Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Stand at the Door

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice 
and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine
with him, and he with Me" Revelation 3:20

We were recently in the little town of Melk, Austria.  At the end of a short, narrow lane was this old stone house with an equally old-looking, heavy door.  I liked the idea of knocking on the door for a picture -- no one answered.  I wonder how often we fail to answer when Jesus stands at our heart's door and knocks for admission.  The verse seems to be written to Christians and indicates a desire from almighty God for a closer relationship/fellowship with His children.  

Do you want a closer relationship with Christ?  He wants a closer relationship with each and every one of His children and speaks of that desire frequently in his Holy Word to us.  We need to "hear his voice and open the door" so that He might come in and feed us with the milk and honey of His own dear presence and all the wonders that come with such an intimacy.

When I studied about the beloved apostle John back in 2007, this was a prayer I wrote out "Unto God" -- it is still my prayer.  Won't you pray it with me?

Unto God
I am who I am in Jesus Christ -- His unique creation to be used
for His glory, empowered and led by Him and only Him.
Please, God, help me to follow so close to you that I will feel 
your breath upon my heart -- and even my cheek.
Whisper in my ear your will and help me to do it.  Silence the 
whispers of negativism and defeat.
Be thou victorious through the open channel of my life.
Not me, but thee, dear Lord, almighty God of all --
my Savior, my Sustainer, my dearest Friend.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weighed in the Balance

   This beautiful statue sits above the street in the old town section of Salzburg, Austria.  It's always a good idea when walking down these old streets to occasionally look upwards where all kinds of beautiful statues and signs and architectural features reside.  I was so glad I spotted this stunning angel statue.  The message she offers is an important one.

    First of all, we have a well-dressed angel here.  She appears to be wearing pretty much the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6.  She has her waist girded with truth and a breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and her feet are shod with the gospel of peace.  If there are times when the angels in heaven might wear the armor of God, how much more do we as mere humans need to gird ourselves with this power from the Almighty?

   "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" Ephesians 6:12.

   I love that this angel is trampling on a demon who was up to no good as evidenced by the pitchfork in his hand.  Paul says, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."  This angels posture might also allude to the verse in Romans 16:20, "And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly."

   Now to the set of scales that she prominently holds in her hand.  These scales are used to weigh one thing against another thing.  In this case, God would be weighing our righteousness against our unrighteousness.  The angel even holds a blazing torch that symbolizes how nothing can be hidden from the light of truth.  We know, of course, that our righteousness (or good deeds) can never outweigh our unrighteousness since we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God.

   The classic verse relating this is found in Daniel 5:27 when the hand of God Himself wrote a message to King Balshazzar on the wall, saying, "You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting."

    That same pronouncement could be made over each person who depends on his or her own goodness to get them to heaven.  We always fall short and will always be found wanting in our own selves.  "It is by grace we are saved, through faith and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast."  Once your "balance" is filled with the righteousness of Jesus Christ as Savior, you are no longer lacking.  He fills your scale with Himself and you are forever made worthy through Christ.

    Amazing Grace -- oh, how very sweet the sound!!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fairy Tale Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

   This fairy tale castle, perched high above the small town of Hohenswangau in Bavaria, southern Germany, has been the number one destination on my "bucket list" for a number of years.  Well, I happily check the castle off my list because I have now "been there, and joyously done it," and yes, I took this picture (and maybe a hundred more!) of the famous castle.

   Neuschwanstein is indeed a magical castle of fairy-tale beauty with a story that lacks the familiar "happily ever after" ending.  Young King Ludwig II began construction on his dream castle in 1869 at the age of 24 years.  When he died at the age of 40 years, the castle was still not completed.  On that day, work on the castle ceased and it remains pretty much as the king left it.  Alas, in spite of all his hopes and dreams and work, he only spent 172 days in his beloved home.

   Is there a spiritual spin to this tale of woe?  You betcha!  There are surely a number of messages we can glean from this whole castle on the cliff, etc.  This is the one I've chosen for today:  we've all heard the words from Robert Burns poem, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  The poem was written a hundred years before Ludwig's death, but the truth of the words is as relevant today as it was then.  It reminds me of a verse in Proverbs 19:21, "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the Lord's counsel -- that will stand."

    Neither wealth, nor prestige, nor vision can supersede the will of God.  I don't know what the will of God was for the life of Ludwig, but it's pretty obvious it was not God's will for this castle to be enlarged any further.  This was one of four castles built by Ludwig in various stages of completion on the date of his untimely death.  This reminds me of a parable Christ told about a rich man who built many barns for his crops and goods, and planned to take his ease and enjoy life.  Jesus said, "But God said to him, 'Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'" Luke 12.

"Whose will those things be which you have provided?"  Well, in the case of this beautiful fairy tale castle -- it's now owned by the country of Germany, and well, I guess you could say, it belongs to all of us who step inside its lovely walls -- even if just for a moment.  In reality, everything we own upon this earth is just for a moment.  As scripture tells us, "Only what's done for Christ will last."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

What Will Burn?

This is not a pretty picture.  Here we see a BMW that had been packed up the night before for a family vacation set to begin later that morning.  The mass of cinder and melted plastic in the front corner of the picture is a jet ski.  Fire defaces and destroys whatever it touches.

The family of four who lived in this house escaped with the clothes on their backs.  Standing on the street in front of their house, they helplessly watched as firemen battled smoke and fire billowing from their home.  No more than an hour after they'd been awakened from sleep by the alarm on their smoke detector, they watched the roof cave into their second-floor bedrooms. 

It was a sick feeling to watch their home go up in flames.  In spite of the great relief that no one was hurt, it would still be a sad, sad day to go through such loss.

I'm reminded of a day that is coming when our works may go up in smoke and be burned to a crisp just like the jet ski we see in the corner of the picture above.  How would that feel if everything you've ever worked for was destroyed by fire?  Sad, very sad.

God's word tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:11-16: 
    "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 
    Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
    each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 
    If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
    If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
    Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

Notice the sentence that reads, "If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved..."  As I said earlier, in spite of the great relief this family felt that no one was hurt, their feelings of loss and desolation was numbing.  So it will be in that day, if everything we have worked for -- our beautiful home, our bank accounts, our successful career, our popularity -- all the things we've held dear on this earth -- go up in flames.  Even though you make it through safely, I believe there will still be a great feeling of loss.

It doesn't have to be like that.  We're still here and we're still breathing.  There's still time to make deposits in that heavenly bank account where as Jesus said, "neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" Matthew 6:20.  Fire doesn't destroy that heavenly treasure either -- and we'll have all of eternity to enjoy our reward instead of just a few years here on earth with the more flammable stuff.

I'm sure the family burned out of their home wish that it had been fireproof.  Unfortunately, there is not a single tangible item on this earth that is totally fireproof.  Those things that are fireproof and come with eternal guarantees are less tangible, but far more important.  Things like:  praise and prayers to God; giving to those in need and to God's work; faithfulness; serving through ministry, hands-on work, missions; kindness and encouragement to others; soul-winning and spreading the gospel; letting God work through you in your home, your school, your workplace -- these are the types of things that will be stored up for you in heaven and offer dividends throughout eternity.

Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matthew 6:21.

Note:  The home in the picture above is directly beside my daughter Holly's house.  We are so thankful it was not a windy day and the flames did not jump to any other houses.