I’ll Remember You

Eccles 12 1The cherished quiet moments of my morning time with the Lord had ended as the activities of the day began demanding attention. Fixing breakfast, I stole another quick, silent few minutes while standing at my kitchen sink to take communion and focus on the Lord. Moving on to the food preparation, I was surprised and blessed to sense my spirit declaring, “I remember You,” and I prayed, “Yes Lord! I do remember You; and I desire to remember You throughout the day, regardless of what is happening; I desire to remember You in the midst of chaos as well calm.”

Next task—get online to check email, but I Remember You began playing in my head. Remember that smooth jazz tune? Its popularity has endured since it was first introduced in 1942 when my mom was only fourteen years old. It was a time that was dominated by the horrors of World War II and perhaps, it was also a time when focusing on the sweetness of someone you loved was comforting amidst the anguish. This morning, only the first 2 lines were resonating, so I Googled the song for the rest of the lyrics and was astounded by the relevance of the last verse to my own romance with God:

I remember you
You’re the one who made my dreams come true…
…When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all
Then I will tell them I remember you

God has made it clear that He always remembers us, just one example being Psalm 40:5:

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

But do we remember Him with that same passion—every day, all day, and not just on Sunday, Easter or Christmas? We love to receive His blessings, and we often cling to such wonderful promises as we read in Psalm 91, but have we looked closely at the ‘gotchas’? Check out the qualifiers for the protections promised:

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.

If we expect to receive God’s blessings, we must make Him our dwelling place—we must live in Him, hold onto Him, and know Him so intimately that we are on a first-name basis. When we do, we will remember Him always and, as in that last stanza of the song, our greatest memories and our testimony throughout eternity will be of His love and faithfulness, His mercy and grace, His peace and comfort and sufficiency throughout our lives here on earth.

Fear Not

FEAR NOT PIC

I’ve often written about fear, but it seems to be on the Lord’s mind this morning so here we go again. If a lesson can be repeated over and over in the Bible, I guess it’s not redundant if I do the same.

As anyone who has paid attention to the news lately will know, fear is rampant throughout the world. The latest international incident motivating fear was the attacks against women that occurred in Germany and throughout a number of other European countries on New Years Eve. Nationally, it’s the story of a police officer in Philadelphia whose assailant walked right up to the window of the patrol car and blasted away, critically wounding him. As I watched a news program last night, I lost count of the number of times someone said, “I’m afraid,” “Should we be afraid?” or “You/we should be afraid.” But I’m here to say, NO, we shouldn’t.

Fear is NOT God’s plan for His people, as He made clear to me once again this morning. Currently, I’m reading in Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew, which obviously covers a pretty broad span of time, yet God’s message never changes, so just from my devotional time this morning without considering the hundreds of other biblical references to ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ (do a word search, and you’ll be reading for hours!):

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

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4a

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

Jesus is the antidote for our hopelessness and fears, whether they are phony or based on very real threats, such as the terrorism that is rampant throughout our world. Fear not, for I am with you says the Lord!

Fear’s Antidote

Sheba circleGod, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful…There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 Corinthians 1:9 & 1 John 4:18

Sheba loves people and has no awareness that there are those who would abuse her, and even if she did I doubt that she’d be afraid because she knows that she belongs to us and she trusts us completely to take care of her.  As a result, she happily goes up to anyone and everyone she sees with no fear of rejection.  She also knows what behavior is expected of her and that she will be reprimanded if she misbehaves; yet she remains unafraid because she loves and trusts us.

Perfect love casts out all fear, and God loves us perfectly, so why are we afraid?  He’s not “out to get us.”  We don’t have to fear his wrath unless we disobey his commands; and even then, while we can expect a gentle reprimand, isn’t that what we need—what we want?  A master who loves us enough to correct us, to show us the right way to behave; yet a loving master to whom we can take our problems as well as our joys without fear of rejection.

As Sheba reflects our love for her by fearlessly loving others, so should we also reflect God’s love for us by loving even those who may seem frightening to us—those whose lifestyles are different than ours, those of whom we don’t approve.  Jesus himself reached out to the sinners of his day, even living and socializing with them!  They were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were looked down upon by the religious leaders.  He was criticized for it too.

Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers.  “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”  Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9:10-13 The Message

What a role model! Lord, let me love as Jesus did—fearlessly!

A Song of Hope

IMG_0105_2Like many of us, my cousin, Crystal Kain Ross, felt overwhelming grief at the Supreme Court’s decision to endorse gay marriage.  Soon though, she realized that God had not been caught unaware, He is still in control, and in the end He has already won the battle.  When all is said and done:

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  Romans 14:11

Then the Spirit of God spoke to Crystal’s heart and gave her a new song to sing. In telling me about the song, she emphasized two phrases (italicized in the text) that spoke volumes to her.  In the first verse, “His crystal tears,” the Lord showed her that Jesus’ tears are as crystal, multifaceted and pure.  In the fourth verse, the phrase, “His torrents of love,” cannot do justice to the magnitude of His love for us.

The darkness will soon disappear
The daughters of earth are awakened
To cry His crystal tears
His voice sings o’er the oceans
With judgments in their waves
The nations soon are coming
To see His brightest day

Soon every knee is bowing
Before the King of truth
And every heart will be accepting
Of the faith that needs no proof
The sinners are confessing
The secrets of their nights
They see the King’s great promise
Every day a new nation in His light

Sweet rivers of salvation
With healing life and grace
Flow now inside us unceasing
Until the darkness is stayed
Wash over us victorious
Bring purity from sin
Until we join the chorus
Of the songs that never will end

His torrents of love are falling
In glorious light-filled rays
So bright His paths before us
They flow in brand new ways
Each cry to heaven is counted
No prayers are cast aside
The gates to the heavens are opened
The King is drawing nigh

No matter what the Courts say
Or all their dark desires
The King of glory cometh
To light His holy fires
Be of that group so counted
Of His purity within
So when you time here is over
Your soul can enter in

Each cry to heaven is counted
No prayers are cast aside
The gates to the heavens are opened
The King is drawing nigh

Lonely? Never Again!!!

d9a4398f81a12bd0ac69fde82a8cb3c1-2Isolated in an exam room while waiting for my doctor (who was running very late!), I was a victim of the ‘canned music’ that played throughout the office.  I must admit, it wasn’t too bad for a baby boomer like me, since most of the tunes were those I enjoyed in years gone by.

God often speaks to me by causing a song to begin playing in my head, so I’ve become very careful about what music I listen to, not wanting a re-play of something I’ve heard recently to ‘get stuck’ and drown out what He might want to say.  For example, have you ever had a particularly obnoxious jingle from a television commercial lodge itself in your brain?  Over, and over, and over those words repeat, and nothing seems to erase the recording except time.  I’d much rather listen to His Melodies of Love, which I’ve written about previously.

But on this day, my ears were subjected to one tune after another that spoke of loneliness, loss, and depression.  Initially it was the whining words of Bob Dylan:

Go ’way from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Never weak but always strong
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

What a contrast to God’s promises!

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

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Next there was the amazing voice of Sam Cooke belting out Another Saturday Night, a song I’ve always enjoyed, but one that is nevertheless an expression of loneliness.

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody
I got some money ’cause i just got paid
How I wish I had someone to talk to
I’m in an awful way

Such terrible loneliness was also expressed by Bobby Vinton:

Lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely
I have nobody for my own
I am so lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely
Wish I had someone to call on the phone

When we live in the truth of the absolute presence of the Lord, loneliness is vanquished.  it has no chance against the word of God, as expressed in Psalm 139: 1-12:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
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.

Finally, and perhaps the saddest commentary of all, John Lennon’s Help poured out through the speakers.  The song was released in 1965, and blasted incessantly from every radio on its way to the top of the charts.  A year later, I remember clearly my disappointment and revulsion when Lennon declared that God is dead and that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.  Aligned with the things of the world, and delving into drugs, sex, and New Age philosophies for his help, it’s doubtful that he ever found what he really needed before his murder in 1980, at just forty years of age.  Our lives do not have to be a such a hopeless testimony of loneliness because we can find our help in Jesus.  All we have to do is ask Him in.

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

A Good Listener

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.  Psalm 103:13-14 & 17a

page47color copy

It’s so easy to complain about things—other people, the way I look, the way I feel, the weather, my job—whatever. But you know what? Sheba doesn’t care. For one thing, she’s now deaf; but even when she could hear clearly it never mattered. She’s always loved me unconditionally, even when she was the one I complained about.

I think God listens much like Sheba used to listen—she’d sit and stare into my eyes while I talked to her—for that matter, she still does even though she can’t hear a word I say. God sits and stares into my heart and soul as I pour out my complaints—he compassionately cares for me anyway. Even if he’s the target of my grumbling and complaining heart, his love never wavers, and there’s nothing I can say that will sway his love and attention away from me. But perhaps sometimes he simply allows some of my complaints to fall on “deaf ears” simply because they’re so empty and meaningless—always hearing me certainly, but ignoring my pettiness because he knows my weaknesses and continuing to love me unconditionally.

No Greater Love

scan 16color

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.     Romans 8:16-18

Dog Lovers—I’m not one in the sense that many people are.  I have friends who consider their dogs as precious as their children—nothing but the best for them—trips to the vet at every little sneeze; homemade meals; expensive toys/clothes/jewelry; anything and everything a dog could desire.  My interest is a little more removed.  I do admire dogs—I think they’re beautiful, cute, cuddly, loveable, or downright-ugly-but-sweet; tiny to humongous; neat or messy. Actually, dogs are a lot like people.  They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, and each has its own personality.  And I do have a dog (Sheba)—and I do love and care for my dog—and my dog is very happy.  However, with apologies to many devoted dog lovers, while my dog does not rate as high on my scale of affection as my child, Sheba is content; she loves me, follows me around everywhere I go, and always wants to be wherever I am.

There are reasons why I’m not a “true” dog person.  Dogs tend to stink; they do bad things on the carpet; they may bark at all hours and annoy the neighbors; they can be very expensive; and they take a tremendous amount of time and effort.  But for Sheba I’ll put up with it all because she’s mine and I love her.

Maybe God’s a bit like that—I’m his and he loves me—in spite of the sin in my life that’s a stench to his nostrils—in spite of the fact that I require time, effort, and patience—none of that matters to God because I belong to him and he loves me.

But, as I think of it, God’s really more of a passionate dog-lover kind of guy.  He not only considers me to be his treasured child and gives me the desires of my heart, but he has made me an heir to his kingdom.  What more could I ask?