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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!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Promises, promises



Have you ever promised something and then realized that you were not going to be able to keep your promise? Newly married men and women promise to love, honor and cherish one another until death finally separates them. Unfortunately, many of those promises are broken within the first year of marriage ending in annulment or divorce. 

Maybe at some point you have promised your kids that you would take them bike riding, to a baseball game or on a trip to Disneyland only to have an urgent issue comes up at work and there goes your promise. New Years Day is a special time to make and break promises. Many sign up for annual gym memberships on January 2nd only to have them canceled and prorated February 3rd. Many people often promise to quit smoking but we all know how that one goes.

From the beginning of time humans have been making promises only to eventually forget about them completely. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I was a member of a Christian organization whose name boosted that they  intended to be keepers of their word; which on most days made me feel like a complete hypocrite. The organization is now out of business and no longer making that promise. Yes, human beings are “Promise Breakers” and I have often thought of starting an organization with that brand but you can use it if you so desire because the shoe probably fits you too.

The good news is that God can’t break a promise. God is not surprised by anything and He can’t learn anything new. When he writes something it usually is in stone. He cautions us not to be too hasty to make a vow with Him because He will hold us to that vow. He means what He says and says what He means. That is very comforting to me in these last days.

If we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory is there any way to be saved? “The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” 1 John 1:7.  So what shall we do if our lives are totally screwed up? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. 

Is this life we live here on earth all there is? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16. In the words of Jesus Himself “I say emphatically that anyone who listens to my message and believes in God who sent me has eternal life, and will never be dammed for his sins, but has already passed out of death into life.” John 5:24.

But my life is so hard? Being a Christian isn’t easy and bad things still happen to me? “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Can I lose the gift of salvation? “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:29. “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 creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38, 39.

But my life is draining all my strength out of me? “Trust in the Lord God always, for in the Lord Jehovah is your everlasting strength.” Isaiah 26:4. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: and shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

The bible is so hard to read and I don’t understand it? “He reveals profound mysteries beyond man’s understanding. He knows all hidden things, for He is light, and darkness is no obstacle to Him.” Daniel 2:22. “No mere man has ever seen, heard or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord. But we know about these things because God has sent His Spirit to tell us, and His Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Coffee and cranberry scones



The sun was just coming up over the mountains as a steady stream of droopy eyed customers repeatedly opened the swinging door into the coffee shop. Outside tables were being filled with various groups who were busy discussing their kid’s soccer games, what they watched on TV last night or the latest gossip circulating around town. Off to one side, the Ridge Lake Christian men’s group was meeting for early morning prayers and devotions. Hot coffee and cranberry scones were being devoured as fast as the waitress could haul them out. However, most folks sat motionless in their chairs gazing into an endless sea of laptops, notebooks, IPads and smart phones of all shapes, colors and sizes.

“You Know” paused one of the men from the church group to a woman sitting at a table behind him. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!”

“Yes, I’m sure your right” smiled the woman who was distracted and not desiring conversation turned back to her book.

“But I’m not sure you know the same Jesus that we do” continued the man with his line of questioning and who seemed to recognize the woman as belonging to a different spiritual fellowship located down the street from Ridge Lake Christian. 

“Oh, well, I wasn’t aware there was more than one Jesus?” snapped the woman politely yet with a smidgen of annoyance at the man’s persistent inquisition.

Soon, pleasant conversation came to a halt, bibles slammed shut and all eyes became focused on the woman with spot-on, pin-point accuracy. Their glare was so intense, like red lasers in a laboratory experiment, that you could almost feel the heat and see a wisp of smoke rising from their target. The group of penitent older men had quickly dissolved into a vicious pack of young, hungry wolves and as the sun was rising they began to slowly circle their prey. All the men joined in the feeding frenzy that escalated into a shouting match across tables. Verses were now being hurled from memory, out of context, demanding that their own particular knowledge, theology and dogma were the only way to reach God. 

As providence would have it a young Jewish rabbi, sitting nearby, closed his copy of the Torah and began blocking the men’s rhetoric like a giant shield held high above one’s head during a bright storm of flying night arrows. 

“Anyway, we Jews would have to disagree with all of you” said the rabbi adjusting his round, Harry Potter looking spectacles up towards the bridge of his nose. “And I believe the fact that you are arguing with one another is proof that you don’t know what real love is. None of you know the first thing about God and the great love that He has for His creation. You see, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” stammered the rabbi.

The preceding story is completely factious; any similarities to actual people, places or events are strictly coincidental. 

Two thousand years ago, Nicodemus, a religious leader of Jesus’ day, under the cover of darkness, came secretly stating the fact that God must be with the young rabbi.  Jesus replied saying “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus went on to say that just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believed and trusted in Him would be saved. All one has to do, to be forgiven by God, is to look up to the cross, believe and to behold Jesus, God’s One and only Son. He alone has paid our debt in full by becoming the payment for our sins and transgressions.  

The questions we must all ask ourselves are: Have we really been born again? Are we truly transformed? Do we really love people? Are we ready to reach out a hand to someone in real need or are we quick to shout out “Be warm and be filled” but don’t stop to render any assistance. 

Maybe we are like some of the men in this story who are more concerned about being right, getting our own way and burdening others with long lists of pseudo rules and non-essential regulations. If we surrender to God, He will transform us to be like the young rabbi who stopped to show kindness and love to a total stranger. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mountaintop



Don’t you love getting to the mountain top? There’s always a breathtaking 360 degree view, fresh wind gusting through your hair and a sense of peace as if you were physically closer to God. It’s a feeling like you’re alone on a deserted island surrounded by water where nothing evil can get to you. The glory of God shines brightest at the top; it’s as if all the cares in the world are forbidden entrance. The only problem is when your experience is over you are forced to go back down into the valley.

Thirty-five hundred years ago Moses was living as a shepherd in Midian where one day he climbed to the top of Mount Horeb. Suddenly, while at the top, he discovered the glory of God emanating from a burning bush. God spoke from the burning bush telling Moses to remove his shoes for the ground on which he was standing was holy. The eighty year old shepherd was completely exhilarated until God mentioned the fact that he wanted him to go back down to Egypt and tell pharaoh to release his people.

Six hundred years after Moses, a prophet by the name of Elijah climbed Mount Carmel. Elijah had one of the most glorious mountaintop experiences any human being has ever witnessed. In a challenge to Jezebel’s prophets of Baal, he called upon God to demonstrate His omnipotence. God answered Elijah’s call in a majestic display of awestruck wonder as fire descended from heaven totally consuming his sacrifice. The prophet then slaughtered four-hundred fifty of Jezebel’s priests. Now, that same day, when his life is threatened by the queen, Elijah turns and runs for his life down the mountain and into the valley of the shadow of death.

Nine hundred years after Elijah, Jesus Christ would have a mountaintop experience at His transfiguration; that is when He was miraculously changed into His glorified heavenly body. “As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked to Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Luke 9:28-37.  What a mountaintop experience that was for the apostles Peter, John and James. After this incredible glimpse into eternity these men didn’t want to leave the mountaintop.

The story continues “Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.” As Jesus, Peter, John and James come down from the solitude of the mountaintop they were immediately thrust into a throng of needy people, one of which was demon possessed. For the next couple of days Jesus is forced to listen to the disciples argue about which one of them was the greatest and then is rejected by an entire Samaritan village.

The plain truth is that while we will occasionally have mountaintop experiences where we see the glory of God, we eventually have to come back down the mountain and walk through the valley. Yes, it would be great to build booths at the top and continue to bask in God’s glory but there is work to be done by the man or woman of God back down here on earth. Jesus said “In this world you will have trials and tribulation, but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.”

It’s during our darkest times, while we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, that we need to remember the promises of God. For on that final day, after climbing our last mountaintop, we too will receive our glorified bodies. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.


In the words of King David from the 23rd psalm “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”