Prayer Pump

 

“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11a)

Nowadays, in a developed society, it is very easy to get water when we need it. We can just buy a bottle at the store, or all we have to do is turn on a faucet (provided, of course, that the water line is working) and out flows a stream of water. It doesn’t matter whether we are at home, in a factory, or in a store. If we want to wash our clothes, take a shower, or irrigate the farm, the water is there. Yet it was not always this easy. There was a time when water had to be brought to the place of need by hand. During the 1800s, rural U.S. homes relied on hand pumps to bring water to the surface. While it wasn’t extraordinarily difficult to operate, there was a bit of effort involved, and it could become quite tedious, especially when a lot of water was needed.

red hand pump

The typical hand pump of the day consisted of just a few components. First, there was the main housing where the water entered and was pushed out. Then there was the plunger, the shaft, and the handle that operated the plunger. Finally, there were the various valves, O-rings, nuts, bolts, and the connecting pipe for the water to enter the pump. The operation was pretty simple:

  1. The handle was firmly pushed down, raising the plunger inside the pump’s housing.
  2. Water was drawn up the pipe from the well (or similar water source) below, and flowed through a valve into the area inside the housing beneath the plunger.
  3. The handle was then lifted up and the plunger went down as the valve closed and the water was retained in the lower part of the housing.
  4. As the plunger continued to go down, a valve in the plunger itself opened and the water entered the upper part of the housing above the plunger.
  5. Finishing this procedure, the handle was pushed down again, the valve in the plunger closed, and the water in the upper part was forced out the pump’s spout.

If you wanted more water, you simply followed the previous steps all over again. If you used the pump frequently, it wouldn’t take much for the water to start flowing again, as the water level was high.

But if you didn’t use the pump very much, the water level would be low, and much effort would be needed for the water to flow freely.

Sometimes, especially if the pump was hardly used, the area inside the pump housing would be dry and the pump would need to be primed. This means that some water would have to be added to the inside of the pump, especially around the plunger’s O-ring (the rubber ring that fills the space between the plunger and the housing) so that some suction was created to pull the water below up to the pump.

This narrative gives us a good example of the value of constant prayer or communication with God in our lives. We need to be in frequent communication with God. A brief prayer over a meal or the occasional prayer once a week, or even once a month, is not nearly enough. The pump is running dry; the water level is getting low. We have got to be much more frequent in using that pump and keeping that water level high. The natural tendency of our flesh (our earthly ‘self’) is not to pray at all, unless our flesh is getting the glory or recognition through a lofty prideful prayer that God never hears or acknowledges. Due to this tendency, we must make an extra effort to ensure that we are spending time with God. That means time must be taken from another area in our daily activities and given over to Him in prayer.

The most common complaint is, that we can’t find enough time to really pray. We feel that maybe we could cut a little time off of an activity, or speed up in our traveling, to get an extra ten to twenty minutes. We may think that if we pray extra on our day off, that will cover the rest of the week. Try looking at it this way: if you apply those excuses for communicating with your closest friend, your spouse, your children, or your parents, you will most likely have a very poor relationship with them!

If every day is given to us from God our Heavenly Father, shouldn’t we be giving back a portion of it to Him in prayer? If we can cheerfully give Him a portion of what He has given us, whether it is income or goods, why aren’t we giving that same portion or more to Him in fellowship through prayer?

Our time seems very valuable when it comes to watching television or movies, browsing the web, texting, using social media, etc. Yet we are very quick to respond that time for God is nonexistent! We tend to shy away from prayer as if it is very difficult to do, or very hard to begin (or some similar reason). Remember from the pump example that when the water level is low, pumping becomes a real chore. You have got to spend more time in prayer to keep the water level high and the pumping easier. Oh, how much easier the pump is to use when it is well-oiled and used frequently!

I used to be among those who had many excuses for not praying. I never really enjoyed praying; it was just rote or ritual for me. Years and years went by without much effort given to communication with God. During Bible college, I took a class on prayer (required for graduation) and still struggled with making time and effort to pray. As part of the course, we were required to maintain a prayer journal. (I was equally not fond of writing my thoughts in a journal). You might have guessed that my journal was almost totally empty. Needless to say, my grade was barely passable, yet this or any other attempt to increase my time in prayer did not help. It wasn’t until over two decades later that I began to really understand the need and began to make an effort to take time away to spend it with Him.

While the desire not to pray still existed, I found that the less I prayed, the emptier I felt inside.

Over time, I discovered for myself that the pump really does flow easier when used more often, and how difficult the pump becomes to operate when used less and less.

If you want to be victorious in your walk with God, you must spend time talking with Him. If it takes great effort or is a real bore, then you are not praying and your relationship with God is suffering. Start simply and expand from there; let His Spirit formulate or compose the thoughts and desires of your heart. You are not training in an oratory school; you are expressing your heart to God.

If you find your mind wandering or journeying into some distant land while praying, rein it back in! If you are daydreaming in the middle of a conversation with a very close friend, how does that benefit them?

In your prayer time, don’t let yourself be clouded, or distracted with a focus on your ‘self.’ Prayer is to be the time that we align ourselves with God’s will and not our will, or the will of others. Don’t ask God to change others for your sake; ask Him to change you! Spend more in prayer and keep the pump moving freely!

–James Pangburn

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Talking Lamps (well… not exactly)

light_bulb_1

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

When you get a moment, go find a light and turn it on. It doesn’t matter what kind of light: a desk lamp, a night-light, the lights inside your car, or a flashlight (as long as the area around it is dark enough to see the difference). Now while it is on, take a look at it (don’t stare at the bulb itself!) and notice how much light it produces. Next, put your ear as close as you can to the light and listen. Do you hear it talking to you? Does it say something to the effect of: “I am a light bulb. Look at me shine”?

Does it describe what kind of light it produces, or how you look under its glow? No. It never will. A lamp, or the light source itself, does not talk. Lamps shine their light into the darkness without a word.

No matter what the circumstances or situation, no matter what time of day or night, they dutifully let their light shine. When they are shining, there is no question as to what they are.

As believers in Christ we need to let our light shine in full brilliance. Our lamps should show forth His light without a word being spoken. So often we go out into this world with His light only partially shining, much like a flashlight or a low-wattage bulb. Other times we hide or disguise His light so that we can be with unbelievers unnoticed. Most of the time, we hide His light because we are embarrassed or ashamed of Him. The Bible warns us about such actions. When we are not full of Christ, then our light is less and less, or we don’t even see the need to let it shine.

lamp_night_1

When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior, we have to let Him in for His light to shine out through us. It is like asking some friends to ignite your charcoal grill with one of their matches. When they strike the match and attempt to drop it into the grill, you suddenly close the lid and refuse to let the match in. You wonder why the grill doesn’t work, and then plead with them again and again to drop the match inside. Every time thereafter, you close the lid before the match reaches the grill. After much agonizing, you feel down and discouraged because there is nothing happening inside the grill, when actually, you are the problem! When you yield to Christ and let Him work inside of you though His Spirit, you will openly allow the Light to shine out.

When we don’t let Him fully work in our lives, our flesh, our natural ‘self’ that is resistant to God, rises up and blocks or restricts His light from shining out of us. If we are afraid to let His light shine, then we don’t have enough of Him in our lives.

If we don’t want His light shining at all, then obviously we don’t have Him at all in our lives. His Spirit is not going to stay if we don’t want Him in us!

God wants the light to shine, not talk or speak. Lamps don’t talk—they shine. They illuminate the darkness. Darkness needs light for one to see. When you talk in the dark, your voice illuminates nothing. Even if I talk in the dark until I’m hoarse, somebody will still stumble and fall, since there is no light to see by. When you have to tell someone that you are a Christian, the lamp is talking and the light is not really shining. When you eagerly watch a crude DVD or movie with your old, non-Christian friends, your lamp is talking and the light is not shining. When you listen to your old worldly music, or go to a rock concert, or watch a vulgar comedian with your old ‘friends’, your lamp is talking and not shining. If Christ and His work on the Cross is not the target of your faith (we all have faith; we need a target or object for that faith), and you are trying to be right before God on your own, then your lamp is talking and the light is hardly shining. Don’t let your light or lamp talk, let go and let Christ work in you so that you will shine in this dark world!

 

“Where art thou?”

brick pathway

“…Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

Have you ever walked down a path leading into a forest in the quiet of the day? Maybe you’ve strolled down a weather-beaten brick walkway leading into a beautiful garden, where the rich freshness of beautiful flowers blossoming surround and overpower you. At times like these, have you ever felt like someone was approaching when a gentle breeze caressed your face, and a soft voice whispered to your heart, “Where are you, my child?”

That voice is the Lord God calling unto you. How hard we work to try to satisfy the endless desires of our sinful nature in this world in so many different ways. You may be experiencing this in your spiritual life today, like our first parents did when they were in the beautiful Garden of Eden. They hid from the approaching presence of the Lord among the things of this world. Stop and listen carefully. Listen to the Heavenly Father in the distance calling, “Where are you, my child?” When He comes nearer, you may begin to feel very uncomfortable, like Adam and Eve did, and try to hide behind the things of this world as He draws closer and closer to your spirit and soul.

Why do you run away when He approaches you, hiding from His presence, which brings peace? Could it be because you love the things of this world too much, the things so many others desire to possess?

Are you unaware of the real purposes and uses the Lord has intended them to be for? When He freely gives them to you by His love and grace, then they are yours to be used and enjoyed. Do not seek or value them only for your own selfish purposes instead. They are intended for His glory, not your own. Love for the things of this world draws the heart away from God. The more the love of this world has superior strength or authority in your life, the more your love of God will go downhill.

You may be experiencing wrong desires of the heart—a passion for indulging in what excites and inflames the senses. Maybe it’s the desire of the eyes, which delight in looking at and longing for beautiful material possessions. This can become a main avenue leading to covetousness (strong, envious desire). There is also the temptation toward the pride of life, which involves a passion for honor and applause for yourself.

All the things of the world will fade away, but holy affection is not like these fleeting physical desires.

If you love the world more than you love God, you will have no root in yourself to overcome the world, but will fall away, or, at best, remain an unfruitful child of God. Vain, empty, and valueless things corrupt worldly hearts. Watch and pray that you will be able to escape the desires of this world and have victory over the god and prince of it. The first step in this victory over the world begins by asking God to come and reign in your heart. His divine, eternal love will never fail.

Are you running away from the Lord, hiding from His divine presence, the only source of eternal peace? Run to Him instead when you hear Him calling “Where are you, my child?”

Click here to find out more about how to find God.

A Tool Yielded

collection of antiques

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” 2 Tim. 2:19-21

When was the last time you used a tool? If you are like many individuals, you would probably say it was when you repaired _______ [fill in the blank] with a screwdriver, hammer, wrench, saw, etc. a few days, or weeks, or even months ago. Yet many do not realize that they actually use tools all the time. As I type this illustration, I am using a tool commonly known as a computer; even the keyboard I am typing on is a tool. When you looked at your social media site today or called someone, you probably used another common tool—a cell-phone (or mobile phone).

When you write something, whether it is with a pen, pencil, marker, crayon, or the stylus on a smart phone, you are using a tool. If you are cutting carrots, mixing together a cake batter, sawing a tree, laying asphalt for a road, or sewing on a button, you are again using a tool (or multiple ones).

old pipe wrench

When you give your heart to Jesus and establish a personal relationship with Him, you are allowing God to use you as His tool. This means that you need to yield to Him for the best results. Since man-made tools are inanimate objects, when you use a tool for the purpose it was designed for, it naturally yields itself to that purpose. A screwdriver doesn’t suddenly bend its shaft into a U-shape as you press it against a screw head, and then restore itself back to its original position afterward. A pen won’t draw the ink back into itself in the middle of writing a note. A computer or smart phone won’t jump out of your hand or off of your lap or desk and change the oil in someone’s vehicle. Neither will a golf club jump out of your hands in the middle of a swing and start chasing the birds around the golf course.

When we resist doing what God intends to do with us, it is like a blender full of liquid refusing to spin when the power is applied. All that will happen is that the motor will burn out, or a fuse or circuit breaker will stop the power from operating it. It seemed to think it had a right to decide for itself and refused to spin its blades. All that is affected is us (or the blender).

God is not affected and neither is the operator of the blender. Unless we give up and yield to God, He will just use someone else to accomplish the work and will put us though this process again and again at a later time until we do ultimately yield to Him.

quill pen

Many times we think we can ‘help’ God more if we do His work without Him or without His approval. Ever seen a doorknob fall out of a door, roll over, and start pumping out someone’s swimming pool? How about a fire extinguisher that jumps off of a wall and starts sewing your clothes? These examples may sound humorously absurd, but that, in essence, is what we do with God. He may use us as a tool in one area, and then we decide that we know what will help Him even more, and go work on something entirely different and unrelated in another area.

When we do something for God, or reach out to someone for Him without seeking His will first, we are no longer yielding to Him, but are putting our own interests before His instead.

We are no longer putting our total trust in what He is doing in or through us, His tool. We should be living our lives with so much concentration on Christ that we are not even aware that we are being used as God’s tool.

Yield yourself as a tool to God your Heavenly Father, and He will use you in the way that He knows is best for the benefit of His kingdom. Don’t resist or flee from Him (read the book of Jonah in the Bible) and miss out on the blessing He has for you.

–James Pangburn

Focus On Yourself?

all about me figure

Have you ever wondered if the trial you are going through is the result of the actions of another person, or if it is coming from the enemy of your soul?

Do you ever find yourself thinking things like this:

  • “Did you see what he (she) just did concerning you? Are you going to put up with that?”
  • “How many times have you told him (her) how much you don’t like that? Doesn’t he (she) care about you and how you feel about things?”
  • “You really should just leave. That would show him (her/them). Just get up and walk out and don’t come back. Then he (she/they) will be sorry. He (she/they) don’t deserve to have you with him (her/them), the way he (she/they) act. This will show him (her/them)!”
  • “He (she) just doesn’t know what marriage is supposed to be like. He (she) doesn’t treat you the way you ought to be treated. He (she) is out there or back there having a good time while you are here doing all the work! He (she) doesn’t appreciate you and all that you do. Maybe he (she) is having a good time with someone else while you sit here alone. You ought to snoop and find out. Or just come right out when he (she) returns and accuse him (her) and see what kind of reaction you get! Then you’ll know!”
  • “The world would really be better off without a person like you. You have never fit in. You are never a success at anything. You cause problems everywhere you go. You should just find a way to end it all and be done with it.”

***

Any of these thoughts sound familiar? How do I know that you hear these thoughts at times? Because I know that the enemy of your soul is busy, busy, busy all the time planting these ungodly ideas in your head every opportunity he can get. That’s why we all hear the same old story from many different people. The common denominator in all the above statements is ‘you’. The enemy wants you to focus on yourself. “Look how this affects me. Look how I am hurting or insulted or restricted, etc.”

If these thoughts were coming from God, He would not be putting the emphasis on ‘you.’ He would not harass and torment you with negative thoughts that encourage you to think about yourself all the time, or about ways to make other people treat you the way you want to be treated.

Have you ever tried thinking once in a while as if you were the enemy? What would you do if you were in his shoes and wanted to bring you down or cause you a lot of trouble to discourage you from doing what is right? Sometimes this line of thought can help you see from another angle what is happening to you.

The enemy’s goal is to get you to focus on yourself, to feel sorry for yourself, and to become unable to see another person’s point of view, or what the real situation is. He wants you concerned for your own welfare at all times. He wants you to do everything you can to avoid suffering of any kind. He does not want you to take on the burdens of others. He does not want you to be self-sacrificing. He does not want you to put the needs of others above your own.

Now try thinking once in a while as if you were God. Would God plant these thoughts in someone who He is trying to encourage to be righteous and holy? Would He ever tell someone to whom He gave the gift of life to go end that life because he (she) is worthless?

He NEVER tells anyone to kill himself (herself). Thoughts like that are never from God.

Would He tell someone to think only of him (her) and have no regard for others? What if God treated us that way? What if He thought only of Himself and just left us to suffer the just penalty for our sin against Him? What if He had refused to arrange the sacrifice of His only begotten Son so that we could be made free from the bondage of sin and the devil?

Finally, try thinking once in a while how what you do affects God. Would He act the way you just did? Would He accuse others of evil without a shred of evidence? Would He walk out and slam the door behind Him when someone said or did something He did not like? Would He be quick to put someone down and have a feeling of triumph that He had won and that person had lost? Would He blow His top if things didn’t go His way and then refuse to even apologize later? This all sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? You can’t imagine God acting in ways like this. Yet we do all the time and think nothing of it.

–Alana Pangburn

 

The Broken Window

broken window

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

Have you ever broken a window, a mirror, or just a sheet of glass? Thankfully, throughout my life, I have had only a handful of instances where glass in some form was broken (bottles excluded). While I’ve never had a ball, rock, or similar object break a window, I have had glass in pictures and mirrors break, as well as glass in a window that cracked when the window was slammed hard. When I was in college working in maintenance, one of my jobs was to replace the broken glass in windows. These were the older sash windows with muntins separating individual panes. It was tedious work, which eventually gave me a real appreciation for glaziers, and the newer gridded windows with plastic grids overlaid on, or imbedded between, the layers of insulated glass.

When I was repairing windows, the main problem often wasn’t glass totally broken or falling to pieces, but was rather just a small crack in a corner. Many would think, “Why bother replacing it? It is just a small crack in the corner.” This was often true, and, in some cases, a crack might not become a problem. But in other cases, the crack could spread through the whole window, making it extremely unsafe or even unusable. Abrupt temperature changes can cause many cracks (especially in vehicle glass) which seem innocuous. But later, especially in winter, they can spread all the way across the window. Even a small crack could allow water to leak in during a strong storm and could even, over time, cause the wood frame of the window to rot.

small cracked windowBy now, you may think that I couldn’t think of anything but windows and glass to write about! Well, I want to use these broken window examples to point out that sin in our lives is like a cracked or broken window or mirror. Just as we each have different levels of what we consider to be right, we each have different levels of what we consider to be wrong:

  • For many, murder, large-scale theft (like robbing a bank or stealing an expensive car), using illegal drugs, breaking into a corporation’s or government’s computer system, or blowing up a building are considered “big wrongs or sins,” and everything else is on a lesser scale of wrongdoing.
  • To others, lying, cheating, rape, and adultery are at the top of their list of wrongdoings.
  • Some feel abusing or killing animals, destroying forestland, using methods that alter our climate, or polluting the waterways of the world are major wrongdoings.
  • Another group would consider common vices, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, premarital sex, gambling, and watching (or creating) pornography as very high on their list of evil acts.

One might consider murder to be like the smashed window and a lie as just a small crack. Another may treat gambling as a huge crack in a mirror and an occasional extramarital affair as just a little crack that is hardly noticeable (except when the “heat is on” and it keeps on growing to become a major (and very visible) fracture).

Throughout history, we have determined what we feel is wrong by many, many different standards and benchmarks.

Some may be very good standards; other standards may be almost no standards at all. What might be just a small fracture in a mirror today could be a disastrous monstrosity tomorrow, next year, or in a century. To a junkyard operator, broken glass that punctured a framed piece of artwork means nothing, but an art collector would consider it a horrible, major crime. As long as our view of what is right and wrong is mixed-up or evolving, our life on this planet will never be stable.

But God does not see sin as we do; He never has, and never will, either. Whether the window or glass is just cracked, or is fractured in many places, if it has just a miniscule crack in a corner, or even a large split on one side, it is still broken. If we tell a little lie to a friend in passing, or just look at a person of the opposite sex with lust in our heart, or viciously murder crowds of people, or go ahead in impatience and do God’s work ahead of Him, we have still sinned. Sin is still sin, no matter what the magnitude of it may be. God cannot tolerate any sin in His presence.

If God doesn’t tolerate any sin, how can we ever come before Him? Do we have to make ourselves right or clean ourselves up first? Are we to go before a person of spiritual authority and confess our sins or wrongs?

If we do enough right things, won’t that counter all of our wrongdoings? Even though we haven’t eliminated all of our sins, if we try hard enough and show God that we are doing the best we can in the situation we are in, won’t that be enough?

The quick answer to most of these questions is, no, no, and no. Isn’t there some way that all of these sins could be covered up or even eliminated? Now you’re starting to look in the right direction! God knew that we could not meet the standards He has set through His written word, the Bible. He intentionally made everything this way, in order to bring us to the point where we can see that we can’t make it without Him. If it weren’t for our pride, in all of its forms, we most likely would yield and let Him fully reign in our lives.

The good news is that God did make a way for all of these sins in our hearts to be eliminated. That way is through His Son, Jesus Christ. He fulfilled all of the requirements of the law God had laid out prior to His birth. In the past, only certain animals could be sacrificed, but they were not enough.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).

They were only a temporary covering. But Jesus was perfect and without sin, and therefore qualified to be the perfect, final sacrifice. As a result, the shed blood of His sacrifice has totally covered our sins, a permanent covering. All we have to do is believe in faith that His death, His sacrifice—the blood He shed on the cross—covers our sins, and, as a result, we are cleansed—made white as snow! Now the ‘cracks in our window’ are gone at last! Do you want to continue living with these cracks in your life? Suppose the cracks spread until the glass is totally broken and falls out—then what? Don’t let another moment pass by without allowing Jesus to work in your life—give yourself to Jesus and see those cracks disappear for good!

Click here for help in what to do next.

Cities – the epitome of man

“And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:2-4

I’ve always enjoyed watching time-lapse videos. What never ceases to amaze me is how much occurs unobserved over time. In my spare time, I’ve tried creating a few short segments of my own. But, as with any time-lapse work, the emphasis in such work is on the word timelots of time. A typical two- or three-minute video could contain as much as ten or more hours’ worth of image captures [not including the many hours of editing work to be done afterward)! That is, only if it is done right the first time; some videos could be the result of several reshoots of the same scene. As a result, someone could end up spending twenty to thirty hours editing the same two- or three- minute video!

Returning to my original thought: As an avid nature lover, I particularly enjoy watching time-lapse scenes of clouds and storms, rural countryside vistas, birds, animals, waterfalls and mountain streams, as well as sunsets and sunrises. But, at the same time, I’ll also gladly watch time-lapse videos of urban or suburban areas and other non-nature material.

Recently, while I was watching time-lapse videos of Dubai (UAE) and Doha (Qatar), as well as New York City, Detroit, and Toronto, God began to point out to me how cities are the epitome of man’s work. Man can’t actually create something out of nothing himself; he can only build or work with what has already been created.

From the tower of Babel in the Old Testament, to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (tallest building in the world as of this writing), man has been continually attempting to meet God by his own efforts.

He will never succeed in doing this, because God is a spirit, and man, in spite of all of his impressive structures, is only fleshly or physical.

City panorama in daytime

I began to compare videos of God’s creation with those of man’s efforts. Then it was easy to compare the tranquility and congruity of God’s efforts as opposed to the dissonance and disparity of man’s. A storm commands much fear and respect and awe in its magnitude; yet the urban landscape inspires much defiance, resistance, and anxiety. Man expends so much effort perfecting something that will not last. There is much boasting and pride, yet, when all is boiled down and refined, nothing of real eternal consequence remains. There is never total satisfaction or peace; man continually has to build and build, always attempting to grow greater, larger, or taller.

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Man, in his sinful ways, has always had his focus on self.
“Look at what I did.”
“Look at me.“
“Isn’t what I did wonderful?”
I’m going to reach Heaven myself.”
I need nobody; I’m self-sufficient.”
I don’t need God; I’m perfectly capable of managing myself!”
Yet God is impressed with none of that. He views our attempts as nothing more than dirty rags!

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

As long as man tries to reach God his own way, as long as man continues with sin in his life, he will never obtain peace with God. He cannot, because God is holy and can never, ever, coexist with sin. If God permitted just one microscopic fraction of a piece of the smallest known item in the universe (there are really no words ever known to anyone to describe this tiny amount) of sin in His presence, then He could no longer be God. That’s how awful sin is to God!

city at night

Of course, man, in his defiance, pride, and self-deception, will continue to build bigger, better, and taller structures and metropolises. Meanwhile, God, in His grace, mercy, and long-suffering, will permit man to do so, until man finally reaches the breaking point of either capitulation or death (prayerfully not the latter). God is not like an evil tyrant, nor a perpetually angry parent. He is not One to set everything in the cosmos in motion and then never interact with it again. He is a loving Father who desires to see everyone with Him in His heavenly home, not being wayward and headed for destruction.

He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the price and make the sacrifice that we could never, ever pay, for all of our sins committed against Him (see the book of John chapter 3 verses 16 and 17).

And the best part is that, due to His love and grace, all we have to do is believe in faith that His Son Jesus died on the Cross for us, and that we therefore have died (spiritually) through Him. As a new creation in Him, we will also be resurrected from the grave like He was. Now we need to let Him, instead of our own sinful self, reign on the throne of our hearts.

Do you want to continue in defiance of God with this hopeless world, and go with it into death and Hell eternally? Or do you want to experience peace with God and life eternally?

–James Pangburn

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New Life Out of the Old

tree stump beside water

“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

I recently observed a tree that had long since died and fallen into the water nearby. This particular type of tree decayed very slowly and had obviously been on the shoreline for some time. But the interesting thing about it was, that another plant had grown up from within this dead tree’s root system. While this is not uncommon, it made me think how Jesus brings this about in our lives when we surrender, or yield, to Him. When we come to Jesus, this worn-out physical body of ours does not die. Our inner self (our morality, etc.) dies and is reborn out of the old as a new ‘inner self’. This time, we are not the same old person deep inside as before, but one with a new ‘spiritual heredity’ that seeks to please God and not the Devil. We now put off the old, and live in, and through, the new ‘self’.

With this new self, Jesus can now work though us, not only to change and improve our lives, but also as a tool to impact others around us. As the familiar chorus goes:

Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
O, what a change in my life!

The key is to let Him do the work, and not us. The moment we try to make ourselves right, then we negate, or make ineffective, the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. When that plant I mentioned earlier grew out of the old, dead tree, did it grab a can of green spray paint and make itself green? Did it read any self-help books on how to effectively grow better or improve its self-esteem? Did it watch someone on the television and buy the DVD on how to be delivered from bacterial infestation acquired through the dead tree? No! It grew naturally from the biological processes God gave it in the beginning. It never tried to make itself better; in fact, it couldn’t do it by itself. That young plant was totally dependent on something else to protect and nurture its fragile self. This is just what God expects of us when we accept His Son, Jesus, into our hearts—total dependence. Now most of us, at this point, may want to respond, “This may work for you, or him, or her, but I CAN’T do it!” This is actually quite true. I will be the first to admit that I can’t do it either. But this is just the position God wants us to be in, not dependent on ourselves.

We must stop trying to clean up our lives and make ourselves right. It is a lot like a pig trying to clean himself up with the mud he was wallowing in—it just won’t work!

The focus of our faith is to be on Jesus, and Jesus alone, not on some multi-step plan or self-help program, not some human leader (parent, pastor, president, etc.). If we are focused in our faith on Jesus and the work He did on the Cross, then we can’t add or include something else too. Multiply five times five and you’ll end up with twenty-five; you can’t add six or multiply by three, and still end up with twenty-five!

Of course, this leads us to ask, ‘How do I do this without doing anything on my own?’ That’s a good question, and the answer is—relationship. When you accepted Jesus into your heart you began a personal relationship with Him, not physically, but spiritually. It is a lot like the bond you may have with a dear parent, spouse, or child, only much, much deeper. You aren’t actually tied or otherwise attached to them, but there is a closeness that can’t be easily explained in words. The relationship you have entered into with Jesus has to be developed and refined. While He may know much about you, you know so little about Him. The way to increase your knowledge of Him is to talk and listen to Him in prayer and to read His Word, the Bible.

When a couple gets married, they must each take time out to really get to know the other person better; and the same idea applies in your relationship with Him. Take time out and talk with Him. Spend as much time as you can, which means taking time away from less important things.

If you think you can’t give up anything, then you need to think about what (or who) is more important in your life.

As well, read and dwell or meditate (contemplate or reflect) on His Word and ask Him to illuminate it to you. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Read it over and over, and each time you read, ask Him to make it more real to your heart and mind. As time goes on, you’ll start seeing things you didn’t notice before, and you will begin to discover that you don’t want to stop reading. Most importantly, never give up praying and reading. If you don’t give up, He won’t give up! Before long, you’ll find that, just like the plant growing out of the old, dead tree, you are growing up in Him out of your old dead self!

Your Point of Contact

boats in storm

 

“…in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31).

That particular evening Jesus faced the weariness of physically ministering to the throngs of people all day, and of feeding all of them too. Not only had He been pressed by them all day long, but also up into the evening. While the disciples headed back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, during that crossing they felt the same tiring effects from the exhausting day that Jesus felt. Even though they were physically exhausted, they continued to row further and further away from the point of contact of Jesus’ peace.

You may need that point of contact right now yourself, particularly if you have had an extremely hard day at work. Maybe you lost your job, or are very stressed out and feel that it is imperative to just get alone for a while. Maybe you are at the point of having no hope, and are destroying yourself with alcohol or drugs. Or maybe you just received notice of the death of someone dear to you. You need a true point of contact with God right now, but you may lack the one basic thing that can establish this contact. You need to pray with faith in the divine, invisible presence of God, which comes from having a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus.

While the disciples were crossing the sea, Jesus went to pray on the mountain. That was His own most important point of divine contact.

And if Jesus, being the Son of God, felt the necessity of being strengthened through prayer to the heavenly Father in these circumstances, how much more do we, who are weak, often failing, followers of Jesus, need to spend time alone in prayer to be strengthened by God too?

Yet we make excuses, like: It’s getting late, or, I really need my nap right now to get my strength back. When night fell, He was still there on the mountain alone, interceding for His disciples. There Jesus found His place of great strength. And you will find that prayer is a place of great strength for you as well.

You can experience the same touch from God’s divine presence as you face your own daily weaknesses, when your body is tossed around by the waves of the turmoil of life, in the midst of the darkness of its winds which are contrary to you. Howling winds of the storms coming against you will whip around you, the same as it was with Jesus’ disciples when they faced the dismal prospect of trying to row against the strong wind and waves that night.

As the disciples continued rowing, suddenly Peter and the others saw Jesus in the darkened distance walking toward them on the sea. He came closer and closer to them near the bow of the boat. They were very troubled at this sight and they said, “It’s a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Jesus responded with perfect divine peace, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.” Peter immediately answered, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus told him to come, and Peter responded to that point of contact of faith and prayer. He stepped out of the boat and kept his eyes focused on his Lord Jesus in strong, obedient faith in His word, as he began to walk toward Him on the water.

As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could continue to walk on the water. And in the midst of your daily troubles of life, Jesus is also calling to you, “Come to Me, my child.”

It’s amazing how our difficulties of life are similar to Peter’s. He walked on the water until he looked down and took his eyes off Jesus. We tend to do the same thing in our own lives when we also take our eyes off Jesus, the point of divine contact in our lives, and look down instead on the storms and troubles of life. Their boisterous winds blow around us, and we become afraid as we start to sink in the darkened, troubled waters. Then we cry out, “Oh, Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretches forth His hand and grasps us, pulling us to safety, while saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt Me, my child?”

Maybe you are facing waves slapping around you right now, waves of fear, worry, doubt, or uncertainty. You look all around in the natural sphere without hope. Peter faced the same problem as wave after wave slapped against his face.

Looking around hopelessly, he cried out, “What am I doing out here?” And he started to sink. Then he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Can’t you just hear Jesus saying, “Oh, you of little faith. You started well, what happened to you?” Jesus was right there in the midst of the unsettled circumstances of life’s troubles, and God will reach out as the divine point of contact for you, too, so that you can release your faith in God through your prayers to God.