The Gethsemane Experience

Matthew 26:36-39

 

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will,but as you will.”

So what is a Gethsemane experience or if you prefer, a Gethsemane moment?

It’s best described as any kind of great trial or hardship in our lives that there is absolutely no way to avoid. It could be anything from the loss of your job to bad news from your doctor, or any of a number of difficulties in life. Whatever it may be, a Gethsemane moment is a trial or difficulty that there’s no going around, and there’s no getting out of it.

It was in Gethsemane where Jesus became deeply troubled over the events that were about to take place. What put Him in such great distress was His foreknowledge of what was coming. In the words of Matthew, Jesus became “sorrowful and troubled”. Jesus Himself said that his “soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”.

Luke wrote in the 22nd chapter of his gospel:

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

“Like drops of blood”, Luke said. Jesus knew what was about to happen, and he was scared, and He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. Yes Jesus is God, but He was also man, and He dreaded what He was about to go through.

Even so, Jesus was obedient to the father, because He also said, “…yet not my will, but yours be done.” Sometimes God may ease our suffering, and sometimes He won’t. The only way Jesus could pay for my sins and yours was to take our place and suffer the pain we should have been made to suffer, and die the death we deserved to die. He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross!

But Jesus set an example for us. When we face one of those Gethsamane moments, we do what He did; PRAY! We bring it to God in prayer and then we prepare ourselves to be obedient to His will. God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.

As Jesus prayed, Luke said an angel appeared and strengthened Him. Mark’s gospel doesn’t mention the appearance of the angel, but I think we see the evidence of that appearance from Mark’s description of Jesus’ renewed strength. We see Jesus’ resolve and courage. As Mark 14 tells us:

Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

In His renewed strength, Jesus was ready to face what was in front of Him. He told His disciples “Rise! Let us go!” In other words, He was saying, “Let’s do this!!”

So a Gethsemane experience is not just about coming face to face with hardship, it’s also about getting to the point where you’re prepared to face whatever it is that lies ahead, regardless of how tough it’s going to be.

In our own Gethsemane experiences, I think we’re given a small glimpse of what Jesus went through that night in the garden. The Bible says in the first chapter 2 Corinthians that we share in the sufferings of Christ. He knows what physical pain feels like. He knows what emotional pain feels like. He knows what sorrow feels like. He knows what it means to mourn. He even knows what it’s like to be angry. We share in His sufferings as He shared in ours.

So when a Gethsemane experience comes, no matter how bleak or dire it may be, bring it to God. Though it’s easier to say than it is to do, be obedient to His will, whatever it might be, and ask God for the strength you need to get you through it. And while praying and asking God for strength, there’s one more thing we need to pray about. Sometimes in the midst of our pain we forget. When we ask God to help us through whatever it is that has brought on our Gethsemane moment, always ask Him to do it in a way that will bring Him glory and honor. After His night in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was raised by the power of God. So too, it is by His strength and not our own, that we overcome our nights in the garden. And for that, He deserves the glory and the honor!

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All Alone

While flying from Houston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida two years ago, I recall looking out the window and marveling at the vastness of the ocean below. As we flew further out over the Gulf of Mexico and away from the coastlines of Louisiana and Mississippi, the number of ships and offshore oil rigs became fewer and fewer until finally, there were none to be seen anywhere. There was just an empty ocean as far as I could see. I remember thinking it would not good to be stranded on a small boat in the middle of all that water. In spite of being inside the cabin of a plane with over a hundred other people, I experienced this brief sensation of being all alone as I stared at the emptiness of the ocean below.

Last year, while flying over the Arizona desert, I felt that same sensation. It was the sensation of being isolated, of being all alone. Our flightpath took us over some of the most remote and desolate terrain in the country. There was nothing down there but sand and desert. There were no roads or interstates crisscrossing the landscape like you usually see when flying over other parts of the country. And again, I remember thinking it wouldn’t be a good place to be stranded because if you were to ever to find yourself stranded in a desert, you’d be in serious trouble. Chances are, you wouldn’t survive.

Suppose for a moment that you found yourself stranded in one of those places. Let’s say you were on a fishing trip dozens of miles from shore when the boat’s engine suddenly quit. Or imagine what it would be like if you were in a four wheel drive vehicle or on an ATV in the middle of the Arizona desert, a hundred miles from nowhere, and it breaks down, or you get it stuck in the sand and can’t dig it out. If either of those things happened, you’d feel like you were the only person left on earth. You’d start feeling isolated and alone pretty quick.

Either of those situations would be bad. But  there’s something far worse. You can experience a certain kind of isolation without ever leaving the comfort of home. By now I’m sure you’ve guessed what it is. It’s  eternal isolation, and it’s the direct result of rejecting Jesus Christ. For those who refuse to believe, they will spend all eternity separated from God.

Jesus said  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”That’s recorded in Matthew chapter 7. Jesus was saying that the majority of humanity will not be saved. They’ll be forever separated from God with no chance for redemption. It’s a very hard truth. No one likes to hear that in this day and age of relativism and religious pluralism, but like it or not, it’s still the truth. There will be more people in hell than in Heaven. But in spite of being in the company of  all those other condemned souls, I cannot imagine anything lonelier than spending eternity apart from God.

I pray that everyone who reads this either has, or will, accept Jesus Christ as his or her savior, and will acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who paid the penalty for our sins. It is the only way to avoid the isolation and the torment of spending eternity apart from God. If you haven’t professed your faith in Christ, don’t wait another second because the moment you invite Jesus Christ into your life, you no longer stand alone. How do we know this? Because Jesus gave us His word.  In John 14 He said:
Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. “  ………………..“I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”  With the spirit of God in your heart, you will never be alone again.

Finally, in John 15, Jesus said to His disciples: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Let’s pray and ask God to strengthen our commitment to the Great Commission. Let’s make it our  resolution to introduce someone to our friend, Jesus Christ

My Granddaughter’s Story

In Isaiah chapter 41, the word of God tells us in verse 10:

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 A good friend of mine shared that passage with me in the midst of a very a difficult time that my wife and I were going through in the spring of 2012. In mid-April of that year, our daughter disappeared, along with our granddaughter who was only three years old at the time. We had no idea where they were. While we didn’t believe any sort of foul play was involved, it was, nonetheless, on the back of our minds. The worst part was not knowing. I latched onto those words from Isaiah, especially the last part: “I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” At the time however, we didn’t feel victorious.

Our daughter had been dealing with some emotional problems, and there were other issues I won’t go into. So when they went missing, my wife and I decided to seek custody of our granddaughter. We retained an attorney and in turn, he referred us to a private investigator whose services were also retained. We spent the next few weeks tracking down leads and checking out local addresses, thinking they were still in the area. And of course we prayed to God continually.

Six weeks into our ordeal, God began answering our prayers. We got the break we had been praying for. It was a small miracle and would be the first in a chain of events that, as I look back, could have only been orchestrated by the hand of God.

On the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day, my wife received a phone call from a young woman who identified herself as Amy. She said she was calling from Ontario, California and what she said next floored us! She said she had our granddaughter! She said our daughter suddenly showed up at her motel room and left our granddaughter in her care. Before our daughter left, Amy was able to get our phone number from her. I believe that was providential.

My wife and I both spoke to our little granddaughter on the phone. She was scared and confused as you might expect a three year old to be in that situation. After we determined that it was it was indeed her and not some sort of cruel hoax, we told her we were coming to get her. Unfortunately, we could not get a flight out that evening. It would have to wait until the following morning.

In Psalm 32 verse 8, the Word says:

“I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

 Again, looking back, I can see how God was guiding us. It was just hard to see in the moment. Unknown to my wife and me, God had set a chain of events in motion and was putting us exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there. We were originally scheduled to fly to Ontario through San Jose but at the last minute, I found a flight to Ontario that made a connection in Las Vegas (with a stop in El Paso along the way) that would get us to Ontario an hour sooner. That one hour turned out to be very critical. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

As an airline employee, my wife and I get to fly for free (non-revving as it’s called). But if they need our seats for paying passengers, they’ll pull us off the plane and leave us wherever we happen to be. The flight to Vegas stopped in El Paso first and when we landed in El Paso, we just stayed on the plane. But the leg from El Paso to Las Vegas was nearly booked up so they started pulling the non-revs off the plane. All in all, there were 32 non-revs on the plane, including my wife and me, and one by one they started pulling non-revs off the plane to make room for paying passengers. I prayed. We needed to get to California. Of the 32 non-revs, they pulled 28 off the plane. My wife and I and one other couple got to continue on to Las Vegas. Thank you Lord for little things.

But when we landed in Las Vegas, that’s when it felt like everything started to fall apart.  We got another phone call from Amy, this time with bad news. She said our granddaughter had been taken by Child Protective Services and was in foster care. It was, to us, the worst possible news and we were so dejected and discouraged that we considered turning around and going back home. But again God intervened.

My wife decided to call her brother’s wife who, as it so happened, used to be a social worker in California. She advised us to press on, if for no other reason than to gather as much information as possible from the authorities in California. Again, it’s easy to see in hindsight how this was another act of God and another link in the chain of events that God used to reunite us with our granddaughter. We pressed on.

Even though God was firmly in control and was showing us the right path, it didn’t feel that way at the time. In our state of mind, in the midst of the frustration we felt over having missed our granddaughter by just mere hours, it was hard to see that God had all of this firmly in hand. But He did. He was guiding our every step.

When we arrived in Ontario, my wife and I both felt compelled to go to that motel where our granddaughter had been just a few hours earlier, before CPS took her away. We knew she was gone, that she was in foster care, and neither of us thought it would do any good to go there. But we just knew we had to go there. I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car, and shut off the engine. I parked next to a row of shrubs that separated the motel parking lot from the parking lot of the office building next door. I happened to look up, and I recall looking through the shrubs and seeing a car that was the same color as our daughter’s Mustang. I looked closer, and I remember thinking, “There’s no way.” But there she was. It was our daughter’s car and she was sitting inside it! In this massively populated area; keep in mind Ontario is part of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area; we drove straight from the airport and parked almost directly in front of our daughter’s car. We were one parking spot over. It was not chance, luck, or coincidence. This was God. Who but the Holy Spirit could have prompted us to drive straight to that motel? Remember that one hour difference in our arrival time I mentioned earlier? If we had arrived an hour later as originally planned, we likely would have never found our daughter. There’s no telling where she would have been.

Our daughter was not in good shape at all. She had fallen in with some bad people and she was in a bad place. And when I say a bad place, I’m not talking about Ontario. She had gotten herself mixed up with some bad stuff.

At first she didn’t want to talk, but over the course of the next few hours, we were able to coax some vital information from her. We learned that there was a hearing scheduled in juvenile court a few miles away in San Bernardino at 8:00 a.m. the following Wednesday morning. It was Saturday, it was Memorial Day weekend, and there was little else my wife and I could do. We found a different hotel and booked a room for the night, and returned to Texas the following day.

My wife and I both prayed countless times, asking God to bring our granddaughter back to us. Our faith had not wavered, but there was denying the difficulty of all this. We were overwhelmed. We didn’t know why these things were happening. We just knew we had been so close to finding our granddaughter, but we were going home empty handed. The flight back to Texas was very painful.

As I said, it was hard to see God’s hand in all of this at the time. Because of the human emotions, the frustration, the anger, the fear over what had become of our granddaughter, it was hard to see that was God was working all these things out. But this is sometimes to be expected, even for faithful followers of Christ.

God’s word tells us in Ecclesiastes chapter 11:

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

We certainly did not understand the work of God at this particular moment. But God does know our hearts and that is important when we are undergoing trials in life.

Before we left Ontario, I sent an email to Bryan, my Bible teacher, and told him that my wife and I might need some help. That was an understatement. I remember telling him plainly that “money is always helpful, but what we really need are two non-stop tickets from Dallas to Ontario.” As an employee of Southwest, yes, I can fly anywhere for free. But there’s always the possibility that we can be bumped and left stranded somewhere. It happens all the time. I know people who been left stranded at an airport for days. We could not, under any circumstances, get stranded somewhere and miss the juvenile court hearing. Judges don’t care for excuses.  I was already thinking about these things as we prepared to fly home. I was hoping Bryan knew someone who had some frequent flier miles they could cash in and get us some tickets on an airline with non-stop flights from Dallas to Ontario.

When we arrived back at Love Field, there was a message on my phone from Bryan. He simply said, “Stop by my house on your way home. I have something for you and your wife.”

“Good.” I thought. “He has some tickets for us.”

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” This is recorded in the Gospel of John at the very beginning of chapter 14. Yet, even though Jesus said those words, and I recited them over and over many times, how can you not be troubled when you don’t know where your three year old grandchild is? Yes, she was with a foster family, but what kind of people were they?

 When we arrived at Bryan’s house that Sunday afternoon, he and his wife greeted us and invited us in. Bryan handed us a large manila envelope. At first I thought it was kind of thick for two plane tickets. I don’t know to this day how he did it in such a short period of time, but he had taken up a collection for us and in the envelope was nearly two thousand dollars! Plus, he said the church was going to buy our tickets for our return trip to Ontario.

Before we left his house, Bryan prayed a very specific prayer and I’ll go into more detail about that later.

 In that same chapter of the Book of John, Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide. And in times of trouble, I believe the Holy Spirit guides others on our behalf. Before returning to Texas that Sunday, I also e-mailed our attorney and updated him on everything we had learned. I firmly believe the Holy Spirit prompted our attorney and his wife to meet with us in his office the following day, Memorial Day, so we could all get together and prepare the paperwork he needed to file in Tarrant county family court first thing Tuesday morning. (attorneys just don’t do that) We needed that paperwork for the hearing in California on Wednesday. So the plan was to get our paperwork in hand and return to California Tuesday evening. The paperwork was in our hands shortly before lunch time on Tuesday. We drove directly to DFW airport to catch our flight.

While waiting for our flight, we received a call from the social worker in California who advised us that the juvenile court hearing had been pushed back 24 hours. Now it would be held at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. It was frustrating because we wanted to try to get our granddaughter out of foster care as quickly as possible. But what seemed frustrating at the time turned out to be a blessing.

 After my conversation with the social worker, I had to make some phone calls. A gentleman sitting across from me in the gate area overheard my end of the conversations. He introduced himself as Mike Rodriguez, pastor of Calvary Chapel Church in Corona, California.

 Mike and his wife Terri prayed with Janet and me, and he gave us the name and number of an attorney in Ontario. As it turned out, he did not handle juvenile cases. But he referred us to a couple of other attorneys who did.

 We arrived in Ontario late in the afternoon, after regular business hours, so we had to wait until the following morning to start making calls. I called the two attorneys who had been recommended by Mike and Terri’s attorney. I left messages and waited.

It was almost 11:00 o’clock and I had not heard from either of the two attorneys I called earlier that morning. So I started looking online. I tried a Christian attorney referral service. That site led me to another site and finally to the California Bar Association website. I filled out a little questionnaire, gave them my phone number, and sent it in. Almost immediately I got a phone call from them. I told them a little about our situation and less than two minutes later, I received a phone call from an attorney named Alan Carlisle who specializes in juvenile cases.

 I’m not a real hard nosed negotiator, but I was aware of our financial situation and when he told me what his retainer was, I told him we could not pay the full amount, but I said, “Here’s what we can do right now.” I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit works on behalf of God’s people. Mr. Carlisle agreed to split his retainer. We had our attorney in California. ( again, attorneys don’t do that!)

 Shortly after I hung up the phone, one of the other attorneys called. That’s when panic set in. Was I supposed to have waited a little longer? Did I try to take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God? Had I been too impatient? Had I jumped out ahead of God and hired the wrong person? All these questions were going through my mind. It might seem trite but this was tormenting me. I prayed and asked for God’s forgiveness if I had indeed jumped out ahead of Him and acted out of fear and impatience. I prayed that prayer many times that afternoon and well into the night. More than anything else, I wanted to know that I was following God’s will in all of this.

 The Bible says in Proverbs 3:6

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

I was in great distress. That night I lay in bed and I was still praying that prayer. I thought about the story of Hezekiah in 2 Kings. When Isaiah told him to put his affairs in order because he was about to die, the Bible says he lay in bed that night, prayed, turned towards the wall, and wept bitterly. It was that kind of distress.

This is the point where God intervened in a very personal way. Most non-believers and perhaps even some Christians would have doubts about this. But I know what I experienced. My wife was sound asleep, so she wasn’t moving or shifting her weight. The air conditioning unit wasn’t blowing air across the covers. I looked down and didn’t see anything, yet there was something with weight and mass pressing down on the bed around my legs. This went on for several minutes and no it was not a rodent running across the bed. I checked! What I felt was very real and unmistakable. It sent chills up and down my back. The Bible says angels are ministering spirits and I believe God sent one to put me at ease. And I want to say right here that I’m not charismatic. I’m a conservative evangelical Christian. I don’t put any stock in the claims of ecstatic experiences by those in the charismatic movement. I know some people would make that motion with their forefingers, pointing at me with one, and circling their ear with the other. “That guy’s nuts!” they would say, but I know what I felt. It was real.

We went to the courthouse the next morning. We met with our attorney and presented him with our paperwork from the Tarrant county family court. All I can say about him is; he was brilliant. He is about 80years old, but he was a bulldog. He knew the system and how to get through the red tape.

While he was talking to the judge and the other attorneys, my wife looked up and for the first time in six weeks, she saw our little granddaughter. The foster family brought her there for the hearing but did not realize my wife and I were sitting out in the commons area. Our granddaughter saw us and ran to us.

I want to pause here and go back to the previous Sunday. Remember I said Bryan prayed with us Sunday evening when we returned from that first trip to California and I said He prayed a very specific prayer that I’ve never forgotten. He prayed that our granddaughter had been placed with a loving Christian family.

As I said, when our granddaughter saw us, she came running! The foster mom made a quick call to the CPS case worker to tell her about us, and she was given the okay to let us visit with our granddaughter. We struck up a conversation and as it turned out, she and her husband were Christians. God heard and answered Bryan’s prayer! Here’s where it gets even better. She and her husband had not taken in a foster child in over 12 years. They had only recently decided to become foster parents again, and had made that decision about eight weeks prior, around the time our daughter and granddaugher went missing! God knew the storm was coming and had prepared a place in advance.

Bryan’s life verse is Mark 11:22. ‘“Have faith in God.” Jesus answered.’  The verses that follow Mark 11:22 tell us that if we say to a mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,and do not doubt in our hearts but believe that what we say will happen, it will be done for us. Jesus also said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”.

God was moving things steadily along. Our attorney told us that we got one of the few judges in the building who actually cared. He said most of the judges in that court building had become so calloused and cynical that they just didn’t care anymore. If we had drawn one of them, our granddaughter would be buried in the system for months.

Once the hearing took place, there were four attorneys in attendance. Ours, a child’s advocate attorney representing our granddaughter, an attorney for CPS, and a court appointed attorney representing our daughter. Our system is what it is. The California judge wanted to talk to the judge in Texas. All the social agencies in California wanted to speak with their counterparts in Texas. So we didn’t get to take our granddaughter that day. Another hearing was scheduled for the following morning at 10:00 a.m.

Once again, I believe God worked out everyone’s schedules and helped everyone get on the same page at the same time. Less than thirty minutes into the hearing on Friday morning, the judge ruled in our favor and ordered our granddaughter to be released in our custody.

This was when we found out Alan Carlisle was a believer. He told us we were lucky to be taking our granddaughter home. My wife and I replied that luck had nothing to do with it, that it was the hand of God. He smiled and agreed. He said he didn’t know for sure if we were Christians or where we were spiritually, but he said it was indeed God’s work. He asked about our finances and we told him money was getting tight. Then he called his office and deferred the rest of his retainer for another month.

I may indeed have jumped out ahead of God, but He’s more than able to make course corrections. One thing I’ve learned from all of this is that we cannot outrun God when we truly desire to be obedient to Him. I believe the reason Alan Carlisle called so quickly is because he was obeying the spirit promptly. The outpouring of love and generosity by our church family was also an act of obedience to the Holy Spirit and if not for that generosity, we may not have been able to hire this attorney.

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 I hang my hat on that verse. We witnessed a great victory. I believe the only way we could have witnessed a greater victory is if we had been alive 2000 years ago and had been at Calvary the day God gave His son for us. God may prove me wrong on this and that’s okay. Jesus may return in our lifetime and that will be the great and final victory. But until God proves me wrong or until Jesus returns, this is the greatest victory we have witnessed in our lifetime.

Countless prayers answered and far too many things fell into place for everything to have happened by chance. It was all coincidence? C’mon….really?

Guarding Against Worldy Influences

John 15:19
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Jesus made it quite clear that we are not to behave like the world around us because He chose us out of the world. Our faith should be reflected in our behavior. It sounds easy enough, right? Just don’t behave like the unsaved people around you. Don’t lie, cheat, cuss, or steal like they do. We live in the world but we’re not of the world. And that’s all there is to it. Right?

I recently had an experience at my job that God used to show me just how easy it can be to get lured into worldly behavior, and not even realize it. A situation came up in which I thought one of my co-workers may have been seriously injured, or worse. He was working inside the fuel tank of one of our aircraft. Entry into aircraft fuel tanks is strictly regulated under confined space guidelines. There are precautions and procedures that must be observed. At lunch time, we stopped work and went to the break room to eat lunch. After lunch however, my co-worker was nowhere to be found.

There was no panic at first but after searching for him for several minutes, things became more frantic. I began to fear the worst, that he had gone into the fuel tank alone, without an attendant, and had been overcome by the fumes of the residual fuel in the tank. Potentially, that can be lethal. The air in the tank has to be constantly monitored. Just as I was about to call for a tank rescue team, one of the lead mechanics spoke up and said “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. I sent him upstairs to do some online training.”

I was relieved that my partner wasn’t laying dead or unconscious in the fuel tank, but I was also a little upset with the lead mechanic who failed to let me know where my co-worker was. At this point, someone suggested that I go back in the office and give the lead mechanic a piece of my mind for not letting me know what was going on. The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a good idea. It really was a serious safety issue after all. He was wrong and needed to be told so! I had every right to jump down his throat! Or so I thought.

Being the type A that I am, I was about to go get in the lead mechanic’s face when the Holy Spirit intervened. It dawned on me at that moment that I was being influenced by worldly principles rather than Godly principles. I was about to handle the situation the way the world says to handle them. I was about to do what seemed right in someone else’s eyes, instead of doing what was right in God’s eyes. And as I began to think about this some more, I realized this is how the world exerts its influence on us without us even realizing it.

Worldly influences don’t always come at us in ways that are obvious. It’s not always lying, cheating, cussing, or stealing that gets us in trouble. Sometimes the pull of worldly influences can be quite subtle. We might find ourselves in a situation that, from our point of view, requires an immediate response. The problems arise when our response is not consistent with Biblical teaching. We might convince ourselves we’re in the right, and we’re going to say what needs to be said no matter what anyone thinks! Guess what guys? That’s how the world thinks. We’re not to be like the world, are we?

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In a nutshell, Paul is telling us to live God’s way, not the world’s way. We are not to conform to the world’s standards. The world says If anyone wrongs you or offends you in any way, blow up on them, get in their face, tell them off….. because it’s your right! However God says, “I taught you how to handle those situations. You surrendered your right to get even when you surrendered to my Son.”

Are there situations in life that require a response? Yes, and this was one of them. But we have to respond God’s way. In the end, this issue was resolved. It was handled through proper channels. No one got jumped on. No tempers were lost. And everyone knows how this is to be handled going forward.

The Bible tells us 1 John 5:
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We have to remember, we have overcome the world. We need not be troubled by the ways of the world, or be influenced by them. In Ephesians chapter 5, we are urged to be imitators of God and I love how it’s worded in the New Living Translation:
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.

Personally. I think the example of Christ beats the example of the world hands down!

Sweet but Deceptive….

I worked in auto repair many years ago and it was quite common to have to replace water pumps and hoses, and perform other maintenance on vehicle cooling systems. Of course that meant having to drain the radiator and inevitably, a drop or two of anti-freeze would sometimes splash and hit me in the face and a little tiny drop always seemed to get on my lips somehow. When you’re laying under a vehicle, it’s going to happen.

Anti freeze, otherwise known as ethylene glycol has a very sweet taste. In fact it could be described as sickeningly sweet. If you work on your own vehicles at home like I do, you have to take great care to dispose of anti freeze right away after you drain your a radiator so that pets, or worse, so that small children don’t get into it and accidentally ingest it. It’s been known to happen. In spite of the sweet taste, ethylene glycol is a deadly poison that will destroy the liver in a very short period of time. It’s sweet, but it’s deceptive. In fact, it’s deadly.

In Proverbs chapter 5, the Bible warns us of the deceptive nature of a particular type of sin.

For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey,
and her mouth is smoother than oil.
But in the end she is as bitter as poison,
as dangerous as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.

Of course Solomon was warning men of the dangers of being lured by an adulterous woman, describing how the lure of the immoral woman may seem desirable, but the end result is death. This same principle can be applied in other areas of life. Take money and wealth for instance. God understands our need for money. Money in and of itself is not bad. But when we trust money more than we trust God, greed takes hold. And when greed begins to rule your life, it becomes like bitter poison, it becomes like that double edged sword. In 1 Timothy 6, there is a very familiar passage that warns of the consequences of greed: For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

Then there’s pride and ego. Most people like to be complimented. I think we all need the encouragement that comes from complimentary praise from time to time.  But again, praise and flattery can be seductive. The more you hear, the more you want to hear and bitterness sets in when we don’t get the praise we think we deserve. When the desire for praise begins to affect the motives behind our actions, it takes our focus off of Jesus and shifts it on ourselves. And that’s not where our focus is supposed to be. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of  their desire for flattery and praise from men. The flattery they so desired inflated their egos and gave birth to pride, and this is why the Bible warns against both flattery and pride. They go hand in hand.

Even anger can be appealing, and there are occasions when it might be justified. Jesus was angry when he drove the money changers and cattle traders out of the temple. But this is one area where we better be very, very careful. We may think our anger is justified when in reality, it is destroying our fellowship with God. More often than not, it controls us instead of the other way around. Paul quoted Psalm 4:4 when he wrote in Ephesians chapter 4: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Speaking of Psalm 4:4, the New Living Translation puts it this way: Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.

The list can go on and on. If it helps, think of all sin as being deceptive. It has the appearance of being sweet and desirable but in the end, it is a bitter poison that leads to death. Just like old anti-freeze, see it for what it really is, and get rid of it quickly.

Speaking of….Tools!

I knew a young man many years ago who told me he was thinking about enrolling in one of the area trade schools to become a mechanic. He hadn’t decided if he wanted to work on cars or heavy trucks, and he was asking for my advice. But he said he wanted to learn a trade that he could always depend on. The only problem was, what few tools he owned were the cheap imports. They were very poor quality. They were not suitable for a professional mechanic. On the other hand, I had a lot of tools I didn’t need anymore after making the transition into aircraft maintenance. And I really didn’t have room to store them, so I gave him an assortment of professional quality tools.

Sometime later, I learned he had taken those tools I gave him and sold them over at Trader’s Village. (For those of you outside the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Trader’s Village is a local flea market.)  I ripped him up one side and down the other! I reminded him that the reason I gave him those tools in the first place was so he could take them and make a living, not sell them for cash. It’s sort of like the old adage, “Give a man fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.” He had no idea what that meant.

In his Bibliology sermon titled “Books and THE Book”, W.A. Criswell said of the Bible:

It is unique, it is separate, it is apart; it is the great unlike, unrivaled. I have three reasons for that avowal—first:  Only here, only here do we find the true revelation of the things that really matter, only here.  The things that I really want to know are answered for me only in this Book; in none other, in the Book.  The question of where did I come from, and the whole universe around me; the question of what is the meaning and purpose of my existence; how am I any different from an autumn leaf that falls to the ground?  Billions of those leaves fell last fall; there are billions of them preparing to fall now.  How is my life of any more worth or significance than one of those leaves falling to the ground?  Is there meaning and purpose in existence?  I can find the answer only in the Book.  And the ultimate and final question:  Where am I going? What is the future that lies ahead for me?  Beyond the gates of death, into what kind of an existence or world do I enter?  I can find the answer only in the Book.  All of the other questions that I seek in life are immaterial or ephemeral or extraneous.  But the dynamic and central and meaningful questions that I want to know are found only in answer in the Book.

To me, this explains why in the Book God did not reveal at first to us all of these secrets of modern scientific discovery, the secret of the atom, or of the stars, or of chemistry, or of physics, or of all the other sciences:  we can learn those things in their time.  They are not ultimately and vitally important.  What is important is that I know God, and the meaning of life, and the way I ought to live, and the hope for tomorrow; these are the things that are most important, and that’s why God revealed them to us in this Book.  This Book is to us what a compass is to a mariner, what a radar screen is to an airplane pilot, what a blueprint is to a builder:  it shows us the way and the meaning and the substance of life, and the ultimate destiny that lies before us.

And if I may add to the late Dr. Criswell’s words, the Bible is to a Christian what tools are to a mechanic, or a carpenter, or any skilled tradesman. As Criswell pointed out, the Bible and only the Bible answers the questions that really matter to us. Where did I come from? Where did everything around me come from? Why am I here? Do I really matter? And what happens after I die? It is the most important tool God gave us because it not only answers those questions, it also teaches us how to live by clearly defining the difference between right and wrong.  It reveals God to us and teaches us all we need to know about His nature and His character. But the Bible is like any tool in the sense that if it’s going to do what it was intended to do, you have to pick it up and put it to use.

And it has to be used properly, not misused or misapplied. You wouldn’t use a wood saw to cut a piece of metal. You wouldn’t use a hammer and chisel to perform delicate work on an electronic circuit board. Likewise, it’s vital that we know how to properly apply scripture, being careful in the process not to twist it by trying to make it say something God never meant for it to say. In 2 Peter 3, the Bible gives a very plain and simple warning about that.

Peter wrote:

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

When Jesus was led out to the desert to be tempted, Satan twisted and misapplied scripture to try to cause Jesus to sin. But Jesus thwarted Satan through the truthful application of God’s word. All it took was four small passages from the book of Deuteronomy, and the devil was done. Such is the power and truth of God’s word. There’s a saying I’ve heard all my life – “Use the right tool for the right job, otherwise you’ll only make a mess.” All we have to do is take one look at what’s going on in the world today to see how true that is. The world looks to anything and everything but the Bible, the principle tool given to us by Almighty God. The mess is plain to see.

I have a box full of tools at home and at work. Many are made for a specific purpose and because of the type of work I do, I have to buy multiple tools that are all the same, like sheetmetal clamps for instance. I can’t work on aircraft sheetmetal with just one sheetmetal clamp. I need many. Paul wrote that all scripture is God breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Many functions, one tool, kind of like a Swiss Army Knife! But seriously, when it comes to the Bible, it’s all we need. It needs no other secular work of literature or textbook to supplement it. The Bible is the right tool for the right job no matter what challenges we face.

As for that young man, he never did go to trade school. He never became a mechanic. He never learned how to make use of the tools I gave him and as a result, he never gave himself the opportunity to learn a skill that would have lasted him a lifetime. Instead, he sold them for the quick and easy cash. And sadly, many people today don’t make use of all that God has given them. God offered all of us the free gift of grace and salvation through faith in Christ, and He gave us His holy word the Bible, the only tool we need to help us grow in our faith. And this doesn’t just apply to the lost. There are Christians who admit they hardly read the Bible. There are churches that barely teach or preach the Bible. They don’t realize just how much they’re hindering their own growth, and how much they’re hindering their ability to have a close personal relationship with God.

The tools I use to make my living will one day rust and wear out. They’ll be of no use then. But the Bible has stood the test of time. It is eternal. The words of Psalm 119 and verse 89 tell us:

Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.

That’s from the English Standard Version. This is the same verse from the King James:

For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.

And from the NIV:

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

God’s word is fixed, settled; it stands firm. It’s as relevant now as it was 50, or 500, or 1500 years ago.

People have rejected and denied it, yet the Bible endures. People have tried to disprove it and refute it, and they’ve failed every time. Truth always triumphs. God’s Holy word: It’s the only tool we need to build upon and maintain our relationship with God.

Self Discipline, and other lessons learned from deer hunting

Today, it seems as though traits like self discipline and self control have become attributes to be mocked and ridiculed, instead of being admired and respected. But when I was 15, I learned a valuable lesson in self discipline.

I was hunting with my dad at a deer lease in south Texas in Gonzales county, which is roughly 80 miles east of San Antonio. I don’t remember the acreage, but the area we hunted was an open field that was about 300 yards square. It was fenced on all four sides. A county road ran along the east side.There was a small hill that ran the entire length of the field along the south side. The north and west sides of the field were bordered by heavy woods and brush.

There were three deer stands on the property. There was a ground stand that once served as a cattle pen on the southwest corner of the field. It didn’t offer a very good view of the field, but there was always a lot of deer movement near that stand. There was a standard above ground deer stand on the west side of the field about 200 yards down the fence line from the ground stand and the two stands were was separated by a small hill, so there was no line of sight between the two. There was also a tree stand on the southeast corner of the field, and it was the one I preferred because it gave me an unrestricted view of the entire field, as well as the other two stands.

About two weeks into the season, dad and I were out at the lease. It was early afternoon and we figured we’d stay out there until the sun started to go down. We agreed to split up to better our chances of taking a deer. I went up into the tree stand and dad took the above ground stand on the west side. He had to hike several hundred yards to get to his stand and he didn’t want to cut straight across the open field in case there were any deer nearby. So for that reason, and for safety, it was understood that he would walk down the fence line on the south side of the field to the ground stand, and then proceed down the west fence line to his stand. You have to know where your hunting partners are at all times.

We’d been out there about an hour when I spotted movement along the west fence line about 50 to 60 yards north of dad’s stand. It was on the other side of the fence back in the brush. I really couldn’t make out a shape, so I couldn’t tell what it was. But when I put the scope on it, I could make out the color. It was brown, so it had to be a deer. I watched it through my scope and followed it as it moved north, away from dad’s stand. It stayed back in the brush just a few feet on the other side of the fence, and it was behaving just like a deer. Dad didn’t have a shot, but I did. Or I would…..as soon as it stepped out into the clear. The thought crossed my at that point to go ahead and take the shot, but that’s where discipline came into play.

From an early age, I was taught not to shoot unless I was absolutely certain I knew what I was shooting at. There was no doubt in my mind that I was tracking a deer. But the discipline and instruction had kicked in. I remembered how dad had always said “Never shoot unless you know what you’re shooting at.” But I just knew that was a deer moving along that fence line. What else could it be? It was headed toward a clearing and as soon as it popped out into the clear, I was going to take the shot. Dad wouldn’t be in any danger. At this point it was now about 90 yards to the north of his stand. Just a few more feet, and it would be in the clear. And as it moved into the clearing, I put my finger on the safety and got ready to click it off. But as I did that, I was suddenly horrified by what I saw in my scope. The “deer” I had been tracking……….. was my dad!!!!! For reasons known only to God, dad decided to go for a stroll in the woods. I had been mere seconds away from taking his life. In those days, we didn’t wear bright orange and yellow safety vests. Dad was wearing a brown jacket that afternoon. It’s funny, but before that moment, I hadn’t even noticed what color his jacket was.

And I think at that moment, every bit of the color drained from my face. I remember shaking and breathing hard as if I had just run a marathon. Initially, I wanted to come down out of my stand and go run across the field and just yell at him for putting himself in danger like that. But I didn’t want him to mistake me for a deer and shoot me! So I stayed put. I unloaded my rifle and watched him through the scope as he turned around went back toward his stand. I had no intention of losing track of where he was and at that point, I was done hunting for the day. He walked on by his stand and made his way back to where I was, backtracking along the path we had agreed on earlier. When I told him how close his unplanned walk came to getting him killed, he could offer no answer as to why he was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. In fact, he said nothing as I chewed on him, which I did in a very careful and respectful way I might add. After all, he was still my dad.

When he stepped into the clearing, dad was out of any real danger because I knew it was him at that point. What really had me rattled, what shook me up more than anything else, was that instant when I thought about shooting that unidentified shape moving through the brush that in my mind, couldn’t have been anything but a deer. What if I had made the decision, in that one brief moment, to ignore everything I had been taught? The consequences of that decision would still be haunting me today.

Everything I’ve shared in that account is completely true. It happened in the fall of 1973. And it’s an excellent illustration of the need to obey God’s commandments and teachings, and what could potentially happen if we choose to ignore them, even if only for a brief moment. What happens if, in one brief moment, we choose to ignore Biblical teaching and we make that questionable business deal because of the financial gain it promises, and it ends up bankrupting the company? What if, in a moment of weakness, we tell that little white lie that gets exposed and ends up destroying someone’s reputation, as well as our own? What if a partner in a marriage decides in a brief instant to meet that old boyfriend or girlfriend for coffee, and ends up in an affair? You see, when we fail to exercise self discipline and ignore what we’ve been taught , we can make decisions that can totally devastate our lives in an instant. Even though I may have eventually found peace through a relationship with Jesus Christ, had I pulled the trigger that day, my dad would have still been gone. If God is willing, the consequences of our decisions might be minimal, but more often than not, the consequences last a lifetime.

I would have had no excuse that November afternoon in 1973. I knew what I had been taught. Thank God I made the choice to wait. And as Christians, we have no excuse because we know how God expects us to live. So when you’re faced with a decision that could be life changing, pause for a moment and ask yourselves, “What has God taught me?” And then then have the discipline to use what God taught you, before pulling the trigger.

If God Were a Man

Copied and pasted from one of my favorite John MacArthur sermons titled ‘The Child Who was God’, but I simply call it, ‘If God Were a Man’.

In relation to God then, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the replica, the iconian. He is the reproduction. In Hebrews chapter 1 and verse 3, it says this, making really the same point, Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature. He is the radiance of God’s glory. That is to say, he is the shinning forth of God. He is the exact (says the writer of Hebrews) representation of God’s person. He is not only the brightness, but he is the essence, the substance.

This term, image, is the classical Greek term for a die or a stamp. He replicates God. He’s the exact reproduction of God. As John tells us in his account of the birth of Christ, we beheld his glory and what glory was it? The glory as of the only begotten of the father full of the same attributes that are characteristic of God. Paul writing in Philippians 2 says, Christ in one point was in the form of God, but divested himself of that and came in the form of man. He is the precise copy, reproduction, replica of God. He is the very substance and essence of God. He is the radiance of God’s shining glory in human form. That’s why he could say in John 14:9, if you have seen me, you have seen the father.

In fact, he is not just a sketch of God, verse 9 of chapter 2 in Colossians it says, in him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. And back in verse 19 of chapter 1, all the fullness is caused to dwell in him. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says, Christ who is the image of God. He is a full manifestation and revelation of God. Paul wants it crystal clear that there is no equivocation as to the identity of Jesus Christ. He is God in human flesh. That’s not unreasonable if you look at the life of Christ. Think of it this way, if God were a man, what would we expect him to be like?

Well, if God were a man, here is my list. I would expect him to be sinless. Jesus was. He was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Even Pilat, who sat as his judge after all the hullabaloo that had gone on, came to this conclusion, I find in him…….what? No fault. The Roman centurion came to the same conclusion and so did the thief on the cross. Nobody could ever bring an accusation against him. A trial before Anas, a trial before Caiaphas, a trial before Herod passed back to Pilate, nobody could come up with anything. If God were a man, I would expect him to be sinless. The record of history and the affirmation of apostolic testimony and the truth is: Jesus was sinless.

If God were a man, I would expect him to speak the most profound and greatest words ever spoken, wouldn’t you? Jesus did. A comment of his detractors was; “We never heard anybody speak like this.” And every time He preached they were absolutely astounded.

If God were a man, I would also expect him to exert a profound influence over human personality. He did. The impact of Jesus Christ on humanity is without equal. In fact, if you just look at the disciples who were basically bumbling common characters who had a hard time comprehending seemingly some of the basic issues of theology and truth, but the power of Jesus’  life transformed them into people who changed the world. And still, he’s transforming people like that.

Influence. I would expect that if he were God he would have that kind of influence.

Now if God were a man, I would also expect him to do miracles. Jesus did, repeatedly, publicly, unarguable, dramatically, prolifically, and if God were a man, I would expect him to know the future. Jesus did. He predicted things about himself, things about the nation of Israel, details about the future, the end of the world.

If God were a man, I would expect him to show us what God was like. He did. We saw in him love and kindness and mercy and grace that was absolutely and utterly and beyond anything any human could ever experience.

And we saw in him a level of virtue, fairness, wisdom, the likes of which the world has never seen. Anyway you look at it, if God were to come into the world as a man, he would come out Jesus Christ and that’s the case. Jesus Christ is the exact reproduction of the invisible God he makes the invisible God visible.

Glacier Girl, and Noah’s Ark

On July 15, 1942, a flight of six P-38s and two B-17 bombers, with a total of 25 crew members on board, took off from Presque Isle Air Base in Maine headed for the U.K. The trip had to be flown in stages, with refueling stops in Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. After refueling at a base designated as BW-8 on Greenland’s west coast, the flight took off once more and headed for their next refueling stop in Reykjavik, Iceland.

They never made it to Iceland. Along the way, the flight flew into a cold front, encountering a combination of bitter cold, heavy dense clouds, and ice and snow. The decision was made to turn back to BW-8, but they received a radio message informing them that BW-8’s runway was closed because of the weather. However, the crews soon received another message informing them that another base on the southern tip of Greenland, designated BW-1, was open. So the flight turned back and tried to find its way to that base. (It was discovered later that the weather reports for BW-1 and BW-8 had somehow been switched. BW-1 was actually closed, and BW-8 was still open.)

They flew around for another hour and a half, trying to locate BW-1. They did manage to establish their general location, which was somewhere over the east coast of Greenland. But by then, they were dangerously low on fuel. They wouldn’t be able to make either BW-1 or BW-8. A couple of the P-38s had dropped below the clouds earlier to scout for landing sites on the ice caps, just in case. With very little fuel, they reached the point where they had no other option. The decision was made and one by one, the P-38s first, the entire flight landed on the ice.

The crews were rescued after spending several very cold days on the ice pack. Due to the war, the Army made no attempt to recover the aircraft. Fifty years later a small group of aviation enthusiasts decided to locate that squadron, who had come to be known as “The Lost Squadron,” and to recover one of the lost P 38s. Using ground penetrating radar and the most advanced global positioning technology at the time, they were finally able to locate the aircraft……………………………..under 268 feet of glacial ice and over a mile from where they originally landed!! Eventually, they managed to bore down through the ice and recover one of the P-38 fighter planes and restore it to flying condition. They named the airplane…….Glacier Girl!

It took the earth only fifty years to swallow eight rather sizable aircraft. Over the years, I’ve heard non-believers and other Bible skeptics ask why no one has ever been able to locate the remains of Noah’s ark. In fact, I’ve heard them demand an answer to that question. It’s often the centerpiece of their argument against the Bible. They reason that since the ark has never been found, it must be because it never existed in the first place. And since Noah’s Ark never really existed, the story of Noah must be a work of fiction which makes the rest of the Bible a work of fiction as well. In other words, they’re saying, “Show me proof, then I’ll believe.” There’s nothing new there. Jesus heard those very same words.

Nearly 5000 years have passed since the flood, plenty of time for the earth to swallow up every remnant of the ark that ever existed. After all, if the earth can swallow eight aircraft in just fifty years, even a vessel the size the ark wouldn’t stand a chance against the ravages of 5000 years. Between volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, rainfall, and other forces of nature, plus the fact that wood eventually rots away to crumbs, it’s very unlikely that anything remains of the ark. There’s plenty of archeological evidence out there that does support the Bible’s credibility and with all the evidence that has been discovered, why skeptics continue to zero in on Noah’s ark is a mystery. It’s absolutely ludicrous for anyone to base their belief in the Bible, not to mention their eternal life, on the improbability of finding a piece of wood from a 5000 year old boat. I think, though, if God wanted us to find a piece of it, He would have left it where it could be found.

But God doesn’t want us to believe on the basis of some physical evidence like a piece of wood. In the third chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul wrote, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” God wants us to believe by faith, not because we laid eyes on some archeological artifact. The Bible plainly tells us what faith is in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews where it says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

Jesus does reveal Himself to those who truly seek Him, though not in person. He’s been revealed to us in these days through God’s word, the Bible. When Thomas demanded proof of the resurrection, Jesus patiently accommodated the request. He said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;“ Jesus graciously accepted the faith of Thomas, but He concluded His remarks to Thomas by commending the faith of those who believe without visible evidence by saying: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That’s what God loves to see. He loves that kind of faith. He loves the fact that we believe though we have never seen Jesus in the flesh. But for those who are waiting to see some evidence of God’s existence, someday they’ll have all the evidence they could ever want. But by then, it may very well be too late. As for me and my family, God’s word is proof enough!!

What is True Worship?

Isaiah 6:5

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.

 Judges 13:

The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife.Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife,“We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

We’re all familiar with Isaiah. But Manoah and his wife may not be as well known to some of you. They were the parents of Samson. In those two passages, we’re given brief accounts of their personal encounters with God. And they had good reason to be afraid. For God had declared to Moses long before their time, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

So my question is, what is true worship? What does it mean to truly worship God? The list of answers we might hear is probably endless. And we can expect to hear the usual answers like “Going to church every Sunday” – “Reading my Bible” – “Resisting temptation”- “Listening to Christian music” and so on. Those are important parts of worship, but they do not, in and of themselves, constitute true worship.When Isaiah and Manoah realized they had been in the presence of God, they saw God for who He really was. And at the same time, they saw themselves for who they were and they understood immediately that they did not come close to measuring up to the holiness of God.

There was a point somewhere in our salvation that we came to the same understanding. Of course none of us have had a face to face encounter with God, but we were convicted by the Holy Spirit which left us with the same realization as Isaiah and Manoah; that once we came to know God for who He really is, and once we admitted to ourselves just who we really were, we realized we would never measure up to God’s standards, not without a savior.

So what does it mean to truly worship God? First, it begins by recognizing God and recognizing our own condition. It’s admitting that God is right and we are wrong. It’s understanding that we can never ‘earn’ our way into His favor. It’s accepting His free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That to me, is true worship. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s only the beginning.

Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

True worship involves more than just getting saved, though that is the very crucial first step to be sure. When we begin to truly worship God, the desire to please God comes alive inside us. The first step of the journey that began when we were saved continues as the desire to live God honoring lives begins to grow inside our hearts. It grows when we desire to become more like Christ every day. Think of it this way. When you wear your favorite pro or college team jersey, it’s not hard to figure out who your favorite team is.You’re clothing yourselves, literally, with the colors of your favorite team and by doing so, you’re letting everyone around you know, “This is my team!” It’s a display of loyalty.

We’re to show our loyalty to Christ in the same manner.

Romans 13

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

 Galatians 1

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

 Collossians 3

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

True worship then, can be summed up with one simple expression; obedience to God, in good times or bad, whether it’s convenient or not. By becoming imitators of God, but clothing yourselves with Christ, by surrendering your will to His, you will send a powerful and unmistakeable message to the rest of the world, “I SERVE JESUS CHRIST!”

That’s a message the world desperately needs to hear.