Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Reality Of The Invisible

Just because something is invisible doesn't mean it's not real.  Take your cell phone for example. You can make calls, get on line, and send text messages, yet you cannot see what makes it work - the invisible signals that are all around you. Obviously, these signals are real yet invisible.

Likewise, we cannot see air, therefore, we cannot actually see wind. Yet we see the evidence of the wind - the clouds drifting, the trees moving, and the flags waving. Wind itself, moving air, is invisible, but wind is sure scientifically real.

Not only is there an invisible scientific reality, but there is an invisible spiritual reality as well. And perhaps the invisible spiritual reality is actually the 'real' reality, the permanent reality. Jesus teaches that the physical is only temporary. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Luke 21:33)

The invisible existed before the visible! "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void." (Genesis 1:1-2a NKJV) This verse tells us that God existed before He created the earth - that the spiritual realm existed before the physical realm - and that before He created the earth, it was "void". Void means blank - nothingness - empty space. In other words, God created the earth, as well as all physical matter, out of nothing!  Now that is really incredible.......He didn't create anything physical out of pre-existing matter! He had to first create matter itself - out of nothing! Wow! 

"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." (Hebrews 11:3)  Did you catch that amazing statement? "What is seen was not made out of what was visible."

I'm always amused on how scientists try to explain how matter was created to begin with. Regardless of their theories and assumptions, it's still impossible how something could come into existence from absolutely nothing. It's even more mind-boggling to think how there could even be such a thing as 'absolutely nothing'. But that's where God comes in. He's the one who can do the impossible.

It's only through the eternal, spiritual God that the physical realm came into being - only through His design and command. He existed before the physical realm. But don't think about it too deeply because you will not be able to totally grasp it. Our brains are not capable and you may go into tilt mode! It's heavy duty stuff and too hard for humans to completely comprehend. 

Sometimes man thinks he is so smart that he can explain all this, but as God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone?" (Job 38:4-6)  Haha - I love it when God is sarcastic. 

I really think that there are some things we will never be able to understand and figure out. Some things are just meant to remain mysterious. That's where belief and faith come in. This is especially true when it comes to the invisible spiritual realm. That's because faith is precisely that....believing in something invisible. 

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

God is looking for those with such faith - those who believe without physically seeing. Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

What's nice is that although we may not physically see the spiritual realm, we certainly can see the evidence that it exists and that God exists. Such evidence is found in things like answered prayer, or seeing God's providence at work in your life, or simply being in awe of the creation that is all around us.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the physical that we forget about the spiritual. But remember, we are created by God as eternal spiritual beings, and that means we are eternal spiritual beings right now! It's just that we, as spiritual beings, have a temporary physical body. When we die, our spirit-being continues to live. The Apostle Peter, nearing the end of his life, knew that to be true. He referred to his physical body as a temporary 'tent' or covering. 

"I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me." (2 Peter 1:13-14)

Peter knew very well what Jesus taught...the promise of eternal life - life after death - resurrection from the dead through Christ and the hope of heaven in the presence of God along with all those who are in Christ. 

It makes you think - if there is a spiritual reality that exists beyond this physical reality, and if we are eternal spiritual beings temporarily existing in physical bodies, then we better look beyond our physical realm and look at things from a spiritual viewpoint. And we should ask ourselves, who is God? What is His plan? What are His promises? And what are His expectations of us?

The New Testament reveals it all. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Life Is Better When You're Not In A Hurry

It's easy to get caught up in this fast paced society we live in. After all, everything is geared for speed. Our cars are fast, our food is fast, our internet is fast (or sometimes fast).

However, I recently was reminded that life is better when you're not in a hurry. It occurred to me when I was driving down route 24 one morning on my way to the beach, in the off season. I'm fortunate to live near the beach, and I try to get there as often as I can, even if it's to get a glimpse of the ocean, just to see what's going on.

So I was driving along, not in any real hurry because it was my day off. And as an experiment, I decided to drive the speed limit, 50mph. Then I began to realize something. It was kind of nice! I was starting to enjoy just cruising along at an easy pace, with no appointment to rush to, and no particular place to go except the beach. It was then that I realized that life is so much better when you're not in a hurry all the time.

I felt like I had time to just look at the scenery, the sky, and trees and the various colors around me as I slowly sailed down the highway. That is, until I was broken out of my trance by a glance in the rear view mirror. There was a line of about 10 cars behind me! So much for driving in a daze. I had to get going, so I wound her up to 59mph.

No more relaxing now. I had to get those guys off my bumper. I slowly pulled away, only to find that after about 2 or 3 miles I came upon a car going really slow. He was going 35 in a 50! I couldn't believe it. Pokey!!! (A pokey is defined as someone who is driving UNDER the speed limit). You need to realize that I was on a single lane road with double lines the whole way - no passing for miles.

Finally, I was able to get around the slow poke when the 2 lane road eventually went into 4 lanes. For a long while I was pulling away, when I noticed an upcoming traffic light turning red. And as usual, I was the first one at the light. (This happens all the time to me because I have this "first one at the red light" curse. It's hereditary.)

Guess who pulled up right behind me. The pokey!! Then I realized I was the hare, and he was the tortoise. Did you ever notice that when you pass someone and get a real good jump on them, that before long, a couple of traffic lights or stop signs later will nullify your lead and you will find them right behind you anyway? It's like the tortoise and the hare story. So maybe the tortoise has the right idea.

So why are we always too busy? Always in a hurry? Always stressed? Welcome to the United States of America! That's who we are. I wonder if we are the only country in the world so hyper. When I visited Africa a couple of years ago, the pace is totally different - slower. It was kind of nice! What everyone seems to lack here in the US is slow-down time - solitude time - quiet time.

I need to remind myself to slow down. That's why I have what's sort of my motto on the back window of my truck. Right behind the driver's seat, I have some vinyl lettering that says, "Matthew 13:1 NKJV". What that passage says is this........"On the same day, Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea."

If Jesus took time to get away and sit by the sea side, it's good enough for me. I love this passage so much that it's now sort of become my motto - my inspirational verse.  Time on the beach is my perfect solitude time. I have a four wheel drive truck with a surf fishing permit that allows me to drive on the beach in certain access areas 24/7, year round. I love the beach. There's just something special about the sight of the vast sea, the rhythm of the waves, and the smell of the sea air.

I've often wondered....what motivated Jesus to leave the house and sit by the sea side? But if you look at the events that lead up to it, in Matthew chapter 12, you can see why. Things were intense. He was being challenged by the Pharisees, was teaching, was performing miracles, and even had his mother and brothers waiting to confront Him. After all that, I'm sure He wanted time to get away, time to think, time to pray, and have some solitude time.

The moral of the your busy day-to-day life, take time to take a breather, even if for just a moment. Try to find a little solitude. Remind yourself about the image of Jesus sitting by the sea. Place yourself there, and inhale a deep breath of the fresh sea air through your schnozzola (that means your nose).

And work on some things that help you not be in a hurry - like getting  up a little earlier, like leaving you home a little early, like scheduling in some quiet time. Even try to drive the speed limit once in a while. Just don't be a pokey.

And remember, life is better when you're not in a hurry.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To Those Who Need Encouragement

Need a little encouragement for the new year? Don't feel alone. That's because every single person in the world, whoever was, whoever is, and whoever will be, needs encouragement. There's something about our human nature that requires it, that longs for it, that fuels us, that motivates us. For many, maybe even for you, the past year was not so good, and you are looking for a better year to come. 

What is encouragement anyway? The dictionary definition would be to give support, confidence, or hope to someone - words that uplift, inspire, and motivate. Don't think you're beyond needing encouragement - that you are fine without it. Even Jesus needed to hear encouragement. Otherwise the Heavenly Father would not have spoken to him out loud 3 times in the New Testament.  (1) At His baptism. (2) At the Transfiguration. (3) In the final days before His crucifixion. 

(1) As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

(2) While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

(3) “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. (John 12:27-29)

The Bible gives us wonderful truths to confidently place our faith in. There are many of them. You may have your own list, however, I decided to share my personal top 5.

(1) Joshua 1:9   "........Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

(2) Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

(3) Romans 8:28  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

(4) Romans 8:38  "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."

5) Matthew 28:20b  "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

May these verses be a blessing to you, and may you continually see God's hand at work in your life this coming new year. And remember to be an encourager yourself. Everyone around you needs it.