Monday, May 30, 2016


Remembering Loved Ones Who Have Died

This is Memorial Day.  A day whose primary focus is to remember the men and women who have died in the United States Armed Forces.  The day has taken on additionally those who have died in the performance of their duties as first responders, fire and police.  And as a day to remember our loved ones.  

It is a good thing to take time to remember, to be thankful, to honor.  Lincoln reflected in the Gettysburg Address a sense of grief and purpose and honor for those who died there.  

“We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

These Dead Shall Not Have Died in Vain

Lincoln’s powerful words strike deep into the heart of those who care about those who have died.  To have died in vain is to have died for nothing.  Truly sad.  To have one’s life ended for a noble purpose is a better end.  But what of those who died?  What is their future?   Many think this existence is the full measure of the human and once life leaves the body there is nothing.  Life leads to nothingness in the end. 

Death is Not a Dead End Street

At the moment the soul departs the body the realization of something more rapidly reveals itself. The person with all clarity knows what preceded was quite limited.  Death is not a dead end street, but a thoroughfare to so much more.  Life continues.  Memories are not lost.  Senses are not abandoned, but increased.  The limitations of the human body and physical dimension are removed. 

Regarding Death as Those Who Don’t Know God

God made possible life in Jesus.  Jesus died that people who believe in Him could live.  And those who believe in Jesus pass from this life into His presence and are freed to live life to the fullest measure.  Even knowing this should bring delight to a person’s heart when thinking of a loved one who has died in the Lord.  But many act as though there is no hope.  Have you noticed?  Paul, the apostle, addresses that:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NLT) 

Grieving like people who have no hope is not necessary for the one who trusts in God.  There is a wonderful future and life for those with the Lord.  Sadness at the loss of the presence of someone we love is, of course, appropriate.  To grieve in that way is to grieve properly.  To grieve with hope and trust in God is not the way of this world, but it is for us. 

Life Beyond Death Begins Now

For those who have turned to Jesus and have embraced Him and His ways a new life has already started.  Death is only a portal to more life.  Christians live a multidimensional life.  Take a look at this from the book of Hebrews:  

No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. Hebrews 12:22-23 (NLT)

Those who have gone to heaven are made right and whatever was flawed is corrected because God is at work.  The angels are rejoicing.  God will deal with the issues in our lives and in our world as judge over all things, but there is life going on in heaven.  There is lots more living to do.  

Death is not a dead end street.  Remember those who have died and remember the one who died that all who come to Him may live. 

Monday, May 2, 2016


I Am Going to Love God

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”  Oops.  Now, I am going to love God.  

In the animated movie Up there is a running gag of dogs being distracted by squirrels…even the word is enough to get them off track.  Funny as it is in the movie and often a way of laughing off our own foibles it is still off track.  

There seem to be spiritual squirrels among us.  Dedicated to the things of God and moving forward when suddenly…squirrel, and then days later from the tall weeds we look up and see we aren’t on the path any longer.  Have you ever…squirrel?

Headed for the Land of Promise When…Squirrel

The people of Israel were on their way to the land of promise, but they had opposition.  The issue was how to keep the people from achieving the goals and success God had in store for them.  Balaam was hired to curse the people.  That didn’t work.  He was offered big money if he would do something about the people of God.  He came up with a plan.  Distraction.  

Have the folks be friendly and welcoming to the people of Israel.  Invite them to a wonderful dinner.  After being on the road for so long and eating manna a dinner invitation sounded good.  God had warned them about this, but we all know how much attention is given to those warnings.  They ate food offered to other gods.  They were involved in worshiping Baal.  Part of the worship was sexual.  Those who participated were all in.  Thousands died as a result.  

When Jesus examined the church He mentions a similar issue taking place. 

 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.” Revelation 2:14 (NLT)

Jesus had something better for the people in the church of Pergamum, but they were allowing distraction to keep them from Him and all He had for them.  Notice Jesus’ was not only opposed to the sin of those participating in idol worship and sexual sin, but that people in the church were tolerant of those practices.  

Loving God, following Jesus, seeking His Kingdom are to be first things.  Distractions that interfere with first things and substitute lesser things are a huge problem.  Staying on track and enjoying the fullness of life offered by the Lord is entering the “land flowing with milk and honey.”

Squirrel Spotting

The distractions are all around us.  Have you ever been sitting at a nice dinner with some friends and family when all of a sudden the buzz of a cell phone takes…squirrel…precedence?  Our walk with the Lord or our times with the Lord can have similar interruptions.  The Apostle John notes some squirrels we can watch for.  

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.            1 John 2:15-17 (NLT) 

A craving for physical pleasure.  That can be a distraction.  Food.  Thinking about food.  Eating too much food.  Eating the wrong kinds of food.  Comfort.  Health conscious to the point of distraction.  Exercise to the point of exaltation.  Being controlled by sex.  Physical pleasure God’s way is wonderful, but pursuing a craving for physical pleasure is not God’s way and those things become a…squirrel…distraction.  

As a side note that is one of the reasons for practicing fasting as an exercise in combating the craving for physical pleasure and focusing on the Lord.  

There is a tendency to be going along fine when all of a sudden something we see gets our attention and bam we are all about it.  SQUIRREL.  It could be we just notice something and after a moment of acknowledging it we are back at what God would have us do.  But there is the craving for everything we see.  That craving gets in deep.  It is the kind of thing that can keep a person up nights or make them dissatisfied with their lives, their jobs, their car, their spouse, their God.  If a person has a tendency toward this craving they are always comparing how others have something they don’t and they want it.  Scripture offers this insight: Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6 (NLT)  

Trusting God is crucial for those of us wanting to stay on track with the Lord.  We look to Him for what we need.  We find our fulfillment as His masterpiece in His work and provision in our lives.  To be driven to get and to be bothered when we don’t have is to be caught up in the world.  Trusting God’s way will bring us plenty.  

Did you know that we can be our own distraction?  It’s the “Hey, look at me!”  “Look what I did!”  “Look at what I have!”  “See what I can do!”  syndrome.  Pride.  Not sensible, healthy pride, but puffed up, looking down on others, I’m better than you kind of pride.  Pride can stick to us like cockle burrs.  We can be following Christ and then pick up some pride here and there about some accomplishment, and before long we are all about ME.  My talent.  My accomplishment.  My way.  My stuff.  My looks.  My ideas.  My, my, my…squirrel.  

Think about the things we seek and pray for.  A job for instance.  Being out of work can be stressful.  Bills pile up.  Self-image tanks.  A solemn looking to the Lord can ensue.  Asking others to pray for the job.  Then the Lord grants the job.  A good job.  The bills are paid.  Self-image rises.  After a while remembering the Lord had anything to do with providing the job is lost in the swelling sense of pride in one’s own accomplishments and busyness at the job which takes them away from the Lord.  Squirrel.  

What about the winning team?  The trophy?  The awards we cherish?  The bank accounts we count on?  Should we even pray that someone get the big win or become the big deal if pride could be such a problem?  Probably not.  But we are to submit the “bigs” under the Lordship of Christ and if they come our way rejoice and humbly enjoy whatever comes our way.  Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)  

Squirrel Free

It may seem that squirrel free living is impossible.  Not so.  We will all be squirrely from time to time, but there is a way to stay focused and follow the Lord with fewer off path treks.  Take a look at this.  

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. Galatians 5:16 (NLT) 

Knowing us as He does the Lord graciously sent the Holy Spirit to us to help us with our squirrel problem.  With the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and His effectual guidance we can follow the Lord and flow in the abundance of life He desires for us.  

This is a real thing.  There is the idea in the Christian community that the Holy Spirit is a nice thought. That He is an influence in helping me realize when I mess up, but really it’s just me striving by my will power to be a good person that is making things happen.  The Holy Spirit is a cute concept, a placebo, a sugar pill that doesn’t really do anything but make me think something is happening.  Wow.  If you have those ideas, we need to talk.  The Holy Spirit is freaking awesome!   He is real.  He is effective at what He does.  He is ready to work in all those who let Him do what He does.  

Quick Holy Spirit reminders: 

God wants you to know the Holy Spirit is a great gift and you can even ask God the Father and He will give Him to you.  

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Luke 11:13 (NLT)

The Holy Spirit comes along when we come to Christ.  He regenerates us.  Luke who recorded Jesus’ words here knows that.   To apply this “asking” think of this.  There are times when I seem far from God, separated from the Holy Spirit both of which are impossible since God is omnipresent (everywhere present).  But I can turn to Him and ask Him to come and show up and help which He graciously does.  So it is here.  Ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  God the Father will give Him to you.  Enjoy.  

Even though we as regenerated followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit we can block the Holy Spirit’s work.  He is pictured as a flame in Acts 2 and we are told that we can quench the Spirit.  Like putting the flame of a candle out. 

Do not quench the Spirit   1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NASB)

This can happen when we don’t acknowledge what He is doing on our behalf, we can reject the spiritual manifestations He is using and then we miss out by putting out the fire.  This is an aspect of unbelief and not spiritually healthy. 

Another way to block the Holy Spirit’s work is to grieve Him.  This is more akin to rebellion.  Just doing what feels right.  Doing and saying what seems right to me.  The Holy Spirit is directing one way and we choose to go another.  

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 (NASB)

The Holy Spirit is available.  God wants us to enjoy Him.  To fellowship with Him.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NASB)

To be squirrel free requires the mighty assistance of the Holy Spirit Who is willing and able to do amazing work on our behalf.  

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. Galatians 5:16 (NLT) 

Spiritually focused and not prone to wander from God is a good life.  An abundant life.  A life approved by God.