Preparing for a Journey

Just one more day until I set off to an adventure that has been 74 years in the making.  As I sit here and contemplate everything I need to include for the trip, my thoughts seem endless.  What do I need to pack?  I even found a three page list of things to consider.  I printed it off and highlighted the items I needed to include from it.  From past experience, I know that there are always things that I wished I would have brought but didn’t, but I will be totally out of my familiar territory and won’t necessarily be able to just pick up what I might need.

It seems that everyday something else pops up that I hadn’t thought of.  Just two days ago I got an email from my church, needing for me to fill out an information form for my health insurance to cover me in a foreign country.  As it worked out I had a visit from my health provider and found out that my present insurance wouldn’t cover me in a foreign country.  Just another reason to be a part of a team that is experienced in making such trips.  Even as I am typing this blog I just got a note from my trip insurance Company for additional information they need for the insurance.

Since I am going to a part of the world that I am totally unfamiliar with, I decided to look up the area and learn something that would make my trip richer.  I discovered that this particular area is the center of produce (fruit and vegetables) for China.  Its importance goes back for thousands of years.  That piece of information may not seem important to you but it rang a bell to me.  You see I was raised in Palisade, Colorado which was the peach capitol of the world at one time.  It is an oasis of fruit and vegetable because of its 300 days per year of sunshine and its irrigation system and I worked in it all year.  My day operated the 4 largest produce outlets in the valley and I became spoiled with the best that was available.  I pruned the fruit trees, irrigated plowed, thinned picked and even bought and sold it.  Now I get to see how they do it in another culture and I am so looking forward to tasting it for myself.

When I arrive there in a couple days from now, I will be much like a new born baby.  Little hair, few teeth, can’t speak the language, and won’t know my way around. Yet babies make it and so can I.  I was thinking about the journey a baby makes in its arrival to this world from the world of the womb.  It is all so strange and takes a lot of adjustment.  I was also thinking about our arrival into the spiritual world.  It doesn’t begin after physical death but after the death of the old man that Paul referenced in Romans.

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

This new life begins at our salvation when we become the new creation of God. (II Cor 5:17)  Just as a newborn has to learn how see, hear, speak, etc., we also have to learn how to operate in the spiritual life.  That spiritual existence actually begins here in this world where God is transforming us into His image, likeness and dominion.  That process is know as sanctification and isn’t completed until we receive our new body and we meet the Lord in the air.  It is much like the gestation period of a pregnancy in which the fetus receives its body for this life.  Our physical death can also be compared to the child’s birth when it physically moves from the world of the womb to the world of time and space which we live in now.

As I contemplate the final destination of my trip to China, it only enhances my expectation of my final destination of being with the Lord through eternity.

The Trial of Your Faith

James 1:2-3  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

1Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

The idea of our faith would be tried sometimes provokes the concept that there might me some flaw in it that doesn’t measure up to God’s standard.  This comes from our fallen nature that is forever trying to earn approval from God.  There are two reasons that our faith would be tested.  One is because we want to find the point of weakness.  Stress is added until the weakest point fails and reveals the weakness.  The second is to prove that the strength exists to bear the load.  In construction we would sometimes do a load test to prove that the structure would bear the weight of the load.  For example, the load for a beam would be 5,000 pounds, with a safety factor of 2,500 pounds, so we would load the beam with 7,500 pounds to prove that it was strong enough for its designed weight.  This is the way the above verses are being used.  God knows how much we can bear, but we do not know so he demonstrates that not only can we bear the weight but also that we discover that He is more than able to bring us through it.  He is not trying to break us down but to build our confidence in His working.

There are at least six reasons why God would put your faith to the test.

1.  We need to learn how to trust God. 

2.  We need to know who we really are.

3.  The world needs to see faith in the Lord really work.

4.  We need to be strengthened for battle.

5. We need the encouragement of victories.

6.  We must discover our eternal reality.

(Each of these are addressed in chapter 7 of my book, The Mystery of Faith.  See the Mystery of Faith section of this website, on how to order your copy)

Remember that we are His workmanship and He is recreating us in His image, His likeness and His dominion.  His plan is to deliver us from this sinful age and He will not fail to deliver us spotless and blameless to the Father.

 

What Are The Odds?

Anyone who is familiar with the story of Robin Hood probably remembers the part about the archery tournament where Robin’s opponent hit an exact bulls eye.  Then Robin steps up and shoots splitting his opponent’s arrow so that he also hits an exact bulls eye as well and wins the tournament.

Since there is some question of whether or not Robin Hood ever existed, the amazing shot is also in question.  But just so you don’t go to thinking that such a shot could never happen, I submit the above pictures of such a shot happening twice within the space of 20 days and less than 100 shots apart, by the same person.  I know that it is true as I personally witnessed the event and can take you to his home where he has all 4 arrows mounted on his wall.  What are the odds of that ever happening.

Yet that is not even close to the probability of the prophecies concerning Christ’s birth, hundreds of years in advance.  It was foretold by God in Genesis 3:15 that He would come from the seed of a woman. (Note that women do not have seed)  Later in Genesis 18:18 and 22:18 that He would be a descendant of Abraham’s seed.  In Genesis 26:4 and 28:4 it was prophesied to come from the nation of Israel.  Then in Genesis 49:10 it was specified that He would be from the tribe of Judah.  Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalms 89:4, and Isaiah 11:1 all declare that He would be a descendant  of King David.  Isaiah 7:14 further clarified that He would be born of a virgin.  Micah 5:2 even specified that He  would be born in the city of Bethlehem.  And even that was clarified because there were two Bethlehem’s so it was specified as the one in Ephratah.  Finally, Luke 1:27 states that the child would be born of Mary.

An odds maker was asked what are the probability of that ever happening and he gave the odds of some 1 in multiplied billions and to illustrate the number gave this illustration.  Suppose that each chance was a silver dollar and they were all spread out over the state of Texas.  It would cover the entire state several feet thick.  Suppose one of the silver dollars was marked as that one chance and you were selected to find that marked silver dollar.  Your are allowed to travel the entire state but you are blindfolded and were only given one chance to find that dollar. For you to randomly select a spot and shove your hand down into the several feet of dollar coins and select that exact one would simulate the odds.

But that was an odds maker’s view.  In reality the odds are even greater because it would be impossible for several reasons.  One because of the time between the prophecies, another because of the number of circumstances to be considered, but most of all because of the necessity of a virgin giving birth to a child without the benefit of a man, let alone that that child would be the Son of God.  But what does the Scripture say?  Mt 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.  Lu 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Our inability to accept the truth of the Bible is tied to our lack of knowing its author.

Dealing With the Flesh (Carnal Nature)

Every once in a while I am asked the question, “How do I break the grip of a certain unnamed sin?”  It could be any one of a number of sins but the answer is the same.  All you need to do is die.  No, I am not saying that you have to die physically but I am saying that you have to die to the control of the flesh demands.  You see there are two natures within the Christian, the lower nature called the flesh and the spiritual nature we call the spirit.  Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  There is a war going on all the time.  The flesh hates the things of God and the Spirit resists the things of the flesh.  If I decide to follow the cravings of the flesh, the Spirit will convict me, and if I decide to follow the Spirit, the flesh will cry out like a whining baby.  The more the flesh gets its way the more it will demand because the flesh is wholly and completely given to sin.  When the Spirit wins the battle, the flesh is subdued and the fallen nature will yield to the Spirit.

This fight is to the death.  You cannot hope to settle the conflict with a compromise or by trying to be fair because the flesh does not fight fair.  You cannot win by fighting with will power because that is governed by the flesh.  Trying harder is a recipe for failure.  Determination will not win either for that is the effort of the mind which is controlled by the flesh.  The truth is that no matter how hard you try and whatever method you use, you will not win this way because the your personal strength is not sufficient to break the bonds of sin.  There is only one way to win and that is to die to the strength of the flesh.  That includes any and all methods of self effort.  Since you cannot win by the flesh, you must be delivered from a power that is greater than the force that binds you.

Note what it says in the previous verse Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  The only way to be successful is to walk in the Spirit and He will guide you.  If you are going to trust the Spirit you cannot your own formula to it, though that is just what the flesh will try to get you to do.  Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  There it is, the answer that so often eludes the one caught in a repeating sin and cannot find their way out.  The old nature must die.

The death of the old man (nature) is imposed upon you by the work of God in bringing you to the point of distrust and despite of the old man.  Notice that this death is by crucifixion and not by suicide.  God will do the work of destroying the old nature while we trust Him and not ourselves.  The end result is the death of the old man which frees us from its grip and now we can serve God.  Ro 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Ga 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Ga 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.   1Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our Perspective

During the past week I have been spending some time with two of my sons in Coperas Cove, Texas.  We get together each year to go deer hunting, something that I have been doing since I was a teenager and went hunting with my brother and dad.  No, I didn’t shoot anything but that is not what was important to me.  My main goal is to capture the moment of time that we share together.  We would go out quite early in the morning and come in after dark in the evening.  One night, I lost my head netting that I use to keep the mosquito off and wasn’t aware of it until the next morning when we were going out again.  Mosquitoes can be more than a real pest, they can cost you your shot at your game, and even carry diseases, so I try to protect myself from them.  I don’t use spray because the deer can smell 50 times better than a human.

So anyway, as I was putting on my camouflage, I noticed my netting was missing.  I looked everywhere and it was not to be found.  I simply resigned that I would have to just trust the Lord with the matter and proceed with the hunt.  We walked up the same trail that I had used the night before.  We were walking in the dark and the moon was so bright that we weren’t using any lights.  As we reached the place where I had joined the trail the night before, I looked down and there was my mosquito net, right on the trail.  Just to let you know how amazing that was, the netting was also dark,  at night, no lighting except for the moon and I was focused on my exit, not looking for my net.

So I proceed to the tree stand and was feeling grateful that I found the netting and got to thinking about how the Lord is always watching out for us and using the events of life to bless us.  It was still about an hour and a half before sun up so I just sat there beholding the stars.  I noticed how the stars were twinkling and thought back to when I discovered why they twinkled.  (Do you know why they twinkle?)  It is because of the debris in our atmosphere.  The star that we are looking at may be much larger than our own sun, yet because of the distance it appears to be quite small.  Space is basically empty but our atmosphere is full of debris so that a small rock the size of a quarter of half dollar is large enough to block out the light from the star, if but for a moment.  I thought, how the twinkling star is like our view of God.  It is obstructed by even little things of this world, so that our view gives the appearance that God is not always there to be seen.  The things of this world can block out the glory of the vastness of God’s creation and it is not to be compared to the God of creation.

1John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  We must keep things in the right perspective.