, I walked the short distance from that small bar to the beach, removed my shoes and walked. All day. Back and forth. Thinking and praying. For the first time in my life, I just talked to God honestly. By the time I arrived at the Naval Base later that afternoon, my head was clear and my heart was full. The promise I made to God that day put me on a course that I have tried to follow since.

A few years ago when I began to create this blog, one of my primary motives was to exalt God as Father to all who willingly submit their own spirit to his guidance. Like any father, he only wants what is best for his kids but we must learn to pay attention, to listen to him. There are many distractions that can take us in directions that wont end well, particularly during the early teenage years when we are more influenced by peers and often the wrong heroes. But, like any truly caring father, God never gives up, never quits, never abandons us to our own ignorance of obvious reality. Such was true in my case, for which I am more grateful today than at any other time in my life.

For a long time I have loved Paul's Doxology at the end or Romans 11 -

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! AMEN."

 That praise of God should be spoken in my heart daily to remind myself of the greatness of God my Father. I wont ever have the capacity to fully comprehend all that it means, it's just to deep for my small mind. But, I can learn to appreciated what it means for my life because Paul didn't stop there -

"Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices , holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.  Romans 12:1 NIV

I really appreciate these words from The Message -

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your every day, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out."  Romans 12:1-2

That just kinda says it all. HALLELUJAH!