Why I Believe: Psalms 16

Psalms 16 

Scripture is an amazing teacher.  We know that Hebrews 4:12 calls scripture “alive and active,” but how do you really experience it?  If you have not read Psalm 16 yet, do so now.  Which part stuck out to you?  In my reading, I was first drawn to my previous highlights and notes.  They remind me of my past experiences and have become a permanent marker of where God has led me.  But today, I don’t dwell there.  There is new work to do because God has highlighted a new part of this Psalm for me.

What is it?  I am amazed at how the Psalmist, David,  puts God first, surrendering everything to Him.  Consider that David is in trouble.  Verse 1 states it clearly.  He is looking for refuge.  As we read on, we get the picture that David finds it, despite his circumstances.

First, he finds it in God himself.  He understands and clearly acknowledges the good things in his life.  He also recognizes that all of the good things are given by God.

Second, David finds refuge in God’s people.  I can only imagine the details, but we all know how God’s people care for each other.  Love has no bounds amongst His followers.  While all of that is good, it is not what God highlighted for me today.

The words that struck me between the eyes are found in verse 6.  It says, “the lines have fallen in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  As I read it, I was thinking about David’s circumstances.  Remember, he was seeking refuge.   I would not call that “pleasant places.”  In fact, I can think of all kinds of things to call it, but “pleasant” is not one of them.

This is where God does his good work in me.  Today, he put my life in contrast to the life of a faithful man.  He’s used it to help me redefine pleasant places.  It’s not about luxury, safety, and opportunity.  Not for a second.  It’s about God’s provision, everywhere, all the time.

When I finally stop to look around, I see God’s provision in my life everywhere.  No, that does not mean everything is going the way that I want it to, or that I have everything I think I need.  It does mean that God has provided me with an amazing family and amazing people to journey this earth with.  As I dwell on this, I am filled with gratitude and contentment, followed closely by peace and joy.  Surely these are the pleasant places David found.  Like him, I too have “a beautiful inheritance.”

Why do I believe?  Because he faithfully guides, corrects, and loves me into becoming who he created me to be.

Why I Believe: Lynden McGriff

Psalms 9:1-2;13-14

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

Why I believe? This is such a profound question that it cannot be nearly summed up in one passage. For me, my belief can be seen through the eyes of a gardener. In the eyes of a gardener you have the preparation with the seed, the plant, the fruit, and the pruning.

Matthew 13:3-9

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”

I want to start out with the seed. In the parable about the seed, Christ talks about several different grounds and soils, which the seed has been sowed. I’ve been able to see that the seed that is been planted or sowed is the seed of the Holy Spirit. But I also recognize that in me I have all of the soils that Christ has spoken. In each different part of my journey the soil has changed.

There are different times in my life that I’ve had good soil there are different times in my life I had rocky soil and there’s different times in my life that I have had thorns as well. But it is when the seed finds the optimal soil and right time to produce a plant. This has happened several times in my life where of the seed has found some good soil, but it also has landed on some of the troubled soil as well.

So what I believe is that the seed that is the Holy Spirit never changes in us, but as we allow the Spirit to move in us the soil with change.

As in gardening you have to continuously and constantly check the pH of the soil because the soil that may not be optimal for this year’s crop. The soil needs to be adjusted for the next crop. So what I believe is God is utilizing his Spirit to work in me constantly to cultivate me constantly to change me into the person who he wants me to be and to give him the glory and show his presence in my life to be a reflection of his life.

An example that can illustrate this seed growing when it’s optimal was revealed to me from a visit that I had with a friend last week. Last week, a dear friend of mine showed me one of his pets. He showed me a tadpole that he had rescued from a small little pond. So as we were conversing he informed me that this tadpole was two years old. This knowledge baffled me because in my limited perception as being a scientist, I thought that tadpoles only lasted for a small amount of time. But I understood that tadpoles will only change will transform into a frog when the conditions are right. This tadpole is two years old. This tadpole is approximately 4 to 5 inches long. This was a complete intriguing for me. For my 39 years, I had some new information that I’ve had assume were true.

With this new knowledge I have an enlightened view of absolutes. The seed, as with the tadpole, will find the right time to prepare, mature, and produce a plant at the correct time in which it is ready. The seed of the Holy Spirit will activate and produce when it Optimal. This can be two months, five years, 10 years, or 70 years. No matter how long the seed is there God will allow the seed to mature and transform and metamorphosis into the new creation in which He has ready for us.

This is what I believe that God is in the changing and growing of each individual at the each individual’s time no matter what time do restraints or limits we placed on Him. Be blessed.

Lynden McGriff

Why I Believe: BJ Armstrong

Dwight D. Eisenhower says “plans are useless.”  I agree with him.  Do you need any more proof than 2020?  I made great plans.  You probably did too.  Nothing, absolutely nothing went the way that I planned.

So, what did I do at the end of the year?  I made great plans for 2021.  Same as you.  There is a second part of Eisenhower’s famous quote.  He continues by saying, “planning is everything.”  Guess what?  A thousand things will go wrong again this year.  How do I know?  Its been happening since the beginning of time.

Take a read through Psalms 4.  What do you hear?  I hear a man crying out to God because his life is not going according to plan (v1,2).  I hear a man searching his heart for righteousness (v3).  I hear a man placing his hope in God’s wisdom (v4).  I hear a man grateful in his current circumstances (v5).  He knows God is in control.  Only in Him, does he find joy and peace (v8).

Why do I believe?  I believe for the same reason David did.  In this crazy world, there is only one constant and only one surety.  Peace and joy are not found in planning for abundant harvests of grain and new wine (v7).  They are found only when our confidence and our faith is placed in the Lord.

After Christmas

After Christmas

December 25 has come and gone. Many individuals look forward to Christmas day. Many individuals look forward to the Advent season. What happens after the 25th? Many times in our society we are anticipating the arrival of something. Many times in our society we look forward to the day. What happens after the day has come and we are left with the aftermath.

The holidays bring many different types of emotions and expectations for all individuals. For some individuals the holiday brings back memories of happiness and joy and peace in the giving of gifts. For others the holidays bring sadness, loss, and grief from the past. What we have to remember is that the holidays begin with Christ coming. The Christmas child brought peace and joy and hope. The entrance of Christ into the world brought with it Hope and the Holy Spirit.

In today’s society we have access to the Holy Spirit but there are other variables and factions that try to change the meaning and the hope of the Holy Spirit and of the Christmas celebration. We have to look forward into and acknowledge that with Christ came into the world And brought peace. This peace disrupted the chaos that had been upon the earth for millennium. That chaos still is here today and will not allow us to fully enjoy the Christmas spirit.

This chaos can be seen in every family: no matter creed, race, religion, or socioeconomics. But we have to understand and acknowledge that chaos and acknowledge Christ conquering that chaos. A couple examples I remember, as a child meeting with everybody in the family at our assigned place of celebration and having a great time. But in the mist of the celebration there was always some type of chaos that would come up. Be it a disagreement from 5 to 10 years ago. Be it a life decision or choice that somebody has made and others are not in agreement. But the chaos always tried to disrupt the joy that the spirit brought.

This year chaos tried to take away the joy of Christ in our life. On Christmas day we had a small incident that change the outcome of our Christmas dinner. But we have been blessed to be able to listen to Christ and the Spirit of God to see how his provisions will not be changed by a circumstance. We were able to enjoy each other that day and that evening. The circumstance allowed us to reflect on God’s love and protection for us.

This brings us to do three points of the after Christmas:

1.) Christmas is not the end of the celebration but the beginning of the celebration. This time of year is not the time to stop the joy and giving, but is the beginning of refreshment to continue through the next year. We need a refreshment of joy and happiness and peace and that should not stop at 25th of December but continue on into perpetuation throughout the year.

2.) God is in control. We think that we are in control of the gift giving and the things that go on preparing for Christmas.

But we have to remember that God is always in control. No matter what we have been given or what has been taken, God is in control. The Spirit of God will always be the final word in the Christmas story. No matter what chaos that we are going through, no matter what feelings of despair that we are going through. God is in control. We have to remember that He has already conquered all of our fears in all of our tribulations.

3.) No matter what the situation, God will be able to use it for His purpose. For example, if your car has died on Christmas Eve and you were concerned and worried about transportation, this is an opportunity for God to bring you a new car without a car note. If you had the despair of losing your house, this is a chance for God to show that He will provide for you in the mist of all of the turmoil. If you have lost a love one, this is the time of the season to show their love and the love of God has given us to others. Each situation that God has seen us through is an opportunity for God‘s love to show in the most amazing ways. These are hard times and can be detrimental. But if we allow God to show us how he works he will give us peace.

May the Spirit of God be with you in the continuation of this season of renewing enjoy and hope. May the Spirit of God open your heart and your spirit to the possibilities of wonder.

Lynden McGriff

Consideration and Worry

Matthew 1:18-25

I wonder about this man, Joseph.  He was kind and honest.  Matthew 1:19 calls him “just.”  These character traits are apparent when Mary, his fiancé, becomes pregnant.  You know the story.  Joseph was not the father.  Wanting to do the right thing, he settled on divorcing her quietly.  Many of us may have stopped right there, but not Joseph.

Verse 20 gives us additional insight into Joseph’s life.  It reads simply, “as he considered these things.”  I can only assume he was considering Mary.  I would do the same.  Thankfully, Joseph didn’t “consider” the same way we often do.

When we “consider,” we worry.  I’m sure Joseph did too.  He probably woke up at 2 am in a cold sweat worried about what to do. “Mary is lying,” he must have thought.  He knew his rights.  Leaving her was a reasonable thing to do.  It was expected.  But, he loved her.  With all of his heart.

At some point, Joseph’s worry moved to God.   Maybe, he fell to his knees sobbing, or maybe he quietly carried the conversation in his heart for days.  Whatever his method, he fell on the truth of the prophet  Isaiah who said “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). For Joseph, God was the only stable thing left in his life.

As Joseph submitted to God, his broken heart was healed and his mind was transformed.  God revealed a new vision for his life.  It would not be, as he expected.  Instead, God announced a bigger plan for him and Mary.  It would be the beginning of a new world order.

Behold, the virgin shall conevieve and bear a son and they shall call his name “Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23)

Immanuel, “God with us.”  It hinged on the faith of one simple man, Joseph, and his willingness to hear God’s bigger plan.  This is worth our “consideration” too.

 

 

Silence is Golden

Silence is golden. This is a staple that became popular in the late 80s to early 90s in many movie theaters. It was a statement to respect others so that everybody could enjoy the movie.

As we are continuing to prepare for Christmas, one of my favorite hymns is silent night. It is important to understand the importance of silence and that’s what we have in today’s reading.

At the beginning of Luke, the story starts with  the birth of John the Baptist. In these first verses we are introduced to Elizabeth, which is Mary‘s cousin and Zachariah. It sets up the lineage and the background of John the Baptist and Christ. It tells us that Zachariah is a priest that is in one of the highest orders during this time. This priesthood is a priesthood that originates when David builds the Temple, the order of Abijah.  Next Elizabeth is shown to have a direct descendent from Aaron and Moses. These two connections are very important to show that the priesthood that was established by ancient times from both Moses and from king David continues through with John the Baptist and Christ.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were both advanced in  age.  Some text and references state that Zachariah and Elizabeth were in their 50s.  While others show that by the time that John was born they were in the 80s and 90s . This also shows  their wisdom and earthly experience.

The next item is Zachariah has been randomly chosen during his time at the Temple.  This is  the only time in his life that he has been granted to enter the Holy of Holies and is doing this time that the angel Gabriel speaks to Zachariah. So this setup is showing us that with advanced age, wisdom, family lineage, being in the right time in the right place things lined up and we should plan accordingly and act in a certain way.

While Zachariah is performing his priestly duties, the angel Gabriel presents himself and Zachariah stands in awe as he has been given a message from God.  Instead of accepting it or reveling in the acknowledgment of it, Zachariah questions God‘s revelation for
him. Number one:  In the presence of God we need to be silent when he speaks to us. So from this visit Zachariah has been given a great gift, but how many times in our life have we been granted a special gift or special items or a blessing and we question it?

Not accepting God’s blessing in the manner in which it was exhibited, it was presented that Zachariah was given a consequence.  Zachariah is made to be silent for 9 plus months to up to a year.  We know that after his visit he goes home and Elizabeth conceived and has a child. We do not know exactly how long between him leaving the temple and her conceiving so nine months probably a year. During this time he cannot speak to anybody. He cannot communicate. So he has this knowledge and he cannot convey it to anybody. He has been given the opportunity to reflect and pray and meditate to God daily about the new joy that is coming into the world. Number two: sometimes the silence is not a punishment but a time for reflection and preparation.

As we have journeyed through these last several days of Advent we are preparing our minds and bodies for Christmas and the Christ-child. In the same way the anticipation of the early church and the Jewish people were expecting a change. During this time there was so much chaos and hurt strive that the world was so noisy. The Spirit of God was not awakened for everyone to experience and the Spirit did not dwell in us. This was a time of a lot of noise, a lot of chaos, and a lot of disorder. But when Christ came, that moment when Christ was born created a new silence for the world. This silence was one that had not been seen or experienced since the creation of the world. That’s why we can sit in reference to the song silence night. It is to this story of Zachariah and Elizabeth that we are able to grasp the meaning of silence in a better way. We are able to adventure and take some time and silence and prepare.

May the continuation of this Advent, allow you to have some silence for yourself. May this silence be a time that God can connect to you. May the silence bring you closer to your loved ones and acknowledge how much they mean to you. May you be blessed.

Lynden McGriff 

The Messenger

Malachai 3:1-6

I think often about who God created us to be.  I picture perfection.  Surrounded by God’s love, living in perfect peace and harmony.  There is no suffering, no hunger, no thirst.  Sounds a bit like heaven, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, we’ve screwed it up.  While we can all point back to the Garden of Eden for evidence, we are all cheaters.  We are the adulterers of God’s love. I’ve known this since I was young.

As a child, I remember reading the book of Revelation with terror.  I was certain that I would be among the people that were caught up in the blood bath of God’s wrath and vengeance.  I could almost feel my teeth being gnashed.  Dealing with the fear of God’s retribution was impossible.  He is, after-all, sovereign, supreme, and the ruler of all things.  Even as a child, I was keenly aware of my inability to behave appropriately.  I could never measure up.

“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachai 3:1).

I knew of Jesus when I was young.  I knew that he came to save me from my sins.  In fact, I was baptized so “poof,” I am saved, right?  I did what every kid did.  I invited Jesus into me to hear so that I could be free from God’s wrath.  I did not want to go to Hell.  If I am honest, that did nothing to remove the guilt and shame I felt for things I had done.  In my heart of hearts, I knew I would do them again.  I knew what I deserved.

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. (Malachai 3:2).

Looking back on 45+ years of living with Jesus, I see where he has changed me.  Sometimes it’s taken the pain of fire and occasionally it’s been a gentle scrub, just like Malachai describes.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years” (Malachi 3:3-4).

I am not yet finished.  At 50 years old, I am not yet who I was created to be.  So, I commit again to sit with the refiner, allowing him to purify me, slowly by slowly, as he did the Sons of Levi.  Today, I have a better understanding that my efforts will never be enough to satisfy the perfection of God.  Thankfully, One stands in my place.  Perfecting my offering.  I am able, at once, to sit in perfect love and peace.  It is the cleansing blood of Jesus that makes it so.

Who Do You Blame?

John 19

What has been your reaction to 2020?  Resentment?  Rage?    Do you want revenge?  Those feelings are the result of the anger and chaos that lives inside of us.  When we harbor them, we become something that we don’t want to be.  Victims.  It often sounds like blame.  If you are like me, you’ve blamed problems on the virus, the lock-down, the governor, even the president.  It’s crazy!  We can’t wait until 2021, right?

Do we really know what we are asking for?  Consider this.  What if Jesus made our choices?  Instead of instructing Pilate “you would have no authority over me at all unless it was given to you from above,” he relented to emotion, cowering from the suffering that lay ahead of him?  What if, instead of saying “forgive them, father,” Jesus took our approach and condemned them all to hell?  Honestly?  I don’t even want to imagine it.  In fact, its easier to believe it’s not possible.

Sometimes, I try to justify Jesus’ choices.  “He had it easier,” I think.  I mean, he’s God.  He’s a deity.  Of course, he will make the right choices.  But no. the Truth is, he was human, just like you and me.  He was confronted with temptation and the allures of life.  He could have chosen the easier path devoid of pain and suffering.  Just like me.  But, he didn’t.  How did he prevail?

There is one simple truth about Jesus.  He wasn’t conflicted.  When his plans were disrupted, he doesn’t try to regain control.  He didn’t have to, because he never lost it.  For him, it’s simply a matter of understanding that the way to achieve the goal has changed.  And he will stop at nothing to accomplish it.  Even death on a cross.

Dear God, help us see where our faith is misplaced.  I know that you are moving, right now, amidst the chaos and crisis that are ruling our lives.  Show us where.  Also, give us courage.  Courage to come into your presence and take it out into the world so that everyone can see who you are.

Living Water

John 7

What is the picture you are painting for tomorrow, or next year?  If you are like me, that picture is far more uncertain today, than it ever has been.  The world has changed so much.  For example, I have no idea how COVID will shape the coming months, although I have some suspicions.  It affects every aspect of our lives.  Think of all the good things we are missing out on!  Things like Church, athletics, weddings, and even funerals.  It’s not just COVID, there is also a new government coming in January.  With it, comes a whole new set of worries.  What about taxes and healthcare?  Will Biden really stack the Supreme Court?  What will happen with abortion and college tuition and how in the world will we pay for a $3 Trillion-dollar stimulus plan?  How will we survive?

As I stir up those feelings inside of me, I can feel the torture on my heart.  I’ve done it before.  Sometimes I find myself dwelling there.  Maybe you have too.  The question is, how do we stop it?  What would it look like to be on the other side?  To live in a world of hope, abundance, and joy, no matter the circumstance?  There is only one way, according to Jesus’ words in John 7:37.  First, he says, you must thirst.

The analogy of being thirsty is a good one because there are many things that might quench our thirst, but only one thing really satisfies it.  In his book “Streams of Living Water,” Richard Foster talks about eating an apple in the desert.  Sure, the apple would be a delight if you had nothing to drink.  I would eat it gladly and heartily savoring all of the precious juices I possibly could.  Sure, I would want water, but the apple will do.  If tomorrow there are still apples nearby, I will continue eating the apple.  Even, instead of looking for water.  Apples would not and will never be, however, be anything close to drinking a glass of water.  Only water will fully satisfy.

Second, our thirst must be augmented by belief.  Not just any belief, however.  Jesus asserts in verse 38 that satisfaction comes only from believing in him.  That’s right, there is nothing else we pursue that can satisfy us like Jesus Christ.  He is the water.  In fact, Jesus fills us so perfectly that out of us will flow His living water.  What does that mean?  It means that COVID and elections have absolutely no bearing on my life.  They cannot change my trajectory and will not alter my course.  They are irrelevant because my life, my energy, my entire being is wrapped around Him.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. Psalms 1:3 (ESV)

How To Lose An Election

According to the American political system, the way to victory is through hate.  Twist the words, tell parts of the truth, blame others, and hurl insults.  Someone must think that it is working because it keeps happening, the same way, day after day, and election upon election.  It makes me wonder, could someone use love to win?

The tone would be different.  The campaign trail would be filled with talk of hope and encouragement.  People would leave feeling good, ready to engage in their lives, and share with others.  The crowds would grow larger and larger to listen to this unique message.  Their listening would lead to renewal and transformation.  These people would change the world.

But, not everyone wants to change.  Some like their lives the way they are.  Their lives are built on the system where money, status, and power matter.  They will do anything to protect their way of life.  Anything.

You already know the story. 2,000 years ago, there was a man that built his reputation on love alone.  He didn’t get wealthy.  Instead, he was robbed of everything, beaten, and spit upon.  He didn’t gain status either.  I’m beginning to see why nobody since has run on love.  Why did he do it?

Jesus did it because love is his nature, there was no other way.  He gave it all for you and me so that we can be here, today, living with hope, peace, and love.  When we embrace his renewal and transformation, we become the people that can change the world.