Homesick

Recently, I have been somewhat homesick.  It isn’t a state of being that I often find myself.  Like many people, I tend to go through my daily routine day in and day out.  Yet at times, I find myself overwhelmed with a feeling of homesickness.  Now my homesickness isn’t the typical missing one’s family type of homesickness.  Rather, I find myself homesick for my eternal home with Jesus.

It might sound funny to some, but I have a desire to be in the presence of my beloved Lord.  I can understand the conflict the Apostle Paul had when he said, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:22-23)  There is a desire to be in the presence of the Lord that a child of has in their spirit.  Therefore being homesick ought not be that uncommon.

Sadly, gone are the days when the church sings about heaven and our eternal reward.  It seems that the church has abandoned its core message to one of feel-good.  Along with those hardcore messages about cross, sin and holiness, so went the message of the our eternal reward.  Therefore it is not common to hear people talk about having a desire to be in heaven or to be in anticipation for the Lord’s imminent return.

Unlike many in the “church world” today, I hunger to be with Jesus.  In some ways, I am jealous of those who have gone on home before me.  At this moment, they are enjoying the eternal embrace of the Lord.  However, I am comforted by the thought that soon I too will be joining their eternal celebration around the throne of God.  Therefore, come quickly Lord Jesus.  otpp

 

In Lieu of Recent Events

Lately, there has been a bunch of fuss concerning the area of politics.  There are some who really hate who the President is, and others love him.  Congressional trustworthiness is at an all time low.  Politics in general has divided our nation in such a manner whose likes hasn’t been seen seen since the Civil War.  With this in mind, I thought it pertinent to remind us of some guiding principles from Word of God.

First, like it or not, it was God who has ordained our current governing body.  That inclusive of the current President, each congressional member and judicial official.  Scripture says, “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans13:1-2)  Whereas one might disagree with the current administration, it doesn’t give the right to throw a temper tantrum and break the law because they don’t like the results of the recent election.  To do so, is to rebellion and complain against that which God has ordained, and that didn’t go so well for the children of Israel in the past nor will it bear well today.

Second, we must govern our lives by the Golden Rule. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)  The lack of civility at has recently erupted in society, is in direct contrast of our Lord’s teaching.  In fact, it is sinful behavior, and as such, it will condemn one’s soul to a devil’s hell unless it is repented of.  Christ said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)  Anyone who claims to love the Lord and yet fails to govern their life by the Golden Rule is nothing more than a hypocrite who vainly wears the title of a Christian.

The heart of the matter is not whether or not we agree with the government.  If we disagree with the direction our elected officials are taking us, then under our current former of government we can work toward changing it.  At the heart of the matter is how we as individuals govern our own lives.  We can either govern it according to precepts established in God’s Word or we can be tossed around by our feelings and desires.  “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) –ottp

New Things and Old Songs

Recently, I read an article entitled, Why God Has Never Done a NEW Thing Using OLD Songs.  When I saw this article, I was fearful that it was in reference to the “music wars” that have plague the church.  There are those who desire to throw out the “old sleep in your pew” music and replace it with the newest contemporary music.  Of course, there are those on the opposite side of the pew who dig their feet into the carpet and do everything in their power to resist “devil’s music.”  Sadly, my concerns about the article were correct.

The article’s author begins his thesis by pointing out that there is a a generation of young people that the church is failing to reach.  I agree that the church is doing a poor job of reaching this upcoming generation and that every effort needs to be undertaken to reach them.  However, he attempts to tie the younger generation’s resistance to church to the style of music that a church plays, and this is were I take issue with him.

It isn’t the music or even the preaching (God forbid) that is going to draw individuals to Christ.  The drawing and keeping power comes only from the presence of God.  Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)  Jesus wasn’t referring to praise and worship when He declared that.  He was referring to His death, burial and resurrection.  Praise and worship prepares us to hear and receive from the Lord, but it isn’t like the genie’s lamp that you rub in order to summon God’s presence.

Let me be frank and roll over some toes for a second, the reason the church is losing its young people to the influences of the world has nothing to do with the style of music it plays.  It has everything to do with the fact that the presence of God is missing from our churches.  If we want to reach and keep this younger generation, then we need to stop playing church and get on our knees and seek the Lord until His presence has once again inhabited our lives and our churches.

Seeking His presence–James

from Pulpit to Pulpit

“This is the most important election of our lifetime.”  During this election cycle, this statement has been proclaimed from pulpit to pulpit all across the United States.  The ministers who stand and utter these “prophetic” words earnestly believe that this Presidential election will be a game changer in our society.  President Obama proclaimed to Congress, “Elections have consequences,” and every election cycle ministers remind there flocks of this truth.  In fact, I have even preached this in past years.

Before I go any further let me issue this disclaimer, it is important that we, as believers in Christ, turn out on election day and vote.  Whereas we might not agree with a candidate on every issue, vote for the individual who closely holds your morals and values.  Pray and seek the Lord for wisdom concerning who to vote for.  Listen to God rather than man and vote accordingly.

Have said that, it is important for us to know that in the grand scheme of things this election is not that important.  The Lord has an agenda, and that agenda will come to pass in the Lord’s timing, and there is nothing that we can do to change it.  We tend to live our lives and even cast our votes on our vision of our immediate future, but the Lord sees the bigger eternal picture.  It is the bigger eternal picture that ought to guide our daily lives.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

The Lord has issued a proclamation throughout the Scripture that we are to live our lives in light of the Eternal rather than the temporal.  What would our tomorrow’s be like if every Christian did likewise?  What would change if every Christian voted in light of the eternal rather than the temporal?  News flash: that is what the Lord expects us to do.

Being eternally minded–James

Good good news

Too often, we fail to give the Lord credit for the various blessings He has bestowed upon our lives.  In fact, often we fail to even recognize the hand of God moving in our lives.  We brush it aside and call it everyday occurances.  However, if we were to step back and pay close attention, then we would see God in the little things, in bigger areas, and areas that would require the miraculous.

In my own life, we received some disturbing news.  My father had a spot on one of his lungs.  From the onset, everyone from family to doctors assumed it was cancerous.  The x-rays and CT scans just highlighted the anomaly on my dad’s lung.  The biopsy, however, came back negative.  Whereas one might brush this aside as something less than miraculous, I know that this good news was nothing less than the hand of God moving in my father’s life.

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight  and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”  His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.  But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”  (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)  Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”  So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”  He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”  And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.  We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”  The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.   (John 9:18-34)

Even when Jesus walked upon the earth, people failed to see His miraculous works for what they were. God was moving in their midst and they simply brushed Him aside.  Man has been brushing the hand of God aside ever since.  When confronted with the miraculous, man still refuses to believe it is anything out of the ordinary.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, “In which category do we fall: the naysayers or those that believe?”  I know beyond a shadow of doubt that the spot on my dad’s lung was cancerous, but our God did the miraculous and touched his lungs with His hand.  My God is bigger than cancer.  My God is still a healer.

Bigger than all my problems; bigger than all my fears; God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see.  Bigger than all my questions; bigger than anything; God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot  see. (Gordon Jenson; Bigger than any Mountain)

Believing God–James

from Valley to Valley

I had a teacher in high school who told of a history final he had in college and his answer.  All he had to do was to tell the history of man.  His answer was one line: war with brief periods of peace.  Over the years I have pondered his answer and have come to the conclusion that he was probably right.  Humanity’s history is that of warfare.  Nation against nation, neighbor against neighbor, and brother against brother has been the par for the course since Cain slew Abel.

Whereas the history of humanity can be defined as warfare, the history of man, any given man, could be defined as a struggle.  We have often heard it said, “If it’s not one thing, then it’s another,” or “If just can’t catch a break.”  This too is par for the course in the life of every man.  In church circles, we call these trying life experiences as trials or valleys. I have determined that we travel through life from valley to valley with be if mountaintop experiences.  

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-5)

Our lives are defined by these valley experiences.  Some people are resentful of the trials they go through, and therefore they become bitter in life.  Others seem unfazed by whatever life throws their way.  Regardless of how one handles these unexpected two steps in life’s road, we all still experience the same kinds of life trying moments.  We all experience life in some type of valley.

Our faith plays predominant role in how we deal with these trials life hurls our way. We can either find strength in Christ and draw closer to Him through during trying times, or we can be like the seed in the parable of the sower that fell amongst the stoney places. “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)  

We live in a state of constant struggle with brief intermittent periods of rest: trial to trial, from valley to valley.  It is a constant in life, and something we can’t change.  We must endure it.  I have found that I can only endure it with the Eternal One who has already seen my trials from beginning to end, and He will lead me safely through them.

Trusting in Christ–James

I Can’t Believe My Eyes

Recently, we as a nation endured the heartwrenching tragedy of an immoral man fueled by hate target and assassinate five Dallas police officers because of both their race and profession.  I could hardly believe my eyes when rather than calling the shooter’s actions evil, he was hailed by some as a martyr.  My first thought was, “What is this world coming to?”  To answer my rhetorical question, this world is coming to its end.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

There is no possible way we can stop that which the Lord has preordained.  Those individuals who stand on the street corner with their signs proclaiming the end of the world is near are not too far off with their message. Where they are error is by proclaiming a date and at times the method of the world’s doom.  This world’s fate was sealed the instant Adam sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit.  Therefore, we ought not be shocked when we behold prophecy being fulfilled.

Even though we are experiencing the final moments before Christ’s imminent return, we are stilled called to live holy lives and stand for righteousness.  It is our duty to be “the salt of the earth and light of the world” until Jesus calls us home.  There is no expiration date for salt, and light can’t be eradicated.  So ought be our witness to this lost and dying word.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

I am amazed that the Lord has allowed me to live during this world’s waning days.  He must think a lot of us to grant us the privilege of being amongst some of last individuals to proclaim the gospel before His imminent return.  We can’t afford to squander the opportunity we have been given to stand up for Jesus.

Standing for the Faith–James