All the Questions of Life

Questions

Where do you go when you don’t know what to do?

Who do you call first when you receive devastating news?

When you need wisdom for a major decision, what is your first response?

When your world comes crashing down around your feet, where do you run to hide?

For all of the questions of life, who do you ask or whom do you seek?

Every day of our lives, we are faced with decisions and/or unanswered questions and/or needing a sign post to point us the way and/or a place of shelter from the storm.  For all situations of life, for all the questions of life, and for all the unknowns of life, will you meditate on the following?  I believe you will see the answer in these passages to the questions of life.

Therefore submit to God. . . . Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-8, 10)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28)

97Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
  (Psalm 119:97-104)

And he (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

After meditating on these passages, listen to I Run to Christ

Three Anchor Truths In the Middle of the Storm

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Lately I have found myself repeatedly singing,

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm.  (Ryan Stevenson)

The trials and hardships of life, others and mine, at times seem to be so burdensome, numerous, and troubling.

How do we press on in the eye of the storm?  How do we stay afloat?  As I pondered these things, three anchor truths came to mind that can be your stay in the middle of the storm.

#1 Christ suffered, bled and died for me and my sins.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

When I consider the pain of my trial, I must look to Christ Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself (Hebrews 12:3) to save me from my greatest crisis.  What is my greatest crisis?  The answer: How do I save myself from going to hell because I am a sinner?  Since Jesus Christ took care of my greatest crisis and the tomb is empty, He will enable me to make it through any other crisis.

#2 Christ’s resurrection gives me blazing hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Hope in the New Testament is a…

  • blessed hope (Titus 2:13)
  • joyful hope (1 Thess. 2:19; Rom. 12:12)
  • comforting hope (1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
  • anchoring hope (Heb. 6:19)

“When a Christian truly understands the hope he has in Christ, it results in a steadfast sense of security and stability.” (Gene Getz) 

#3 Being in Christ promises me an awesome future!

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 20:1-4)

Jesus, being God and having been in a boat in the eye of a storm (Mark 4:35-41), is the only true Anchor for life, trouble, sorrow, persecution, misunderstanding, questions, death, pain, sin, etc.

Running Uphill . . . to the Finish Line

My son-in-law and I have basically owned the Tweetsie Trail this summer for our morning run.  The beautiful scenery, friendly bikers, walkers and runners, beautiful wildlife, the nostalgia, pristine quiet, and the desire to stay healthy and prepare for periodic races calls us out three to four times a week.  Our routine is to run from Johnson City to Elizabethton at different distances as my training is currently maxed out for 10Ks while Andrew is preparing for a half-marathon.  Recently, I said, “Let’s change our routine and run from Elizabethton to Johnson City.  Well, I was greeted with a startling fact . . . the trail is predominately an uphill grade.

Our last run really took it out of me, and I was a bit defeated because running is such a challenge to me.  Upon sharing my thoughts via texting with Andrew, he said, “The second you feel defeated, you fail.  Sounds like the Christian life.”  He is right.

Running is such a mind game.  Correct thinking is so crucial.  In most instances, you can run farther than your mind tells you.  There you are, your legs are burning a bit, your lungs grasping for air, and your mind saying, “Just go ahead and quit.  You know it’s too hard to finish. You just don’t have it.”  That’s when you have to think the truth, remind yourself about things you have learned from running, and take another drink as well as another step.  You really don’t want to listen to yourself.

The Christian life is often uphill as well.  Every day presents you with battles that begin with putting your feet on the floor first thing in the morning.   Once that happens, you are “off to the races.”  How needful it is to think biblically from the first thought of the morning.  So often when we start the Tweetsie Trail, one of us will say, “What a beautiful day to run.  Praise the Lord!”  Starting your day thinking the Word and then throughout the day reminding yourself of the Word will help you climb the next hill.  It is so important that we do not listen to ourselves but rather preach the Word to ourselves.

I for one will tell you that one of the best parts of running is the finish.  There is such an exhilarated rush when you are done.  So here’s some truths to begin your day that will get you to the finish line… even if its uphill.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.  (Lamentations 3:21-26)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Map My Run

 

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Tweetsie Trail (Great place to run)

Map My Run is a handy app on my phone that logs all my workouts.  It records my distance, duration time, average pace, split-pace times, calories burned and elevation gain.  These details are very important as I reach out for my goals in preparation for the next race or just to keep in shape.

Map My Run reminds me of a very functional tool for your daily spiritual growth—a journal.  Just as the Map My Run app helps me track my physical fitness, I believe a hand written journal or one online is a good means to help you in your daily relationship with Christ; to run the race of the Christian life as we set our affection on things above and not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2) to stay spiritually fit.  So consider the following questions:

  • How do you track your growth in Christ?
  • As you read the Word each day, where do you record what God said to you?
  • When you attend church, how do you document what God is up to in your life during the service whether in singing, prayer, small group Sunday School or the preaching?
  • What has the Lord been teaching you in the school of trials and temptation?
  • How have you seen God answer prayer today?
  • What spiritual goals have you attained by the grace of God?
  • What sins have your overcome?
  • What victories have been won by faith and God’s grace?

We are prone to soon forget the blessings of God, the impact of His Word, and the lessons He brings, but not so if we record them in a journal and then scan over them each week.  Our Shepherd is leading us today (Psalm 23).  Let’s track His steps and His lessons in our lives.  The Christian life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Let’s run well in His Word, burning off the calories of sin, the flesh and the world, and keep a good pace through all the elevations of life as we run for the prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

This-N-That

“Throwback Thursdays” come with an array of pictures and memories.  Yesterday while preparing for our study in Matthew 6 for Prayer Meeting and for this Sunday’s message, I played a Youtube mix of one of my favorite singing groups from the early 80’s, the Cathedral’s and Legacy Five.  To say that “I had  church” here at my desk would be an understatement!  As the truths of God’s Word worked in my heart coupled with the lyrics and memories from the songs, various emotions came out.  I was reminded of how God’s Word and these songs were precious to me in various trials and times of rejoicing.  Also, what some of these men have meant to me and my family in years gone by and continue to do so today.

Two songs that are linked below reminds us of the cry of our heart and the blessing of God’s nearness when we are faced with cancer, death, hardships, questions, heartache and tears. They were written by Roger Bennett who sings them. He battled leukemia from 1995 until the Lord took him Home to Glory on March 17, 2007.  You will notice in the second video the toll that cancer had taken on Roger’s body.

I trust that today’s simple blog post will be a blessing to you as you realize that in the midst of life’s storms, God will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6), and He does speak to us in the night seasons (Job 35:10; Psalm 42:80).

What God Whispers in the Night

Stay Close to Me

New Year’s Response

Happy New Year!!  And even more than that, a special thank you to all of you who have faithfully read this blog.  I am honored and quite frankly overwhelmed that you spend some time on this site.  Nevertheless, thank you, thank you, thank you.

2015, as in previous years, and for the rest of our lives, will present us with many decisions, disappointments, delights, dangers, discouragements, and dreams.  For them all, may I encourage you to respond with Hebrews 4:14-16?

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For all the situations of life, respond with, “Well, let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of the grace.”  Why?  Read verses 14-15.  Jesus Christ is our high priest who has passed into the heavens and understands all of life, all about life, because He is life (John 14:6)!!

So, Happy New Year, and let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace!

Just Follow Your Heart

How ironic that after Tuesday’s blog, Cat Fights & Conflicts, our local newspaper, the Johnson City Press, would carry the following headlines later on in the day–Bombing Attempt: Deputies say Jonesborough man tried to kill with homemade device.  The first paragraph of the story began, “A long-standing feud between two Jonesborough families boiled over earlier this month after a man threw a homemade explosive device into an occupied residence, according to court records.”  A long-standing feud between two families. How sad.  Where did it come from?  What’s the source of this feud?  Jesus answers this question in a conversation with His disciples as recorded in Mark 7:17-22.

When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”[g] 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

When we follow our heart, see what comes out?  Nowhere in Scripture am I exhorted to follow my heart, but I am exhorted to follow Christ.  As you can see from the Mark passage, following the dictates of my heart leads to sorrow, shame, and sin.  When I turn my life, my heart over to Jesus Christ and follow Him as my Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-13), since He is Truth (John 14:6), then I can respond and walk in the truth; I can count on the Truth leading me (Psalm 23:1-4; John 16:113-15); I can trust Him when my heart wants to go its own way because as for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30); I can then know true delight and life (Psalm 37:4-7a).

So, if your heart wants to “bomb” someone, mortify the flesh (Romans 6) by surrendering to the Truth that will set you free, guide your steps right, and turn your heart toward Christ.

Lessons From a Hernia: Day 4

This past weekend we had something weather wise that is not often seen in East Tennessee.  The Lord saw fit to cover the beautiful fall foliage and the ground with a pristine blanket of white.   The colors stood out and the ground was quieted.  Two seasons came together in one.  Our lives are made up of seasons, too.  Sometimes it’s a season of joy and sorrow all mixed together in one.  Today, I am sharing the last lesson of this weekly series of what the Lord has been doing in my life through hernia surgery, through this season of my life.

Lesson #4:  Seasons of pain prepare us for the days ahead.

As I look back over my life, and I have more earthly years in my “rearview mirror” than I do out the front window, I am able to point out painful, growth markers.  These are times that God chose to send pain into my life to set me aside to teach me about Himself and me.  Some of those markers were . . .

  • The stillbirth of our daughter, Ashley Marie
  • Hernia surgery on the right side
  • Cancer and subsequent death of my parents
  • A detached retina in my left eye requiring surgery
  • Hernia surgery on the left side

I could mention other trials because life is full of them, but the aforementioned are definite times in my life when God did some deep plowing in my heart.  These were seasons of pain . . .

  • to teach me some wonderful truths from His Word
  • to correct some things in my life
  • to show me something of Himself
  • to set a course of action in my personal life, home and/or ministry
  • to turn my longings from earth to Heaven

None of us like pain, but I can truthfully say that God has used it to do some blessed things in my life.  Psalm 119:71 says, It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn thy statues.  I have written in my Bible beside that verse, “2-16-03 Preached this passage as a result of what God taught me through Dad’s death.”  Even as I type this, the pain of my hernia is biting me.  Life is hard, but God is good.  “Thank You, Lord, for this pain.  Looking forward to how You are going to work in the days ahead.”

Lessons From a Hernia: Day 3

After being in somewhat of a zombie state over the weekend due to the pain meds, I decided that Sunday night was my last round of “every four hours.”  These pain-numbing, body altering meds were going to have to go! Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the help with pain and sleep, but the side effects were weird.  In particular, these meds altered my ability to concentrate, listen, and stay awake. Some folks would say that I’m on meds all the time. J  Nevertheless, I was grateful that last Monday I could finally listen to preaching on my phone and jot down some notes in my journal.  Hence, the lesson from this hernia surgery that I am sharing today is as follows:

Lesson #3 – One of best responses to and blessings in a crisis is to listen.

That Monday morning, I heard and recorded the following statements from one of my favorite preachers, Tony Evans.

  • God brings crisis for you to know that God is real!
  • Nothing will make you seek God like a crisis.
  • Crisis make you stop praying cute prayers and makes you call out to God!
  • A truth to remember in a crisis: Heaven rules; earth never has the final word.
  • Never let your feelings sit in judgment over your faith.
  • Our God is the God of all the nations. When you have a “nation-sized” problem, you don’t want a “street-sized” God!
  • Name your crisis “Goliath” to remind you what will happen to it.

How grateful I was to be able to listen to the preaching of God’s Word and to be challenged, edified and encouraged.  You see, as a parallel to Day 1 and Day 2, a crisis, “a hernia time,” will be much more beneficial if you just make opportunities to listen.  I used my ear-buds with my phone and listened to sermons, music, and the Scripture.  How soothing, encouraging, challenging, and calming were the words of eternal Truth.  All I had to do was listen.  Times of worship occurred; tears flowed; my heart rejoiced; conversation took place between my Lord and me; and . . .  sometimes I would drift off to sleep.  But, what a way to rest!  That chair in the family room where I spent most of my time holds special meaning to me now; it is and was a place of rich communion.

So in a crisis, be still and listen.  Just be careful who or what you are listening to.  Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth (1 Samuel 3:9-10).

Here are two YouTube links of one of the many songs we love to sing at our church that sums up my post for today.

Speak, O Lord – 1  (A vast congregation of men only)

Speak, O Lord – 2 (Kristyn Getty; with lyrics)

Lessons From a Hernia: Day 2

As noted in yesterday’s blog post, Lesson #1, I have recently undergone hernia surgery.  As I told my surgeon yesterday during my post-op visit, “Doc, I really don’t like to be around you when you start cuttin’ up!”  There have been times in my past that got in trouble for that!  Well, as the Lord would have it, this time was for my good.  These are the times when God does some work of heart and draws us to Himself for personal discipleship (Matthew 11:28-30).

Lesson #2 – He must increase; I must decrease.

The past year in ministry has been the most demanding that I’ve gone through in years.  When ministry takes the turns that it has, my automatic reaction is to work harder; to increase.  All I want to say today is, the hardest work of increase should come on our knees.  There, Christ is increased, and I am decreased.  That’s way it’s supposed to work (John 3:30).  “Thank You, Lord, for leading me beside the still waters of that passage on the day after surgery.  Sure is hard to do my work of increase while medicated and grounded.”  And . . . Christ’s ministry just kept right on going.