So Say the Experts

“They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence.” (1Timothy 1:7, The Message)

smug know-it-allThe experts don’t always get it right. Sometimes their learning impedes their looking — that is, they cannot see past what they have been taught, because their opinions are set accordingly.

Job ran into this with his friends who came to comfort him, but only ending up condemning him for his unwillingness to submit to their opinions about what they thought caused his woes. “I’m sure you speak for all the experts,” he said, “and when you die there’ll be no one left to tell us how to live”(Job 12:2, The Message).

Jesus said, “Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God” (Matthew 23:9, The Message). That’s exactly what Job was doing, and we should do the same today. And we have plenty of opportunities to do so, for there is never a shortage in our world of people ready to express their religious opinions.

There will always be people who are quick to tell you that you are wrong, and to criticize your every word and move. Their expertise in matters of doctrine and duty somehow compel them to correct you even when they have no real right to do so. They neither know you, nor love you; and therefore transgress when they openly criticize you. The irony is that none are so blind to the error of this abhorrent behavior than those who are most guilty of it.

The experts don’t always get it right. After all, it was the builders who rejected the Cornerstone; it was the Authorities in Law and Prophecy who were the very ones that completely missed the Messiah! And today, sometimes those who know most about the Bible seem to know least about what it means to actually live according to its teachings. The celebrated preacher of Westminster Chapel, G. Campbell Morgan, said, “It is possible to be biblically correct, doctrinally pure, theologically sound, morally impeccable, and spiritually useless!”

Oh may such a thing never be true of you, nor me!

The Triumphant Trudge

“They shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Deep in the heart of every person is a passionate desire to know that he or she is fulfilling the purpose for which they have been placed here on this earth. Have you found it? Found that one thing that is worthy of your one life?

Triumphant trudgeDwight D. Eisenhower said, “We succeed in life as in war, only as we are able to identify a single, over-riding objective, and then bend all other considerations to that one thing.”

What one thing overrides all other considerations in your life? What noble purpose has captured your spirit? What deep resolve beats in your heart? What great decision has won your full allegiance in life?

Assuming that you have indeed found it, let me now ask — how’s it going? If you’ve been at it for any appreciable length of time then you know by now that the journey is no cake walk. It is not a stroll through the park on a blissful Sunday afternoon. No. The path has many turns – up turns and down turns, ditches on both sides, potholes aplenty, and mounds of debris inconveniently strewn all about.

There are setbacks that stall you, and obstacles that intimidate you. There are bystanders that deride you, backsliders that dismay you, and back-stabbers that dishearten you. There are days when you walk with a company of passionate pilgrims who buoy your spirit with renewed aspiration, and then there are the days when you walk the lonesome valley all by yourself. Alone.

You, my friend, are on the Triumphant Trudge! To trudge, according to Webster, is “to walk steadily, and sometimes laboriously; but ever onward.” Isaiah’s poetry says it best, “They shall walk, and not faint.” That is, they shall not tire though the way at times be wearisome.

This will always be the case in every soul who follows Christ up Calvary’s mountain. Despite the trudge of each deliberate step, an unmistakable tone of triumph attends their every move – for each move is always onward, and ever upward. And the Lord who has gone victorious before us will welcome us with open arms on the day we cross over the finish line.

The God of No Options

“Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:7,8 (The Message)

We’ve all heard the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” While the sentiments behind this whimsical adage are admirable, the saying itself is quite untrue.

man in praiseYes, it is true that a person shouldn’t sit around aimlessly all day just expecting God to do this or that for them, while they themselves do nothing. But the adage errs significantly by failing to realize that God in fact does not help those who help themselves; rather, He helps the helpless.

He is the Defender of the defenseless; He rescues the perishing, saves those who are falling, and lifts ups those who have been struck down. He is a Father to the orphan, a Friend to sinners, and the Champion of those who are weak. Indeed, Paul summed it up — “when we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

The problem with “helping yourself” and asking God for a little assistance is that you’re the one still calling the shots — keeping all your options open. Few things are more insulting to God than for a man to come before Him while holding onto other options….just in case the “God thing” doesn’t work out.

Remember Lazarus, the dead man? He had no options whatsoever. Jesus stood before the cold stone which sealed his tomb and ordered it removed, and then called out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And the dead man did so, now fully alive. A significant part of this event is contained in the name Lazarus — it means “without help.” You see? God helps the helpless.

Like Lazarus of old lying cold in his tomb, you and I will never be called into a new and deeper, more vibrant and wondrous walk with Jesus until we realize we truly have no other options but God.

Peter was speaking for all of us that day when he said, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life” (John 6:68). He is the God of no options, and you have no option but Him.

The Name and Fame of Jesus

“There is salvation in no other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

christ on crossThere is only one name that opens heaven’s doors and God’s heart—the name of Jesus. There is only one name that breaks the power of sin and sets the captive free—the name of Jesus. There is only one name worthy of all praise, and deserving of your allegiance—the name of Jesus.

Early on in His public ministry the name and fame of Jesus spread like a prairie fire on a windy day. People all throughout the region—rich and poor, king and commoner, Jew and Gentile—all heard of Him; for His fame was ever-increasing.

His death on the Cross did not have the effect the rulers of the day had hoped. He rose from the dead and His followers became invincible in their faith—so much in fact that in ever-widening circles the number of disciples increased vastly in Jerusalem; and many of the Jewish priests were themselves converted as well.

Paul the Apostle, a few years later wrote, “Finally, dear brothers, as I come to the end of this letter, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1, Living Bible).

Jesus Christ! He is peerless in His exaltation, unrivaled in His Lordship, incomparable in His grace, invincible in His power, unassisted in His work as Redeemer, matchless in His mercy, adored in His glory and worshipped in the beauty of His holiness. In His birth is our significance. In His life is our example. In His death is our forgiveness. In His resurrection is our hope. In His Second Coming is our consummate glory!

Isaiah spoke for us all when he said, “Lord, Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isaiah 28:8, NIV).

Friends, we live in a fallen world where hostilities toward God run high and hot. For this reason we must become men and women of vision, passion, discipline and risk—laying ourselves out for the high honor of one Name alone…the name of Jesus.

It is a bold act in a day when all other names are exalted but this One, and to associate with this One is scandalized with every argument the mind of man can muster. But when all is said and done, and the debris of man’s fallen empires lays in shamble at Heaven’s door — Jesus will be there to welcome you, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The Last Word on Everything and Everyone

“Jesus has the last word on everything and everyone, from angels to armies. He’s standing right alongside God, and what he says goes.” (1 Peter 3:22, The Message).

Sooner or later the last word will be spoken. All debate will cease, and arguments will come to an end. Somebody somehow in someway will be able to sum it all up and put everything and everyone in their place. That somebody is Jesus.

Until then we are surrounded by a hurricane of opinions, ideas, suggestions, postulations, pontifications, exaggerations, exclamations, theories, concepts, notions, imaginations, vanities, snippets, and a host of other verbal squalls that wreck lives and strew debris across the landscape.

hurricane 1The wind blows faster and faster, the swirl moves more and more quickly — gathering speed and force. The vortex of the man-made Blow Cloud sucks virtually everything and everyone into it spin. Soon it will reach such velocity that one will hardly be able to put a clear thought on the table for discussion.

BOOM! That’s when a trumpet blast will call the whole thing to a screeching halt and we will find ourselves dizzy with nonsense as we stand before the Lord. He will look us over, and His gaze will humble us one and all.

And then He will speak — and what He says goes. He will have the final word on everything and everyone. It would be a good idea to become friends with Him now, don’t you think?

The Pot of Boiling Acid

“For God does speak—now one way, now another— though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (Job 33:14-18, NIV).

boiling steel vatIn a dream I saw an angel standing with a large vat in his hands. The vat was filled with what appeared to be boiling acid. A man came and stood before the angel, who then began to pour the acid upon the man’s head!

“What are you doing?!” I exclaimed.

The angel continued pouring as he looked at me and solemnly said, “These are the curses with which he has cursed others, now being poured out upon his own head!”

The sight was so riveting that I woke up and lay still in my bed. I wondered first if I was the man in the dream, and quickly started blessing everybody I could think of!

Next, I questioned if what I had seen in the dream could even be true, for it seemed so sinister. And yet it also had a sobering sense of Divine justice about it. I found the sight to be deeply disturbing. I got up and began searching through the Scripture for an answer. My search was not fruitless.

“He loved to pronounce a curse – may it come on him; he found no pleasure in blessing – may it be far from him. He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil” (Psalm 109:17-18).

I clearly saw the lesson that Lord was illustrating through this dream: The man who curses others will himself be cursed. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2).

As it applies to cursing, so also does it apply to blessing. The man who blesses others will himself be blessed. Whatever measure you mete out will be measured back to you. In yet another text Jesus said “bless those who curse you!” (Matthew 5:44).

Could it be that the blessing we speak to those who are cursing us is for the purpose of keeping us from coming into the place of cursing ourselves? I think so. How solemn to think that cursing another person actually postures you to receive that very curse upon yourself!

But then, how wonderful to believe that by blessing another you inevitably inherit the blessing yourself! Despite the bewildering images of this night vision, one thing is certain: Since having this dream I have been very careful with my words.

As for me and my house — we are going to BLESS others; that we might inherit a blessing.

Your New Job Description — BLESS!

“This goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless–that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9, The Message).

blessing 2We have been called to live exemplary lives — the kind that inspire others to do the same. In a world where the “put down” is celebrated, we have been called to “build up.” While others sass, we are to serve; when they curse, we are to bless. While they raise their hands to hurt others; we raise ours to help and to heal.

This is our assignment from Jesus. The challenge is that we have been placed in a world filled with un-exemplary conduct.

From Main Street to the Back Streets; from Broadway to the Belt-Way; from Wall Street to the Waysides — name calling, finger pointing, blame-fixing, sass and sarcasm are the standard fare. We are living in a grown-up world filled with school yard children. 

So the Lord has given us a job. “BLESS,” He says to each one of us, “That’s your job — to bless.”

And then He adds this wonderful promise: “You will BE and blessing, and will also GET a blessing.” There is great benefit in doing what the Lord has called us to do; benefit for today, and blessings for eternity. On the other hand, there is nothing but hearbreak and tragedy when we forsake the Lord’s way to follow the way of the World.

This reminds me of a very graphic dream I had a few years ago. Be sure to read tomorrow’s post, for I’ll pass the dream along to you. Then you can decide for yourself how you will handle this “blessing assignment” which  the Lord has given each of us.

See you tomorrow.

Every Name in the Book?

“They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.” (1 Peter 2:23, The Message).

rudolf newLike most anyone, I have been called a few names over the course of my journey — but I’m sure I’ve never been called “every name in the book.” I didn’t even know there was a book. And, are the names listed alphabetically? If so — Jesus has been called everyone of those names.

A lesser man would have gone to war by now. All it took to set Marty McFly off was for Biff Tannen to call him, “Chicken.” (You’ll find that listed in the Book under C). It means someone who is so afraid of facing up to a challenge that they stand there quivering until…..they lay an egg.

Think of any name you can come up with — it’s in the Book. And then consider how Jesus responded when they called Him that. The Bible tells us that He did not answer back. Rather, He was content to let God set things right.

One translation puts it this way: “He kept on delivering all into the keeping of the One who judges righteously.”

That’s what we are to do also. Rather than handle it on our own, going tit for tat; blow for blow; escalating the conflict to war, or worse — let’s give Jesus the opportunity to handle the situation IN US the way He handled it for Himself.

Let’s do what He did — “keep on delivering into the hands of Him who judges all things rightly” — knowing that once His verdict is in, that will be the final word.
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The Future Starts Now!

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven–and the future starts now!” (1 Peter 1:3-4, The Message).

happinessWhen Jesus came to earth He brought heaven with Him. His mission was thereby half completed. When he died on the cross and rose from the dead, He finished the job and reconciled earth with Heaven.

Mission accomplished!

This Good News, called in a more formal tongue “The Gospel,”  has been preserved by God through the ages and preached in every nook and cranny throughout our world. Some believe; some do not. Where do you stand?

For those who do believe — the future starts now.

The same Jesus who brought heaven to earth, and then reconciled us to God, now brings heaven into your life. And as a result, even though your feet are yet firmly planted upon the ground, your spirit soars to heights of glory as you hear God’s voice, see His wonders, learn His Word, experience His power, and fulfill His purposes in your life.

Let me say it again. You can know God’s presence, sense His pleasure, love His people, serve His purpose, experience His power, receive His provision, and show forth His praises.

So, what are you waiting for? You have been given a brand-new life, and you now have everything to live for. Your future starts NOW!

Glory Just Around the Corner

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12-13. The Message).

Sometimes things can get so difficult that even the most ardent believers look heavenward with serious questions about whether or not God is involved in our affairs anymore. Even Jesus Himself cried out on the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Sometimes God pulls just far enough away to awaken and alarm us by His absence.

glory just around the cornerPerhaps we may have grown so accustomed to His blessings and benefits, that we inadvertently began taking them for granted; failing to humbly acknowledge His presence and His provisions in our daily lives. Living presumptuously, without showing our gratitude to God for who He is and what He does.

Nothing snaps us out of that indifferent daze more quickly that a good dose of real difficulty, with a side order of God’s perceived absence. When all hell breaks loose, and heaven is no where to be found — that will get your attention!

But, God is not absent, nor is He distant. He’s just silent; watching and waiting for how we handle the situation. Will be bellow in unbelief like those who know not God at all? Or will we, like Job of old, trust Him though He slay us.

The truth is that the difficulty you are facing is a spiritual refining process; God is separating the gold from the dross in your life. And if you will quietly trust Him through the ordeal you will soon discover it was worth it all — for glory is just around the corner.