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Teeming With Life

Isaiah 35:6-7 “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.  And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.”

I have spent big chunks of my adult life living in the desert.  These locations are hot, dry and dusty places.  Their rough and rugged nature makes them hostile to most life.  Only the most hearty of lifeforms can survive and thrive.  Yet, they are not completely barren because they do get some thirst-quenching rain throughout the year.  And when it comes, it is a glorious sight!

Lancaster, California sits in the midst of the Mojave Desert and is a place I lived three different times during my military career.  While dry and dusty, it does enjoy some rain – eight inches a year on average.  Even Baghdad, Iraq gets six inches of rain a year and Death Valley averages a bit over two inches of rain a year.  And when the rain comes in these desert locales, it is breathtaking.  Waters break out in the wilderness and streams emerge on the desert floor.  Even the parched ground of dry lakebeds fill with pools and the thirsty land springs of water.  A typically barren landscape teems with life. 

In many ways, it seems like modern day America is like a desert to the faithful follower of Christ.  It’s rough and rugged nature makes it hostile to us and our Bible-based beliefs.  Only the most hearty of Christians can survive and thrive.  Yet, it is not completely barren because we still enjoy the thirst-quenching rain of God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s presence.  May this life-sustaining precipitation spring forth into a glorious revival in 2021.

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE RAINS OF REVIVAL IN AMERICA IN 2021!  When the revival rains fall in our desert locale, it will be a glorious sight.  Waters will break out in the wilderness and streams will emerge on the desert floor.  Even the most parched of ground will fill with pools and thirsty land will spring of water.  It will be breathtaking.  Our typically barren landscape will teem with life once again!

Scales Falling From Our Eyes

Acts 9:1-6 “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?  And he said, Who art thou, Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?  And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

Acts 9:18-21 “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.  And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.  Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.  And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.  But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for the intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?”

II Peter 1:2 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

Thomas Kuhn wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in 1962 as the seminal work on the power of paradigms – the overarching worldview and accumulated set of assumptions that guide our lives or a field of study.  According to Kuhn, “crises are a necessary precondition” for the questioning of a paradigm.  He contends that “failure of existing rules is the prelude to a search for new ones.”  And, when a crisis reveals the opportunity to question the prevailing paradigm, people “often speak of the ‘scales falling from the eyes’ or of the ‘lightning flash’ that ‘inundates’ a previously obscure puzzle, enabling its components to be seen in a new way that for the first time permits its solution.”  While this all sounds a bit academic and obscure, we have a perfect example of the entire process from God’s Word.

On the way to Damascus, Saul faced a crisis in his encounter with the Lord.  His previous paradigm included a pharisaical lifestyle and a determined persecution of Christians.  He was known for “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.”  As he grappled with his heavenly encounter and three subsequent days of blindness, the failure of his existing path became clear and a search for the truth stirred his heart.  In those few days, the scales fell from his eyes, both literally and figuratively, and he repented of his previous life and turned to follow Christ.  In those few days, he shifted from persecuting Christians to preaching the gospel of Christ.  He went from detaining disciples to defining discipleship.  He shifted from a life characterized by turmoil, violence, anxiety and divisiveness to one characterized by grace and peace, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus his new Lord.

PLEASE PRAY FOR GRACE AND PEACE IN AMERICA.  We are undoubtedly in the midst of a crisis in America.  Our land is characterized by turmoil, violence, anxiety and divisiveness.  Now is the time for us to turn away from our failing, prevailing secular paradigm and towards the God of our founding and the Lord of our saving.  May the scales fall from our eyes in the midst of our current crisis, and may it bring widespread grace and peace through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

Becoming Part of the Solution

I Timothy 2:1-4 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

At this point, we must all recognize that our nation is in a crisis and at a crossroads.  The events of this past week should shock and sadden all of us.  Yet, it is clear that the crisis didn’t start in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 when a crowd of lawless and violent thugs stormed the Capitol and threatened the core of our democracy.  It didn’t start in the Summer of 2020 when crowds of lawless and violent thugs stormed cities and created urban wastelands around the nation.  It didn’t start on Election Day of 2020.  It didn’t start on Election Day 2016, or 2012, or 2008.  The root cause is far more insidious than that, and it has yielded a spiritual, moral, societal, political, and social crisis that must be addressed.

If you have demonized the other side, even in the midst of an emotion-fraught week, then you are part of the problem.  If you have lionized your side, then you are part of the problem.  If you have excessively trusted in a human leader on either side of the political spectrum, then you are part of the problem.  If you have expected salvation from a political party, a government institution, or an election, then you are part of the problem.  If you have put your full faith in a statehouse, a courthouse, or a churchhouse, then you are part of the problem.  If you have outsourced your critical thinking to a media outlet, then you are part of the problem.  If you have surrendered your common sense to social media feeds and blog posts, then you are part of the problem.  If you have failed to try to understand the mindset of those who think differently than you, then you are part of the problem

If you have failed to faithfully and fervently pray daily for our nation and our leaders, then you are part of the problem.

We are all part of the problem!

It has been said, that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”  Now is the time to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.  Prayer for our nation, perspective regarding the mindset of others, and passion for national healing must top the list of our solution set.  And, we must not wait!

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

(Picture by Mr Tom Hill)

Tremendous Self Control

II Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

Genesis 39:11-12 “And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.  And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.”

II Samuel 11:2-3a “And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.  And David sent and enquired after the woman.”

I recently came across this stunning though not surprising thought in the book Atomic Habits: “When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling.  Instead, ‘disciplined’ people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require willpower and self-control.  In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.”

Discipline comes largely through structure and intentionality, not solely through some personally-manufactured willpower and self-control in the spur of the moment.  As soon as Joseph saw he was in a bad situation, he fled.  In contrast, when David saw he was in a tempting situation, he lingered.  In many ways, we are a product of our surroundings – those with whom we spend time and those things with which we surround ourselves. 

If you want to start a disciplined process in your life, schedule it and structure your life and your surroundings around it; linger on it.  If you want to eradicate an undisciplined process in your life, structure your life and your surroundings to avoid it; flee from it.  In these ways, we can better strive towards lives characterized by righteousness, faith, charity, and peace.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO EXPRESS DISCIPLINE BY STRUCTURING DISCIPLINE INTO OUR LIVES.  Tremendous self-control, for clinging to the good and avoiding the bad, comes largely through intentional structure designed to live life with a pure heart.

Common Voyagers

Luke 2:8-14 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The world’s first text simply stated “Merry Christmas”.  The world’s first telegraph post transmitted a Bible message:

On Christmas Eve, 1906, the world’s first radio broadcast brought a Christmas program to ships at sea.  This revolutionary transmission passed on a hearty Christmas greeting, complete with a reading of the Bible and the playing of the classic “Oh Holy Night.”  Across the air waves, the magnificence of God’s Christmas message was transmitted to common voyagers in the Atlantic Ocean.  They received good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  They heard the life-changing, eternity-shaping, joy-filled message – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  The glorious news was all about the birth of a Saviour, Christ the Lord!

On the first Christmas, the shepherds heard such a transmission too, meant for common voyagers like them.  It was passed on by a multitude of the heavenly host declaring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  It was a life-changing, eternity-shaping, joy-filled message – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  The glorious news was all about the birth of a Saviour, Christ the Lord!

Regardless of the medium – text, telegraph, radio, or proclamation by a multitude of the heavenly host – the truth is life-changing, eternity-shaping, and joy-filled.  It is the entire reason for the Christmas season, and the entire rationale for the swelling joy in the heart of a Christian.  It is meant for common voyagers, just like us and those around us.  It is news that should cause us to rejoice and that we should retransmit. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO JOYFULLY PRAISE GOD FOR THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOUR.  Christ the Lord – a message for common voyagers everywhere!

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