“Enjoying the Pleasures; Avoiding the Potholes”
“Enjoying the Pleasures; Avoiding the Potholes”
My wife and I love to travel over the mountainous, country roads of East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. What beauty! What adventure! What fun!
Sometimes, we come to the end of road and wonder which direction we should turn. Many times we have lost our GPS signal. There is a bit of hopelessness in feeling lost, needing direction.
To fully understand today’s blog post, I would encourage you to read Taking the Scenic Route #1. As we saw, the scenic route is not the normal route. Its less-travelled and not the overwhelming choice. There we learned, first of all, that God created marriage, not man.
Today, and second of all, God directs marriage, not man.
When you take the scenic route, you better have a good map like in the old days or have faith that your GPS keeps a good signal. Otherwise, you are likely to get lost.
So many marriages today are directionless, struggling, floundering, trying to run on auto-pilot, and so very sadly are on the verge of collapsing altogether. Why? Because too many couples are not getting their directions for marriage from the One Who created marriage. Read carefully the following words: O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).
The Bible, God’s infallible Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), gives us the truths and principles we need for a God-honoring, role-fulfilling, blessed, satisfying marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:18-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Therefore, outside of prayer, the greatest thing you can do for your mate is to be a man or woman of the Word!
You see, it takes three to make a good, biblical marriage: God, the man, and the woman. This is beautifully illustrated by “The Triangle.”
The closer each spouse moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. But, the further each moves from God, the further they move from each other.
Direction in marriage is so needed every day for each spouse, as well as each other’s own personal, relational growth in Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16; 2 Peter 3:18).
How does this happen?
There are so many ways to take in the Word of God through Bible apps (YouVersion), Scripture memory apps (ScriptureTyper), and podcasts (Love Worth Finding, Adrian Rodgers). Be sure to journal what God is saying to you each day. Then, gather up your journal and your Bible and have a special time with your spouse sharing what the God of your salvation has said to you (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Broken, directionless marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God, abandoning prayer and the searching of God’s Word.
Consider the following:
You see, just as the scenic route is not the normal route, a marriage directed by God who created matrimony is not the norm against the backdrop of this world.
Surrender to God today. Search His Word. Trust and live out His Word. Enjoy the journey.
Your most important turn in marriage is the next one! —- Will it be toward God?
For years, every time I read two particular words in Scripture, especially as found in Ephesians 2:7, but God, my heart leaps within me! It is a resplendent sound of joy, assurance, perspective, and calm no matter what questions or circumstances of life may come my way! But God!
Try this. State your condition or question, then add the words, “But God!” For instance, “I don’t understand why I lost my job, . . . but God!” Go ahead, try it.
Soak your soul in just these few passages alone and then listen to the link to follow. Indeed, there is no other answer.
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).
David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands (1 Samuel 23:14).
My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).
There she sat, all prettied up, seated in her comfy chair, and a silent stare etched on her sweet face and a dimmed look in her eye. The TV was playing on old rerun of Gunsmoke. When I entered the room, she lifted her clouded eyes and smiled a bit, but she did not recognize me.
I knelt down on one knee beside her, greeted her warmly, and began a conversation that was mostly one-sided. She handed me something that was very real to her but only imaginary to me. That dimmed look was one of struggle as she tried to put words together to form a sentence, but she could only mumble a few recognizable words at best. She called me by another name, “Mr. Gilbert,” which reminded me of the many years of hearing her say, “Well, there’s my pastor!”
That dimmed look, eyes a bit foggy, soon was changed. As I began to quote Psalm 23, she joined me word-for-word and her countenance was lifted. Then I began to sing How Great Thou Art to which she chimed in. Her precious, melodic soprano voice was clear and precise. Our duet continued through two stanzas of Amazing Grace and one verse of In the Garden.
When we finished our mini-concert of praise, I had prayer with her. She hugged me, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for coming to see her, once again struggling to put words together. As I headed for the door, she returned to her dimmed look with that bit of a silent stare.
As I walked down the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about what came to her mind so readily and caused her dimmed look to be one of hope-filled anticipation. She probably learned Psalm 23 as a child and has sung those songs for years because of her personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.
If I were in her shoes . . . would I have the same response? Have I filled my mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy (Philippians 4:8)? Have the praises of God and His Word been my meditation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 19:14; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) while I still have the capability to do so? Or is my mind filled with worry, fretting, anxiety, fear, lies, lust, bitterness, useless trivia, and “breaking news”?
In time her memory will totally fade unless the Lord calls her Home before then. But in the meantime, that dimmed looked is brightened when the chords of her heart are reminded of what really matters . . . the eternal things, the Eternal One . . . the One she will see and know forever when her faith becomes complete sight. No more dimmed look.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
My Savior First of All
When my lifework is ended and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand;
I shall know Him, (I shall know Him,) I shall know Him
By the print of the nails in His hand.
2 Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepared for me a mansion in the sky.
—- Fanny Crosby
Tuesday, I spent the better part of the day in the midst of the Tennessee Legislature. As I met with our state senator and representatives, I left with an encouraged, but burdened heart. These elected officials work in the midst of outright temptation of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). At times, I could sense the oppression just lurking around the corner. Yet, that is the world we live in. How should we live in these days of apostasy, debauchery, and decline? Jude 20-21 gives us a clear remedy:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Your most holy faith is the body of absolute truth found only in the plenary, inerrant, inspired Word of God. All the enemies of Truth will tempt you to turn away from the Truth, to doubt the Truth and to become cynical of the Truth. Just as tall superstructures are built upon a solid foundation, we as believers must build an edification superstructure of truth that will stand the temptations of Satan, the world, and the flesh. This is a daily construction need until God calls us Home.
What a great need this is—praying in the Holy Spirit!! Just as building is present tense, so is this verb praying. If we are to accomplish God’s work, God’s way, and in God’s power at home, church, school, government, and work, we must habitually pray according to the Scriptures as the Spirit prompts us (Romans 8:26-27; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18). There, we will find wisdom and direction in the face of this declension.
What does it mean to stay in the love of God when I know God loves me eternally and unconditionally (1 John 4:7-19)? You keep yourself in the love of God by walking in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:9-10). When you walk in His love, you will not be distracted by evil. Love combats the cold onslaught of Satan and apostasy and keeps your heart warm, tender, and zealous for God, His people and the Truth (2 Corinthians 5:14)!
Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life reminds us to keep looking ahead, to keep our attention fixed on the soon return of Christ! Mercy is me not getting what I deserve as a sinner (Romans 3:23), which is hell, because Christ is my substitute on the cross, the payment for my sins (1 John 2:1-2). Therefore, I am not saved by my good works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but by Christ’s perfect work. Therefore, I am secure in Christ and can look to eternity with great assurance (Ephesians 1-2).
So, in the midst of these last days of bad news, corrupt government, lawlessness, fear, pain, sorrow, apostasy and world upheaval, live out Jude 20-21. You will exchange your burdened heart for an encouraged one. Build, pray, love and look!
Additional study: How is eternity in hell a fair punishment for sin?
The “whole world” knew all the Seattle Seahawks would have to do to win last night’s Super Bowl was to simply give #24 the ball. Instead, what is being called “the worst call ever” is now history.
Was it the worst call ever? No.
The worst call ever is a no call. Romans 10:13 says, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. For the man or woman who refuses to call upon Christ alone for salvation will spend eternity in hell with his/her sins paid for by the work of Christ on the cross (Romans 3:19-26; Hebrews 7:25-27; 9:11-15; 9:23-28; 1 Peter 1:18-23). And today, Christ is calling you to come to Him for salvation that is free, eternal, and all of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). That’s the best call for every man.
Make that best call today. Jesus Christ is all you need. He is calling you today to come to Him now.
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
Christmas is a glorious time of the year here in the States to hear the celebrated proclamation of Christ’s coming to earth to be born to die and to rise again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 2:6-8). How interesting and blessed to enter into a secular arena (store, restaurant) and hear the songs of Christ’s incarnation and redemption as well as in local churches throughout our land. Even though, sadly, America becomes more and more pagan and agnostic, the message of great joy which shall be to all people (Luke 2:10) is given during this season.
While in Spain, I met Iñaki, who doesn’t wait for just the yuletide season to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. Every first and third Saturday, he, along with others, sets up a booth (pictured above) in the town square of Irun, a city of the Bidasoaldea region in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Community. Without shame or fear, Iñaki hands out tracts and booklets as well as personally shares the liberating, reconciling truth of salvation for sinful men through Christ alone. His enthusiasm and commitment to announce the Good News is “off the charts” and contagious (Mark 16:15; Romans 1:16). Obviously, I could not understand him, but communicated with him through a faithful translator. I say that to say this, that if I had never understood a word, I would have fully grasped his passion via his countenance, tears, gestures, and pointing to the picture on the wall. To say Iñaki was animated about it would be an understatement. The disappointment was all over him because the Saturday before, rain prohibited him from his passion, but the anticipation of the next Saturday had already eclipsed the regret knowing that it is all in God’s hands anyway.
In the spirit of this season, let’s unwrap the gift that is in us, this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:5-7), and let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). Perhaps the Lord has not led you to set up a booth in the town square, but the whole world is out there for you to proclaim the tidings of great joy! Just as you sing without fear “Joy to the World” or “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” speak to others about this marvelous gift of grace, a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Upon receiving my latest edition of WORLD magazine, I read the following front-page headline: DANIEL OF THE YEAR, Frank Wolf, “A career in Congress spent fighting for the forgotten.” Virginian Congressman Wolf has given the past thirty years plus of his life to travelling to some of the most dangerous places in the world to do something about suffering in seemingly forgotten areas. As the WORLD article reported, “As part of his work in the House of Representatives, he traveled to hot spots like Cold War-era Romania, oppressed Tibet, communist China, beleaguered Sudan, and war-ravaged Iraq, often focused on the plight of religious minorities persecuted by government officials and extremists.” Congressman Wolf retires this month, but his work will continue. When he visited Ethiopia in 1984, he said, “What I saw and experienced in Ethiopia . . . fully awakened me to the suffering of other people. And as both a U.S. c congressman and a Christian, I knew I had to do something about it.”
December 2-11, my wife and I spent time with other “Daniel’s” like Congressman Frank Wolf. These are missionaries located in the Basque region of Spain who have given their lives “fighting for the forgotten.” This northern region of Spain bordering the Bay of Biscayne and the Pyrenees Mountains is unique unto itself. The Basque people are a very proud people holding onto their national traditions and guarded in their approach to other Spaniards and outsiders.
What causes me to consider them “forgotten” is the impact of cold, lifeless religion that has left them suffering in their agnostic, sinful condition in these small mountain villages or large cities. Many, many Basque people have never heard the gospel, never read a Bible or heard the name “Jesus.” This land is virgin territory for the Good News.
How my heart was moved by a lone shepherd leaning on his staff as he tended his sheep near the small village of Zegama. He stood all alone, seemingly forgotten, quiet and forlorn. I waved at him as we passed by on our way up the mountain to the Aierdi Farmhouse. On the third pass, he finally acknowledged my wave. Here is a man, most likely unsaved, a shepherd in need of hearing the gospel of the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-11). My heart ached as I realized that I could not speak to him in his own language. Just as quickly, though, I rejoiced because of the dear missionaries who have given their lives to learn his language and “fight for the forgotten;” who live near him and have a burden for him as well.
Truth is, you do not need to travel 5,000 miles to Spain to “fight for the forgotten.” They live next door to you, work alongside you, ride on the bus with you, attend your school, etc. They are gripped in the cold clutches of their sin and have never heard the gospel. Many of their children have never heard John 3:16 or the simple children’s Christmas song, “Away in a Manger.” God has not forgotten those around you in your community, and He has not forgotten these Basque people, and therefore, neither should we. We must fight for the forgotten. We must do something about it. What sacrifices will you make this Christmas? Where will you go to reach the “forgotten?”
My dad had many sayings throughout his lifetime that were oft repeated. His word-picture definition of freedom was, “I have the freedom to walk down the street and swing my arms all I want, but if I happen to hit someone, my freedom ends where his nose begins.” Everyone wants freedom. Toddlers want to be free to whine and cry when then don’t get their way. Grade-schoolers want their freedom to play rather than complete their school work. Teens long for the day they will be out from under their parent’s authority, and in their minds, to be free at last!
Truth is, freedom comes by death—death to self. We think freedom comes when we get our own way. That is never the case. A toddler, a grade-schooler, a teen or anyone enjoys freedom when they die to self and come under authority placed over them.
Philippians 2:6-11 describes the ultimate, supreme display of freedom produced by death when Jesus Christ, under His Father’s authority, died for the sins of all men to ransom them for absolute, true freedom.
Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (HCS)
Christ left the glories of Heaven to take on the form of man, live a sinless life, respond perfectly to all the sinful acts of man against Him, and then be obedient to God the Father by dying the worst of deaths which included bearing our sins and enduring the forsaking of His Father. Christ did all this for every man to have the opportunity to be truly, genuinely set free. He died that we might live.
Today, I am enjoying freedom in the United States of America due to the thousands who have given their lives. I am enjoying freedom due to all those who set self aside to serve for a greater cause. For all who have or are currently serving in our military, you have died to self to maintain or give us our freedom. From my heart, I gladly and with utmost appreciation say, “Thank you!” And, what thrills my patriotic heart so much is to say, “Thanks, Dad, for you years in the Army, in Japan and Korea, and for serving in the Korean War. Also, a special thanks to my father-in-law who likewise served in the Army. Two heroes.”
Being that I have been a born again child of God since the age of five, I understand true freedom because Truth has set me free from sin, death and hell.
John 8:31-36 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Romans 3:23-25 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.
Therefore, I am most grateful for Christ’s death on the cross. But His life was not left on the battlefield of sin. He went into the tomb of death, conquered its grisly hold, led captivity captive and came out victorious! Now He lives to set men from free from sin, death and hell. “Thank You, Jesus, for dying so that we could be made eternally free!”
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
For freedom to be maintained in America, soldiers must continue to die to self and life. Christ died once. It is finished (John 19:30). He now lives forever, never to die again, to give every man who receives Him genuine, eternal freedom.
Recently while visiting with a dear saint of God, I listened as she reminisced about her old home place and said, “The last time I was there, the house was run down and the grass had grown up around it. Why, it didn’t even look like it used to. Even the church I attended is not as pretty as it used to be, and they only have one or two services a month.” As I sat there looking at what age and the curse of sin had done to this dear lady, pinching its wrinkles in her face, causing her to use a walker for stability, and making her wish for times of fellowship at church and in town with her friends, this passage of Scripture came to my mind.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-8)
While listening, I could not help but notice the twinkle in her eye accompanied by the precious smile etched on her face as she recounted days gone by. Within moments, she said, “So many people are unhappy these days. Me? I’m happy. I’m content. I’m ready to go Home whenever the Lord is ready to call me.” It did my heart good to listen to the lilt in her voice and to see her God-prepared confidence that someday soon she would exchange the old broken down shuttered house for a glorified habitation not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.