He Knows

IMG_3464Have you ever watched the teeming crowds of people at a popular tourist attraction?  From Disneyland to Times Square, to London’s Trafalgar Square, to countless other destinations?

Or, have you ever been stuck in traffic for hours on end, wondering where in the world all of these people could possibly be going?

Are you astonished that God knows each of those individuals intimately—right down to the number of hairs on each head?  Or that there is nowhere we can go that He is not present?

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  (Matthew 10:30)

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
  (Psalm 139:7-12)

There are concepts that should astound us—truths that should revolutionize our lives.  How often we forget that the Creator of All That Exists stands ready to help us, and He knows our issues even before we verbalize them. 

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  (Psalm 139:4)

A Matter of the Heart

 

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Isn’t it amazing when God reveals a new insight into a scripture that you’ve read so often that you thought you had the message down pat?  It happened to me again as I read in Exodus 35 & 36 about the contributions for the construction of the Tabernacle.  Moses had come down from Mount Sinai, his face shining from being in God’s presence, and assembled the congregation of Israel to tell them of the Lord’s commands.  Long lists of materials and instruction followed—not riveting reading unless one is digging into the significance of each item or has a heart for design details.  But suddenly phrases started popping out at me…

And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him…

All who were of a willing heart brought [gifts]…

All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill…

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded…everyone whose heart stirred him up to come and do the work.”

 These people didn’t give or serve because they were forced to do so—they didn’t act out of legalistic guilt or obligation—they came freely and willingly as their hearts were touched by God, and they were so generous that Moses had to tell them to stop bringing gifts because more than enough had been accumulated to build the tabernacle .  What an example for us!  We need to give and serve out of a willing and joyful heart as God leads us; not because someone has told us that it’s required.  Oh how the Lord loves a cheerful giver!!!

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God love a cheerful giver.   And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.   As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”   He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)

He’s Kidding…Isn’t He?

ID-10083939    Television, Internet, newspapers—any media; take your pick, and it will be full of bad news—violence, dissention, hurricanes, fires, deception, scandals, unemployment, and more.  So, while only God himself knows exactly where we are in terms of the end times, we’re certainly far enough along for people to be overcome with negative emotions—disgust, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, worry, fear.  But, as He explained what end times would look like to the disciples, Jesus said that these things should not be frightening .

 “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:4-12)

    He must have been kidding!!! Could knowledge of such a dire future be comforting?  Yes, because it comes with His promise.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)

    These days it can be hard to trust others because, somewhere along the way, deception and manipulation seem to have become acceptable behavior in order to achieve a goal.  Some might ask how we can trust what Jesus said?  How do we know that He was any different than our leaders today; that He was telling the truth?  What’s His track record?  Are we really supposed to believe that we don’t need to worry?  That doesn’t seem logical, or even possible! 

    Evidence that God’s word is true is overwhelming, and many volumes have been written documenting fulfilled prophecies and promises.  So let’s narrow it down and get specific regarding His track record with people who were told not to fear.  Is there proof that He came through for them—that He kept His word?

    Abram was already 75 years old when God told him to pack up, leave his home, and go to another country; all based on His promise that, “I will make of you a great nation.”  Years passed—difficult years—years of famine, fear, family friction, battle—years in which no heir of whom a great nation would come had been born.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

    Even more difficult and disappointing years passed before Isaac finally came along; and Abram, renamed Abraham, was 100 years old.  Yet, through all of the trials, he steadfastly chose to believe God and to continue on in faith.

    Isaac had grown up and married when there was another famine, and God showed up to restate the promise he’d made to Abraham.

And the Lord appeared to him and said, “… I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Genesis 26:2-5)

And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24)

    Eventually Isaac’s son, Jacob, had his own encounter with God.

Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)

    Fast forward to Joshua, just after Moses’ death.  Here he was, 80 years old and taking over the leadership of the Children of Israel, with years of battle ahead in order to seize the land of Canaan.  Talk about someone who could’ve been frightened!  There were giants in that land, and 40 years earlier all of the Israelites except Joshua and Caleb had been so scared that they’d refused to go forward, and ended up wandering around the desert until they all died and a younger-and-braver generation grew up.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-10)

[After Joshua’s death] the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.  Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.  They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.  Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge.  For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. (Judges 2:16-18)

    And along came Gideon.  One day an angel showed up with the news that God was calling him to undertake the thankless task of leading this unrighteous bunch.

Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”  But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” (Judges 6:22-23)

    And how about some prophets?  Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both commissioned by God to warn His hard-hearted people that they were headed for destruction—not a fun job, to say the least.

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; or to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 2:6)

    Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joshua; Gideon; Jeremiah and Ezekiel; all were told by God to not be afraid in the face of tremendous trials.  Oh, but they were Bible heroes—they were special—right?  No, they were ordinary men, and the only thing that made them that made them any different than others is that they made a choice to believe that God’s would be faithful to His promises.  They all chose faith over fear.  They all understood the truth of words that had not yet even been written by Paul the Apostle…

… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 3-5)

    Still, they lived so long ago in Old Testament times—surely it’s different now.  No, not unless we choose to ignore Jesus, who repeatedly encouraged His followers, “Why are you so afraid?”  “Take courage.”  “Don’t be afraid.”  “Why did you doubt, you of little faith?”   “Do you still have no faith?  It is I—don’t be afraid.”

    So here we are, living in difficult, disheartening and even frightening times; and like those Old Testament believers, we have a choice.  We can choose to dwell in the mire of fear, or we can exercise our faith in God, for He can be trusted to keep His promises.

But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

It’s Our Choice

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Heading north on the scenic 101, about an hour south of the Oregon border, the unsuspecting driver will suddenly encounter and traverse a coastal sandbar. On the left the restless, roaring Pacific Ocean; on the right, still and lush, Freshwater Lagoon; an astounding contrast of constant motion and thunderous noise versus quiet and peaceful serenity.

It’s a good analogy of the choice set before us as Christians. We can either jump headfirst into the hubbub of life where it takes all of our energy to just stay afloat; or we can choose to enter His rest and be free of doubt and fear, even as we move ahead, accomplishing much for the Kingdom of God. 

The incredible voice of Don Potter comes to mind, crooning the words of The End of Some Things:

“There is a promise I can still hear, that one day I might enter his rest…There will be rumors, there’s already war; there will be battles in the heavenlies.  Perilous times are coming our way; many will faint from anxiety…This may be the end of some things as we know it, but it’s not the end of me.”


The road ahead of us is clear.  Which will we choose?

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Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.  So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.  Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:1, 6-11

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4: 4-7

Faith of our Fathers

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With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to my dad and words from an old hymn echoed in my mind, “Faith of our fathers, living still…” My dad’s faith definitely lives on, so in his honor I’d like to share the eulogy I presented at his memorial celebration on March 9, 2009.

Richard R. Kain (1925-2009)

Dad left us a week ago and, as we’ve planned for this memorial service, I’ve not once thought of him as being in this casket—every thought has had more to do with the joy he’s experiencing in heaven—indeed, he’s more alive right now than we are because each of us is still in the process of growing old and dying.  He’s been there and done that, and death can no longer touch him.

So we gather here to celebrate his life—a godly man who was a husband, father, grandfather and friend; a man who loved peanut butter, followed closely by cornbread and fish, a man that we will never forget.

Several days before Dad went home I sat beside his bed in the early morning hours and asked the Lord what He would want me to say at the memorial service and, with Dad sleeping peacefully beside me, I wrote these words:

I sit with my dad in the darkness, but the dark is not really dark for the glory of God is here.  I’m certain angels are here too, and the time is coming soon when he steps into eternity and they escort him home.  Moments, hours or days—it’s very close.  This is a godly man, completing his last assignment on earth—dying.

I’ve observed death many times but its strange watching it happen in my dad.  I’m sure it seems like yesterday to him that he was a child—that he met Mom—that I was born.  Yet, it’s almost done.  The truth of God is evident—life, like the grass of the field; springing up, blossoming, flourishing and then dying in a brief moment in time.  Oh, but it doesn’t end here.  Dad has just begun to live—he’s run his race within the limitations of time and space and I sense that, even now, Jesus is pointing to him and telling all those around to watch the death of a saint—instructing the angels, who long to look into the things of redemption, mercy and the grace that is available to man.  He must be saying, “Look at Richard—this is how it’s done.  All of his human frailties are as nothing—this one loves me—no, even more, he adores and worships me.  And I adore him.”

Perhaps Dad tarries here for a bit as Jesus puts the final touches on his mansion—a beautiful dwelling in God’s city of golden glory—a home where there are no weeds to pull or sprinklers to fix—the perfect place for him to luxuriate in his Lord forever.

And surely, within that cloud of witnesses in heaven there must be such excitement—his mother just dancing at the prospect of hugging her son again—his brothers and sisters joyously anticipating his arrival; ready to show him around and introduce him to the joys of heaven that they’ve already come to know.

Oh, and there’s more.   My dad didn’t see himself as much—he didn’t have a clue about his value and the impact of his life.  But he was—no, he is—an evangelist and an encourager—and a singer.  Can’t you just hear him shouting and singing praises to God, as one after another the many people who are in heaven because he lived and was faithful are introduced?  A child from the days spent in the church nursery for whom he prayed, as he loved on him.  A friend or co-worker that was so impacted by his testimony that they gave their life to God, but Dad never knew it.  And then, there are those he never met because they were halfway around the world—lives that were changed by his faithful giving and his prayers.

We’re told that the believer will receive crowns of righteousness and life.  Can’t you just see Dad with his crowns standing before the throne and joining with the 24 elders to lay them at the feet of his Father in joyful adoration and worship?  And can’t you imagine God saying, “Richard, get up.  You are a joint heir with my son, Jesus—you are also my son and I want you to just get out there and enjoy the treasures that have been laid up for you!”

We see the shell of the man—Richard Kain, this saint of God who the Lord once told me was a pillar of the Church.  We see a body that lived 83 years and 8 months—a body that remained remarkably strong right up to the end and certainly didn’t look its age.  But that body, as dear as it is, is not my dad.  My dad is alive and he can see with vision as sharp as an eagle; he can hear with ears that comprehend frequencies far beyond human understanding.  He can sing with a powerful voice—not just the very nice and pleasant voice we’ve heard, but with the voice of a master singer.  Oh, and he can not only walk, but he can run—I can imagine him running and jumping and dancing around from the sheer joy of being able to do so without any pain in his feet, legs or knees—walking all over heaven and meeting all of his neighbors, and nobody telling him he can’t go out because he might get lost.

As he joins with that great cloud of witnesses, I’m sure there’s one more thing he’s doing—he is loving us.  He’s praying for his “sweet, beautiful, pretty-thing wife.”  He’s praying for his sons and daughters.  He’s praying for his grandchildren.  And he’s joyfully anticipating that moment when each of us, in our own turn, joins him in Glory.

Dad’s life is not over—it’s just beginning.

One final thing; Dad no longer needs our prayers, but my prayer on his behalf is that every one of his descendants will make the choice to develop a relationship with God—that Dad will ultimately receive one of the greatest desires of his heart—to be able to spend eternity with his family—including great, great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren yet to be born.  My prayer is that not one will be lost, even down to a thousand generations, but that all will enter into the fullness of Christ Jesus.  Because there are two certain truths that can be spoken of my Dad—and I speak in the present tense—he loves God with all of his heart, and he loves his family with a boundless love that cannot be measured.

…the time has come for my departure.   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.   Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6b-8

 

Microscopic Giants

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The Avenue of the Giants winds its way through 31 miles of majestic redwood forest, showcasing ancient trees of such grandeur that they almost defy description. 

 

On a trip back to this land of my birth I joined the tourists, gawking in wonder at the immensity of these giants; many reaching so high into the sky that you can barely see the top; others lying fallen, stretching hundreds of feet across the ground. Yet even in death they remain magnificent; covered with moss and ferns, their decaying matter nourishing the earth, providing a safe haven for new seedlings or homes for small creatures, and boasting upturned root systems so huge that one feels miniscule in comparison.   Yet even these giants are microscopic compared to the One who created them.

 

 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?   Who has measuredthe Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel?   Whom did he consult, and who made him understand?  Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?  Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.  Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.  All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.  Isaiah 40:12-17

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

 

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. Romans 1:20

Can God Be Trusted?

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The Interstate 5 corridor through California’s Central Valley can seem interminable, especially if one is driving alone.  So, to break up the monotony on this trip, I grabbed several old CDs that I haven’t listened to in years.

Cruising along to Carole King’s “Tapestry” album, the Lord was speaking as loudly as she was singing.  “I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down; I feel my heart start to trembling whenever you’re around…” and I considered the earth-quaking impact of being in the presence of God.

Then, “Way over yonder is a place that I know, where I can find shelter from a hunger and cold…Talkin’ about a, talkin’ about a, way over yonder is a place I have seen, in a garden of wisdom, from some long ago dream,” and I yearned for heavenly places.

And, self-explanatory, “Where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to…I will follow where you lead.”

But then there was, “I’d like to know that your love is love I can be sure of; so tell me now and I won’t ask again, will you still love me tomorrow?  Will you still love me tomorrow?”  And I realized that this is the cry of many people who are afraid to trust God because they have been bitterly and continually disappointed by others.

God’s Word is true and, yes, he can be trusted!

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…It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.  Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  1 Chronicles 28:20

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.  Isaiah 42:16

…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5b-6