Staring at What Isn’t There

Staring at What Isn’t There

“Be anxious about nothing…” (Php_4:6, The Living Bible)

The word nothing means “something that does not exist.” The word anxious means “to be troubled with care; to concentrate one’s thoughts upon something in a fretful manner.” Could anything be more incongruous than a person focusing all their fretful thoughts upon something that doesn’t even exist?

Yet people do it everyday, almost all day long.
from the present, their eyes somewhat glazed with vacancy, they dismiss the obvious for the oblivious — staring at something that’s not even there. They are unable to appreciate what they actually do have, because they are so wrapped up with anxiety over what they do not have.

One of my favorite hymns that I learned as a boy encourages us to count our many blessings. “When upon Life’s billows you are tempted, tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will amaze you what the Lord has done!” (Justin Oatman, 1856)

It is true. A few thoughtful moments spent in thankfulness to God for the many blessings that undeniably are yours, will quell the whispering voices that beckon you to become upset by staring at nothing.

Next time anxiety begins to crowd your space, step back and start counting your many blessings — not generally, but specifically. Name them, one by one. Let your mind dwell upon the massive benefits which the Lord has downloaded into your life. You’ll find in no time that by looking at what is really there, your imagination will no longer drift into the darkness of what is not there.

Hey, you there! Stop staring; and start counting your many blessings!

The Hazardous Christian

 

The Hazardous Christian

 

“Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Act_15:26

Marketers have called it the World’s Most Successful Ad. It was posted in The London Times in 1905 — “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.” Signed E. Shackleton.

He was looking for a crew to help him discover the South Pole. The next morning, over five thousand men were waiting outside the Time’s office ready to go. Something in the ad touched something deep inside each man.

But there is an even more successful ad posted in the Acts of the Apostles, and over the centuries millions have responded to its higher call in an even deeper way.

Paul and Silas were commended as men who hazarded their lives. Contrary to what one may initially think, this does not mean to be reckless or irresponsible. The Greek word means “to give over to another.” In other words, they were men who had handed their lives over to Jesus Christ, so as to bring great honor to His name. And while the underlying thought might seem to be one of self-abandonment, the truth of the matter is that this is the ultimate act of personal responsibility.

Paul said, “My friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.” (

Rom_12:1, Good News Bible). The Amplified Bible says it is the “reasonable, rational, and intelligent” thing to do.

You and I were put on this earth to make Jesus famous. It is reasonable, rational, and intelligent for us to use our gifts and abilities to honor Him. But that’s not going to happen if we hold on to our own reputations as something to be cherished and mollycoddled, as they said in the old days. We must hazard our lives.

There is something deep inside every person that is stirred by the daring challenge to live a life of greatness for something other than oneself.

Still, not all choose to do so; not every one hands their lives over. Some settle for the pampered, risk-free environment of a lifeless faith and live out their days making no difference at all. But not you; surely not you.

Start now and from this day onward, hazard your life for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“You Are the Light of the World!”

“You Are the Light of the World!”

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mat_5:14)

Jesus said many staggering things, and this statement ranks high on the list – “You are the light of the world.” He is passing the torch to His followers. “The works that I do, you will do,” He told His disciples, “and greater than these, for I go to My Father.” (Joh_14:12)

Thus does He, who is the Light of the World, turn to His followers and say, “You are the light of the world!” In other words, “Just as I have shown you My Father’s love, so now you do the same to all those around you. For I am leaving, and now you are the revelation of God’s love to the world!”

No pressure.

We are to do the job in the same manner as Jesus. Luke tells us that God “anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Act_10:38).

As God was with Jesus, and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power, so now is He with us. And He is fully committed to our success for the sake of His Son’s honor (see Joh_13:35, and Joh_17:21).

Let’s look again at what Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mat_5:14-16).

Has it ever occurred to you that today, in somebody’s life, you may be the only opportunity they will ever have to see and experience God’s love? That even a simple act of kindness to another can be vested with the power of the Holy Spirit and turn darkness to light? Are you aware that as you stroll through the day in your usual surroundings you are like a torch passing through a cave – bringing light, warmth, and hope every where you go?
’t laugh. Don’t dismiss this. And don’t count yourself out. Jesus said it, and He meant it – “You are the light of the world.”

What would each day hold in store for us if we walked through every situation looking for opportunities to say or do something that could reveal God’s love to somebody else who really needs it?

Go for it and see what happens! “Arise; Shine – and Let there be Light!”

(PS – if you are new to “Rylisms” you might want to go back and read the previous posts beginning with January 1, “Arise! Shine!” That will give you the full, unfolding message in this devotional series)

Fully Alive in the Light

 

Fully Alive in the Light

 

“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

(

Joh_1:4)

Jesus is the Light of the World. He came into this world as a light shining in darkness, and brought us the one true revelation of God; showing us the love of the Father, and changing our world forever. But, He means for us to take this personally.

 

John says, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (

Joh_1:4). One translation puts it this way, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.” This means even you and me!

And, remember from our previous postings, the light He brought to us is “the revelation of God’s love.” God wants us to be fully alive in the light of His love.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the way, that we might be saved; the truth, that we might be sure; and the life, that we might be satisfied! Practically speaking this means that when you open your heart to Jesus, His life will enter fully into you and bring the revelation of God’s love throughout your whole world – changing everything. Saving you; securing you; and satisfying you!

“I once was blind, but now I see!” the man shouted after Jesus healed him.

“And what is it that you see dear brother?”

“I see the love of God everywhere I look!”

May the Prayer of Paul the Apostle be answered in each of our lives:

“I pray that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (

Eph_3:16-19).

Or, if I may sum it up in four words — “Let there be light!”

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“Are We There Yet?”

“Are We There Yet?”

And Jesus said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mar_12:34)

Standing at the west end of Monumental Park with a group of happy pilgrims taking in the sights and sounds of God’s amazing Grace, we heard a fellow in our group call out and ask, “Are we there yet?” His voice was a bit strained, and betrayed a measure of mild exasperation.

“What do you mean?” a fellow traveler asked.

“The Place called Grace – are we there yet?”

Everybody was stunned. I must admit that I myself was a bit perplexed at this fellow’s disconnection to the moment. How could he not know where we were?

“Dude, we’ve been here for quite awhile!” somebody else in the group replied.

Realizing this guy needed help, I then said, “At the start of our Journey I told you all that we would be traveling far to a place that is nearby; and once we are there, you will realize that we’ve actually been here all along. Remember me saying that to you?”

“So, are you saying we have arrived?” the fellow then asked.

“You’re the only one who can answer that,” I replied. “Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person.”

That Person is the Lord Jesus, the King of Grace and Glory. The power is the incomprehensible influence of His redeeming presence in all things, at all times. And the Place of Grace is everywhere humble men and women live freely to do God’s will fully.

“So, let me ask the question a different way,” I  then said. “Have you arrived?”

The perplexed brother stared at me in silence.

Perhaps a short story will serve to illustrate my meaning.

Years ago at a youth camp the guest speaker presented a compelling message for surrendering our all to Jesus Christ. What made his talk so compelling was the glow upon his face. This was real to him; and we could tell. He was “standing in a place called Grace.”

At one point in his message he told us about an experience he himself had at this very camp years earlier when he was a student. He had taken a walk into the woods after an evening meeting and found a spot where he fell on his knees and cried out to God, “Oh, God! Do in me anything You need to do, so You can do through me everything You want to do!”

The power of the Holy Spirit fell upon him as he prayed, and he rose to “walk in newness of life; empowered to love and serve the Lord.”

We were riveted by his story. One student approached him after our evening meeting and asked, “Preacher, can you take me to that spot?”

“Certainly,” the camp preacher said, “Follow me.” And they headed off into the woods. After they had walked for several minutes, the student asked, “Are we there, yet?”

“We’re getting close,” the preacher said. And they walked on further. And again, after some distance was covered, the student asked, “Are we almost there?”

“It won’t be much longer,” the preacher said. “It should be just a little bit further.”

They walked on deeper into the woods, getting farther and farther from camp. The young man grew increasingly restless, and asked once more – “Are we close to that spot?”

“It shouldn’t be too much further,” the preacher said.

After several minutes of more hiking, the student fell to his knees and cried out in desperation, “Oh, God! I can’t wait any longer! Do in me what you did in this preacher!”

God’s presence suddenly flooded the young man’s heart, as he wept for joy. And the preacher smiled and said, “There’s the spot, right there!”

Get it? Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person. Nobody knows but YOU when that moment occurs. It is that moment when you realize that you cannot, and you will not, live another day outside this place called Grace.

So let me now ask the question — “Have you arrived there yet?”

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound!

Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound!

“Let us come boldly to the throne of Grace.” Heb_4:12-16

John spoke to the vast crowd once more from the Pavilion, “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need; you will abound to every good work. Doing good, and being good; bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God as you stand under the covering of His amazing grace!”

Then Daniel and the Three Hebrew Children began to play a familiar chorus, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.”

The band picked up on it and joined in with the instruments. And like a prairie fire swept by a mighty wind, the melody spread throughout the vast crowd gathered in Monumental Park. We lifted our voices together and sang the song of the Ages.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved!precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

Though many danger, toils and snares I have already come,
‘twas grace that brought me safe thus far; and grace will lead me home!we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shinning as the sun!’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun!
John lifted his voice above the crowd and said, “A great battle was fought as the powers of darkness sought to seize the Throne of Heaven. The Lord girded Himself in battle array and led His Saints and Angels into the conflict. The full arsenal of Hell was unleashed in one desperate attempt to topple the King and take control of all things. There was loss on both sides as the War unfolded all around, reaching a terrifying and chaotic pitch.

And then, suddenly, there was silence. The last shot had been fired, the final blow had been landed. We who survived stood in the fog of war waiting to learn of its outcome. A breeze began to blow across the vast battlefield, and slowly the smoke and dust started to clear. We stood on tiptoe looking about for some sign that would signal what would happen next.

A ray of golden sunshine pierced through the lingering clouds and we saw it. First, a sparkle from a jewel in the Royal Crown. Then, the golden glow of its untarnished splendor. It was but a moment longer until someone closer to the epicenter shouted out in exuberant triumph – “Hallelujah! Jesus Reigns!!”

That word of triumph swept through the battlefield and we raised our voices to heaven as one, “Hallelujah! Jesus reigns!!”

And then King David shouted, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah (Psa_24:7-10)

At that we all joined together and shouted, “Hallelujah! Jesus reigns!!” And once again we began to sing, “Amazing Grace!” After some time we slowly began to disperse. Our group headed toward the west end of Monumental Park to plan our next move.

That No One Fail

That No One Fail

“Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.” (Heb_12:15, GNB)

It was obvious that many in our tour group were disturbed by what they experienced in the Dark Corner of Disgrace. They needed a word of encouragement, and so I said, “Praise and Prayer always go together, and ascend as a sweet aroma of faith and love before the God of Heaven and Earth.”

And then I prayed, “O Lord Jesus, we, Your ransomed people whose lives are being rebuilt from the ruins of selfishness and sin, yield our humbled hearts to become the habitation of the Lord.”

As I spoke, God began to fill us with His Spirit!

King David stepped down from the stage and said to us, “God takes no pleasure in the fall of His children, nor in the shame that scars their lives. He is great in mercy and abounding in grace. Ever ready to receive and to restore, He waits with open arms to embrace freely and fully all who turn to Him and call upon His name.”

Solomon, his son, joined him and said, “We learn from those who have fallen, as well as from those who have stood faithful to the end. We have received grace and mercy; therefore we extend grace and mercy to others. For our single desire is to be like the Lord.”

“Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look after one another,” Paul then added, “to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace. This will prevent any root of bitterness from shooting forth and causing trouble for many.”

In light of this, may I ask you a question? Where are you, dear friend, in your life? Where has the road taken you thus far? Are you tossed about with uncertainties? Halting in your devotions, and flagging in your zeal? Are you hot one day, and cold the next? Has your affection faded and your commitment softened? Does your heart hunger for something more?

Perhaps in these following words of an anonymous poet, you might find a voice for your own feelings…and deeper longings.

O the shame and bitter sorrow that a time could ever be,I let my Savior’s mercy plead in vain, and proudly answered,
“All of self, and none of Thee!”
He found me. I beheld Him dying on the cursed tree.heard Him pray, ‘Forgive him Father.’ And my wistful heart said faintly,
“Some of Self, and some of Thee.”
by day His tender mercy; healing, helping, guiding me;and strong, and O so patient, brought me lower till I whispered,
“Less of Self and more of Thee!”
higher than the highest heavens! Deeper than the deepest seas!, at last Thy Love has conquered! Grant me now my soul’s desire:
“None of Self, and all of Thee!”
the grace of God empower you to live in the full measure of His will for your life! May you be a source of joy and encouragement to others around you, inspiring them to forsake lesser things and pursue the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Monumental Park

Monumental Park

“Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations” (Psa_135:13).

In this place called Grace there is a City Park; Eden-like in it’s beauty, and magnificent in its significance. It is called Monumental Park. And in the center of this Park stands a large marble replica of The Tablets, upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments.

The park architect designed the topographical layout in such a way that from one unique vantage on a high mound called Faith Point one can actually look down The Corridor of Time and see, in perfect alignment with The Law, an Old Rugged Cross on a Hill Far Away. And just beyond the Cross, an Empty Tomb. And off in the far distance beyond the Tomb, a Great White Throne. It is a breathtaking view.

Throughout the Park is an variety of other notable sculptures, each marking some epic moment in the unfolding story of Redemption. There is The Lamb of the Garden, whose skin was used to cover the Guilty Pair. There is a replica of Noah’s Ark, celebrating God’s power to save in a time of great judgment. And there is also a Burning Bush; actually burning in the Park, yet not being consumed. You have to see it to believe it.

And there is a brilliant sculpture of The Ark of the Covenant, and though carved in stone it still seems to pulsate with a Holy Presence that silences all who stand near it.

While quiet and reflective, the Park is always filled with people walking about. On this particular day, word has spread quite rapidly that Moses himself is strolling the grounds. Someone said he was seen walking toward the Pavilion of Praise, near the Waters of Life.

Let’s go there and see if we can speak with him.

His eyes were bright and almost piercing as he smiled at us and said, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and behold, all things are become new.”

I said, “Amen.” The tattooed guy in our tour group said, “Rock on, Dude!” Both remarks made perfect sense to Moses.

“Mr. Moses, May I please ask a question?” a young southern girl inquired, in that genteel manner most common among those from the South.

“You may indeed,” Moses replied.

“Can you help us understand what it means for us to no longer be under the Law, but under Grace? There seems to be real confusion over this.”

“It will be my pleasure,” Moses said.

And we all drew in close to hear what he had to say.

“Look Who I’ve Become”

“Look Who I’ve Become”

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” (Mat_4:18-19).

A rush of excitement shot through our tour group when we discovered that the Apostle Peter had been walking with us for awhile – and we didn’t even know it!

“When did you…how did….where…” — I couldn’t find the right question.

Peter flashed a big smile and put me at ease. “I’ve been walking with you for about three miles now. James and John bet me I couldn’t blend into the group; but I guess I won the bet,” he said.

“So, you are on journey to a place called Grace, are you?” Peter asked, even though it was obvious he knew we were. “You will never regret having made this journey.”

“Peter, tell us about your Journey,” a young lady said.

“What would you like to know?” he asked.

“Tell me about the Day of Pentecost,” she exclaimed. “What was that like for you?”

“Astounding in every way,” Peter replied. “The day itself was truly historical, but it was what happened later that night that moved me most.”

“What happened? There was no mention of anything in The Library.”

“No, this was not written down; for nobody knew about this but me. After the Day had ended and we each settled down to sleep, I was still so full of God’s Spirit I could hardly stop trembling. My mind kept racing back through the day’s events, reliving each moment over and over.

“The mighty, rushing wind; the flames of fire, and dynamic power; the sermon – are you serious? Me, a fisherman with no formal education in such matters – yet there I stood on the Temple porch and preached to thousands. There was such clarity in my thoughts and power in my words. I was more amazed than anybody!

And then the moment came, when over three thousand souls were at once born again, and became followers of our risen Lord. Late into the evening, when everybody else was sleeping, I still could not get it out of my mind.

And as I thought upon it, my mind raced back over the years to when I first met Jesus.

“My brother, Andrew, and I were fishermen, like our father before us. One day this Jesus fellow came passing by and called out to us. “Follow Me,” He said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And that’s what we did.

“What could a Rabbi possibly know about fishing?” I thought to myself. “But on one occasion He showed me what He could do. We had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Calling it quits we headed in, and He called out to us from the shore.

“Let down your nets for a catch,” He said. And that’s what we did. We caught so many fish that our boat began to sink!

“Jesus told me He would make me a fisher of men. And as I lay upon my bed that night after Pentecost I could only shake my head in speechless wonder over how exactly true the Lord’s promise had proven to be. For on that Day that is what I did – I became a fisher of men!

“Me, a nobody. Born in a no-place town, working in a nowhere job, living an ordinary, no-point life. And now Jesus had brought me from that to this!

“O Lord,” I whispered quietly; “Look who I’ve become.”
all stood there in silence, watching Peter stare off into the distant sky; we could tell it all was as real to him in this moment as when it first occurred.

“Yes,” he softly said again, “Look who I’ve become.”

And then, turning his piercing gaze upon us, he spoke up with Pentecostal fire and said, “Stay on this journey, friends, and one day you’ll be saying the same thing about yourselves!”

And that’s what we are going to do.

Reigning in Life

Reigning in Life

“They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ”

(

Rom_5:17).

Take out your visual Tour Guide; I want to show you something that will help you tremendously. Also, grab a pen – because now you get to doodle.

 

First, draw a crown on the head and put a scepter in the hand. Next, put a glow around the person in the picture. Then, in the margin to the right, put “Reigning in Life” – with an arrow pointing to the drawing.

 

This illustrates the great truth of Grace in the clearest of terms, and helps us see one of the dominant teachings of the New Testament – which is, our unsurpassed victory in Jesus over the power of Sin and Death.

 

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace” (

Rom_6:14).

Jesus not only forgives us, He frees us from the power of sin and death. He not only redeems us, He raises us to reign in life. The one distinguishing mark common to all those who follow Jesus is they are “over-comers.”

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” (

Joh_16:33). And now, because we are in Him and He is in us, we also overcome. John the Beloved, one of Jesus’ closest friends, said, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1Jn_4:4).

In a world of whiners, Christ makes us winners. However, some settle for being wieners. That is not the way of grace!

Yes, in Jesus we can reign in life. Mark well these words, for they speak of a noble calling; a high and happy placement in life; a triumph and a glory that gives no place for self-pity and belittling doubts; for second-guessing, or second-class living.

The Apostle Peter, who we will meet in a short while just up the road, put it this way – “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (

1Pe_2:9).

John the Revelator wrote, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (

Rev_1:5-6).

Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they might have life – abundant life” (

Joh_10:10). It is a life above the common. That’s an overcoming life!

faced unbelievable difficulties, but withstood the assault in kingly grace. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” he wrote. “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

And then, he answers his own question, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (

Rom_8:35-39).

More than conquerors? One translation puts it this way, “Overwhelming victory is ours.” (The Living Bible) In simple terms – we don’t just overcome the powers of darkness; we overwhelm them!

The Lord Jesus supplies us with all the provision God has for His people. Grace – the empowering presence of God enabling you to be who God created you to be, and to do what He has called you to do…right where you are.

Therefore, those who receive the gift of righteousness, being made right with God through Jesus; and who receive the gift of grace, the power of Christ to do God’s will, shall reign in life by Jesus.

But, hold on – there’s more!

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