Saturday, July 4, 2015

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

Federal Hall George Washington in Prayer

A brass relief of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Federal Hall in New York City
By OptimumPx (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” – King Solomon, 2 Chronicles 6:21 (NIV)
Over the 18 years I’ve written my weekly column and then this blog, I’ve avoided controversial topics. I figure you all get enough—more than enough, perhaps—of that elsewhere. My purpose has always been to give hope, to show that faith and life go hand in hand, that God cares intimately for each of us and is with us every moment of every day.
But I’ve had a heavy heart for my country—and it’s getting heavier.
No, I still will not address the hot button topics here, but I will address what I believe our response, as Christians, should be.
First, read, meditate, know, and obey the Word. Let it permeate every fiber of your being. Allow God to use His Word to transform you from the inside out—heart, mind, and soul. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Next, pray! For revival to sweep the nation, one soul at a time. For the Holy Spirit to ignite the faith of believers and fill our places of worship—and us. For eyes to be opened to the truth, for hearts to be softened to receive the seed of the Word, for strength and courage to be Psalm 1 men and women.
Finally, be salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus said. “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? . . . You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:13–16).
How can you be salt and light? Simple: Live the Word.
And while we must stand up for that which we know is right, we must be careful not to judge other folks.
“Do not judge,” Jesus said, “or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you too will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1–2).
“For I did not come to judge the world,” Jesus said, “but to save it” (John 12:47). “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:17).
Judgment Day is coming, be sure of that. But until then, remember the words of Billy Graham: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”
I just keep asking myself, “What would Jesus do?”

May we continue to pray as George Washington did on the inauguration of this country (April 30, 1789):
“Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy Holy protection; and Thou wilt incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field.
“And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Source for prayer:

More tea: 2 Chronicles 6:12–42

I've just finished reading The Harbinger and The Harbinger Companion by Jonathan Cahn.  
I highly recommend both of them. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Getting into the game

“I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 10:9 (NIV)
When our son gave us tickets for a Pittsburgh Pirates home game, I got online to see what we could and could not take in. It’s been several years since Dean and I have been to PNC Park, and I wanted to review the rules.
Hubby and I aren’t big spenders, so we rarely purchase concession stand food. Oh, I know it’s part of the ballpark experience, but our wallets can stretch only so far. We usually pack a cooler with a picnic lunch. One time we munched on sandwiches on a grassy, shady spot not far from the ballpark.
A few days before the game, I googled “PNC PARK” and clicked on the information page for food and beverage/gate policy.
A hard-sided cooler is out, but we’re allowed one soft-sided bag each, no larger than 16x16x8 inches. No ice packs or cooler inserts. Sealed, clear water bottles no larger than 24-ounces are allowed, but not carbonated beverages, sports drinks, cans or thermoses. Bags are subject to be checked. No surprises there.
But there is a new policy that semi-surprised me: Every person must go through a metal detector before being allowed in the ballpark. It’s similar to going through the security checkpoint at the airport, except you don’t have to take your jacket, belt and shoes off. And you can keep your wallet, keys and watch. But your cell phone, tablet, laptop and camera must go in a tray as you walk through the detector.
In light of today’s world, this is for the safety and protection of everyone who attends the game.
Someday we’ll all stand at the gate of heaven. We won’t have to worry about taking food in—indeed, all who enter will enjoy a banquet of unimaginable proportions. And we won’t need any of our electronic gadgets. Everything we need for our eternal life will be waiting for us in the dwelling place (some versions use the word “mansion”) Jesus said He’d prepare for us (John 14:2).
Although we won’t have to pass through a device that detects things that aren’t allowed in (see Revelation 21:8; 22:15—in short, sin), we do have to pass through the one and only gate that will allow us in: Jesus Himself.
“I am the gate,” He said. “Whoever enters through Me will be saved” (John 10:9).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He said. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
And again: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).
Walking though the gate of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all the sin that would keep us out of heaven.
Have you passed through the gate? Have you gotten into the game?
Thank you, God, for providing the way into Your home. Amen.

More tea: Read John 10:7–11

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Psalm 1 Man

Image courtesy of Simon Howden

The integrity of the upright will guide them. - Proverbs 11:3 (NKJV)
      My father inspected buildings being constructed for the state, making sure the contractors followed the blueprints. Having worked construction himself when he was younger, he knew too well how corners could be cut and a building's integrity undermined. He refused many a contractor's overtures, often gifts of liquor stashed in the back seat of his car. His colleagues soon recognized he could not be bought. He would not allow his personal integrity to be undermined.
      The word integrity comes from two Latin words that together mean "untouched, whole, entire." These two Latin roots also give us integrate, which means "to weave or blend separate entities into a working whole or unit."
      Personal integrity cannot be put on and off like a garment. Rather it is woven into the moral fabric of our lives over time. We weave it in each time we keep a promise or tell the truth no matter what it costs us, whether it's claiming all our income on our tax return, returning extra change we received by mistake, or paying the difference when we're undercharged. We weave it in each time we admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our words and actions.
      My father was a man of integrity - or, as I like to phrase it, a "Psalm 1" man.
      What characterizes a Psalm 1 man, a man of integrity?
      Two things: what he doesn't do and what he does.
       He doesn't walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand around with sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers (v. 1). Notice the verbs show a progression: walking, standing, sitting.     
     Walking in Scripture implies a way of life. The Psalm 1 man walks, all right, but he takes the narrow road, often alone (Matthew 7:13-14). He walks by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and he walks in the light (John 8:12). As a result, the man of integrity walks securely (Proverbs 10:9).
      The Psalm 1 man doesn't "stand in the way of sinners." He doesn't hang out with those for whom wickedness is a way of life. He knows that "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33). The man of integrity keeps moving, knowing if he walks with the wise he'll become wise, and if he associates with fools, he'll get in trouble (Proverbs 13:20 NLT).
      And the Psalm 1 man doesn't "sit in the seat of mockers." Sitting implies settling in and getting comfortable with those who mock God, ridicule Him, and defiantly reject Him. The man of integrity doesn't join in with those who scorn God and His way. Indeed, he stands up for that which is good and true, right and just, noble and holy.
      The Psalm 1 man knows God's Word so well it's a part of him, nourishing him and guiding him, causing him to thrive (verses 2-3).
      All it takes is one man of integrity to influence the world around him. Be that Psalm 1 man.

      May our nation and world be filled with Psalm 1 men. Amen.

More tea: Read Psalm 1

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Finding the trail

Dean leading the way through the woods
on one of our recent hikes.
My soul followeth hard after thee; thy right hand upholdeth me. – Psalm 63:8 (KJV)
Most of the trails my husband and I hike are usually well marked—with clear paths through the woods and markers placed at intervals to let hikers know they’re on the right path.
Note I wrote most of the trails. One trail, which showed little signs of use, wasn’t so clear. Even my husband, who is more at home in the woods than he is anywhere else on earth, had difficulty discerning the way in places. We stopped several times, searching for the gray diamond marker on a tree that would ascertain we were where we were supposed to be.
Life’s trails aren’t always well marked, either. Many times we have to stop to figure out which way we’re supposed to go. We pray, read the Bible, and count on God to direct our steps as He’s promised in His Word.
But sometimes the path just isn’t clear.
A number of years ago, Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life was all the rage. Folks enthusiastically embraced the premise of the book, which is that God has a purpose for each of us. Suddenly people who had no direction in life had direction. The book led many to spiritual faith as they turned to the Scriptures and to God to discover their purpose.
I preach God’s purpose for each of us all the time. But one dear lady, in her eighties, struggles with this. Many of her generation ask not “Why on earth am I here?” but “Why on earth am I still here?”
I struggled to give her a satisfactory answer. Then I came across a devotional reading from the NIV 365-Day Devotional, “What is my purpose and how can I be certain of it?”
“Perhaps our feverish search for the specific is misguided,” the writer said. “Maybe letting go of the pressure to find our purpose and instead following hard after God each new day will center us squarely in the target.”
Following hard after God isn’t hard. Just read His Word, meditate on it, and obey it.
Following hard after God means talking to Him in prayer and listening for His answers. It means knowing He will answer.
Following hard after God means stepping through high grass and over logs lying across the path. It means stopping every now and then to discern the way, trusting He will eventually give you a signpost so you know you’re where you’re supposed to be.
And if you’re not?
Then remember the story of the Good Shepherd who left the 99 to find the one who lost its way.
Don’t stress about the specifics of your purpose on earth. Follow hard after God, dear one, and you’ll never lose your way.
When I begin to stress over whether I’m fulfilling my purpose in life, remind me, O Lord, that YOU will fulfill Your purpose for me (Psalm 138:8). All I have to do is follow hard after You. Amen.