Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Crying is not wrong! Crying is good if our tears are shed over the right things. Joseph wept 8 times, David 7 times, Paul 4 times, the Prophet Jeremiah 3 times, and Moses shed tears. Tears have been called the flower of the heart.
Tears of Sorrow ~ In John we read of Mary shedding tears of sorrow because of the death of her brother Lazarus (11:31-33) and we find Mary Magdalene with tears of sorrow at the tomb of our Savior (20:11).
Tears of Loneliness ~ In addition to sorrow, death also creates great loneliness as in the case of the widow of Nain who had previously lost her husband and then suffered the loss of her only son (Luke 7:12-13).
Tears of Sympathy ~ Probably the best known Biblical example of tears is found in the shortest verse in the Bible where we read that “Jesus wept” with tears of sympathy (John 11:35). Our Savior was consoling Martha at the time of the death of her brother Lazarus.
Tears over Sin and its Consequences ~ Luke was sobered to the point of tears over his deep level of concern about the final destination of those around him (Acts 20:31). Christ, our example, expressed deep emotional concern over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39).
In addition to tears of sadness there are tears of gladness!
Tears of Affection ~ Timothy loved his spiritual father as a natural son loves his father. Paul remembers Timothy’s tears—perhaps they were shed when they last parted or maybe as he remembered their close friendship (2 Timothy 1:4). Perhaps the tears flowed in remembrance of some deep conversations which they had shared. We do not know for sure the exact reason for these tears.
Tears of Faith and Gratitude ~ Some individuals are overcome with emotion when they accept God’s offer of salvation. Their realization of what Christ did for them at Calvary and the freedom that comes with accepting His free gift of salvation cause great emotion. For example, we read of a concerned father who believed in Christ yet was honest enough to admit he still had much unbelief (Mark 9:24).
Tears of Gratitude and Devotion ~ When Christ accepted an invitation to eat at the home of a Pharisee, a sinful woman came and wept as she applied fragrant oil to the Savior’s feet (Luke 7:38).
Tears of Service ~ We find Paul exhorting the elders at Ephesus, and as he does, he mentions his own tears as he served God (Acts 20:19). Service in God’s army can be tough—while we may become tired in His service, we should never tire of His service.
CONTEMPLATE: When was the last time you shed tears of faith, gratitude, devotion, or because of your service for Him?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Where does the snowflake come from? Who designed the snowflake? For Christians the answer is easy. “In the beginning” the triune God created this magnificent planet which we call home—as well as the rest of the vast solar system.
The opening of the Holy Bible says, “In the beginning God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God [the Holy Spirit] was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3).
The Gospel of John begins, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5). All members of the Trinity were involved in creation.
The next time you see a snowflake, think of the vastness of God’s marvelous creation and of our Creator-God. It’s funny how mankind assumes a creator and manufacturer for all our gifts and possessions which are mass produced; but the delicate, intricate, and unique snowflakes are taken for granted, often not even giving their sophisticated designs credit for having a designer.
As you contemplate the all-powerful Creator, remember that the baby of Bethlehem was with God, His Father, from the very beginning. The Father sent His only Son into our world that He might live a sinless life and pay the penalty of our sin. Jesus Christ humbled Himself and came and lived on earth with us in human form. One day, maybe very soon, He will return to take us to be with Him forever more! Praise God!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
In less than 60 days of weekly blogging God has been pleased to spread this blog across a wider base than expected.
Abundant Life Now has reached into 9 countries: the United States (the state of Virginia possessing the biggest following), Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Pakistan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and at least one unidentified country.
If you believe this blog is useful and God-honoring, please continue to recommend it to others.
Once again, thank you, and it is my prayer that God will richly bless you during this CHRISTmas season and that you and yours grow spiritually in 2010.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
During this season it seems appropriate to consider how our God surrounds us by His eternal love. Consider Psalm 23.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:1-6 niv
The twenty-third Psalm is the best-loved of all the Psalms for many reasons. It has often been called The Shepherd Psalm. The word picture of a shepherd with His sheep which David chose is significant—he had direct experience as a shepherd caring for sheep (1 Samuel 16:19). David knew that only satisfied sheep who feel totally secure will “lie down in green pastures.”
To me one of the most interesting things about this Psalm is that every angle of need and protection is satisfied. Or looked at another way, we are surrounded by His love and care.
Beneath (under) - “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Beside (sides) - “He leads me beside quiet waters.” Also, “He guides me in paths of righteousness,” suggesting boundaries on both sides.
Before (front) - “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Behind (back) - “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”
Beyond (above) - “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Notice the Psalm begins with my possession, “The LORD is my shepherd,” it continues with my provision, and ends with my prospect, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
God is around you for your protection; the LORD surrounds you forever (Psalm 125:2).
God is above you since the LORD is both in heaven and on earth (Deuteronomy 4:39).
He keeps His watchful eye on you to protect you and all those who revere Him (Psalm 33:18).
God is under you to support you with His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
God is in front of you, leading you; your LORD goes before you (Exodus 13:21; Deuteronomy 1:30).
God is on your side protecting you as He holds your right hand (Isaiah 41:13).
God is behind you providing protection from attacks from the rear (Isaiah 52:12).
God is always near you when you call upon Him (Psalm 145:18).
God is with you; therefore you should not fear (Isaiah 41:10).
God is for you. Because of that no one can effectively stand against you (Romans 8:31).
God dwells with you and with all those who have a humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15).
God is in you, which is your assurance of glory (Colossians 1:27).
In summary, He is everything you need! Christ is your “all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). How thankful we should be that God has made provision for our every need.
CONTEMPLATE: Based only on Psalm 23, where is your God?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Overview: This is an unusual book which relates a conversation between Zhao Qizheng, a renowned Chinese diplomat, and Luis Palau, an American evangelist. It is self-described as a dialogue between an atheist and a theist, between a scientist and a Christian evangelist, between one from the East and one from the West.
From the book: Dr. Palau said, “We came at it from the points of view of an atheist and a believer, but we soon realized that we have a lot in common as human beings, that we respect each other and we enjoy each other’s company.” … Mr. Zhao Qizheng said at the same press conference, “Dr. Palau and I are both rather pure species of our two different cultures. Because both of us were very straightforward during our discussions, we were able to breach the barriers posed by different ideologies and exchange views on a wide range of topics.”
Summary: I found this book to have significant value. It illustrates a very civil and respectful dialogue between individuals with drastically different views. It could be considered a textbook on how to be an effective witness to someone who has very different beliefs and views. The book provides real insight into the mind of a very accomplished self-described atheist. The following is an example of the interchanges:
[Zhao]: For China, Christianity is an imported item. It’s not a local product. Buddhism is also imported from abroad, but it has long been localized so as to make it more compatible with Chinese culture.
[Palau]: I’ve got to say something. Actually, Christianity was imported from heaven to every nation. When Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, Christ brought in Christianity and it’s an important religion for every culture, not just China.
[Zhao]: Most of the major religions claim that theirs is the only God. I cannot discriminate against anyone of them. So I am left with only two choices. The first: I believe all their claims are correct. In that case, there will be many gods. The second choice is: all the claims are unfounded; there’s no God at all. No religion would agree with me on that, either.
[Palau]: It’s too easy to answer that one. There’s no God? Forget it. You got to get serious and say, “I’m going to find God if it’s the last thing I do.” You’re a scientist, you have to dig, dig, dig,
Full Title: A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian
Authors: Luis Palau & Zhao Qizheng
Date Published: 2006
Number of pages: 140
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The title of this blog is “Abundant Life Now.” The God who created everything (Colossians 1:16) and maintains everything (Colossians 1:17) never lacks in abundance. The earth and all that is contained in it belongs to Him (1 Corinthians 10:26-28). We will look at a few of the things which Scripture specifically says are available in “abundance.”
God offers abundant mercy (1 Peter 1:3) and abundant grace (1 Timothy 1:14). Mercy is not getting something negative that is deserved. Grace is getting something positive which is not deserved. (Justice is getting that which is deserved.)
Abundant mercy and abundant grace are available because of abundant pardon (Isaiah 55:7) to those who accept it. Beyond abundant pardon, our God offers abundant life (John 10:10).
Those who have received the abundance mentioned above are eligible for abundant joy (Philippians 1:26) and abundant peace (Psalm 37:11).
All this abundance is due to the abundant power of the omnipotent—all powerful—God (Ephesians 3:20).
Jesus said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 Amp).
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Christians like to repeat the phrase, “God is good … all the time!” That is the message of the Book of Psalms. However, it may not always seem that God is good all the time. The Book of Psalms is a great place to find comfort during stressful times. Repeatedly within the Psalms we find phrases such as, “In my distress I called upon the Lord.” Psalms relates much about the difficult nature of life on earth.
When asked how the Book of Psalms is structured, many would reply it is a collection of individual Psalms. Others would say it was Israel’s hymnbook. Both are right. The Psalms were the hymnal of Israel and hence it has been termed “the faith of the Old Testament set to music.” Still others might view the structure of the book through one of several variations of a five-part outline such as:
Israel’s Redeemer and Remnant (1–41)
Israel’s Ruin and Redemption (42–72)
Israel’s Return and Restoration (73–89)
Israel’s Relapse and Recovery (90–106)
Israel’s Re-gathering and Retrospect (107–150)
SUGGESTION: Read the Book of Psalms in a similar manner as you read any other book. Keep in mind the three main parts of any book, the opening, the body, and the close.
Opening—Introduction ~ Psalm 1, sometimes called “The Preface Psalm,” provides the key to understanding the rest of the Psalms. It introduces the contrast of blessing for those who really seek to follow God and for those who go their own way. It clearly states that the Godly man will possess a deep joy and happiness. However, those who go their own way will be miserable—they never find true satisfaction.
Body—Argument ~ The Book of Psalms is not only the biggest book in the Bible but is placed near the center of the Bible. We must never forget that the Psalms, like all the books of the Bible, are about Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said that much of the Psalms are about Him (Luke 24:44). Did you know that of all the Old Testament quotations included in the New Testament about Christ, nearly one-half are from the Psalms? The Book of Psalms relates to the struggles of life on earth.
Close—Conclusion ~ The last Psalm, which has been labeled “the doxology Psalm,” is the conclusion of the book. It is a psalm of praise—the word occurs over and over within this psalm (three times in verse one and twice in every other verse). Actually the last five psalms, 146-150, build to the great finale of Psalm 150, which is like a choral symphony of praise. Imagine a magnificent chorus of thousands of voices singing hallelujah to God combined with a huge orchestra reaching its great climactic notes—that is how this wonderful book ends!
SUGGESTION: Read the Book of Psalms in a similar manner as you read any other book. Keep in mind the three main parts of any book, the opening, the body, and the close.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
God, because of His nature, cannot be unkind, cannot make a mistake, and cannot be surprised! Considering these truths, the only logical conclusion we can come to is that we can rest!!! We can be tranquil in an ever-changing, stressful environment. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7 NIV). “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).
There is an old hymn that says, “Our times are in Thy hands, Father we wish them there.” If He were not both loving and wise, we would dread His control. If He were not sovereign, He would be incapable of control. But since He is who He is, we want Him to be in ultimate control. The beginning and end of one Psalm says, “You are my God and protector. ... I can lie down and sleep soundly because You, LORD, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:1a, 8 CEV).
Perfect love, infinite wisdom, and absolute sovereignty. God is too loving to be unkind, too wise to make a mistake, and is in total control—therefore I can rest!
Visualize a three-legged stool with its three legs providing absolute stability even on uneven and rough ground. These legs are God’s sacrificial love, His infinite wisdom, and His absolute sovereignty. The seat of the stool is labeled peace. The ground below is uneven, but as long as we are seated on the stool, the three legs provide tranquility unknown to the world around us.
In my introduction to this three-part series I mentioned that since these three attributes were impressed upon my mind I have found that others have also come up with three critical aspects of God’s nature and the practical significance of them. There are remarkable similarities in all of them.
A.W. Tozer wrote: With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?
Thomas Eskine put it this way: How reasonable it is to trust ourselves to the keeping of God’s infinite love, and infinite wisdom, and infinite power.
In 2004 I learned that Chuck Swindoll had written on the Book of Job where he states that God is too kind to do anything cruel… too wise to make a mistake… and too deep to explain Himself.
Finally, I found the following saying but without reference or credit to the writer: Lord You are perfect love and want only what is best for me. You are perfect wisdom and You know what is best for me. And You are perfect power and You are able to make it happen.
CONTEMPLATE: Suppose someone asked you to explain the structure of the book of Psalms. How would you reply?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT) The key is to have your thoughts focused on God.
The three attributes of God which the Spirit of God repeatedly uses to bring calm to me are God's sacrificial love, His infinite wisdom, and His absolute sovereignty. Understanding what each of these attributes means and how they are intrinsic to God’s nature and integral with each other brings peace and tranquility.
Sacrificial Love. John, “the apostle whom Jesus loved,” was apparently in a closer relationship with Jesus Christ on earth than others. It is John who tells us “God is love.”
Consider what the Scriptures have to say about God’s Sacrificial Love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:34-39 NKJV).
What would be the consequences of a god who lacked love—even a god who possessed both wisdom and sovereignty, yet lacked perfect sacrificial love? Such a god would be unpredictable and fearsome. Yet our God is complete and perfect and we read “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). A god without perfect love could be cruel or vindictive! The practical implication is that the God of sacrificial love is too loving to be mean. Because of who He is and His nature, He cannot be unkind!
Infinite Wisdom. God is the source of all truth and the origin of all wisdom.
Think for a moment about the God of Infinite Wisdom. “O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions” (Psalm 104:24 NKJV). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33 NKJV). “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV).
What if we worshipped a loving and sovereign god who lacked wisdom? Without complete and accurate insight to guide his action, we would have a god who did not fully understand circumstances, events, and relationships. In other words such a god could exercise bad judgment! Because of God’s Word we can be assured that the God of infinite wisdom is too wise to error. Because of His divine nature, He cannot make a mistake!
Absolute Sovereignty. Sovereignty means control. The Scripture tells us that God is in total control.
Another attribute of the trio is the Absolute Sovereignty of our God. “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV). “And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring’” (Acts 17:25-28 NIV).
What would be the impact of a god who lacked sovereignty but possessed great love and wisdom? Such a god would be a powerless god—an ineffective god, a god who meant well but was incapable of carrying out his desires. God’s absolute sovereignty assures us that He is in complete control, therefore nothing can catch Him off guard. His absolute sovereignty assures us that He cannot be surprised!
CONTEMPLATE: The three identified attributes. Are there other aspects of God’s nature that would be equally effective in dealing with anxiety?
Next time we will look further into the implications of this trio of attributes.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28 NIV)
During a difficult period in my life that lasted about a year and a half, the Lord impressed upon me three attributes of His nature. Together these three attributes helped me keep things in perspective—and without all three, the stability that I needed would not have been complete. It is for this reason that I have come to think of these three aspects of the uniqueness of God as a tri-Rx for anxiety, worry, or fear. I also think of it as a three-legged stool of stability.
Following the tragic events of 9/11 when international terrorism reached within our borders, these three divine attributes returned to my thinking, bringing peace and calm in a turbulent environment. I am confident that they will have a calming effect on any Christian who reflects upon them. When we focus on what the Word of God teaches about each of these divine attributes, we see things with a long-term perspective and are therefore able to handle any crisis that comes our way. Remember, we have the promise from God that if we know Him, He will not tempt or try us beyond that which we are able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Understanding this divine tri-Rx for fear has enabled me to work through difficult circumstances without losing confidence in my Creator, Sustainer, and Provider.
Consider the analogy of a three-legged stool. First the importance of three legs to a stool. With two legs a stool would fall over without constant effort to balance it. With four legs each leg must be precise in length and angle or the stool rocks back and forth as the weight shifts on the stool—and of course on uneven ground it is unstable. Only a three-legged stool remains steadfast regardless of circumstances or the setting where it is placed.
Certainly we know that God has many more than three important attributes. But the Spirit of God has repeatedly impressed upon me the importance of three particular sustaining attributes—and as He has, my thinking has been clarified about these attributes. Over the years as these three attributes have become precious to me, I have found writings of others who discovered a similar strength from three attributes—and the similarity, yet differences, of thought has been remarkable. I will mention those later. Finding some common threads from others has also helped me sharpen my explanation of the three.
The subject of this blog will be broken into a 3-part series.
The Three Antidotes for Fear and Worry
Summary & Conclusions
Please note that I deliberately do not number or imply rank to the three attributes. In a three-legged stool each leg is as critically important as the other two and each is absolutely essential. In this compound Rx each ingredient is equally vital.
CONTEMPLATE: Suppose a brand new Christian, who knows very little about the Bible, came to you with the following question: “I read that God will keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3), but I have a lot of worries. What should I dwell on to help settle my anxiety?”
Next time we will identify and describe three vital antidotes for fear and worry.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The passion underlying this blog is to create a forum for discussion centered around (1) basic Christian living, (2) foundational Christian truth, and (3) how to be salt and light in a desperately needy world. By contrast, this is not a blog for minor doctrinal arguments, denominational critiques, or for heavy theological arguments.
By way of background I will mention that since the release of the first book in the “Christian Concepts Series” entitled “Thy Will Be Done On Earth: Understanding God’s Will for You” I have had the opportunity to meet with many pastors, and when I mention my concern about the lack of doctrine in the pews of most North American churches I always connect. In fact, I’ve had a number of pastors become tearful as we discuss this common concern.
Since our intent is to create a forum of two-way discussion of the fundamentals of the Christian life and Christian living, we need readers and contributors. If you subscribe to this forum and recommend it to others, the discussion and content will be greatly enhanced!
Our intent is to add new content at least weekly and to respond to others’ input more frequently. Please contribute input, ask questions, discuss, and let’s grow in our Christian faith together.
The column to the right provides basic career background.
I have been fortunate to be married to a Proverbs 31 kind of wife since 1968 and we are now empty-nesters. Together we have two fantastic daughters who married two Godly husbands. We are blessed with two wonderful grandkids and two special grand-pets. God has been so very good to us—far beyond what we deserve. All we have and all we have become or accomplished is entirely the result of God’s grace!