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There is never a repeat or warm up or left-over sunrise. Like snowflakes there are never any two that are identical. Instead, each one is a unique combination, a mysterious blend that spreads the picture around and makes each one tailor-made for that particular day.
This time it was not only the colors that were sensational, it was also the perimeter features that made the sunrise pop out of the horizon. It was not only about the colors but it was also about the clouds in the sky.
Do you see the contrast? God gives the sky texture. The clouds are close by but the sunrise is a long way off. The light of the morning is overtaking the clouds that ruled the night.
The world was once shrouded in an uninviting frightening stillness of aloneness, abandonment and anxiety. But, it is quickly dissipated. It is diluted to the point where we wonder how we ever were fearful or hopeless. Life is just like this.
Someone may have hurt you deeply. Your sorrow was unrelenting and excruciating. Inside you were about ready to give up.
Yet, something gnawing in your soul urges you to press on. A light glimmered in your spirit reminding you that God was still there. When people failed you, God was powerfully present and He chased away the darkness.
Once the light comes you feel rejuvenated. Courage was restored. Those who had done their worst were no longer capable of doing any more.
It is time. Get up. Dust yourself off. Wipe away your tears. Leave those who have done evil behind.
God is not finished with you yet. The truth has kept you buoyed up and now that the night has expired you are still standing. Yes, there will be other tough moments in life. God has told us that trials will come. They are designed for correction or edification. Maybe there will be a little of each.
Whichever the case God does not hurt for pain’s sake. He is ready to lift you up and carry you along. God is about blessing not hurt.
When my day starts and a gorgeous sunrise greets my commute into the office, I receive it a testimony of God’s greatness personalized just for me. You can do the same. Every sunrise is new, different and big enough for all who will accept it.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
The Bible makes a detailed notation about the stone that was positioned to seal Jesus’ tomb. No one knows where that stone is today. Yet, it is described as one of specifics in the language of the New Testament that should encourage the hearts of all who follow Jesus.
When Jesus was crucified there is undisputed evidence that He died on Good Friday. His suffering and beating was excruciating. The ignominy of His death was torturous.
The Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead and therefore saw no reason to break His legs to expedite what they concluded had already been accomplished. Just to be sure, a spear was thrust into his side and confirmed that He was deceased. Jesus did not pass out, He did not fake His death, His body was not stolen by His disciples.
Those who loved Jesus mourned over His death. Like a loving family they laid His body to rest in a tomb hewn out of rock. Once His body was there a large stone was rolled in front of the opening, sealing it.
As an added measure to insure that no one would tamper with the body a professional pair of guards were posted in front of the tomb. The seal of Rome was added to the stone so that no one would tamper with the stone upon sentence of death. Rumors of a resurrection in three days had the unbelieving authorities guarding against any foul-play.
Then the Scriptures declare that on Sunday, the first Easter the stone was rolled away. Grammatically, the Bible could have said that the stone was rolled away in one single definitive act. That could have shown the power of God to counter the human measures to resist the Resurrection. But, the Bible does not say that.
The Bible could have said that the stone was rolling away capturing the continuous action of the stone moving without any resistance against human endeavor. But, it does not say that either.
Instead, the Bible uses language to say that the stone was rolled away and stayed that way. Once the opening to the tomb was reopened, the Resurrection could not be stopped and the grave would never hold the Savior again. He died and now is alive forever!
That emphatic piece of grammatical detail is a thrilling notation to the glory of Easter. He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!
photo credit: brucefong photography
Entertainment at the expense of the people was rampant. Hostility was waiting for any excuse to erupt. Military incursions were a daily affair.
Good people were losing hope. Power was in the hands of officials who bent the law to satisfy their personal agenda. Anger and intimidation overpowered reason, righteousness and love.
The world had sunk to a level where authorities would murder children to cover their own infractions and advance their influence. Might was the premier. Yet, the immoral posture of those in power had massive doubt.
To ameliorate the uncertainty and unrest among the population, appeasement was common place. Bargaining to keep the general population below their boiling point was a part of the “passing the buck” and shifting blame and destroying the truth with bribery and false testimony. Was any hope to be found for the human race so long ago?
Hope sprang eternal with a single sacrifice. One died on behalf of the many. It was not just a volunteer who stepped forward.
Rather it was the only one who could be a substitute for all. Even the very wicked were represented by the perfect sacrifice of love. Jesus, the Christ, willingly gave Himself as a substitutionary death for all.
That is Good Friday. An ignominious death so long ago has impacted the eternity of all forever and ever. His one submissive act to have His blood shed gave all mankind hope through the amazing grace of God’s redemption.
Yes, that is a mouthful. However, it was that magnificent. It was such a phenomenal act of mercy that even the world’s worst had a chance to turn, repent and believe.
That is why Good Friday is good. It was a horrible day because of the death of the only perfect One. Yet, it was the best event for mankind in anticipation of the new life to come.
photo credit: brucefong photography
“For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. 1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed† within me? Put your hope in God,† for I will yet praise† him, my Savior and 6my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. 9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
This popular psalm of encouragement has cheered the hearts of the saints through many generations. I include myself in that population of believers who have had their souls stirred by these inspired words. There have been low points in life when mean nasty people or painful circumstances have clouded our view of eternity.
Then, this psalm fills our mind with a redirection to thirst after His presence in our lives. With His company we find a solace that salves the hunger and quenches our thirst. The deer that is in the image of the psalmist may very well be the Fallow Deer. It is indigenous to the Israel.
The Fallow Deer with its spotted, chocolate, black or white coat is a beautiful animal. It can run at spurts of speed up to 30 mph. Striking palmated antlers are sported by the bucks of the herd. Think of this deer when this psalm crosses into your mind.
photo credit: brucefong photography
There is a recognizable and unmistakable morning sound that disrupts the deepest slumber. Each one of us has customized that sound with the advent of cellphones and programmable sounds. Nevertheless, we all know the wake-up call of our personal alarm clocks.
Mine sounds loudly at 5:00AM in the morning. Admittedly, there are times when I am awake, waiting for the sound to start my day. But, there are just as many days when the sleep spoiler jars the most peaceful moments of a deep repose.
Now, the fast-paced routine begins. My shower, shave and clean-up climax with my wardrobe selection for the day. Breakfast and lunch are checked off and it is time to climb into our commuter machine.
My bride and I have been alone since we climbed out of bed. Now, we enter the road system at 5.55AM and we are no longer the lonesome duo. Instead, we are mixed into the masses on their way to work into Houston.
Seriously, there are thousands of vehicles merging on to the freeway system. The sky is still dark. Even the sun does not want to rise this early.
Headlights illuminate the black asphalt. Reflectors built into the roads and strategically call attention to road signs. Mostly, it is dark outside, very dark.
Stop-and-go is the best description of the daily commute. Some drivers have their radios blaring. One guy with his custom exhaust system loves to fall back then accelerate quickly so that everyone else can hear the rumble of his loud pipes.
I have a different practice. My bride and I carpool together. We have wonderful conversations on the way into work.
Sometimes we laugh. Other times we discuss an important national or world issue. Many times we are discussing the meaning behind a particularly interesting passage of Scripture.
Of course we have a running commentary on the driving habits of those who are around us. We like the majority of drivers who obey the law and are courteous to others. There is also our common dislike for the impatient driver who is zig zagging in and out of traffic because they are in a rush.
Perhaps the best part of all is the traffic lightens up for us after a brief two mile stretch. That is when we are allowed to enter the HOV lane and dispense with the traffic jam and reach nearly posted speeds all of the way into work. It is more than a small blessing and we are grateful.
photo credit: brucefong photography
Pastor Gregg Matte sensed a deep-seated burden from the Lord. He has been challenged by the Spirit to make prayer a reality in his personal daily practice for over the last year. In his intercession God impressed on his heart a rallying of the pastors of our city to gather and to pray.
He sent out an invitation for pastors to meet for prayer in his office on a Thursday in November. The simple agenda was to prayer together for the city of Houston. Remember this gathering for pastors and ministry leaders was planned a month and a half in advance.
The week of the pre-planned event, the city of Houston became world news. Houston’s mayor had sent out a subpoena to five local pastors. Each of these ministers were ordered to hand over all sermons that spoke on homosexuality or mentioned the mayor.
The Christian community was shocked. But, they were not shocked into compliance or frightened into submission. Instead, the pastors rose up and stood together.
Senator Ted Cruze joined the pastors who gathered in Pastor Gregg Matte’s office. He never knew that this was part of God’s providential plan. But, the time was perfect.
The media came to cover this galvanizing event, historic in American church history. Pastors normally humbly compliant and supportive of our God-ordained governmental officials, drew a line in front of their pulpits. No governmental intimidation or control over the message of God delivered in the name of His Son would be tolerated.
Over 50 pastors packed into Pastor Gregg’s office. He directed the prayer session to pray for our mayor, protect the church and move on the local government to rescind their directive of control over the pulpits of the city. We broke up into groups of 4-6 and prayed up a powerful time of intercession and supplication.
After an hour of prayer we moved downstairs to stand in solidarity before the news cameras as Senator Cruze addressed the media. Clearly he spoke courageous words of freedom, liberty and religious autonomy. God’s servants had a right to speak the words of God without governmental oversight or control.
God’s calling was the sole directive in the words spoken in American pulpits. Furthermore, it was a liberty written in our own Constitution. The scene of pastors from different denominations, various ethnic backgrounds and multi-generational was powerful.
They stood together with the common bond of Christ among them.
photo credit: brucefong photography
Part 6 of 6
When someone has marked our lives, their last words to us are forever fixed in our minds. We remember vividly what a special person has said to us in their retirement, their death or their departure. It means a lot to us when those final words are a charge to us and our choices and behavior.
Joshua was an amazing leader for Israel. This historic moment of this faithful general to his leaders has a piercing impact on his hearers. Everyone receives, understands and initially embraces this direction from their leader.
Loyalty to their leader, however, is not the primary basis of their life of obedience. Instead, Joshua points out what they themselves had experienced. They were eyewitnesses of God’s great favor and blessing in their lives. Each of the leaders saw God’s provision and miraculous intervention for the nation with their own eyes.
Do you remember God intervening in your life? How did that make you feel at the time? Has that attitude faltered over time? Is your life a life marked by obedience or by compromise?
Immerse yourself into God’s Word. Then, as you see Him active in your life, resolve to live a life of immediate and complete obedience to Him. Do not just remember His Words, live His words.
Thanks for joining me on this journey of living the Scripture
Part 5 of 6
Joshua makes a bold but perfectly acceptable promise. With the LORD on Israel’s side, no one will be able to stand against her. This is kind of faith and trust that should lead the nation to step out boldly in precise obedience to God’s Word.
It is, however, not just God’s promise of His powerful presence that should move Israel to immediate obedience. Their love for the LORD their God must be their driving motivation. It is not a matter of a military pact. Rather it is a relationship of love that is at the core of this arrangement.
Any compromise on Israel’s part will exclusively be her responsibility. God will not shrink back on His love for the nation or His devotion for her. The only way that God will not provide for Israel is her own choice to turn away from God.
It is true for modern days as well. If we walk with God He will be faithful and provide for us. When we love Him and obey Him, He keeps on guiding our steps and leading us in the way in which we should go.
Joshua gives Israel a baseline for her confidence. God has fulfilled every promise that He has made to Israel in bringing them to the Land. This is without exception and should give the people confidence to respond in love and obedience as well.
Part 4 of 6
Since the leaders of Israel had been eyewitnesses of God fighting very clearly for them, they are now obligated to hear and obey Joshua’s charge to them. He commands them to “be very strong”. They must make this choice of their own volition. Each one of them must be determined with this step.
Too often we are fearful of the circumstances that we face or the doubt in our spirit to achieve or overcome. When God leads us in a certain direction, we can resolve to courageously be obedient
Furthermore, Joshua charges them to “obey all . . . the Book”. This makes it clear they must know the Word of God. The more time we spend in His Word the better we will know what He wants us to do.
Then, once knowing the Book is accomplished, it must also be obeyed. The charge to “obey” assumes that knowledge exists of what we are to do. This pattern is a constant in God’s Word. First, know what God has said, then obey what His Word has said.
Precision in obedience is essential to obedience. The response to God’s Word must not only be immediate but it must also be accurate as well as thorough. Humanly we wallow too often in partial, compromised or half-hearted efforts as our excuse for following the Lord.
Part 3 of 6
It was as rescue workers combed the devastated town of Castilian Springs, Tennessee, that firefighter David Harmon came across what looked “like a baby doll”.
“He was laying face down with his arms above his head… He was just laying there motionless, wasn’t moving,” Mr. Harmon said.
The baby was lying 100m or more from the ruins of his house. His mother, 23-year-old Kerri Stowell, was found dead in the same field.
He was taken to the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt University, but had only light cuts and bruises.
Dr. Tom Morgan said: “Maybe he landed on something that lessened his blow, maybe he, you know, came down against a bush or something. I think it was probably…God’s grace.”
When we are eyewitnesses of God’s grace, our lives are changed forever. It is not a story we read or something we heard someone else say. Rather, when we are a part of a story then our very lives are changed.
Joshua had led Israel from the crossing of the Jordan River to the completion of three major military campaigns. Now, God assesses Joshua’s age: he is old, very old. Perhaps Joshua had been in the land up to 20 years. His time is over so he summons the leaders to give them a charge from God. He emphasizes their experience as eyewitnesses of God’s amazing acts.
They know without anyone else prodding them, they were eyewitnesses of God fighting for them. The phrase “you yourselves have seen” highlights this first person reality that is undeniable.