Friday, 8/14/20 – Question: “What is Real?”

What is Real?

After suffering a mild heart attack a few years ago my doctor suggested I get a real-time heart rate monitoring device to guide me in my recovery. So, I bought a fitbit and have been using it ever since.

20200813_064032One of the features of this device is sleep monitoring. It tracks not only the hours spent sleeping but also breaks down the quality of that sleep showing time spent in deep sleep, light sleep, REM (dream stage) sleep, and times of wakefulness.

This morning I recalled a rather odd and somewhat disconcerting experience I had had in the night. I dreamed I was in some other house with a floor plan different than our own. I roused from this dream to use the washroom but must still have been in a quasi-dream state for I had difficulty finding it! Evidently I was imagining I was still moving about according to the floor plan of my, er, “dream” house. After finally finding and using the washroom I weaved my way back to bed and, as my fitbit feedback showed me this morning, continued dreaming.

20200813_064108Philosophers have debated over the centuries about the nature of reality. Sci-fi movies such as the “Matrix,” the growing pleasures of “virtual” realities over “actual” reality, escapism drug use, Star Trek’s “holodeck,” Quantum theory and the proposition of multiverses, spiritualism and the quest for transcendence – all these and more have challenged the simplicity of the Biblical account of a Loving Creator of a tangible world of matter and life, now corrupted by human sin.

Humankind has never wanted to face the reality of personal guilt and so we try to imagine alternate worlds, other realities where we can play innocent.

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But human guilt cannot be hid. We cannot overlay any “dream” world and make it fit what is actual reality. (Our actual floorplan would not cooperate with my dreamworld terms.) We must accept and live by our Creator’s terms. We must “wake-up!”

He has made the only provision for our predicament: His Son Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge our guilt is real, turn from sin, bow to Christ, follow Him as Lord and live rightly in this real world until He brings us to the next.

What is Real? Christ came into this world to show us.

“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37, NASB).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6, NASB).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 8/7/20 – What does it mean to “Repent?”

What does it mean to “Repent?”

man wearing black officer uniform

The word “Repent” is seldom uses these days in contexts outside of Christian evangelism. Consequently folk may come to think of it as a religious word only… something mystical perhaps… outside of everyday human intercourse in this world. But the term is nothing of that sort at all.

Let us remember, God created mankind in His own image. (See Gen. 1:27). In other words, God used Himself as a sort of template in making us — mind you, at a much smaller scale indeed!

As He is creative so we are creative. As He is eternal Spirit so we are eternal souls. As He has emotion so we have emotion. As He may be offended by us so we may experience offense from one another. Let’s follow along that last likeness a bit further…

the denver post office and federal court house

I recently watched a recorded live video of a coutroom sentencing of a man convicted of homicide. The murdered boy’s father was present, a man of uncommon grace and forgiveness as we were about to see.

Near the end of the proceedings the convicted man was allowed to speak. He turned directly to the boy’s father and through tearful sputters acknowledged his horrendous crime, his enormous guilt, and the complete justice of the life sentence he was about to deservedly serve. Since his crime he had been haunted daily by what he had done and prayed incessantly for his victim’s grieving family.

He was a broken human being, deeply aware of his sin and his inability to undo the heinous deed he had done.

close up photo of man crying

The father, meanwhile, had been reaching forward toward this man. He had lost his son by this man’s hand but recognized that this man too had grieving parents, they too in a way had lost their son.

Astonishingly the slain boy’s father reached across the physical and emotional divide and embraced the genuinely penitent convict. “I forgive you,” he said.

Well, the entire courtroom was in tears… judge, attorneys, bailiffs and officers of the court. The honesty and pain of this moment had been so clearly authentic to all that none of them had desired to intervene.

Friends, this is repentance. God has made us like Himself and despite our guilt He seeks to restore fellowship with us. We have offended Him in like manner. Ultimately each one of us has murdered His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet the Father holds out His arms to us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

black microphone with stand near white smoke

Now you stand before the mike; it is your time to speak, and the Father looks down upon you… Turn toward Him… What do you wish to say?

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 7/31/20 – Question: “How can I understand my spiritual journey?”

How can I understand my spiritual journey?

girl in yellow and white dress

One of the things our granddaughter enjoys when she comes for a sleepover at Grammy and Grampy’s is when Grampy has prepared for her a ‘Treasure Hunt.’

Hidden clues lead her to further clues hidden around the house. Sometimes a small treat accompanies a clue, sometimes not. But our granddaughter knows these little “perks” along the way are not the real purpose of her quest – that prize awaits at the end of her persistent pursuit.

Grammy goes with this little treasure seeker and can be a help in deciphering some clues, but neither does Grammy know where the next clue is hidden, when the journey will end, where the treasure is hidden or what exactly it contains.

woman in white t shirt

Our granddaughter is free to make her own decisions, some rightly discerned, some not. But Grampy knows where all the clues are hidden and where their seeking journey will end up. He knows exactly all the good contents in the treasure that will ultimately be hers. He knows, because he has been preparing it a very long time.

Grampy also goes with her as she seeks… not always right there at her side, but nearby… aware… Sometimes he watches from the shadows, sometimes he stands in the sunlight. And when she just can’t get it he is always there to offer more guidance.

It occurred to me that this is a parable. How like our Heavenly Father grand-folk and parents are!

God has prepared for each of us a quest. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” He says to us (Matt. 6:33). Along the way He may grant us little blessings, “showers of blessing” the hymn writer called them, but the true seeker knows these are not that ultimate reward… he knows, and keeps questing. Paul wrote, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14).

The Holy Spirit goes with us on our quest, and God the Heavenly Father intently watches over all. We may call upon them at any time. We work out the steps together. Paul writes, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you…” (Phil. 2:12,13).

Before His departure Jesus gave us this promise,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4).

Christian, your life and quest have purpose… there is a great prize ahead, and all the resources of heaven intend to help get you there. Keep questing… keep seeking…

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 7/24/20 – BLOG 500! (My “Ebenezer”)

BLOG 500!

kindle technology amazon tablet

During our decade under the ministry of Pastor Steve Ranni the Board of Elders of our church were gifted yearly with a book from Steve on some area of personal spiritual growth or ministry. In 2018 the book was a daily devotional for persons in Christian leadership. The elders used this book daily and commented via group email their thoughts and insights.

When we were done the book the elders encouraged me to continue writing and I felt the Lord was urging me likewise. So, on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018 this WordPress blogsite launched. Today’s blog marks Blog 500! It is for me a kind of “Ebenezer.”

20200722_191410Perhaps the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Ebenezer” is Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, and the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. But “Ebenezer” is also a very important name in the history of God’s people.

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we read how, after a great victory over the Philistines, Samuel erected a great stone as a reminder to the Israelites that it was God Who had brought them this far. He named the stone “Ebenezer,” which means “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The second stanza of the 1748 hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” by Robert Robinson echoes and makes personal this moment…

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

So today, this Blog 500 is my “Ebenezer.” By God’s grace and enablement we have come this far, and by His grace and enablement I hope with you to raise another Ebenezer some 500 blogs from now.

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As of 5:00 pm yesterday this blog has received 7,724 views by 3,323 visitors across 58 countries – facts which continually amaze me.

I have counted it my great privilege and endeavored to be faithful both to the Lord and to you my readers to provide meaningful, practical comment and clarity “where the rubber meets the road” as we press on together to that Heavenly prize.

I thank you all for your faithfulness, shares, likes, comments and encouragement.

See you Monday!

yellow smiley balloon with white background

Press on…

Want to read some past blogs? CLICK HERE for a chronological listing of them all. (Or click on “All Blogs” from the Menu on the Home page.)

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 7/17/20 – Friday Question: Puzzling Promises

How do I make these promises “work” for me?

person placing hands on bible

I can’t seem to make these two promises “work” for me? Why not? Has God failed me? What’s wrong?

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

Before I address the two scriptures about which you specifically ask, I must comment on how you have framed your question.

The promises of God are not commodities that we pull of a spiritual toolbox to make “work” for us. The promises of God are components of our relationship with Him. They are further graces that we enjoy as we walk in fellowship and obedience with Him. They must also be properly understood in the contexts and with the stipulations that may go with them.

20200716_090052Take the 1st Corinthians 10 promise for example. Here God is not guaranteeing that you in your own power will be able to overcome every temptation which comes at you. No, He is saying He will provide a way for you to escape. If you choose not to take that way but choose rather to be “dragged away by your own evil desire” (James 1:14) you will be fully responsible for the outcome to which this choice leads.

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15).

Indeed we are often tempted above our own ability to resist. Joseph, for example, when tempted with the brazen advances of Potiphar’s wife, he knew he was in over his head and so he simply ran away. (Gen. 39). “Flee from sexual immorality,”Flee the evil desires of youth,” wrote Paul (1 Cor. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:22). Running from sin is not an act of cowardice, but of wisdom.

gray scale photo of a woman about to climb the fire escape ladder
Take the Escape!

Even the Apostle himself acknowledged times of being “under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure.” But why? Paul adds, “…this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” (2 Cor. 1:8, 9). We need to choose the “escape path” He has promised to provide.

As to the second scripture, this promise is clearly to those who “take delight in the Lord.” This means the things of the Lord give you your greatest joy… you desire them. In fact, in the original Hebrew the word “delight” derives from a root meaning to be soft or pliable. The desires of the Lord’s heart, become “the desires of your heart,” and these indeed the Lord will grant.

pensive male teen on gray background

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

 

Friday, 7/10/20 – Friday Tough Question: Why Pray?

Why Pray?

woman sitting on window reading book

Upon cracking open Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? — before Chapter 1, before the Table of Contents, on an otherwise blank page the reader is straightaway met with the stark words of William James:

“The reason why we pray is simply that we cannot help praying.”

Cannot help praying? How is that? To most prayer is at best a struggle: to find the time, the words, the motivation… How can it be said that we cannot help but pray?

Thomas Merton observed, “Prayer is an expression of who we are… a living incompleteness… an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.”

coronavirus

When the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center tower that Sept. 11, morning virtually every reporter on the scene was heard to gasp, “Oh my God!” Around our globe these recent days as the Coronavirus proved its power and our powerlessness, men and women of all nationalities instinctively cried out to that Someone beyond.

yellow sports car during day time

In less desperate moments we substitute Him for almost anything else, anything that makes no demands upon us. We must pray just as we must worship, and that emptiness must be filled. Be it fame, money, power, material things, bitterness of heart, or abundant good deeds, we try to fill that emptiness but in vain.

Some call this “the pursuit of happiness” — a term which recognizes this incompleteness, this emptiness as a fundamental component of the human experience.

Jesus said something like this,

“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food… Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” (John 6:27, The Message).

In other words, Don’t try to fill your emptiness with the perishable things of this world, pray! Speak with your Creator! He loves you, and longs for your fellowship. When you do, your emptiness will be filled, your incompleteness will disappear. You will know who you are and why you are here. You will pray rightly as you were made to pray.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 7/3/20 – Tough Question: God, Time, and Eternity?

God, Time, and Eternity?

photo of woman looking upwards

An illustration I find helpful in grasping this idea of God’s interaction upon our limitations of time and space is this… Imagine a two-dimensional world. It has height and width, but no depth. It’s inhabitants can move left, right, up and down, but the concept of going around something is impossible for them to grasp.

Now imagine that in this 2-D world there is a right angle triangle,

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In this 2-D world it would only be possible to roll this triangle forward, or pull it backward.

You would need to climb over it to get past it: it would be impossible –inconceivable– for you to walk around it.

But imagine the astonishment of the inhabitants of this 2-D world if one day they discovered this triangle flipped!

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This would be beyond their comprehension. The triangle would need to have been acted upon by something outside the limitations of their 2-D world. The triangle would have been picked up and turned over by a hand that had reached in from a 3-D realm. The realities of 2-D, height and width, still respected, but a 3rd dimension of depth had also come into play.

man wearing a jacket sitting on brown wooden crate

This is the dilemma we are up against when we begin to ask questions of time and eternity. How can predestination, free-will, and foreknowledge be reconciled. How can Jesus be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)? If I pray about an unknown outcome which occurred two hours earlier can my prayer be effective?

Our questions arise because we cannot yet see beyond the constraints of linear time. But God sees all things.

Questions of free will and foreknowledge, of prayers and their influence, of cause and effect often find their answer in this present mystery to us of time and eternity.

mountain beside body of water with aurora borealis

The fact of God being incomprehensible to us should not disturb us, in fact, it should give us great confidence. If you or I could wrap our teeny heads around the Creator of the universe and Sustainer of all things, the one Who called light and space and time into being, the One Who dwells in unapproachable light in the high and holy heavens, He who cast Lucifer from His Presence, has angel hosts who do His bidding, and Who is Author and Finisher of all things including our salvation – if we could get our puny minds around such a One as Him, well… the very thought is ludicrous.

In dealing with such concepts and questions as these Faith is far superior to Intellect — and Faith is exactly what God asks of us.

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Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 6/26/20 – Friday Tough Question

To Whom should we pray?

happy father and son

My son can come to me anytime and ask my help. I like it best when he comes to me and says, “Dad… can you help me with this…?” He could come to me and say, “John… can you help me with this…?” or, “Pastor/Elder McLean… can you help me with this…?” But I like “Dad” the best. I prefer “Dad” because it acknowledges and affirms our relationship. I am his Father. As an offspring he is like me, and he can become more like me as we interact in relationship.

parthenon

Paul cited the words of the Cilician philosopher Aratus, “We are His offspring,” and applied them to Jehovah God and the Greeks to whom he was speaking (Acts 17:28). Believers on the Lord Jesus Christ are “born again” into a special son/daughter-ship in God’s family: “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:13). In Hebrews we read, “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11).

I will still hear my son’s request if he addresses me as “John” or “Pastor/Elder,” but if he were to ask my preference I’d tell him “Dad.”

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Now the Trinity is not just a matter of three roles like my admittedly weak example above. Scripture teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons – three Persons yet One God. It should not disturb us that wrapping our minds around this is very difficult. In fact it is very likely impossible. But far more disturbing I think it would be if it our puny mortal minds could encompass the very nature and composition of God!

Interestingly there is no instance in scripture of believers praying to the Holy Spirit. As we study the Spirit’s role we see His ministry is largely in drawing men and women to Christ (John 16:8). He leads us into Truth (John 15:26; 16:13). He intercedes for the believer and helps them in their praying (Rom. 8:26-27), but our prayers are addressed to God the Father or Christ Jesus the Living Word made flesh. Christ too, like a lawyer, intercedes for us and as such we may rightly bring our pleas to Him.

Whomever of the GodHead you address the important thing is that you pray. As Paul enjoins,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 6/19/20 – Question: Why does death feel so wrong?

Why does death feel so wrong?

woman working girl sitting

One of the most convincing evidences of the truth of the gospel is the fact that we all feel that death is something that ought not happen. Every other aspect of our natural being makes sense: we hunger, there is natural food and we are nourished by it; we have a drive for sex, there is a mate to fulfil that and it results in multiplication of humankind; we fear a danger, and adrenalin provides energy for battle or escape; we have creative ambition and can create. But then comes death. It makes no sense. We want to go on… but the fact of death thwarts us.

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God has created within us all the above mentioned felt needs and more. He has placed within His creation, or has within Himself, all the means necessary to satisfy each one of them. He has also created within us a sense of eternity in our hearts.

Observes Solomon,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts….” (Eccl. 3:11)

Death feels wrong because it is wrong. Death is not what our Creator intended.

Tozer speaks further on this…

We take it for granted and we are not surprised at all about the eternal nature of God but the greater wonder is that God has seen fit to put His own everlastingness within the hearts of men and women….

I believe that this is the truth about our troubles and our problems: We are disturbed because God has put everlastingness in our hearts. He has put a longing for immortality in our beings. He has put something within men and women that demands God and heaven—and yet we are too blind and sinful to find Him or even to look for Him!…

Men and women need to be told plainly, and again and again, why they are disturbed and why they are upset. They need to be told why they are lost and that if they will not repent they will certainly perish. Doctors and counselors will tell troubled men and women that their problems are psychological, but it is something deeper within the human being that troubles and upsets—it is the longing after eternity Christ the Eternal Son.

This world is filled with so much commotion, distraction, activity, and noise! The madness of the material fills and busies our senses till that longing for eternity is drowned out — and the devil dances!

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Covid-19 has forced us to come apart from this, forced us to sit in silence and contemplate that nagging, loving, still, small Voice which is His loving call. We are made for Him, and we are eternal. The question is how and where one choses to experience one’s eternality!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts….” (Eccl. 3:11)

Believe on Christ, allow Him to rule in your heart and you will see: His perfect love casts out all fears, death is a threat no more. Death is swallowed up by Christ’s Victory. Eternal LIFE becomes your destiny!

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 6/12/20 – Friday Tough Question Why is sin still here?

If Jesus came to destroy sin why is it still here?

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John, the beloved disciple, writes “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:8-9)

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room

This passage has disturbed many a good Christian, not for the first part but for the latter. They reason, If Jesus came to destroy sin and if one born of God does not sin, yet I am aware that I at times still sin… perhaps still lose temper… still hold disdainful thoughts about another… still tell alleged ‘white’ lies, does this mean I am not truly a Christian… not really saved?

But what John is saying is that Christ appeared to defeat our adversary once for all. He took our sin and is working His righteousness into us. He knows He will complete this work and already sees us as the righteous saints He is making us to be. But in our current moment of experience we do not yet see that completed within us. Nor do we see righteousness reigning in this earth – that’s for certain!

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

But what we do see since coming to Christ is that a new nature now lives within us! The things we want to do are not what they were before. Paul well describes this inner conflict:

“…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. … I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. … in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind…” (condensed from Rom. 7:15-23)

…For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other” (Gal. 5:17).

The Christian no longer wants to sin and certainly no longer sins continually. But we are not yet perfected in Christ – never will be while still in this fallen flesh – so we still do at times make poor choices and sin.

That we would still sin is no surprise to John either, for he also writes,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

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So John goes so far as to tell Christians that it is a sin to say you are sinless. But now, we have Jesus to go to for forgiveness and restoration. And we have the Holy Spirit resident within us and the Word of God to plant within us and the Body of Christ, the church to stand beside us – all these to help keep us from sin… to keep us walking “in the light.”

“If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).

But why doesn’t He get the job over with?

Well… Where do you draw the line?

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Do we want God to destroy the mass murderers, the inhuman monsters, the heartless, the cold and calculating… the cheaters of fortunes….. the cheaters of hundreds… the cheaters on their income tax, the cheaters who didn’t go back to the convenience store when they found they had been undercharged $5…. Or $4… or 0.15 cts? Well… where do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line when you’re measuring up alongside a Holy God?

God has already set the standard – and it is a very high one indeed: “…to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

So if God were to straightaway destroy all evil from this world He must also destroy His own, the faithful who remain here to testify to the gospel in hopes that others may yet turn to Christ.

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Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.