Poetry Saturday—In Christ

In Christ I feel the heart of God. 
Throbbing from heaven through earth: 
Life stirs again within the clod. 
Renewed in beauteous birth. 
The soul springs up, a flower of prayer, 
Breathing his breath out on the air. 

In Christ I touch the hand of God, 
From His pure height reached down, 
By blessed ways before untrod, 
To lift us to our crown;—
Victory that only perfect is 
Through loving sacrifice, like His. 

Holding His hand, my steadied feet 
May walk the air, the seas; 
On life and death His smile falls sweet,—
Lights up all mysteries: 
Stranger nor exile can I be 
In new worlds where He leadeth me. 

Not my Christ only: He is ours; 
Humanity’s close bond; 
Key to its vast unopened powers, 
Dream of our dreams beyond.—
What yet we shall be, none can tell; 
Now are we His, and all is well. —Lucy Larcom

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 6

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Isaiah 6

[These are the notes on Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 6.]

     My vision of God depends upon the state of my character. Character determines revelation. … Until I am born again and enter the Kingdom of God I see only along the line of my prejudices. …  

     The purpose of the vision is to enable me to see “the arm of the Lord” behind all circumstances (see Isaiah 53:1). God never gives a man the power to say “I see” until his character proves itself worthy of its purification. What hinders the purging of our perception is that we will build our faith on our experiences instead of on the God who gave us the experiences. My experience is the evidence of my faith, never the ground of it, and is meant to reveal to me a God who is bigger than any experience. …  

     The symbol of the live coal ‘from off the altar’ represents the twofold nature of the substitution of Christ, not only Christ for me, but Christ in me. … 

     God only gives us visions of Himself for one purpose, that we may work them out into character. … After God has given us a time of face-to-face contact with Himself and then puts us into tumults, the temptation is to sit down and say “Where is the blessedness I had when I first knew the Lord?” The Spirit of God holds us steady until we learn to know God, and the details of our lives are established before Him, then nothing on the outside can move us.

From Notes On Isaiah

There are specific reasons God will give us a clearer revelation of Himself—

  1. to purify godly character in us
  2. to help us deal with our own sin
  3. to see God at work in everyday affairs
  4. to keep us energized through trying times
  5. to make us more aware of what Jesus has done for us and in us
  6. to be His messenger among needy people

God doesn’t give visions or revelations just to thrill us or give us an experience. God is perfectly purposeful in everything He does. His visions are for His glory.

10 Quotes From “Sacred Rest”

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith thinks you may be too busy to read her book Sacred Rest, and she was candid enough to admit that she was almost too busy to write it! But rest is absolutely vital to keep our lives on track and productive. Check out my full review of Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book by clicking here.

“When I am resting because my body is weak, I need to remember that I’m not wasting the day doing nothing. I am doing exactly what I need to do. I’m recovering.” —Anonymous 

“There has to be a bridge between good and bad sleep, and that bridge is rest. Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual. Rest speaks peace into the daily storms your mind, body, and spirit encounter. Rest is what makes sleep sweet.”

“All rest is not created equal. Much of what we consider rest fails to work because it is not restful. Shifting our activities or changing the location of where we are active is no more restful than doing those same activities at home. The most effective rest occurs when we are purposefully reviving the parts of our life we regularly deplete. Any so-called rest that does not meet this goal isn’t rest; it’s just more work adding to the busyness.”

“As important as it is to rest your body, it’s equally important to quiet your mind from the ongoing influx of information it receives. Much like our social media news feeds, our mental background noise is often infused with negativity. Thoughts about the future are contaminated with anxiety, thoughts about the past are tainted with regret, and thoughts about the present are spoiled with discontentment. The mind is magnificent, but it has its own agenda. Rather than willingly focusing on positive affirming thoughts, the mind prefers to settle upon negative ones that intensify stress, worry, anger, and frustration. It will attempt to occupy your attention with useless information, depleting your time and your energy. Mental rest involves relinquishing the constant stream of thoughts entering your mind quickly and obtaining a sense of cerebral stillness.”

“One should not set about treating the body without the soul. This is exactly why most ailments are beyond the capabilities of Greek healers: they neglect the whole when that is what they should be paying attention to.” —Plato

“Physical pain increases when you are under emotional stress and spiritual distress. Anything you can do to improve emotional pain will also improve how you feel physically.”

“Social rest is when we find comfort in our relationships and social interactions. … Studies show an improved immune system, better cardiovascular health, and less dementia in those who regularly enjoy the companionship of close confidantes.”

“We are not made for rest; rest was made for us. Rest is God’s gift back to His people. His presence is how He connects us to His rest. It is part invitation and part prescription.”

“Excuses are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior. It’s how we rationalize our neglect and how we avoid taking responsibility for our choices. … With excuses, we’ve placed external blame for internal problems and stay in a cycle of unproductivity.”

“A well-rested life is a secret hidden in plain sight. It is a life at one with God, self, and others. It’s a life strengthened by winding down the expectations of others and charging up your expectations for yourself. You become in tune with what you need to be at your best. You become comfortable with your strengths and knowledgeable about your weaknesses. You then use that information to pour into the areas needing strengthening and reinforce areas already strong. You find your sweet spot in living, loving, being, doing, and resting.”

Sacred Rest (book review)

Medical doctor Saundra Dalton-Smith opens her book Sacred Rest with a telling line: “Let’s be honest; we are all just too busy. I am too busy to write this book, and you are probably too busy to read this book.” How true that is! We desperately need quality rest to recuperate from our busy lives, but we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that rest is a waste of time.

Some people mistakenly think that sleep is rest. But, as Dr. Dalton-Smith quickly points out, that isn’t true. Sleep is required for our good health, but sleep is a natural by-product of rest. Rest isn’t just taking a nap; it goes so much deeper and wider than that.

A good portion of this book is built-around Dr. Dalton-Smith’s acrostic R-E-S-T. She says, “Let me share a little medical secret with you. The most underused, chemical-free, safe, effective, alternative medicine is spelled R-E-S-T: Recognize your risk, Evaluate your current position, Science and research, Today’s application.”

In Sacred Rest, you will learn not only what parts of our lives need rest, but also some highly practical ways to get that rest we so desperately need. This book is not written in medical terminology, but in easy-to-understand principles that anyone can grasp.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares how she has followed her own prescription for rest, and the difference it has made in her life. Quite simply she says, “What I am promising is that as you begin to understand the role rest plays in your life you will do the following: replace the stress of intense living with the peace of intentional rest, and identify your rest deficit and discover which types of rest you need most.”

Please!—Make time in your busyness to read this book on rest so that you can learn how to be the most you can be without burning yourself out.

I am a Faith Words book reviewer.

A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger precisely because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

Saturday In The Psalms—Happy!!

…happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:15).

Happy indeed are people who have learned that there is only One God, and have also acknowledged Him as the Lord of their life.

David lists some fabulous blessings for those have made God their Lord…

  • …are equipped by God for victory
  • …experience His lovingkindness
  • …are intimately known by God
  • …know that God bends heaven and earth to help those who love Him
  • …are protected from evil people
  • …have new songs to sing
  • …experience God’s miraculous deliverance and rescue
  • …see blessings on their children and their work and their home
  • …are used as peacemakers and unity-restorers

Happy, happy, HAPPY!

Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 1

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Isaiah 1

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 1.]

     There is no such thing as fate; a human being always has the power to do the incalculable thing. There are fatal issues, not fate. When God’s decrees come to pass it is because men will not turn. God’s will is supreme, but God never fights against us; it is self-will that fights against God. …  

     If God were love according to our natural view of love He ought never to cause us pain, He ought to allow us to be peaceful; but the first thing God does is to cause us pain and to rouse us wide awake. He comes into our lives all along with ideals and truths which annoy and sting us and break up our rest, until He brings us to the one point, that it is only moral and spiritual relationships which last. That is why God looks cruel judged from the human sentimental standpoint; He loves us so much that He will not prevent us being hurt. …  

     Many a life is paralyzed because this is not realized—“I know God has forgiven me, I know I am right with God, but every now and again I remember the things I did that damaged other lives.” If I put the wrong right with my fellow men, have I become right with God? No, get right with God and He will put you on the way to be right with your fellow men. 

From Notes On Isaiah

Isaiah 1 opens with God taking His people to task for merely going through the motions of worship, with their hearts being far away from Him. Chambers reminds us that this self-will that fights against God will often bring its own pain. Why? Because God loves us too much to let us go unmolested down the path to eternal destruction. Instead, God longs for us to turn our hearts unreservedly to His love and purpose for our lives.

Religious Boredom

“Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. …

“Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

“We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”

—A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

A Crime To Be Weak

“The devil would like us to believe that we are in a losing battle; nothing of the sort! We are ‘more than conquerors,’ hilariously more than victors, ‘through Him that loved us’ [Romans 8:31-37].

“No power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God in a human spirit; it is an inner unconquerableness. If you have the whine in you take it out ruthlessly. It is a positive crime to be weak in God’s strength.” —Oswald Chambers, in Run Today’s Race

A.L.I.V.E.—The “A” Is For Apologetics

This is part 1 of a 5-part series with a simple premise: “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and then I am presenting evidence for each of the five letters. This is a look at the letter A” for Apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus.

For some of my evidence, I am going to use historical texts from the Bible. When I say “historical” I mean that in the scholarly definition: this Book is attested to by historians and literary critics to be an accurate record of actual historical facts. You can read more of the apologetics for the Bible’s authenticity in a post I previously published here.

I would ask you to weigh the evidence for three possibilities concerning the claims of Christians regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus.

(1) Jesus didn’t actually die.

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they perfected it to be one of the most gruesome forms of tortuous death that history has ever known. This leads one to wonder how could anyone go through the torture Jesus did and survive?

A team of medical examiners, after examining the historical account of Jesus’ death concluded: “The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim. The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture. Jesus most likely died of a heart attack.”

Besides that, the dead body of Jesus was also thoroughly examined by both the Romans who conducted the crucifixion (see Mark 15:43-45) and His friends who prepared His body for burial (John 19:38-40).  In addition, two contemporary historians who aren’t friendly to the cause of Christianity (Tacitus and Josephus) both attested to Christ’s death by crucifixion.

(2) Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead.

Some say the disciples were delusional from their intense grief. But Jesus was seen on more than one occasion, sometimes by one person, sometimes by twos, and several times by large groups (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Some of Jesus’ closest friends weren’t convinced by second-hand testimony but had to see Jesus for themselves (John 20:19-20, 24-28). All four biblical accounts record women seeing the resurrected Jesus. This is significant because women were not allowed to serve as “legal witnesses,” so this wouldn’t have helped the “delusional” disciples at all.

Some say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. But this is problematic because of the armed guards at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-15). 

(3) Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes said, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So after looking at the shortcomings and difficulties of the first two options, let’s consider this third possibility: that it happened just as the historical records in the Bible indicate.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace said of this third possibility, “The last explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a pre-existing bias against anything supernatural, the final explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The final explanation accounts for the evidence most simply and most exhaustively, and it is logically consistent…. The final explanation is also superior to all other accounts (given that it does not suffer from all the problems we see with the other explanations).”

Check out the video where I discuss all of these points in more detail, and join me either in person or on Facebook Live for the next four Sundays as we continue looking at the evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

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