Friday, August 31, 2007

Psalm 116

Psalm 116

Yep, that’s it for today. That’s what I’m giving to you, the whole Psalm.

I tried to find the perfect verse to tell you how I feel today, but I couldn’t. I could not pick out one verse to give you. So, I’ll give you a little homework for this week: find your own in that beautiful poem to God.

I want you to know something. I love God. I want so much to just follow Him and do what He asks of me. I want so much to just BE in Him. Do you understand where I’m coming from?

I think I’ve told you before that initially I started this after a request from my adult small group. Now, it’s just taken on a life of its own. God has used my shortcomings, twists and turns in life to help you on your way. And I have had to learn a little humility in return.

And you know what? I don’t care.

I pour out my feelings here, not because I want your pity, or your sympathy. I pour out from my own life, so that YOU will know that you are not alone. YOU are not the only one who has things happening in their life. YOU are not walking along with no one to empathize for your pain.

Oh, we all have different pains, to be sure. But each of us has an ultimate goal of reaching for the prize of the upward calling in Christ Jesus. I can’t help but think of Paul the Apostle. He wrote all those letters, and he exposed his own troubles and perils in life. He wrote about what happened; who made him mad, and who made him joyful.

He wrote about his life, so we could imitate him as he imitated Christ.

But I’m not Paul. I’m Bo.

And Bo wants you to know that he loves you. Bo wants you to realize that in this Christian walk, you are going to do some things you regret. You are going to say some things you wish you could take back again. You are going to fall occasionally.

He wants you to know, however, that this life you live is not your own. We were bought at a very high price. We literally cost Someone’s life to redeem us from what we were, to what we can be.

My wife and I have been thanking God a lot these past couple of weeks in our corporate (together) prayer. We have been telling Him thanks for things we haven’t seen yet, because of what we HAVE seen.

And we figured out, once again, that everything outside of God is just noise. We are together and strong. We are fighting a culture that demands immediate satisfaction. We are fighting a world that screams to get yours, and if you don’t go somewhere else until you do get it. We are fighting an environment that tells you how easy it is to just move on if others disappoint you or hurt you. You don’t have to put up with it, or pray through it; life is about you and what you get out of it.

But it’s really not. Your life is all about God and glorifying Him through what you say, think, and do. Your life; my life; our lives are about showing the way.

If I told you that once you got saved, everything would go okay in your life, I wouldn’t be honest. That’s why there are books all over the place about how bad things happen to good people.

The Bible is full of stories like those. So why should my life be any different? Why should I try and sugarcoat my life, and make you believe everything is a bed of roses, when it may not always be true? Why not be truthful about what I’m going through and how I’m feeling?

It helps you when you are going through it. It lets you know that there are some things in your life that are just noise as well. It lets you know that no matter what the world says or throws at you, you have a hope and a future that is not here.

This life is not the end of your commentary. God is continually writing the story of your life and my life. Sometimes things go swimmingly, and you are having a ball. And sometimes, it’s a mystery, or a horror story with sickening twists and turns.

However it is right now, you can be sure that it won’t last forever. And I’ll remind you that God has already written the end of our book. He’s already chaptered the story of our lives.

In the end, we win. Not on our own; but in the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives because of the sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus.

I’ll continue to tell you my heart because you deserve to know that God is in control and He always redeems my life back to Him. And He will do the same in your life if you will let Him.

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Bo J.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Psalm 23:4-5

Psalm 23:4-5-“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over.”

I have somehow found myself in a restaurant. I’m seated at a table, and I look around. There are people, things, entities all around me, and they do not have my best interests at heart. They are making it plain that they are there for one purpose and one purpose alone-to make me hurt. They are there to make me pay.

I’m terrified. First, I don’t know how I got to this place, much less where this place is. Second, all these things want to do is tear me limb from limb. And I’m trapped. I’ve got no place to go. I’m frantically thinking of ways of escape….

“Sir, have you decided what you would like to order yet?” The Waiter’s question snaps me out of my panic. I look at Him dumbfounded. Does He not see the people around? Doesn’t He realize what is going to happen? These things don’t care who’s around; they are going to do EXACTLY what they want to me, regardless of where I’m at.

“There are some very delicious items on the menu today,” He goes on. I’m barely listening. It’s kind of out there in left field. I’m sitting in a restaurant, with killers all around, and a Man wants me to EAT?

“Uh, I’m not really hungry right now,” I stutter out. I’m thinking, if You really wanted to help me, You’d go and call the authorities. “Oh, but you look like you’ve been running for quite a while. You must be starving,” He tells me. “Look,” I say, “I appreciate it, but I really don’t think that sitting down for a meal right now is in my best interests, if you know what I mean!” I look around at the assorted characters and the weapons being shown to me with the intention of causing me great pain and sorrow.

“But sir, you really must eat. Allow Me the liberty of serving you,” And with that, a stream of food begins arriving at my table. A variety of dishes and the smells….oh, my mouth begins to water. Every good food that I love is being set before me on the table. My Waiter begins to urge me to eat. Each time I start to pick at the food, however, one of the demons makes a noise or hisses at me, drawing my attention back to them.

And I begin thinking again of how unreal this situation is to me. I can’t just sit here and eat, I have to try and get away; I need to get out of here. Sir, you really must try this,” my Server tells me. He shoves a forkful of something in my mouth that just simply explodes my taste buds.

I can’t do this. It’s too hard. “Bo, it’s alright. Don’t worry about it. Everything is under control; you just enjoy your meal.” The Server is trying to calm me down. It’s then that I look at Him and realize what He just said. “How do you know my name?”

“I’ve always known you. You and I go way back. I care about you more than you know. I put this entire meal together just for you. I hope you are enjoying it.” Now, I’m really going off the deep end. I look at Him, and I ask, “Do you not see all the things around here? Do you know what they are going to do to me?”

He looks around at them, and says, “They aren’t as tough as you think they are. Trust Me.” He must be crazy; I must be crazy. This whole thing is nuts.

I get ready to get up, to make a run for it. He looks at me with this gaze; it feels like it pierces me to my soul. “You could tell them to go away, you know.” I look at Him, eyes wide open. “Tell them to go away? What am I supposed to do, go over and just demand that they leave? They’ll cut me to ribbons!”

“No, they won’t. I promise you they won’t. You’re under My protection. They are here to make you think you’re alone in this. But you’re not. I’ve got your back.” I look at Him, and then I notice how the thugs act whenever He gets near to one of them. “Look, maybe You can do that. This is Your place, but me, I’m just passing through. They’ll wait on me to leave, and then its lights out!”

The Server only smiles. He tells me, “Watch this.” And with that, He goes over to a table with a huge character seated at it, sharpening a wicked looking knife. As He approaches, the thug’s face changes. My Server leans onto the table, looks him straight in the eyes, and calmly says, “This is My place. You have no right to be here. You need to leave now.”

He almost broke his neck trying to get out of that booth and out of the restaurant. It was kind of funny. The Server came back over to me and said, “See, it’s easy. Now, you try it.”

Huh? You want me to what? “What do I do?” I ask. He looks at me and says, “I’ve given you an example. Just do what I did. Believe in Me, and the authority I’m giving you and you can do it.”

I think to myself, “Well, I might as well get this over with.” I approach a table where a rather small looking demon thug is seated. “Ahem,” I hear. It’s the Server. He looks at me, “Not that table, that one.” The one with the huge, hulking mountain of a thing seated at it. He’s enormous. I can’t do this.

“Trust Me,” I hear. So I walk over, and I see the others getting ready; they are seeing a bloodbath-mine. I stand in front of him, and in a meek voice, I say, “Could you please go now?” From behind me, I hear, “Don’t ask him, tell him. I have given you all authority to do this.”

The demon laughs in my face. “What did you say, little man?” I take a deep breath, and stand up straight. I look him square in the eye, and say, “I told you that this is not your place, you can’t touch me here. You need to get out because He told me that I don’t need to put up with you. So get out NOW!”

He trampled over several of his buddies getting out of there. I’m standing there with my mouth wide open. As I watch, more of his other friends are slinking out. They realize something has changed in me. Then, I start chasing them out.

It’s quiet.

And then, I begin laughing. I can’t believe what happened here today. I look at my Server, and I begin to cry. I don’t know what else to do. He holds me close and hugs me. His staff is crying as well. I look and everyone is looking at me proudly.

Then, He turns my head back to look at me. He tells me, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve. I gave My life for you.” “What can I do to repay you?” I ask. He says, “Can you help Me here? We have lots of people who come here needing to be served, but we don’t have enough workers. Can you work for Me? The benefits are out of this world.”

I smile, and I think of what this could be like. “Okay,” I tell Him, “I’ll do it.” All of a sudden, I’m clothed in a fresh, white uniform. I’m scared again. “What if I stain it?” “It’s okay,” He says, “I’ll take care of that too. You’ll make a mistake or two, but I’ll always be here. Just let me know when you fall and get a stain on it, and I’ll clean it right up for you.”

Wow, that’s just…cool. Guess I better get to work.

Can I take your order? This place has the BEST food. And let me tell you about the Man I work for….

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mark 9:23

Mark 9:23-“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.’”

This passage is in the context of a larger story about a healing. A father has brought his son to Jesus’ disciples for healing, as he is possessed by a demonic spirit. The spirit throws the boy into peril and harm at every opportunity. It tortures the poor boy, and in turn, throws turmoil into the family’s life.

The disciples tried unsuccessfully to cast the spirit out of the child. Jesus tells the father that if he can believe, all things are possible. Therefore, if the man believes that Jesus can do this, Jesus will do it. He wants to heal the man’s son, but the healing results from an act of faith in the father that Jesus can do it.

He gives Jesus a far more appropriate, and honest, response than I think that I would have given Him in the same circumstances.

That’s been the prayer of our heart lately. We have had our world pretty much turned upside down the last 3 weeks or so. It seems like whenever we get our footing, the ground shakes or the next wave comes and crashes down upon us. But this verse, in the context of this story, has spoken to me all this time.

I mean, look at it. It seems like there is something wrong in it. The man is telling Jesus that he believes, but he wants Him to help his disbelief. He agrees that Jesus can heal his son, and knows He wants to do it, but a part of him still has a problem.

Where are you at in your life? Are you like Paul the apostle? Are you looking at every opportunity, good or bad, as one to demonstrate God’s love and Jesus’ power in your life? Or are you like the father who believes and refuses to live with his disbelief?

Or are you like me, and wondering where the next stop is on this train, because you’re tired of this ride and you want to get off?

See, it seems that I’ve forgotten life is a dress rehearsal for glory. God is perfecting me here and now, growing my character into Him more and more. He’s telling me, “I know you believe in Me, but I’m going to remove every last bit of unbelief.”

I’ll admit I get caught up in life a lot. I fall and miss the mark. Sometimes, I want to be able to worry about the finances and the kids and the vehicles and how am I going to get this and pay this and do this and make this work and…and…and….I have no idea why.

I don’t know why I want to obsess over those things, but I know I do. Sometimes, I don’t want to pray for someone else’s needs, because the things I’m going through seem so insurmountable. God wants me to focus on my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I’m having a hard time focusing past the hammer coming down on me NOW!

I admit it; sometimes I want to be selfish. I want to put my needs and my problems on the altar and not worry about anyone else. I want everyone else to go on hold and God just concentrate on this for me.

Then, I hear the voice of the father. And he is on his knees, begging the Healer to free his son from bondage to this evil spirit. And I begin to wonder about the other people who were around and had their own problems. I see those who looked down on the man, as if to tell him that his problems are because of some sin in his life.

I see a man who believes and wants his son healed. And I see that my life isn’t really about me, it’s about being an arrow to the One. I’m supposed to point the way; be a light in the darkness. I’m supposed to take up my cross and follow Him daily, because it’s the right thing to do. I’m supposed to grow in fear of the Lord, and in His knowledge.

Lord, I believe. Please, please help my unbelief. Help me to see Your hands moving behind the scenes; taking care of me in ways I can’t possibly fathom. Help me to see that you are creating in me a character and a heart like Your Son. I am growing and prospering in You. Help me to see that You have my life in hand, so that I can go and give it to others.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Be blessed in the Lord,

Bo J.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Psalm 19:14

Psalm 19:14-“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”

Do you understand what the word REDEEMED means? Do you understand what is included when we use that term? I wonder if any of us REALLY think about what redemption truly means.

Do you realize that forgiveness is not just some passing fad that God is REQUIRED to do? He is God; the Creator of the ENTIRE Universe. All of it, every iota, quark, muon, gluon, and subatomic particle came into being because He willed it.

Redemption and forgiveness are MORE than just words or concepts. It’s realizing that the same person who created the Universe so it would operate just so, made a provision for us in our humanity. Redemption is not a way for the church to keep us feeling guilty and ashamed and wringing money from our pockets.

Redemption means that someone who DIDN’T have to do so cleaned you up and accepted you as His own. It means that you and I have been accepted into a royal family.

I realized today (actually this week) that I have spent so much time telling God what I don’t have, that I forgot to tell Him what I do have and thank Him for what He has already given me.

And, unlike me, He still loves me for me and does everything He can to bless me. You know what I mean, right? For us, if someone doesn’t acknowledge what you do for them, we can hold a grudge. If someone continually came to me like I come to God, I would get tired of it and not do anything else for them.

I’d stop answering my phone, and I wouldn’t respond to their e-mails. I would avoid them at all costs and duck down the other aisle if I saw them in the store. If I saw them in church, I’d make excuses about who I had to go talk to, or act like I was really busy and had to leave.

But God doesn’t do any of that stuff. He just holds me. He takes my petty wants and desires and changes me so that they don’t much matter. And He doesn’t do it in some heavy-handed way. He just lets me turn off my selfishness on my own, by gently pointing it out to me.

Wow, I wish I could be more like that. I wish that the words that I spoke reflected more love for what He has done for me, instead of reminding Him of what He hasn’t given me yet. I wish that I could be more devoted to Him in my heart no matter what, instead of just when things are going well in my life.

Hey, you know what? It’s happening. Gee, I guess if I just let Him change me, and stop trying to do it on my own, maybe it’ll go smoother.

You tell me.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Habakkuk 3:17-19- “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls-yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”

Boy, isn’t that some strong language? How many of you while you were reading that were thinking to yourself, “You know God, that’s all well and good. But You just don’t understand what I’M going through right now.”? Come on, be honest with yourself.

Things like this hit us right where it hurts. I know it’s hit me and my wife. This has been that kind of week. And I know my Pastor talked about it as well. We all have them as Christians. It’s the kind of week where you just want to look up at God and go, “Why me? Why is it always me?”

But you know what, it’s not always us. My week got placed into perspective for me-again. We’ve had a problem with our bank, and now we’re fighting to get some money that was removed in the blink of an eye, back in a timely manner.

And then my 75 year old grandmother fell at her home this past Sunday. She’s in the hospital; but she’s okay.

And then, I had a scare with cancer this week. I’ll not go into it, but I’m okay. I’m sure I’ll get yelled at from my boys about that one.

“So Bo,” you ask, “What did God do to place your week in perspective?” Well, I’ll tell you.

I didn’t bury one of my children this past week.

Ouch. That hurts, doesn’t it?

A guy who came to our small group passed away on Monday as a result of a car accident. I went to the visitation on Thursday with Matt Grimes. There is nothing like that to put your life in sharp focus. As a gentleman told me tonight (thanks Parker), all that stuff I’ve been going through is just noise.

We all have things; lots of things. But does anything negate the goodness of God? Does any of the stuff that I am going through right now mean that God is not on the throne of Heaven? Does it mean that God has left me to my own devices when I am going through tribulations?

Nope, not at all. And it’s the same in your life, as well. I am saved and being sanctified. I am a blood bought, born-again, saint of the Most High God Almighty. I am a child of God. I am an heir to the Kingdom. My daddy is now God, and He can beat up any daddy around.

Look around at your life. Better yet, look at someone else’s. It’s always a good bet that when you are getting wrapped up and worried about this bill, or that car, or that account-if your circumstances are starting to worry you, then you’ve forgotten about those around you.

You’ve become selfish and self-centered. You’ve forgotten about the wonderful gift of salvation that was bestowed upon you. You’ve forgotten that the Bible says that you are a pilgrim and a stranger in this world. You’ve forgotten that once you get saved, your home is no longer here on this ball of dirt. When you go home, it’s a mansion in Heaven. If all this stuff down here kills you, you get to go immediately into the presence of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

I forgot for a time this week; so did my wife. But we came together, and we prayed, and we reminded ourselves that no matter what kind of mess we got ourselves into, God has always managed to get us out of it.

He’s NEVER left us, nor forsaken us.

How about you? Can you tell me HONESTLY one time that God has truly left you hanging out in the breeze? I doubt it; stop trying to find one.

Look up again at what Habakkuk said in that verse. Though my WHOLE world turns upside down, yet I will still praise Him. Even if the carpet of my life is pulled out from under me, I will still exalt Him.

God’s still on the throne. Don’t give up on Him yet. He didn’t give up on you.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.