Chariots of Fire

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When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  (2 Kings 6:15–17, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How many times in our lives have the angelic hosts protected us from harm?  We clearly have no idea.  But if His eye is on the sparrow, I am certain that nothing escapes His attention when it comes to us.  And if when troubles do come (“in this world you will have trouble“), they need not dishearten us (“take heart, I have overcome the world“).  We can learn from them.  We grow character during them.  We can be witnesses through them.  Because nothing touches us that does not first pass through His hands, and which His grace is not sufficient to sustain us through.  And when “the time has come for [our] departure,” may we be able to say that we have “fought the good fight, [we] have finished the race, [we] have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – It may seem at times that “those who are with them,” or that which is against us, are more than “those who are with us,” or that which is for us.  But it just “ain’t” so.  We may be tempted to say “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  But we should open our spiritual eyes and not “be afraid.”  For “if God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31, NIV 1984).

What’s Your Bedrock?

Screenshot (1440)Caption:  A typical family, as they “shelter in place,” worshiping in spirit and in truth via FBC of Sycamore livestream on Sunday, March 22 @ 10:30am.  FBC Sycamore Livestream

The magistrates ordered [Paul and Silas] to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:22–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings –  Greetings from northern Illinois (the “s” is silent), where we are sheltering in place.  Yesterday Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order telling all Illinois residents to shelter in place until at least April 7. “My bedrock has been to rely upon science,” Pritzker said of his decision.

I don’t mean to disparage science (after all God created the science behind His creation) but our bedrock is, and always has been to rely upon God.  Whether we acknowledge Him or not.  Whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Even when we “shelter in place.”  Maybe it will be an inconvenience.  But we have not been “stripped and beaten.”  We have not been “severely flogged.”  While some may feel like it, we have not been “thrown into prison.”  Under such extreme circumstances, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”  We can do the same.

A final musing: “the other prisoners were listening to them.”  During these scary times, the world around us is listening to and watching us.  What are they hearing? Are they hearing griping, complaining and wailing, or are they hearing positive, reassuring words of encouragement and hope about the God we trust?  What are they seeing?  Do they see the same kind of fear that is gripping the world around us, or do they see calm, peace and assurance?

My Advice – Our circumstances have changed.  Our attitude, behavior and outlook need not change. Our bedrock is on “Christ the solid rock.”  Be like Daniel. “Now when Daniel learned that the decree [executive order] had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help.”  (Daniel 6:10–11, NIV 1984).  In Illinois, for a season, we cannot come together in person to worship, as is our custom.  But we can still gather together “virtually” to worship in Spirit and in truth “just as [we] had done before.”  And that’s what really matters.  And as you do, remember, people are listening and watching what the Christians do during “such a time as this.

God bless, and have a “yabba, dabba do time,” and draw closer to God and your family  whether you are required to shelter in place or not.

 

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.

When No Is Good

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1–2, NIV 1984).

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28–30, NIV 1984).

As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NIV 1984).

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love.  (1 John 4:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No – in no respect or degree. No is probably the third word that toddlers learn to say after, after mama and dada.  Typically, no is not something we want to hear or be told.  Typically.  But not always.

  • No Condemnation – “For those who are in [accepted] Christ Jesus.” He took our condemnation upon Himself.  If we are “in” Him the condemnation is gone, being already paid for once for all.
  • No Temptation – Once we are in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit lives within us, making it possible for us to “just say no” to temptation.  “He will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear.”  Often we do, but we do not have to.
  • No One – “Can snatch them out of my hand.”  We are firmly in His grasp and He will never let us go.  No one has the power to loosen His grip on us.
  • No Eye, Ear or Mind – Can see, hear or conceive “what God has prepared for those who love him.”  There is no end to His benevolence towards His children.  It is beyond our ability to fully comprehend and beyond our wildest imagination.
  • No Fear – In love.  The only fear one could possibly feel from a loved is the loss of their love.  Never will He leave or forsake us.  Jesus did not go to the cross for a “romance” that would not last.

My Advice –  There really is no way anyone should ever want to say no to this kind of a relationship.  Say yes to no.

 

Out Of Poverty

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Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  (Mark 12:41–44, NIV 1984).

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:10–11, NIV 1984).

May the words of my [musings] and the meditation of my heart [that went into them] be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – I started my musings on August 12, 2017.  Yesterday total “hits/views,” went over 20,000.  During this time, I have written nearly 1000 (995) musings, with hits/views from 83 different countries.  These statistics are modest when compared to those of many of the blog sites I read or follow.  Yet, I am thankful for those who take the time to “stop by.”

Since the beginning of my musings, I have attempted to “speak the truth in love” and “spread everywhere the fragrance 0f the knowledge of Him.” I have tried to avoid political issues, unless they affected Biblical values (not 100% successful, I suppose).

I suppose that my “offerings” through my musings are not much more than “two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny,”  (although the Scriptures I share are priceless).  My musings do not come from a mind of Spiritual “wealth,” but “I try to “put in everything—all [I have] to [feed] on,” with a hope they “will accomplish what [He] desires and achieve the purpose for which [He sends] it.”  Above all that they “be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

My Advice – Dig deeper and further into my blogs.  “Receive [my musings] with [some] eagerness [but] examine the Scriptures every day to see if what [I blog is] true.” (Acts 17:11, NIV 1984).  God’s blessings to you.  To the extent you find my musings a blessing, I am grateful and humbled.

 

 

Be Strong In Your Weakness

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When the apostles returned…Jesus…took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.  Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there).  (Luke 9:10–14, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “You give them something to eat.”  If there were about five thousand men there, the total crowd may have exceeded ten thousand, when you include women and children.  Jesus was giving the disciples a task that they had inadequate provisions (five loaves and two fish) to complete and no apparent solutions for (insufficient funds to buy the food).  But He took what they did have, blessed it, multiplied it, and made it work.

My Advice – Whenever you are facing a seemingly insurmountable task that God has placed on your heart, do not be discouraged.  Do not focus on the problem, focus on the One who gave you the “problem.”  Is He faithful?  Is He Able?  Is His grace sufficient?  God will not call you to it, if He will not see you through it.  You may feel inadequate to the task, but maybe that is the point.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, NIV 1984).

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7–10, NIV 1984).

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.