RIVER OF LOVE

One of the truths that our Pastor is continuingly emphasizing is that God loves us.   He also says that God’s love is hard for us to comprehend.  I think we all know this.  There’s not an abundance of examples of this kind of love here on earth. 

The other day, I was singing an old song, “I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me”, and I thought of this analogy.

God’s love for us is like a river flowing to us.  We throw rocks of sin into this river; they make ripples, but they never stop the flow.  When we choose a life of sin, sometimes, we actually dam up the flow, but the pressure of his love is always there.  One act of repentance permits his love to breach the dam.  And if we allow it, the flow of his love will continue to wash away the dam, and his love will pour into our lives.  Receiving his love makes us a new person.

This river of God’s love doesn’t stop with us; it flows through us and blesses those around us.  When we doubt his love, the waters get murky and hinder the blessings we can bring to others.  Once again, our quest in this life is to learn to trust God.  A big part of this is to trust that he loves us.  The enemy of our souls will shoot fiery darts from the banks of the river to make us doubt God’s love.  The shield of faith will divert them.  

THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD

In my late teens and early twenties, I hung out with a group of guys my age.  We focused our young minds on solving the problems of the world.  Our solutions seemed reasonable and rational.  Then life changed for us. We became husbands and fathers. The big picture problems of the world took a back seat to the daily problems of domestic life.

The world we live in hasn’t changed.  There are still big problems. In our young idealistic minds, we thought that we could show people a better way and that would fix it.  Don’t we wish that were true!  I now know that the complexities of the world’s problems are way beyond any solution I might come up with.

Who then can solve the world’s problems?  God in his infinite wisdom knows that the problems of our world can be defined by one simple word, sin. Sin generally stated is the self-centered perspective that I’m more important than others.  That’s the root of our problems.  Unfortunately, I can’t even fix this problem in myself let along the whole world.

However God has provided us with the solution.  We are currently celebrating his solution.  He came to us as a baby in a manger to provide for us the opportunity to overcome sin.  Sin is an individual problem, so the offer is to each of the world’s citizens.  The problems in our world still exist because many have chosen to reject God’s solution.

Here in this season of celebrating the answer to our problems in Christ Jesus, please join me in a prayer for the salvation of those around us.  Let’s work on the world’s problems by bring one individual at a time to Jesus for the solution to the root of our problems.

LIGHT

God loves us!  As he was preparing a place for us he first created light.  Light is incredible.  It sustains physical life, refracts into all the wonderful colors we see, and provides a contrast to darkness.  God designed a great place for us that is full of light.

Light is necessary for life to exist on earth.  The process of photosynthesis is the foundation for all food consumed by living creatures.  The light we receive from the sun provides the necessary heat the earth requires.  In light we find God’s provision for his created ones.

As light contacts various objects it refracts.  These refractions disperse the light into an amazing array of colors making the earth a beautiful place.  The colors we see calm us, delight us, and stimulate us.  Through light our creator has inspired us and made our lives full and interesting.

Light and its contrast darkness are used figuratively throughout the scriptures to help us understand God’s care for us.  We read in Psalm 18: 28 “God turns my darkness into light,” and Psalm 56:13 says that God provides the light of life.   Light provides a metaphor for virtue.  Light is righteousness and darkness is sinfulness.  Romans 13:12, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.  So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” 

Light has great importance in God’s creation.  Isaiah used light to predict the coming of Jesus, “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).”  For us today that light has long since dawned.  We can now walk in the light.  I pray that His light will shine in your heart today, and that darkness will have no place in your heart.  Praise be to God for the wonders of light.

JUDGEMENT IS COMING

You frequently hear people ask how a loving God can allow all the evil in the world.  I would answer; a loving God demonstrates his love through patience.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  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 in it will be burned up (2Peter 3:8-10).

 

Just like the ancient Israelites, people think that God is not seeing what they are doing, so anything goes.  Then the day of judgement came for Israel. They were conquered and dispersed.  Therefore, we should not be lulled into complacency by his patience.  God is actively involved in all that transpires here on earth- patiently working through us for the redemption of lost souls.

 

The ultimate display of God’s love is through his son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”  He is allowing time for those who will receive his gift and avoid judgement. However, we should never forget that he has assigned a day of judgement.  God is patient, but the Day of the Lord will come.

HELP ME LORD JESUS

I work as a driving instructor four days a week, Monday through Thursday.  My schedule for those four days is a morning drive, a late afternoon drive, and an evening drive. Between the morning drive and the afternoon drive, I have a span of about four hours.  I usually take a nap before going to the later drives. Wednesday’s nap ended with a dream I’d like to share.

When I’m alone in the house and it’s quiet, I like to take my nap in the recliner.  I got my warm comforter, set the alarm on my phone, and away I went to dream land.  This was my dream.

The night was dark and gloomy.  Misty patches of fog made visibility minimal.  I was riding my bicycle along the path at the top of a very high cliff.  At the bottom of the cliff I knew lay a rocky beach and the dark ocean.  Riding down a short incline, I remembered that the path came very close to the edge of the cliff at one point.   I could only see a few feet in front of me, so I slid my bike to a stop to get my bearings.

In a slow motion split second, while I was dismounting my bike, I realized my mistake.  I was over the edge.  In the resolve that instantly came, in the face of no other option, I began to fall.  I cried out this chant, “Help me Lord Jesus.”  All during my descent, I repeated those words.  I awoke just before the thud at the end.

I have had Falling dreams in the past, but they are rare.  This one was unlike any other. The others were all in broad daylight, and accompanied with extreme fear.  In this dream I felt no fear. I just had an intense realization that in no other name was there hope for survival. 

When I awoke, it took only a few minutes of contemplation to see a message in this dream.  In our lives, we’ve made mistakes; and we are falling toward sure death.  There is no hope for survival except in Jesus.  Help me, Lord Jesus.

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

ADORATION

I have an ever present desire to understand and more deeply worship the God who loves me. During Sunday worship last week this word came to mind, adoration.  I wanted to be sure of what this word actually means so I looked in the dictionary.  I found these words to be most enlightening, “to regard with reverent admiration and devotion.”

I find reverent admiration when I take time to see the wonder of what God has created.  A morning walk or an evening stroll always helps me to settle my mind and peruse his wonders.  King David wrote in Psalm 8:3-5,

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor

I kindle my devotion when I remember all that God has done for me since I surrendered my life to him.  Psalm 103 reminds me that he has forgiven all my sins, and pulled me out of the pit that my life had become.  He loves me, and he has satisfied my desires with good things.

Adoration is already a part of my worship when I remember to stop and take the time to think of whom he is and what he has done in my life.

CONCEPTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

When we die life as we know it is over.   Now think about this.  When we are born life as we know it is over.  In the womb we live in a dark fluid filled container.  This is the only environment we know.  It is our existence, and we have no idea of change.  Then one day the plug is pulled, so-to-speak, and our fluid world ceases to exist.  Our head is jammed into a tunnel at the end of which is a shocking never before experienced thing, light.

From the trauma of this transition we enter into a new world of existence.  This world now becomes our place to grow and explore.  There is good and evil in this world, and we experience varying amounts of both, but it becomes our home.  This is what we know.

Then we are faced with the change from this world to a new one.  We are faced with death.  The new world is vast and peaceful place where the struggle between good and evil no longer exists.  Most of us want to stay in this life though the new life is far superior to this one.  We want what we know to continue even though a better existence is ahead.

When we are conceived, birth is inevitable.  Once we are born death becomes inevitable.  Our time in the womb, as well as our time here on earth, is important for our growth, but we were never meant to stay in the womb, and we aren’t meant to stay in this life.  I think that this life is like another gestation period leading to the eternal life that God intends for us.

 

What does God intend for us?

 

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

PSALM 32 CONCEALED SIN

All humans have this in common, sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).  The question then is how do we deal with our sin?  In Psalm 32 David wrestles with sin.  He talks about the anguish of his hidden sin.  The weight of guilt is heavy upon him.  Have you ever experienced the torment of trying to keep a sin concealed?

David writes in Psalm 32:5, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Confession is David’s answer.  It is amazingly freeing when we bring a hidden sin into the light and receive God’s forgiveness.  We can trust God.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Concealed sin separates us from God; confessed sin restores us to God.  The universal and eternally most important thing is to be restored to God.  The significance of Christmas is that Jesus came to earth so we might be restored to God.  God has made the way for us.  Don’t miss out!  Confess your sins and receive God’s great gift of forgiveness.

Climbing the Wall of Self

Get over yourself!  Has anybody ever said that to you?  Did you know what they meant?  Well I’ve been asking people what this statement means, and have gotten some rather puzzled looks.  One young lady shared that it’s being obsessed with yourself.  Most agreed that it’s thinking only of yourself and your self-importance.  Yet, isn’t this the challenge for all of us?  Don’t we all need to get over ourselves?

When I think of getting over myself I envision this masonry wall that I have to climb over.  On the other side of the wall I find much more happiness.  For when my focus is on others, and I lose the self-concern, I feel fulfilled.  But, that wall of self is hard to get over.  It’s a difficult climb that requires self-discipline. It sounds contradictory, but self-discipline is the way to get over yourself.  We need to get on the other side of the wall of self, but, as I said, it’s a difficult climb.

This is how the Apostle Paul said it to the Philippians:

            (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG) Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Paul was simply telling the Philippians to get over themselves, and I believe the message is also for us.  So, I’m passing the message on, with all love and empathy, exclaiming, get over yourself!  Be assured, I’ll be right beside you sharing the challenge in our attempt to climb that wall of self.

 

Dear friends, I will need to begin cancer treatments soon.  I appreciate your loyal sharing in my thoughts each week, and I intend to continue sharing during my treatments.  Please forgive any deviations in my posting schedule.  No need to be concerned the prognosis is very positive.  Please pray when I come to your mind.  God bless each of you who read this.

Love to you,

Al Vredenburg