Saturday, December 31, 2011

Through the Eyes of Faith

 

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

—The words of Jesus as recorded by the Apostle Luke from Luke 6:41-42

 

Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps this video will help orient your thinking and point you in the right direction:

 

 

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post gives us clear instruction from the Lord Jesus. As a new year begins, it’s high time we began to look at the people around us with the eyes of Jesus’ love for them. I’m in. How about you?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Help us throughout this new year to look at the people who cross our pathway with the eyes of Your love. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Please use us as instruments of your grace in this dying world.

Holy Spirit, we ask You to so fill us with your love that it will overflow and touch the lives of everyone around us. Speak words of Your calm assurance into our hearts and minds that we might share Your peace with those in need.

Thank You, dear Father, for Your grace that is greater than all our sin. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Serving in God’s Strength

 

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

—The words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 4:7-11

 

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this. But, you have just about four months to live.”

Any reasonable person would hope against all hope not to ever hear anyone say such words to him or her. The truth remains. At some point, we will all die. If we don’t, it will be because the end of the age has come.

The Apostle Peter, in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, felt strongly that “the end of all things is near.” Looking at his statement, from our perspective nearly 2,000 years later, was Peter wrong?

Imagine how Peter’s first letter must have been received. “The end is near? Yeah, right!”

Peter addresses this very concern in his second letter, when he writes in 2 Peter 3:3-10:

3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

So, Peter understood that people would scoff at the idea that the end times were near. And, some still scoff today. The fact that some sadly misguided individuals have predicted a certain date for the end of the world that passes without incident has fed those same scoffers. Yet what should believers in the Lord Jesus do?

Peter asserts that we should:

  • Be clear minded. Do not let anything cloud our thinking, so that we will turn away from God’s truth as revealed in His Word.

  • Be self-controlled. Keep a grip. Stay focused. Don’t let the emotions of the moment tear us away from what we know is true.

  • Love each other deeply. Peter uses the Greek word “philadelphoi” or “loving the brothers” (and sisters). This word—one of four words for “love” in biblical Greek—expresses a love like the love within a family unit. The love of a father and mother for their children. The love that a sibling has for his or her other siblings.

  • Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Willingly and generously welcome your brothers and sisters in Christ into your homes in order to fellowship with one another.

  • Use whatever God-given gift you’ve received to serve others in order to faithfully administer God’s grace.

  • If you speak, speak in such a way that it would mirror what God might speak. Thus, guard your tongue and let your words be godly words.

  • If you serve, rely on the strength that God provides. Don’t try to do acts of service in your own strength. Rely on God-given strength to perform works in His behalf.

  • Do all these things for one purpose: so that God, alone, will receive the praise. Never seek praise for yourself. If anyone gives you praise, acknowledge that what you have done, you have done to the glory of God. Let all the praise flow to Him.

Once we realize that, in these last days, the task that stretches out before us gives us an opportunity to faithfully do God’s work in this world in His strength and for His praise and glory, it greatly simplifies our motivation and shapes the way we will operate in our “doing.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Continue to remind us that whatever we do in this world, we must do it relying on Your strength and in such a way that it brings glory and praise only to You. Keep us from seeking praise for ourselves. Help us to step out of the spotlight and remain in the shadows. Help us to do Your work without calling attention to ourselves.

More than anything, we acknowledge that we need You to continue to teach us how to obediently follow Your will. We need You to make Your Word come alive in our hearts and minds, as we read it each day. We need the intervention of Your Holy Spirit in our daily lives to enable us to follow the pathway You have set out before us.

Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 26, 2011

“...I know what love is!”

 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 

As I writer, I always watch a movie with a critical eye, looking for the arc of the story. In the movie, Forrest Gump, the apex of the story arc occurs when Forrest confronts his life-long love, Jenny, with the words, “I’m not a smart man, Jenny. But, I know what love is!”

I sometimes wonder whether or not we know what love is. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our lives should have such a filling of His love that the love will flow out of us and touch the people around us. Sometimes, we suppress our love. We do this because someone has hurt us deeply, or because we’re afraid, or selfish, or angry, or—for a host of reasons.

It’s probably a good idea for us to take a little quiz, from time to time, based on the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. We need to ask ourselves, “Do I really know what love is?”

  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind.
  • Love does not envy.
  • Love does not boast.
  • Love is not proud.
  • Love is not rude.
  • Love is not self-seeking.
  • Love is not easily angered.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not delight in evil.
  • Love rejoices with the truth.
  • Love always protects
  • Love always trusts.
  • Love always hopes.
  • Love always perseveres.
  • Love never fails.

So, how did you do? I know that I got caught on the ninth bullet point: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Why, I have a long list of people who have hurt me that goes way back to when I was 14 years old—over 50 years ago. Shame on me. I confess my sin of holding on to a painful past.

How about you? What stands in the way of you letting the love of Christ flow through you to touch the world around you?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

I confess my sin of holding on to a painful past. I ask You, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to help me turn my back on those incidents where people have hurt me, and look forward to the pathway that You have laid out before me. Cleanse me through and through, I pray. And, for those praying with me in this moment, I ask You to reveal to them any barrier they may have erected to stay the flow of Your love through them.

Please continue to teach us how to obediently follow Your will. May Your Word come alive in our hearts, as we read it each day. And, help us to steadfastly follow that pathway You have set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kiss the Son

 

1 Why do the nations conspire
      and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
      and the rulers gather together
      against the LORD
      and against his Anointed One.
3 “Let us break their chains,” they say,
      “and throw off their fetters.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
      the Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger
      and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my King
      on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
      He said to me, “You are my Son;
      today I have become your Father.
8 Ask of me,
      and I will make the nations your inheritance,
      the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter;
      you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
      be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear
      and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
      and you be destroyed in your way,
      for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

—The words of the Psalmist from Psalm 2:1-12

 

In the last verse of the Scripture passage that appears at the beginning of this blog post, the Psalmist entreats the people singing this prophetic Psalm to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” This urgent message may seem a bit odd in our culture today. We think of kissing either in terms that express romance, or at lest, affection. But, in times not that long past, a kiss also symbolized a submission of one person’s will to another.

Thus, as a subject entered the presence of a king or ruler, he or she would bow. And, if the ruler extended his or her hand, the subject would kiss the ruler’s hand. The kiss signified an obedience, a submission, a bending of the subject’s will to the will of the ruler.

On certain occasions, slaves in ancient times also gave their master a symbolic indication of their assent to the master’s will by means of a kiss. Sometimes the slave kissed the master’s hand. Other times, as part of an embrace, the slave would kiss the master’s cheek.

In our culture today—as a part of our rightful expression of deep regret for that period in our history where we captured and transported fellow human beings from Africa and other parts of the world and brought them to America to serve under bondage—we do not like to even use the word “slave.” But, in reality, the Apostle Paul refers to himself as a “bondslave of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.” (see 1 Corinthians 4:1).

As I have explained in previous blog posts, with particular reference to Deuteronomy 15:12-18, the Apostle Paul has clearly understood that when we open our hearts to receive God’s gift of salvation, in and through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit bonds us to God forever. Because God chose us to belong to Him before the foundation of the world, once we bow our knee in fealty to Him, He graciously grants us the extreme honor and deep privilege of becoming His bondslave, or if you prefer, bondservant.

But, our relationship does not end there. No, indeed. Because we have acknowledged this great gift of eternal life that God has freely given us in Christ, God promotes us to the position of “steward” in His Kingdom. A “steward” is a “slave elevated to a postion of responsibility in the Master’s kingdom.” Still a slave, the steward now exercises authority given by the Master to help bring about the success of the Master’s goals and objectives. The Master accomplishes His work in partnership with His stewards.

So, in the prohecy expressed in Psalm 2, the Psalmist looks toward the coming of the Messiah, or Christ—same word: one in Hebrew, the other in Greek—to bring the freedom from sin. At this most sacred time of year when we celebrate both the Incarnation and also express our longing for Christ’s return, it seems very fitting for us to “Kiss the Son.” But, not because we fear His anger. Rather, we joyfully and reverently and humbly “Kiss the Son” as a sign, once again, that we consciously, purposefully, and obediently bend our will to His. We acknowledge that our own interest has no importance. We live to serve the Great King. We strive to obediently do His will.

When we pray the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples and say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven...” we pledge our part in this great task. As bondslaves of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, we bring forth the reality of this season of the year in the depths of our hearts. We do this in such a way that the very Kingdom of God will spring forth throughout every moment of every day for all the remaining days of our lives here on earth.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

In the depth of our hearts we obediently “Kiss the Son” to acknowledge our total dependence on You to fulfill Your purpose on this earth. We speak to You in genuine humility and express our gratitude that You have claimed us as Your own and made us a part of Your great plan for mankind. How we thank You that, in Your mercy and grace, You have elevated us to the position of stewards in Your Kingdom.

Precious Father, even as we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we long for Him to return with power and in great glory. Vouchsafe for us the time of His coming.

Please continue to teach us wholehearted obedience through Your Word. And, help us to steadfastly follow the pathway You have set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

 

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

—The words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 5:6-7

 

For most people, the Christmas season offers one of the brightest and best times of the year. The festive crowds, the bright lights, the sound of carols, the laughter of children, all conspire to lift our hearts and dazzle our minds, filling them with Christmas cheer. But, for some individuals—albeit a rather small sampling of the total population in the United States—Christmas offers an all-too-sharp reminder of loss. I am one such person.

On December 15, 1981, my father passed from this life into the arms of his Savior. After exhausting himself trying to start an errant snow blower, my dad entered his house, complained to my mother about not feeling well, climbed the stairs to his bedroom, laid down on his bed, and died. My mother was so shocked that she didn’t even have the presence of mind to call 9-1-1. Instead, she ran downstairs to the kitchen telephone, the only one in the house, and dialed her best friend. It was her friend that, after quickly ending the call with my mother, dialed 9-1-1.

A few minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon, I received a telephone call at work. When I answered, a member of the fire department, who had responded on the rescue squad, told me my father had died. He then put my mother on the phone. Naturally, she was confused and in shock. I told her I would get on an airplane and arrive at her home as quickly as I could.

I will spare you the long, intervening saga. Suffice it to say that my mother never really recovered from my father’s death. She came to live with my wife and me for the next four years. Then, on Sunday, December 15, 1985, sitting next to me in church, she told me she felt ill. I helped her up and out into the hall. It soon became apparent something very serious was wrong. I drove her to the hospital. In minutes, a cerebral hemorrhage caused her to lapse into a coma from which she never awoke. She passed into the arms of her Savior a few minutes after seven o’clock the next morning, making her date of death four years and one day after my father died.

I have learned a lot of things in the intervening 30 and 26 years, respectively, since my parent’s death. One of those things is that you never really get over the death of those you love. Even now, all these years later, at the oddest of moments, a sudden wave of grief will wash over me. I feel, usually for just a few minutes, an overwhelming sense of loss and sorrow. Oh yes, I know that my dear, dear parents currently experience unspeakable joy in the Presence of God. I know that Jesus welcomed them. I know they have been reunited with all their loved ones who preceded them. I am glad, beyond my ability to express, that every frailty of this life has now given way to new bodies, that Jesus Himself has wiped every tear from their eyes, and that every day in heaven is but a prelude to blissful days that stretch into eternity.

So, while the Christmas season does offer a sense of festivity and excitement, it also offers a sense of remembrance and wistful sorrow. I imagine that just such sentiment motivated Christina Rosetti to pen the words to a most unusual Christmas carol:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Rosetti originally penned these words in response to an assignment from the magazine, Scribner’s Monthly.Of course, snow does not normally fall in the Bethlehem hills, south of Jerusalem. But, the initial “bleakness” of the stark imagery in Rosetti’s poem seems undeniable. Add to the sonorous nature of the words the tune, “Cranham,” by Gustav Holst, and you have a perfect setting to illustrate how the gloom of emptiness and loss gives way to the glory of the Incarnation.

So, I speak on behalf of all those who punctuate the joy of Christmas—and the blessedness of God taking on human flesh that He might pay the ultimate penalty for our sin—with a tinge of sorrow at the loss of those we love. May the Giver-of-Every-Good-and-Perfect-Gift grant us the joy of His Presence in this very special time of year.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We humbly ask You to wipe the tears from our eyes that we may see the Light of Your Presence and celebrate the joy of the Incarnation. Grant us, in Your mercy and grace, a special touch from Your Holy Spirit to buoy our spirits and lighten our hearts. We give all our sorrow to You, knowing that You gladly bear our burdens. We cast all our cares on You.

Precious Father, even as we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we long for Him to return with power and in great glory. Vouchsafe for us the time of His coming.

Please continue to speak to us through Your Word. And, help us to obediently follow the pathway You set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Comfort and Joy in a Crazy World

 

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
      “return to me with all your heart,
      with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
      and not your garments.
    Return to the Lord your God,
      for he is gracious and compassionate,
      slow to anger and abounding in love,
      and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
      and leave behind a blessing—...

—The words of the Prophet Joel from Joel 2:12-14a

 

If I insist that “It’s a crazy world out there!” will you disagree with me? I think not. While I am not a proponent of longing for the “good old days,” I am keenly aware that fifty years ago we lived in a much simpler, and generally calmer, world.

Now, at every turn, we face a marked increase in the amount of overtly discernible sin. Chaos reigns throughout our government, the economy, the church, and far too many of our personal lives. I don’t know about you, but I long for some comfort and some joy.

The other day, I heard an old, familiar Christmas carol on the radio. “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ the Savior was born on Christmas Day.” The carol goes on to speak of “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.”

I don’t know why I never put those two words together in my mind so clearly before. But, as I think about it, “comfort” and “joy” do seem to go together. When God grants us comfort, He also brings us joy!

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Prophet Joel urges us to return to the Lord our God. And, not only does he urge us to return, he urges us to return with all our hearts.

A wholehearted return to God. That’s exactly what we need in the midst of this crazy world. A wholehearted return to God would give us comfort in the midst of the chaos of our lives. A wholehearted return to God would not only comfort us, it would give us great joy.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We bow before You and humbly acknowledge that, more than anything else, we desire to return to You with our whole hearts. We ask You to help us—to enable us by the power of Your Holy Spirit—to love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We consciously give you our emotions, our intellect, our spiritual being, and our physical being.

Precious Father, having acknowledged our desire to love You with the totality of our beings, we wait expectantly and reverently for a great outpouring of Your comfort and Your joy.

Please continue to use Your Word to help us clearly see the illumination You provide to enlighten the pathway of our lives. And, thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Careful Investigation

 

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

—The words of the Apostle Luke from Luke 1:1-4

 

With the words of the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Luke begins his quest to write down all that he has learned through his exhaustive research about the Lord Jesus Christ—God in human flesh, the Messiah, the Christ, the Annointed One, the Promised One, God with us.

How fascinating it is to me, in this age of a quickly pouncing media who far too often seem to release partial and inaccurate information about developing news stories without gathering the complete facts, that Dr. Luke chose to take the time to make a detailed inquiry of every person he could possibly talk with before he penned his gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles.

In my imagination, I can see Marty, who worked in the press room of the Jerusalem Gazette, harping on Dr. Luke to get his copy in before the presses begin to roll. Luke refused to do so. He wasn’t going to write anything down until he had garnered all the factual information. Luke had a clear goal of presenting an “orderly account” for his friend, Theophilus.

As we make our way through this season of Advent, into Christmas and, finally, into a New Year, perhaps we can all take a strong example from Dr. Luke. Before we jump to conclusions, let’s do what he did: get all the facts first. We may not earn the kind of reputation that Luke has earned—that of the most brilliant and scholarly of all the Gospel writers. But, we will certainly do less harm when we base our reports on an exhaustive investigation into the facts.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We ask You to help us always quest for the truth by seeking to learn the most we can about any situation. Before we report to others, we ask You to set off an alarm bell that reminds us to make certain we truly know the facts, to the best of our abilities.

Precious Father, we approach you with our heads bowed and our hearts open to a ministry of Your grace. Please continue to use Your Word to clearly and effectively illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Incarnation

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

—The words of the Apostle John from John 1:1-14

 

The Scripture passage above encapsulates the amazing truth of God coming to earth in human form: The Incarnation. While this overwhelming act of God’s grace will always crackle with the electricity of a mystery, Fr. Eric Kouns—a chuch-planting priest in the Anglican Church in North America—has recently posted a blog entitled, “Christianity’s Most Vital Truth.” In sharing thoughts concerning his weekly worship service, Fr. Eric writes:

Every week we intone the words (of the Nicene Creed)…
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.
Those are powerful words whenever they are repeated, but the significance of that declaration is especially meaningful at this time of year—Advent and Christmas.

When I taught Christian doctrine at a small Bible college, I used to ask my students what they believed to be the most important truth in all of Christianity. Their most common response was generally the Resurrection of Christ. Some suggested His Crucifixion. And these, along with a few others, are worthy suggestions. But I always told my students that I considered the Incarnation—the truth that the all-powerful and infinite God took on human form and became a human being who lived among us on earth—to be the single most important tenet in all of Christian doctrine.

After all, if Jesus was not really God in human form, then his death, while perhaps notable, was still just the death of a man. If he was not really God incarnate, then the literal truth of his resurrection from the grave can legitimately be challenged, and that story can just as easily be interpreted in ways that do not require any miraculous element.

But if Jesus Christ was “true God from true God” who “became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,” as the Creed declares and as orthodox believers understand the Scriptures to teach, then his crucifixion was far more than merely the death of a man. And if it was God in human form who died on that cross, then it is silly to deny the possibility of a literal, bodily resurrection.

In other words, if Jesus was not the incarnation, the “enfleshment,” of God, then everything else Christians say they believe about Jesus loses all significance. There is no more foundation for its truth. If, however, as we Christians believe, Jesus was in fact God in human flesh, then everything else the Creeds and the Gospels say about him is altogether reasonable and consistent with what we would expect from a God-man.

It was a fresh appreciation for the significance of the Incarnation of Christ some years ago that set me on this relentless pursuit of authentic faith. I began to subject every element in my practice of Christian faith to questions like these: “Is this worthy of association with one who was really and truly God in human flesh? Does this belief or this practice reflect the dignity, the gravitas, the majesty that should be accorded to one who was, and is, God with us?”

There is little more I can add regarding this critically important subject than what Fr. Kouns has already stated. I would invite you to add a link in your browser’s “favorites” to Fr. Eric’s blog. Please click here to go to his blogsite.

As we contemplate the arrival of the Christ-child this Advent Season—and even moreso, as we long for His second coming—may we continue to marvel at God’s magnificent grace. “Grace that is greater than all our sins.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We consciously open our hearts to the gift of love the coming of Your Son represents. Help us to live in such a way that we honor His coming. Encourage us with the great hope that He is coming again. Please, O Lord, may it be soon!

Precious Father, with humility, and also with great joy, we say to You over and over again that we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to brightly illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. We praise You and thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speak the Truth from Your Heart

 

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
     Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
     and who does what is righteous,
     who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
     who does his neighbor no wrong
     and casts no slur on his fellowman,
      4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
     who keeps his oath
     even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
     and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

     He who does these things
     will never be shaken.

—The words of King David from Psalm 15:1-5

 

Every day, television and radio, newspapers and magazines, chat rooms, blogs, and other internet sources bombard us with lies. Does that assertion sound harsh to you? Well, if some statement that someone speaks or prints does not fully contain the total and absolute truth, then it becomes a lie. In fact, individuals and corporations lie to us so much, we’ve almost become used to it. Yes, we’ve become so used to the lies that it has become increasingly more difficult to discern the truth.

Some lies contain information that the liar wishes to be true. A statement explaining some action often represents a good example of this kind of lie.

“We took this action because...”

And, out comes the lie. The ones composing the statement of explanation may have come to the place in their own thinking where they actually believe the lie they now tell to others. But, it’s still a lie. That’s right. Just because they have convinced themselves that a lie they may tell is “true,” their self-deception does not relieve them from the responsibility for telling that lie.

On this blog, I’ve written a great deal about “first sources.” When you live your life in such a way that you rely only on information from first sources, you will never simply accept some important information that someone tells you without investigating. Such an investigation requires you to seek out first sources.

Here’s an example. If someone tells me that Mary Jane—I just picked some names randomly—has said that Sally Ann’s volunteer work at the eastside clinic was always substandard, I don’t accept that statement on its face. Rather, I must go to Mary Jane and inquire as to whether she actually said that about Sally Ann.

“Wait a minute!” you may say. “Do you actually believe that Mary Jane would tell you the truth about what she said?”

Well, I don’t know for sure. Maybe not. But, I have to go to the first source in order to give Mary Jane a chance to set the record straight.

Now, what if twenty people tell me that Mary Jane made a statement about Sally Ann at a particular place and at a particular time? And, what if all twenty witnesses tell me essentially the same story?

I will still need to go to Mary Jane and ask her. After all, she, and she alone, is the first source. I may allow the multiple reports to also inform my investigation. In fact, if Mary Jane denies making such a statement about Sally Ann, I will tell her that twenty people have reported to me what she said, on what occastion, and at what time. Then, I will wait to hear Mary Jane’s response. I will also weigh whether or not Mary Jane has consistently told me the truth over the course of our relationship.

In addition to individual pronouncements, be very careful of lies told by any group. Just because a bunch of people sign a document, and seemingly attest to its truthfulness, that does not necessarily mean it is true. Many organizations consist of “sheep” who do not listen with a skeptical ear to what they are told. They are far too easily led by stronger members of the group.

You would be amazed at the file I have of documents from my 46 years in business created by a few members of a group and then signed by a host of other members of that group without any trustworthy underlying substantiation for the truthfulness of the information in the document. Yet, when receiving such a document, most people read it, look at all those who signed it, and believe the information it contains, without investigating the truthfulness of that information by going to first sources.

It’s easier just to believe the lies they’re told than to take the time to seek out first sources. But, by failing to thoroughly investigate things they’re told, they do a disservice to the truth.

God expects us to be people of the Truth. Read again the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. King David asks who can dwell in God’s sanctuary. He then answers his own question based on what God has revealed to him: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue...”

So, as I have urged you in past blog posts, when someone tells you something, or you read something about another person, make certain you go to first sources before you take any action. And, particularly check first sources before you pass that information on to someone else. While you’re at it, don’t automatically and non-critically trust what anyone says, no matter who they are. Some of the seemingly most trustworthy people have proven to be pathological liars.

To protect your own integrity, treat skeptically—not cynically, but skeptically— everything anyone tells you, no matter who they may be. Always seek out first sources. Read printed statements carefully. Look for nuanced words. When an author of a document uses words that seem too carefully nuanced, beware.

“Al Jones has had difficulty working with at least one previous manager.”

That statement once appeared in a personnel evaluation that crossed my desk two decades ago. When I investigated further, I discovered that indeed Al Jones—not his real name—had had some difficulty with one—exactly one—previous manager. The other five managers that had supervised Al since that first manager had found Al to be a most excellent, team-playing, highly effective employee. But, I would never had known that if I had taken the statement at face value. Instead, I went to those five managers and made very specific and detailed inquiry into Al’s previous performance under their leadership.

The highly nuanced words left the impression that Al had long been a trouble-maker. That was an outright lie. It was a subtle lie, but a lie nevertheless. Had I not insisted on going to first sources, I would have repeated that lie whenever I spoke about Al. I would have perpetuated the lie and I would have bolstered the lie. In so doing, I would have sinned against Al. Thank goodness my skeptical nature—born from all those years as a fire protection engineer consulting with industrial properties and investigating losses— served me well, once again.

Please, please, please learn from my experiences and seek out first sources. Don’t believe the lies that people originate. Don’t believe the lies that other people pass on to you. And, most importantly of all, don’t be a liar yourself.

God highly values the truth. In fact, He is a God of Truth. As His dearly loved child, He wants you to be a person of Truth, as well.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Even as you have given us Truth, help us to consistently become people of Truth. Help us to reject lies by seeking information from first sources. Help us to stop propagating the lies that others tell. Make us skeptical, but not cynical, as we examine the things that other people tell us. Particularly, help us guard our minds and hearts against the evil influence of lies.

Precious Father, we declare, once again, that we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to brightly illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And, as we always do, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

O Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus

 

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

—The words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle Mark in Mark 12:28-31

 

No matter how hard we try, we cannot manufacture love. True love comes to us as a gift from God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the great blessings of the Season of Advent arrives at the doorstep of our heart in the form of a longing for the Messiah, the Christ. That longing comes from the gentle, or not so gentle, wooing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit whispers to the ear of our hearts. He tells us of the magnificent glories that wait for us at the feet of Jesus. No wonder Emily E. Elliott was moved to pen these words that Timothy R. Matthews set to music:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

As these weeks of Advent lead us to the stable in Bethlehem—and as they herald the return of the Great King Jesus—let us join with brothers and sisters in Christ to express our longing:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we experience another Season of Advent, we open our hearts to You and invite You to fill us full of Your Presence. Help us, each one, to learn how to surrender our heart, mind, soul, and strength to You.

Precious Father, we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. As always, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prepare the Way of the Lord

 

1 Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
    that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
    that she has received from the LORD’s hand
    double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
    “In the desert prepare
    the way for the LORD;
    make straight in the wilderness
    a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
    the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    and all mankind together will see it.
    For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

—The words of the Prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 40:1-5

 

The Season of Advent marks the beginning of another church year. Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advant. For 21st century Christians, Advent leads to both a look back to the birth of the Christ Child and a look toward the future return of the Great King Jesus.

Advent always brings to my mind George Frederic Handel’s Messiah. This magnificent choral work details the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Handel created the libretto for this work entirely from Scripture compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Version of The Holy Bible and from The Book of Common Prayer. I believe this explains why so many people over the years have found both comfort and exhulation in this oratorio.

During my years at Houghton College—a lifetime ago—I had the privilege of singing Messiah with the Oratorio Society. Sitting next to my best friend, Tom Brooks, who was a music performance major with a truly fine tenor voice, I felt as if I experienced a voice lesson at each rehearsal. Professor Donald Doig sang the tenor solos.

I can still remember his soaring voice filling the John and Charles Wesley Chapel Auditorium with the words of verses 1 through 4 of the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. The tenor solo begins with the Accompagnato (an accompanied Recitative) “Comfort Ye” and flows into the Air (Aria) “Every valley.” Once the tenor soloist has established the mood, the chorus rises to sing verse 5: “And the Glory of the Lord.”

This reminiscence brings me to the point of asking you, “What are you doing to prepare the way of the Lord this Advent?” That’s right. “What are you doing to prepare the way of the Lord this Advent?”

Please allow me to suggest that you point your web browser to this link where you can listen to the various sections of Handel’s Messiah. Because the entire text of this oratorio comes directly from Scripture, I can’t imagine any better way to prepare for your personal celebration of this blessed season.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. With great joy we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Even moreso, we wait expectantly for His second coming. Be pleased to receive our praise and adoration for this great gift You have given to us.

Precious Father, we continue to daily honor You for Your life-transforming love for us. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

 

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

—The narrative concerning God’s chosen people from Exodus 33:12-23

 

In the United States of America, today marks a Day of Thanksgiving. No matter what the current status of your life, if you pause and think carefully, you will find a significant number of things for which you can offer thanks to God.

In many ways, this has been an extremely trying year in my own life. It actually represents the culmination of three very long and difficult years of heartbreaking turmoil, as I have watched a church that I deeply love destroy itself. At the same time, my greatest thanks, as I pause to reflect, comes out of this despicable conflict. Namely, I have come to an increasing awareness that God truly does control every aspect of the lives of those He loves and cares about.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, God and His servant, Moses, have a conversation. Moses asks God to teach him His ways. After they talk a while longer, Moses asks God to go with him and the people God has chosen. Moses declares, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Later in the conversation, Moses boldly asks God to, “Now show me your glory.”

God knows that no human could withstand His glory. But, He honors Moses by making provision and replies, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” And, there it is. God always makes provision for those He loves. Will you permit me to state that again for emphasis? God always makes provision for those He loves.

Growing up in an old-fashioned fundamentalist congregation, on Wednesday nights we met for Prayer Meeting. The gathering always began with the singing of some classic gospel songs. One older member of the gathered believers would often request a gospel hymn entitled “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.”

With words by Vernon J. Charlesworthy and music by Ira D. Sankey, this song takes the event of Exodus 33 and updates it by recognizing that New Testament believers have been grafted in to the vine of God’s chosen people, Israel. Once I learned the history of this song, I used to imagine myself sitting in one of D. L. Moody’s revival meetings with Ira Sankey leading the singing.

As you read through these words, I hope you will sense some of the same awe that Moses might have felt as God shielded him in the cleft of the rock. For, you see, Jesus is our Rock in a weary land. And, He truly is a shelter in the time of storm.

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. On this day of National Thanksgiving, our hearts turn toward You to acknowledge that without Your loving kindness and tender mercies we would dissolve in ruin and despair. Be pleased to receive our thanksgiving and praise for Your goodness and Your love.

Precious Father, we honor, magnify, and glorify Your Holy Name. Be pleased to continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. With humble hearts, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Unrequited Love

 

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

—The words of Jesus from John 15:9-17

 

Have you ever loved someone who did not love you back? I’m not talking about love-gone-sour. Nor am I talking about lust, or extreme “like,” or some other permutation of what someone might call “love.” I’m talking about a heart-swelling, breath-taking, stomach-lurching, deep, abiding love for someone who has no inclination whatsoever to love you in return. I’m talking about “unrequited love.”

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines “unrequited” as “...not reciprocated or returned in kind.” Whenever I think about unrequited love, I am grateful to God that He brought into my life one very special person who did dane to love me back. Not only did she return my love, she has also stood by me through five years of dating—including a two-year-long engagement—and 43 years of marriage. Even with this magnificent counter-example of unrequited love in my own life, I still have childhood memories of unrequited love.

I have a distinct memory from the summer I turned seven years old. I met a girl while on vacation at the shore of Lake Erie in Silver Creek, NY. I simply could not get this girl out of my mind. But, the girl gave no indication that she even knew I existed, let alone possessed any feelings at all for me. But, after returning to my home, I felt an enormous sense of loss knowing I would likely never see this girl again. My mother asked me why I was moping around the house. I told her what I was feeling: a great emptiness and loss. She chuckled. smiled one of her tender, knowing smiles, and told me I must be “in love.”

Over the next few years growing up, I felt those same feelings a few more times. In every case, either due to my lack of manliness or social status, or quirkiness, or some other undefined reason, no hope existed that the girl for whom I had those feelings would, or could, ever return them.

Each time I felt those feelings of deep longing and profound connection with another human being, I also felt a strange sense of wonder. I wondered—at least for a while—if the person could ever love me back. Eventually the answer always emerged. And, that answer was apparently, “No!” Alas! Unrequited love!

Perhaps you have had an experience like mine in your childhood, teenage years, or even in your adulthood. Can you remember how you felt? Can you imagine how surprised the object of your unrequited love might be if he or she could learn how much love you felt?

Now, imagine for a moment that you are God. You wanted to have a relationship with a being that you created who could choose to love you and obey you. And then, the first real choice that being makes is to disobey the one and only rule that you give it.

Even then, your love does not abate. In fact, you love your created beings so much that you send your only son to earth. After your son lives for a time as a human, you instruct him to give his life—to shed his very blood—on a Roman cross of torture.

In so doing, your son bears the penalty for every sin your created beings have ever committed and for every sin your created beings will ever commit. If that was not enough, you raised your son from the dead to give evidence to your created beings that they have a life after this one. And, if they respond to the wooing of your Holy Spirit, they will spend that after-life with you, forever.

Recognizing that your created beings do not have the capacity to love you back, you graciously send your Holy Spirit to convince them of their need for your love. By the power of that same Holy Spirit, you enable them to love you in return. All they have to do is yield their selfish will to your perfect will.

Yes, imagine for a moment that you are God. Then, think about how you actually do respond to Him in the course of your daily life. I suspect that, if you’re at all like me, you feel humbled and shocked. Humbled that the very God of the universe would love you so much. Shocked at how little effort you make to obey His will for your life.

As usually happens with childhood experiences, my childish unrequited love pales in the face of the kind of unrequited love that God experiences from us every single moment of every day. Help us, Lord! Help us to put aside everything that stands in the way of our obedience to Your will for us. Help us to allow Your Holy Spirit to enable us to love you in return.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Be pleased to help us recognize—deep within our beings—how much You truly love us. Then, may that awareness motivate us to faithfully obey You and, through our obedience, love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Precious Father, we honor You for Your life-transforming love for us. May we respond in such a way as to eradicate any sense that Your love remains unrequited. And, in Your great love, please continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. With overwhelming humility, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What He’s Done For Others,
He’ll Do For You...

 

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

—The words of King David from Psalm 30:11-12

 

Are you feeling a bit “down in the dumps” today? Then, King David’s words in the Scripture verses at the beginning of this blog post are just for you.

As a small boy growing up in a Christian home during the time period immediately following Billy Graham’s famous Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, my mother often played the piano and sang to me. One of her favorite pieces was a popular gospel song of the day written by Stuart Hamblen, “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do).”

Heavy-drinking Hamblen, a popular radio host and songwriter of numerous secular songs in the mid to late 1940s, came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through personal contact he had with Dr. Graham during that famous Los Angeles Crusade. As a result of his life-transforming faith, Hamblen fell out of favor with the Hollywood crowd. After writing a successful gospel song for his friend, Rosemary Clooney, titled “This Ole House,” Hamblen struggled to find another song to put some food on his table.

A close friend, actor John Wayne, asked Hamblen one day if the rumors about his life change was true. Hamblen reportedly replied that it was no secret what God had done for him and that God could do it for Wayne, too. Wayne suggested Hamblen write a song that would embrace this testimony. So, he did.

I think the part of the song that my mom appreciated the most was the refrain:

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

Have you ever thought about the reality of those words? It’s true that what God has done for others, He will do for you. That promise includes God turning the sadness in your life into joy. And, His divine joy will permeate every molecule of your being.

As you read through all the words of Stuart Hamblen’s song, please open your heart today to receive God’s blessing of joy.

The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you.

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go.

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don't run away and hide.

It is no secret what God can do
What He's done for others, He'll do for you
With arms wide open, He'll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.
—Stuart Hamblen
Copyright © 1950 by Duchess Music
Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. In these days when we feel discouraged and disheartened, we turn to You as our source of true joy. Thank You for the promise we have through Your servant, King David. Please now, bring joy into our lives. And, help us share the joy You give us with others.

Precious Father, we honor You for the life-transforming power with which You embue us. Please continue to guide us along the pathway You have laid out before us. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the redeeming Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 14, 2011

We’re Praying for You!

 

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from Colossians 1:1-14

 

“We’re praying for you!”

When you face some crisis in your life, those words can offer genuine comfort. It’s always good to know that someone has determined to pray for you. In my mind, it means even more when two or more people agree to pray together in your behalf.

Such was the case in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. Notice that the writer, the Apostle Paul, tells the believers gathered at the church in Colosse that “...we have not stopped praying for you...” In case you’re wondering who else the “we” refers to, you only have to look back at the first verse where Paul identifies his partner, in this case, as his “son in the faith,” Timothy. So, Paul and Timothy have agreed together to spend time in prayer for the Christians at Colosse.

My question for you today: “Have you found a prayer partner with whom you can pray for others?” That partner could be your husband or wife. It could be your very good friend. It could be someone at your church with whom you have formed a prayer pact. It doesn’t matter who it is. But, it seems very important to find someone with whom you can agree in prayer.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus told his disciples,

19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Yes! Let me emphasize—It seems quite important to find someone with whom you can agree in prayer. Oh! Of course you should continue to pray on your own, as well. But, something very powerful happens when you can join with someone and pray together about those things that God lays on your heart.

Please carefully consider my suggestion. Stop right now and think about someone you can partner with in prayer. Then, as soon as you can, ask that person to become your prayer partner and find a time you can regularly meet to pray. It’s really an easy suggestion to follow. I can assure you that once you begin praying with your prayer partner, you’ll want to share this suggestion with others, too.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We know that You want us to pray and bring our requests to You. We also know that You have taught us through Your Word that great power arises when two or three agree in prayer. So, help us to find someone with whom we can pray and begin to harness this amazing power in our own lives.

Even in this moment, bring someone to our minds that we might ask to join with us in prayer on a regular basis. And, we ask You to affirm our choice, through the power of the Holy Spirit, by encouraging the one we ask to accept our invitation.

More than anything, Precious Father, we want to honor You by obediently following the pathway You lay out before us. So, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the redeeming Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make It Count!

 

13 For you have delivered me from death
        and my feet from stumbling,
        that I may walk before God
        in the light of life.

—The words of King David from Psalm 51:13

 

Mike Bolinger is what I call “my friend-once-removed.” By that I mean I have become friends with Mike’s dearly beloved wife of 37 years, Lynne. I met Lynne on-line through my participation on The Dennis Miller Radio Show Message Board. Lynne is one of those people who has crossed the pathway of my life and of whom God has whispered in my ear, “She belongs to Me!”

Lynne and Mike met while attending Wheaton College. Because Wheaton College and Houghton College, my alma mater, have long been academic rivals, I felt an instant connection with the Bolingers.

I had met Lynne on-line soon after she and Mike learned that he had been diagnosed with terminal abdominal cancer and was expected to die within a few short months. I joined hundreds praying earnestly and ferevently for Mike and Lynne. The doctors were very certain with their diagnosis. But, God continues to have other plans.

Yes, Mike is still “terminally ill” with cancer. But, God has spared him from death for well over two and a half years. I believe that God did that, as He does most things, to bring honor, glory, majesty, and power to His Blessed and Holy Name.

The video below is of a testimony that Mike gave on October 16, 2011, during the morning worship service at the church he and Lynne attend, Oakbook Church in Kokomo, Indiana.

This video of Mike’s testimony is a bit shy of 40 minutes long. If you will take the time to watch it, I guarantee you will find that it will be 40 minutes well spent. Please take a look:

If you’re anything like me, Mike’s testimony moved you deeply. May I ask you to join me in praying for Mike and for Lynne. I am not afraid to ask God for a miracle of total healing for Mike. I am also comfortable letting God be God and decide what He wants to do. Yet, whenever it comes to prayer for healing, I am compelled by very clear instructions from the Apostle James.

If you would like to keep tabs on Mike and Lynne, and also read some of the wonderful posts about their faith journey, please click here to read their blog.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Thank you for Mike’s testimony of Your grace in His life. Please continue to hold him—and Lynne, too—in the Hollow of Your Mighty Hand.

We ask You, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to totally heal Mike. We ask You to erradicate every cancer cell from Mike’s body. We ask You to cover Mike—from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet—with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, as protection from every evil that might try to come against Your perfect will for Mike.

We want to learn from Mike’s example. We cling to the hope that You have given us through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Help us to let the Light of Christ’s Presence shine through us each day. May that shining Light from within us become a testimony of Your love to everyone who may cross our pathway. We pray in the blessed Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 7, 2011

“The Circle of Forgiveness,” Part 4—
Restoration

 

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
      and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
      or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
      and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

—The words of King David from Psalm 51:10-12

 

In my three previous blog posts, I laid out a new series of posts using these words:

Recently, on this blog site, I’ve written quite a bit about confession, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation. These four individual elements form an interdependent and interlocking, life-sustaining process that some have called “The Circle of Forgiveness.” This process becomes a very important part of the pathway for a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is to say a “Christian” or “Christ-one”—to develop into a fully obedient citizen of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, each of these elements offers its own set of challenges to our normal understanding. While the basis for the fundamental morality of the United States has deep roots into the Judeo-Christian values, time has tended to soften or distort some of the directness of certain of those values. As a result, people end up with a skewed or distorted view of what these values really mean.

“Restoration” is the final such value. It marks the end of the journey through the “Circle of Forgiveness.” In a very real sense, it also marks the beginning of another journey through the Circle. Our sin nature will always bring us to the need for yet another confession, repentance, restitution, and restoration. Praise God that—in His mercy and grace through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—He has made provision for us to continually keep short accounts with Him.

When one party in a relationship sins against another, the Holy Spirit begins a process of conviction. Unless the one who sinned has hardened his or her heart to the point that he or she rejects the urging of the Spirit, that process of conviction will lead the one who sinned to embark on a journey along the “Circle of Forgiveness.”

The one who has been sinned against plays a key role in the last element of this Circle—“...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...” By cheefully extending forgiveness to the one who has sinned, the harmed party may now lovingly assist the sinner to receive mercy. Once mercy begins to act on the matter, the bond of Christian love will again bloom between the parties.

“If what you describe is so, why do so many in the body of believers remain estranged from each other?”

That’s an excellent question. For each individual situation, the answer comes from conducting a very careful examination to make certain every one of the four steps has been successfully completed. In any case where you find lingering difficulty, you will find that the estranged parties have missed one of the steps.

As I have suggested in several related blog posts over the last six months or so, you can “paint over” the bad spot of sin in a relationship and try to pretend nothing has really happened. However, if the underlying sin does not become exposed and dealt with using the “Circle of Forgiveness,” that sin stain will always reveal itself, to the determent of the relationship.

Let me offer a concrete example:

Due to a bankruptcy on the part of a builder, one adult sibling in a family has an opportunity to purchase a new house at a drastic discount. This is the dream house that the sibling has longed for over many years. However, he does not have the money to purchase the house. He turns to his brother and asks the brother—who is a good deal better off financially— to purchase the house and hold it until the first brother can raise the money.

The second brother gladly complies with the request. However, six months later, when the first brother has raised the capital to purchase the house from his brother, the second brother informs the first that he will have to pay interest on the loaned money. In fact, rather than charging a modest interest, the second brother decides to seek more interest than the current market would require.

The first brother grudgingly complies. He remains grateful for his brother’s help in the matter. It seems as if the incident is settled.

The truth is, the second brother sinned against the first. He did so by not disclosing the terms of the arrangement at the beginning, and by charging his brother an exhorbitant rate of interest. But, the second brother does not follow the “Circle of Forgiveness.”

Even though the matter seems settled, over the next twenty years, every once in a while, the matter pokes its head above the surface of the normally calm waters of the relationship. And, it will continue to fester, just beneath the surface, until the second brother confesses his sin, repents of his sin, makes restitution for his sin, and receives full restoration.

I urge you, if you have sinned against a brother or sister in Christ, to prayerfully and carefully make your way through the four steps of the “Circle of Forgiveness.” If you do, God will restore your relationship and restore your joy.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We invite Your Holy Spirit to guide us in applying the truth of your Word to the sin we may find in our lives. Maybe that sin has lain dormant for a long time. Or, maybe that sin is as fresh as just a few moments ago. In either case, help us to confess our sins to You and to the one we have sinned against. And, as we repent of our sins—turning our backs on those sins—we ask You to guide us so we may provide restitution for our sins and then, receive full restoration.

Keep us from holding grudges and from allowing our arrogance or pride to keep us from full fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. With humility and gratitude, we thank you for hearing our prayer, in and through the powerful and redeeming Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.