When you seem far away

Anyone who has had to travel for work has felt the pangs of separation from their loved ones.  You’re far away and the distance is an ache of loneliness.  You know you will be returning when the business is done but that doesn’t seem to help much.  You end up taking out a picture, reflect on the good times and remember that your relationship still holds regardless of the distance.  That helps.hqdefault

Sometimes the separation isn’t physical – it may be emotional or spiritual. Sickness, bitterness or some other brokeness can put ‘miles’ between us and God.  We feel totally ‘separated’ and ‘messed up.’   The Psalmist describes the feeling; “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord—how long?” (Psalm 6:2,3) There within the separation is a longing for return; “return, O Lord, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” (v 4,5) All we have to offer is an impoverished child-like bargain – save me God and I’ll praise you.

Jesus is the best antidote for this terrible burden of separation; “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) And the rest is in the relationship with our Saviour that assures us that nothing can separate us from His love. The apostle Paul says it best; “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 8:38,39) This scripture is the best picture of our connection to God through Jesus.

Distance of any sort doesn’t matter! God Himself assures us; “‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the LORD, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?'” (Jeremiah 23:23,24)  Open your heart to Him and He will comfort you.

Go in peace for you cannot go where God is not.

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Morning’s first thought

What’s your first thought when you wake up in the morning?  When I smoked,  a cigarette was usually a priority.  Now coffee is often on my sluggish mind as I get out of bed.   Sadly, my flesh is prevalent as I stir from sleep as the day begins.  Sometimes I am grateful to God for a new day and His blessings.   I wish I could say that was my ‘rising’ thought all the time.510oetrjzpl-_sx355_

All is not lost to the flesh.  Soul can follow spirit even if it isn’t our first impulse.  Worship is a choice.  No one makes a real choice half asleep.  We can follow the Psalmist’s example; “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;  in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)   The apostle Paul tells us that God’s Spirit will help us deal with our sluggish bodies; “. .. the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26,27)

Jesus understood our weak bodies all too well; “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) And He still followed through with God’s rescue plan; “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).   Thank you, Jesus! We, fully awake and of sound mind, can confidently follow our spirit into God’s presence; “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy; In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.” (Psalm 5:7) Let that be our conscious decision and habit.

Thankfully our sanctification isn’t the work of our flesh or even our soul or spirit. It is God’s work; “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your entire spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Amen!

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Show us the goodness!

It’s a crazy world with all sorts of bad things happening.  Terrorism, ecological destruction, war and strife abound on the news.  Many can’t see much good in the world anymore and have become very pessimistic.  It’s so easy to slide into a bleak view and the attitude that comes with it.  And then anger becomes a habit rather than an emotional response.  The world is full of wrong and I WILL NOT BE WRONGED!maxresdefault

The Psalmist calls us to; “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.: (Psalm 4:4)  When we let our emotions, especially anger, dictate our immediate reactions – we sin.  Anger is not wrong or sinful in itself.  Anger is an emotion and emotions must be processed mentally in a healthy way before we act on them – ‘meditate and be still’!

For Christians, we have a wonderful filter that all our emotions can be processed through – God’s Word.  The Bible offers guidance, encouragement and comfort for every feeling we can possible have.  Scripture will heal wounds and set us free if we live by them; “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:5)   Often, letting go of anger seems like a sacrifice but in time we realize that we were set free because we trusted in the Lord and His Word.

Scripture tells us: “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26,27)  A nursed grudge is a cursed way of living.  Looking to God for guidance gives us a sense of direction in a dark world; “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good’ Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.” (Psalm 4:6) The Lord’s face will always calm our emotional turbulence and bring peace even in the midst of a storm.

Lasting emotional stability comes from God not from any financial or worldly security; “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.” (Psalm 4:7) We rest in God’s Word and can truly sleep without anxiety; “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (v. 8)

Peace at last!

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Standing alone

Many years ago, when I just started into school administration, a friend and fellow principal warned me that people could love you one minute and turn on you the next.  I thought that was a harsh view of humanity and was surprised that my friend would voice it.  He was usually a very optimistic and charitable person.  I guess experience had taught him a hard lesson about the fickleness of affection, as I was to learn also.33605-keep-standing-hoping-believing-630w-tn

The Psalms describe how deep the hurt of betrayal goes into our spirit.  King David suffered when his son Absalom, turned on him along with many of David’s followers; ” David went on up the slope of the Mount of Olives. He was barefoot and crying, and he covered his head to show his sorrow.” (2 Samuel 15:30) This bitter experience prompted David to lament; “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ (Psalm 3:1,2)   Yet David never lost hope in his God; “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.” (v 3,4)

Jesus understands all to well what these reversals feel like.  He  was welcomed into Jerusalem as a king and a week later the people called for His execution.   Bible.org writes;  “Those who enthusiastically welcome Jesus to Jerusalem as the ‘King of Israel’ are some of the same people who, in a week’s time, will be crying out, ‘We have no king, but Caesar!’  (John 19:15). Those who cry out, ‘Hosanna!’ (Save now!) in our text, will be shouting, ‘He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!’ (Luke 23:35).”   Jesus knows what it is like to be forsaken and hang alone.

And the great mystery and joy of the Gospel is that there is always hope in the Lord!  The great prophet Isaiah exhorts us to this hope; “Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

As we stand alone, like David, hope in the Lord knowing that He has been there and goes before us.

There is always a new day coming.

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Trust

There was a popular TV show about the FBI, whose main character followed the advice of a shadowy informant; “Trust no one!”  This show epitomized the ethos of today where trust of officials and leaders is at an all time low.  This is not a happy time in the world. People are anxious and don’t trust their leaderstrust-your-business-1075x806.

The Bible tells us that we can trust Jesus; “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 2:12)  The Oxford Dictionary defines trust as; “Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.”  Jesus assures us that no matter what troubles we may face, we can get through  them if we rely on Him; “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Happiness is knowing that you have Someone you can always rely on.

Trust in Jesus makes us effective in Kingdom work.  Not because we are so capable but because we believe in His  sovereignty and effectiveness in the world.  Jesus tells us: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)    Without trusting Jesus, we cannot do anything worthwhile for Him; “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  Trust in Jesus makes us effective disciples.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

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Truly Blessed

Would you rather win the lottery and have a million dollars or be blessed? Some would count the money as a blessing.  Others would take the cash.  Few know that being blessed is the guarantee of the greater gift.  In every preference the inclination of the heart is revealed.il_340x270-758834161_6zme

The Bible tells us; “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,  nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” (Psalm 1:1)  What does ‘blessed’ mean here?  Barnes commentary tells us that the word used in this scripture – ‘esher‘ – translates to ‘happy’.  The saying ‘money can’t buy happiness’ is often uttered but judging by the sales of lottery tickets not really believed in our society.  How often do we stand in line at the corner store and observe someone purchase a chance for more ‘happiness’ and a few bottles of temporary ‘contentment’?

Where does true satisfaction and contentment come from? The Psalmist continues; “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (v 2) Jesus teaches us; “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [everyday needs and wants] shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus asks; “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26) There is no lasting contentment or satisfaction in money or the counsel of those who advocate the pursuit of it.

We can’t love God and money at the same time; “No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) The Lord’s prayer puts it all in perspective; “Give us this day our daily bread.”  (Matthew 6:11)

What more do we need for true happiness?

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Failure to thrive

When a baby is born the natural progression is growth and development.  Sometimes that doesn’t happen.  Sadly some babies fail to thrive.  ‘Failure to thrive’ is defined as a; “decelerated or arrested physical growth . . . ,  and is associated with abnormal growth and development. The reason for failure to thrive is inadequate nutrition.”  Babies need nourishment to grow.

Born again Christians have a spiritual need for nourishment as well.  The apostle Peter exhorts us; “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)   Living a holy lifestyle is a matter of choice but maturing in the faith is the  necessity that makes this choice possible.

The apostle Paul confronted the Corinthian church for their failure to thrive.  It was their immaturity that was the problem; “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) We can be ‘born again’ and then fail to thrive in our Christian life if we don’t mature by taking in God’s Word and growing spiritually.

adultbabyThe Bible exhorts us to grow and mature spiritually; “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 6:1-3) Maturing isn’t an option for the Christian; “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (v 11,12) A ‘baby’ Christian can’t inherit what was meant for an adult.

Immature Christians don’t have the capacity to live a holy life because they cannot distinguish the righteousness of holiness from their own wicked self-righteousness; “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13,14)  Holiness takes practice living the Word on a daily basis, taught and corrected by the Holy Spirit.

Maturity and spiritual discernment go hand in hand; “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 1:14)

We all need to grow up!

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