The “Bourne Again” Ultimatum

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Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  (John 3:3, NIV 1984).

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, NIV 1984).

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:8, 12, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Ultimatum, a final demand or statement of terms that if not met, will end a relationship or otherwise result in some serious consequence.  Unambiguous, not open to more than one interpretation.

Ultimatum – Unless he is born again.  Through me. Must be saved.

Unambiguous – No one can see.  I am the way.  No one can come.  Found in no one else.  No other name.

There can be no relationship with God without coming to Christ (born again).  Otherwise, the consequences are quite serious.  Eternal separation.  Eternal damnation.  There is no other interpretation or conclusion that can be reached.

My Advice – Meet the terms.  Come to Christ and be born again.  There is no other way.

What Keeps You Up At Night?

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?”  (Job 38:8–11, NIV 1984).

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”   (2 Samuel 24:15–16, NIV 1984).

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  (Matthew 6:25–27, NIV 1984).

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  (Matthews 10:27–28, NIV 1984).

My Musings – So what does keep you up at night?  What are the things that you worry and fret about?  Have they added “a single hour to his life?”  These are troubled times for sure.  Not as troubled as they will become as Christ’s return grows close, but troubled nonetheless.  But one thing we should never lose sight of is that God is still on His throne, He is still sovereign.  Troubled times come and go throughout history, a consequence of the fall.  But just like the “proud waves” God can say, and often has, “this far you may come and no farther!”  Or like the He commanded the angel afflicting Israel, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.

We may never know why certain troubled times come into our world.  And like Frodo, we may “wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring – Tolkien).

So what do we do with the time that is given us, especially in such troubled times?  We need not fear the times or the trouble.  Concern yes, but fear, no.  For such things can only “kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

My Advice – Remember, no matter what we face, God is Sovereign.  If you know Jesus Christ you have nothing to fear, not even fear itself.

Got the Grumbles?

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The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  (Exodus 16:1–3, NIV 1984).

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  (Exodus 2:23–24, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Funny how people tend to remember the past in the context of what they are experiencing in the present, often making the past seem better than it was.  After all, sitting around pots of meat eating all the food they wanted, doesn’t quite seem to coincide with groaning in their slavery.  Image what it would have been like if they had social media.  But before we’re too hard on the Israelites, I’m sure each of us has done something similar, albeit perhaps not so egregious.

As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we should be learning, like Paul, “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”   (Philippians 4:12, NIV 1984).  For like Paul, their will be times when we experience “what it is to be in need,” and “what it is to have plenty.”  (Philippians 4:12, NIV 1984).  What we will learn to keep in mind that wherever we are, or whatever we are going through, the Holy Spirit still resides with in us.  He hears all of our groans and relates them to the Father.  When we experience the good times. He needs to hear our praise as well.

My Advice – Always remember that God is Sovereign.  While not everything we encounter in life will be good, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28, NIV 1984).  Do you love Him?  Have you answered His call?

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Want to grow in your relationship with Christ?  Check out my “Got Spiritual Milk?” blogs.  The complete Bible Study can be purchased at my “Store.”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on March 8, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

 

Even to Our Old Age

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Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV 1984).

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  (Isaiah 46:4, NIV 1984).

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  (Titus 2:1–3, NIV 1984).

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “Life’s just much too hard today,” I hear ev’ry mother say.  The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore. What a drag it is getting old. — Mother’s Little Helper, Rolling Stones.

The first Thursday of each month, members or my High School (Class of 1973), get together.  I work an hour away from home, so I don’t get to attend very often.  I was able to make it this past Thursday though.  There are not many that still live in the area. After 47 years, many have left rural America.  This time there were only six of us.

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(We’re not old, we’re merely the groovy Woodstock generation that has seasoned a bit — far out!)

It’s kind of funny (but really nice) how time has a way of drawing people together who share a common bond.  Even getting hugs from those you barely knew “way back then,” if you knew them at all.  I think (memory is not what it used to be) there were 273 in my graduating class, so it was hard to get to know them all.  Then there were the cliques, which I suspect every High School has. The walls of inclusion/exclusion no longer exist after all these years (which is really nice too), being replaced by that common bond.

Some of us bowled a few games, some (including me) just watched.  But it was the conversation that always makes for a good evening.  There was some reminiscing, as there always is.  But a lot of the evening’s conversation was about who had retired, who was still working and when they planned to retire.  Another topic was about who was recovering from (or facing) joint replacement, and other ailments of aging. And of course, who had grandchildren and how many. Before 8:00 p.m. it was time to head home.  “Can I stay up one more hour mom” has been replaced with “I’m heading to bed early dear.”

Rewind 47 years and imagine a very dissimilar conversation in the High School commons, a few short months before graduation.  In your own special clique, of course.  The conversation most likely (did I mention the memory is not what it used to be?) included topics like — what the future might hold, the job or college plans we had made, who might marry who, and how many kids we would have.  There was no mention of ailments of any kind.  Eighteen year-olds think they are invincible.  We were still optimistic about the future, despite having lived through three assassinations (JFK, RFK and MLK), race riots, and a war (Vietnam) that divided the nation and generations. Who would blame us if that optimism became a little jaded over the years as we lived through two more assassination attempts (Ford and Reagan), a Presidential resignation (Nixon), two impeachments (Clinton and Trump), a resurgence in racism, September 11, 2001, a seemingly unending war on terror, and the great recession?

Well that’s the context for this Sunday’s “amusing.”  Life may be much harder today, but we lived in a fairly privileged country and time.  But remember, our parents lived through the great depression, a World War, and most of the same things we did, while working to building that privileged time for us.  Nevertheless, for some, the pursuit of happiness may have become a bore, or worse, seemingly unachievable.  But life and getting older need not be a “drag,” even when “the days of trouble come and the years approach” that you are tempted to say, “I find no pleasure in them.”  How can that be?

For one, we have a Creator who wants to “rescue” us, “carry” us and “sustain” us “even to [our] old age and gray hairs.”  And, like our parents before us, we have much to offer those who follow us in terms of being “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, sound in faith, and reverence,” that comes with getting a little grayer  and a bit more wrinkled.  And if you are younger, “remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come.

My Advice – The day will dawn and “the time [will] come for [our] departure.”  Live your life in such a way that you can say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” All of this is possible if you have (or will) put your faith in Jesus Christ.  Even if you did not “remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” you can now.

If you read this far, thanks for putting up with a little nostalgia and sentimentality from me.  Despite the “days of trouble” that came for me and my family (see my “Family Album” blog series), we are so glad we placed our trust in our “Creator in the days of [our] youth.” It made those days a lot easier as He rescued us, carried us and sustained us as we have “longed for his appearing.”  I sense He could be coming soon.

 

 

The Secret Every Baby Knows

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My Musings – To be content is to accept or to be satisfied with ones circumstances.  Perhaps the best image of contentment is that of an infant or small child in the arms of their mother.  No matter what else may be going on around them, they feel safe and secure – content.

Paul is writing from prison.  Death is imminent by execution.  One would think he had little to rejoice about, much less greatly.  To reassure the Philippians, who were concerned about him, Paul related to them that he (in jail and facing execution) had no needs.  He had, in fact, learned to be content whether in need or in plenty – whatever the circumstances.

Of course, whether we are in want or when we have plenty – each circumstance presents its own challenges to being content.  When we have, we have a tendency to want what we do not have, leaving us discontented.  When we have not, it seems only natural to be discontented.  Yet often those in need are more likely to be contented than those who want.

So what is this big “secret” that Paul had learned?  Do not focus on the circumstances (“in need” or “have plenty“), focus on the relationship (“through Him who gives me strength“).

My Advice – One might be tempted to think that Paul, being a giant in the faith, couldn’t possibly understand our circumstances.  Think again.  Better yet, read the following written by Paul.  “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”  (2 Corinthians 11:23–29, NIV 1984).

So, if he can, we can.  But not in our own strength, but in Him who give us the strength to be so.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 24, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

High Anxiety

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My Musings – Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or that might (or might not) happen.  Anxiety can rob us of happiness, because happiness is usually dependent on circumstances. When difficulties arise, happiness fades away.  But these difficulties need not rob us of joy, because joy often happens despite circumstances.  If that joy is in the Lord, we need not be anxious about anything.  In everything (all circumstances), we can petition God to drive out the anxiety and replace it with peace. When this happens, it surpasses understanding because having peace and joy in the midst of all kinds of adversity (in everything) is incomprehensible.

My Advice – When faced with oppressive anxiety, pray.  When faced with oppressive anxiety, rejoice (count your blessings) in the Lord.  When faced with anxiety, focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV 1984).  Put this “into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, NIV 1984).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 17, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

 

Where Can I Go?

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My Musings – I see two possible reactions to this – Indescribable peace for those who are resting in Him and uncontrollable anxiety for those who are resisting Him.  We are either relieved by His ever-present watchfulness over us, or disquieted for our inability to escape His presence.  Comfort or conviction.  Nothing to fear or everything to fear.  Love or loathing.  There is no neutral ground of indifference.

My Advice – Seek peace, rest, relief, comfort and love.  Perfect love drives out fear.