Sunday, July 31, 2016

Seeing God Face-to-Face

Are you excited about one day seeing God face-to-face?  This is one of the promises of the Bible, that all people will one day be directly in the presence of God.  It's a promise that comes with a catch though, which came to mind as I was reading Psalm 68.  The catch is dependent on the attitude that a person has towards God in this life. 

Verses 3 & 4 read:

"But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! 
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; 
lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts; 
His name is the Lord; exult before Him!"

Those who love God will delight in His presence.  Praise will be their natural and joyful response to casting their eyes on Him.


That small word, 'but', starts verse 3, because those two verses stand in contrast to verses 1 & 2, which read:

"God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; 
and those who hate Him shall flee before Him. 
As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;                       
  as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God."

The first two verses speak to all people who don’t love God.  The people who hate God.  The people who dislike God.  The people with no time for God.  The people who consider the very idea of God as being, at best, an old-fashioned idea, a myth to be cast aside like any other fairy tale. 

The Psalmist is clear.  There are two groups, and only two groups. One group includes all who love God and the other includes everyone else.  There is no middle ground, no place of compromise.  Nor is there a middle ground in terms of response to God's appearing.  There will be joy and delight on the one hand, and unimaginable fear on the other.

There are days I feel worn out.  Days when I know the promises of God for those who love Him are good, and that they are promises that will one day come my way.  But the fulfillment of them seems to be so far away that I can't get very worked up about them.  And on a day such as that my eyes came to these words of Psalm 68 and I saw the sharp contrast between what I have been delivered from and what lies in my future.

The Bible promises that by faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior you can be certain that you are among those who will rejoice to be in the very presence of God.  So re-read the words of verses 3 & 4 and know with confidence that they are meant for you.  They will apply to other people as well, but know with certainty that they are meant to encourage you.  Whatever is wearing you down today will one day pass and you will rejoice and sing praises in the very presence of God.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Thought About Prayer

The other day I had one of those things that happens here as a pastor on the reservation with some regularity, but not on any kind of schedule.  A man and his friend had come by the parsonage, looking for me to talk and pray with them, and they were intoxicated. 

The man was distraught, with good reason, but his emotions ranged a bit wider than normal because his alcohol intake.  The presence of alcohol also made the entire interaction a bit incoherent.  I could listen to him, talk with him and pray with him, and I did all three, but it was impossible to make any one point stick.  At that moment as a pastor I wanted to reassure him of God's love and presence but it was almost as if there was a Teflon barrier causing that message to fail to stick.

The time that the three of us spent together was nearly an hour and during the second half I found myself coming back to a verse I used to support a point during last Sunday's sermon, the last part of James 5:16:

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."

In the conversation and prayer behind the parsonage I found that in regard to that verse I was continually wondering "How do my prayers here have any power?  How are they supposed to work?"

Perhaps the key is in the words "righteous person."  I know that I can’t claim any righteousness on my own merit.  Whatever righteousness I have comes as a gift from Christ Jesus, my Savior and Lord.  He is the One who is truly righteous and I only share in His righteousness through my faith in Him. 

And so I am called to pray and to lift up the concerns of my heart, along with the cares of those who stop at the parsonage looking for help, and to trust Him to sort out the ways to put those prayers to work.  All of the power is His, and I know that I can trust Him to put it to work in the best ways.  Each time.  Every time.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

El Dorado

El Dorado.  The fabled City of Gold.  Many an adventurer searched for the city and if you look it up on Wikipedia you'll see that an awful lot of human misery came as a consequence of greed when searching for riches that were believed to be limitless.   

One of the rumors was that El Dorado was in the Southwestern US and that came to mind yesterday as we drove home from Albuquerque.  We were winding through the foothills of the San Juan mountains, pointing the sights out to my aunt, who has come for a visit, when we came around a corner and there it was, clearly visible ahead of us.  Not El Dorado, but Dulce

Now no one would ever confuse Dulce with El Dorado, or even a real city of great wealth, such as Beverly Hills, but in its own way it is golden to us.  For three years it has been our home and there is much about it that we love.  We could put roots down and stay here for the remainder of our days, except for one matter.  And that is that Dulce sits on the reservation of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and our ability to live here is at the discretion of the Nation.  When our ministry here comes to an end we will be moving on, to a destination that is unknown.

But taking an even longer view, our destination is known, and it is to a place that would make El Dorado, if it existed, look impoverished. The promise of God in Revelation 21 is that there will be a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem, a place where God will live with His people.  If you have never read it, or haven’t read it for a while, take a moment to read that chapter of the Bible and see the beautiful picture that the Apostle John paints of eternity with God. 

It's an amazing picture, isn’t it?   Revelation 21 is given as a promise by God to His children, but it comes with a  catch, for it only comes to those "who are written in the Lamb's book of life." 

Is your name in that book?  In Romans 10:9 Paul writes:

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

If you believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, rest assured that your name is in the book.  If not, the time is now to look toward Jesus in faith, for the promises of God in Christ Jesus are not to be compared with any of the riches of this world, and the only time to come to faith is during this life.

The idea of El Dorado may seem appealing.  For us the beauty of Dulce is real.  But the eternal promises of God are without compare.  And I would love to see you there.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

True Freedom

Yesterday was the 4th of July, a holiday celebrating 240 years of the United States as an independent nation.  It is the day we show our devotion to America as we dress in red, white and blue, wave the flag unabashedly, and in various ways proclaim the freedom that we have as a people.  For my family the two main ways we celebrated were in going to the parade in Pagosa Springs in the morning and attending the fireworks in Dulce at the end of the day.

It was a beautiful night for fireworks and the show was great.  There was much oohing, ahhing, hooting and honking of horns as spectacular displays of color exploded and faded from the sky.  After we got home from the fireworks and were in the process of ending our day I read this online from a friend as he defined freedom,

"There are a lot of people these days that believe that freedom is a person's right to do anything they want. This is of course false since one person's actions may infringe on another person's liberty. Freedom is a person's opportunity to do what is morally right and proper."

I had that thought of "what is morally right and proper" in mind as Robin and I sat down to end our day with the Bible and prayer. Last night we read Psalm 51, which is David's confession of sin and plea for mercy after he has realized the truth of his sin with Bathsheba.  David makes no excuses for what he did as he comes before the Lord God.

What David did with Bathsheba was the complete opposite of the definition of freedom my friend gave.  It was morally wrong and improper.  And in reading the psalm, verse 12 jumped out at me.

"Restore me to the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." 

We could write an entire book about the wrong that David did in human terms when he pursued Bathsheba, and the many people who suffered from that wrong.  In Psalm 51 we see that David has learned that his actions had another victim, himself, for he has blatantly violated God's good rules for human living and placed himself in bondage before God.  Unlike the founders of the United States, David cannot declare his freedom and force God to give it to him.  David can only own up to what he did and cast himself before God for mercy.

Ultimately, the mercy that David seeks comes through Christ.  It is only through the work of Christ, laying down His own life for the redemption of people who would turn towards God and seek His mercy, that can break the chains of bondage that come from David's sin.  It is only the work of Christ that can free any sinner from their sin. 

Freedom in Christ is what freedom truly looks like.  It is God's free gift to all who would look into their own hearts, see what is really there, and then turn towards Christ to know the joy of salvation. 

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.