Monday, November 30, 2015

Throne of Fire

Devotion VIDEO here

I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge.
His clothing was as white as snow, his hair like purest wool.  He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire, and a river of fire was pouring out, flowing from his presence.  Millions of angels ministered to him; many millions stood to attend him.  Then the court began its session, and the books were opened.  Daniel 7:9-10

Daniel’s vision is eschatological, picturing the end of days, and God’s final judgment.  In this vision fire is mentioned ominously; God himself sits upon a throne of fire with wheels blazing, and a river of fire pouring out from the very presence of JHWH.  If you’re contemplating standing before that judge, it’s not a comfy, cozy picture!

Judgment is as much a theme in Scripture as the love, grace and mercy of God; indeed, they are as related as body, soul, and spirit.  Philosophically-speaking, without mercy there cannot be such a thing as love; without grace there could be no mercy.  And without judgment there is no such thing as love, grace, or mercy. 


It’s true.  Mercy is the release from judgment.  And love is what is at back of mercy.  If there is no punishment for crime, then, we wouldn’t even have a word for mercy.  “Grace” is defined as undeserved acceptance and love received from another, especially the characteristic attitude of God in providing salvation for sinners.[2] 

The obvious key word in this instance is “undeserved”.  Salvation is always from destruction of one sort or another, physical, emotional, or spiritual.  To experience any kind of salvation, to be saved, is the opposite of being lost, or destroyed. 

And so, grace, mercy, and love are closely related to judgment.  Unless there is judgment, there cannot be these attributes of God (love, mercy, grace) we so treasure. 

And God is the author of all these.

Back to Daniel’s vision, God’s throne of fire:  in Scripture fire is a purifier, a refiner – an influence of cleansing.  Fire is also the eternal disposition of the devil and his angels who rebelled against God.  All of that comes into play at the throne.

For unbelievers, and those who believe, but defy God with their actions, fire becomes an eternal judgment – separation from mercy and love. 

For those who trust Christ, even though they are imperfect sinners, fire becomes the cleansing force that removes all impurities and the need for judgment. 

The wages of sin are certainly death, (Romans 6:23) but the gift, the grace, the mercy of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Scripture declares that without question:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1(NLT)

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.  Some of you were once like that.  But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.   1 Corinthians 6:9-12(NLT)

For You Today

If you have truly trusted your body, soul, and spirit, entirely to the promise of Christ’s grace, and you have ever felt fearful about what’s coming in the next life, think about this:  Christians do need not to fear final judgment; God has declared our innocence from condemnation and eternal punishment by his grace, mercy and love.

And His promises are always kept!

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  I, MarcusObal, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Holman Bible Dictionary © 1991 Holman Bible Publishers

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fear Factor - Part 4

Devotion VIDEO here

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  
2 Timothy 1:7(NLT)

So far this week we have looked at “fear” as a debilitating enemy we need to expect, because it is the main tool of our number 1 enemy, Satan, who wishes to destroy the eternal life we receive in Christ.  We begin to deal with fear by exposing it, bringing it out in the light.  And then we, as Jean Luc Picard would say, engage our fears by fighting with every spiritual weapon at our disposal.

Today we want to look at the outcome of this kind of spiritual warfare. 

Here’s what happens when expected fear comes and you expose it and engage it in faith…you’re:

Hidden in the cleft of the rock

People who find the presence of God absent from their lives are people who've gone away from God.  (Remember, He never moves!)

People who come close to God in confession find themselves, like Moses, placed in the cleft of the rock, a place covered by the shadow of the Almighty's hand. 

In Scripture the covering reminds us of the mercy seat on top of the Ark of Covenant.  To be forgiven is to receive the mercy of God, having our sin covered, as if buried in the deepest part of the ocean. 

The covering was the place where the Lord's presence dwelt. 

My friend, if you want to have your sins forgiven and placed under the mercy of God, where one would have to pry God Himself off the lid in order to ever accuse you, simply bring yourself close to Him in worship; commune with the Lord, face to face. 

Face up to your past and all the emptiness of fear and defeat. 

This is how you expose your fear and engage it with faith.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.[2]

I don’t know of a better example of this than what our daughter, Jennifer, did on her birthday
a few years ago. 

She had a fear of heights.  What she did was jump out of a plane (with a parachute). 

That is exactly what it means to engage and face-down the fear-demon.

For You Today

So….got fear? 

The first step in doing what you fear is always the hardest. 

And the promise of Jesus is always, “…take it – and I’ll handle the fear factor!”

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By Spc. Megan Leuck, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) , The Bible Illustrator, Parson’s Technology, Hiawatha Ia

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fear Factor - Part 3

Devotion Video Here

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7(NLT)
So far this week we have looked at “fear” as a debilitating enemy we need to expect, because it is the main tool of our number 1 enemy, Satan, who wishes to destroy the eternal life we receive in Christ.  We begin to deal with fear by exposing it, bringing it out in the light.  And then we…

Engage It

If you’re a Star Trek fan you’ll recognize the strength of the word “engage”.  Jean Luc Picard[2] is the fictional commander of the Starship Enterprise, charged with the task of going boldly into space where no man had gone before! 

Every time they were about to venture forth in a ship the size of a city there would mountains of preparation, charting the course, checking the logs, calculating the whereabouts of an enemy and checking the engines for warp-speed capability.  But nothing would move forward until Captain Picard would turn to the helmsman and with his finger pointed in the direction they must go, he would command:  engage!

How did Nehemiah encourage the people to “engage” their fears? 

Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the leaders and the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy!  Remember the LORD, who is great and glorious, and fight for your friends, your families, and your homes!”   Nehemiah 4.14  (NLT)

One preacher[3] said of this verse, “Remember the Lord was to be their motto, their rallying cry.  As you may remember in the Spanish-American war, our nation’s battle cry was ‘Remember the Maine.’  In World War I it was ‘Remember the Lusitania.’  In World War II it was ‘Remember Pearl Harbor.’  Even as we receive the Lord’s Supper we are reminded, Do this in remembrance of me. 

The problem with most of our fears is that we allow them to become invincible dragons in our minds, rather than engaging them in warfare. 

An old German proverb says:  Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.[4]   Nehemiah put swords in the hands of the builders and brick carriers; he gave them instructions on what to do when the trumpet sounded, and he reminded them they were fighting for their families and their way of life.  That’s how to engage your fears.
     When the bills are bigger than your income, engage your fear – meet it with faith that says He is able to supply every need.
     When the doctor says there isn’t a cure, remember to engage that monster with faith – because the Great Physician is on the case.

        When rumors fly about your job, your reputation, the economy, or an election outcome, engage fear by being a person of faith. 

You may not have any sense of what the outcome will be or what God is up to – but faith is just that which walks without sight; otherwise it wouldn’t be faith.

As a believer, engaging our fears means putting our faith to work.  Paul reminded Timothy:

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13(NLT)

For You Today

Readiness was the theme for dealing with Nehemiah’s enemies. 

Staying at ready eviscerates fear too.  Nehemiah encouraged the people to face their fears, and that is the key in spiritual matters or family, business or any part of life. 

Are you ready…expecting your enemy to use fear?  Have you exposed it for what it really is…naming the fears you face as an enemy attack? 

Well, then…..ENGAGE!

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By Spc. Megan Leuck, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] By Enterprise-D_crew_quarters.jpg: Derek Springer from Los Angeles, CA, , via Wikimedia Commons
[3] J. Vernon McGee, Through the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, Vol 3, (Pasadena, California), p520.
[4] German Proverb, The Bible Illustrator, Parson’s Technology, Hiawatha Ia

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fear Factor - Part 2

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7(NLT)
We are exploring fear this week, following a week of fearful events in France and Mali.  Today we begin to see how Nehemiah handled the fear factor. 

As a Jew born in Babylonian captivity Nehemiah had received permission from King Artaxerxes to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the city.  When he got there he found strong, political types posturing to undermine everything he did.  Their chief weapons were threatening intimidation…they were fear-mongers!

You have to Expect Fear

Problems never seem to come at a good time.  And often you're in the middle of trying to fix one problem when another problem comes.  When we are in a weakened condition because of the struggle enemies will try to make things even worse in hopes that we will give up.

It’s important to remember that our wrestling match in life is not with the bills, our health, the weather, or some English teacher that got up on the wrong side of the bed, but rather our battles are against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12)

Our fears do not come from facing the everyday cares of life – they come because there is a larger struggle going on in this fallen world. 

You can expect a struggle with fear because Satan’s main goal is to keep folks away from a relationship with our loving God.  He wants to keep you out of heaven. 

Now, if he has already failed at that because you’ve given your life to Jesus, and He has saved you…Satan’s next priority is to keep you from living a full life, a productive life.  In short, the devil wants to steal eternal life and the joy of abundant living here on earth. 

Expect fear to cross your pathway!  And, when it shows up…

You have to Expose Fear

Fear is contagious.  In Nehemiah’s case the job of rebuilding the walls seemed [and was] next to impossible.  The grumbling started when the long hours and hard work began to overwhelm some of the weaker builders.  That played right into the hand of the enemy.  They threatened constantly.  They began rumors; trash talkin’ was born! 

Dale Earnhardt was called “The Intimidator”.  With due apologies to race fans, Earnhardt isn’t even close…Satan is the original intimidator.

Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.   1 Peter 5.8, 9a(NLT)

Nehemiah dealt with the rumor mill in two ways. 

First, he prayed.  This is always priority and step #1 for a Christian who is serving his or her Lord.

In addition, Nehemiah gathered the people together for encouragement.  This exposes fear for what it is…unbelief that must be stopped. 

In your life there are fears that can cause you to come unglued.  That will not happen if you enlist your Christian family to pray.  One of the reasons you are encouraged to attend church often and to be involved in whatever happens there, is not to wear you out – it is to build you up! 

The terror events of the past several years are of the same source that Nehemiah faced - evil opposition to Godly mission.  Names, faces and dates change; Satan’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden.

For You Today

If there are fear-provoking thoughts or circumstances going on in your life take time to pray and ask others to pray with you; that exposes fear for what it is – threat!  And, as Vance Havner used to say, when creepy crawly things are exposed to the light of day in prayer – they scatter like the bugs they are.

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By Spc. Megan Leuck, via Wikimedia Commons

Fear Factor


Devotion VIDEO here

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7(NLT)

The reality TV show called “Fear Factor” displays people facing up to their fears.  Some things they have to do are really disgusting.  They eat worms, bugs, and parts of formerly living creatures!  I do not qualify [ever] as a contestant!

What is your greatest fear?  Is it sickness, the unexpected big bill, an accident, growing old?  Is it death, losing your good looks, spiders…really big spiders? 

What exactly IS fear?  There are many synonyms used to identify fear, like worry, nightmare, terror, and phobia.  New words are being coined all the time to name the different kinds of fear.  There is fear of closed-in places, claustrophobia.  There are people who are afraid to leave the familiar confines of their homes, agoraphobia.  I used to love to climb trees as a kid; now I can’t stand heights; there must be a word for it – perhaps oak-a-phobia…it’s a phobia, a fear!

We have all experienced what it feels like to fear.  Fear can rob you of your life.  That happens when you begin, because of fear, to play it safe.  Playing it safe is the ultimate result of intimidation which is the prime medium for fear. 

For the balance of this week we are going to focus on the pattern that emerges from the life and ministry of Nehemiah – how he handled fear in himself, and others. 

I want to do this because we are living in a fearful time of terrorists, like al Qaeda, ISIS and a host of other evils. 

Nehemiah faced the fear of terrorists in his day.  He had enemies who plotted to cause confusion and discouragement among those who were working with him to rebuild the Temple.

Had Nehemiah played it safe, he would have thrown-in with his enemies and the walls of Jerusalem would have remained in rubble.  He would have gotten an “A” for political-correctness, but God in heaven would have been shaking His head in disgust!

The thought came to mind recently that our culture today reeks of the same kind of mindset people had in Noah’s day:

 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  It broke his heart.  And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth.  Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky.  I am sorry I ever made them.”  Genesis 6:5-7(NLT)

Well, if playing it safe is so wrong, what’s the game plan, coach? 

In a word – faith! 

Faith was a good game plan for Nehemiah, and it will work even with the worst terrorists on the loose! 

The question we will deal with this week is:  How do we follow God in the face of our most overwhelming fears? 

For You Today

You’ve got homework, so get busy.  Read Exodus 33 and Nehemiah 4; the background will help make our time together more fruitful.

We’re working on hiding His precious word in our hearts; you need that today more than ever!

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By Spc. Megan Leuck, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 23, 2015

Can a Terrorist Be Forgiven

Devotion VIDEO here

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:6-9
This passage speaks very clearly that the forgiveness of God, while admittedly beyond human understanding, is available to even the worst criminal; even more astounding, His forgiveness is available to me.  When we are willing to turn from our wickedness, in both thought and deed, turning instead to God…He forgives; no qualifiers!

But does that extend to the terrorists of Paris?

Somehow the thought of the thugs who wrecked such unthinkable atrocities in Paris just ten days ago finding forgiveness – well it just goes against decency.  It rubs this cat in all the wrong directions.

But that’s just the point – God’s ways are much higher, so different, and far beyond the imagination of this cat.  I have so little idea what God can do.

I have been asked many times WHY God does that; why does He forgive such awful people? 

The reminder that I usually supply is that God forgives anyone who truly repents – repentance meaning a heartfelt turn from what I have done, admitting it is wrong, and a willingness (with God’s help) to forsake that kind of thought and deed in the future.

But absent of repentance, there is no forgiveness. 

And, absent of forgiveness, there IS punishment for sin:

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23(NLT)

There are those who suppose that, in the end, God will just give everyone a “do-over” – that somehow “love wins” means the grace will cover every sin and even the unrepentant suicide bomber will receive a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.  Well, that’s a much longer discussion, but simply put:  if that’s so, we are wasting our time proclaiming the Gospel…let’s go have a drink, do some heroin, and go shoot up the town, because sin and terrorism don’t matter.

But it does matter; and what matters more, is that even if a person’s life has been filled with monstrous deeds, like Hitler or Osama bin Laden, repentance – unqualified true turning from the heart to the mercy of God– means the grace of forgiveness changes everything.

How can God do that for terrorists?  

A greater question might be:  if He has forgiven any sin at all, how could He not forgive the confessed sin of all?

For You Today

Here’s a verse to dwell on today:

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  1 John 1:9(NLT)

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  By English: Hamid Mir, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, November 20, 2015

Love Your Enemies?

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  “Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.  Luke 6:27-36 (NLT)
Some of the “Preacher Groups” on FaceBook™ can get pretty argumentative.  (“Argumentative” is a really kind word to describe some nasty/angry exchanges.) 

Wednesday they were arguing about the Syrian refugee issue, and letting “those people” into the U.S.  One said:  “Gee, I wish we had a story of a middle-eastern couple fleeing for their lives that are turned away by the heartless.”  (Pictures of Joseph and a very pregnant Mary at the door of the inn leap to mind.) 

The second preacher wrote:  “But did you notice when the Good Samaritan helped the stranger that he put him up in a hotel, he didn’t take him home to stay in his own bed?”

These arguments clearly frame two positions you could take in the current debate…namely, how can you be compassionate (love your enemy), while securing the safety of your family and neighbors (as in closing the borders)?

Earlier this week[2] I suggested something of a limited asylum, something of a supervised hospitality which is the best we can offer the strangers who want to come here. 

But, re-reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount seems to call for much more than that, something much better.  When you offer your shirt to go with the coat your enemy just stole from you, or pray for the one who hurt you, or try to do good to those who hate you, or…, or…, or…well, where does it stop?

The same could be said of our sins and the cross; where does grace stop?

I have to admit that my leaning on this issue has surprised me.  Just one look at the extremist Islamic jihadist, gun-toting young men in the picture above brings back the flood of feelings on 9/11/2001, and the indignation of a nation ready to plunge into war. 

But, then, there is that Sermon on the Mount; Jesus was always touting forgiveness for us – even though our sins are as terrorist-laden towards God as those who strap on an exploding vest.

What do you do?  What should you do?  These are very disturbing questions, and cannot be satisfied with throw-away one-liners from the campaign stumps – from either side.  Security and safety are important; compassion is vital to stem the madness of war and hatred.

What to do?

One thing we can all do is look into the faces of those whom we portray as “evil” and remember that our own faces might just as well be there.  It is so important to look in a mirror before we judge another.

Incidentally, if you follow the link to the title picture, you’ll see that the picture of the four young men with weapons is of Taliban soldiers who are quitting the fighting.  They are laying their weapons down in favor of peace.  Might we do that too?

For You Today

Part of Jesus’ sermon includes what we call the Golden Rule.  So, how would you like to be treated if you were on the run?

Think about that out on the Rocky Road today…and have a great day!

[1] Title image:  "Tuenger Facetie". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
[2] See the post on “Fear” here