Preparing For Thanksgiving

 

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Matthew 25:1-9

I love Thanksgiving. It is such a day of rejoicing, relaxation and rest…that is unless, of course, I don’t use the day before Thanksgiving properly. If I don’t use the day before  to bake pies and peel turnip, if I don’t mash the sweet potatoes and mix the green bean casserole or raise the rolls then Thanksgiving become a day of heavy labor, stress and freaking out.

In its own way Thanksgiving is an object lesson for Matthew 25.  The foolish virgins came to what was supposed to be their day of rejoicing but they had not made themselves ready for the day, or for the One whom the day was really about (the bridegroom); So they  found themselves racing around trying to fill their lamps only to discover on their return to the bridal chamber that they had missed much more than the day. They had missed their opportunity to travel with the bridegroom.

How many times do we turn away from the call of God telling ourselves there will be time “later”? How much stress do we create for ourselves because we put our obedience to the Lord second, or third, or….

As you prepare your Thanksgiving meal this day or tomorrow maybe just maybe it is an opportunity to take a look at bigger things than a twenty pound turkey and ask yourself, “Could I be preparing better?”

Advertisements

Open Books

In our denomination a normal church service will consist of: lots of prayers, at least a half hour of singing, a sermon, an altar call where people can approach for personal prayer and sometimes a spontaneous sharing from a member of the congregation called a word of prophecy.

The college plays host to The Book Of Kells, the world's most famous illuminated manuscripts.

This week one of our elders gave “a word” about how God was making our lives to be open books for the world to read. I got to thinking about what that means for us. Now, while I am sure I don’t have the full understanding of what it means to be an open book several things do come to mind.

First, all books whether open or closed, have authors. Books don’t write themselves. I know this because I have had occasion to leave empty notebooks on shelves for months  hoping that somehow they would spontaneously generate completed stories given enough time. Each time the results have been the same. Nothin’!

If we are to be proper stories we have to let the Author of Life write His words on our hearts. Otherwise all our life’s work will amount to nothing.

Second, books are written with a purpose in mind. The open book that you are has three eternal purposes: First to make famous the name of the God of Heaven; Second to strengthen the faith of those who have faith; Third to be a testimony to those who do not believe, that God is real!

Finally books, at least really good books, are filled with tension, conflict, successes and failures. This is an important point because so often we think that if the story of our lives is less than perfect, we are nothing more than damaged goods unable to be used by God. Listen! The chapter of your life which God is writing right now may be filled with sadness, madness or badness, but your life is more than a chapter; It’s a book and no one reads a book for chapter 10. They read a book to get to the end, to know the whole story. So don’t make too much of the chapter you are in right now whether it’s good or bad. Your life is a story God is still writing. You are a character in process. You are meant to be an open book whose Author intends to change the world. He will use you to do just that if only you surrender to Him and let Him keep writing.

Heaven Pt. 157: A Cry For the Persecuted

The “Heaven Posts” were originated as a word study through the Bible. The thought is  to bring a devotional thought from every section of the Bible that mentions the word “Heaven”.

100_5388

Here is today’s

Let this be written for a future generation,
    that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
    from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
    and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
    and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
    assemble to worship the Lord. Psm 102: 18-22 NIV

Many will deny it today but the truth is that the world at large is at war with Christianity. Here in the West we can easily hide from the fact that most of the Christian church across the planet faces hardship on levels that we would consider harsh persecution, but western denial does not change the fact that the gospel is now and has always been a message under siege.

Jesus said it would be so and truthfully none of the biblical writers ever had opportunity to consider an unpersecuted faith. The biblical text is proof positive that faith in the One True God has always attracted enemies. So what is the church to do in the face of persecution?

We are to pray and not give up! Where we can we are to comfort the hurting…And we are to continue to spread the Good news NO MATTER WHAT!

God will not forget us. Let us not forget Him!

Heaven Pt. 156: The Most Incredible Nobody Who Ever Lives

100_5195

For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD?who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD? Psm 89:6

The world is full of great men, powerful men. The universe has many examples of incredible power both natural and spiritual. I have watched as men steer the nations  with their words saving or destroying the lives of countless individuals. I have seen the devastation of a tsunami and the world- stopping power of a blizzard. I have also been present at times when angels have ministered healing and grace while demons created discord and destruction. But all of these displays of power are small in comparison to the power of God. There is no one like Him. His greatness  dwarfs the  galaxies that dwarf the planets that dwarf the mountains that dwarf the people who live and walk among them.

In His greatness God is God and therefore the One being in all the universe who has no governing authority but His own character. He is the slave to no galaxy or planet or mountain or man; But we are all His. As this is true, it makes the Scripture in Philippians all that much more potent:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” Phil 2:5-7

The God, whose greatness made and one day will unmake the universe, became, in the course of time, the most incredible nobody who ever lives (I can’t say lived because He lives still). The Darling of Heaven was crucified  so that you and I might live.  Forget the dying part for a minute and just concentrate on what He gave up, even in coming to Earth, so that you might know how special you are to Him. He is so big and you are so little. He holds the span of the universe in His hand. You can hardly hold a basketball in yours. But He gave up that universe-sized hand for one like yours in the hopes that you would catch a glimpse of his dedication and love for you. He became nobody in time so that you could become somebody in eternity!

Now that is love! How could we not love Him back?

Heaven Pt. 155: Holding On For the Promise

100_4654

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
    but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps” Psm 85: 8-13 NIV

The future of the Children of God is a glorious one indeed. Eternal life  in the light and presence of the One True God. John the Revelator when writing of it said,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Rev. 21:1-5

But in this world of toil and care it is sometimes easy to get our eyes off of the eternal promises and onto the trouble of the moment. It is for this reason the Psalmist felt the need to warn his readers “but let them not turn to folly.”  Folly is easy to fall into when spiritual myopia causes us to see too much of the trouble in the moment and not enough of the treasure in eternity. The cure is to hold on to the promises and to remember just what it is we are holding onto faith for. We need to keep the finish line (or the lack of one as this is eternity we are talking about) firmly fixed in mind as we face the troublesome bends in our current road.

Christian, just keep going. This momentary light affliction ( and it will seem just that when we see Jesus) will pass. You are a part of eternity. Hold on to that today!

Heaven Pt. 154: Visit the Vine

 

 

fire2

Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;

And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself

It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance.

Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.Psalm 80:14 KJV

It has been a while since I wrote a Heaven post. When I started these posts back several years ago it was with the intent that I would do a word study of the word “Heaven” throughout the Scripture. It was a bigger undertaking than I thought at first and here I am three years later only having reached the Psalms. Yet we plod on… You can find previous Heaven posts at

https://josephelonlillie.com/pastor-wrinkles/the-heaven-posts

Doesn’t it feel sometimes like God has set Himself up against us? We get into situations and wonder where God went and often we begin questioning God’s loyalty and His love.  In those moments we are prone to  cry out things like,

Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; (or at least I have been prone to it)

But I wonder has God really left us? If so how can He be fulfilling the promise never to leave or forsake us?

In my own life when I have ended up away from God it is not because God has moved but because I have. God may never leave us nor forsake us but our own disobedience can often put us outside His sphere of protection or help. It is us who moves not God.

This is exactly what happened to Israel. Israel stepped out from under God’s protection by continuous disobedience. The Chosen people chose another way and that way led to death and destruction.

The good news here is that because the choice to walk out on the relationship was theirs not God’s walking back in to the relationship was their choice as well. God was always faithful to His promise to Israel and God is faithful to His promises to you as well. If you find yourselves at cross-purposes with the Almighty this afternoon and you would like to change that, the choice is entirely yours. God made His choice for you at the cross. He is just waiting for you to make your choice for Him.

SKywatch Friday 8-29-14

 

Meadow Skies

Once again I am posting my Skywatch Friday on Saturday. But this week it is not because I am running behind but because it is expedient. I am actually writing at 2 A.M. on Wednesday morning getting all my posts for next week done since I am going to be away at Special Touch Ministry’s New England Getaway leading worship. I don’t imagine I will have a whole lot of time to post from the Berkshires. I will follow up on comments when I return. 🙂

Heaven Pt. 152: Inciting God

Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, Psm. 78:21-23 KJV

sodom

If faith is the currency of Heaven, then unbelief is the coinage of Hell.

If faith stirs pleasure within God’s bosom, then unbelief fills His heart with great sorrow.

Psalm 78 indicates His wrath is particularly stirred against nations who have seen God in action or who have a history with God’s miracles and yet refuse faith in their generation for one reason or another.

God has given us great revelation of Himself in our generation. The proliferation of the gospel today is greater than it has ever been in world history. Miracles and testimonies of  miracles abound. Yet still the mindset that was in the ancient  Israelites  tempts us.

Paul the apostle wrote this to the Corinthian Church:

I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food,and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.  1 Cor. 10:1-12

We stand at a precipice of choice. We know what God has  said. We have heard what God has done and is doing. Our choice is to approach His word and the testimony we have heard with an attitude of faith or an attitude of unbelief. On the one hand we have an example of what happened to those who approached the choice in unbelief. On the other we have the example of the 120 who followed Jesus after His ascension.

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability…. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Act 2:1-4, 43-47

I choose the latter and reject the former. How about you?

Heaven Pt 151: Unseen Footprints

clouds 1

I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
    the waters saw you and writhed;
    the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77:12-20 NIV

Sometimes I just don’t understand what God is trying to accomplish through His works in my life. Who am I kidding? Most times I don’t understand what God is trying to accomplish through His works in my life! It seems like our whole relationship is one long series of God working and my misunderstanding what He is doing, my complaining to Him about his unfairness and His patience in bringing me around to an Aha moment and an apology for my blindness.

In that I am in good company with the Psalmist here, the Psalm starts out as a lament, a complaint.

 He writes…    “Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”Psalm 77:8b-9

But then he writes a few verses later… “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

I use to think that the Psalmist was trying to make the point that in stormy times it is good for people of faith to meditate positively on the power of God and encourage themselves with a walk down memory lane to think about the good old days.

For a while I interpreted Psalm 77:12-20 as “Remember! God showed up then, He will show up now. Don’t worry.”

It is that, but the Psalmist is also trying to say something more. He does talk about dwelling on the miracles of the past, but he talks a lot more about the context those miracles came packaged in…The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;

    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

What the Psalmist is trying to say to us here is “Look folks every time God started a miracle it was in a time of confusion and turmoil. It was during a time when God’s people were absolutely sure they had lost Him…a time when they couldn’t find His footprints to follow. Every time God chose to show up the Heavens were brass, lightning flashed, and rain poured down on the people of God.”

The word of encouragement here is about the context. If your world is falling apart. If you feel like you are under God’s judgment. If you feel like God has forgotten you, take heart because you are ripe for an appearance of God. Just don’t stop looking for Him to show up!  He will show you His unseen footprints and lead you out!

Heaven Pt. 150: The Earth Will Cease Its Trembling

Mel4

From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—Psm 76:8

It has been a while since I have been able to write a devotional article here at Lillie-Put. My world has been anything but quiet. And during busy seasons (which seems my lot in life just now) it is a lot easier to post a quick pic than it is  to set aside a slab of time to read and consider a response to a verse of Scripture. But a slab has thankfully presented itself and so here I am!

 Our verse about Heaven today includes within it the subject of judgment. My personal meditation on Psalm 76:8 almost immediately took me to Romans 8:18-23.

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[a]including the new bodies he has promised us.

I seldom think of the world as a quiet place. A broken place, a groaning place, a hectic place,a busy place sure all these things fit… but a quiet place? Not hardly, unless of course I was to rise at 2 A.M. every morning and frankly who has the energy for that?

Now not all hustle and bustle is a bad thing. God has called us to be productive and to work at what our hands find to do to further his kingdom; But the world has forgotten the Reason for its hustle and the Purpose for its bustle and has bypassed God in the name of self-progress. And so it is that world groans just waiting…just waiting for God to reveal Himself and His children. When God does reveal Himself all those who have forgotten Him will remember and will mourn. His revelation will come in the form of judgment and then the hustle and the bustle will stop and all the land will be quiet with a holy fear.

The Scripture says of that time,

Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?”Rev. 6:15-17

It’s an interesting question. The answer of course is that the Lamb (Jesus) , whose wrath is to come, is the One who can save us from it.
Psalm 85 explains it this way,

You forgave the guilt of your people—     yes, you covered all their sins. Interlude You held back your fury.     You kept back your blazing anger.

Now restore us again, O God of our salvation.     Put aside your anger against us once more. Will you be angry with us always?     Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? Won’t you revive us again,     so your people can rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,     and grant us your salvation.

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,     for he speaks peace to his faithful people.     But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,     so our land will be filled with his glory.

Yes God is coming to judge the world. Yes He is going to bring to silence all the world’s futile activity but His  real desire is to save people out of judgment by forgiveness. What we must do is turn from our forgetting about God and turn to a remembrance of Him. If you wish to do that please pray with me using the prayer written below!

Prayer: Lord Jesus today I remember that You are God and I am not. Forgive me for all the ways I forget about You daily. rescue me from my rushing and help me to find rest in Your presence today. Help me to follow You and you alone throughout this day. In Jesus name…Amen!