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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"A Dead End Life"

Most members of our human family learn the art of deception very early in life. "I don't know how that got broken" or "I didn't do/say that" are some of the favorite lines we learn to use in an attempt to slide past one kind of blunder or another. Unchecked, deception can become a way of life that is like playing a game of dodgeball.

The most tragic form of deception is self deception. One way or another that life of lies always ends badly. Yeah, we maybe can skate by on a few lies to our parents, mates, teachers and even certain kinds of legal requirements and think we've gotten away with the deception, but eventually the lies become too numerous to cover up and one by one the bubbles burst.

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap. For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:7-9 ESV

Paul here states an eternal truth that demands to be heard in every generation of the human family -
                                  YOU IGNORE GOD TO YOUR OWN DESTRUCTION!

Since God made us, he fully understands the power of the flesh to take command of our lives. So, like every father who loves his children, God gave us a gift for our own protection, he puts his own Spirit in our hearts to train us for constant battle with our common enemy.

Jesus tagged Satan as a liar from the very beginning and ultimately the father of all lies. The lies we tell ourselves can sometimes be harmless with no destructive intent but if self deception becomes habitual and morphs into a lifestyle, the end wont be good. Any foothold we give to Satan in our life will never be enough for the great deceiver, he will always lead deception to a new place.

God never intended for any of his human family to suffer a corrupt eternity. The gift of his Son to remove our sin and adopt us into his family coupled with putting his Holy Spirit into our hearts to train us in holy living are intended to turn us away from certain destruction. BUT, we must learn to live a committed life as true slaves of Jesus Christ.

This is why we are urged over and over and over to "live by the Spirit" and "pray in the Spirit" because without the Holy Spirit's ministry we can never really know God as "ABBA". So when you feel your spirit becoming weary step back, take a deep breath and pray to the Spirit to arm you for battle. He always will.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"God's Divine Pledge - A Tribute For Linda Smith"

This afternoon a large, tearful group of family and friends gathered to honor and celebrate her victory over death with a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, sister and unashamed disciple of Jesus, Linda Smith. That may sound kinda odd to some since Linda's embalmed body lay in the casket before us, but as her son and daughters spoke eloquently and reverently of the mother they knew, there can  be absolutely no doubt that Linda breathed her last in this world fully assured of what lay ahead. She battled with cancer for months, but her body could finally take no more abuse and her heart just gave out. By all accounts she died as she lived, happy and blessed in the comfort of God's great love. Now that's a victory worth celebrating.
Although it has rarely been my practice to pass judgment on anyone during a funeral service, there is a sense in which praising God for "a life well lived", as the minister said over Linda, is not only appropriate but truly God honoring. These words from the great Apostle Paul seal the deal for such an occasion -

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory" Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV

The purpose of a "seal" was to (1) preserve or secure something intact, and (2) stamp a document or other article with authority, to authenticate it. The "seal" of God for his people is the Holy Spirit who is God's personal pledge that he will give us what he has promised. Paul uses the word "ARRABON", which he borrowed from Hebrew, to affirm God's own guarantee by giving us his Holy Spirit.

Paul made this same affirmation to the Corinthian disciples -

"Now it is God who makes both us (the Jews) and you (the Gentiles) stand firm in Christ. He annointed us, set his seal of ownership on us and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21 NIV

Just as the king's seal was an unbreakable legal sign, so is God's Spirit to all of us who are in Jesus Christ.

I don't take that to mean we can never do anything to forfeit that promised blessing for that would contradict both common sense and a wealth of the Spirit's teaching in God's word. However it gives me great peace and an unshakeable hope that God will always be working in me through his Spirit to keep me in his place of blessing. Every day I feel that "pledge" at work in my own spirit. These words of Paul are clear to me -

"Those who (by choice) are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . . And by him we cry ABBA, FATHER. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Romans 8:14-16 NIV

There is hardly a moment in any day that I am unaware of that reassurance, that special "annointing". Some have used this word to identify only those believers in Jesus who have exhibited some form of miraculous "outpouring". NOT SO! All who are in Jesus have received that "annointing", whose single purpose is the Holy Spirit's own specific testimony in our spirits that God is "ABBA". However, the Spirit always does the will of "ABBA" and that has and still can be demonstrated in a great variety of ways. We are always wise to walk carefully in any area where the Spirit of God is engaged in carrying out the Father's will. What he does or doesn't just may not always fit our comfortable theology. But, the assurance of God's pledge through his Spirit is always a daily reality.

So, go on sister Linda Smith, and spread the same joy among your new family of God exactly as you did here on earth with everyone who ever got close enough to you to catch your infectious joy of just being a child of ABBA. We loved you and that wont change just because we cant see you and hear you sing with joy to Lord. We are praising HIM for sharing his own heart with all of us through your joy. HALLELUJAH!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Does America Still Inspire You?"

On this Independence Day I suppose it was appropriate that I started thinking during my bike ride this morning about this question, "DOES AMERICA STILL INSPIRE ME?" The more I thought about it , the more I began to recall specific inspirational moments that I have had over the years. But then I also began to think about all the garbage that gets carelessly tossed around that seems to significantly clutter the landscape and in some cases even alters it forever.
I'm not much impressed with all the political garbage that I see and hear tossed into our landscape. For me, for the time being at least, politics is an exercise in futility because after hearing all the negative rhetoric during the Republican primaries, I find it very difficult to believe any of them. And its probably only going to get worse as we wind down toward the November election. I am certainly not inspired to run out to vote but I know I will because I deeply appreciate the opportunity to do so.
I've not lived a really long time but I guess 70 years isn't exactly a newcomer either. I have lived long enough to see so much that is disappointing and sometimes disheartening to me as an American. And I can see no positive reason to air all that out and further contaminate my own back yard. So, I'm back to my original question, "DOES AMERICA STILL INSPIRE ME?"
Our English word "inspire" is of Latin derivation and it means to "to influence, to prompt, as creative action or thought; to stir or animate; to cause or arouse as thought or feeling." In New Testament Greek the word "inspiro" means "God breathed or breathed out by God." Now there's a definition I can really sink my teeth into. I may be over-reaching a bit here, but I think in some way God may be behind virtually all true inspiration. We know that is true of the Scriptures and we know it is true of many people who were inspired/prompted by Him to take radical action. I'm not saying that God causes every action or thought of every person who has ever been aroused to do whatever. What I do believe is that in some truly pure way, INSPIRATION is a an act of God.
I vividly recall my first morning after I arrived at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in 1960 to begin my career as a newly minted sailor. That first morning was a shocker. We were up at 5:00 am, showered, shaved and dressed by 5:45 to march to the mess hall for breakfast. I went through the chow line, carried my two boiled eggs, baked navy beans and cornbread to sit with my unit and was struck with the reality that I couldn't go home and put my feet under my mom's table. During the night I had heard a few guys crying in the dark and it made me sad for them. Now, as I sat looking at this very strange breakfast, I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake. Then in a sudden burst of "inspiration" I realized that I was not the first guy to sit in the very seat I now occupied and if they could make it, I could too. That got me through boot camp.
When I was eventually assigned to the USS MT MCKINLEY (AGC 7), I went through much the same deal as I stood there at Pier 4 in Norfolk, Va with my seabag lying on the dock at my feet. I had never seen a ship close up before and it was a bit unnerving for a country boy from the Kentucky backwoods. But I looked up at the American flag flying from the mast and it just seemed to comfort me and reassure me that I will be just fine. And I was.
A few years ago we drove from Dallas to Orlando for a vacation with our kids. After spending the night in Mobile, Al we decided to visit Battleship Park to see the USS ALABAMA (BB-60) before continuing our trip to Florida. I took Gabe and Alyssa down to the galley of that special monument and we sat at the tables where the sailors ate all their meals. I told them to appreciate that they aren't the first two people who ever sat on those little round stools, holding their metal trays with their thumbs folded over the lip of the tray to keep it from sliding off into the floor. It was an "inspiring" moment for me and I hope for them too.
I am inspired by the Wounded Warriors who struggle to re-invent their lives and try to put their lives back together in some reasonable way. I am inspired every year on 9/11 by remembering that night in San Antonio, Texas with thousands of other Americans gathered at the Mercado where 8 blood mobiles were lined up to accommodate the tens of thousands who had shown up to give blood. I am inspired by the millions of people of all ages who do great things for the good of others. Wow, I could go on and on.
We Americans are a strange mixture of backgrounds, expectations, nationalities and social, political and religious persuasions. We live on small family farms and ranches, in big city high rise apartments, sprawling estates, senior citizen homes etc., but when the absolute necessity arises, we are always ONE.
So, keep on speaking your own mind on any issue you choose to address and allow your neighbor to do the same without angry threats. Please don't allow the preachers, politicians and news pundits poison what is good about America in your own spirit. If I've learned anything worthwhile in my 70 years, it is this - PEOPLE ARE NEVER THE ENEMY but make no mistake we are threatened every day by an enemy that has already been defeated. Jesus took care of that for all of us and that's finally what really matters. At least, that's how I feel about it. HALLELUJAH!