Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Winter Has Passed

When I was a young child, every winter my dad would repeat something he heard his mom say, "Once you make it to January 19th, you have winter licked." I never asked him exactly what she meant, I figured it meant something like spring was just around the corner. But my dad grew up in the far north of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Winter's there are very snowy and long. His mom grew up in northern Finland, so both my dad and grandmother experienced long winters. Spring is not just around the corner from January 19th in the kinds of winters they experienced! Finally, this year, I know what she meant.

Having winter licked doesn't mean that it's almost over and you're almost done with it. What it does mean is that it no longer holds power over you. By January 19th, your body is, for the most part, adjusted to the colder temperatures and the snow. You're accustomed to the shorter daylight hours and you're used to wearing the extra clothing required. It's not that you've conquered winter by making it go away, but you've adjusted to it, accepted it, and are enjoying life. You realize that you can do this. You can make it through, and not with an attitude either. All the while you know that spring will come--it won't be winter forever. Not even in northern Michigan!

This is the kind of thinking we need to have when we are going through difficult times. We don't gain anything by fighting against the seasons of life that come our way. Each season has a purpose for us, and a preparation for the next season. I'm not talking about the troubles that your adversary, the devil, tries to trap you into and defeat you with. I'm talking about the seasons of life that God leads you through. Learn how to live this season with praise on your lips and a grateful heart. Before you know it, Spring will come.

For behold, the winter is past
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers have already appeared in the land;
The time has arrived
for pruning the vines,
And the voice of the turtledove
has been heard in our land.
The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom
have given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one,
And come along!

Song of Solomon 2:11-13

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lord, If it's You...

Peter said to Him,
"Lord, if it is You,
command me to come to You
on the water."
And He said, "Come!"
And Peter got out of the boat,
and walked on the water
and came toward Jesus.
Matthew 14:28-29

Peter said, "Lord if it is You." He didn't want the contrary path to lead to just an image of Jesus, some kind of form that wasn't really real, he wanted it to lead to the real Jesus. Just like Peter, we should have the same desire, that whatever path we follow, we want it to lead to the living and real presence of the Lord--not just an image, or a form, or a ghost of memories past. Even if the path we are on is full of miraculous display, if it doesn't end up with us in His presence, then what is it worth? No matter how cool it looks, if it just leads to a form of Jesus and not His living, real, presence, it's not worth a thing.

When we know that our path leads to the Lord, we can put up with some turbulence. All of that doesn't matter if it takes us into His arms. In fact, Peter realized that the way Jesus was doing it, not fighting against the wind, not putting out a bunch of effort trying to row the boat contrary to the wind, was the way to go. Our own efforts won't do a whole lot when we're fighting against the wind. How much better off would we be if we would work with the Holy Spirit, instead of against Him? 

When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind stopped. Even the wind obeyed Jesus. It cooperated with Him. If His plan became to row the boat to the other side, the wind cooperated with the change of plans, whatever He wanted to do, it would obey. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He was trying to teach His disciples about His authority in the earth, and how they too could operate in the authority He had given to them. How often do we pray, "Lord if it's Your will..." when we might do better by praying, "Lord if it is You..." If it brings man into the presence of God, teaching and training them in His ways, then He has given us the authority to do it.

Seeing Jesus operate in His authority, can be a frightening thing, but when we know Him well enough to recognize His voice, He calms our fears. The very thing we say we want--a miraculous walk with the Lord--can also be frightening. However, He is right there to help us, and to teach us, how to walk as He did in the earth. When we are in pursuit of meeting with Jesus, we must not be afraid, but walk out in the authority He has given. As we examine the paths that are presented before us each day, may we pray, "Lord if it is You, I will take courage and not be afraid! I will walk on Your authority. I will meet with You!"

Read the whole story in Matthew 14: 22-33, Mark 6:45-52
See also Matthew 28:18-20

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sons of the Kingdom Filling the Earth!

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right
to become the children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
who were born, not of blood
nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man,
but of God.
John 1:12-13

God spoke to Adam and Eve and said to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." His desire was for the earth to be filled with people. God loves people and wanted an entire earth full. Of course we know what happened--sin entered and the life of God died within the nature of mankind. Still, Adam and Eve began to fulfill God's command to fill the earth, yet wickedness increased and God shortened man's lifespan to 120 years.

Noah was a righteous man, and God spoke to him instructing him to build the ark so he and his family would be saved. After the flood, God told Noah and his sons to "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." Just like He said to Adam and Even. He even said, "populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." Once again, God wanted lots of babies! However, the people became wicked again. At some point, man's lifespan became shortened to 70 or 80 years. God did not just want a planet full of people, but a planet full of His people--righteous people--who would walk in His ways of love and goodness. For there to remain a family of godly people, man's days had to be cut short. It would just take too long to fill the earth with righteous people otherwise, for God is taking into consideration the righteous people of all generations.

Jesus told the parable of the tares among wheat. He is as one who sowed sons of the kingdom into the world. The enemy came and sowed sons of the evil one. The landowner said to let them both grow together until the harvest, so as not to damage the good seed. At harvest time the angels will remove the evil ones and then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father! We have both "growing together" right now on the earth. Yet God doesn't just want a planet full of bodies, He wants Sons of the Kingdom filling the earth!

When God spoke to Abraham, He didn't tell him to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth, like He did Adam, Eve and Noah. Instead He said "I will make you a great nation," and "I will multiply you exceedingly...I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you..." Abraham was not told to be fruitful and multiply. He was told God would do it through him. God established His covenant with Abraham and through it we see that He began separating a people unto Himself.

John says of Jesus, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." Now we have those who are not just born, physically, but those who are born of God spiritually. These are a people who are not just born because a man and a woman decided to have a baby--but born of the will of God!

Jesus told Nicodemus, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit...you must be born again." When is it enough? When will Jesus return? God said to fill the earth--with righteous people. Only He knows when the population of the kingdom has reached the point where it's time to harvest. In the meantime, let's continue to fulfill the command to populate the earth with those who are His, by going into all the world and preaching the gospel to all creation, making disciples of all nations.

Genesis 1:28; Genesis 6:3-8; Genesis 9:1, 7; Psalm 90:10; Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; Genesis 12:2; Genesis 17:2, 6; John 1:11-13; John 3:5-6; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Call to the Roots

But when the sun had risen, 
they were scorched;
and because they had no root,
they withered away.
Matthew 13:6

The other day while I was praying, I saw some roots. I saw them below the soil a little ways, not real far, but below the surface of the ground. I got the impression that the roots were starting to dry out just a bit, and if they dried out too much they would die. It was then that I realized these roots were in the soil of a person's heart. A couple of things could happen. They could begin to move in a direction looking for water, but it may be the path of least resistance which would make them move horizontally just below the surface of the ground and they wouldn't find water that way. Or they could become discouraged, stay where they are and shrivel up and die. They seemed to be discouraged and becoming too dry to have any strength to move and look for water.

Just then, I saw a table of water rising from far below. It came up through the soil and touched the lowest tips of the roots, giving them refreshing drink. The roots responded with fresh energy and moved towards the water for a bigger drink. They were getting refreshed and revived. After a bit, the water receded, moving back down deeper into the earth. As the roots began to dry again, they moved deeper towards the direction of the water. This time they knew which way to go to find the water. The cycle started again. Each time it repeated, the roots moved deeper towards the water, with clear direction and increasing determination to get to the water. 

After seeing this, I realized that the Lord comes to meet us in our shallow place with a taste of His refreshing drink, but He will draw back after a bit, calling us into a deeper place in Him. He could meet us where we are all the time and provide what we need, but He wants us to go deeper. By going deeper, we become stronger, we are more stable and can withstand the winds, the storms and the droughts. We are more fruitful in the deeper place. By His mercy, He rises up to meet us so we do not wither and die, yet He beckons us to push through whatever stands between He and us. 

Have you tasted of the goodness of the Lord, and yet seem to be in a dry place right now? The Lord is calling you into a deeper place. Here is your drink--He loves you and wants to bring you deeper in Him, to the place of strength, stability and refreshing! Move in His direction, move past those things that would stand between He and you. Replace the hard places of your heart with roots that will soften the soil and connect with the Lord who provides all you need. He even provides the strength to pursue Him with. Go after Him with all your strength!

Luke 10:27; John 7:37