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Archive for May, 2013

These past weeks, television networks have covered horrific tornado scenes in Grandbury, Texas, and in Moore, Oklahoma. And we’ve watched.

Over the past years we’ve been glued to the tube by the Oklahoma bombing, the 9/11 massacre, the heartbreak and disaster of Katrina and countless other tragedies that have unfolded on the screens in our living rooms.

We have been schooled to be spectators. And we have become experts.

These tragic events cause our hearts to heave, our tears to flow, and our emotions to be stirred. But we reside in a tornado of deception. The media moves onto the next news worthy event. And we flip the channel to the next calamity and return to what we think is normal.

 For the spectators.

 In the weeks following 9/11 America’s churches filled to capacity. We were jolted into the reality of terrorists who wanted to kill us. And this nation came face to face with our consequential helplessness. People prayed—in droves—turned back to God and prayed some more. But twelve years later, those months of national humbling have passed, replaced by a deeper apathy, deception and open rebellion toward God.

We’ve retreated to our living rooms, cranked up the volume of the tube, and watched as the world implodes.

But God hasn’t called His children to be spectators, He has called us to be soldiers. Christian soldiers. Soldiers, marching through the battlefield of life, with orders from Headquarters to “go and make disciples.”

Oops, that’s not a politically correct paragraph, is it? Too bad—it’s truth.

In prior years we sang the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”. How long has it been since you’ve sung that one on Sunday morning? Do you younger folks know the words? Is this song even in the hymnals any more? Are there hymn books or just words that flash on a screen?

Let’s stop and think for a moment about the differences between spectators and soldiers.

Other than the price of a ticket, spectators have no vested interest in anything. They’ve come to watch, to be entertained—at the ballgame, a concert, or even at church. If you’re a spectator, you’re not likely to read the details of the program. And if you have to pay extra for one, forget it.

The entertainment ends, the spectators gather any belongings they arrived with and  rush on to the next event. Spectators probably don’t even remember the topic of the sermon or what the choir sang, if church was the event. And even if it was a ballgame or concert, the details fade in light of the next dalliance, distraction or diversion on the agenda.

Spectators are usually lighthearted, happy folks, on the surface. Easy to get along with, fun, and always ready for life’s next delight. ‘Til trouble comes.

But what about soldiers. The word even sounds serious, doesn’t it?

The word soldier infers there is a war. Soldier indicates there is army. And Christian Soldier implies there is a Commander.

Every soldier must read the manual, cover to cover, if they plan to live. And a soldier always puts on the assigned battle gear. A soldier is vigilant for any sign of an enemy attack and is prepared for the battle at a moments notice.

DSCF2530“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NAS).

 

News flash—we are at war! A spiritual war rages around and in us each day. The ravages of this battle litter the surface of our earth, just like the devastation caused by the catastrophes we watch on the evening news.  Yes, there is an ongoing battle and we have a very real enemy who has painted the bulls-eye of destruction on our backsides.

But spectators don’t believe this battle exists. As long as they are fed and clothed, life is good. To acknowledge this battle would require a reality check that might convince them perhaps this current world is a dangerous place and the enemy is real.

These happy-go-lucky folks live life in a hot zone, attempting to run through the mine fields of life dressed in their undershorts, and they will become battlefield casualties.

Each day skirmishes flare in our homes, at work, and in the classroom. Every plot of dirt, concrete and water on the planet is engaged in this battle and most of us are not even aware we trample through remnants of defeat or arenas of victory each day.

However, the enemy has no new tricks. Why should he? The old ones still work quite well. This generation of distracted, disinterested and desensitized people is growing. Deceived throngs, just like Jesus said there would be in the days before He returns.  

The day after the Moore tornadoes, one of the news commentators asked several of those interviewed: “Officials have said no one should have survived this tornado. How do you think so many people survived? And why?”

From the fire chief, to first responders, and a few of those who survived responded: “timely media warnings, technology, and lessons learned from past tornadoes.” Not a one of those interviewed answered—by the mercy and grace God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you a spectator or soldier? Do you hear the warning sirens? Do you see the storm clouds gathering? Are you on the alert, preparing and accepting the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Or are you dismissing the warnings, refusing to prepare for the storm that is coming? Watching? Living only for the next moment?

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 6:16-17 NAS).

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“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion  forever” (Psalm 73:25-26 NAS).

Our house is a flurry of activity from sun-up-til-sundown. And our lives are jam-packed from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until we lay our weary bodies down late at night. Then we rise to repeat the process next day.

God instructs I am to be still and know that He is God, but I must be disciplined and determined if I am to sit quietly before the Lord.

Over the years I’ve learned if I’m not worshiping God during the week, chances are I’m not going to worship Him in the sanctuary Sunday morning.

In order to sit before my Father in Heaven, I must choose His peace, before my day begins, else chaos creeps in unannounced and before I know it, I’m off the road-and-in-the-ditch.

And then comes Sunday morning. Why do I go to the sanctuary? To see friends? To be seen by others? To be entertained? Or is it just a habit? A lifelong practice I’ve become accustomed to.

Historic Churches 0007_edited-1Whether I attend a small country church or a metropolitan mega church, or any size church in between, the reason for coming to the sanctuary should be the same—to worship the Lord God Almighty and His only Son, The Lord Jesus Christ. But what should worship look like?

What does it mean to worship?

This word has been so trivialized in our modern culture. Teen girls worship rock stars and movie idols. Goodness, those are dangerous words. Can a boyfriend or rock star become a god? Yes. Anything that interrupts or replaces a relationship with our Father is an idol. A god.

I’ve heard lovers remark, “I just worship the ground he/she walks on.” I believe folks have misconstrued the meaning of the word worship, else we wouldn’t be tossing the word into trite conversation.

Our Sunday School teacher, Dr. Henry Morris, III, relates that the First Commandment “You shall have no other gods before Me” literally means: Nothing between God’s face and my face.

Rogets Thesaurus describes the word worship to mean anything from faith to cultism. From piety to fanatic. But Strong’s Concordance of the Bible states the Old Testament, Hebrew word for worship in Exodus is “shachah—to depress or prostrate or bow down. The act of  bowing down in homage by an inferior before a superior ruler.”

DSCF2344The New Testament word for worship is “proskuneo”. Pros means “to make obeisance, do reverence to/towards” and kueno “to kiss”. It is used of an act of homage or reverence to God.

Each time I see a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ or hear the Spirit of God speaking to someone in the Old Testament, how did they react? Face down in the dirt!

I’m sure every one of us have heard someone say, “When I get to heaven and I see God, I’m gonna ask Him …” No they won’t. Like all those Old Testament folks, we will all be face down, at the feet of Jesus, in heavenly turf.

So when we come into the sanctuary, shouldn’t that be the attitude of our heart too? If you remember Jesus said:

“The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18 11-14 NAS).

Who or what is the object of your worship? Your home? Your career? Your children? Perhaps famous athletes? Money? Or self?

Who or what comes between your face and God’s face?

Who or what is worth the choice of an eternity separated from the Lord Jesus Christ?

How and why we come to the sanctuary matters.DSCF2352 Forever.

Next week: ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

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I posted this article last Mother’s Day and had so many responses I am re-posting. What a week this has been from the Gosnell trial, to those three precious women and one child rescued from ten years of evil. How fitting that we should turn our attention to the numerous blessings and miracles from our Father in Heaven…praise, honor, and glory to His Name.

            “Oh dear, Mother’s Day—again. One of the most difficult days of the year for me.

            February 17, 2001, forever changed my life.   Our twenty-eight year old daughter suddenly died from a hemorrhagic stroke in her brain stem.

            Gone in an instant.

             She left behind a four-and-a-half-year old daughter, a seven month old baby boy, a grieving husband, and family.

            For you who have experienced tragic loss, you understand. You know the tsunami of grief and the secondary losses that bring chaos to your life and to the family. I’m sure you’ve asked the same why questions I asked—with one exception.

            Thirteen months earlier our Michelle was three months pregnant with this now motherless seven-month son, Noah. She and her husband had gone for a routine sonogram one Friday. After reviewing the images the doctor learned the baby was horribly deformed with organs outside the body.

             The doctor recommended an abortion.

            He gave them ‘til Monday to make a decision—abortion or life with a special needs child.

            After the tearful phone call I received from our daughter I caught a plane so I could be there for the follow-up visit Monday. Before I left, we called our church family and asked them to pray.

            The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane was the set of my daughter’s jaw. They had made the decision. After a shower of hugs and kisses, Michelle announced. “We are keeping this baby. Whatever God gives we will receive and love. This little one…” she patted her tummy, “…is a gift from Him. There will be no abortion.”

            The appointment time arrived Monday morning. Clint and Michelle left for the doctor while I treasured time with our first grandchild, then two-and-a-half year old Ashton. The minutes turned to hours. I prayed, laughed and played games with this precious, blonde-haired child of my child.

            Until Michelle and Clint burst through the door. Their faces bathed in joy, both talking, laughing, and crying.

            God had answered our prayers!

            Michelle told us how the doctor repeated the sonogram, then slumped onto his stool, and signaled other nurses and doctors to come and see. Monday’s picture showed a perfect baby—all organs in place—like a three-month-old baby in the womb should be. He placed the image from Friday beside the image from Monday. They appeared to be two very different babies. He had no explanation. But Michelle and Clint did. God healed Noah—in the womb. Just like we had asked Him to do.

            Noah 2013And this is the picture of our miracle boy today. Thank you Lord Jesus!

            But now I stood by her grave site and cried “Why God? Why would  you heal this baby and then thirteen months later take his mother?” There was silence. The heavens were brass—for months.

            Then one morning I sat with the Word of God opened in my lap and read “The secret things belong to the Lord God, but the things revealed  belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

            The quiet voice in my soul asked, “Do you trust Me, DiAne?”

            With trembling heart and lips I replied, “Yes, Lord. I trust You.”

            “Even with this secret thing?”

            “Yes Lord, even with this secret thing.”

            And then there was peace, the beginning of acceptance and a giant step of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

            This scripture has been a life-ring for me. Have I asked why since that time? Oh yes. But I answer—quickly, “Yes Lord, I know. It’s one of those secret things that belongs to You. I don’t need to know, because You know.”

            Other moms are surrounded by their children on Mother’s Day. My child is with the Lord and I feel alone, very alone.

            However, I have learned to remember there are millions of moms, just like me. Moms whose children no longer celebrate this special occasion with them. A few years back I was prompted to send a Mother’s Day card to those mothers who have lost a child. A card to let them know someone loves them and remembers.

            My daughter’s best friend remembers me with cards that carry bitter sweetness that fertilize the blossoms of joy in my heart which grow and bloom out of the soil of pain.”

            gggAnd this year we have connected through FaceBook. Happy Mother’s Day my precious Sarah Jane. Our Michelle turned forty-one-years-old, earth time, this past March.

            “If  you know a mom who has lost a child, why don’t you send a card to them this Mother’s Day. God will bless the sender and receiver. I know because He has blessed me.”

            Those of you who have lost one you love there is help, hope and healing from your grief. Please contact GriefShare at: www.GriefShare.com for a group near you.

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It’s 4:30 AM and I can’t sleep. I sit appalled and pierced after viewing the Fox special “See No Evil” last evening. Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s actions of a lifetime were laid open for the world to see. Americans were allowed to gaze at the horror and atrocities this man committed over the past thirty years. And I am sickened at the depth of this depravity.

I  will never forget the pictures of that baby—those babies—brutally murdered, then stored in a freezer by this doctor and those working in his clinic of evil.

Should this man be sentenced to death? Yes. Should every person who participated in this heinous crime be put to death? Yes. But so should every citizen of the United States of America. We are guilty. By sins of omission.

Guilty for allowing this deception to remain the law of the land. Guilty for turning our back and refusing to demand accountability and regulation from these “houses of horror”. Guilty for not “training up our children in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6 NAS).

We give lip service to our choice for life. Then pull the lever in the voting booth for candidates, from the federal to city governments, who openly agree with Dr. Gosnell, that it’s okay, even necessary to murder unwanted babies.

Pro-Life marches and prayer vigils are scheduled in our cities and few show up to march or pray, but stadiums and athletic centers are full every weekend. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of the drum beats on both sides of this issue. We’ve lost our courage and focus to stand, draw the line in the sand, and require accountability from our lawmakers and judges.

It’s easier to look the other way.

Sanctity of Life Sunday rolls around at church once a year and we write a check or pull a twenty out of our wallets and drop it in the plate. We’ve done our duty and pat ourselves on the back to affirm our stance for life. We refuse to hear the screams of innocent babies sucked into a sink or stabbed in the neck. And go on with our sanitized lives.

But the darkness of sin never remains contained. The black goo seeps out of the pit like a lava flow, ever attempting to smother the light of Truth. And if you haven’t noticed, it’s making steady progress. Because we haven’t oiled the lanterns of our heart with the light of God’s Word and let them burn brightly where we work, where we play, and where we live.

We are guilty before God for tolerating this abomination that will destroy this nation.

We have failed or refused to teach our children the commandments of God. Commandments He gave to assure life and blessings to us and to our children and our children’s children.

Like Eve we have listened to the whispers of the Father of Lies and believed the miracle of life growing in the womb is just tissue. A fetus. Refusing to believe that God alone is the giver and taker of life. Calling Him a liar and choosing to be enemies of the God of all Creation.

Medical science has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that life begins at conception. Just look at an ultra-sound. Hear the heartbeat. Yet we give credence to the idolatry that abortion is okay within certain time limitations. Lies that have brought devastation and destruction to our nation, our families and our future.

In the Old Testament, God records the account of a priest by the name of  Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who saw an Israelite man thumb his nose at God’s law and take a pagan woman into his tent, in spite of God’s command not to intermarry with the inhabitants of the land. This priest of God took a spear and ran them through in order to stay God’s judgment on His people. But not before 24,000 Israelites died. Look in Numbers 25:1-12 to read what God had to say about Phinehas’ actions.

What depths of abomination will we tolerate before we fall on our faces before God? Appalled. Confessing our sin against God and against those fifty-four million plus babies we have allowed to be butchered

During the weeks of this trial and last night’s expose’ God allowed Americans to glimpse into the pit of hell through the doors of that Philadelphia abortion clinic. Dr. Gosnell’s greed of money and his own depravity were finally thrown open to public view. God has stabbed the conscience of this nation, perhaps for the last time before His judgment falls.

The Word of God says the shedding of innocent blood pollutes the land He has given. (Deuteronomy 19:10-13)

Whether you believe God’s Word or not in no way changes the truth of His Word or the reality of His judgments. If we are to survive as a nation, we must demand all laws legalizing abortion be overturned.

Our children must be taught that sex outside of marriage is sin. We must teach them holy marriage is between a man and a woman. And we must teach them it’s wrong to kill what you don’t want. If you don’t want a baby, don’t have sex.

Forces of Satan have spun the deception we are animals and must give in to the lusts of our flesh. We are not. We don’t have to. We choose to. And that choice is sin. We must teach our children that obedience to God’s Word brings blessings and peace.

 We have grown tone-deaf to this counter-culture of disaster and chaos every night on local and national news. But why do we never hear about the men who sire these babies? Where are they?

God has extended a brief moment of grace for Americas to see the ugly, terminal result of unchecked sin. Will we pick up our spears and drive them through the abominable laws of Roe v. Wade? Or will we wait for God and the land to spew us out?

May God have mercy on each one of us, especially the mothers and fathers who have believed the lie and now live daily with the mental pain and anguish abortion always brings. May He grant us the ability to be conduits of His love, grace, and forgiveness to those trapped in the deception and shame of this pagan practice.

“O, my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6 NAS).

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“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray. In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch. For thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee. The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou doest hate all who do iniquity. Thou does destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. But as for me, by Thine abundant lovingkindness I will enter Thy house, at Thy holy temple I will bow in reverence for Thee” (Psalm 5:1-7 NAS).

From the moment the pilgrims stepped foot on the shores of this continent, there has been church in America. Those courageous men and women sailed across an ocean to find a place to worship God. And this nation was founded on the laws and principles of the Word of God. These first Americans gave their lives so you and I could worship the God of our fathers.

Imagine getting up next Sunday morning and not being able to meet with those of like faith. No sanctuary to worship together. No place to pray and no brothers and sisters to join in singing praises to the Lord .

But during times of God’s judgment, ancient Israel had no temple. He destroyed His temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. because His people had desecrated the holy sanctuary with perversion, idol worship, and rebellion. Then in 70 A.D. God again destroyed the temple for the same reason. And for almost two thousand years the Jewish people have had no temple to gather on the Sabbath. No holy place to bow in reverence to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 I’m ashamed to say I often take the privilege and blessing of coming to the sanctuary for granted. Many Sundays I gather the baggage of my heart, with little thought, and get ready for church. I show up, to load up on encouragement and comfort from God and from friends so I can function within the turmoil and stress of the world for another week.

From the beginning God set the Sabbath Day apart and called it holy. He knew I would need a day to shift gears. He knew I would need a day to come aside and contemplate who He is and who I’m not. He knew I would need a day to come together with a body of believers to focus, to praise and worship The Lord God Almighty. El Shaddai and His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture tells us, “For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Psalm 147:1 NAS).

I’ve learned I’m not alone in my journey to the sanctuary. All who come to the altar of our God Jehovah have layers of pain and hurt only Jesus can heal. If we are to live through the whirlwinds and chaos of this world, all of us must come to the sanctuary. To the altar of our God. On a regular basis.

Like me, many stumble in the door wounded, ragged, and bleeding. And if the edges of our hearts were visible, an ambulance would be called and we would be admitted to ICU.  We’ve lost a child, a spouse, or been diagnosed with an inoperable disease. We’ve lost our  means of  income or been told a spouse is leaving. Or worse.

Then there’s the group labeled “Don’t want to be here. Not going to listen to a word.” We sit silent, tight-jawed, arms crossed. Unapproachable. Coming to please spouses, parents, or sweethearts. But still needy. Still coming to the sanctuary.

Some of us creep in unnoticed. Overwhelmed by guilt. Crushed by something Satan has convinced us God will never forgive. We don’t know Satan’s other name—Father of Lies. Deep inside our hearts a stirring begins. A glimmer of hope. Maybe God would…If only He could. We are fragile. Desperate. Then we look around, hear the music and the voices and listen as Satan whispers in our ear, in a first person singular voice, with a southern accent voice—I don’t deserve to be here, my sin is too much to forgive.

Others of us bounce in the door with hearts bulging, brimming with joy over the good things God has poured over us during the past week. Starved for the next serving of God’s Word and we don’t want to miss a syllable or become distracted by wiggly children or those who straggle in late.

However, a greater number of us arrive just plain weary. Weary of the stresses and trials we’ve endured the past week. Weary of injustices and changes occurring in our culture. We’ve stretched our time, money and energy far beyond the breaking point and we need help.

If we’re honest, we’ve been in each one of those groups at some point in our lives. Seeking. Unaware of what we need. Just knowing we’re empty and need refilling. Renewing. A time to bow before our God. A time to worship Him, in an orderly manner, with praise and thanksgiving.

So how can we be helped in those few hours Sunday morning? Who could possibly meet the diverse needs and solve this horde of problems and troubles?

Only the Lord Jesus Christ, our omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NAS). He alone has the ability to heal us. All of us. If we acknowledge our need and cry for His help.

Why do you come to the sanctuary? To meet God? To a holy place to learn His Word and boldly draw near the Throne of God’s grace? To pray? To worship?  ‘Cause quiet places are few and far between outside the sanctuary.

What do you experience when you stand on holy ground?

What does worship and praise mean to you?

Is there a special way you must come into the House of the Lord?

I hope you will take the time to read the 9th chapter of Daniel, verses 1 through 22. And then turn back and read the 9th chapter of  Ezra, verses 1 through 15 and Ezra 10:1 before next week’s post.

What preparations did these two men make before they prayed? Where were these men when they prayed? And what happened as a result of their prayers?

What happens when you pray?

 

NEXT WEEK:  IN THE SANCTUARY/ PART TWO – What is worship? What is thanksgiving? What is praise?

 

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