Friday, July 31, 2015

Mortality And Those Faithful Dogs

(Psalm 8: 1 - 9)  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted by the mouth of babes and infants,
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

I have had a number of animal pets in my lifetime, each one having it’s own unique character and personality that sets it apart from the others. Cats are selfish in nature and always act very independent in spite of the fact that they are not, they will cozy up to their human only when it suits them. Dogs on the other hand understand their dependent relationship to their master and when they bond to their human, it is a lifetime commitment. A person’s pet dog will often convey the best examples of the nature of the unconditional love of God to their owner. When we accidentally do them harm or forget to feed them, they never hold a grudge and forgive us right away regardless of how badly we have hurt them. 

Until recently I had a beautiful Border Collie named “Cody”. He was twelve years old when he suffered a massive stroke and died. It was a heart breaking and crushing event for us as this dog was the furry personification of devotion, commitment and unconditional love. His eyes were always on me, I could tell that he adored me as I recalled how he never left my bedside for the three days I was bedridden while recovering from a surgical procedure. I wondered why his lifespan couldn’t have been more like that of a human as it seems so unfair to see these wonderful animals die so early in our own lives, but then we must realize that God uses this as a reminder of our own mortality lest we forget that the end of our own stay here is never far off. 

I pondered these things when Cody was still with me and recall how he was pleased to have any scrap that may have fallen from the table, and was struck by this event recorded in (Matthew 15: 21 - 28) And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus was again impressed by the faith of a Roman centurion, the Romans were normally hated by the Jews.
(Luke 7: 2 - 10) Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at the point of death. When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well. 

The dynamic had changed when the Lord saw the level of faith and desire for His salvation in the lives of ordinary Gentiles, those for whom the promise was not intended and is evidenced in his lamentation over Jerusalem.
(Matthew 23: 37 - 39) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

I can’t boast of being a member of the twelve tribes of Israel, so these scripture verses are exceedingly meaningful to myself and all gentiles who share the hope of being grafted into the tree of life. Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Roman Christians,
(Romans 11: 16 - 18) "If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you." 

Even dogs have a capacity for great faithfulness and love for He who loves them!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

We All Have Days Like This

We often have periods in our lives where we want to just say, “To hell with it all” and throw up our arms in despair. Whether we suffer from loss of job and income, loss of home or the loss of a family member, we need to realize that we are not alone and that many others are going through the same kind of stresses and anguish in their own lives, and is more prevalent in todays world than ever before as we read the news and see the dark clouds on the horizon. Sometimes we feel like Job whose entire world was collapsing around him and as he lay covered in running sores one of his "friends" told him that he might just opt to curse God and die, but he refused and prevailed. His great faith and faithfulness to God carried him through the calamity that had befallen him and God rewarded him for surviving his testing. His health, his family and his fortunes were more than restored. 

How did Job do this? What was the secret of his success? There is a wise saying that goes like this: “You can’t be optimistic if you have a misty optic!” It simply means that one has to keep their eyes on what is most important and remain focused, and that whiners who engage in self pity have lost sight and will ultimately fail. When I was in paratroop training and was totally exhausted and unable to continue, I was told that there is no such thing as “can’t,” that it was just a word that means won’t when our carnal minds and bodies have given up and want to quit. I took that advice to heart and it has served me well over the years and has enabled the spirit to prevail over the desires of my weak flesh.

Here we have an example of how important it is to stay focused on Christ in order to prevail over the seeming impossibilities continually testing our spiritual as well as our physical lives…

(Matthew 14: 22 - 33) Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

Take note that the moment Peter moved his focus off of Christ and instead focused on the storm tossed seas around him, he began to sink and would have drowned had he not called out to the Lord to save him. This is a depiction of a spiritual principle concerning our need for a sense of vision, remaining focused on the prize and faithful to our calling and is applicable also in our daily lives if we are willing to apply it.
Sometimes we think that we can somehow control the issues around us but sadly we inevitably discover that is not true, because behind every thought, word and deed there is an overruling spiritual element involved that we are most often unaware of. I can attest to these frustrations having been involved in a guerrilla war where the enemy was unknown and often hidden in plain sight. Though I have long since hung up my shield and spear, the lessons learned won’t be forgotten, because although there was much carnage, the real battle was for the minds and hearts of men everywhere in the world. This is the modus operandi of the enemy of our souls lest we forget and lose sight of that fact and make the mistake of focusing on the carnage around us.

(2 Corinthians 10: 3 - 4)  For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 

We live in the most evil of times where evil machinations are so subtle and cunning and yet so malicious that most people don’t have the slightest understanding of what is happening before their very eyes. Today men are liars and deceivers as it is advantageous to achieve their selfish goals. Many people's motives are suspect at best, it becomes abundantly clear as we observe our own political leaders whose agenda’s are never righteous and are usually self serving. Here Paul exposes the truth and gives us a prescription of how to deal successfully with it.

(Ephesians 6: 11 - 13) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Meanwhile Paul admonishes us to pray for our leaders that they may make the right decisions, I’ll also add that it would be fair to pray for their failure when it is obvious they are attempting to bring us in harm’s way. 

(1Timothy 2: 1 - 2) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Most Timely Conversation

I am constrained to bring these matters up as the message is so very timely!

Paul’s commentary to the Romans speaks clearly to the times in which we live today and is an indictment against the Godless haters of righteousness and all that is good. He makes it abundantly clear that no human being regardless of how backward and aboriginal, without exception are all without excuse for failing to honor the Creator rather than the created by following what they innately know in their heart is right.

(Romans 1: 16 - 32)  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.

Peter calls on believers reminding them that these are evil times and that we should refrain from becoming entwined in defiling passions that others indulge in. His words follow in the train of Paul’s comments as he proceeds to define even further the lot of those false teachers, defilers of Christ and his righteousness who intentionally lead astray those who are weak and easy beguiled and swayed from the truth. This is a powerful admonition to everyone as this is a declaration of what we are all experiencing here on many levels now in this very day!

(2 Peter 2: 2 - 22) But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomor′rah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation,  carousing with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Be′or, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved. For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

If he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial

I can relate to Lot living in today's environment, it’s time for all to stand up and be counted among the victors as survivors living in a world of filth and perversion, the time is short, the time of salvation is now because very shortly there will be no other chance and there will be no re-do’s!