I remember enjoying science fiction as a boy. Many of the themes took reality as we know it and twisted it, to create a different world with an exciting and dangerous set of new challenges and characters. It occurred to me that as we walk through our days there really are two parallel universes running alongside one another. The natural world lies on the surface. It is the one we immediately sense and that commands our attention, without effort. The natural world is experienced through the five senses and is so constantly present that it can seem to be the only world. But there is a parallel universe. We know it through some of the more invisible senses that are built into our design: our thoughts, our heart attitudes, our inner motives. It is in this "unseen" universe that the important matters of life are settled. Here we shape values, find our identity and discover the reality of the God who is spirit and truth. The natural world can mask this "inner world" so much that we can become convinced the outer world is really all that matters, with its wealth, fame and position as the ultimate goals (after all, what do we see every day...and what is our news every day?). Then the natural universe shapes our inner universe. I was reminded that we need to live inside out. We need to make our ultimate goals the ultimate bests that are available within the inner universe: love, kindness and contentment. Then I realized this just wasn't possible in light of the constant presence of the outer world....unless I leaned more on the Lord I have met in my inner world. Of course I realized that there really is only one universe and that the one Lord of all fashioned both...but I must purpose to develop the inner person so the outer world doesn't do the developing for me!
Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
This land has been here for a long time. On the same land where we live generations have lived before. Many people from across past times have worked this land and raised crops and families. Natives fished these rivers and newcomers from across an ocean saw this place as a strange and new home. This same ground and this same air with the ancestors of these same squirrels and oak trees and deer have been the setting for many others. In all likelihood there will be others ahead of us who will inhabit this land as well. This land is our way station on the path to eternity, as it has been for many others. I was struck by the thought that the land has endured the lives and struggles of countless people and the people go, while the land remains. Surely, as great and enduring as the land is, we are grander despite our temporary time here. After all, the land will remain while we arc our way heavenward someday!
Psalm 116:9 I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Come away with me and draw close to the living Lord. Set aside the cares of this world and focus on the presence of Jesus and of His Father. Consider the brevity of your life in the flesh and breathe Heaven's air. You can do this...I think you must do this. Come away with me and consider yourself the richest one, the most powerful one, the most contented one, the most accomplished one...and lay temporary ambitions to a final rest. Come away with me and be moved by the Good News of Jesus' call to friendship rather than the constant discouragement and false allure of the world's news. Come away with me and listen for His voice in your inner chambers. Become acquainted with the Voice you will enjoy for eternity and do not fret for your life.
Song of Solomon 2:10
My beloved spoke, and said to me:
" Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
Monday, March 16, 2009
So I was thinking on the way home about all the modern conveniences I enjoy on a daily basis: electricity, computers, my car, cell phones, central heat and indoor plumbing (I guess this was modern a little while ago!). Then I thought about the fact that I had absolutely nothing to do with the invention or development of any of these. I am able to "stand on the shoulders" of very bright, innovative and enterprising people who have added layer upon layer of technological advance resulting in all of these amenities. If I were assigned the task of inventing a ball point pen, a pocket knife or even a good screwdriver I'd fall woefully short. Then I realized that I stand on the shoulders of wonderful Believers in the Lord Jesus when it comes to my daily walk with the Lord. Faithful disciples, starting with the original eleven plus Paul, countless scribes who tirelessly copied scripture, evangelists who have carried the Gospel around the world and handed down the Good News to the next generation, martyrs who preferred death in this dimension rather than deny the God of the eternal dimension, a faithful friend who courageously shared the simple plan of salvation with me through scriptures that pierced my heart. I wouldn't be a follower of Jesus were it not for the faithfulness of all who have gone before. It was a sobering reminder that there are others who lie ahead, some unborn at this point, who will need our faithfulness to find the Truth. In a very real way we stand on the strong shoulders of those who have gone before.
Psalm 100:5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I'm sure you've seen trucks hauling heavy machinery or manufactured homes on the highway. They generally have very conspicuous signs to warn of their significant cargo and they often have a vehicle ahead and behind them to prevent traffic from getting too close. The other day I saw one of these "scout" vehicles that must have just exited from the highway, without the larger cargo-carrying truck. It was a jeep-like vehicle with a huge banner fastened above the roof saying "Over Sized Load". It seemed strange to see the sign without the "Load" in sight. I realized that if I could see into the hearts of the people in traffic around me I meet read the words "Over Sized Load" there also. Sometimes it's pretty obvious when someone is weighed down with a load they just can't manage and sometimes you don't know about the load until a person collapses under one. I suppose in one sense or another we all carry a load that is over-sized for our framework. We may even be a hazard to those around us, just like the truck hauling a double-wide trailer down the interstate. Aren't you glad that we have a "Right Sized God" for our "Over Sized Load"? He is interested in taking that load off our puny chassis and He even gives us the privilege of sharing some of the load that others carry.
1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Psalm 38: 4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
We live in a material world. It is a world of high touch, where the five senses tend to dominate our perceptions. The media blitz of advertising promotes an ocean of products and services to enhance our appearance, extend our lives, build our muscles, lose our flab and regain the impression of youth. We discuss the weather because that is what we first feel and most universally seem to experience with others. We look forward to spring for the warmth and the natural beauty that will replace the stark cold of winter. We select clothing to make a statement or create an impression and most of our financial decisions revolve around our physical needs. But I would submit that we are essentially spiritual creatures. There is a person within our person who knows that all of the above interests and concerns deal with the very surface of living, while the great issues, problems and questions lie within in places that cannot be physically touched. There is an inner person who wants to be known...wants to understand...and wants the freedom to admit that life is overwhelming and mysterious. I think the real adventure of life takes place for this inner person, who lives for now in a material world, but knows that he is destined for eternity. The material world can enhance the spiritual experience, or we can allow it to distract us from our spiritual destiny.
Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD,
Searching all the inner depths of his heart.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I was thinking about the word "bonds" recently. It has meanings that differ and that reflect interesting aspects of our relationship with the Lord. In one sense, a "bond" is a connection and our connection with our Heavenly Father is the essence of our faith. That connection, like a chemical bond, holds us tight and close to our Creator. The composition of that bond is made of the body and blood of the great Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We can rest in the security of this bond, knowing that it will hold because He holds us, when we could never hold ourselves to Him. I also think of the wonderful and mysterious bonds that are beyond our comprehension that tie and hold as one Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because of these wonderful bonds we are set free from our "bonds". The bonds of sin are shackles that hold us like handcuffs to thoughts, lifestyles and actions that are not pleasing to God and that hinder us from finding the true and lasting Bond with our Lord. Fortunately, the One who has formed the magnificent bond that holds for eternity also has fashioned a key to unlock the bonds that are keeping us from our Lord. I hope you have seen one form of bond fall away to be replaced by a better one!
Psalm 116:16 O LORD, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
Colossians 3:14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Recently I purposed to listen to Christian radio to help keep my mind on the Lord more of the time. The station I chose is one that I have not always enjoyed because of the old music and overly trained voices that can seem too much a part of the past. But there is excellent teaching and devotional thoughts that are shared during the broadcasts, as well, and so I have continued to listen. I discovered myself singing along, even to some of the older songs, because many of them penetrate thick layers of my heart and soul. As a bonus, I have found myself singing some of these songs when the radio isn't turned on at all. When I'm in the shower a hymn or song will just fill my mind and I'll begin to sing. I was reminded that it does matter what we allow into our heads through the eye and ear gates and that its value goes beyond entertainment. I like the idea that music that honors the Lord just bubbles up within without me consciously willing it to. I realize that the kind of music that surfaces when I am alone is a direct result of the kind of music I "program" my mind with. I suppose this is a common experience and from now on I will be curious to see what kind of song shows up in my mind, when I am not listening to the radio.
Psalm 126: 1 When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Genesis 32:28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
I read this passage earlier today and spotted the meaning of "Israel" in the footnotes. Israel literally means "strives with God" or "struggles with God". This is what Jacob spent a night doing as he was on the way back to his homeland with his wives and children. The idea leaped into my mind that this was a great picture of who we are in the Lord. We who have trusted in Christ are much like Jacob. We have two natures. Although we have come to know the Lord, we still strive and struggle and wrestle and wiggle away from (at times) that same Lord. Israel wasn't just the name given to a man...it was the name given to a nation. What if the United States of America were called "The Nation that Wrestles with God". It doesn't have quite the same ring. After all, it would be great to have a national name like "The Nation that Honors God" or "The Nation that Worships God", but I think it is actually the highest of honors to be considered a person or a nation that is grappling with the reality of a living God while also wrestling with the challenges of life in the flesh. I suppose there really is no more exalted name for a human being than to be known as one who is engaged in the heavenly wrestling match. It certainly beats a name like "The one who ignores God" or "The one who hides from God".
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
We were discussing ways to stay close to the Lord during our Sunday Adult class in the Mini Bible College. We decided that it helps to walk with someone else, to encourage and be accountable spiritually. I suppose the term "accountability partner" is somewhat familiar. But I thought of another dimension to walking with others that can help to stay close to the Lord. I think we need a "vulnerability partner" as much as an "accountability partner". We need to be comfortable enough with someone else to open up and reveal the tough times and our sense of weakness, even failure, with a partner who will accept us. We tend to stumble when we react the wrong way to the difficult times and when small problems and troubles get magnified in our aloneness.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.
I think we begin to make strides with the Lord when we admit that it is in our nature to stumble and when we develop the kind of relationships with a few who we'll allow and trust to be close enough to catch us and support us and encourage us before we have totally fallen.