Security is a dancing phantom, much like the shadows of clouds that flit across the landscape. Yet we long for security in an insecure world. We fear for our health. We fear for our financial “security”. We seek secure investments. We lock our doors in an effort to ensure security. We fear hackers and stolen identities, so we pay for security systems to make our digital identities secure. We may arm ourselves to ward off a nightime intruder. We don’t walk alone at night in a dark place. We do all these things because of our fears in an effort to be secure.
Security in Jesus is not something that I was raised with. In many ways, I grew up in a hellfire and brimstone church that had one trembling with fear every time you had an evil thought or did something you shouldn’t. At those moments we were urged to smell the smoke of the pit that was licking at our feet and about to pull us downward forever.
I thank God that I’ve learned a bit more about security as a Christ-believer. Consider these things:
ONE: the Christian is united with Christ, seated with him (Ephesians 2:6);
TWO: we are hidden with him in God (Colossians 3:3);
THREE: we cannot be divided or separated from him by life or death or anything in existence (John 10:29, Romans 8:38-39).
What is the implication of those things? Simply put it is this: the Christian is as secure as Christ himself is secure!!! And you just don’t get more secure than that.
I love what Martin Luther said: World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won’t succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won’t harm me. I have One who will give me a new one.
It is so much better to smell the rarified air of heaven than the smoke of the pit.
Believer: rest in Christ. You are as secure as he himself is!
PRAYER: We shout with joy for the security we have found in your, Lord God! Thank you for understanding our fears and our need to feel secure and for giving us the security we sought! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In his book, The New Absolutes, William Watkins cited several studies and then concluded, “Roughly three out of four Americans claimed they embraced relativism and opposed absolutism.” (p. 26) Only 9% of American, born-again teens believe in absolute truth, and the percentage of American adults that believe it isn’t much higher.
Isn’t the statement, “there is no absolute truth” even a denial of that assertion? Isn’t it a statement that purports an absolute truth (“There is no absolute truth”) while denying its existence?
Some truths are not negotiable, they are absolute. It matters whether you breathe water or oxygen. If you breathe water you will drown, it is an absolute truth.
When I go to the doctor, I want him to prescribe me the proper dosage of medication I need. It wouldn’t be right for him or her to say to me, “Take as much as you want.” Too much could kill me, not enough wouldn’t help me; I need the right dosage.
When I get ready to fly somewhere, I want the counter person to tell me the correct flight to board, I don’t want to hear, “It doesn’t matter which plane you get on, they all will take you to the same place.” I want to know the absolute truth.
With all due respect to the majority opinion in our society, there is an absolute truth. Jesus said, “… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Just because someone makes a claim isn’t proof that it is true…but sometimes it is. We must each decide if we believe Jesus was right or wrong when he made the claim he did.
One can make the valid argument that physical things are more easily definable as absolute truths (such as breathing the right kind of air versus water) than in the spiritual realm. But our experience in the physical realm should give us clues about how the spiritual realm may operate: if there are absolute truths in one area, why not in all? And therein comes the rub – we can’t prove God’s existence, we can’t prove He is love, we can’t prove there is life after death. There are those who claim that God doesn’t exist, and those who believe He does. He can’t both not exist and exist at the same time. He is either there or He isn’t. Heaven and hell exist or they don’t – but both cannot possibly be true because they are diametrically opposed – like the on or off of a light switch.
Anyone who tells you that there is no such thing as absolute truth wants to ignore the facts of experience. If you were to suggest that they go breath water for 30 minutes if it is not absolutely true that it will kill them, they’d think you’ve lost it, but you’ll have made your point.
Let’s search for Truth. It matters!!!
PRAYER: Give us wisdom to recognize and know truth! May we have discernment in a world that denies the very existence of truth in any form! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I believe it was Ben Franklin who coined the saying, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” But what you may not know is why that saying came to be. Partly, at least, it was due to recognition of the fact that the night time is perilous and fraught with danger and the wise will go to bed early rather than be out and about where they are more prone to being attacked and hurt!
In 21st century America, we have artificial light all around us: streetlights, tungsten lights, fluorescent lights, spotlights, stoplights, car lights, flashing lights, strobe lights…it seems that you can’t get away from artificial light. Artificial light is so pervasive that it is hard to find a place to really view the stars. We are blessed to live in the country, and when people come out to our home in the evenings, they usually come out as they prepare to go home and are shocked by how many stars they can see. Those same stars are in the skies over their own home in town, but they just can’t see them because of all the ambient light from artificial sources. Because light is so prevalent today, it is difficult for us to appreciate the way night was perceived in earlier times. For millennia, people illuminated their dwellings and workplaces with fire. It was not until William Murdock invented the gaslight in 1803, that large areas could be lit up after dark. For centuries before that, people literally walked in darkness if they walked at all at night.
It was true in Bible times. People living then fully comprehended the meaning and dangers of the darkness. When a prophet said that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, they were speaking of something vivid, dramatic and hopeful. When they spoke of Christ as the light of the world, they were making the claim that Jesus had the ability to transform their world from one of darkness, danger and despair to one of hope, safety and joy. It helps us to understand the literal darkness of that ancient world to appreciate the words of the Psalmist: The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? (27:1) Or, the words of St. John: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (1:5)
Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost point on the North American continent. Because of the tilt of the earth on its axis, Barrow is also one of the darkest places in the world. The sun sets in Barrow in November and won’t show up again until sometime in late January. Getting through over two months of perpetual night cannot be easy – and it isn’t, not even to the natives who live there: in this tiny, seemingly innocuous outpost home to 3,000 hardy hunters, whalers, lawyers and public employees one finds one of the highest attempted suicide rates in Alaska. Darkness drives people to do dark things.
Light, however, pushes people to do things that are right and decent partly because they don’t want dark deeds to be revealed. Light also encourages celebration: the good folk of Barrow have parties on the frozen sea/ground when the sun makes its reappearance.
I look forward to the party when the Son makes His reappearance. How about you?
PRAYER: We rejoice to know that the night won’t last forever, and that even on the darkest night, Your vision is unimpaired and You see all clearly and can defend us from the dangers that we cannot even see ourselves! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? – Job 7:17-18
As you were driving in to work this morning, how many people stopped and applauded as you drove by? When you left the house this morning, did you get a kiss or hug from someone who loves and appreciates you? When you got to the gym to work out, did someone say, “I really want to introduce some folks to you because you’re so special”? Probably not. Chances are that you didn’t have a reserved parking spot in the parking lot. Most likely, no cop pulled you over and gave you $100 and said, “You know, all these years I’ve seen you drive by and never once were you breaking the speed limit. I just want you to have this to know how much I appreciate you!” Not in this lifetime, right? Not in this world!
It is easy to start to think that we really don’t matter very much. It is so easy to get lost in the shuffling noises of 7 billion inhabitants of the planet called Earth. It is easy to be overshadowed on the job site, in the grocery store, at the bank, in the church pew. We want recognition. We want to be appreciated. We want to know that we matter to someone – somewhere – sometime. And it is easy to feel and to be overlooked, ignored and to come to the conclusion that we just don’t really matter to anyone.
Listen to Jesus: Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. – Matthew 18:18-19
The ancients had a saying: “As above, so below”…meaning that if the gods got angry and went on a rampage, the gods would rain cataclysm and endless disaster down on the denizens of earth. Jesus, however, turned that around: He who listens to you listens to me. He who rejects you rejects me. As below, so above. What happens when believers pray? Heaven responds. When goes on when a sinner repents? The angels break out in song. When a God-mission succeeds, Satan falls like lightning from the sky. On the other hand, when believers rebel against God, the Holy Spirit is grieved and saddened.
Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that what we humans do here doesn’t affect anyone. Let’s not play the foolish game of saying that “What I do isn’t affecting of hurting anyone else, so leave me alone!” If Jesus knows what he’s talking about (and he does!) know this certainty: what we humans do here on earth affects the cosmos! We matter – far more than we can possibly comprehend or know, because we matter to God! And today you also matter because of what you will do, say and think. Matter in a positive way!
PRAYER: Thank You that You notice us from heaven above and sing Your songs of love over us so we will know that without a doubt, we matter! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“It’s not fair.” Wow…if I had a nickel for every time I heard (or offered) that excuse, I’d own North America.
We have a sense that things should be fair. We expect others to treat us fairly and we are upset when we feel we are being treated unfairly. We generally try to be fair to others – hoping that someday, if the tables should ever be turned, that they’ll respond in kind to us. I’m not real clear on the relationship between fairness and justice – but we want them, even if we can’t fully explain them.
One of the knocks against God has always been that He’s not fair in how He treats people. Let me admit right up front that I don’t understand all, or even most, and maybe very few – of God’s ways. I certainly don’t understand His reasoning. I don’t have to understand His reasons in order to believe He is a good God. I just have to decide if I will trust that He, being good, MUST also be fair. How could a God who isn’t fair be good? (There may be a way, but as a human I can’t grasp it!)
So I must conclude that God is fair in His dealings with everyone. Isn’t that part of the rationale behind the statement about how He sends the rain on the just and unjust alike? He deals even-handedly. He provides opportunities for people to respond. Some respond and choose the path of righteousness and others the pathway of evil. Still, a LOT of what God has done throughout history hasn’t seemed fair to people. Why didn’t God denounce Jacob for his sneaky, conniving ways against his father and brother? Why didn’t God cut off his relationship with David because of David’s horrendous activities? Why did Jesus not make a big deal about the adulteress for her open disregard of the moral laws and then attack the Pharisees so viciously for the sin of lust? Why did God let Peter bounce back after his denial of Christ in the courtyard when Judas wasn’t “called” back for forgiveness? Why did God choose to use Saul/Paul after his persecution and murder of Christians in the zeal of the early years in his life? Why?
Why? The answer is because there is nothing in the entire universe that is as tenacious and determined as the grace of God. The Gospel of John tells us: God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
Yeah, God could have done all those things to the people in the paragraph before last. If He did, it would have been just. But would it have been fair? Maybe. But the point is this: He DIDN’T do those things because His interest isn’t in pointing out every little flaw and making sure that we pay for them…but rather to point to Jesus and say, “He’s paid for them so that I can be merciful and extend grace to YOU!”
It’s not fair…but I’m grateful for it anyway.
PRAYER: Father God, for Your tenacious grace, we praise Your Name! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/12/20: Lurching Toward the Hay Bale
From the DayBreaks archive, June 2010:
I’ve been preaching for the past couple of weeks about faith…and doubt. Churches and Christians like to hear about faith but doubt is not frequently spoken of unless it is in condemnatory terms. I, for one, that that’s sad. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that doubt per se is a good thing, but then again, it isn’t always bad, either. For example, there were those who doubted the church’s teaching in centuries gone by that suggested slavery was right, or who didn’t agree that medicine was an instrument of the Devil and that Christian’s shouldn’t use it because it reflected a lack of faith in God and prayer. In those cases, people were right to doubt the position of the church and argue against it.
In my own life, I have found doubt to be constructive. When I have doubts, it drives me to study, to reflect, to listen and learn all that I can to determine the truth of a matter. I think that’s good. As I’ve said on multiple occasions before: the truth never has to be afraid of being examined. Truth will always be truth, just as 2+2 will always be 4 in a decimal world.
Doubt can, however, also be bad…even deadly. There is a story that was told by a 14th century monk from France about a donkey that was confronted with two equally attractive, delicious looking and equally distant bales of hay. The animal stares at one, then the other, leans to move towards one but then hesitates…stares some more, then leans to go to the other one…but then hesitates, stares some more…and so it goes until eventually the animal dies of starvation because he has no logical justification for moving towards one bale of hay or the other. It never reached the food it so desperately needed because it couldn’t make up its mind between the two alternatives.
Simply put: without some element of risk, there is and can be no faith. But being stuck in the middle between faith and doubt and not moving towards one or the other, may be the greatest danger of all, because it removes all passion from a relationship with God. Jesus himself seems to have stressed this point when he told the Laodiceans in Revelation that he wished they were either “hot or cold” – anything but lukewarm. Those who are waiting for an empirical proof of the existence of God will have to wait until the Second Coming – but then it will be too late to conduct experiments to determine the reality and truth of God’s existence and of Jesus’ identity. Those who fail to move in faith towards God because they can’t prove to themselves if He’s real will eventually, like the donkey, starve to death spiritually because faith for them has become an intellectual question – and that is never the definition of Biblical faith.
As the apostle Paul wrote, As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. – 2 Corinthians 6:1-2
As Moses said to Israel as they readied to enter the promised land: Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Don’t die of spiritual starvation because of doubts. Eat of the Bread of Life…and live!
PRAYER: We have so often been caught up in smooth talk and persuasive arguments that have led us in the wrong ways and caused us to doubt. Help us to not doubt in Your goodness, nor in the offer You extend to us that we may eat and live! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/11/20: The God who Never Answers Prayers
From the DayBreaks archive, June 2010:
This past Saturday, we had a Celebration of Life service for one of the godliest and most grace-filled women I’ve ever had the chance to meet. She’d been a faithful member of our congregation for a number of years before she finally lost her struggle to cancer. It wasn’t her first bout with that enemy – I know she’d fought and defeated it at least twice before it rose up too strong to be overcome. It was a wonderful celebration we had – this woman was truly a saint and it showed through those her life had touched. It was a celebration – but also a reminder that there is an enemy named death.
In Greek mythology, Hades, the god of the Underworld, the god of the Dead, was the most hated of all the immortal beings because he was held to be the only god who never answered prayer. Never.
The exception that proves the rule is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus was the greatest of mortal musicians. When his beloved wife, Eurydice, died, he simply could not accept the finality of that loss. So he took his harp and journeyed to the Underworld where he played so beautifully, sang so poignantly of grief and sorrow, that tears of molten iron ran down the normally immovable face of Hades, and for the only time ever recorded, he relented. Eurydice would be permitted to follow Orpheus back into the world of the living, the world of the sun. But he must not look behind him until they had both safely emerged from the darkness of Hades’ realm back into the sunlight.
So imagine Orpheus’ feelings as he begins the long walk by himself through the dark tunnel. He sees the small point of light at the end, and he begins to hear faint footsteps, growing ever louder and more solid, as Eurydice begins to resume physical form and follow behind him. He desperately wants to look backwards and see her again, to confirm that it is her footsteps that he hears approaching behind him! But he dare not.
At the point where they only had one more step to go before Orpheus’ quest to regain Eurydice would be completed, at that instant when one more step would mean his goal would have been achieved and her life would have been snatched back from stone-faced Hades, at that moment she stumbles against a stone and cries out in pain, and by instinct, without thinking, he turns to catch her and keep her from falling. But he has broken the ban, he has violated the requirement, he has transgressed the taboo. And so he turns only to see her for one intolerably heartbreaking moment reaching for him as she evaporates and fades back into the mist, forever lost in the darkness.
Perhaps the hardest thing about Death to accept is that impenetrable wall brutishly erected across your path, that steel door slammed in your face. It simply doesn’t matter how important and essential the departed loved one has been to your life, you aren’t getting him back. That is what makes it the great and final Enemy: “The last enemy to be defeated is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
And that is what Jesus overcame not just by his own resurrection, but by raising Lazarus and the son of the widow from Nain! Should it be any wonder to us that the people were filled with terror and awe when the dead man sat up and began to speak?!
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. – John 5:28-29 This is the last, great and final hope of Christianity – that the stone wall will be shattered, that the steel door will be destroyed…and so we shall be forever with the Lord!
We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
PRAYER: I thank You that YOU are a God who hears the prayers of those who cry out to You, and that You will one day answer even our prayers to see and be with Your saints of all ages once again! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A good number of years back (I hate to think how long ago it was!), I went with a group of men from our church in Tracy, California, on a backpacking trip to the 10 Lakes Basin in Yosemite National Park. We started early in the morning while it was cool – it would be a steep uphill hike, and since we would be spending the night there, we carried heavy packs. It was July – and the temperature was over 100 degrees, even at that elevation. As the day wore on and it got to be mid-to-late afternoon, we knew we had to be getting close to our destination. Every once in a while, we’d lift our heads and gaze at the top of the ridge looming above us – when you’re that tired, you just can’t help but look at the huge peaks and ridges that tower over you and which beckon you to keep hiking up its side. Then, when you finally reach that ridge top, you realize that it isn’t the top at all – that there is another ridge behind and above it – you just couldn’t see it from where you were before. Perspective from below fools you. You then reset your expectations, thinking that what you now see is the real summit – another half-mile off. But then you begin to wonder – is it a false summit, too? I must admit, there were several false summits – and with each false summit, there was disappointment. But we kept going – and we reached our goal – and when we did, it was sweet!
That hike and that experience echo lessons I have learned about the journey of faith. Just as with that backpacking adventure, a faith walk will involve miscalculations, misperceptions, thrills and disappointments – long periods of waiting and even longer periods when it seems as if the uphill trudge will never come to an end. No matter how well one prepares and takes all appropriate cautions and attempts to eliminate all the risks, we never succeed. There will be times when the weather settles in thick and cold and we lose sight of the ridgeline that rises above us – when we can’t see a thing and aren’t sure if we’re still even moving in the right direction.
But this I also have discovered – that when we reach the summit, there is nothing in the world that compares to the feeling of exaltation. But it would never have happened if we had stopped walking at the first false ridgeline, if we quit when we’re in the valley and give up because it seems too hard and we’re not sure if we can make it.
Persistence is not an easy thing to possess as the years mount up and our strength winds down. But too much is at stake to quit this close to the finish line. Keep looking upward…you will reach the destination, not because of you own strength, but because He has guaranteed to carry you over the pathway that you cannot navigate on your own!
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
PRAYER: When times are hard and we are exhausted, be our Strength and guide our footsteps on the upward way until we reach our Rest! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
DayBreaks for 6/09/20: There Ain’t No Stoppin’ Love
When I was young, I recall a dilemma that fascinated me and it was primarily related to a physics problem: What would happen if an unstoppable force collided with an immovable object? To this day I don’t know, but I suppose the answer might be something like this: there is no such thing as an unstoppable force or an immovable object. With enough energy applied, anything is stoppable or immovable.
At least in the physical realm. If the Bible teaches us anything about God it is that His plan is unstoppable. It may seem to us mortals that it is being thwarted left and right but we surely can’t see the entire story or recognize all the force at work.
As I was walking the dog the other day, I had Crowder as my walking companion (via my Alexa-enabled headphones) and I was struck by a portion of the lyrics to the song Golgotha Hill (King of Love) that made realize that there is one unstoppable force in the universe and that is the love of God.
When you think about it, what is the intent of God’s plan? It is to be reunited with his very good creation in love and peace.
What if our own love were like that unstoppable love of God? There would be no child, spousal or elder abuse. There would be no divorce. There would be no war, no stealing, raping, racial injustice, no hearts crushed by infidelity and no families destroyed.
I wish it was as simple as saying, “God fill me with your unstoppable love!” I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing is that easy for me. I do believe that the day will come when his love is all that remains and it will fill us, envelop us, and pour out of us. Until that day my prayer will be to know and experience more of his unstoppable love towards me so that I can love others even as he does.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (CSBBible) – Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.
Romans 8:37-39 (YLT) – …but in all these we more than conquer, through him who loved us; for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things about to be, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
PRAYER: Father, I would know and be possessed by your unstoppable love and I would have that love for others! Our world so desperately needs your unstoppable love right now. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We struggle with many things in life. We struggle with pride, pain, relationships, work, finances, failures, parenting, loving others who are different from us…the list could go on virtually ad infinitum. But there is one thing that we as believers struggle with perhaps more than non-believers. and that thing is forgiveness – and by that I mean accepting that we have been forgiven.
Why is that so? You’d think that of all people on this green and blue orb that Christians would be the quickest ones to accept our forgiveness. And that’s true of many. But there are untold thousands, if not millions, of believers who just have a hard time accepting that our sins are forgiven. I think it is because while we have forgiveness, we also have the Spirit. Part of the role of the Spirit is to convict us of sin – not to torment of agonize us, but to cause us to confess and to steer us back into a good path.
If we are to believe anything about the cross, it must be this: that the price for ALL our sins was paid for – past, present and future, when the God-man died sinlessly. It wasn’t just for the sins I’d committed before I became a believer – though those are surely forgiven – but every sin I’ve committed since then and every sin I’ll ever commit in the future.
Maybe you did something this weekend, or last week, or last month or 20 years ago that you believe can never be forgiven. That simply isn’t true. To say it is unforgiveable is to deny the power of the blood of Jesus’ blood and sacrifice to take care of YOUR sin. My friend, you are not bigger, nor is your sin more powerful than the Father’s heart of love for you.
I love music and find it very powerful in causing me to think. And so I want to share this YouTube link with you from David Crowder’s Forgiven, where he says, “Forgiven, forgiven! Child there is freedom from all of it. Say goodbye to every sin you are forgiven.”
Walk in perfect freedom – now and forever!
Romans 8:1-2 (ESV) – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for our freedom – bought and paid for by your mighty, invincible blood! In Jesus’ name, Amen.