Finding The Source

I love reading the true stories of history and how people coped with the knowledge they had at the time.  Recently I was reading about the London cholera epidemic of 1854.  For a long time it was believed that bad smells were the source of the disease.  However, it was reasoned that those richer with access to properly cleaning themselves were hit with the disease just as many of the poor.  The source was finally traced to a particular area of the city  where the drinking water had become contaminated.  When that was eradicated, the disease came to an end and people enjoyed good health once more.

This drew my thoughts to the diseased condition of our world; not in the physical sense, but spiritually speaking.  The Bible tells us that Jesus “…came that we might have life and that we might have it abundantly.”  To help us achieve that in our world of sinfulness, He has given us His own Holy Word as a guide.  He longs and loves for us to be overflowing in great joy, to know we are loved, to value ourselves, to be honest with each other.  His guidance leads us to achieve that level of success and joy — and we can have it for eternity.

His Word also shows us what pitfalls to avoid.  It’s our choice.  Follow His perfect ways and know indescribable joy and peace.  Turn from His perfect ways and know a destruction of love and joy and peace.

Nearly 3000 years ago, the prophet Isaiah foretold many things.  Some of those things have already come to pass; for example, the birth of Jesus.  He also foretells the second coming of Christ.  That has yet to come.  Interestingly, Isaiah tells us in what condition the world will be just before Jesus returns to claim His own and to set up His perfect Kingdom on earth.  The Bible tells us there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  When that happens, there will be no more sin at all.  Everything will be perfect in love and joy and peace — for eternity.  This life will be for all who choose the way of Jesus now.  Those who choose to turn away from God, in the here and now, will live without Him — for eternity.  What a sad and terrible thought, especially when it doesn’t have to be!

Our world is tragically in a great danger zone with so many people choosing to go against God and His ways in large numbers.  We see our world looking for meaning to life in all the wrong places.  Their judgement is impaired.  What was once known to be bad, they now call good.  What was once known to be good is now called bad.  This is why the world chooses death for babies not yet born, falling under the deception that it’s really just helping women.  This is why the world now embraces men making love to men and women making love to women; men deciding they’re really women and women deciding they’re really men.  Constant drunkenness resulting in vomit and headaches is called fun.  Unfaithfulness in relationships is accepted as the norm while waiting to have sex only after being married is called foolish.   Meanwhile, everyday the crime rate rises around the world.  Shootings, stabbings, bombings — and the world shouts “Why?”  Some blame God, if there is a God, they say.  All the while, God is loving them and longing for them to come to Him for perfect guidance so their world may be filled with meaning rather than emptiness.

Read what  the prophet wrote 3000 years ago in Isaiah 5: “What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart!  They even mock God and say, ‘Hurry up and do something! We want to see what You can do.  Let the Holy One of Israel carry out His plan, for we want to know what it is.’  What sorrow for those who say that what is evil is good and what is good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.  What sorrow for those who are right in their own eyes and think themselves so clever.  What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about the alcohol they can hold.  They take bribes to let the wicked go free and they punish the innocent.”  I encourage you to read the whole chapter.  It’s a sad and terrible picture of the world we live in, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It’s an individual choice to choose God and life —  or not.

Spiritual death is all around us.  It’s an epidemic.  People are searching for joy and meaning to living but death draws near to them.   The source to this epidemic is drinking contaminated water; the dirty water of this sinful world who hates God and His Words of guidance.  We can turn away from the contamination and be made clean instead.  We can drink of the life of Jesus.  “He is the Light of the world and in Him is no darkness at all.”  I John 1:5

The source of eternal death is darkness (those things that are against the ways of God).

The source of eternal life is Jesus.  “He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.”  John 14:6

I invite you to take a moment right now to pray for those you know who are choosing darkness.  May they search for and find the Light.  Jesus is waiting and calling.

 

 

A Matter of Washing Your Feet

Happiness often seems to allude us.  There are all sorts of things or situations that we know makes us happy:  vacation time, reading a good book, watching a favorite old film, coffee with a friend, working on your hobby, plus a whole lot more.  There is much in this physical world to make us happy, but how do we remain happy in our spiritual worlds?

Do you remember those times when the presence of God was so sweet?  Perhaps you were worshipping through song; the notes rising and falling, creating a swell of delight in your innermost being, the words probing thoughts of intimacy with the One you love so much.  Maybe His presence seemed closest as you were walking alone with Him in the beautiful nature He created.  Such moments may have come while reading something in His Word that gave a needed direction, or a reminder of His infinite love for you.  Those moments are strengthening in courage, faith building, sweet in fellowship.  We adore those moments — but they don’t seem to last.  Why?

It could be a matter of washing your feet.  You remember the story of Jesus when He washed His disciples feet?  It’s recorded in John 13.  The disciples were astonished and probably a little embarrassed that they had not thought to wash Jesus’ feet.  It was culturally good behavior in that time and place to wash the feet of one’s visitors.  You see, everyone wore sandals, and roads were dusty.  Therefore, the washing of one’s feet upon arrival was refreshing for the guest and a good idea for the host in keeping the home clean.

The disciples felt badly that they had not thought to be so kind as to wash the feet of Jesus, but Jesus took the opportunity to teach a spiritual lesson.  You see, when any of us comes to Jesus, believing that He came to die on the cross to pay for our sins, and asks His forgiveness, He cleanses us from all sin — a Holy bath.  Then, by the Holy Spirit, He takes up residence in our lives.  We are spiritually born again.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  II Corinthians 5:17  We are forgiven and clean; however, we still live in a sinful world.  In other words, as we walk through the days of our lives, we get our feet dirty.  We don’t need another bath, but as we walk in the world, being tempted by and succumbing to its sinful lure, we need to have our feet washed.

As soon as we know our feet need to be washed; ask Father, with a heart of true repentance, for His forgiveness.  He will immediately wash your dirty feet, restoring your joy once again in the sweetness of His forever forgiveness and love.  There is a level of  intimacy with Jesus that one can never fully attain without understanding — the matter of washing your feet.

You Have A Goal

You have a goal.  It excites you because you envision yourself winning.  Perhaps you aim for a desired weight.  Maybe you’re going to clean out the garage which has been waiting to be done for over a year.  You might be training for the marathon to run that long distance.  Maybe you’re working out at the gym to achieve good muscle tone.  You’re going to cut out junk food and eat more salad.  You’re going to read a good book rather than watch more television.  The list of goals to be met are many.  You can taste the thrill of pursuit —  until you tire of the wait.  You want instant success.  Continued effort drags on.  You sense the dream fading.  Hope all but disappears.  Discouragement takes the place of the adrenalin rush to achieve.  You quit.  Agony.  Failure.  Misery invades a once peaceful heart.

Of course, there are many pursuits that are indeed met.  You sweat, feel the pain of the workout, spend the endless hours pursuing the dream — success!  Oh the happiness!  Then the next week arrives.  The happiness already seems a memory of long, long ago.  The adrenalin has stopped flowing.  The thrill, the elation — totally gone.  What has happened?

The wise King Solomon that we can read about in the Old Testament wrote the following concerning life’s pursuits of happiness: “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless!  What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?  Generations come and go but the earth never changes.  The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.  The wind turns south and then turns north.  Around and around it goes, blowing in circles.”  These verses describe how monotonous life can be in spite of what we gain.

Have you ever felt this way?  Attaining what you had set your sights on, only to know vast disappointment when the ecstasy fades away.  I remember reading about Howard Hughes, one of the richest men, of times not so long ago.  He had everything he could want but he died feeling the most miserable of men.  How could this be?

My father, the late Dr. Chuck Blair, once wrote this: “It seems like man must feel his emptiness before he can partake of divine fullness.  Only God is the soul’s refuge from the meaningless of life.  When one has no hope of heaven, there is no profit in earthly labor.”  

I have known those who have no earthly wealth at all, who struggle with daily needs; yet in joy and peace, they are overflowing in riches.  Those who never pursue and attain unto the love of God, never know the fullness of joy.  Those who know their Heavenly Father, but let the affairs of this world overcome them, lose their focus on what is important.  Then they, too, drain of peace and lasting joy.

The pursuits of earth can bring a type of joy, but the pursuit of God brings riches that are literally — out of this world.

 

When My Dog Looks To Me

Like many dogs, Jack loves to run and play in the woods.  Finding any stick or log is a treasure to him.  It’s sheer happiness to me, also, just to watch his delight in his discovery.  He bravely jumps puddles, climbs the banks, and runs with abandon into the unknown; but once in a while he loses his way.  Unsure, he suddenly looks to me,  his body rigid with anticipation of my direction.

“This way, Jack,” I may say.  Happily he obliges, following where I lead.  Sometimes he starts down an unchartered path.  He looks back, waiting, eyes locked on mine.  “Go ahead, Jack,” I give my verbal agreement to his decision to explore what lies ahead.

When we first got Jack, he did none of the above.  He just ran wild and often got himself into difficulty.  As he has matured, he’s learned that keeping his eyes on me for direction, is actually to his own peace and joy.

How like Jack are we who know our Heavenly Father.  So often we take off in a direction without first seeking Him for guidance.  It’s to our own advantage to take time to ask Father if the way we are thinking of going is the right way.  The more we practice asking and listening, the sharper our spiritual ears to properly discern His guidance.  Like a loving Shepherd, He will always lead us along the right paths.

The way may be a steep climb at times, but Father will be nearby to give us a hand to pull us up.  The way may seem fearful, but the Holy Spirit will keep us remembering the promises that Father will never leave us or abandon us.  The way may be a complete surprise; something we never gave any thought toward.  As long as we hear Father say, “this way, my child,” or “not now, dear one,” or “no, that way, my treasured one,” then we are going the right way.

Always remember, we are never alone on our walks in life.  The Good Shepherd is forever with us, watching our every step, guiding us in every direction.  All we need do is seek Him with all our heart.  Then we will have His own understanding.  Then joy and peace will be ours no matter the paths that are ahead.  This is His promise to all who seek Him.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him — though He is not far from anyone of us.”  Acts 17:27

“…Keep on seeking and you will find…”  Matthew 7:7

A Wisdom Like No Other

We would all like to be wiser.  There are ways to gain wisdom.  Education gives knowledge, and practice of things learned brings about wisdom.  Life situations are better walked through when wisdom has been gained through experience.  The study of psychology explains emotional tools we can use to make us stronger in mind and behavior as we face the uncertainties and hard knocks of relationships with ourselves and with others.

All of the above helps us to attain knowledge that may lead to wisdom, but does it give us lasting joy, peace, meaning in life, and hope that never fades?  What is the difference between wisdom learned on earth and wisdom given by God?  Let’s take a look at Proverbs 3:13-18: “Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.  For wisdom is more profitable that silver, and her wages are better than gold.  Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.  She offers you a long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.  She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.  Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”

Wisdom we gain on earth is profitable.  It will help us in difficult situations.  It will help us to be stronger in broken relationships and in dealing with circumstances that frighten us.  Learning and practicing wisdom through education and practice is not a bad thing, but it will never take us to the heights of hope and joy that the wisdom from God can take us.  You see, the wisdom of the world is incomplete.  The wisdom of the world cannot help us to understand the riches of life in the spiritual realm.

In the spiritual realm we learn to take hold of a joy that surpasses any other happiness found on earth.  In the spiritual realm we come to understand the value that God Himself places on each one of us; we know that we are precious to Him and loved beyond measure.  This love surpasses any earthly love.  (If one has not experienced the personal love of God, the above will make no sense, because spiritual wisdom can only be gained by those who know Jesus Christ personally.)  Spiritual wisdom gives us insight to life after death; the light that those in Christ will live in for eternity, and the darkness that those who reject Christ will live in, also for eternity.  Do you see the explanation of the above scripture in Proverbs 3:18 ; “…wisdom is a tree of life…”  

There are many ways to gain wisdom to help us educationally and relationally on this earth, but there is only one way to gain the wisdom of God that will let us soar the heights of splendor, dive deep into pure love, and embrace hope for an amazing, eternal future.

Such wisdom is available to anyone who reaches out to take this gift from God; given through receiving His Son Jesus, believing He died and rose again, conquering death, forgiving all sin, granting eternal life with Him.  This wisdom is literally from out of this world.

One Thing After Another

Do you remember those periods of time when nothing goes right?  You walk in one direction and the sky of all things possible produces storm clouds that pour torrents of dashed dreams on your parade. You make a turn and fall into a ravine of calamity.  You climb up the side of, keep on trying, only to have the cliff edge crumble as you dig your fingers into the ledge of last hope.  Ever taken that trip?  It’s literally — one thing after another — time and time again.  It’s emotionally debilitating and spiritually exhausting.

What can we do when — one thing after another — follows us wherever we go?  What did Moses do when God told him to lead the Hebrew nation out of bondage?  He was doing exactly as instructed, when all of a sudden, he looks back to sees the army of Pharaoh getting close.  That must have been a scary moment; but wait, what happened?  God parted the waters so all the Hebrews could escape.  Oh, what joy, but then?  Moses had to listen to one complaint after another from the people he was leading to safety.  In the wilderness Moses faced one calamity after another.  What did Moses do?  He stayed focused. He just kept moving forward with his heart bent toward God.

In the New Testament we have stories of Paul.  He listened to God, made the decision to follow him, and what happened?  He was falsely arrested, imprisoned, and beaten, but God gave him the strength needed and he pressed on.  What happened next?  He was shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, and finally ended up under house arrest.  He endured — one thing after another.  What did Paul do?  He stayed focused.  He just kept moving forward with his heart bent toward God.

You and I have our own stories of — one thing after another.  It’s not fun.  We don’t want it.  What can we do?  Stay focused.  Just keep moving forward with our hearts bent towards God.  What good will that do?  The promise from God is as follows in Isaiah 26:3:  “He will keep your mind in perfect peace, all who trust in Him, all who keep their thoughts fixed on Him.”  Stay focused.  You will get through.  You will not drown in sorrow.  You will not stay fallen in the pit of depression.  The Light of the Lord always shines in the darkness.  Stay focused.

 

 

 

 

What Jehoshaphat Knew

Every person of every generation has to face trouble.  There’s no getting around it.  There’s no special exemption to avoids life’s struggles; however, there’s great news in that we don’t have to muddle through the mud of our dilemmas on our own.  There is a mighty weapon available who will strengthen us, lead us, and bring us through to victory in every battle we face.  The weapon?  The wonderful Holy Spirit who resides within every follower of Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is of Jeshoshaphat recorded in II Chronicles 20. He was alerted that a vast army was coming against him and his own smaller army of soldiers.  In our own battles of life, armies of fear and confusion often come against us.  It’s easy to let panic set in.  Jehoshaphat and his army did not waste any time fretting.  The record reveals that they “sought help from the Lord.”  I love this because so often our first thoughts are “what can we do?”  Jehoshaphat’s first thought was “what will God do?”  As the story continues we are told in verse 14, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah…”  Jahaziel shares with the whole army what the Lord had said to him.  The instruction is found in verse 15, “This is what the Lord says to you, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”  Taking hold of that encouraging reminder, the army poised themselves for battle and marched forward.  However, they did not put in the front their best soldiers armed with spears and bows and arrows.  They put forward the musicians to play and sing praises to God.

Doesn’t that sound an unusual thing to have done?  We tell ourselves that such a thing was for Old Testament times.  God worked more mysteriously then, we  mistakingly convince ourselves.  I’m thrilled to tell you, not so!  We know this pattern of facing life’s battles is the same today,  It’s recorded for us in the New Testament book of Ephesians 5:18-19, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.  Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”  

What does this mean exactly?  Is it a verse about the evils of alcohol?  No, it’s a passage about the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a reminder of  just Who is residing within us.  We have a power keg to lead us and empower us with all we need to get through any of life’s difficulties no matter how severe the difficulties become.  When a person is drunk on alcohol, that person is influenced by the content of what they put inside them.  It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.  When we keep in mind Who is living within us, and when we ignite into action His power, we are on the sure road to victorious living.  How to ignite that power?   Go back and look at the instruction in Ephesians,  “..sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs…making music in your hearts to the Lord.”  That’s what Jehoshaphat did: he worshiped first, knowing victory would follow.  He looked immediately to God to show Him the way.

Battles will come.  There’s no escape for any of us to face challenges that at times seem insurmountable.  Never believe the lie of Satan’s darkness that there is no way out.  Never forget the weapon of the wonderful Holy Spirit residing in all who trust Jesus as their own Savior.  Take hold of your weapon.  Engage the Holy Spirit.  Praise and worship God and walk on in victorious living.

 

Putting On Her Socks

What are you squeamish about or what makes your skin crawl?  Everybody has something that makes them go wobbly all over.  For me, it’s touching feet.  I have no idea why but the thought of touching someone’s feet or having anyone touch mine is a horror.  A friend wanted to give me a pedicure as a gift some years ago.  The thought was so abhorrent that I had to come clean and tell her that I would rather remove my own tonsils with a fork.

Then the moment, that all my life I thought I could never handle, presented itself to me.  It was last week while my mother was in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism (doing so much better now).  She swung her legs to the side of the bed as she wanted to go to the bathroom.  I saw her look down at her bedroom shoes.  I moved nearer to her feet.  “My feet are so cold,” she said.  I noticed the socks in her shoes.  She began to lower her arm with great effort to bend down and get her socks.  That’s when it happened; a rush of compassion poured over me.  I heard myself say, “I’ll do that, Mom.”  I reached down, picked up her socks, and pulled them onto her bare feet and up over her ankles.  Then I slipped each bedroom shoe onto her feet.  I helped her stand, get steady, and walked with her to the bathroom.

As I stood outside the door waiting, the verse from Jeremiah 31:3 came to my mind, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; with great tenderness I have drawn you unto myself.”  That’s how Father loves me.  That’s how He loves  you.  He is forever bending down, pulling up our socks of need, helping us to stand steady on shaky legs of weakness.

“How deep the Father’s love for us,  How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure.”  Lyrics by Stuart Townsend

 

One Minute Scrambled Eggs — The Next?

It happened this past Monday morning.  My mother and I were enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast and coffee.  We were eating with speed as I had made an appointment for her to see a doctor because over the weekend she had developed a fiery red throat with white patches.  We both wondered if it could be strep.  The first disappointment came when the doctor she particularly likes was not on duty that day.  She felt thwarted again.  It’s been a tough year as she has disappointingly had a long bout of illness off an on.  Therefore, getting the sore throat, along with an appointment with a doctor she had never seen, was another nail of frustration hammered into an already nail-scarred door of “what next.”

Upon entering the doctor’s office he immediately asked if my mother’s breathing was always that labored.  She answered that she guessed it was asthma or allergy.  “You look grey,” the doctor stated as he grabbed his stethoscope.  After several moments of listening front and back and front again, he said to me that he would call an ambulance but as the hospital was so near I could probably get to Emergency quicker myself.

We got in the car and away I went.  The staff were waiting for us.  Quickly and efficiently my mother was hooked up with an EKG and monitoring of all sorts began.  The doctors discovered a pulmonary embolism.  “It’s big, big ,big,” the doctor said to me.  He then told me that if she hadn’t come to Emergency it was doubtful she would have lasted to the weekend.

She was sent to the Emergency Care Ward, hooked up to oxygen, and a regime of tests began.  The right side of her heart is strained as it over compensated to assist the lungs working hard to breathe while the blood clot was blocking free passage of air.  I was praying and sending out requests to everyone I knew to please join in lifting my mother’s needs to Father.

As the day faded into night, activity lessened around my mother.  I watched her lay there, pale, an oxygen tube attached around her face, very still, exhausted, eyes dull.  “Mom,” I said as I sat close to her, “we can surely thank God that you got that sore throat. It took you to the doctor.  We can surely be thankful that your regular doctor wasn’t in because this new one saw right away that something major was going on.  He got you to Emergency.  We can be thankful for a wise and efficient emergency team.  They saved your life.  It’s actually been a very good day.”  She smiled, nodded, and said, “We can surely be thankful.

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster,  to give you a future ad a hope.'”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

Out Of This World

I read a snippet of an article this week which caught my attention.  Desiring to share it on my blog I searched for the name of the author who wrote the piece but it was no where to be found.  So, with that information, that the following analogy is not from me, I share the following:  “Imagine planning the trip of a lifetime.  You board the flight to proceed to your destination.  You are filled with excitement until you hear the following announcement. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you are enjoying your flight.  We have no destination; therefore, we will fly until we run out of fuel and plunge into the ocean.'” The writer of this article went on to imagine how one would feel being caught in such a situation, comparing it to how we all live life.  We all need to know our life’s destination; not just for our numbered days on earth, but most importantly for eternity.  That was the point that the writer of the above was emphasizing.

It really made me think about those I care about who still have made no decision to invite Jesus Christ into their lives.  It’s like attempting to pilot a plane when you’ve had no flight training whatsoever.  You will surely crash land.  It will be catastrophic.  Such a destiny awaits those who have no spiritual flight plan on earth.  Surely there is more to life than the here and now.  Surely there is something that will take us into eternity.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:19, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”  While it’s so true that knowing Jesus in a personal relationship affords us daily access to His guidance, peace and joy no matter what comes to us, it’s also wonderfully true that there is a life beyond that is literally out of this world!

John wrote in Revelation 21:1 & 5, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.  And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!”  John goes on to tell us that when we get to heaven there will be no more tears and no more death.  Isn’t that amazing?

Life on earth today, with our family and friends, can be so good but it’s only temporary.  If all we can count on is some hopeful days while we are alive now, then what is there to look forward to?  Nothing at all.  But if we are living today with the very Spirit of God residing in us, which comes to anyone who believes that Jesus died for them, will forgive them of everything, and make them a new person, then we have that glorious hope that when we breathe our last breath on earth, we inhale our first breath in heaven which will know no end.  It is eternal.

If I am the pilot of my life, there is no good end in sight; but if Jesus is both the navigator and the pilot, I have nothing to fear and everything wonderful to anticipate.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for us, so that all who believe in Him, should not die without hope, but should live with Him for eternity.”  John 3:16