In Pursuit


Monday, May 13, 2013

Everything is Possible!

I love the biblical accounts of the Life of Christ. The last two posts on this blog have been taken from his life. The account of the raising of the son of the widow from Nain (Luke 7:11-16) and the account of Jesus healing the leper (Matthew 8:1-3) tell us that Jesus has come to help and he is willing to help.

The third picture which I like comes from Mark 9:14-29. Jesus was coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John. He encounters a dad whose son is possessed by an evil spirit. This spirit tried over and over to kill this young man by throwing him into fire or water. In verse 22 the dad says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

I love Jesus’ response. He sounds a bit incredulous with his answer. He says, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.” And we know Jesus proceeded to set the son free from this evil presence in his life.

I love the words, “If you can.” Have you ever been in circumstances where the evil one tells you it is hopeless? Have you ever thought “there’s no way even God can help me.” The evil one loves to put those thoughts in our heads. He loves to try and isolate us from others but even more so from Jesus. He knows he doesn’t stand a chance against the power of Christ.

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life. Jesus has come to help! (Read Luke7:11-16) and He is willing to help! (Read Matthew 8:1-3) and there is nothing too difficult for him to handle! (Read Mark 9:14-29).

Sounds to me that help is on the way!

Always in Pursuit!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

He's Willing!

Another one of my favorite accounts from the Life of Christ comes from Matthew 8:1-3.

Right after Jesus preached his “Sermon on the Mount,” he came down and was met by a leper. This must have been quite a sight.

There was a large crowd listening to Jesus teach and I’m sure they would have all been milling around trying to get closer. But if we could step back and watch this scene unfold, we would notice people scattering. As we begin to search for why they were scattering, we might have heard a voice crying out, “Unclean, unclean!” And then we would have noticed the leper, bloodied, heavily bandaged, missing fingers and toes, dirty and dusty moving towards Jesus.

I can picture everyone around Jesus scattering. Some would have been screaming warnings of “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!” Others would have reached for a rock to throw. Jesus never moved. He never reached for a rock. He just stood there, watching the leper move closer and closer.

As the leper neared Christ, he knelt. It was an act of humility and worship. The screams and scattering of people didn’t matter. As he is kneeling, he says to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Then Jesus did the unthinkable.

He reached out his hand and touched the leper. My guess would be that was the first time another human being had touched this man since he was diagnosed as a leper. But Jesus wasn’t afraid. Note the words with me which came from Jesus’ mouth and heart. “I am willing! Be clean!”

Matthew records my favorite part in the final sentence of verse 3, “immediately he was cured.”

As you probably know, lepers were outcasts. They couldn’t even live with their families. They had to live outside of town with the other outcasts. They were shunned. They had to warn folks they were coming by announcing they were “unclean.” Of course I’m sure the volume of their announcement was nothing compared to the shrieks and screams of others who helped announce their presence.

Have you ever felt like an outcast? Have you ever felt as if you were “unclean” or worse yet that others considered you to be unclean and treated you as if you were.

I love what happened. The leper had great faith in Jesus. We should too! He came, bowed and worshipped and said, “If you are willing you can make me clean.” Jesus will respond the same way to you as he did to the leper. He will touch you and He will make you clean because He’s willing.

We learned from the previous post that he had come to help! Now we learn He is willing.

What do you need Him to do for you today? He’s come to help and He’s willing. Will you bow and worship before Him! He will touch you!

Always in Pursuit!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God Has Come to Help!

One of my all time favorite accounts of Jesus’ life is when he traveled to a town called Nain. You can read about it in Luke 7:11-16. Just outside of town Jesus encountered a funeral procession. Luke gives us some details that help us understand how dire the circumstances were that surrounded this particular death.

The person who died was the only son of a widow. Those words tell us a lot. As a widow, she not only lost the companionship of her husband. She also lost the source of provision and security when her husband died. She was fortunate to have son. At the death of her husband the son would have become responsible for providing and caring for his mother but now he has died too.

This woman not only was grieving the loss of the two most intimate relationships in her life but she was mourning the loss of provision and security. She officially had no one to turn to. But here comes Jesus.

I love verse 13 of Luke 7. It says, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her…..” If you read the verses or know the story you know that he reached up and touched the coffin and said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” And you know the rest of the story.

That part of the story is exciting. I can only imagine the joy in her heart as she sees her son rise from the dead.

My favorite part of the story is found in the final sentence of verse 16. It says, “God has come to help his people.”

What a great statement! God has come to help his people. What do you need God’s help with today? Have you ask him for help? He’s here to help you! He’s here to change your mourning into dancing; tears into laughter; and death into life!

God has come to help!

Always in Pursuit!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Laments of Our Lives, Part II

In addition to the 65 or 66 laments in the Psalms you will find 35 or 36 imprecatory Psalms.

I’ve labeled imprecatory Psalms as laments on steroids.

The meaning of the word imprecatory is: to call down evil or curses. Usually it is used in reference to another human that hurt us or disappointed us greatly.

Imprecatory Psalms express great anger and or a desire for revenge on someone who has hurt us or “done us dirty.” Once again some biblical scholars choose to ignore these god-breathed words and deny the existence of such severe emotions in the life of a believer. But we have to do better than just ignore these things. We have to learn how to deal with them because these emotions are real and many of us experience them from time to time.

I’ve heard stories of folks using the imprecatory Psalms as models for prayers. But they weren’t given as a model for prayer. They were given as a model for what to do when our thoughts are invaded by these emotions on steroids.

Here are a few Imprecatory Psalms for you to take a look at: 35, 69, 83, 109, 137 and 140.

My favorite imprecatory is found in Psalms 58:7, 8. It says, “Break the teeth of these fierce lions, O God. May they disappear like water draining away; may they be crushed like weeds on a path. May they be like snails that dissolve into slime; may they be like a baby born dead that never sees the light.”

Dr. Walter Brueggeman says that we have three choices to make when it comes to these emotions. First, we can act them out. But our recent history has shown the chaos that happens when this choice is made. You don’t have to go further than Newtown, Connecticut; Columbine High School or the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Secondly, we could deny them. Another way to describe this choice is that we would “stuff” our emotions. This works for awhile but everyone has a limit as to how much can be stuffed. When we reach that limit there is a blow out coming. Unfortunately when there is a blow-out, the ones who suffer are those closest to us such as our spouse, our kids or our co-workers. We’ve all heard stories about the consequences of stuffing our emotions.

The third and most appropriate choice is to hand them off to God as the Psalmists did. I know it’s not easy but when you realize that we are to be salt, light, and live with hope so that none should perish, we have to do whatever it takes to ensure that we are able to be all those things that God has chosen for us to be.

I’m not sure who the Psalmist had in mind when he ask God to break their teeth or for God to make them like a snail that dissolved into slime but I know that God is able to help take those emotions and replace them with joy, hope and peace.

We can’t allow our emotions to control us so the choice is that we take our emotions to God; hand them off to Him; and live our lives as salt and light filled with hope so that none perish.

Always in Pursuit!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Laments of our Lives, Part I

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of folks on the subject of our emotions and what the Bible has to say about them.

We spent time in the book of Psalms which contains “pictures” of every emotion known to man. We discovered references to joy (Psalms 16:11; 33:3) and peace (Psalms 4:8; 29:11). We found pictures of feeling secure knowing that God was our “fortress” and “strong right arm.” We also discovered that we had hope since God has taken our feet out of sinking sand and placed them on a firm foundation. We rejoice over these pictures. But there are other emotions pictured in the 150 Psalms.

Included in this list of “other emotions” are those of fear, confusion and doubt. The Psalms that give us these pictures are called “laments.” A lament is something that expresses grief or sorrow. All of the laments, except one, end up victorious. They end up proclaiming that no matter how I might feel, God is on the throne; He is my God; and the one I can put my hope in and never experience disappointment. Of the 150 Psalms, 65 or 66 of the Psalms are known as Laments? I suppose you could ignore them, as some choose to do, but then you are ignoring 1/3 of what the Holy Spirit breathed into the heart of the Psalmists. These words were intended to be words of instruction, rebuke, correction and training for us.

As I spent time reading through many of the laments, I discovered they were placed there by the breath of God for the purpose of showing me how to handle those emotions when they come along rather than allow them to handle me.

Have you ever experienced any of these emotions? What do you do with them? Do you give them room in your life or do you bring them to God; express them and then turn to Him and allow Him to bring victory about over those circumstances. Two of my favorite laments are Psalms 3 and 22.

While David was fleeing from his son Absalom he wrote what we know of as Psalm 3. Note the first four verses: Lord, How many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” How many rise up against me! BUT you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Perhaps the most well-known lament is Psalm 22. It was what Christ quoted from the cross. Note the first five verses with me: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” YET you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

Notice the expressed grief and sorrow but also notice the use of the word “BUT” in Psalm 3 and the word “YET” in Psalm 22. Things may get bad for us but there is always a “BUT” and a “YET” available to us. We don’t have to give in to our emotions and allow them to control us but we can give them to God and move forward in the things He has for us and know that there is victory coming our way.

Always in Pursuit!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's Never a Good Time to Give Up! Part VI

Never a Good Time to Give Up!
Part VI

I have purposely kept these posts shorter so they would have a little more impact and you could easily remember the nugget for that day. Let’s review since that helps most of us learn.

First, we learned that tough times do not mean God has forgotten us. He has not. He’s with you just like he was on your very best day.

Second, we learned that in tough times it’s still important to do the right thing. There is NEVER a right time to not do the right thing just like there is never a good time to give up!

Third, we learned that while it may seem like tough times are going to last forever, they won’t. There is a limit to what God will allow to come your way. At some point, just like a good parent, he will stand up and say, “That’s enough.”

Fourth, we were reminded that tough times do not change the way God thinks about us. He loves us just as much during tough times as he does during the good times.

So, finally we come to the conclusion of these promises and it’s all wrapped up in verse 11. We have a future even though we don’t feel like we are going to survive. Our future is not one that we are just going to squeak by in but it is one that we are going to prosper in and one where nothing is going to harm us and one that we can look forward to with great confidence. As a matter of fact there may be some days when the hope of your prosperous future is the only thing that will help you get through.

Remember what I said in a previous post, the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train, it’s God shining the light of His favor upon you and sooner than later, that light is going to shine on you and me!

Until then though, remember, “It’s Never a Good Time to Give Up!”

Always in Pursuit!

PS. Watch for two new posts yet this week on laments and imprecatory Psalms.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Never a Good Time to Give Up! Part V

Never a Good Time to Give Up!
Part V

Not only do tough times have a definite end but tough times don’t cause God to change His mind about us.

I have noticed that some of our friends have a tendency to be a bit scarce when tough times come our way. Ever notice that? Sometimes it's just a matter of them not knowing what to say. I understand that, a little. But let me draw another analogy from Job. The best thing his three friends did was to sit quietly with Job for seven days. Job did not need a sermon, he did not need anyone to try and explain things, he just needed someone to sit with him in the ashes. Ever been there? There are times when words don’t work. That scares some of us. We want to “fix things.” Or at least we want to explain why things happen the way they do. In reality, we should just sit there. Sometimes tough times simply defy explanation.

Many years ago, Gayle D. Erwin told me, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.” He just won’t change His mind about you. He’s crazy about you! He sings over you! And He never turns His back on you. He promised. You can take that to the bank or as Uncle Si might say, "that’s a fact, Jack!"

Remember, It’s Never a Good Time to Give Up!

Always in Pursuit!