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Where There Is No Vision

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29: 18)

The New King James translates it, “Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint…” Meaning, if people don’t know what to do, they don’t do anything or they do their own thing. Cause and consequence are explained in this text.

The word translated “vision” is CHAZON. It is not a reference to the ability to see the future. It refers to the will and purpose of God being made known.

God has not left us without inspired guidance. He has given us His divinely inspired word, the Bible. Where it is not known and/or applied, it has a natural consequence. It is summed up in the word “perish.” The meaning of the Hebrew word for “perish” means “let loose, run wild.” That is, resenting and resisting authority. When restraints are cast off there is chaos in the life of individuals and anarchy in society. Thus, in keeping with the word meaning, they “perish.”

You may ignore the instructions in a cookbook recipe and find the result not as tasty as it would have been if you had followed it to the letter of the law. 

The last portion of the text raises questions. First “…but happy is he who keeps the law.” (Vs, 18b) The expression “keeps the law” is a reference to doing God’s will.  It means obedience. What is your answer?

One definition of sin is “missing the mark.” That is, not being on target with God’s will for you. Aristotle said, “We stand a better chance of hitting the target if we can see it.” Knowing God’s word enables you to be on target.

One reason so many Christians are missing the mark of God’s will is that they haven’t studied the Word to understand His will on various issues.

One of Eugene O’Neill’s characters is made to say: “You can’t build a marble temple out of mud and manure.” That is so obviously true that it seems strange that we still try. The word of God is the substance for building. Second question, is the Lord well-pleased with your work? Does He find great delight in your diligence in study of His word? Is He pleased with your attitude over the vision of the church to reach, teach, win, and develop people? Is your spirit of cooperation pleasing to Him? Is He pleased with your dedication? The cost that counts is the service that costs. Are you willing to pay the cost of service?

“Happy is he who keeps the law.” A literal translation would be: “He who obeys the will of God finds true self-fulfillment.” Self-fulfillment? Yes!

Do you have it? Do you want it?  You can have it.

“… happy is he who keeps the law.” (Vs, 18b)

Service, the Natural Result of Holiness

Isaiah 6:1-8

The ancient prophet Isaiah had an encounter with the Lord. It is presumed he was engaged in worship at the time. As a result he said, “I saw the Lord…” His attention was undivided. This is essential in order to enjoy a meaningful experience with the Lord. It begins with contemplating His glory.

He heard an unearthly antiphonal choir composed of seraphim sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord…” It is repeated three times, indicating the Trinity. Though we should not expect an exact physical experience as he, we should realize a sense of God’s holiness.

I Thess. 4:3 records, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” The Greek word for “sanctification” is hagios. It is the same root word from which comes the word holiness. 

Actually, holiness and sanctification mean set aside for the Lord’s use. That is what we are set aside for. You only fulfill your function when serving the Lord, that’s why you were set aside.

He exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am undone…” (Vs. 5)  Ego vanished. A sense of God’s unlimited and undiminished holiness made the prophet aware of his own sinfulness. It does the same for us.

He experienced an awareness of his society, “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” (Vs. 5b)  He became aware of the sinfulness of sin. When we become aware of the holiness of God, we become sensitive to the sinfulness of sin. We realize we are a people of unclean lips.

The angel removed a coal from the altar, the place of worship. Touching the lips of Isaiah he said, “Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged.”

Only when our lips are clean are our ears open. Only when there is assurance of forgiveness is there a willingness to serve.

The Lord now, as then, was looking for someone to serve Him. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Note the US, a reference to the Trinity. Isaiah’s response is that of one who has had a true encounter with Christ. The person who has been cleansed is one who serves freely and gladly.

Consistency counts for more than capacity. A secular minded Fredrick Nietzche realizing this wrote, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is… that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

For too long the mandate of many has been to come out of the world into the church and be set aside. Good advice, but set aside for what? Too long it has stopped there. A new mandate needs to be heard. Come out of the church, after being equipped, and into the word to serve the Lord with gladness. Get out where your salt can be felt and your light seen.

Thank God For Stress – Part Two

Jesus said don’t “have an anxious mind.” Take these steps to renewal. First, some physical ones and then some spiritual ones.

Sometimes a chemical imbalance exists, causing a person great stress and anxiety. Often this requires good medical attention and proper counsel. A person with extreme stress and anxiety should start at this point. This field is a marvelous modern arena of healing and renewal. Then – – –

* Aerobic exercise is expedient. Some seem to think it is the panacea. However, exercising the major muscle groups reduces the stress level and helps clear the mind. Get your heart rate up to a level suitable for your age group and physical condition. Twenty minutes a day three times a week will not build physical stamina, but it will help maintain your level of physical fitness and relieve stress.

When you exercise vigorously your body produces and releases a group of hormones known as endorphins. These are natural pain-killers and mood-elevating chemicals that are associated with feelings of happiness. Put your endorphins to work for you. 

* Calm yourself by eating foods high in complex carbohydrates found in grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. They have a calming effect because they increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain, which helps you feel more relaxed.

* Establish a quiet time during the day. A minute vacation can help clear the mind and relax the body. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, relax your shoulders. Deep breathing increases oxygen in your brain and body, helping to relax muscles and calm you. Flood your mind with Scripture promises. Simply thinking about your work won’t help.

Now some spiritual solutions.

*  Confess all the sin in your life. Make sure nothing stands in the way of a close personal relationship between you and the Lord.  Throw overboard what doesn’t belong on board.

*  Explain your stress to God in detail, just like He doesn’t know about it.  Believe me, He does.

*  Believe that He is right now working out the answer. Don’t simply believe He is going to. Accept the fact that He is already at work on the project and the project is you.

*  Search the Scripture. Make it a point not only to study the Scripture daily, but add this additional discipline. Memorize a new verse every day and go back and review all previously memorized. Then you can truly say, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart.”

In considering your stresses, all of them, consider the application of these steps.

Perhaps you have lost some of your life’s joy, have become more edgy, dissatisfied, and critical without realizing the reason to be you have gotten away from the Word. Return to reading it daily. Remember: “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  (Isaiah 26:3) Now comes the hard step. Apply these concepts.

Thank God For Stress – Part One

Jesus said don’t “have an anxious mind.” (Luke 12: 29)

Is that your personal profile?  Does the concept of an anxious mind describe you?  Are you stressed out?

If so, welcome to the human race, where everyone seems to lose. Speaking here in America, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health of England said, “The whole Western world is under stress. It is one of the fastest growing diseases in the world.”

In studies made by the American Academy of Family Practitioners done over the last ten years, they concluded that two-thirds of all patients seen by general practitioners have problems that are stress-related.

Stress is a good God-given ability. Normal stress is motivating. It is a stimulus. If it were not for stress your heart wouldn’t keep beating overnight. You wouldn’t even wake up in the morning. Stress does that.

Dr. Hans Selye, director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal and the father of some of the most extensive research on stress said: “Stress is the spice of life.”  Stress is what keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your stomach digesting while you sleep. He adds, “Complete freedom from stress is death.”

Stress is good. It becomes bad when it develops into distress. The load in life is good. It is the overload that is bad. The overload can cause anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, peptic ulcers, strokes, and heart attacks.

Rudyard Kipling wrote about the ship “Dimbula.” Kipling wrote as though the ship were alive and had a personality. After 16 days of a stormy voyage this statement was made by Dimbula, “Now we have a great ship.”

“My master has taken me through the rough spots in which everything seemed to be coming apart, and I have become what I have been made to be.” This conclusion follows.

“Because I have a master, I am a ship.”

When you have Jesus as your Master and obey Him then and only then you can become the ship you were made to be. In dealing with stress remember:

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”  (Luke 12:24)

“If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”  (Luke 12:28)

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (Vs. 16)

The Psalmist said it well: “He restores my soul…”

We often need God to bring back the springtime to our souls.

Pause and acknowledge your stress to the Lord, and ask for His renewal.

Jesus Has A Need Only You Can Meet

Jesus Christ had a need on the great day of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There was only one person who could meet it. Jesus needed a simple donkey. Yet, that donkey was essential to the plan God laid before the foundation of the earth.

The owner of the donkey sent it “immediately” (Mark 11:3). Such should be our response.

Jesus had the authority to command the donkey, but He gave the owner a free will to choose. He does the same for us.

Today Jesus has a need. He needs you to take a stand for Him. He needs for that to be consistent and continual. He has given you the free will to give Him what He needs, you. In turn He has promised to be with you and bless you. His commitment to us is consistent and continual. 

For sometime I carried in my wallet a little verse often read as a reminder of His presence.

“The light of God surrounds me
The love of God enfolds me
The power of God protects me
The presence of God watches over me
Wherever I am, God is!”

I have a newspaper clipping that reminds me of an occasion when I took it out and reread it. It tells of a Delta 727 carrying 133 passengers, and a Cessna narrowly avoiding a mid-air collision approaching the Memphis International Airport. The report describes the two planes engaging in “evasive action” resulting in them missing each other by 200 feet. The report describes the pilot of the 727 making a nose dive to avoid the collision. All shook up physically and emotionally, I re-read my poem. Whew!

When you have your near misses in life, in whatever form  they may come, you can be sure He is with you. 

The Word of God still applies that ancient directive to folks like us: “The Lord has need …”  How will you respond?

One of the most joyous days in a person’s life is when it is realized the Lord has need of them. That gives a sense of personal importance, a sense of self-worth.

As it was said of Jesus we need to confirm: “Lo, I came to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10: 5, 7)

In our former home town of New Orleans a walk along the docks is always refreshing and enlightening. Occasionally a person will try to stowaway on a ship to go to another country. Once I saw a sign there stating: “Stowaways will be prosecuted on the other side.”  That is to be true spiritually in the judgment.

Instead, when you arrive on the “other side,” may you be greeted with, “Well done good and faithful servant.”