Friday, December 31, 2010

Entering A New Year Refreshed and Ready!

One need not be a Christian to realize that a certain amount of “meditation” is good for the soul. If a state of quiet nothingness is good for the soul, how much greater benefit when the heart and mind are in communication with God Almighty?

But is it really possible?

Have you ever had the feeling that praying to God was like tossing wishes into the air? Maybe you have experienced the “fast food prayer” that simply says, “OH GOD!”

Sad to say, I have been in prayer meetings where the pastor piously gets on his knees, followed by the elders in the church and anyone else wishing to participate, in what too often resembles theatrical blocking. I too have sat in a prayer circle, quietly rehearsing. I have prayed in the King James Version with the words, “Thee and Thou” placed properly within the context of my, “spiritual script” so as to properly impress those with whom I recite. I therefore have a fairly good idea of what prayer - IS NOT.

So what is prayer? Is it real communication? How do you do it effectively? Frankly, if God knows everything ... why does He need to hear about it from me anyway?

Luke 11:1 records the following event:

“And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

Without doubt, these men had previously experienced some form of prayer in their lives, but there was something significantly different in the prayer of Jesus. His prayer was compelling! It was magnetic - alive, and the disciples instinctively knew that prayer was of vital importance to Jesus. They wanted that POWER to also be evident in their prayers.

Perhaps the following story will illustrate the mechanics of prayer. High winds caused a weekly prayer meeting to suffer an electrical outage. An electrician in the congregation, realizing that there was nothing he could do locally, called the station hub for information. They advised him that his immediate area had been affected but crews were already taking care of the situation. The service desk advised the electrician that the problem should be resolved in fifteen to twenty minutes. The gentleman quickly scribbled a note to the minister who, with no overhead lighting, was fast slipping into the shadows of sunset. The note simply said, “After prayer the power will return.” How true it is! After prayer the power always returns.

Let me just share a personal experience. As a youngster I had a difficult time understanding prayer. I was actually concerned that I would never find a time when no one else in the world was praying. How could I ever capture the attention of Almighty God with everyone else praying at the same time? I didn’t understand the personal relationship He had already established in my life.

One day I allowed my over-active imagination to get involved in my prayer. I actually imagined leaving my room and being translated through the atmosphere to the pearly gates of heaven. I imagined those pearly doors slowly opening to allow my humble entrance. I saw a heavenly mist and a brilliant light rolling down the stairway that greeted me. On my knees, I slowly climbed those stairs until I envisioned the nail-scared feet of Him Who sat upon the throne. I humbly removed my backpack in which I concealed my trials and tribulations, my anguish, my fears, my humble requests. I laid each and every article in my backpack before the Lord and sincerely acknowledged my weakness and His strength. Sounds spiritual enough so far - right?

As I ended my prayer, I began to clear the cluttered staircase of my failures, my guilt, my broken promises my fears and my needs. I returned each into my backpack just as I had brought them.


In my imagination He who sat upon the throne quietly and lovingly asked: “Why do you so quickly take back that which you have just entrusted to Me?”

In that moment I experienced God personally! I experienced a refreshing new freedom, knowing He was in control. I experienced a new power in my life that would sustain me through the difficult times. Friend, you need only to leave the challenges of life there - with Him.

The Bible records the following:

“Casting the whole of your care - all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all - on Him; for He cares for you affectionately, and cares about you watchfully.” - 1 Peter 5:7

“Cast your burden upon the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved - made to slip, fall or fail.” - Psalms 55:22

A new year is upon us; a time of reflection and anticipation. What will you choose to bring into the new year? Are their things best left on those heavenly stairs? I’ve got good news; His gates are always open!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Holidays?

I know, I know ... it’s politically correct, “Happy holidays”. I promise; I’ve really tried to say it. I certainly don’t want to be offensive.

“Happy ho; happy hol; MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

I just can’t seem to bring myself to (temporarily) separate myself from my faith, and from the greeting that to me means, “May God richly bless you and yours with peace, joy and a love that only He can give! ” No, really; I've TRIED!

“Happy hol ... Happy holi ...” darn!

Why is, “Merry Christmas” tantamount to yelling, “FIRE” in a crowded building? When was this determined? Who determined it?

Okay, I suppose for a non-believer or different believer it might seem hypocritical to extend a greeting for which there is no true meaning. I can understand that. As a matter of fact, I respect the fact that such an individual is so truthful. But, I am a believer. This IS my greeting. Why would I recoil at the opportunity to extend it? Why would any non-believer or different believer be offended when I too am being truthful? I can accept their well wishes for a season of happiness. As a matter of fact, I appreciate it! Who decided that my greeting is not acceptable? When extended in sincerity, what reasonable person, of any faith, or no faith, would be repulsed?

I don’t know. I suppose I’m just biased. I suppose I am hopelessly locked in the past, unwilling to give up the traditions and beliefs upon which my life has been influenced.

“Happy holid... happy holid...”, nope.

I could easily say, “happy holidays” for those events that don’t particularly hold a deeper personal meaning to me. GROUNDHOG DAY - ‘HAPPY HOLIDAY!” I have no problem with that one...

There is just something about Christmas and Easter that (to me), sets it apart from Groundhog Day.

I am so out of touch that I just recently realized there are, “Season’s Greetings Police” among us. Perhaps you’ve met them too. They are the ones who, if extended, “Merry Christmas”, firmly, sternly retort with, “HAPPY - HOLIDAYS!” Ouch!

Well, going on about it won’t change the situation. Someone, somewhere, who knows a lot more about right and wrong than I do, and has far more influence than my little blog, determined that I must, at the very least, be cautious when extending MY greeting or salutation.

So, forgive me if you must. I truly do wish each and every individual, with whom I have been so blessed to know, and from whom I have gained so much, God’s richest blessings now and for the many seasons to come.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seeing Christmas in a New Light

“And Jesus said, for judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not, might see; and that they who see, might be made blind.” – John 9:39

Jesus spoke of ‘spiritual sight’ not physical. The religious leaders boasted of spirituality but in reality were spiritually blind. They were the paparazzi of Jesus day, following Jesus only to stand witness against Him at His slightest transgression of their law. In chapter 9 of John and verse 14 they seize opportunity; Jesus had healed a man born blind – on the Sabbath! Some of the Pharisees attempt to press Jesus into further self-incrimination by asking, “are we blind also?”

So Jesus decides to present to them the entire plan and purpose of His coming in a most glorious, and yet subtle manner. Let’s look at that purpose in John 10.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” – John 10:1

“But He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” – John 10:2

“To Him the Porter openeth, and the sheep hear His voice; and He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out.” – John 10:3

“And when He putteth forth His won sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice.” – John 10:4

“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.” - John 10:5

Notice that at this point, no one understood what Jesus was saying! And so, Jesus begins to, “flesh-out” his analogy - only to create even more confusion; maybe even to us today!

“Then said Jesus unto them again, ‘verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” – John 10:7

“All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them.” – John 10:8

“I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11

Simple enough – right? Look again…

Sit, for a moment, as if you were one of His disciples. What did He just say? He is the door? He is the shepherd?


Didn’t He say (vs.1) “he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber”? What is the sheepfold – heaven? IS THERE ANOTHER WAY BESIDES THE DOOR?

Didn’t He say (2) “He that entereth in by the DOOR is the SHEPHERD of the sheep”? Wait a minute - is He the door or the shepherd? How can He be both? Can He enter HIM?

(3) Who is the Porter – I mean, besides being a door-man? And from where is this shepherd leading the sheep?

We now begin to understand their confusion. Going further verse 9 poses additional problems. If Jesus is the door – why would anyone want to go in and out?

Let’s review the passage once again in the spirit of the Christmas Story.

This world in which we live is a vast sheepfold filled with many sheep. Jesus chose to enter this world in a very miraculous way. As you look at verses 1 – 3 we see a striking parallel to Luke 1: 26 – 35 wherein the angel Gabriel visits Mary and announces the coming birth of Jesus. In Luke 1:34 Mary asks a very logical question:

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"

Listen to what the angel says; it is important for us to understand his reply so that we can see more clearly what Jesus is saying in John 10.

“And the angel answered, and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

The Holy Spirit is the Porter opening the door of the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus into the sheepfold of the world. Anyone claiming previously to be the shepherd was a thief and a robber. No one had entered the world in this manner before or since. It is a CLOSED DOOR, entered and shut by Jesus.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls His sheep by name. His sheep hear Him and He goes before them and leads them out of the confines of this world and its system to a citizenship eternally with Him. He is the OPEN DOOR of the sheep. He remains open today for any who will spiritually hear His voice.

He is the REVOLVING DOOR (9) of fellowship leading to the throne of God in prayer by which we find pleasant pasture (Psalms 23) before Him and in our daily lives.

In John 10:24 a frustrated crowd demands:

“…How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly!”

Jesus responds with comfort to those whose eyes are open and who hear His voice:

“Jesus answered then, I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believed not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them to Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and My Father are ONE! - John 10:30

That is pretty plain talk, isn’t it?

What a wonderful gift Jesus has given! What a wonderful story God has revealed through John. In the hustle and bustle of this Christmas Season, have you heard His voice? Has he touched your spiritual eyes so that you can see Him for Who He really is? Have you received His gift?

Finding balance and living within God’s will begins with becoming part of His family. He calls and offers Himself through His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection!

Merry Christmas!