Eagles’ Wings

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31; NKJV)

I encourage you to take some time and read all of Isaiah 40 if you get time today, but I wanted to bring the last 4 verses of the chapter to your attention as you start the week.  I need to be continually reminded to see my current life on earth from a Heavenly perspective.  This allows me to see God’s majesty and in seeing that I can have confidence that God knows my situations, will provide for me to deal with any short-term difficulties and will deliver me in the end.

I pray you have a wonder week and that you feel God’s influence and care in your life.

Softly and Tenderly

I appreciate the singing we have as part of God’s design in worshiping Him.  I appreciate the acapella nature of the singing because it allows us to use the one instrument God gave us to make music for Him…our voice and we all can do it and when it is done together with those who are of like faith, it is magical.  I especially love when one of the kids is excited about the song and you can hear their voice over them all.  I am thankful for the songs in our worship.

As of late, I have been making note of songs we sing in a particular week that either really moved me or is something that I want to revisit with my family during the week.  I thought I would share one of those with you today and for anybody who knows this song…I am sure the tune is playing in your heart and mind…another awesome result of God’s design…scripture hidden in our hearts and playing in our mind through song.

I hope these words are encouragement to you today.  Jesus is always near.  Jesus loves us and wants us to Come unto Him and be safe within His fold.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30; NKJV)

Softly and Tenderly Lyrics (Will L. Thompson)

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.  See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.

Refrain:  Come home, come home, you who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, pleading for you and for me?  Why should we linger and heed not His mercies, mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing, passing from you and from me; shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised, promised for you and for me!  Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you and for me.

Psalm 107:8-14

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. 10 Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons—11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High, 12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.  13 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces.  (Psalm 107:8-14)

There can be times when we are faced with adversity or our hearts could be filled with darkness because we have taken our eye off God and are following our own will instead of His.  This can take many different forms but it involves being “bound up” in our affliction. This brings to mind 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Like us, the sentence of their transgression or the consequence of their rebellion (sin) was more than they could bear and so they called out to God.  Again, if we call out to God, He will hear us.  We can be confident in that because we read here that He heard them, and their souls were filled with the blessing He gave them.  Their lives turned around.  They found a life full of joy rather than despair…freedom rather than bondage…because they called out to Him and His mercy provided what had been missing or what was needed most.

Let these verses call to mind the redemptive power and His willingness to deliver you from what ever is holding you captive and away from the peace He promises.

8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.

Psalm 107:1-7

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. (Psalm 107:1-7)

This past Lord’s Day, we studied meditation in bible class and Psalm 107 was discussed.  One comment made stuck with me.  Our class leader said something to the effect “Read Psalm 107 and you will find yourself in this chapter.  If you are feeling like (fill in the blank), go and you will find it here and see how God works of deliverance and redemption will bring you hope.”

The chapter starts with “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good” and a version of this phrase is repeated four more times.  (vs. 8, 15, 21, 31).  The verses that come after this phrase describe situations when we should be filled with thanksgiving.

In the first section of the Psalm, we find Israel wandering in the desert.  Previously, they were on their way to the new home God promised them but they got off track.  They disobeyed God.  They didn’t trust Him.  They thought they knew better than He did.  As a result, they found themselves wandering, lost, hungry, thirsty, tired and desperately needing to be saved.  What do they do?  They cried out to the LORD in their trouble.

Sure, the sin of God’s people (then and now) often was (and is) the reason they (we) are scattered.  But these verses show us if we find ourselves lost because of our sin, we must call out to the One who can save us.  (James 5:13).  Further, when we call out to God, He hears us, He is merciful and He will lead us out of trouble and back safely home with Him.  If we humble ourselves and go to Him, God is faithful to lead us to safety and that is worth our praise and thanksgiving.

God has demonstrated His ability to deal with a lost and wandering soul.  Trust in Him.  Call out to Him.  “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  For His mercy endures forever.”

Wants and Needs

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10: 38-42)

There is a continual battle I have and I think is shared by most if not all of you.  The internal battle deals with what I “WANT” to do versus what I “NEED” to do.  I had a brother once make a statement to me while I shared with him my struggles in wrestling with the direction my professional life was taking.  Without going into the long odyssey of that conversation/struggle, the basic advice was “Shane, there are things we want to do but more importantly there are things we need to do.  Start with what you need to do and be thankful you can get them done”.  I confess that was not what I wanted to hear.  What I wanted was for him to say something more along the lines of “you should do what makes you happy…what you want to do” but that wasn’t what I NEEDED to hear.  I am thankful for my brother and his words have stuck with me as I have encountered other similar dilemmas.

Over the next several articles, I would like to explore this idea of Wants and Needs and what God says in His word for our instruction.  Many if not most of you are familiar with the story that contains Jesus’ admonition that starts “Martha, Martha”.  Take a minute and read it again.  Ask yourself if you really understand what you NEED to do and/or what kinds of things shift your focus to WANTING.  The cares of the world, a busy schedule, selfishness…these or something like it are what promote what we WANT to do to the top of list and cause turmoil in our hearts and minds.  I know I am guilty of being there…WANTING instead of recognizing my NEED.  We all have and that is one of so many reasons why we are blessed to have a loving, merciful, graceful, forgiving and long suffering Savior and Father who continues to give us what we NEED in such a way that He is all that we WANT.  That transformation is what we will look at over the next several articles.  Have a blessed day!

Word in Action

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hearslow to speakslow to wrath20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:19-22; NKJV)

Perspective and process.  God gives us His perspective and is teaching us how to see our world from an heavenly perspective.  He also provides us process for our lives and the order does matter.  Here, we are to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  If we are swift in our hearing of His word then we will have a heart prepared to be swift to hear another while seeking to understand rather than be understood.  This requires us to listen first and not speak first.  It requires us to consider God’s Word, what another is saying, and then humbly respond.  In all of this, we need to remember that wrath comes last not first and that the wrath of man does not produce righteousness of God which should be our goal.

The focus really is us as individuals here and not others.   We are to lay aside filthiness and wickedness so that we can humbly receive His implanted word.  In elevating God and others in our lives, He will save our souls.  If that is the focus, then we can be Godly communicators and humbly maintain our cool.   If we leave evil behind and receive His word, then we will find salvation and share salvation.

All of this is active.  Though we receive and we react to God’s word, we do so deliberately and purposefully.  It might not be a lot each and every day but we focus on and we do what we can in in line with what God’s word says.  This changes us and changes our relationships.  We determine to listen…to God’s word and to others.  We determine to understand and apply it and allow it to work in our lives.  We purposefully turn away from evil and choose good.  In all of it, we are emboldened in our humility and God will work in our lives and our relationships.  Perspective and process do matter to God.  Reflect on His perspective through His word and work to maintain His process in your life.

 

Receive

17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord. (Philemon 17-20; NKJV)

The good deed and importance is found in Philemon receiving Onesimus.  Before I start with Philemon, please recognize the Onesimus is returning.  He is determined to reconcile with Philemon though the worst outcome for him could be that Philemon doesn’t reconcile and he lose his life…a punishment that was given to slaves who were disobedient.  This was in the realm of possibility but Onesimus had a heart to go and to reconcile.  As much as Philemon had to receive him, Onesimus had to go.  This cannot be overstated.

Paul urges Philemon to receive him like he would receive Paul.  It seems they shared a close relationship so the picture here is of two dear friends reuniting.  That is what Paul is expecting for Onesimus despite the fact that he had caused Philemon harm.  This shows us what reconciliation looks like.  Forgiveness is not just a lack of retaliation but restoration.  It is about how we receive one another in all circumstances and how we build and develop relationships with one another.

This is how God receives us when we are forgiven.  We do not simply escape the wrath we deserve but He FULLY restores us into a relationship with Him.  Paul paints a clear picture of what this looks like for Philemon and we can glean what it needs to look like in our lives.  Receive one who has wronged you the same way that you would receive one of your closest and dearest brothers or sister.

Paul is a catalyst in this restoration and we can be too.  Philemon might have had a long list of grievances or wrongs and it might have caused him a great internal struggle with what Paul was asking.  But Paul steps in and offers himself to take that debt on.  He doesn’t stop there though.  He doesn’t want a list of wrongs from Philemon that are now a debt on Paul.  What Paul wants Philemon to remember is that we are all indebted to our Lord Jesus and in this case to the one who taught and led us to Him.  Paul simply wants to bring to mind how desperately Philemon needed salvation at one point in time and to return the same offering of grace and forgiveness and restoration to Onesimus which Paul offered to him.  Again, we all can understand what that looks like and at different points play our part as a Paul (catalyst for restoration), Onesimus (willing to go and restored), and Philemon (willing to receive and to restore).

We forgive because we are forgiven.  We erase other’s debts because we have a record of debts that others have against us and a debt we can never repay our God and Father.  We owe our eternal spiritual life to God.  We understand that, then it will be easier to forgive.  We forgive because we are forgiven and we work for restoration in whatever role or situation we find ourselves in.  We work because that is the action we must take in our faith and love for Jesus and each other.

 

Pilgrims

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1: 1-2; NKJV)

The power of the internet and digital communication is that we can all reach out and communicate instantly and to so many people.  One could argue that there is a lot of bad or trouble that comes from that but more importantly there is a lot of good and opportunity for positive influence in it.  We are spread out but have the means to be instantly connected.

I am humbled as I write to think about all the different people that read this in all the different places they live.  The nature of our lives in this world puts us in different spots doing different things.  The nature of our society is that we build houses or apartments and for the most part we are stationary.  In being stationary, we get involved in our locale and all the good and bad that goes with it to include our neighborhoods, our economies, our schools, our relationships, etc.  As a matter of fact, I think we can get so focused on those things that it becomes part of our identity.  I am “from” Michigan.  That means something to different people and it is understood that it is different than when I was “from” Alabama.  We live in this world and we have an identity in it, however, it is not THE identity.

We are pilgrims.  This life is temporary.  Our home is Heaven.  We are in the world but not of this world.  Our hope and true family are in Jesus Christ and He reigns from Heaven.  We are here for a purpose and it isn’t to be “from” some place but to demonstrate we are “going” to a very a special place and our hope is that our manner of life will provide an opportunity to participate in another being uprooted from their sinful life and join the journey from earth to Heaven with Jesus..to join our pilgrimage.

We are pilgrims who have decided and committed ourselves to obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore we are God’s elect…His children.  Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice and His blood spilled so that we would be saved and reconciled to the Father.  Believing that and valuing our lives in that context, we sojourn on and look for rest in Heaven.

We are blessed to live where are at and to serve with the opportunities afforded us in that place.  There is no right place to live and there is nothing wrong with living in one particular place.  We have work to do and it can be done where we are at.  The trap set by the devil is to get us to over-identify with that place and forgetting where home really is.  The trap is focusing so intently in the permanence of a location and a point in time that we lose heavenly perspective and forget to move…as a pilgrim…spiritually closer to home.  I am thankful to be “from” Michigan and to have brothers and sisters here and elsewhere.  I am so very thankful that Jesus has gone ahead of me and has prepared an even more awesome eternal resting place with Him.

Life is hard and troubles come no matter where you are “from”.  Don’t forget to look up…to keep moving toward your heavenly home…and to be aware of those who might be stuck in the world or are ready to throw down their life of bondage in sin and join the journey with Jesus.  Sojourn on with joy and hope!

Of First Importance

1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1-3; NASB)

It’s been a week since I have written and that saddens me because my not writing is a direct result of not properly prioritizing.  I have a big deliverable for work due tomorrow so for the past week and a half that has been my focus, what I set my schedule off of, what I prioritized other things against…you get the idea.  In doing so, I have taken my focus off the things that matter…mainly Jesus.  In doing so, what I have found is my whole attitude, thoughts, and actions changed.  I got less patient, I am more frazzled, I become short-tempered…in general I am less productive both physically and spiritually though I am “busier”.

It took a conversation with a sister in Christ, a great bible class, and a an encouraging message from God’s word…all delivered yesterday…to soften my heart, reset my focus and get me back on a path that leads me along life’s events with Jesus.

I know that I am not the only one who falls into the busy snare that the devil sets out so I know you will have grace on my not writing and I hope that you will find encouragement in knowing that you aren’t the only one who is struggling with “busy” and that Jesus is but a prayer away.  Stop, take a breath, let Him grab a hold of you and walk with Him.  He has already lived and died for you.  Let Him live with you.  It is the first, most important and only thing we need.  Love you all!

Eternal Fellowship

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.  This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1; NKJV)

In writing this morning, what is on my heart is the fellowship I have with my brothers (and sisters) in Christ and how powerful that is.  In studying this at one point, I came across a statement that hit home “Fellowship is a mutual bond that Christians have with Christ that puts in a deep, eternal relationship with one another“.  Our relationship with Jesus is the foundation of our relationship with each other and truly if we are gathered in His name and His purpose then He is there too.  That is enough for me to think about for a long time to really examine myself, my relationship (with Jesus and my brethren), my thoughts, my actions, and my overall attitude.

I want to move past that for now and just encourage you and I to see the profound value of our relationships in Christ, the absolute need for these relationships, and how much the devil wants us alone or fighting against these relationships.  Biblical teaching is about multiples…God does not want us to be alone and warns us of all the dangers of being alone and acting alone.

In a dark world, there is no safe place except for Jesus and in Him our relationships with fellow believers.  These relationships should be safe and if we don’t feel safe then something is wrong.  We should be able to be completely vulnerable and confess to each other and expect love, understanding, grace, mercy, forgiveness, encouragement, prayer….that is what we get from Jesus!  If we are looking to Him in our own life and allowing ourselves to be filled with His Spirit…we will then be able to humbly go to one another and be prepared to pour out what God has given us freely.  Not of ourselves…but of God.

If we are walking around thinking that we need to be perfect and get it all right ourselves…we are being deceived.  If we are not confessing to each other and we are trying to carry all of our troubles alone…we are failing and the devil is winning.  The devil wants the sheep separated, scattered and alone…easier prey and higher likelihood of success in destroying.  And that is what he does…the devil is a setter of snares, one who scatters and a destroyer.

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I flourish when I am with them, vulnerable, and building while being built up.  I am at my worst when either I leave that environment or struggle to find it due to other’s behavior.  I am committed, however, to tighten my armor and get back to the fight and relish the touch of a brother/sister on my left and on my right as we stand together for Jesus and fight the good fight to His glory and our salvation.