Sunday, April 7, 2013

Greetings, and farewell

For those who enjoy the ramblings I share, you may feel it has been too long since my last post. If that is the case, I'm touched. Life has taken some interesting turns and my futile little blog has been placed well past the back burner, entirely off the stove, and maybe into the street. I have no intentions of continuing with this project, so I am taking this opportunity to bid thee all farewell.

Okay, maybe not farewell. How about a redirection?

I have started another blog, though the stripe is different than the classic Saffrotes format. I have made some moves into the eBook world, have been publishing some classic public domain stuff, and generally having an interesting time with it.

Recently, I posted something that would have fit nicely here, so I'll link there first. It's probably not agreeable to many, but I'm hardly concerned with that. Click herehttp://unhymned.com for next level of the Saffrotes experience!

Okay, but seriously, to all of you that have supported this project, criticized the posts, or just quietly read them, I sincerely appreciate it. I watched my stats, and I know how many views I have had. Frankly, it is humbling to know so many people actually were interested in what I had to say. Some posts were better than others, and some got shared on Facebook and Twitter. You people mean a lot to me. Thank you!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quick note to my followers

First and foremost, you are awesome! You will never know how much I appreciate the fact that you are reading this. It quite literally makes my day to be able to touch your life.

I'd like to think that in some small way, you are responsible for this bit of news. I've just been picked up to be what I'm going to call a "syndicated blogger" for Men of Jesus' Man University blog. I will be one of several contributors, and I will not double post anything on both blogs. Instead, I ask that you follow that blog, as well. Rest assured, the other guys are at least as good as I am. Follow along. Blessings guaranteed!

Anyway, a link would be required. Here you go: http://menofjesusmanu.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 4, 2012

Until Next Time, Grandma

This week, my Facebook news feed is as depressing as it has ever been. Monday afternoon, my grandmother passed away. Lots of family has been posting nice memories, sad songs, and as of this minute her obituary has been posted seven times. I'm not complaining, of course. Grandma was awesome and deserves to be remembered.

In many ways, at least for me, it is time to move forward. Grandma is gone away from us, but she is exactly where she wanted to be. While she never told me this, I don't think it's a reach to say that part of her died seven years ago. That's when Grandpa died. It may have even been before that, though. He spent years deteriorating in a nursing home before his passing. Praise God that Grandma doesn't miss Grandpa anymore.

Someday, I'm not going to miss Grandma them anymore, either. Truth be known, it would be selfish to want her back. If I in some way could bring her back to us today, she'd probably clobber me. For her to be here with me means that she would no longer be in Heaven. She is with her husband. She is with others who have gone before her. I have this idea that Grandpa has been sitting around with John Wesley having coffee, waiting patiently for Grandma to show up with donuts. Please know that there is no spiritual truth here, but it makes me smile.

Grandpa (and John) finally got their donuts.

Grandma trusted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She's okay now. She can walk freely, and doubtless runs. She breathes without effort. She doesn't have to put her teeth in every morning and take them out every night. Life is good.

In a small way, I feel like I've been entrusted with a message from Grandma. Before she died, I was given a box of books. Some belonged to her, and others were Grandpa's years ago. But in one of the books, I found an index card with this verse written by Grandma's own hand: "Give all your cares to the Lord and He will give you strength. He will never let those who are right with Him be shaken." That's Psalm 55:22. And for me, those are the final words of wisdom that she imparted to me, to all of us.

Grandma is in good hands. She is not shaken, but stands firm on the streets of gold. She trusted God, and He has made good on His word to her, to all of us. And I will see her again. I'm going to sit down at that table with her and Grandpa, with John Wesley, and best of all, with Jesus. That will be the best coffee and donuts I've ever tasted, too. It's a big table, and there's room for you there. But it's not about wanting to see Grandma again. That's not enough to get you there. Give your life over to God, and He will give you strength. If you place your trust in Him, you will be established forever.

Grandma's not gone. She just moved out of her daughter's house (well, out of her own house that she gave back to her daughter...) and into her Father's house. Someday, I'll see her again. So can you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What is meant by all?

"But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him." --Deuteronomy 4:29

Taken in context, this verse was a prophecy of Moses spoken over the nation of Israel shortly before they crossed the Jordan River to claim the Promised Land. He warned them sternly to not go seeking after the false gods and idols of the people in the land, but to stay faithful to their Deliverer, the God of their fathers, the one true God.

Moses made a covenant with them and with God that if they went after these other God's that they would be destroyed, that they would be scattered, and that the few who would survive would worship false gods. Then, the promise in verse 29 in spoken: "But from there you will search again for the LORD your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him."

Israel needed to know that no matter what happened, no matter how ugly things were, no matter how unworthy they purposed to make themselves to be, GOD STILL LOVED THEM! And not only that, but He would hear them, and deliver them once again.

We like to talk about the free gift of salvation. We really enjoy the idea of receiving unconditional love from the God of the universe. But there are conditions to finding Him. And until you find Him, you cannot know Him intimately. Before you string me up as a heretic, I believe (just as Paul said in Romans 10:9-10) that if you believe in Christ as Savior and "say it is so," then you shall be saved. But if you're believing Him to really be Lord, than isn't He worth searching for with all your heart and soul? And if you don't give it your all, aren't you proving that you don't really believe? In no way do I intend to discredit salvation by grace. The Bible is clear that we are not saved by our works. The grace of God is offered freely. All we must do is accept it. What I'm doing is defining exactly what it means to accept and how we are to do so.

First, "free grace" isn't free. Quite contrary, it cost Jesus everything to make a way for your salvation. He left His perfect home in glory and came to this depraved world as a newborn baby, which was greatly humiliating, I am sure. He went from the reigning Son of God who was instrumental in creating the universe to being unable to go the bathroom or feed Himself without help. And this was done willingly and not under compulsion or duress.

And He didn't just die on the cross. He was beaten into a bloody pulp, becoming in form something looking quite inhuman. He was again humiliated, spat upon, insulted, lied about, and when He was on the cross, His friends all abandoned Him. His own Father turned His back on Him and He died not only in a painful agony, but He died alone.

Second, accepting it isn't as easy as just saying, "Yeah, I accept that." Consider the idea of forgiveness on an earthly level. No doubt that you have wronged someone at some point. Maybe you've even admitted wrong-doing and apologized, asking that person to forgive you. How do they forgive you? Do they simply say, "Yeah, whatever, no big deal"? That's not forgiveness. If they forgive you, they let it go and they treat you as if it never happened. And if you accept that forgiveness, you don't owe them anything. Things done cannot be undone. Words said cannot be unsaid. You cannot make it right. But if they forgive you, you accept that and move one.

When Christ offers forgiveness, it is a complete and perfect forgiveness. We become justified, and the simplest definition for that is that we are viewed by God just as if we had never sinned. Our sin is gone. Forever. And if we live like our sin is still affecting us, we are not accepting that forgiveness. You cannot pay for your own sin. Jesus paid it all. To move past the past is to deny the power of His forgiveness. To live as if His sacrifice is not enough is the same thing as not accepting it.

Third, if God is our King, than we must live in His service. Anyone who pledges allegiance to their country but serves another is guilty of treason. The same is true with God, and even more so. Throughout Scripture, those who pledge themselves to Christ are referred to as "His bride," so to serve another isn't merely treason, but also adultery. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel was warned not to go "whoring" after other gods. If that doesn't paint the picture of adultery, I don't know what does.

Following Christ isn't a one-time event. It's a lifetime event. When we walk no longer after the flesh but after the Spirit, our walk has to be different. When we no longer live, but Christ lives within us, we cannot live the same life. And lastly, when we believe that Jesus is Lord, we have to serve Him. It is a natural response of Lordship. He's the boss and we are not, period.

Know that not all hope is lost. Maybe you've failed to treat Jesus with the respect He deserves. Maybe you're treating Him more like a last resort than an only hope. Maybe you think you are beyond saving. Quite the opposite is true. Just like Israel, if you will seek the Lord with all your heart and soul, YOU WILL FIND HIM! Now isn't the time to throw in the towel and get complacent. Rather, throw up the white flag. Surrender all to Him. Put Him in charge. Really in charge.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

First things first

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke." - (Isaiah 6:1-4 KJV)

Most of you are probably familiar with this passage of scripture. The above details the prophet Isaiah's vision of God in all His glory. Your pastor may have preached on this passage (or one similar to it) just recently. Or maybe he preached on Abraham being a "friend of God," or Moses seeing God walk past, or Elijah hearing God in the still, small voice. You may just as well have heard of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus following His baptism and God the Father speaking audibly from heaven His approval. Or maybe the mighty, rushing wind that filled the upper room, the tongues of fire that appeared on the heads of the disciples, and the mighty move of God that occurred in the pages following Acts 2.

It's good stuff, isn't it?

But I suggest that maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves. We want so badly to be exposed to the power and glory of God, but we forget about brokenness, humility, and repentance. Doubtless it is far less often you hear a sermon about Jeremiah, who wept over the sins of the people, or Nehemiah, who cried out to God in repentance for the sins of the people and of himself. Maybe you didn't read the rest of Isaiah 6, when the prophet who is exposed to the awesomeness of God cries out "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips, who dwells in the midst of a people with unclean lips!" or the stories of John the Baptist before He baptized Jesus. The John the Baptist who said things like "I must decrease and He must increase:" "I am not worthy to untie His sandals:" "Lord, I need to be baptized by you."

D.L. Moody said that God never sends any away empty except those who come already full of themselves. There is a lot of truth in this statement, but I want to bring it back around to what Jesus says about the matter. In John 3:5, Jesus says to Nicodemus: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The exact meaning of this verse has been debated for something like 2,000 years now, but given in context with verses 4 and 6, I really think that born of water must mean the physical birth which all humans have been a part of (some more recently than others).

Consider with me the physical properties of water and oil. I'm no chemist, so I'm going to keep it simple but giving you two facts about these two liquids:

1) They don't mix.
2) Oil floats on water.

I am going to stick with the idea that "born of water" is a physical birth, and that "born of Spirit" is quite clearly a spiritual birth (ie: being born again, getting saved, giving your life to Jesus, etc.). Throughout the Bible, the Holy Spirit is referred to as oil, and this is particular significant given where we are right now on this train of thought.

You, sir or madam, are a vessel, and I'm going to say that if you have breath, then you are a vessel full of life. In the natural sense, you are a vessel that is full of

water. But Jesus came to this earth not just to die for your sins, but so that you could have fellowship with God, and so the Spirit of God could dwell with man. But as long are you are full of water, it matters not how much you are surrounded by the oil of the Holy Spirit, because you have not made room for Him in your own life and in your own heart.

In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul said: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." In so many words, Paul is saying that he has taken part in a physical death so that Christ may live in and through him by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the water of his flesh had to poured out to make room for the oil of the Holy Spirit.

Twice, Paul also makes reference to "being poured out as a drink offering" (Phil. 2:17, 2 Tim. 4:6). While he was talking figuratively of his literal death, there is an allusion to him dying to himself, as well.

It's time to get real with God. Many of you might look at this reading and think that I must have it all together. Quite the contrary! I'm flesh and blood just like you. I struggle. I fall down. I mess up. But the thing is, I know that there is a God, and not just some mystical being out in the universe, but a living God who takes an active interest in my life and wants to fill me with His Spirit. And He wants to do the same for you. There is no special formula to following Christ. It comes down to falling in love with Him and putting His ways before your own. Sure, it sounds simple. It is. If we as mankind had something to offer to God, Jesus wouldn't have had to come and die on a cross. But we could offer nothing more than filth, so Jesus had to do all the work for us. All that's left for us is to accept it on simple faith.

If you find yourself in this position, hit me up. This isn't something that you just do on your own. Romans 10:9 says "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." You can't just believe it. You have to share it with others, and yeah, I'd be honored. It's too long a road to walk alone.

May God bless and keep each of you!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where is God?

To the faithful few who are my "band of brothers" at Men of Jesus, I apologize if this seems redundant. Rest assured that it is. To the rest of you (men, of course...), you ought to check out Men of Jesus. It's a great place for fellowship and studying the Bible. And women, well, keep reading my blog!

***

(To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.) In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion. (Psalm 76:1-2) (emphasis mine)

I don't believe in a random placing of names just to fill the gaps and make everything look good. These four places were named for a reason. One of my last thoughts on this (which I'll share first) is that four places were named. The number four is often used in Scripture as a shadow for all of creation. So we can say from this passage that God is God over all.

But why these four particular places? Why Judah, Israel, Salem, and Zion? Let me replace the place names with what the names actually mean and try and gain a deeper insight:

In PRAISED is God known: his name is great in GOD PREVAILS. In PEACE also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in PARCHED PLACE. (Psalm 76:1-2) (emphasis mine)

God is known in His praise. Not so much by study or discipline, but in praise. We must praise Him in His presence. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. God be praised! He will be in our midst and we can know Him.

His name is great when He prevails. And God is victorious always, so He is great always.

In peace is His tabernacle. It is worth noting that Moses and David both had a tabernacle, but God refused David to build a TEMPLE for Him because he was a king of war. It was David's son, Solomon, who built the temple in Jerusalem (or, Salem). The temple was built by a peaceful king in a peaceful time in the City of Peace. God doesn't make His home in strife.

But where does God make His dwelling place? In the parched place! While that might not sound very comforting, you have to know that God is with you when you walk, as David walked, through a dry and thirsty land (Psalm 63:1). When you walk through the wilderness as Moses and the Israelites walked, you may speak to the rock (symbolic of Christ) and water (often symbolic of the Holy Spirit) will come forth (Numbers 20:7-11).

As Paul said, the strength of Christ is made perfect in our weakness (1 Cor. 12:9). As long as you have your own water, you will not rely on the Living Water. We must walk through the parched place to find God. Pack extra water for the journey if you feel you must, but it will just take longer for you to run out. Until you can come to the end of yourself, you will never get past the beginning of God.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An icon with a soul

I know it's been a long time since my last post, and I REALLY know that this one is not going to be what my "faithful readers" have come to expect. But it is my heart, and I'm not sure what else to do with it.

This evening, as I was surfing the web and skimming some random news articles, I saw one featuring (yet again) Kim Kardashian. This particular article included a piece of an interview where the 31 year old celebrity shared that, after her recent marriage debacle, she fears she may never have kids. My heart was caught in my chest as I read that she at one point thought she'd have six kids, then scaled her number back to four, and now fears that it may never happen for her.

And as most news sites go, this one included a place where users were free to post comments about the article. No doubt this is a place to share one's opinion, but if you've ever seen one, it's more of an exercise in seeing exactly where the bottom of depravity is located (last I checked, they're still digging). Most of the comments claimed that for such a self-centered nitwit to reproduce would be shameful, even an atrocity, and that the world is better off for people like this not to procreate. This made me ache all the more.

It seems that people have forgotten that celebrities are actually people, too. Underneath all the makeup, all the glam, and all the show, there are real people, human beings with beating hearts, who have hopes and dreams, desires and disappointments, just like the rest of us.

I saw something this evening. It wasn't much, but it was there. Kim's celebrity armor cracked just enough to allow a glimmer of humanity come through. It was refreshing, but sad all the same. I'd be lying if there wasn't a part of me that wants to give her a hug and let her cry it out, just like I would do for my own sister.

Worse even than being faced with the idea that she may never be a mother, Kim is one day going to be faced with her own mortality. Like the rest of us, one day, she will die, and no amount of money can save her soul. Just like me, Kim needs Jesus. He's the only one that can meet the need of her heart that she thinks can be filled with motherhood, and He's her only hope on the day of judgment. Name dropping will get you nowhere when you stand before the throne of God unless the name is the name above all other names. Nothing will pay your debts except the shed blood of Christ.

I have my doubts that Ms. Kardashian will be gracing my blog anytime soon, but the offer that Jesus would extend to here is extended to you, as well.