Archive for September, 2019

Standing Still

September 29, 2019

There are quite a few things that can cause Christians to ‘stand still’ or be paralyzed in their work or purpose that God has intended for them.  I don’t have room to deal with them all, but I’ll tackle one – Shame.

Shame occurs when we’ve done something wrong, or made a mistake.  We ask for forgiveness, but sometimes the shame lives on.  If the shame isn’t dealt with it can hinder our progress, or even bring our progress to a standstill.

Now let’s be clear, if an individual does wrong and doesn’t feel shame there is something out of place.  It is perfectly right to feel shame.  But, the danger is finding a ‘nesting place’ within that shame and never leaving it.

After some careful thought, I’ve only been able to come up with one way to deal with the shame, or put it in the past – lay it at the feet of Jesus, and don’t pick it up again.

This is harder than it sounds.  In fact, it sounds like a cop-out, or a way to justify continuing to do wrong, and taking no responsibility for it.

There is something else about shame.  Even if you lay it at the feet of Jesus and walk away, it wants to follow you, and reattach itself to you.  You can’t seem to shake it.

Well, let’s take one thing at a time.  Laying our shame at the feet of Jesus sounds easy, but even that act can bring additional shame as it seems unfair.  Unfair to whom?  To God.  In order for shame to be done away with someone must pay the price for it.  Nothing is free.  The good news is the penalty for the wrong and the associated shame has already been paid.  So, is it unfair?  Yes.  If it is unfair then why did God do it?  Love.  Simple as that.

So, what do we do if shame tries to show up again, and remind us of our weaknesses and failures?  Rebuke it, in the Name of Jesus.  It’s simply a ploy of the devil to bring up our failures and wrongs of the past, and to constantly remind us.

Note – you cannot have an argument with the enemy.  Wrong approach.  No argument is going to profit you.  One way to rebuke the enemy is to simply say, “I have been forgiven, and if you have problem with that, you need to discuss it with Jesus as I have nothing more to say to you.”

However, this does not keep the enemy from trying again, but stay firm.

Shame affects us all.  I don’t think there are any exemptions, as all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  But, once again, you don’t have to live there.

Into That Good Night

September 22, 2019

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

An interesting poem, but the core message seems to be clear.  Life is to be lived, and regardless of what may come, whether disease, dementia, illness, or even sudden death, every moment counts.  There is still the capacity to do good, to make a difference.  Life is not always about ourselves, and what we want or need.  The full capacity of life can only be realized when we find something we can do, or say, for the benefit of others.  It may seem small and insignificant, but even little things may matter to someone who is dying of the thirst of an encouraging word.

This poem may be viewed as mostly negative, and a ‘downer’.  But, I see in it the marks of something bright and positive.  A declaration of war against apathy and complacency.  The day of my mother-in-law’s passing, my wife heard her say, “I’m still kicking!”.  A few hours later she was gone.  The fighting spirit never failed her.  So, when you feel like giving up, remember these few words…

Three Steps to Relationship

September 17, 2019

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I’ve found that for me to have a meaningful relationship with God in my prayer life I must follow three steps:

  1. Right standing
  2. Thankfulness
  3. Petitions or requests

Right Standing

From the times of Moses (and even before) there was only one way to gain a ‘right standing’ with God.  You must be forgiven.  And there was only one way to obtain forgiveness – shedding of blood.  Following the crucifixion of Jesus the blood of lambs, rams, bulls, simply was not sufficient for creating the right standing for fellowship with God.  It was only through the blood of Christ, the sinless Lamb, the only begotten of the Father.  God has provided the means for forgiveness, but its application must be done by the individual.  It’s false teaching to think that all of this happens automatically, and doesn’t need to be addressed on a continual basis.  Our ability to gain access into the Holy of Holies, is only possible through the blood of Christ that has been sprinkled on our lives.

Thankfulness

Thankfulness for what He has done – what He is doing – and for what He is going to do.  Thankfulness for the things we know about, and thankfulness for the things we don’t know about.  Recognition that God is performing works for us on a continual basis is part of spiritual maturity.  And recognition that many of the works God has done for us are ‘hidden’ or unknown is also a mark of maturity and spiritual growth.

Petitions and Requests

Once we have been given ‘right standing’, and are thankful, then we can make our requests to God, knowing that He “hears” us.  Wait.  Doesn’t God hear all prayers?  Well, yes, and no.  It is not up to me to decide what God hears and doesn’t hear when you pray.  However, from a scriptural perspective it is clear there is a process, and that God hears, listens, and responds to some prayers and not others.  Cornelius prayed and gave alms.  In fact, he was told that his prayers have risen up as a ‘memorial’ before God.  This gives evidence that some prayers are more important to God than others.  In brief, why would we want to spend time praying if God is not listening?  From Jesus’ illustration of the publican and Pharisee going to the temple to pray, it is clear humility on the part of the publican played a big role in his leaving the House of God justified.

These things cannot be done by ritual or simply following the process, or by repeating the same words over and over.  Our prayer life must be ‘real’, which means simply one thing – true prayer takes work and effort.  When the pastor prays for individuals during Sunday service, the only reason his/her prayers can be effective is if there was a lot of prayer that had already taken place before service time.  Then at service time, the prayer can be simple, direct, and effective.

I’m certainly no expert on prayer or relationship with God.  I can only express what I have experienced for myself.  Prayer and relationship is a very personal thing, and certainly varies on an individual by individual basis.  But, there are some common things that apply to all of us.  My hope and prayer is that this short posting will help someone to gain a deeper relationship with God…

Green – Red – Green

September 3, 2019

Well, Christmas is coming on soon, but that’s not what these colors are about.  I was traveling down a highway recently that had three lanes going in my direction.  There were signal lights every few miles.  I saw a pack of cars about a quarter mile ahead of me, and glancing in my rear view mirror I saw another pack about a quarter mile behind me.  I was alone in the middle.

I saw a signal coming up, and sure enough, the early group passed on through, but yours truly got the Red.  By the time the group behind me caught up it was green again, and we all moved forward.  Of course, I was overjoyed the group ahead of me did ok, and the group behind me did ok – NOT.

Then I started thinking of the spiritual implications of this little adventure.  I asked myself, “What if – by my suffering, I can somehow ease the burden of those who go before, and those who follow after me?”  And the second question – “Would I be willing to do that?”

Of course, we don’t often think of suffering as being a good thing, but that is because we live in a generation and a time that has known little of true suffering, especially here in America.  Our former generations knew well of suffering, World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, etc…

We’ve had our minor times of suffering and personal loss, but it is still a lot less than our forefathers knew.  Paul, the Apostle, was well acquainted with suffering, but he saw it from the perspective of aiding others.  Because he suffered he could encourage others who were going through hard times.  Because he was persecuted he could understand others who were facing similar situations.

What if – your suffering was going to bless those who go before you, and those who follow after you?  Would it be worth it?

Let’s make this personal.  When I first got saved I had a mentor – Steven Lee Homer Cobb.  I just called him, Homer.  We spent several years together, and then lost touch with each other over the passing years.  In 2008 I got reconnected with Homer, and found out he was a missionary in El Salvador.  What a time we had trading emails, and sharing old times.  Then I heard nothing for about 6 months.  Then I found a news article with his name in it.  An obit.  I contacted the folks in El Salvador and they filled me in.  Homer had been shot to death by a gang on the streets of El Salvador because he had gotten two gang members saved.  I was grieved.  But, as time passed I realized his passing and remembrance of the good times we shared was a blessing to me.  The added fact he gave his life in the service of our Lord and Savior was icing on the cake.  He was doing what he was called to do, and like many before him gave his life for it.  So, Homer was a blessing to those who went before (like me), and to those who would follow after (like those he ministered to in El Salvador who still carry the burden).

So, if you get a Red light, just remember – your suffering is not for nought.  It just may be a blessing to those who go before you, and to those who follow you.  Is it possible to bless people after you leave this earthly existence?  Well, ask Dottie Rambo, who passed in 2008, and whose songs still bless countless thousands even today.  Yes, your work is not finished when God calls you home, but the work goes on.