Import Before Export

I love taking pictures.  It’s fun sharing them via a couple of applications. But before I can share them (export) I must first import something worthy of showing.  This is true for life. Before I have anything to say, or anything to “display” there must first be something of significance and truth in me.  Before I can help someone, somehow, I must first have resources at my disposal that enables and qualifies me to do so.

There are other illustrations that drive home my point. How can I teach unless I have become a teacher…how can I plumb unless I have become a plumber… how can I build unless I have become a builder? But most importantly, how can I do the work and ministry of Jesus Christ until I become a spiritually equipped and empowered follower? How can I export spiritual life and works unless He has first imported His Life, abilities and resources? The answer is, obvious, I can’t. Oh, I might be busy doing religious things, working in a number of ways for a “good” cause.  But honestly evaluating over time, showing little to no true success, meaningful lasting results as measured by God’s criteria.

We don’t have to be perfect to partner in God’s work.  If that were required, none of us would be qualified to join Him.  But, flawed as we may be, if we are Godward people, intent on being His servants in everything, He is pleased to give us “eternal stuff” to Do and the ability to Be, facilitating it.  Nothing could be more humbling nor exhilarating.

The Christian denomination I belong to prides itself to some degree on how much they are doing. They are a very busy group.  But, as the stats are browsed, little of lasting value is being accomplished. It seems that we may actually be losing the “war”.   We only have to compare divorce stats in our culture vs those in the church…sadly, not much difference.  We’re languishing…busy doing, I think we have forgotten how to BE, first, before we DO.   Attempting to export before we import.  God didn’t make us human DOings, but rather human BEings. We must “be” before we can “do”. We must become the genuine article; undeniably,  the authentic, real people we claim to be, first…then the irrefutable proofs and evidences characteristic and normal for Jesus followers will be easily seen.  What we are will ring “true”, even without words.

In spite of all our preaching, productions, programs, buildings, marketing and prowess, ad nauseam, we are failing. What’s really needed is a transforming spiritual revival that only God Himself can bring, and with it, the – validating virtues and power the indwelling God-Life manifests.  That should be the norm, in us and through us, not the exception.

Somehow, if Our God would “rend the heavens and come down“, bring us back to God-Life again, we’d find we don’t need the many things we’ve borrowed from the world system and its “tools” (Isaiah, the prophet, refers to these things as “strong horses”   Isaiah 31:1, 3).  He would be our strong horse, busy doing the work through those who have finally BECOME, suitable vessels, conduits for His Life flow.  Psalm 127:1

I think the words of St. Francis of Assisi say it well:  “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel…and if necessary, use words.”  Exemplary lives lived are the most powerful evangelistic tool…God-life on display.   When, via our lives, “HE is lifted up, HE will draw mankind to Himself.”

Please forgive if  sound like I’m “preaching to the choir”.   I guess I am.  But first, this preaching is at me, for I’ve been a director of that “choir” for some time.  The scriptures tell us that “…It is time for judgement to begin at the House of God….”  1 Peter 4:17  What better place for it to start and especially with the leaders in that house.  I am the chief sinner in all of this.  I have served churches for nearly 40 years.  As I look back, I’m ashamed.  It may sound like I’m pointing a finger out there.  If that is the case, then know there are three pointing back at me, and justly so.

But, I am alive today, as you are, if you are reading this.  I, you, have this opportunity to BE, so that we can DO as HE intends, giving Him the honor HE deserves, fulfilling His purposes in our sphere of influence, our destiny in this dark world, drawing humanity to HIM.  Psalm 67:1-2

Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

May HE increase in all of us,

Mitch

Are You Living on the Other Side of the BUT …?

Three friends of mine, whom I’ve mentioned in the past, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, found themselves facing quite a predicament one afternoon.  They faced a situation where they could do what God had said to do, or they could do what man had said to do.  But they couldn’t do both.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God had commanded them to have no other gods before Him.  They knew they could not bow down to idols or graven images.  They knew the word of the Lord (Exodus 20:1-6).

Unfortunately for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded that they do exactly what the word of the Lord told them not to do (Daniel 3:4-6).  And the King’s commandment carried quite a heavy weight along with it.  Anyone who violated the commandment would be thrown into a burning firey furnace.

And thus their predicament.  If they did what King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded they do, they would end up violating what God had commanded they do.  And if they did what God had commanded they do, they would end up violating what King Nebuchadnezzar had commanded they do.  But they couldn’t do both.  They had to please one and risk angering the other.  They had to make a difficult choice.

Interestingly enough, I believe every person in the world today faces the exact same choice as my three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We all have an impossible choice to make.  We may either bow down and serve the images of the world, or we may serve God.  But we can’t do both.  We must choose one or the other.

And our choices have consequences attached to them.  Dire ones.  Severe ones.  Serious ones.  Literally as scary and fatal as being thrown into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.  We are talking life threatening endangerment here accompanied with violent pain and torture.

If we examine our choices in light of our three base world views, we begin to unravel what drives us within our lives.

The Atheist has no problem whatsoever bowing down to the King’s idol.  It is a mode of self-preservation.  Which is disingenuous in and of itself.  Because if you are Atheistic in your world view you have no belief in any God.  So why would you be inventing one and serving one?  The Atheist has no reason to be motivated by their own self-preservation to the extent of violating their own personal beliefs, they simply set their World View aside and in the interest of continuing their life journey, they bow down.

The Agnostic is completely indifferent to bowing down to the King’s idol.  The Agnostic most likely wants to hedge their bets.  But in situations like this, they cannot.  The Agnostic lives in real confusion at times.  They would like to please both God and man, just in case one or the other happens to come true and they find themselves facing consequences they cannot deal with.  Unfortunately for the Agnostic, there are some questions in life that require a real choice and a single action.  You must choose one or the other.  You cannot choose both, and you will face consequences for your actions whether you want to or not.  In most cases the Agnostic will join their Atheist friends and bow down to the golden image and worship it in the interest of self-preservation.

For the Theist however, the choice becomes a lot more granular.  Unlike their Atheist and Agnostic neighbors, the Theist actually believes both choices to be solid and real.  The commandments of their God are true and define the core of their beliefs.  The Theist really must stand on the principles of their world view if they are to be true to themselves, and that means they must accept the consequences of violating the commandments of the King.

The Theist, especially Christians, have an out though, right?  After all, the Theist serves a God that can deliver them for any consequences of man.  And yet, 99.999% of all the people in the world today choose to bow down to the King’s idols.  Why?  It makes sense with the Atheists and the Agnostics, but why do the Theists, for the most part, give in and bow down?  Especially when they supposedly believe that their God can save them?

My friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the very small minority in their answer to the King.  Here is what they said:

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”  Daniel 3:16-18 KJV

Most Christians familiar with the story of my three friends shout triumphantly and proclaim victory through God’s hands.  Yet the evidence remains, that the majority of people bow down and worship the idols.  Why is that?  Why do Theist Christians so adamantly believe that God can save them yet they go ahead and bow down?

I believe it is because the vast majority of us do not live beyond the BUT.  Do you see it there?  The BUT at the beginning of verse 18.  You see, it is very easy to proclaim that God has the power to save, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to go beyond that.  They were willing to say BUT “if not“.  If God chooses NOT to save us, then we still will not bow down.  Because God is still God.

Here is the bottom line: you cannot truly be free until you are willing to live beyond the BUT.  It is easy to stand and proclaim that God has the power to save, but it is hard to say I trust him even when he chooses not to rescue me from the burning firey furnace.

And God cannot work in your life until you are ready to put your complete trust in Him.  Until you are ready to say to Him “God, I trust you to save me.  But even if You choose not to, I still trust and worship You, and You alone.”

I told someone recently that when I stand before the judgement seat of the Holy God, my only plea is the Blood of the Lamb.  I’ve put my complete faith and trust in Him and I know He has the power to save.  BUT if Jesus looks at me in that day and says “I’ve changed my mind and you are not to be saved.”  Then know this: as I am on my way to the gates of Hell, I will be singing “Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Praise Him.  For He is Just.  He is Holy.  He is Righteous.  And He has given me what I deserve!”

And I know this to be true because when you live on the other side of the BUT … you live a life that accepts whatever decision God makes for you.  Whether it be to save you from the burning firey furnace, or whether He chooses not to.  Either way, He still is God and I will bow down to no other.

What about you?  Are you ready to live on the other side of the BUT and to serve Him, to worship Him, to Praise God no matter what decision He may make for your life?

Is Abortion Murder?

I know I have made my opinion known on the topic of abortion within this blog in past posts, however, some topics are important enough, worth enough, to be revisited again and again.

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C.

January 22nd is the anniversary of the 1973 Roe Vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion as a “Constitutional” right in the United States of America.  During those 45 years since that ruling, there have been (conservatively) 60 million abortions in the United States alone.  To put this into perspective, six million people of Jewish decent were murdered by Nazi Germany between 1941 – 1945 during World War II.  If you are generous and allow a full 5 years across WW-II for the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany (in reality, they were slightly more compressed), you would achieve nearly the same rate of 1.33 million deaths per year for both Jewish people killed in the Holocaust and abortions in the U.S. since 1973 (1.20 million/year vs. 1.33 million/year for the Holocaust and Abortions in the U.S. respectively).

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C. – march participants

While both abortions in the U.S. and the Holocaust are (were) state sponsored events (the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned abortion in the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 as well as Government funding of Planned Parenthood – using taxpayer dollars – which sponsors abortions), the justifications that each hide behind are quite different (presumably to make one sound less horrifying than it really is).

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C. – Marchers were of all ages, gender, and race.

While the reasoning used by Nazi Germany to justify the murder of millions of Jewish people all across Europe are completely indefensible by any right thinking individual, the subtlety used to justify abortions within the United States are more cunning and deceiving.  Within the abortion argument in the United States we hide behind words like embryo and fetus.  By using these words to describe a phase of human life, we tend to isolate the subject of the abortion and make it sound less human and thus perfectly acceptable to remove and throw away.  We simply state we are terminating the pregnancy (vice acknowledging we are terminating a human life) and having safely justified our actions to ourselves, we move on.

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C. – united in cause.

But the question still remains: Is Abortion Murder?  Just because we have justified it to ourselves does not mean that it is OK.  Nor does it mean that we will not be held accountable for our actions just because we’ve excused ourselves of them.  Have we fooled ourselves into believing that the termination of a pregnancy (vis-à-vis abortion) is OK because we are not actually taking a human life, when in reality, we actually are?

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C. – pause and think.

I suppose if you are Atheistic in your world view, it doesn’t really matter.  After all, there is no God, no Moral code, and definitely no purpose or meaning to life.  Given the foundation the Atheist builds their world view upon, they really shouldn’t mind killing of any kind.  After all, with no God to answer to, and everything in existence being meaningless, it wouldn’t matter one way or the other if abortions were murder or not.  But if you are Atheistic in your world view and you are intellectually honest with yourself, then why do you care how the morals get defined?  There is no more control over which process wins here than there is with stars burning out in the heavens.

2018 National Right To Life March Washington D.C. – marching together.

If you are Agnostic in your world view you shouldn’t have an opinion unless you are directly affected by the issue.  And even then you should pick your friends carefully.  After all, if you had one influence in your life that favored abortion and another, equal influence, that opposed abortion, it would be pretty confusing for you.  The Agnostic would have to flip a coin in order to decide.

However if you are Theistic in your world view, then you must believe that all life emanates from a God, a Creator.  And if you cannot definitively define the exact moment in time when that God-given, Creator induced life begins, then you had better err on the side of caution and treat all credible instances as human life.

This is essentially what President Ronald Regan said during his time in office.  President Regan argued (from a Theistic point of view, without stating it explicitly) that if one could not determine the point that human life began (we may all agree that the individual cells are life), that you could not act responsibly in terminating that life without being potentially guilty of murder.

So is abortion murder?  Consider that the fetus stage appears human in form.  We have hands, feet, a head, a torso.  A face.  Consider that at the fetus stage that we have a human heartbeat (~6 weeks), at the fetus stage we can measure brain waves/activity (~6 weeks.  Indeed the brain needs to be developed enough at this stage to govern organs such as the heart).  Consider at the fetus stage you can begin to see rudimentary facial expressions.  There are ultra-sounds of a fetus even sucking their thumb.  At the fetus stage you may even determine the biological sex of the child.

Some have argued as to whether or not the child is sentient at the fetus stage.  We know that at the fetus stage the child reacts to stimuli such as pain.  Very early on the child can even react to the voices of its mother and father.

These are what we know, in a rudimentary way, through both science and medicine of today.  Who knows what we will be able to discover or discern in the future?

And of course there is the religious argument.  Christianity teaches that the person (the spirit – that part of you that will endure forever) is known by God (the Creator) before you are even formed in the womb.

Is abortion murder?  How can any reasonable person say that it is not?  And we destroy thousands upon thousands of lives each year in the United States alone.  Isn’t it time that this practice is stopped?

Choose You, This Day

Psalm 119:147-149 (NASB)

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.
148 My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.

There is a God-prescribed path to Life (living as He, Our Creator, has intended) and a sustaining of that Life-force in us.

Jesus Christ, the God-Man is God’s fulfillment of His Word in the flesh. He said of Himself: “I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life.  No one comes to the Life-giving Father but through Me.”

There are many paths but only One Way. There are many places offered as sources of truth, but only One that is trustworthy.

Psalm 119:160 (NASB)

160 The sum of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Every cultural shift or “progressive” mentality away from HIS Word is a variance from His True North and Life. His prescription for humankind is forever. Any alteration based on “another” syllogistic logic, in order to be more stylish or in vogue…”in step with the times”, is dangerous; a move toward that which is false and death.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NASB)
26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:
27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today;
28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.

He has presented us with a choice, every moment of every day. Who…what will we follow? The choice comes with a promise of blessing or curse, Life, or death;  certainty of physical AND most importantly spiritual death.

In 2018, I commend to you the Life Giver and His forever True Way. Go North, True North…

And be blessed,

Mitch

Help With Adoption

Have you ever seen those infomercials about helping children out in disadvantaged portions of the world?  You know the ones with Sally Struthers or some other famous person championing the need and telling how you can help?  They usually champion organizations like the Christian Children’s Fund asking you to change the life of a child.

Have you ever thought about supporting one of those efforts?  I know, they have their supporters and their detractors.  Like any other effort you are either for them, against them, or indifferent to them.  For whatever reasons you may have.

I’m sure most of those types of organizations do some absolutely wonderful work and help disadvantaged families all over the world.

But do you know what really changes the life of a child?  A family.  Give a child a family by making them apart of one does more than just provide them with food and clothing (although it does do that).  Giving a child a family gives them love and a foundation that will not only last a lifetime, but will carry on from generation to generation.

If you give a child a family, it gives them brothers and sisters.  A mom and dad.  Grandparents and aunts and uncles.  It gives their own children, when they grow up and have children, a heritage with grandparents of their own.  Giving a child a family restores and rebuilds generational stability that extends far beyond a meal or some clothes.

And the best way to give a child a family is through adoption.  I understand that adoption is not something that every family can undertake, but you can help those that want to undertake this life-giving responsibility.

Undertaking an adoption can be an expensive proposition.  Undertaking an adoption from a foreign country can be an overwhelming venture.  And if you are Missionaries, relying on a limited support income, it can be rather daunting.

I have some friends in this very position.  If God were to lay it on your heart to contribute to this more than worthwhile venture, I’m sure that not only would you be blessing them, but you would be touching lives for generations to come.

You can learn more about Justin & Nicole Kennedy’s adoption efforts here:

Families

It takes so little to change a life and thus change the world.  One family at a time.  Thank you for your consideration.

What Is Truth?

In John 18:38 Pilate asked the question of Jesus “What is truth?”  Dr. Del Tackett has referred to this as one of the most important questions of all time in The Truth ProjectRavi Zacharias has called it the most tragic question of all time in that it was asked of the purveyor of Truth Himself.

But it is an interesting question.  Truth.  What is it?  Really?  And more importantly, what is our perception of truth?  And how does it shape our lives and affect the outcome of our existence for all of eternity?

Here is an important consideration: Is there a God?  It is an important question whether you realize it or not.

Some, like Dr. Stephen Hawking and Dr. Richard Dawkins, state that it is a fact that there is no God.  They have many that join with them in their belief that there is no God.

I, on the other hand, and many others with me state emphatically that there is a God.

You have your own beliefs as to whether or not there is a God.  Neither side can prove beyond any reasonable certainty that there is, or is not a God.  I can certainly point to evidence that there is.  But others will build their own case that there is not.

So what is truth?  In this case the truth may be found to be subjective depending upon your own personal beliefs.  And yet it is the most important question of all time.  This is why I believe it is very important to guard certain principles in our lives.  Because believe it or not, TRUTH can be lost.  For example: lets say for argument’s sake that there really is a God.  Just for a minute let’s all agree that this is an immutable fact.  Now lets divide all the people who believe the truth from those that do not believe the truth.  All of the people who actually believe there is a God are on one side of the room, and all the people who do not believe there is a God are on the other side.  Now suppose we were to have a war between the two groups.  And let’s say that the people who do not believe there is a God win the war.  They completely annihilate those that believe there is a God.

Question: Does that then make the fact that God exists not true?  No, of course not.  We’ve already established that the existence of God is true for our scenario here.  And the truth does not change.  But would the truth be lost?  I believe it would.  Those who do not believe there is a God would continue to propagate that belief and there would be no reason for any opposing point of view to arise.  The truth would be lost.

Here is a more realistic example.  How old is the Earth?  You ask this question and about 98% of people today will tell you it is 4.5 billion years old.  But if you really examine the answer you will read words like “scientists estimate …”, or “scientists believe ..”, or even “scientists think …”.

It IS NOT a proven fact that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old (or that evolution is the mechanism by which we all came to be here on Earth).  It may be a theory or a belief (by some), but not a factual piece of truth.  And yet people treat it as if it were so.  If you say it often enough and loud enough, others around you eventually begin to repeat it.  But that doesn’t make it truth.

Why?  Because when the question of Evolution seriously first came up, around the time of my grandparents generation, it was not successfully challenged.  And then when my parents generation came along, they began to make compromises and to try to fit an evolutionary world view into their own Theistic world view.  And as a result, in most (if not all) public institutes of education, Evolution is now taught as accepted fact and Creationism or Intelligent Design is not even allowed to be mentioned because they are considered myth or fairy tale.

As a result it has become a very difficult up hill battle to challenge or countermand the Evolutionary world view.  Most people have abandoned trying to fight it within public institutions and have left those for private schools and home schooling.  But what if Creationism were the truth?  It is not completely lost, but if we continue to indoctrinate new generations in the classroom, it could be.

And there is another truth we are about to lose today.  That Freedom and Capitalism provide more for any given population than Socialism and Communism.  The number of young people who supported Senator Bernie Sanders during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections has been placed as high as 56%.  This is very alarming when you consider that these individuals are essentially voting not to be free.  The movement away from Truth, Justice, and the American Way is alarming.  If we do not stand for the principles the United States of America was founded upon, actually built upon, we could lose the greatest nation the world has ever seen.  And we could lose the truth for generations to come.

This is the reason I have not, and will not, support the NFL until they acknowledge that kneeling on foreign soil while our country’s National Anthem is playing is traitorous and disrespectful.  And then to stand during the National Anthem of a foreign nation (having just knelt for their own) simply adds insult to injury.  And that kneeling during the National Anthem on any occasion is disrespectful and is essentially saying “I stand against the institution that provides me the freedoms to protest”.  You cannot tear down the house you live in and then expect to not sleep out in the rain and the cold.  Kneeling for the National Anthem is not a protest, it is a vote not to be free.

And I take it even one step further.  For all my life I have been taught (and believed) that sports taught young people how to be good members of society as well as proper values and character.  I would suggest that the evidence today depicts otherwise.  A significant number of athletes are not demonstrating good character and values.  Therefore I do not even support college football.  Because I don’t believe these traits just magically show up when they become attached to the NFL and I do not want them to believe they have a supported path to that end.

We could be on the verge of losing our country;  Freedom, Capitalism, Democracy.  And if we do not take a very hard stand today, if we are complacent in the matter, as previous generations were with evolution, the truth could change out from underneath us and it would be very, very hard to get back.

Are You In the Midst of Despair?

Here we sit on the eve of a New Year.  2017 is about to pass into the annuals of time and 2018 is about to arrive with all of its mystery, and fear, and excitement.  I don’t know what the New Year may hold for you, I don’t even know what the New Year holds for me.  But this is what I do know: GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL.  Praise Him!

I also know that it’s possible the New Year may hold despair for you and those you love.  But if this is the case then I invite you to consider the fact that: GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!

I also invite you to consider the fact that perhaps your despair is not as deep or as life gripping as you might perceive.  Consider this: have you ever walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  I mean the actual Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Have you ever found yourself there?  Before you answer that, lets consider where and what the Valley of the Shadow of Death actually is and where we might encounter it in our lives.

King David wrote in the 23 Psalms:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

The valley here (in verse 4) in not a happy place.  The depiction embodies a place of high mountain walls (that cast deep shadows) that are impossible to climb.  The valley is a place from which there is no escape.  It is a place where you feel trapped and vulnerable.  If you are a soldier, it is a place where your enemies are perched on the high ledges surrounding you waiting to rain down death and destruction upon you.  If you are a sheep, it is a place where the wolves roam the high ledges surrounding you waiting for the moment to pounce.  This makes it a place of fear and trepidation.  A place of never knowing when death and destruction are going to strike next.

There are shadows.  And not just any shadows, we are talking shadows that create a darkness like night.  If you were to look at Psalms 23:4 in the NIV, you would read “even though I walk through the darkest valley“.  Because the word shadows means an intense darkness.  The Englishman’s Concordance calls it “an intense darkness as night itself“.  So it is a valley like night, without any light.  It is a very dark place.  And even though the text does not say this, I would suspect that it is a cold place.  The lack of sunlight, being sheltered by the mountains, being at the bottom of those prepices, it must be cold there.

And finally, there is death.  You are in a valley that smells of death, it reeks of death, it reminds you of it everywhere you look.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death talked about in Psalms 23:4 is a place of fear and a place of NO HOPE.  It should probably have a sign at the entrance to it that reads” “ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE”.

I’ve seen these signs on people’s doors before.  They think they are being funny (and it kind of is, if you think about it).  But they wouldn’t consider it very funny if they really did have to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It is a place of hopelessness and despair.  Complete hopelessness and despair,  Have you ever been there?  Completely and utterly without hope?  Few of us really have.  Sure, you may have your hard times, your trials and tribulations in life … but completely hopeless?  Probably not.  Most of us, the vast majority of us, always have at least some glimmer of hope in our situations.

This is a place of NO HOPE.  At all.  Whatsoever.  And yet the Psalmist writes: “I will fear no evil“.  The Psalmist IS NOT afraid.  Why?  Because King David had experienced the protection and the awesome power of the Rod and the Staff of the Lord.  And once you have experienced the power of God, not even a hopeless situation can sway you.  Once you understand the awesome power of God, you understand that it really doesn’t matter if he protects you or not.  What you understand is that God has the power to save, and if he chooses not to – HE IS STILL GOD.  That is the what the Psalmist understood and it freed him from the grip of fear.

The good news here is that few of us ever really do walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  I personally believe that it is a place reserved for Prophets to walk through.  I believe God does this on purpose in order to keep the Prophets humble (a very hard task when it comes to Prophets) and to ensure they remain empathetic with the people (a very hard thing for Prophets to do).

So you can probably rest assured today that even in the midst of your pain and suffering, you at least have not yet come to the place of NO HOPE where all is lost.

And if God can take the Prophet through the place of NO HOPE and utter despair, the actual Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the Prophet can walk through without any fear of evil and be comforted at the same time, how much easier is it for God to take you through your own hard times?

Do You Know The Name Above All Names?

On January 6th, 2017 Hillsong Worship brought us the song What A Beautiful Name it Is.

In my estimation, this song is the full embodiment of Philippians 2:8-11 which says:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (KJV)

Sadly, there is not enough understanding in our world today of these simple words.  That the name of JESUS is where beauty lies.  That the name of JESUS holds all power.  That the name of JESUS is the point where the wonderment of Heaven bends down to meet the Earth.

If you are Atheistic in your world view you cannot possibly know the beauty and wonder of the name of JESUS.  Your rejection of a Deity, a Creator, a Heavenly Father, A Savior and a King keeps you from the experience of knowing the Peace and Comfort of the name of JESUS.

You might be bewildered by this statement, but the knowing, the real knowing I speak of is Spiritual knowledge not worldly knowledge.  It is not of this earth, but is of Heaven itself.  And it is the point that a loving and a just God reaches down to his very creation, mankind, and says “I Love you so much I sent My Son to die for your sins in order to redeem you back to me”.

Spiritual death is real.  Very real.  We, all humans, are triune beings created of body, soul, and spirit.  Our bodies are the physical manifestation you see before you in this world.  Our souls (our mind, will, and emotions) are the glue that binds us to our spiritual beings, and our Spirits are that which connects us with the Creator Himself.  That part of us that will answer to him one day.  And that is the part that is dead in sin, and puts our entire being; body, soul, and spirit, in separation from our Creator.

Some people have asked why God needed to go through such an elaborate scheme in order to have a family of his own.  For me, the answer is quite simple: You cannot know life without death, you cannot know joy without pain, and you cannot know salvation without first being lost.  God has established his family because he showed us what the price is for that family.  I could tell you all day long about the Joy found in the name of JESUS, but unless you experience it for yourself, they are meaningless words.

So the Atheist has shut out the one true hope for all of mankind simply through disbelief.  The one simple thing that God requires of all of us: BELIVE ON THE NAME OF JESUS.

If you are Agnostic in your world view, your apathy keeps you from experiencing the Joy and the Wonderment of the name of JESUS.  Our Creator demands  that the name of JESUS be embraced.  That the name of JESUS be held above ALL names.  That the name of JESUS be exalted and lifted up.

The Agnostic lifts up no name but their own, unless it benefits them in some way, shape, or form.  The Agnostic robs themselves of the peace and the comfort of experiencing JESUS through the self-centeredness of their own “it doesn’t matter” world view.

However, if you are Theistic in your world view, your only challenge is finding the one true God.  Being able to connect with the Creator you already know to be real.

There is one religious view that promises an eternal connection with that Creator.  And that is Christianity.  No other name has divided history.  No other name has endured such a test of time.  No other name has claimed to be before the world began and promises to be there forever after it ends.  No other name is both more revered and more hated amongst the earth.  And no other name has had people  try to  rewrite the history of it over and over again, only to continuously fail.

I believe the reason for this is because God has given Him the name above all names.  It is the name of Power.  It is the name of Wonderment.  It is the name of Beauty.  It is the name of JESUS.

As we approach this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, my prayer for each and everyone in the world today is that they would come to know the name of JESUS.  Not to have just heard the name.  Not to just know of the name.  But to experience the name of JESUS.

And you cannot experience the name of JESUS, truly experience it, in your Spiritual being, without BELIVING on the name of JESUS.  When you KNOW him, as He knows you (and I guarantee you He has known you from before the foundation of the world), then the name of JESUS will take on a whole new Beauty, a whole new Power, a whole new Wonderment, that will rise up in your spirit, spill over into your soul, and fill you with the Hope, Peace, and Comfort that only he can give.

And when that happens, you too, will join me and many others with me, along with a Heavenly host in proclaiming What A Beautiful Name It Is, The Name of JESUS.

 

My Reminder…

Richard C. Halverson, though I never knew him, is a hero of mine. His work and words have impacted my life. As I remember him in this month of Thanksgiving, I thank God for him. I recently posted one of his devotionals from his bi-weekly devotional letter “Perspective”. I’d like to post another today. I only wish I could find the proper entity to get permission for using his work. My efforts at this have rendered nothing so far. Should you be aware of who I might contact, please inform me. I’d be indebted.

So good to remember that…

Jesus Christ transcends all religions! Judaism, Islam, Buddhism Hinduism…

He is greater than all these – including Christianity.

Religions are inventions of men. They may begin with a great leader in mind – Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha…

But human tradition soon reduces the original to a mere set of ethical standards and a dead letter of the law which no one can follow.

The original sin was not murder, adultery or any other action we call sin. The original sin was, and still is, the human choice to be one’s own god – to control one’s own life – to be in charge – to be religious!

Rising out of this choice evolves religion: man’s attempt to please god.

Jesus transcends religion because He is the incarnation of all that is true, good, loving, gentle, tender, thoughtful, caring, courteous and selfless.

Jesus does not want you to become a Christian. He wants you to become a new creation! There is a great difference between the two.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creation: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are new.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

From “Perspective” by Richard C. Halverson – August 12, 1996

 

The Way

Psalm 84:5-12 New American Standard Bible

5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion! …They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
…The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

So…
Psalm 86:11
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.

My GPS has changed my life! I’ve put all my maps aside for the most part. “She” always knows where I am and how to get me where I want to go…most of the time. I call her Jennifer.

It has taken much of the stress of travelling away. Having my own personal navigator aboard, assuring me of my next turn and happily re-calculating when I get off course, is a lifesaver.  It has removed the concern of ever being lost. Amazing…how does she do that?  My techie friends tell me it’s not that complicated.  Though I don’t get it, I do trust my way to her.  Though I don’t understand, I believe her commands and go where she directs, confident I’ll ultimately get home.

The application to these verses is obvious. The psalmist tells us that having God’s Way in our heart will always get us “Home”, to HIM and Zion, His dwelling place. It is there that every “good thing” we need for life is found. Everything required for my sufficiency, adequacy and security is there in great supply. He is very happy to deluge us there with His best.

No wonder, the psalmist would ask he Lord to teach him the way to walk and to revere HIM enough to stay on that road to His presence…the ultimate Destination.

Actually, there are only two ways in Life, God’s way or another one. There are many voices calling to divert us from His prescribed path. His word, The Bible, has been God’s GPS for me in this life for some time and is always spot on. My problem is, I too often take “side trips” and get lost in the complexities and troubles waywardness brings.

Psalm 139:23
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Knowing his vulnerability and predisposition to waywardness, the psalmist asks his Heavenly Father to search his heart for the entrenched habits and thinking that would upstage God’s way, and requests personal guidance in His eternal, life-giving, sustaining path.  Just think, having your own personal, resident Spiritual navigator with you, always directing and ultimately, to Himself.  It’s true! He wants to plug into your life and take you where you should go.  It brings the confidence He intends us to have in the difficult days we live.

The psalmist’s prayer has become mine every new day.  Wayward as I have been and still can be, I’ve put aside all other “maps” and trust His unfailing direction for everything. For me, that is making all the difference.

My prayer for you is to find His way and stay there. You will never regret it. Make your way “Home” to Him and know the best and most He’s gives.  For me, I’ve made up my mind.  I’m

Heading Home,

Mitch

The discussions that matter.

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