If you ask a child to clean their room or make their bed, they will often respond with, “Why? It is only going to get messed up again.” That’s true, but it is not a reason for not cleaning. Many parts of life have their way of getting messed up again, but we keep cleaning, repairing, and improving. When things are neat and clean it effects our attitude. We feel better, and appreciate our surrounding. It is one of the reasons for uniforms for school kids. When they are dressed neatly, they often behave better, and take more pride in themselves. This is true spiritually as well as physically. Repentance before God and hearing His forgiveness is the way He has graciously given to cleanse our lives. We know that it is wrong to ignore sin, and keep on sinning. We can’t use the excuse that it’s just the way we are, and we are going to get messed up again anyway. Genesis 1:31 tells us that, “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” Whether in our personal space, the world around us, or our own hearts, we seek to keep all that God has given us very good.
What does it mean to trust, especially to trust God? We say it all the time, but we usually have a back up plan in case God doesn’t come through the way we think He should. This is especially true in our affluent world. We solve many of our problems with money. We really don’t know what it means to have to pray for our next meal, as some Christian workers have had to do. Or pray for safety from hostile peoples. Truly trusting God is to be out on a limb with no way back. If God doesn’t help, we are lost. It is not a question that we have to be in poverty or danger to learn to trust God. Rather, we need to see Him as our single source of provision, strength, and hope in all situations of life. God is trustworthy. He has proven it time and again.
Jesus speaking of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I am presently in the midst of a church conference with about twelve congregations of the eastern region of our church body. I planned the schedule and invited the speakers, but I didn’t choose an overall theme. Yet God, in His grace, brought a unity to the presentations from the brief morning devotion through the main speakers giving us a message that we all needed to hear. Don’t ever discount the Holy Spirit. When you look at your life, those seeming coincidences, those small opportunities, the sudden even that comes, even those difficult trials you face at times – God is working. You are a child of God. He loves you. He is working in your life in small and not so small ways. He desires to draw you more deeply into His love. Don’t ever discount the work of His Spirit. His wind is blowing in your life.
Jeremiah was charged to bring words of correction from the Lord to the people of Judah. They didn’t like it and sought to kill him, as they had done with other prophets the Lord had sent. At one point a few wiser heads prevailed and they spared his life. The comment that seemed to turn the situation around at that time was like this. “If we do this we are committing a great evil against ourselves.”(26:19) That is the point of sin. It is not that God takes pleasure in bringing judgment upon those who reject His will. It is that they hurt themselves, and separate themselves from the good God desires for them. The point of all God’s commands is not to restrict us, denying us pleasure, but to guide us in finding the best life possible. There are God given absolutes established for life. They are meant to give us blessing and joy. Sin, ignoring God’s absolutes, only blocks that good from us and we hurts ourselves. Our Lord is always calling us to repentance, receiving His forgiveness, and finding our good life in Jesus.
Having just had a hip replacement and dealing with a couple of other things I’ve been through quite a number of tests in the past months. Medical science has developed numerous ways to look inside the human body. There are CT scans, MRIs, xrays, echograms, scopes and probes to show what is going on inside of us, but there is a most important part that is far deeper. All of Scripture speaks of the hearts of people being in harmony with God or not. It is God who sees the heart. Parts of the body being well or ill effects how we feel physically. Jesus healed a lot of people, but He always looked at this deeper part of our being which effects our behavior for good or ill. The Bible is a very human book because it shows people in all manner of life, both virtues and sins. It is because of this we can call the Bible a book about the human heart. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews wrote, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(12:4) Our physical tests are needed to help doctors deal with our diseases and restore our health. But it is far more important for our spiritual health that we allow the truth of God’s Word to cleanse and restore our hearts.
[category Good Morning]
I read a book a while back entitled How The News Makes You Dumb. It’s point was, given the necessity of filling 24 hours a day with some kind of material, there are redundant, and often conflicting reports that lead to more confusion than truth. News pages and air time are also filled with useless, and at times sensational details of people’s lives that we really don’t need to know. In the U.S. we have the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press. This is a right to be cherished and guarded. But it also takes a great deal of discernment on our part to filter through what is useful and important, and what is not. This discernment, like everything else in a Christian’s life, is guided by our understanding of God’s Word, and His purpose for mankind. We view the world through God’s truth, and the life we are called to in Jesus Christ. In this way we can skim over 80% of the news presented, and prayerfully take the remainder for whatever understanding or action is needed. I find it helpful to begin with the comics first!! That sets the rest in the proper perspective.
On Thursday evening shortly before Jesus’ arrest and trial He was trying to comfort His disciple’s fears. He had said to them, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”(John 14:4) Then Thomas asked a question that summaries what all of us feel at times. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are committed to Him. But we also live in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and we all face situations where we don’t know the way. “Lord, where are you going with this? How can we know the right way?” Then Jesus answered,”I am the way and the truth and the life…” We would like to have a specific plan – do this, this, and this and all will work out well. That isn’t the answer Jesus gives. He simply says keep your eyes on me, hold my hand, follow me. We don’t know where many of our trials in life will end. Just like the disciples on that Thursday evening had no real ideal of all that they would face. Yet they walked forward keeping their eyes, and the deepest hope of their hearts fixed on Jesus. It was He who brought them through to the resurrection on Easter Sunday Morning. With eyes fixed on Jesus we move forward one step at a time.
Forgiveness is a powerful and necessary characteristic for life. In our fallen state we all have our share of self-centeredness, and ignorance of others needs and feelings. This causes us to hurt and be hurt. It causes us to offend both God and others. The power to forgive and be forgiven was gained for us at the cross. It is vital that we depend upon daily. We have no life with God apart from the forgiveness granted us through Christ. We have no relationship with others unless we are willing to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness has been given to us at the greatest possible cost. Let’s be willing to use it in all of our relationships.
We had the privilege yesterday of attending our grandson’s confirmation at his church. Confirmation is that time when a young person has the opportunity to affirm the vows his parents took for him when he was baptized as an infant. It is a serious time, and for those in attendance it is an important reminder of the seriousness of our own confession of the Christian faith. These young people had been instructed by their pastor for several years, and are then asked to stand before the congregation to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. After being asked a series of questions about their belief they are asked one final question. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” That becomes a question posed to all of us who profess faith in our Lord. It is especially true in an era where there have been more Christian martyrs than all previous centuries of the Church, and where even in our own country people have been asked to compromise their faith in order to continue their business. So confirmation is not just a service our young people go through. It is a challenge for all of us to rethink the depth and commitment to our own faith. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus is truly worth what ever the cost.
Chapter nine of St. John’s Gospel has the account of Jesus healing a man who was born blind. Of course He did it on the Sabbath which got him in trouble with the Pharisees. The Jewish leaders grilled the man who had been healed trying to get something they could use against Jesus. I really love this guy in the way he stood his ground against the officials. They tried to get him in a theological discussion which the man rejected. He simply said, “This one thing I know. Once I was blind, but now I can see.” The Lord had worked in his life. He knew it, and he wouldn’t back down. If you are a Christian, if you have known the Lord for some period of time, I think you can identify with this man. There is one, or perhaps a few, turing points in your life about which you can say, “This I know. Once I was blind, but now I see. I know the Lord worked in my life at that very point and I am changed because of it.” You may not be able to explain it clearly to others so that it has the same meaning it has for you, but nonetheless it is real. Jesus touched you. For the healed blind man it led him to worship the Lord. Let it do the same for us.