Through Faith

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Hebrews 11:3
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

I love this verse, but Wednesday night during Bible Study at Point Of Mercy in Nashville something happened. The first four words stuck out to me like never before. As Christians, we tend to focus on the big event parts of Bible verses, in this case the “worlds were framed … .” It’s in our nature, Wednesday though, those four words lit up in my heart.

I checked six different translations, and out of all of them, there were only two differences. In the KJV, the first word was the word through, and in all the others it was the word by. The only other difference was in The Message, instead of the word understand, it used the word see.

One of those translations was the Amplified Bible, and even it, with all of its descriptions, couldn’t improve on the phrase. “Through {By} faith we understand {see}”, stop there. The rest of the Scripture is of such importance that we don’t always appreciate this phrase.

Exodus 31:1
1 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

When God calls a man named Bezaleel to build The Ark and The Tabernacle, He fills Him with The Spirit of God, and gives him three things. He gives him wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. He had to have all three to accomplish his mission.

He needed the knowledge of what to do with the materials God gave Moses. He had to have the wisdom to know how to build it. Most of all, he had to have understanding to comprehend the instructions God gave Moses.

Knowledge is beautiful, wisdom is precious, but without understanding, they are useless. Knowledge are the facts of something, the events that happened, the answers to questions. Wisdom knows when to use that knowledge. Understanding though, is what makes the other two accessible.

Without understanding, you cannot hope to retain knowledge. If you don’t understand something, then you have no desire to store it in your memory banks. Wisdom and understanding, while not the same thing, are twins. One knows when to use a particular piece of knowledge, or skill. Understanding is comprehension.

You might say knowledge is knowing what, wisdom is knowing when, and understanding is knowing why. I’ve gone on record in the past that I feel, in most cases, why is overrated. I still believe that, when it comes to many circumstances. Here why isn’t about obtaining knowledge to make everything make sense on my terms. Instead, here why is about true understanding.

Understanding that, no matter what, even if it’s something that I cannot comprehend, I can make it. In Hebrews 11:3, God isn’t relying on our wisdom or our knowledge. For example, I believe without a shadow of a doubt, that God created the worlds in six 24 hour days. I know this through understanding. Many have the knowledge that The Bible says this, but they can’t comprehend it.

Even scientists, with opposing views, have the wisdom to articulate the Biblical perspective when presenting both sides of the argument. They don’t believe it, but they have those facts, and can utilize them. What do we, as Believers, have that they don’t? The understanding, by Faith we see, even though we were not present at creation.

Through faith we see God speaking the worlds into existence. Through faith, we see Him saying “Let there be light, and there was light.” In short, through Him, we see far beyond our wisdom and our knowledge.

There have been times in my life where I could say By Faith I see. The answer, in those times, came naturally even if it wasn’t easy. By Faith, in my mind, indicates those times where the right choice is obvious. By Faith is like riding on a mighty warhorse into a noble battle.

Through Faith is a little harder, it’s those times when at first, I don’t understand. Through Faith is when, like a ship in the midst of the storm, I ride inside, while the waves try to scare me. Either way, just as long as I never give up, faith will take me all the way to understanding.

The question is, in my fiercest trial, what will I understand after the smoke clears? It’s probably not what you think. Some battles I’ve faced, I don’t know why I’ve faced them. I don’t know how it fit into my journey. Some answers will only get when we see Jesus. What I understand though, through Faith, is one day We Will See Jesus! He doesn’t ignore our cries, no more than He would our pain. Christ answers, not always the questions we ask, but those we should. One man who knew that more than anyone was Paul.

1 Corinthians 13:12
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

2 Timothy 4:7-8
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

The Apostle Paul had a problem, a thorn in His flesh. He had the knowledge that God could move it. He had the wisdom to ask God to take it away. God said no. He said that His grace was sufficient for him. Paul couldn’t see what good this thorn was to him, or how this would work for God’s glory.

What Paul could see was why it wasn’t removed. The constant was not only grace, but faith. He had  enough faith to trust that The One he served, and His grace was sufficient for His need. In the end, Paul said, I’ve kept the faith, I’ll see Jesus, and He’ll reward me with His righteousness, just as He promised from the beginning.

When difficult times arise in my life, there is so much that I cannot see, and yet through faith I see. I see a God that has never forsaken me. I see a God who, has experience drying my tears. I understand that He is able to change my situation, but loves me enough not to alter what’s best for me. Like the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, etc. He’s framing my world. The painting isn’t complete until it’s secured in the frame.

Oh, the paint may be dry. The signature is on the canvas, it looks good, but it’s not ready for display yet. Once it’s framed, it’s ready for the gallery. I believe that gallery is opening soon, but not just yet. I can’t see how it all will come together, but Through Faith, I know it will come together, in Him. No matter what age you are, no matter what you’ve been through, you’re not finished yet.

Your soul may be dry and crusting over with pain, or hardened in sin, but I’ve never seen a life that God couldn’t salvage. His blood turns an old ugly painting into a bright white new canvas. One filled with possibilities, life, and with hope. You don’t have to understand what is happening, or how it will work out, just understand why it’s going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay because He is holding you. It’s going to be okay, because while you haven’t, He has been here before. I’ve seen loved ones face their own health problems gripping the hand of God. We’ve said goodbye to family members, not knowing why it was happening, but at the same time understanding that He knows.

Just like Creation, I don’t know how a world can be formed from nothing, but He does. I cannot understand the Wisdom that God had to speak Light and Life into existence, but He does. As I face battles that terrify me, struggles that cause me to panic, and trials that confuse me, I can say something. By faith I understand that He knows why, how, and when this will work for my good.

He knows where in the painting to plant the trees, the rocks, and the river. He knows how high to make the mountain, and how deep to make the valley. It’s not so deep that I will fall, but it’s deep enough that I will call on Him. In my painting, the sun isn’t always visible, but it’s always shining through the clouds.

I can’t speak to why this is happening to you, when it will be over, or how it all makes sense. I can tell you that He will cradle you. Jesus cares for you, and He will carry you through. The same God that completed the world that He placed us in, will complete you and I. By faith we understand!

Adams, Friendship, & Faith

imageA Letter From Adams To Jefferson:

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.

He was not popular, he wasn’t celebrated, in fact he was mocked. They jokingly referred to him as “His Rotundness”. John Adams was not George Washington, but that wasn’t his problem. I doubt a second Washington would have lived up to the scrutiny of Washingyon’s shadow. Adams problem was also his virtue, he was John Adams.

Was he perfect? Are you and I? He had faults yes, but he also had virtues. Adams was asked to defend a group of soldiers that had killed five civilians in a skirmish. He knew taking the job would hurt his reputation.

What defense was he to use? He selected something that, at the time, was unpopular. Adams chose the truth. “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  – John Adams

In this same trial, he promoted a concept that would become a pillar of our judicial system. The importance of innocence. He showed that while the eyes of Justice are restricted, her heart is open.

“It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

The result, six of those men were acquitted. He may not have been shaped like a soldier, but he was a champion of individual freedom. Adams never owned slaves. Decades before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Adams abolished it officially in the Massachusetts State Constitution. This man who left the Presidency unwanted, left behind many gifts to our country.

While President, he prevented a costly war with France. He sent William Vans Murray on a peace mission to France. This succeeded in securing peace, and in even winning over the future Emperor Napoleon. This was more than most of Europe could boast.

Adams appointed John Marshall as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall established the principle that laws passed, when contradictory to the Constitution, can be overturned.  Before his death, he would see his son, John Quincy Adams, follow him into the Presidency. Many more of the Adams’ line would serve in public office.

After years of political rivalry, the post Presidency allowed him to rekindle a friendship.  Thomas Jefferson and himself, former friends, had become political enemies. Now, out of the public conflict, they could rediscover what they liked about one another.

Learn this lesson of friendship, what separates you doesn’t have to dissolve your relationship. Be honest about you disagreements, but remain friends. Friendship isn’t compromise, it’s friendship. The Lord Jesus referred to Judas as a friend even during the act of betrayal. Please understand, Judas betrayed the friendship, Jesus never did!

The Church can disagree with certain points of view without a mean spirit. We can voice our problems with certain practices, while still practicing friendship with its practictioners. Adams and Jefferson were still themselves, but they were friends with different views. The Lord, who lead a sinless life, is still the sinner’s greatest friend.

Christ came neither to condone or to condemn, but to connect. Adams, the Un-Washington, was awkward, but he helped to establish the United States Of America. In this day, your Faith may be called out of date, but it’s no accident that this is the time that God placed you in.

Love,defend, and befriend. Adams did. As a result, he left his imprint on our country’s foundation. At the end of your term on this Earth, you’ll be surprised at what you see. In the end, you are exactly what God wanted you to be. You are you, and with God’s help, the combination of Him in you, will change the world.

I Don’t Know, And That’s Ok

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Psalms 133

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul [is] even as a weaned child.

3 Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

One of my favorite Psalms is nestled away in a section known as The Song Of Degrees. I say it this way because, it isn’t talked about very much. It sits quietly waiting for someone to read it, and to realize how valuable it is. This three verse Psalm contains a message that has kept me through the years of my life.

We live in a world of wonder, in regards to technology and knowledge. Information that once filled the volumes of libraries, places restricted to the well breed and financially stable, now flood the internet. Growing up, one of my cherished possessions, was a set of encyclopedias that my parents bought me. Today, more information than could fill those books, is just a click away.

When I was younger, I used to think that one of the worst sentences that I could speak was “I don’t know.” It took me a while to learn that, not only was there things that I didn’t know, some other information I would never know. Today, one of the most liberating phrases in my vocabulary is, “I don’t know.”

What made the difference? People who were smarter than I was taught me that not knowing was ok. They were, and are amazing teachers that God placed into my life to explain that I didn’t have to know everything. They gave me the courage to learn.

I am a fan of knowledge. When someone talks about a subject like history, or makes a discovery, I’m a cheerleader. I’m a fan of individuals that most people never heard of, men like Baron Von Stockmar, Henri Guisan, and James Sherman. So it may seem an oxymoron to say, that not knowing helped increase my knowledge, but it’s so true.

When you’re afraid of not knowing, you’re too busy being scared to learn something. If you accept the fact, that there is so much more than you understand, it shuts fear down. You’re not too stubborn to learn, you’re not incapable of learning, you were just afraid of not already knowing.

The Psalmist understood this very well, oh David was smart. He was the man who had a heart after God’s heart. This was the one who composed countless Psalms, received the blueprints for Solomon to build the Temple, and fought countless battles. Oh, he was smart. Smart enough to know that some things, he would never understand.

So after countless Revelations, Prophecies, and Victories, God uses him to pen this Psalm. The first verse is my favorite. It’s the one that I held on to when nothing made sense, it’s the one that I still hold to when nothing makes sense.

People look at Christians and many pity us. They consider us old fashioned, and out of date with modern society. As a result, we have attempted to prove what we know to be true. I can tell you, without doubt, that we have more scientific proof for a Creator than for mutating amoebas. I can set down with a number of highly intelligent people and explain to them why I serve a loving and caring God.

I’m not talking about ignorance, God made us to know everything we can. This is why He said to “Study the Scriptures to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” It’s also why, in the book of Job as well as others, He points us to the stars to understand science and nature. What I’m talking about is something more.

David never said he didn’t exercise himself in matters that he could reach. A child will play with anything it can pick up. However, even a two year old knows that it can’t reach something on the roof of a building. That is what I’m talking about with this article. When I was younger, I tried to reach the ceiling with a step stool. Today, I watch as God climbs down the ladder to meet my need.

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

To paraphrase, the Psalmist is saying, “Lord, I know my limitations. I’m not arrogant enough to act like I know more than I do. I don’t try and walk in areas that are above me. I don’t try and stand on my tip toes to reach what has been placed out of path for safety.” In the past, I would have tried to grasp what I couldn’t handle, and hurt myself in the process.

Today, if I don’t understand, I pray for the understanding. If it comes, I walk in it, God has placed it on my level. If the understanding isn’t revealed, I leave it to my Father. I trust that He is smart enough to take care of it. I may not understand it, but I do understand Him. I know that He cares for me. I know that He loves me. I know that He will protect me. In the end, when it comes right down to it, that is really all that we absolutely have to know!

 

The Red Steps

1 Kings 10:11-12

11 And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.

12 And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.

 2 Chronicles 9:11

11 And the king made [of] the algum trees terraces to the house of the LORD, and to the king’s palace, and harps and psalteries for singers: and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.

In The Temple Of The Lord, King Solomon built what are called terraces in one place, and pillars in the other. While there are some opinions, they are most likely a pathway or steps, each with balusters attached. Solomon knew that at some point, these balusters would be needed. It’s one thing to simply have steps in the Temple, but it’s another to have railings attached.

Solomon must have known, that after a day of service, the Priesthood would be tired.  They would need the support that the banisters and steps would offer.  King Solomon had a son who would one day be king.  He must have known that his children would need the stability of those steps and banisters.

God had chosen King Solomon to lead his people, that made him the Captain of the Armies Of Israel.  He knew that his soldiers would enter the temple weary.  They would need the strength that those steps and railing would offer.

Finally, people who had made mistakes would come to the Temple with sacrifices.  In hopes of Atonement for their sins.  They knew that they would need the saving grace that comforted them from the embarrassment of their sins.

What made these steps and banisters special, was the type of wood that was used in them.  It was from the Algum or Almug tree.  According to Bible Commentators, it is mostly likely a type of wood known as red sandalwood.  Ophir, was believed to be a trade city of India, and this was where this wood was found.

It is red, or garnet in color, and rulers as far off as the Emperors of China, prized it for it’s value.  While it is most certainly beautiful, there are many more amazing qualities of this tree.  It is an unusual tree, it is so dense, it will sink in water.  Red sandalwood is used as a medicine to enhance mental function, at the same time, it is effective in giving rest to those with insomnia.  It’s no wonder that the royalty of China treasured it so.

It is said to treat both the inside and outside of man. Red sandalwood is used as a method of blood purification. From skin conditions to stomach ailments, it has even been known to be effective against multiple types of cancer.  Wouldn’t you love to have some of this tree?

Trees have been vital since the beginning, The Tree Of Life springs to mind immediately.  While the sandalwood tree may not have been the Tree Of Life, it pointed to it.  It pointed, not to the one in the Garden Of Eden, but to The One that would pray in the Garden Of Gethsemane.

Those steps imitate the steps of Jesus.  The journey to Calvary was covered in blood.  Christ was beaten and mocked by both Herod and Pilot’s men.  Blood overflowed from the whipping post to The Cross, and finally His blood covered body was carried to the Tomb. While He left death behind three days later, He kept the scars to remind us of His love and mercy.

The Lord Jesus knew that His blood would support the Christian throughout His entire walk.  When we come to Him as sinners, we turn from our ways in Repentance, and begin to die out to our old life.

Romans 6:4

4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

According to Romans 6:4, we are buried with Him in Baptism.  His blood is applied to our lives.  Our sins are dissolved in His blood when we are baptized.  Like the sandalwood, they sink into oblivion.  This connection with The Blood and Baptism is why, when Christ’s side was pierced, out came blood and water.  Just as He told Nicodemus in John 3:5 foreshadowing the future.

John 3:5

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

When we arise to walk in newness of life with Christ, we will sometimes be weary.  We will struggle, and make mistakes.  This is why 1 John 2:1 the Apostle tells us two things. First, we are to purposely live a Godly life.  Notice The Bible still says, if we sin, not when we sin.  The second tells us that if we make a mistake, Christ’s blood is present, in our new life, to forgive us.

1 John 2:1

1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

He is the righteous pathway yes, but He is also the stabilizing banister.  This isn’t only for when we make a mistake, but like the Priests He strengthens us when we are weary from service.  He is The Rest for our souls! Christ Our King is the strength for the soldiers of The Cross.  He is the stability for our children, as we raise them in the fear and admonition of The Lord!

Lastly, Solomon also made harps and psalteries out of this same wood.  Christ is our song!  In the Temple, there were both the old instruments of David, and the new instruments of Solomon.  Whether it is played on the Hammond, or on the acoustic what does it matter?  As long as our song is Christ, and Him crucified, what difference does the tempo make?

 1 Peter 2:21

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Let us imitate Christ, following His steps, holding on to Him. As He holds us up, let us hold up one another.  If we do this, then together, we will follow His steps in love and unity from here to Heaven, singing as we go!

God Fights With You

God gave me this around 3:30 am for someone. Take heart for God is with us!

To all those who are fighting a battle, take heart, God is with you. David’s hand clave to the sword because he knew that God was leading him in battle.

The mulberry trees rustled because The Ancient Of Days walked forth armed against the Philistines. You are not fighting alone, He is with you!

No matter how hot the battle, no matter how long the engagement, and no matter how weary you may feel, you are not alone! God said “Be not weary in well doing, for ye shall reap if you faint not.”

There is victory for you, yes you, the one who is reading this in the middle of the night. He knows you feel like you’re in the middle of despair, but you are closer to your victory than you know. Just as long as you don’t lay down your weapon.

The Bible says that The Word is our Sword, and He is The Word Of God. We cannot lose, because we hold Him, we fight through and by Him! He is our strength in our weakness as He said.

You will make it, you will have Peace, you will win this fight! Hold on! Fight strong, not in your strength, but in His!

It is time to stand, and at the right time, He will walk you out of this fight with the sweet taste of victory!

Submission, Sacrifice, And Victory

Joshua 6:1, 25-26

6:1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.

6:25 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that [is] by it:

6:26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.

My Wife and I were listening to the Bible together this week, we enjoy doing that.  It was in the book of Judges concerning the life of Gideon.  God’s Word is so wonderful. No matter how many times that you’ve read it, there is always something new in it.  We both knew the life of Gideon, I had preached on it, and she had taught about him.  However, we enjoyed seeing something that day that we never remembered seeing before.

God told Gideon to take the second bullock, not the first, and to sacrifice it.  He was to do this, after the idolatrous altar had been destroyed.  Gideon was to tear down the grove also, and to use the wood to burn in the sacrifice.  A question came to mind that I never remembered asking before.  Why the second bullock, why not the first?

In Gill’s Exposition, he pointed out that the bullock was the same age as the number of years of Israel’s oppression.  Think of it. On the very day that God used Midian to woo Israel to return to Him, He caused this calf to be born.  Seven years. In the midst of the Midianites taking their harvest, God kept this bullock alive.  He knew that this animal, born on the same day as the start of oppression, would mark the end of the trial, and the beginning of Israel’s deliverance.

It is my belief that God doesn’t do anything through coincidence, so I feel it was no accident that Ashley and I saw this together.  Today, July 25, 2014 is our Fifth Anniversary, and this week we sat listening to this Scripture together.  Why is that wonderful?  Because of the journey that brought us here.

There is almost a ten year age difference between us.  I had intended to marry a girl at eighteen, or at least by twenty, before I reached thirty. God had a different plan.  For years, loneliness invaded my thoughts.  “What was wrong with me?”  “Why did every girl I dated end up marrying someone else?” Ashley had her share of question too.  We both fought this battle for years.  We never realized that, like so many things in life, it was simply a matter of timing.

The Lord purposely never revealed His plan to me or to my Wife.  He would use others to encourage us both along the way, but it was important that we didn’t find out until it was time.  Why?  Had we not spent years coping with the pain and loneliness of walking through life alone, we would not have fully appreciated together.  While, we are both far from perfect, and looking back, at times we’ve argued over the stupidest things.  However, the two of us are not only madly in love, we are each others biggest supporters.  No one is more in her corner than I am, or vice versa.

The Lord took what ruled over us, fear and loneliness, and turned it for our good.  We were in bondage to our own loneliness, and fear of never finding the right person, for years.  Now, we cherish those times of loneliness, not in spite of the pain of them, but because of it.  We learned to appreciate each other, to treat each other with love and kindness.

Again, we’re far from perfect, and we work on things daily.  However, ask anyone that knows us, and they will tell you that we cherish each other.  We give, and we take, because Ashley and I know how wonderful it is to compromise.  Oh, we don’t enjoy giving in, but we do adore the fact that the love of our life is on the other side of listening to the other person’s music, or watching a special on the foods of Europe.

As Gideon sacrificed that bullock, God was saying, “What you were submitted to will turn to a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  He would save Israel, He would reunite them with their God, their Husband, and their King.  No longer would Israel watch as the harvest left their coast.  They wouldn’t have to again hide in caves and dens for safety, wondering when deliverance would arrive.

No more do Ashley and I spend our days wondering if there would ever be another hand to hold.  Another person to share lonely dinners with, or to share our hopes, and our sorrows.  Every day, every night, we see the very real face of that person we had convinced ourselves didn’t exist.

Like Israel, we didn’t get there on our own.  Our Pastor, Denny Livingston, his Wife “Sis” Alonna Livingston, and Ashley’s Best Friend Brittany Livingston Potter brought us together.  It may seem unimportant to those who read this article, but we also learned from Israel’s treatment of Gideon to cherish those who made your victory possible.

So whatever your situation, whatever your struggle, take heart.  The bullock was prepared before your oppression began.  Midian had attacked Israel for seven years, but the gestation period of cattle is nine months.  Before the sword was raised, the calf was prepared.

God’s not only waiting to listen, but to lead you out.  I know, because I’ve been there.  I’ve heard the clash of the sword.  I’ve felt the pain of the battle, but I’ve also experienced the freedom of deliverance.  Gideon’s name means just that, “To cut down, or tree feller”.  God has not only prepared the vehicle of your deliverance, He’s prepared the driver of that vehicle.

Your hope is out there, God secured it, and the means to take you to it.  Your dream is still alive, don’t give in, and don’t give up.  This doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but it will be worth it.  Like Gideon, you may have to tear down some things that block your way.

God instructed Gideon to build an Altar.  Your problem is real, no one is denying it, nor attempting to diminish it.  I’m simply saying that your victory is just as real as your dilemma! Talk to God about your loneliness, your pain, and your problem.  An one day you’ll kneel in a prayer, not to ask for victory, but to thank Him for it!

 

Somewhere

I am so thankful for our freedom, as Christians and Americans. I know the fourth is past, but I was thinking of how much I take our Freedom Of Worship for granted. Today, I’m writing a post about Christianity that will be published for all the world to see. Somewhere though, our fellow brothers and sisters, hide to say their morning prayers. While too often, due to busy schedules and other reasons we tell ourselves, are left unmade at all.

Somewhere, a Minister whispers a Message given him by God. Meanwhile, our assemblies have vacant seats, as Men Of God share openly God’s Message. In free spaces, Bibles are neglected, covered in layers of “I’ll read it tomorrow”. While, sadly in so many somewhere places, scraps of well read Scriptures are hid in hems of clothing.  They’re sewn in their hearts before they’ve been threaded in their garments.

Too often in this country, people expect Americans to feel guilty for their liberties. That is not what this is about. Today, I ask, not for you to feel guilty, but to be grateful. Grateful that we can stop and pray, without fear. Thankful that you can openly say, “Sunday I’ll be in Church”. Our freedom came with blood, and it should be both prized, as well as practiced.

Like anything else, the Right To Worship, must be exercised in order for the practitioner to be skilled in it.  So my request is this.  While you are practicing prayer, investing in the Scriptures, and planning to freely visit your local Church this week. That you pray for the someones who live somewhere without this freedom.

Pray for the person who, like you, wakes up every morning to go to work.  Just before they do though, they hide in a closet to pray and read God’s Word.  Pray for that person who is sick, and cannot call for prayer.  Think of your sister congregation.  Be mindful of them that, while you and I openly raise our hands to worship, they do so in a basement.  In the midst of their “Thank You Lord”, they’re trusting that they will not be discovered. We share this, not to depress you, but to inscribe on all of our hearts those living somewhere.

May our every day be filled with prayers for the someones in the somewhere places.  In a little while, they won’t have to hide any more.  Very shortly, as free Children of a Victorious Savior, we will all stand together.  Together with our own, their once muffled voices will echo through the Heavens.  As one people, we will all celebrate our freedom.  For soon all of His someones, bond and free, will be Somewhere in the clouds with Him!

Hope To The End

1 Peter 1:13
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

The word hope has many synonyms. Although they’re similar in concept, they vary greatly. Two synonyms are plan, and daydream, while two more are goal and wish. Plan and goal are words we use when we are committed to the pursuit of something. While daydreams and wishes are pleasant ways to pass the time.

So my question to you today is this. The dreams that you have, are you managing your time in order to make them a destination, or are they pleasant distractions that occupy your days? I ask this, not to be confrontational, but encouraging.

If the answer to the first question is yes, then start working. You still have time to turn any reasonable daydream into a goal. I emphasize reasonable because I know someone will question me. It maybe true that an eighty year old could not do a triple backflip off a trapeze. However, they could responsibly parachute from a plane.

Don’t allow the level of difficulty to define the reasonableness of your dream. Grandma Moses proved you could start a second chapter near the end of her life. Time will be a factor, but it must be evaluated along side all of them. It, along with other obstacles, are only variables in the equation of your goal.

As you evaluate your hope, there are factors we must ask. What will it cost? This isn’t merely a monetary question. It relates to the relationships in our lives, the time involved, and the benefits it will bring. If the cost is less than the return, proceed. If not, reevaluate your goal.

Reconsidering doesn’t necessarily mean giving up. It may simply mean that your goal of being a famous guitarist becomes a hobby that brings joy to those around you. If necessary, resize your goals, but don’t automatically discard them.

In my opinion, the overarching factor in any goal in our lives is this. Will it bring value to others? If the answer is yes, then we go forward. When the answer is no, we should leave it behind. When we know this hope was something that God placed inside us, then pursue at His pace.

As my Pastor Denny Livingston has taught me, timing is everything. At times, our goals aren’t achieved, not because of our zeal, but by misreading the clock. God’s watch doesn’t measure time the same way that we do. His timing is, “when it’s the right time”.

Too many times mine is simply “when I want it.” Needless to say, His timing achieves my purpose, but my timing could derail it. That is why The Bible advises us to seek His will. He will reveal the proper time to us when we wait on Him.

True hope brings life. This is why Our Savior took a straight road to Calvary, the hope of saving you and I. We must trod the path He has called us to take. Our hopes will not have the same impact as Calvary had, but He could empower them to point others towards it.

If you have a hope, given you by God, invest in it. Plan for it, make a goal sheet. Let nothing stop you from making it a reality. If it brings joy to others, it has value. Hopes are meant to transform lives. Just as our greatest hope will soon be realized. We will see the face of Jesus, and hear Him say, “Well done”.

Matthew 25:21
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

The One And Only

I recently discovered an English king that I was unfamiliar with, known as Alfred The Great.  He is the only English king to have that term applied to him.  Think of it, the Henry’s, Queen Victoria, and the two Elizabeth’s don’t have it.  Yet, a king from the year 899 has it.

History says that he was a good king.  Those who toil through the pages of the past, uncovering mysteries in the dust, tell us of his improvements that countries, including ours, still benefit from today.  I am a history buff, I love to read of long ago battles.  I am excited at the thoughts of great kings, and noble knights.  This king was kind, strong, and courageous.

The problem is, to me, this king is only a name on a list in Wikipedia.  I’ve never met Alfred, I don’t know what he was like.  The same goes with any other earthly monarch termed “The Great”.  Or any earthly royal for that matter.  I wouldn’t know what to say to them if I met them, and that’s okay.

1 Timothy 6:14-16
14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see:to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

There is a select group who can attach “The Great” to their name. They can talk of battles won, conquered lands, and triumphs that few have known. Yet all have admitted defeat when death drew it’s sword. From Caesar to Charlemagne, they cannot overcome its cry.

However, when our eyes lift skyward, from Earth’s meager offerings to Heaven’s Perfect Gift, it’s a different story.  You see, their is one king that I’m privileged to know that is so much more than what the words “The Great” could describe.

Only One pinned death after He allowed the grave to cradle His body for three days. He turned death into a servant and not a jailer. For He alone is Life Eternal, Immortal God, Power Incarnate.  Unlike those ancient monarchs, “He is”, not He was!

The only “was” in His life occurs when you refer to the fact that He was dead, but is alive!  He was sleeping in a borrowed tomb, but only used it for three days and nights.  He is alive for ever and ever, and because He is, we can be also.

Hebrews 13:20-21
20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

No matter how “Great” those rulers were, neither they nor us could reach Him, so He came to us! Our Great God became Our Wonderful Counselor! Our Righteous Judge became Our Merciful Savior! I rejoice that we know this. I take comfort in God Our Redeemer for so many reasons.

The chiefest of which is this, He that is strong enough to save us, is powerful enough to keep us! If you are struggling today, remember, His hands wrestled death, and won. His eyes closed for the time that He allotted, and not one second more. He sets the end from the beginning, and hath already declared the ending of your battle.  “It is finished” was followed by “Woman, why weepest thou?”

The Lord has conquered my biggest fears, why spend time worrying about the smaller ones?  Today, I take hope, He who will finish what He started. God will complete the work in you and I.  One day, very very soon, we who look for Him will see Him, and will be part of that great multitude in Heaven with our Jesus Christ The One And Only!

Revelation 7:9

9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and
kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

Returning To The Sheep

1 Samuel 17:15

15 But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

1 Samuel 17:34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

In all the years that I’ve read of David and Goliath, I never remembered making the connection between these two verses.  It was like a laser zeroing in on this the other day.  Is it possible that the attack of the lion and the bear occurred after David returned from Saul?  I had always assumed that these events were unrelated to the other.  I do not know the answer to that, but, what if they weren’t?

David had been anointed. He had also been appointed to play for Saul. Now he returned to Bethlehem to feed the sheep.  We don’t know for sure why he was sent back. Could Saul have sent him back for protection from the war that was on the horizon? Perhaps he had been recalled by his Father. Maybe for an unknown reason, he had felt the need to voluntarily return home.  No matter what the reason for the journey, it was where God intended for him to be.

I have wondered why in the past, but if it was for the case of these two animals, now I understand.  They were preparation for a much larger foe.  When your life is on the verge of a breakthrough, and you have finally arrived where you want to be; please don’t misunderstand a battle that may pull you back to your roots.  It can be the perfect launching point for your next level.

David was able to fight two fierce foes, in the confines of a familiar setting.  We know that from his older brother’s jibe, the sheep were in the wilderness.  Years later, while running from Saul, David would need to know every crevice of the wildernesses to survive.

If he had been with Saul already, he may not have had the opportunity to fight Goliath.  If King Saul had left him at the palace, he couldn’t have faced him either. The only perfect location for David to receive the opportunity to face Goliath, lay at home.

Jesse was his launcher.  The Father that had, for whatever reason, been reluctant to introduce his youngest to Samuel, now sent him to his brothers.  He sent The Chosen to the un-chosen to save them all. It is a wonderful type and shadow of The Gospel.  Aren’t you glad that one day, The Chosen found you and I? We who, could never have faced a giant called sin, now were rescued by The One that could.

I’ve faced setbacks in my own life at times. Perhaps your setting or circumstance has recently changed.  Your triumph appears to now be, if not a tragedy, anticlimactic.  You were hoping for fireworks, instead, you just survived to fight another day.  Fireworks are wonderful, survival is a necessity.

We cannot allow yourself to become infatuated with the fireworks. Instead, let us fall in love with The Fire. Our God is a consuming fire. He will work through us to enable our survival. Moses went from seeing a burning bush to having a glowing countenance. God will complete what He starts in us.

God has taught us not to despise the day of small things.  Why? Because small things grow!  The tree you planted isn’t big enough to produce fruit yet, but it is growing. God wasn’t interested in only positioning David. He was planning use the giant’s defeat as a way to plant him into the hearts of Israel.

Never give up just because you are facing a setback.  Pray to The Father, and ask Him to strengthen you to fight what you are facing.  He will not only give you the victory, He will set you up for the next victory.  A harp couldn’t defeat a giant, a slingshot could.  If only to send David back with the right weapon, returning home was worth the delay.

David comes from the sheep with a slingshot, a shepherd’s bag, and a staff. There are certain tools we can only get from time with The Shepherd and His Sheep. What have you left behind that you might need? Don’t be so quick to go forward that you leave some necessary things behind. Take a moment, and return to the sheep. The Shepherd will send you to the palace, even if it is by a round trip to the wilderness.