We’ve just witnessed the nation’s worst shooting in history. Thirty-three students and faculty killed at Virginia Tech in one morning. Repeatedly I heard students and others saying in interviews, “I just want to forget it” and “I just want to get back to normal.” It’s not likely to happen. As far as normal has to do with our spirit – fear, anger, sadness, anxiety. etc. – things will never be normal again. Have you forgotten Columbine? Members of our church in Fort Worth, Texas haven’t forgotten September 15, 1999 when a lone gunman with two guns, two hundred rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb, took twelve minutes to kill seven, seriously wound seven, traumatize hundreds, including members of my family, and finally take his own life. We learned that you don’t go back to normal. A new normal must be created. Maybe that’s part of what the Psalmist meant when he asked God to renew a right or steadfast spirit within him (Ps. 51:10). Come to think of it, this might be a good week for another renewal of spirit.
To download my eBook of the account of the Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings, click here.
It is so easy to prize the peaceful times of private, direct communion with God. The disciples of Jesus had such an experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:27-36). So satisfied with the feeling was Peter that he suggested building three tabernacles and staying on the mountain top – while the routine of life went on below. Peter either had not fully learned or temporarily forgot that life is not lived on spiritual mountain tops, but on the day-by-day flat lands below. On the other hand, daily routine is lived poorly by those who have spent little time with God on the mountain top. So, here’s the strategy for living on the flat lands – divert daily, withdraw weekly to the mountain top and meet with God. When that becomes routine, the flat lands begin to look more heavenly.
Never were soldiers, in any army, in any time of history, given a more useless command than that given by Pontius Pilate to unnamed Roman soldiers, posted at the door of a borrowed tomb, outside the city of Jerusalem. These poor soldiers were commanded to secure the tomb. No one was to get in and no one was to get out (Matthew 27:64-66). Two thousand years later Christians are still celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ, who was entombed there, got out. I have often wondered about those soldiers. While we have no details, it is assumed that the soldiers thought so little of their assignment, they fell asleep and Jesus passed by them on His way out of the tomb. Awakened by the earthquake, they “became like dead men” (Matt. 28:4). Willie Nelson sang a song a few years ago that had nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus, but the title must have been close to what the soldiers felt that morning – “The Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning, Was to Have You Walk Out on Me.” It may be the last thing you think you need, but when the living Lord, passes by you today, what will you feel?
Yesterday was April Fools Day. For many people it was no big deal. They have three hundred sixty-five of them each year. The Bible cautions us to “walk carefully, not as fools (Eph. 5:15).” Some folks think they can do whatever they choose to do whenever they choose to do it. We used to call this “doing your own thing.” While this may work for awhile, ultimately, one must do God’s thing or perish. Some say it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something. Right! Pour gasoline over ice cubes into your tea glass and believe it is really iced tea. Looks like iced tea . . . same color . . . same texture . . . choose to believe it is tea because it doesn’t matter what you believe and see how long you stay out of the Emergency Room. Ultimately it does matter what you believe. Still others believe that they can come to Jesus Christ when they get ready. Beginning in the garden with God looking for Adam, it has always been God’s initiative, not ours. You come to Jesus when He is ready or you do not come at all. April Fools! If you are a believer, enjoy hearing that phrase for one day each year. If you are not a believer, get ready to hear it for eternity.
To the charge that I am computer illiterate, I plead guilty. However, as long as I have friends who understand computers and can keep me in line, I am O.K. One thing that concerns me about computer people is their language. Not because it’s obscene, but because it’s unknown by most of the rest of us. Recently, a computer technician stopped by my office and asked, “How’s your connectivity?” I thought of several cute responses but decided to not use any of them. Later I looked up “connectivity” in the dictionary and found: “The state of being connected.” With that profound definition, I concluded that I am rich. No, not in possessions. Jesus said, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 8:15).” I am rich in connectivity – to an awesome God, to a wonderful family, to a great church and to a host of faithful friends. How’s your connectivity?
Doctors have given me prescriptions for things that ail me and prescriptions that supplement my lifestyle. I have needed both. So did John. Exiled on Patmos, he was hurting as well as in need of a supplemental spiritual boost. When he began to write the Revelation, he got both and in so doing offered us a prescription for praise. The very mention of the name of Jesus (Rev. 1:5) caused John to offer praise for three attributes of the Lord. John was reminded that Jesus loved him – past, present and future. Because of that love, Jesus had liberated, loosed, freed, washed, John from his sin. Having been loved and liberated, John then discovered that Jesus adopted him into His family and that lineage made him a priest able to communicate directly with God. Having praised the Lord, John had the curtain opened and God showed him what heaven would be like. That should have cured his ailments and supplemented his lifestyle! The Psalmist says God inhabits the praise of his people (Ps. 22:3). God sure inhabited the praise of John! So, take a praise prescription today and enjoy God’s presence inhabiting your life.
In five verses, the Apostle Paul uses the phrase “all things” six times (Col. 1:16-20). You don’t need to have a theological education to know that when one writer uses a phrase that often in that short of a span, he is trying to communicate something about that phrase. In summary, Paul says God put “all things” together in the beginning, God holds “all things” together now, and God will ultimately bring “all things” together. Do you have anything in your life that does not fit in the category of “all things”? If so, you can exclude it from the following application – surrender all things to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who put all things together, holds all things together and will bring all things together and maybe, He will “present you holy, blameless and above approach in His sight (Col. 1:22).”
Some dentists instruct patients to bite down on a tea bag if their gums are bleeding following extraction of a tooth. Other than that, a tea bag is of very little use alone. However, let the tea bag be infused with boiling water and hot tea results. This image is reflected in Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens (infuses) me.” We may not be able to do much with our circumstances, but when we allow our circumstances to be infused with God’s strength, we are strengthened. Need to do anything this week and not sure how to do it? Allow the Lord to infuse you with His strength. Now that’s a truth on which you can bite down.
Something happened to Saul that I fear. I Samuel 16:14 says, “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.” We Baptists believe strongly that once a person is saved they are always saved – the eternal security of the believer. However once filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, not always filled and controled by the Spirit. One can lay their “all on the alter,” then crawl off. In his wonderful new devotional book, “This Day with the Master”, Dennis Kinlaw writes, “A person who has known intimacy with the Holy Spirit can lose that intimacy. This is why it is never safe to find security in merely talking about the Holy Spirit without obeying him.” Talk about the Holy Spirit? If you dare! Obey the Holy Spirit? Absolutely!
Every year I read Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest. I have worn out several copies. This year when I read the devotion on Feb. 9, I was reminded of the souce of my strength. In late January and early February each year I am responsible for recruiting, training, asssigning to churches, planning travel itineraries for approximately 100 student-preachers who will be preaching revival meetings in 31 states during the Seminary’s spring break in March. So each year about this time I feel exhausted. Then I read Oswald Chambers: “He saved and sancitified you in order to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that your supply comes from Him.” Amen.