Friday, 27 September 2019

Rotten In The Middle

Proverbs 20:11 Even a young man is known by his actions — by whether his behavior is pure and upright.

      In January of 1979, I was travelling through New Zealand. In the small community of Orewa north of Aukland, while standing in front of a small corner grocery store, waiting for a bus. The owner of the store came out carrying two big cardboard shipping boxes of apples with a logo on the box that I immediately recognized. The apples came from a small town just north of where I live in British Columbia. A grocery delivery-truck was pulling up and parking in front of the store just as I was about to say to the store owner, "Hey, that is where I'm from, and those apples are shipped and delivered just down the road from me." Before I could say anything, the grocer said to the truck-driver very loud and emphatically, "Don't bring this brand anymore, they are always rotten in the middle!" Needless to say, I did not pipe up one bit.
      I've never forgotten that loud and vocal declaration of rottenness. A few times over the years, as I've driven by that particular apple company's warehouse, I sometimes say, "I wonder if the apples are still rotten in the middle?" I remember the apples were so red and polished on the outside. It would be hard to see that they were rotten on the inside. These beautiful apples were hiding the fact that they were not what they seemed.
      What is happening on the inside of your soul? Are you spotless on the outside and rotten in the middle so to speak? Matt. 23:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. Do you feel like things could be a whole lot cleaner on the inside? 
      To simply act as if we love God, will be discovered by God, because He knows what and who we are on the inside. The word hypocrite, from the Greek word 'hypokrites', means "an actor." Are we just pretending to love God and acting out a role in our Christianity, or, are our motives pure and upright toward the Lord? Prov. 20:11 Even a young man is known by his actions — by whether his behavior is pure and upright.
     This is the phony pretence Jesus was trying to reveal in the heart's of the spiritual leaders when discussions of the law came up. Matt. 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. The priests, scribes, and religious activists of the day could put on a big outward display of self-righteousness and flamboyant rhetoric, but they had no Godly substance within their hearts. Matt. 6:5 Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. Jesus was exposing the rottenness in the middle and was trying to show us our need for an inward transformation that could only come from God Himself.
      God the Father, is after a relationship with His creation and is not interested in a bunch of automatons who are set on automatic religious response. The Lord wants a life-giving heart to heart relationship that brings out the eternal best in who we are. God has made a way through Christ and the cross to make it possible for us to get cleaned up on the inside and replace the rottenness of soul with real life.
      Unlike the Scribes and Pharisees, we should never interpret the Word of God to suit our personal views, then, turn around and expect God to honor our interpretation as if God Himself wrote it. It is our pride that makes us create our own rules and laws that were never God's intention. Isa. 29:13 The Lord said: These people approach me with their speeches to honor me with lip-service — yet their hearts are far from me, and human rules direct their worship of me. 
      Our Heavenly Father is continually moving toward us so that we draw closer to Him. If we turn our hearts to God and let Him heal our insides through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus, then, it will no longer be said of us that we are always rotten in the middle. On the contrary, the righteousness and grace of God will have filled our core with His life. Amen!

Friday, 20 September 2019

Jesus In The Fast Lane

Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

      I was laughing inwardly, as someone was complaining that God was not moving fast enough on their prayer request. This person was wondering why God did not notice they were in a hurry to get this thing done and completed - like, right now! I can just see Jesus pushing his way through the crowds saying, "Hey, get out of the way! I'm in a hurry here. I've got miracles to perform and corpses to raise. Oh yeah, and there is that big bunch of people I've got to feed out in the field."  Yeah, right. Jesus in the fast lane. This vision of Jesus doesn't quite make it into my heart. Matt. 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
      We may be all travelling at the speed of light in this world, but God has His timing on everything. Eccl. 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Waiting for God to do His work in our hearts can be a long wait if we are fighting Him along the way. Believing God for a miracle takes faith and patience on our part. We do not snap our fingers and God jumps to our instructions. 
      We who are in Christ must come to God by faith, and not demanding our list of stuff that must be done. We must first believe that God is God and He is sovereign over all of life. Heb. 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
      Indeed, it sometimes feels like God is not moving fast enough on our behalf. Especially when it was God in the first place who put the actual vision we are believing for in our hearts. Sarai could no longer wait for God's timing to have the child that the Lord had promised her. Saria instructed Abram to sleep with her bondservant so that Sarai could have a surrogate child. Gen. 16:2 Sarai said to Abram, “Since the LORD has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said. Sarai's fast lane idea didn't work out well at all. God did not go along with Saria's plan but stuck to His own eternal one.
      King Saul could not wait for Samuel to show up and minister the sacrifice to God. Saul's troops were starting to desert him, so Saul decided to minister the sacrificial ceremony himself to hurry things along. 1 Sam. 13:8 He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering. Because of this impatient fast lane decision, Saul lost his kingdom, and the events in his life went downhill from this point on.
      We are never going to force Jesus into the fast lane of our time table. We have to line our lives up with His plan and timeline. Our focus must be on what the Lord has sown in our hearts and we are to keep our way straight by His grace. Prov. 4:25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 
      So many people want everything by yesterday's date. However, the Kingdom of God works line upon line, and precept upon precept, so that the Lord's plans come to pass in the fullness of God's time. Isa. 28:10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.
      Trusting in God takes faith and patience. There have been times in my life when I simply thought of a prayer that I would pray, and the answer to that prayer manifested within the hour. There have been times when the answer to my prayers took months, and other times, many years. What I have come to understand is that when I pray by faith, I also have to trust that God's timing will make all things work for the good of my life and those of whom I am connected with. Rom. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 
      The keywords in the above verse are, "According to His purpose." We can get caught up in the fast lanes of life trying to make God fulfill our purpose. The Lord is the creator, and we are the created. We have to keep that perspective in our life while living out our relationship with God. 
      Jesus is Lord, master, saviour and friend. He knows when and what we need. We just have to trust His love, grace, and timing. Prov. 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Blessings to us all.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Working Through It

Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

      Over eight years ago, I covenanted with God, with His grace, that I would do my best to take care of my heart that misses a beat. Because of poor life choices, work-related stress, plus, bad eating habits, I caused my heart to become diseased and eventually I suffered a stroke. I have changed my lifestyle entirely, while I keep believing God to heal my heart, and restore it to its full natural capacity. 
      Whole and real foods have become my diet of choice, and I have been working out regularly at the gym and some of the exercise parks available in my area. Working through so many lifestyle changes has become a focus in my life. One of the keys that resulted in my present good health was knowing that I was always working through a phase of hardship to the eventual accomplishment I was after. Plus, I did not resent the slow progress that sometimes showed up. Zec. 4:10a Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. It took a lot of effort and time, but truly worth it.
      While working out at the gym, one of the noticeable regularities is that each person is working through something in their workout routine. Some, are working through a new pain that occurred since they started exercising the muscles in a different part of their body. While many, are working toward their goals of strength and weights that they set for themselves. Others are just working out how they are going to get through the first week of training while wheezing, grunting, moaning, and screaming, "I'm never coming back," or "I will get through this come hell or high water."
      The overall theme is - everyone is working through something, and it is going to take more than just talk to get their weight-training and lifestyle changes done. It's going to take the diligence of heart and character to work through some of the difficulties that will be encountered. Prov. 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
      Every level of training brings new challenges, and it is no different in our walk with God. There will never be a time when we are not going through some kind of spiritual growth and strengthening in our faith. Phil. 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
      Remember that the rain falls on the just and the unjust equally. There will be some hardships in life and that is part of living. However, we have our heavenly Father who will guide us through the difficulties. The Lord will help us stand by faith in the promises of His word. 
      The Apostle Paul who suffered extensively throughout his ministry had many reasons to give up but wrote that God had continually rescued him. 2Tim. 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Name it, and Paul went through it.
      I don't know what you are going through right now, but please realize that you are travelling in a temporary place. You do not have to stop and live there for the rest of your life. You are walking through the valley of shadows because you are battling what life throws at you. 
      We are all working through something, and they who know their God will come out victorious. We will eventually see that we were growing from glory to glory. It may take time, but as in health training, it is worth it, because this holy training is of eternal value. God bless you and give you the strength to accomplish what the Lord has put in your heart to do.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Another Disorder

Proverbs 23:2 And put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite.

      I don't mean to be insensitive here, but, I did roll my eyes when I heard a doctor on a CBC radio interview say, "They were no longer calling it - alcoholism, it was now called alcohol use disorder." I can just hear the men and women who have come to terms with their alcoholism, say at the next AA meeting, "Hi my name is Norm, and I am a victim of alcohol use disorder." No! To be healed of it, you have to take responsibility for what it is - alcohol addiction and not some froo-froo disorder. Excuse my vernacular here, but before I knew the Lord as my saviour, I was a dumb-ass alcoholic drunk. I was not a witless-buttocks who had problems with alcohol use disorder. Oh please! 
     When are we going to man-up so to speak, and stop blaming all our problems on another new disorder? Like most of you, I have compassion for people who suffer under any oppressive addiction, because not but the grace of God, there go I. We, as a society, want answers for those who need help breaking their addictions, but as Anne Lamott says, "When are we going to stop and try to heal our sick stressed minds with our sick stressed minds?" We need real answers and not another disorder to blame our woes on. Matt. 15:14b They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.
      In the late 1970s, I was an alcoholic. After finally accepting personal responsibility for my addiction to alcohol, I was able to break the habit with God's healing grace and power in my life. By God's grace, I still live in blessed sobriety to this day. Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. A few years ago, I helped a young man who was addicted to heroin, break free of its ruthless and merciless cravings. When he was at the nadir of his addiction, he wanted to be free, and he wanted that freedom with all his mind, heart, and soul. I'm happy to say, that today, he is living a drug-free healthy life, and has become a wonderful husband and father.
      One of the complaints he had at the time he was battling his drug addiction, was that the doctors who were handing out the methadone prescriptions were all too ready at the slightest hint of difficulty to raise the dosage. He said, "The doctors think they are helping by babying the addict, but they are almost guaranteeing the addict will fail in their recovery, because the doctors see them as victims, and not as people who might breakthrough." Wow! What insight. 
      This young man felt he was fighting a battle on two fronts. I'm paraphrasing what he said, "I was addicted to heroin, but the doctors treated me like I was only pharmaceutically challenged. It's so hard to get out of the system of drugs, whether it is legal or illegal." I don't believe all doctors are that way. A lot of good doctors and compassionate drug-counsellors are stuck within an overlegislated medical system that promotes prescriptions rather than hands-on healing. Therefore, they come out with more disorders and syndromes to try and accommodate the multitudes of hurting people looking for help. I reckon all we can say is, "Physician, heal thyself." 
      We live in a restless society where the appetite for everything being sensational and extreme is also bringing with it - extreme binge drinking, heavy drug use, and many other overindulgent risky lifestyles. Prov. 23:2 And put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Self-destructive behavior has almost become mainstream. The results are addictions to anything that can relieve the present pains in life. We will need more than labelling these souls as suffering a disorder. We need real power - the kind of power that God has.
      When we begin to call sin what it is, and not cover it up with another catchy slogan, then, the results will be healing for the lost, addicted, and tormented. The Lord asks us to confess our sins to Him so that we may get rid of them and the deadly effects they cause. The road to recovery is asking the Lord for His powerful help. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Grace and a clean conscience will give us the strength to kick the bad habit. 
      By simply calling every human difficulty a disorder, is a disservice to those who want out of their addictions. Hi, my name is Norm, and I take ownership of the decisions I have made in my life. Because of that fact, I repent of the wrongs and sins I committed throughout my life. My bad behavior was not a disease, it was sin, and I must confess it to God so that I can get rid of it. 
      It is the Lord who gives us the power to overcome and fight any addiction that would try to attach itself to our body and soul. 2 Cor. 10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. This is how we win. We do it with God! May God give us all the ability to overcome the battles we are going through. Amen!