ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

PERCEPTION/ILLUSION VS. REALITY

When we were in Oregon, there were so many beautiful places to take pictures, it was hardly possible to do the scenery justice through pictures.  There were the stark, seemingly dead places where volcanic eruptions had erased the vegetation, but even in the places where the trees had sustained incredible damage, there was beauty.

 

One such place was Lava Butte just outside Bend, Oregon where we came across this tree.

 

Bird in the Tree -- Oregon 2009 049 (C)
Tree outside Bend, Oregon at the Lava Butte.

 

The contrast between its barren limbs and the flourishing evergreens nearby made me think about the incredible strength of nature.  And then I saw a yellow bird on the tree’s limb.  I didn’t have any idea what kind of bird it was, but it appeared to be resting before going off to further exploits of this land.

 

When we got home, I looked at the pictures, again thanking the Lord for the beauty of His creation.  Trying to identify the yellow bird, I enlarged the picture above, and this is what I saw:

Bird in the Tree - 2 -- Oregon 2009 049 (C)
Was it a bird? No!

Apparently this “bird” is of the genus “Lady Taking a Picture”.

 

Perception/Illusion  versus Reality.

 

There are times when we think something is one way, when the reality is that it is quite another.   I perceived that a brightly colored bird was sitting on that branch, when the reality was that a lady in a bright shirt was standing beyond the tree taking a picture at the same time I was taking a picture of her.  My perception was certainly not reality, but it was harmless and funny.

 

But the difference between perception or illusion and reality is not always harmless or humorous.

 

We see people harming innocents and calling it justified because of their hatred.  We see people abusing others in the name of ambition.  We see the slaughter of babies that somehow becomes less offensive by calling it a “woman’s choice.”  This is our perception – but the reality is vastly different.

 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?  They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.  They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage.  They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”  Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?  He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?  He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge– the LORD–knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.

Psalm 94:3-11.

 

God sees –God hears – God is fully aware of what mankind is doing.  He is sovereign and in control, even when it appears that things are out of control.  He knows the thoughts of man because He created man.  The fool is the one who dismisses God as irrelevant or of no concern.

 

There are times we feel powerless against the foes that confront us.  This too is a perception that we are led to believe – but it is not the reality for the Christian.  Elisha and his servant confronted the army of the enemy and we read the following about this encounter in the book of Second Kings where it says:

When the servant of the man of God [Elisha] rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings 6:15-17.

 

Elisha was not worried about the forces against them.  The problem was that the servant believed the perception that they were defenseless.

 

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about perception and reality when he tells the Romans that God has revealed Himself through creation but man chooses to believe the lie Satan promotes.

 

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”   For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.   For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:17-25.

 

  • Don’t believe the lie that if your good outweighs your bad, you will get to heaven.   In Romans 10:3-18 Paul states that “”None is righteous, no, not one”.
  • Don’t believe the lie that all you need is to get along, love everyone and do your best.
  • Don’t believe the lie that this world is all there is, so get all you can because God wants you to be wealthy and to have all that you desire.
  • Don’t believe the lie that since God is love there will be no judgment.
  • Don’t believe the lie that hell is not real and the concept of eternal damnation is ridiculous.

 

Both the Old and New Testaments describe God’s response to sin and disobedience, and it is powerful, fierce and just!   God’s wrath is upon sinful mankind … only His mercy is stopping His hand from executing judgment on sinful man this very moment!

 

While you are not righteous, and while you cannot wash your sin away, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection has paid the sinner’s debt and that freedom from sin is available through God’s grace.  Paul says:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9.

 

Perception/illusion versus Reality.  In that battle, reality wins every time and Reality has a name – the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent triune God!

 

Father, forgive me when I have believed Satan’s lies that You do not care, or that You have no plan for me,  or that You do not love me.  Enable me to see the protection that You place around me, and grant me the grace to reach outside my comfort zone so I can extend your love and compassion to others, through your Spirit and in the power of the name of Jesus Christ.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 9, JOY, Part Three

 JOY – EFFERVESCENCE EVEN IN CHAOS

PART THREE

Last week we looked at Paul and Silas as they praised the Lord while they were in prison, locked down in stocks.  Then we considered the early Christian church as they experienced joy even in horrific persecution.  Now, let us think about joy, depression and what we have to be joyous about in 2016!

What does Scripture say?

Recall that the basis for our joy is the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33.

 

Because of His victory, the real basis for our inexpressible joy is that, as believers in Jesus Christ, our names are written in heaven!   For this reason the prophets, apostles and even Christ Himself command us to rejoice and be glad.  

 

We are not to rejoice in great acts that are accomplished here, even if they are done in the power of the Lord.  See Luke 10 where we read that the disciples returned after going out to minister to others in the power of the Lord, and they did marvelous things.  While they were telling Jesus of the results of their mission, I envision Jesus smiling, perhaps nodding His head, and then He issued this warning:

 

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 

Luke 10:20

 

We are told to be joyful in both the Old and New Testaments.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 29, that King Hezekiah took action and restored the service of the house of the Lord that had been neglected for many, many years.  In the next chapter, the King sent couriers to all the people inviting them to come to Jerusalem and keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in celebration of the worship of the Lord.  Scripture tells us:

And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. … So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.  

2 Chronicles 30:21, 26.

 

In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be “joyful in the Lord.”

Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.

Psalm 35:9

 

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 97:12

 

Not just the Psalmist speaks of joy — Isaiah describes joy in Isaiah 61:10:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 

In the New Testament, in Philippians 4:4, Paul says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” 

 

Here, joy is so important that Paul repeats himself, in the same sentence!

 

God does not like doubt and dejection.  He hates dreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought.  God likes cheerful hearts; His very work in freeing us from the bondage of sin is evidence that joy is His desire.  Notwithstanding this truth, we need to pause and recognize the reality of depression.  Remember that despondency is not the fruit of the Spirit.  It can come from many things — satanic temptation, unbelief, some harbored sin, or perhaps indigestion or a medical condition.  The fruit of the Spirit is Joy not depression..

 

Beware!  Don’t set too much store by your own feelings as evidence of the grace given to youThe fruit of the Spirit is joy but you may not at this moment be conscious of joy.  We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ through the Word of God which is a sure testimony to the work of Christ for us.  That is what we should trust, not emotions or feelings.

God is sovereign, and He is in control.  He sends both prosperity and adversity, for His purposes which are often unknowable to us.  Don’t let the adversity take way your confidence in God.

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

 Ecclesiastes 7:14.

 

C. H. Spurgeon noted:

Precious as the fruit is, do not put the fruit where the root should be.  Please do remember that joy is not the root of grace in the soul, it is the fruit and must not be put out of its proper position.  “The fruit of the Spirit is … joy” and it is brought forth in believers not alike in all or at all times, but to all believers there is a measure of joy.

 

Spurgeon who himself struggled with depression, also said:

Constantly looking within you own self instead of looking alone to Christ is enough to breed misery in any heart.    Do not covet the counterfeit of earthly joy. … The Spirit of God is not barren … If he be in you, He must and will inevitably produce His own legitimate fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is … joy.   We experience Heaven’s joy even here, on occasion, … and we can say with David “happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”  (Psalm 144:15)

 

How does this apply to my daily life?

 

What prompts this joy in the Christian?

 

The ways that this Joy is touched in your heart are innumerable, but here are just a few suggestions that you might want to consider.  You likely will be able to come up with others and, when you do, praise the Lord for His grace and send a comment letting us know how He brings Joy to you.

 

  • The Christian is joyful because she is certain of her pardon for God has told her that she is not condemned as she is accepted by God for she is justified by faith.

 

  • Joy comes when we hear the Word in worship. See Isaiah 52:7.  Think about Israel and the celebration they had when their worship was restored!  Do you long to worship, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to study and hear the Word?   (Just a note:  the reason people grumble at long sermons is because they do not feed on them.  Very seldom do the hungry gripe at having too big a meal!)

 

  • Joy comes when we think of God Himself.

“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:11.

 

The Psalmist asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God, Himself, answered that question 2000 years ago when He made it possible for us to spend eternity with Him through Christ our Savior.  That is way more than merely “mindful”!

 

God’s Joy is an abiding sense of happiness – an emotional pattern that enables Nehemiah to write “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  (Nehemiah 8:10)

 

The musical offering below is from the Silver Anniversary Concert of The Centurymen, Buryl Red, conductor.  Listen to “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee” and let the Lord’s joy envelop your heart and mind.  Then let the Holy Spirit fill you with joy as you go through your day.

 

 

Put Jesus first.  Follow His commands.  Rest in the joy of His Word.  Worship Him. Listen to the Helper, the Holy Spirit as you face difficulties, and have confidence in your salvation through Christ’s atoning work on the cross for your sins.  Remember your reconciliation with God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.  His Joy will come!

 

Next week we will begin our study of Peace.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.