Looking Up in 2017

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Hope in Me, and you will be protected from depression and self-pity. Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to Heaven. The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus you are lightened. Heaviness is not of My Kingdom. Cling to hope, and My rays of Light will reach you through the darkness.” Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As Jesus and His disciples were walking by the temple one day, one of them remarked on how beautiful it was. I can see Jesus glancing at it, maybe nodding in agreement, then saying (Message version) “All this you’re admiring so much–the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.” Then He goes on to explain just how bad things will get before He comes back and sets everything to rights. At first glance that might seem like a real joy-killer, but then He says at the end of Luke 21, “Look up, for your redemption draws near.”

It’s easy to despair looking at the events of the world around us. And I’m only thinking of the things that happened this past week! It’s easy to forget how to look at the world through the lens of  wonder, filtering out all the anxiety and dread about what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to buck up, or think beautiful thoughts. He points us to Himself. He is our ultimate hope and the hope of the world.

Sometimes He reminds us of this in the simplest of ways. The other morning I took a walk down by the river and the neighbor cat decided to tag along. I watched as she sprang ahead, leaping with a wild joy as she chased blowing leaves. She high-stepped it, and shaking her feet at the wet grass she almost tripped me by running across my feet. I have to admit, I got caught up in her playfulness.

Why do we humans complicate everything so much? Why do we eat ourselves up with worry? On Friday night I lamented that I was worried about finding a new stop on my route. My wise friend said, “You’re not driving it today.” Then I said something else and she repeated, “You’re not driving it tomorrow either, or Sunday.” I was robbing my moments of peace which I do repeatedly.

As I continued my walk, camera in hand, I got several cute shots of the cat comedienne. I laughed and caught the wonder again through my camera lens. I looked up at the sky peeking through the trees. I need to do more of this, I thought. I walked back up and then smiled all over again when I downloaded the pictures to the computer.

This quote by Frederick Buechner kind of sums up my thoughts today:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and the pain of it, no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

I plan on re-doubling my efforts to keep looking up during the course of the coming year. I plan to remember how to live in wonder at the world around me, and letting Jesus be my filter. I will fail sometimes, of that I have no doubt. But sometimes I will succeed.

What are You Waiting for?

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The end and culmination of all things is near. Therefore, be sound-minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer [staying balanced and focused on the things of God so that your communication will be clear, reasonable, specific and pleasing to Him.] 1 Peter 4:7

As I sat this morning in the quiet, my thoughts traveled back through the years to a maroon pew and a summer night. It wasn’t any particular church night,  just a culmination of all of them I guess. I heard the melody of a hymn that I can’t quite place but I wish I knew what the title was. I may have to do a search later, it might be “Calling Today.”  I see the organist at the front, her name was Amy and I see her flowing robes spilling over the bench. I smile when I remember what my Grandma used to say after Amy got her divorce…….”She should be in the back of the church, not up there playing the organ.”

I remember those warm summer nights. The world seemed different then. Across the tracks on the east side, the gangs hadn’t moved in yet. There wasn’t much difference from the east side than the west. The local bakeries were still open. I hear the bell over the door. You could still buy German pastries and fresh sourdough bread that they would bring out in the mornings. The smell was overpowering. I can still see those loaves stacked in the baskets by the cash register, and the trays of long johns and crullers. That was before all the big grocery stores came in.

I long for the simplicity of those times. It seems everyone is waiting for something to get better. Or change. I can see it in the faces of the people. I see it in the faces of some of the refugees on the news. They are waiting to go home, waiting for peace. The world has gone askew. Everywhere, someone is waiting for something, for someone.

If I could just get out of this hospital bed……

If they would just die so I could get my life back…..

If they would just come back to me……

Waiting for birth, waiting for death. Waiting for financial freedom, waiting for the ship to come in. Deep down we sense that things have gone terribly wrong. The whole world is waiting, holding its breath. But here’s what I can tell you for sure. Whatever you are waiting for can be fulfilled in just One person. All of your deepest longings can be fulfilled in that same One person. He came once before and He’s coming again. This is the most important part:

Whatever or whoever you are waiting for doesn’t matter if you don’t know Him.

All the pieces are falling into place just the way He has arranged it. The stage is set in motion. It has been since the beginning of time. But the days are growing darker, even though there is still so much good in the world. Hope remains. Against the backdrop of world events and everything else we see in the news, Scripture speaks with a new authority. Unfortunately, just as many people aren’t listening. Listen to what Scripture says about our times:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. 2 Timothy 3 (The Message)

It’s time to turn toward the Light folks.

For He says,

At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”— 2 Corinthians 6:2

Whatever you are longing for, He’s the God who can bring it. Eventually, He is coming to restore all things to what they were in the beginning, back before everything went to hell in a hand-basket. This is not a pipe dream, this is a promise. But until then, let God pitch a tent of peace in your heart and know that whatever you are waiting for will indeed come at the right time.

I have a deposit that’s already been put in my account, safer than any bank or savings and loan. And you can have it too.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14

The wait is over.

Jesus wins by a landslide

 
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
 
 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”



There are so many more important things going on right now than this election. Yes, I will vote today, and yes, I believe it matters how we vote, but ultimately what matters is who is ruling and reigning on the throne of my heart today.

Unless He is? None of this really matters. And I am thankful today. So thankful that I know who will write the end of this story. All over the world, people are doing great and courageous things. Pastors in Haiti are caring for orphans. Sleeping with them outside on the ground.

People are fighting for our freedoms  and putting their own lives on the line, thinking nothing of it.

Our troops.

God has a plan for this world. He died, He rose again, He is coming back. No matter who is in office in the White House, or any other house. So today I will vote, because I still think it is important to exercise our wonderful freedoms. And then I will watch the results and I won’t be disheartened if my choice doesn’t win.

Because I know who untimately does.

Thoughts

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11

There is something divine about the simplistic beauty of doing tasks around the house……around the yard. There are times when everything you set out to do seems thwarted by some sinister being you can’t see, and then there are those times where everything flows and there is a rhythm in it. One task leads to another and there is supreme satistaction that comes when a task is complete. A peacefulness.

That was today.

I wonder about the time when I will no longer be able to “do.” I think that Jesus will come back before then but I really don’t know. The way the world is going, I don’t think He can keep from coming down and straightening this mess out for very much longer. But that’s just me. I wonder about the “full number” the Bible talks about. I picture Jesus on His throne in His Nikes just waiting for that magic number to come up, and Him coming down here faster than a lightning bolt.

I wonder about the trumpet blast. I wonder if I will really be ready or if he will catch me off-guard. Every now and then I go to a movie on a Sunday, and I sincerely hope He doesn’t come back on one of those times. I have just enough Baptist in me not to want that to happen.

Funny the thoughts that float around in this little ‘ole mind of mine.

That’s me today, just thinkin thoughts and writing them down…….

Holding out hope

“Come now, let’s settle this,”says the Lord.“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we have a reasonable God? One who wants to know the deepest desires of our hearts? One who wants and seeks a relationship with us?

We serve a God of reconciliation. One who wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. One who already knows our thoughts but wants to hear them from us in our own words. He delights in that.

People everywhere are seeking something, but too often they are asking the world to supply something it never can. Real Peace. But not the kind the world offers. The kind only God can give. Real and lasting peace. The kind of peace that comes despite every circumstance life throws at us.

Too often we look to the world for answers……we think the best and brightest humanity has to offer is good enough. It reminds me of that old song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” When we look to the world for our answers we will come up empty every time.

Only when we begin to entertain the possibility of something bigger than ourselves, hope blooms like the crack of the dawn spilling over a mountain.

This is our future, and it is indeed, a future filled with hope. The world doesn’t have the answers or the hope we need for our future, but God does. This is the future God has for us……

People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The Lord will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:3,4

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied exactly to the letter all the facts concerning the birth of Jesus.

The rest is history.

God has always had hope for the world…….and that hope came through Jesus.

I wish you a day filled with His peace today wherever your path takes you and that you have a real sense of His presence…….

Three Little Words

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” 2 Peter 1-3

When I read this today I immediately thought of Harold Camping and his ridiculous time-stamp for Christ’s return. I thought about how much damage has been done over the 2000+ years of the church by people taking a truth and twisting it, either to make a buck or get some notoriety for themselves. This is no surprise. Jesus talked about it, so did all the apostles.

The problem with partial truths is that a half truth holds the power of the truth, but either adds something or leaves something out so that facts are confused and distorted. That was our downfall from the very beginning. Our separation from God started with three little words……..

“Did God say?”

I think an out and out lie is easier to deal with because it can be exposed for what it is. A partial truth has the power to mangle and deceive and leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Yet the light of truth will continue to shine through the darkness of every deception. Two things we know from Scripture:

There will be a time when Christ will most definitely come back, we just don’t know when.

He will come when we are not expecting it.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming……”2 Peter 3:10,11

Two other things we know….
The time is closer now that it was before.

There will be people that don’t believe it.

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

But here is the best part of the story, if you are living and breathing, you still have time.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

We serve a truly awesome God!

Heaven is for Real

“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

Ever want to see what Heaven might look like through the eyes of a four year old boy? I couldn’t resist picking this book up as I strolled by the book aisle at Costco. I usually try to stay away from that section, but this is one I just had to buy.  It beckoned me, it did. I always want to hear what children say, since Jesus thought they were pretty important.

To be honest, my motive for buying it was simple. I wanted a bit of escape from this life for few hours. I had read “90 Minutes in Heaven” and found it to be totally credible. I ended up reading this one in a couple of hours. The book chronicles little Colvin Burpo’s journey to Heaven as he lays in surgery after his appendix ruptures on a family vacation.

To hear Colvin’s descriptions, as only a four year old would tell it, is precious. We have no way of knowing if he actually went there. Maybe it was a very powerful dream, maybe it was a vision. Maybe he actually went. I do believe that in these last days, we are seeing many things that the Bible talks about. I also think that as time goes on, we will see more of them.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

This much is true. God wants us to go to Heaven and be with him when we die. In Colvin’s own words:”Well, Jesus told me that he died on the cross so that we could go see His Dad.”

I believe that what little Colvin saw was real. I think there is wonderful potential in these types of books, and that is to point the way to the truth of Scripture. I loved how Colvin’s Dad, who is a Pastor, provides Scripture verses after several examples of what Colvin saw, constantly letting his son tell his story his own way and in his own time. This is a very close family, and a very real family. At one point while Colvin was in surgery and they thought he wouldn’t make it, his Dad tells about how he went into a room and raged at God while praying.

Later Colvin describes that during the time he was in surgery he recalled seeing his Dad in that room praying and his mother in another room, also praying and talking on her cell phone. That gave me chills, since they never told Colvin any of that.

One thing is for sure. Heaven is for real and God wants us to go there.

Sometimes it takes a child to remind us.