If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The race

 The gears crashed as a loud grinding sound thundered from under the driver’s seat. The lead car had faded slightly going into turn seven and slammed into the railing sending the number two car spinning into the infield. As the number three car desperately tried to avoid the debris the side wall of a it’s rear tire overheated and exploded into shredded steel and rubber.  The car rolled several times before it went end over end finally coming to rest against the concrete T-rail barrier.

As the gun sounded several thousand contestants started out down Main Street. There was barely enough room for all running in the field as several runner’s tripped on the person directly ahead of them causing many athletes to fall to the ground. 

Everyone knew that the first mile was not supposed to be an all out sprint but several hundred people wanting to take the lead pushed each other to treat the first mile as if it was the last mile of the race. This caused several runners to fall out of the competition with severe side aches while the remainder slowed to a crawl allowing the larger pack to pass them.

Some of the runners, drenched with perspiration passed a beautiful shady park where the sprinklers were busy watering the rich green grass. Overcome with heat and exhaustion they left the race and cooled themselves under the protection of a grove of large maple trees.

 Nearing the halfway marker the race route passed several open air restaurants that were busy serving their customers lunch. The aromas of pasta sauce, peppered steak and roasted lamb poured out of the kitchen luring many of the contestants to drop out of the race for a place at one of the outside tables. 

Runner number 1047 had stayed in the middle of the group at a medium jog and had felt better and better as each mile marker began to fly by. She had prepared for the race, even running this same route just last week where she finished the entire twenty-six miles in record time. As several hours passed the lead group crossed the halfway point with a total of 500 runners remaining in the race. They were spread out over seven miles with only seventy-five runners in a position and competing for first, second or third place.

Robert was watching the clock as his work day neared the end. It had been a tough day at the Prairie Homes where Robert worked as a customer service representative. Robert was a young talented college graduate who had many new ideas that would have changed the way money was being squandered. If only the construction side had listened to his advice to have taken a little more time and built their homes right the first time they could have saved Prairie Homes millions of dollars in wasteful repairs.

After many months of being ignored at his job, Robert had lost his drive to persevere as he was given many impossible tasks as part of an ever growing work load. He left the compound that day overcome with anger and had not kept his eyes on the road ahead of him. He hadn’t seen the traffic come to a complete stop and plowed full speed into the back of a fully loaded tractor trailer. Robert died instantly at the scene as his smart car went completely under the rear end of a fully loaded tractor-trailer.

How important it is for all of us to keep our eyes on the finish line and not let up. We face so many trials and distractions that often times we get sidelined and are no longer of any use to God. Even daily distractions can take us out of the race where we are too busy with jobs, projects or stress to focus on things that are eternal. 

If you agree that we are in a spiritual battle then it is so important to know what our enemy’s strategy is as we battle his legions through our daily routines. His strategy, since he can’t capture your soul, is to “bench” you by taking you out of the game, battle or the race that we are running.

When we live a life characterized by sin it ultimately leads to death. Sin begins as a thought in our minds and if allowed to grow will mature into an action that will take us out or disqualify us from the race.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tent maker

Paul was a tent maker. That was his trade through which he supported himself while visiting distant churches as he traveled the world. He did not want his work for God to be a burden on the local church so he very graciously took up the needle, canvas and thread. He met others while traveling who were also in the trade of sewing tents. 

Paul was a minister of God. He loved God and was helping to propel the church towards its final destination. Many would come along for the ride which would eventually end for Paul in the metropolis of Rome. He likened the Christian life to a Grecian Olympic race where only the ones who crossed the finished line were counted. 

He also likened our physical bodies to mere vapors which were here one moment and gone the next. Our bodies he allegorized as tents that only temporarily housed our spirits while we waited to be clothed with our eternal attire. He was so sure of this eternal destiny that he even asked the sailors, on an ill wrought ocean voyage, to throw him overboard in order to save every man on the ship. 
Paul planted many seeds in good soil that eventually sprang up into mature fruit bearing Christians all around the Mediterranean basin. He lived each day to the fullest and never missed an opportunity to lay a firm foundation in someone’s life. He didn’t let his physical weakness keep him from speaking the truth. 

Paul saw lives changed even in some of the roughest port cities of the known world. He never backed down when it came to the name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God was preeminent in his life and he suffered many stripes, beatings and prison for the sake of the gospel.

Paul had an eternal perspective. He knew where he was headed and he knew the way to get there. Personal gain was never a part of the equation as he selflessly worked to guide sinners to the truth. He continued to keep the law not because he had to but rather because of his love for God. 

Even as his own authority was questioned, Paul only pointed out how he and others were merely fellow farmers who were jointly planting seed, watering seed and reaping the harvest but that it was always God who had caused the growth. Never did he feel the need for personal acknowledgement as he endured the marathon to its final conclusion.

He showed us how to stand and fight against the powers of darkness and that the battle is and always will be the Lord’s. He showed us each piece of our armor, how to guard our vulnerable parts and keep our guard up to ward off the fiery darts of our enemy. He taught us to use our swords to slay the giants in our lives.

Paul showed us a great mystery of the church being the bride of Christ. He encouraged us to remember the covenant that Jesus made with His bride; to drink the cup and break the bread of remembrance as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew and cleanse us for our marriage to the Lamb.

 He reminded men that they should lay down their lives for their wives while gracefully encouraging wives to submit to their husbands. He reminded us not to be too hard on our children and to never miss a teaching moment with them. Although possessing superior knowledge of the scriptures, Paul never forced it on anyone but gently allowed the Spirit to draw all men to Himself.

He encouraged and led, held up a mirror for us to examine ourselves while reminding us that he  hated it when he missed God’s higher calling. He taught that the gifts were a promise to all believers and instructed us on the correct way we should use them. He even showed us the greatest gift of love which can only be received from God. 

This man was once a Hebrew of Hebrews but as God blinded him physically He opened his spiritual eyes forever. Paul lived and walked where ever he could to find the lost and gave everything he had to point them to Jesus. Seeing a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus changed him forever. 

Paul would eat meat offered to idols, worship on Saturday or Sunday and once told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach. He counted it all joy to suffer for the gospel and is rejoicing in heaven with the Lord at this very moment. For salvation is a gift from God and not of works because we would and still do boast about our accomplishments. It’s all about what Jesus, our eternal tent maker, accomplished.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Faith before works

The inner cell of the jail was dark, dank and smelled of mold and mildew. A very thin sliver of light fought to find its way into the inner chamber. A rat scurried and stopped standing on its hind legs long enough to smell two men who were chained to the concrete floor. It was midnight and the men, who had been beaten on their backs with canes, were carefully leaning against the damp cold rock walls singing hymns to God. 

While Paul and Silas ignored the searing pain that radiated over their entire bodies they both began praising, praying and singing praise to God. While their situation seemed hopeless to men, with God all things are possible and deliverance was actually very near, even knocking at their cell door.

 Suddenly, there was a great earthquake that shook the ground even to the foundations of the prison. As the violent shaking subsided all the doors became unhinged and opened on their own. Every chain that fettered a prisoner to the floor became loose. They were free indeed as the keeper of the prison, who awoke from sleep and realized what had happened. Thinking that the prisoners escaped, the jailer drew his sword and was preparing to dispatch himself. 

Paul knowing what the keeper was thinking called out to him in a loud voice “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here”. 

The keeper of the prison breathed a sigh of relief and called out for an oil lamp. The man ran into where Paul and Silas were now standing and fell down on his knees pleading with them “What must I do to be saved?”

Of course the law and the sentence at this Roman colony for allowing one prisoner to escape was clear to the jailer and God preparing his heart had led him into the inner prison to beg for mercy from these two missionaries sent by God. You can almost hear the pounding of the jailer’s heart and feel the adrenalin coursing through his veins as he humbly asks for instructions on how he can obtain salvation for his soul.

As he takes Paul and Silas back to his house and family he is already becoming renewed inside as the tough outer layer of his heart is being removed. As the entire family hears the good news that Paul and Silas are speaking they immediately believe and ask to be saved. 

The Philippian jailer then washed their wounds that they had received at the hands of the magistrates.  He also prepared food for them to eat and rejoiced having believed in God with his entire household.
What a great testimony it is to be praising God in the midst of a trial. To sing praises to our God when we are broken, beat up and strung out. Keeping our eyes on God is the secret along with being empowered by His Holy Spirit. Without God the plethora of pitfalls, disappointments and distractions cause us to become unbalanced and fearful allowing anxiety and panic to fill our minds. 

The answer to overcoming anxiety is found in Paul’s letter to the church he established in Philippi through Lydia and this jailer.  Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” 

Oh what a joy it is to be firmly planted, unmovable, in the hands of a loving God. Our God is not angry with us; He doesn’t want to punish us and has stated this fact in the gospel of John 3:15-18. Many of you have one of these  verses recorded on your hearts; these are wonderful verses that have been written on sacred parchment in Israel as well as spray painted on bridge abutments in Southern California.

For now there is no condemnation for those of us who have believed in Christ Jesus. Just believe in your own heart that God has indeed raised Him from death and then confess with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and you will be saved. He is a God who really cares, not a wrathful tyrant wanting to injure and maim His creation in the name of terror. It is our enemy who is filled with that kind of hate!

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”