Vacation Thoughts

We just got home last night from a ten day trip to Tennessee to visit some family. We are all getting old. We visited with a 90 year old aunt who is cared for by her daughter who is in poor health. They were sweet, spunky, and full of laughs. Then there was the uncle who has beginning Alzheimer’s who just had surgery. He was confused, in pain, and scared. His wife, with knee issues was so patient and caring. We stayed in the home of two cousins who visit us often in Wisconsin. They are some of the most generous people I know. People fed us, talked our ears off, loved on us and were happy to see us.

We were there for some “decoration day’s”, a day where the graves of loved ones are decorated with fake flowers. We visited the ashes of my father in law and the tombstone his Tennessee family put up for him. One of my favorite cousins was buried right next to him, with a spot waiting for his wife. We also participated in a graveside service in a Church cemetery where another cousin was buried years ago, two weeks before she was to be married. She was 19. Life is short.

Family is important. They remind us of where we came from and sometimes of where we are going.

For some of the family we visited, their faith was strong. Some were struggling.  None had given up hope. Hope in Jesus.

This trip was a reminder of how important it is to really know Him! He strengthens us, comforts us, heals us, and gives us hope of a better future.

Come Home

Art work by Charlie Mackesy

Luke 15:20 (Berean Study Bible), “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still in the distance, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

In Luke 15 we can read about a man that had two sons. The younger wanted his share of the inheritance before his father had passed. This can tell us a lot about this young man. Normally an inheritance isn’t given until there is a death. In those days the oldest son got a double portion and it is possible he resented this. People who dream of getting their inheritance early usually dream about losing the person early. But this man begs his dad to give it to him now. He was tired of working his father’s land, he was tired of being the second son, and he obviously didn’t respect his father.

The father, in his love, gives the son all that is due him. What does this selfish son do? He leaves everything behind, the work, the family, his social standing, his home. Then he proceeds to fulfill every lust of his flesh. When you have a lot of money, people suddenly want to be your friend. When you are “paying for the next round” or drive the fancy car with all the bells and whistles, when you throw your money around like it will never run out, people use you.

Before long, this young man who was always provided for, who had a family and a home, had an inheritance waiting, had absolutely nothing, and because he had run so far from it all, he found himself alone and starving.

Good thing he finally “came to his senses”. He remembers how good it was back home, he thinks about how his father even treated the servants pretty darn good. It took all of this for him to realize dad wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and his life was a whole lot better than it was at the end of the rope. He began to miss his old life and says to himself:

I will get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:18-19)

Then while he was way down the driveway his father sees him. That means dad’s been watching and he can recognize this son he loves from even very far away. Does he wait for the prodigal to come to him with his tail between his legs, rehearsing the “did you learn your lesson” speech? Nope, he runs to his son and kisses his neck. To this father, it’s like his son had returned from the dead.

What a love. I want that kind of father, don’t you? Well, it’s time we “came to our senses” as well. We have that Father. He recognizes us better than anyone, He is looking for us to come up the drive, He is ready to give us a party in Heaven. He loves us no matter how we have behaved, disrespected, and squandered what He has already given us. He loves you!

Won’t you come home?

I Am Living In Hope

Romans 8:22-25 (BSB), “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.”

Hope is a wonderful thing. It keeps us from giving up, from throwing in the towel, or tucking tail and running away. In that long dark tunnel, hope is that little bit of light way off in the distance that promises you will come out on the other side. Romans eight tells us that we patiently wait for something we hope for, especially when we can’t see it.

Knowing God has healed us, that He wants us healed, can help us be patient when the symptoms are still there. We can pretty much apply that to any promise God has given us. Just because we can’t see it, or maybe it is only that tiny speck of light, doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. God isn’t a liar. If He said it, it is a done deal.

In I Timothy 1:1 Paul calls Jesus our hope, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (Emphasis mine).

Think about that for a minute… Jesus IS hope.

I know that He is in me and I am in Him. So, it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to say that I live IN HOPE.

What will make me lose hope, only me. My wrong thinking, my impatience, my doubt and unbelief, my lack of trust in Him.

I choose hope, I choose Him.

Cross The Bridge

John 3:16 (KJB), “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This is a pretty familiar scripture. Even if they can’t quote it, even non-Christians have seen the reference on T-shirts, ball caps, on signs at football games, and billboards. It’s a wonderful verse. It’s a testimony of God’s love.

If you take a closer look, you’ll notice there are twelve words on each end with “SON” in the middle. God’s love on one side, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten,” and our need on the other, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We are perishing without Him. The wages of sin is death, and life here on this fallen planet is not perfect. We need a savior. God is holy and righteous, we aren’t. He has life for us, yet we are so unworthy, we can’t have it. There is this huge gap between!

God’s solution… Jesus. His Son is the bridge between us and God. He became our sin, so we could become His righteousness. Now, after yielding to Him, we can go across that bridge right into the presence of God.

Have you crossed that bridge?

Get Up

God tells Joshua twice in chapter seven to “Get up”, or some versions say “Rise up.” What was Joshua doing? Lying prostrate and asking God “Why?” They had just lost a battle that they thought was going to be an easy one, in fact all of their fighting men hadn’t even gone along to the battle. Even worse, it was the very first battle after they saw the walls of Jericho fall down.

Joshua was perplexed, he was doing what most of us do…lie down and cry out “Why didn’t you come through for us, are you just going to let me die?”

So God patiently explained Himself- Nope, He told Joshua to “Get Up!” He had already given them something to do with very clear instructions. Yet they hadn’t obeyed. God told Joshua they had sinned. When we disregard God’s instructions there are consequences. They hadn’t won the battle at Jericho because of their strength and courage, but because God’s strength! When we obey, He always has our backs.

Are things tough, maybe it wasn’t your fault, maybe it was sin, no matter what, don’t lie and cry. Get up! Repent if you need to, and then get back to the battle. Have you left something unfinished? Get up and do it!

James 1:22 (NIV), “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Be Vulnerable

The Israelites had been under the hands of the Medians’ for seven years when the Angel of the Lord came to pay Gideon a visit. He said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12) That is a statement birthed from a vision because Gideon was anything but valiant. He was hiding and shaking in his sandals. But God called him valiant.

When we think of a valiant warrior, we picture a big muscle bound man, maybe like Samson, or one filled with courage and who runs to the battle, like David. What we don’t picture is a man who has been put in a vulnerable position. In fact Gideon is so unsure, he asks God to give him a sign, twice.

When they finally go to battle, after God had weeded out the 32,000 warriors until there was only 300 men left. Talk about vulnerable! That still wasn’t enough for God. Let’s read about His plan for Gideon’s big battle.

Judges 7:16-19 (BSB), “He divided the 300 men into three companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’”

Let me set the stage. It’s dark. Gideon’s men make a circle around the Midian camp held 135,000 trained soldiers. The Israelite soldiers each had a piece of pottery with a candle inside and a horn. When the signal was given they were to break the pottery, leaving themselves totally exposed and lit up. And just to make sure the enemy really took a good look, they blew their horns to attract their attention.

Ok, being honest here. I would probably told Gideon he was crazy when he wanted to fight with 300. When he outlined his big plan, I would have left. Good thing I wasn’t there that day because they won. Were they vulnerable? You bet they were. But God had gone before and placed a dream and the rumor mill in the Midian camp. They were already afraid of Gideon and had never even faced him. When they saw the lights and heard the trumpet blowing, the enemy turned on themselves and were totally destroyed. Gideon and his men never even lifted a weapon… other than the shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!”

God wants us in a vulnerable place like Gideon with his candle and horn.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable we sometimes get broken. But God uses broken people in a magnificent way. For Glory needs an openness- light needs an openness. Unless there are some cracks in our pot how can the light come through?

He showed us how to be vulnerable, didn’t He?

For what’s more vulnerable than the God of the Universe clothed in humanity? What’s more vulnerable than the Word made flesh? What is more vulnerable than our Maker handing on a cross?

Can you trust Him like Gideon did?

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” – Walter Anderson

What Do You See?

II Corinthians 3:17- 18 (BSB), “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Picture yourself looking in a mirror, the reflection is you, but not really you. It’s an image, a likeness, of you. We are to be an image and a likeness of Jesus, to reflect His glory, and be transformed into His image.

How do we do that?

There are a few ways. Reading His word is one. Another is to pay attention to what you are paying attention to. We always reflect what we see the most. What has your attention? Is it nightly news, politics, celebrities… all that negative junk? Or what about the enemy, his supposed power, his attacks, and the control he seems to have over the lives of our loved ones. Do we give our spoiled children or our spoiled friends all of our attention? How about our flesh and the lusts that it whines for? If we are giving too much, or any, attention to those things, then we will reflect them. We will be spoiled, whiney, scared, anxious, negative, gloomy, arrogant, judgmental people. Do any of those characteristics reflect Christ?

If we are looking at our problems we will see everything through a negative pair of glasses. If we look at God, we see everything through the glasses of His Love.

Proverbs 27:19 (ESV), “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”

Who has your heart? Keep your eyes on Him!