Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What's He Saying--- to You?

    [ It's been a few months since my last journal.  It occurred to me, while casually reading the Bible, something that should be obvious--- he is my source.  He is our source.  It is in him that "we live, and move, and have our being-- Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 12:2)   So-- we turn and look to him-- not just for inspiration to write -- but as the source and inspiration for life itself ]
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READ & STUDY GOD'S WORD
   In Ephesians 4:7-10, the Apostle Paul said something quite extraordinary that I had somehow missed before, possibly never having been struck by these words in the exact same way.   Isn't it also extraordinary, and quite miraculous, how these words, penned by man, but inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, can speak to us in new and exciting ways each time that we read them?

   He says,

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  This is why it says:  "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."  (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

   Interesting.  Paul makes a comment and asks a rhetorical queston---
  •  This is WHY it says--- 
  •  WHAT does [ it ] mean ?
    Well--- we'll have to wait until the preacher tells us "why it says" and "what it means", you might say.    No-- if we wait patiently, and read attentively and prayerfully, the Holy Spirit is given to enlighten us to these things.   That is one of his many jobs in ministering to us, the believers and saints of God.   

    That does NOT mean that we should not listen to our pastor or Bible teachers for answers and understanding.   But it does mean that we should NOT solely depend on them.   Martin Luther fought for the "right" for believers to read and interpret the Bible for themselves.  Of course, this is always predicated on our dependence on the Holy Spirit within us to help us and to enlighten us, for without him, we cannot do or understand anything. 

    The subject of Christ's ascension into heaven, and the gifts and calling of believers, is a formidable topic in itself.   But what I'd like to address here is a much more basic truth, and that is that God's Word--- the Bible--- often and usually explains itself to us, if we take the time to seek the meaning-- both universally, and to us personally.

    Paul quotes an Old Testament scripture (Psalm 68:18) and applies it to Christ's ascension.   What does THIS mean?    It means that there are over 300 prophetical passages in the Old Testament that point to and describe the coming of Jesus the Messiah.   Some describe him being 'pierced' (Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 12:10) and another even pinpoints the very town in which he was to be born (Micah 5:2).   And there are many more examples.

   If we approach the Bible --just-- as devotional reading, in a spiritual context without an existential reality, we miss the point.   Paul says in 1st Corinthians, "We are of ALL men most miserable" if Christ did not, (in reality) rise from the dead.   (I Cor. 15:13--19)   Our faith is based on history.  It is based upon facts that can be validated and proven.   Not always physically, but sometimes just with plain, old common sense.

   I once had an avowed atheist engage in a three--hour conversation about God and the Bible.  He denied that the Bible could be proven.   He scoffed at the idea of Jesus rising from the dead.   I asked him to consider a passage in 1st Corinthians 15:3--6 ---

  "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep."

   I asked him the question, "When was this written?"  He didn't know.   Frankly, I didn't know exactly, but what I --did-- know (by simply reading the passage itself) is that it had been written recently enough to those events that many of those had been eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection were still alive.   Most Bible historians agree that the date of this book was around 55 AD.  Yes--- some of those people had died ("fallen asleep") but ---most--- were still alive.
   Once we agreed to this premise, I asked him, "So--- if most of these eyewitnesses were alive, don't you agree that a lot of scoffers and disbelievers were ALSO still alive?"   Well, yes-- that makes sense too.   And although this letter was certainly meant for and directed to the church, do you NOT think that someway, somehow the contents of it, either by the direct reading of it, or oral dissemination, had reached some of those unbelieving ears?
   My premise was-- and is--- if MOST of 500 men and women who had claimed to actually SEE Jesus Christ alive after his death resurrection were still ALIVE, don't you think somebody, sometime must have challenged this statement by the Apostle Paul?  Don't you think that someone must've stepped forward and said,
"Okay-- just show me ten of them"
 ---or something to that effect?    I think this would be true-- not from a spiritual or historical context, but just from our own common sense.   That one phrase-- "most of whom are still living"--- at least in my mind-- has extreme significance to us, as a major proof of Christ's resurrection/
 He accepted my premise--- but unfortunately, it didn't result in a change of heart.

Reading with an
Open Heart
   Paul states it plainly here--- "This is WHY it says---"  He is spilling the beans.   He is laying it out for all to see, making it as clear as day for us.

   Paul uses the reverse logic of "what come up must come down" (gravity) to apply to Christ. Only his analogy is the opposite.   "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?"   In other words, "what goes down MUST come up".  It was God's plan that Jesus Christ would rise from the dead and ascend into heaven.

   It is important that we understand what God says.   But it also important that we undertake to act on what he says to us--- to do what he asks us to do.  (James 1:22)   The first step is just having a willing heart to respond to his word and voice.   If we already have decided to follow, he will lead us.  

   In the beginning, Satan tempted the first man and woman by saying to them, "Has God REALLY said...?"   Has God really spoken to the human race?    And does he speak to his children?   The answer to both questions is a resounding "yes."  If you've come to a place where you believe that God has spoken, the next question should be, "What is he speaking to me?"    God speaks in many different ways, but the one way which overshadows and interprets all others is his written word, the Bible.   You may disagree, but it is a dependence on and trust in his Word that protects and enlightens us.   "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

God's Love Letter-- to You
       Sometimes the Scriptures may not say, "This is what it means" as in this passage.  But oftentimes, if we listen and read with an attentive heart, the meaning is clear as a bell to us.  Too many people today are teaching and acting as if the Bible is nothing more than a glorified story book.   It is, in fact, many different things--- but foremost of all, it is God's personal Love Letter to each of us who are his children by faith in Christ.   Treat it in such a fashion.    Open it and read it with care.   And listen to each and every line--- seeing and sensing his presence in each and every word.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Planned Spontaneity

     
     I've always liked being spontaneous.  Sometimes when I lived life off--the--cuff, I wasn't prepared enough and didn't like the consequences.   But it was fun to be somewhat compulsive and carefree, and not always know what was waiting around the corner.

    As life goes on, we grow older and more mature and our lives get more complicated.  We're expected to be more sensible, and make more practical and prudent decisions.  Our moves are designed to be more deliberate and our thoughts and emotions more calculated.

     I've always longed to go back to the days of spontaneity
 again.  To relive those times of being completely carefree and even sometimes totally careless.  But it seems that the stakes get too high.  We have other lives depending on us to do the right thing.   We have less room for error as we carefully plan out our lives moment by moment.

  There's been an energy and a force at work in my life for some time.  Sometimes I ignore it. Oftentimes I deny it by the way that I live.   But even when I'm not aware, it is there. Some of you prefer the ambiguity of spirituality.   I must acknowledge that it's more than a thing.  An energy force. It's God's hand on my life. 

Definition of Atheism
      I really hate it whenever people who don't know try to pretend that they do know or try to prove that they're right to believe in nothing.  They have a right to believe in nothing, but that doesn't mean that they ARE right in believing in nothing.  I also get downright frustrated with those who say we can't know.  Or won't know until after this life.   I maintain that this life isn't as worth living if you cannot know.   And being able to know God is what makes it all worthwhile.

   My faith is not just built on a hope. It doesn't depend on myself or any manufactured emotion or commotion.   It's a faith that is built on facts.  Our universe is so tightly woven together, it is so complex yet works together perfectly.  The spiritual world is no different.   It has a consistency, a pattern, a plan behind it. 

   Back to spontaneity.  As I continue to ascent to and abide in the presence of God-- the energy force, and also my personal friend--  I become aware of him actually working in and through my life.  Sometimes he's in the background, and I see hints of his working.  And other times, it's obviously his handiwork.  He comes out of nowhere and does something or works out some detail that no one else could do, and didn't even know to do.   Most of the time,  I don't even see it coming.

   It's nice to have a planned spontaneity.  It's great to wake up every day and wonder what is going to happen next.   But also to be aware that there's Someone who loves me, working behind the scenes, that cares what happens in my life, and is working out a plan, even when it seems that I'm just improvising and ad libbing my way through each day.

   If you have read this and it doesn't make a bit of sense to you, then maybe it's because you haven't found God in a personal way in your life yet.   Even more likely, you've been aware of something, but you didn't know what it was, or maybe you knew God was trying to get your attention, and you either ignored or flatly refused to allow him access.  You can know him.  It's not a boys' club, or a high-brow society.  It's a family, and each one of us is individually drawn by his Love and born as his child by accepting his Son.


   You might just say it's all coincedence and I'm making this stuff up.  You say, it's coming  right out of your head.   I don't think so.   Because if I had it my way, when things go right, I'd tend to take credit myself.   But when God works, he does it in such a way to leave you in awe and let you know that it's all by Grace.   You see-- we can plan out our lives, but it's so much better living in a--- Planned Spontaneity.
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"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." (Jer. 29:11)

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself
strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. (2 Chr. 16:9)

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, 
he gave the right to become children of God--- (John 1:11,12)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Provision Prayer

   Lord.  I sit here at a computer.  Years ago, your disciples had no such technology, but wrote on parchment paper and tablets of stone.   We are so privileged.  Help me be oh so thankful for all of the modern conveniences that we have; even if we feel needy and poor, we still have more than most in the world, and much more than those who preceded us.

  I ask you to read my mind and heart, and give to me according to my need. I ask not for more than I can handle, or more than I can use, and definitely not more than I need. But I ask you to fill me with Your provision, Lord.  Help me to recognize your work in my life, both in the physical and the spiritual.  Help me utilize the gifts that I already have to the utmost, one of which being my time.   I know how wasteful I am so often of this precious gift that you have given each of us.

   Where I feel a desperate need, please fill that need in my life, or show me how my desperation is in vain, and give me a sense of peace to replace that empty feeling.  Your Word has said that You are our peace.

   We are complete in You.   Help me to realize and comprehend these truths and give my heart the assurance of those things. I also confess that You and You alone are our provider, and we need only look to You to sustain us and give us our daily bread.  For that, I am both thankful and needy, and ask you to fill up all of those missing pieces in my life, and help me focus on You as my total provision in this life and in the life to come.  


  Thank you.
Your Son.  Abba Father.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Keeping on Track

Getting Ahead of Myself
    I know myself.  At least I think that I do.  But part of that knowledge is the realization that sometimes, in the midst of the busy-ness of life, my emotional caboose somehow seems to overtake the locomotive and I'm trying to pull the train without the power of the engine.  

    Do you ever feel that way?   Sometimes I begin to lose sight of the journey and get caught up in the moment.  Some say, "Live for the Moment", and that's true with regard to leaving our pasts behind, and being aware of what's going on in the present.  But when THE MOMENT takes over, and begins to consume us, it's not a healthy thing.  We need to have a plan in place, and each moment should fit as a tiny piece of the puzzle into furthering our ultimate purpose.

   Along with this realization comes a sense of fulfillment and peace.  It brings with it a balance and rest, even in the midst of the chaos of life.


Runaway Train
   It is easy to just say, "I'm okay", but sometimes I am NOT okay.  I need to pull that emergency brake, stop the train, get off, stretch my legs, take a break, and then, and only then, get back on that train and resume my journey.  I'm fooling myself if I say, "I don't have time for that", and just run on and on, my mind and emotions running at breakneck speed toward oblivion.

   The nature of our physical and mental health is that we keep on going, seemingly forever, always chugging along, until at some point, the combined stress and wear and tear of the road take its toll and bring us to a sudden and unexpected stop.   It may not be of our choosing.  If we wait until then to speculate, the results may be devastating.

   A much better path is to take periodic inventories of where we are at on our journey, and stage personal yard sales to rid ourselves of all of the unneeded junk and excess in our lives.   
   Often those things we think "we may need" at some point are really just weighing our train down and keeping it from running at its optimum level of performance.   We may think by pouring on more fuel, and gunning the throttle, that we are going to arrive sooner to our destination.  In fact, we may instead become siderailed in some desert wasteland, or run into a brick wall.

   There are occasions when the Engineer calls on us as "workers" and our job is to throw ourselves into what is going on at the moment.  But there are also other times when he tells us, "I've got this," and we go back into the lounge car, take a window seat, and just relax.

   Just a thought.  Perhaps meant more for myself than the reader.  It's difficult to think of slowing down or contemplating our situation when we are in the middle of doing a hundred different things.   

   Go take a look at the personal memoirs of Jesus (the Gospels).  He had a Mission to accomplish.  But part of that was --stopping-- to enjoy a moment, or to reach out to someone in need.

   Take note of his encounter with Mary and Martha. Their house was a favorite hangout for Jesus.  But on one particular visit, he took note of the 'busy--ness' of Martha vs. the 'calm--ness' and peace of Mary.  She recognized it was "more needful" to spend time with their special guest than to be running about, seeing that all of the little last--minute details were covered.

    Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?   Don't fool yourself into thinking you're ahead of the game, when you may be on a runaway train, hurtling headon toward disaster.


Psalm 46:10- "Be still, and know that I am God."

John 15:5- "Without me, you can do nothing."

A True Friend

© 2015 by Bob Wingate

[This Blog was published in the Salisbury Post on Aug 1, 2015.]


   I awoke early this morning at 3am and almost three hours later, my mind's still racing.  Lately, I find its a rare privilege to find my mind working at normal speed, or at all, much less the overdrive mode it seems to be in right now.

   I find myself thinking about how nice it is to really connect with another person in life, either a good friend, or on rare occasions, someone that ends up becoming a lifelong companion.  And how bittersweet, or even heartbreaking, it can be when you think of people you lost touch with along the way, those you were close to at one time, or those you always wanted to get to know, but somehow never did.  There are those people from my life, and I'm sure you can think of some too.

   As I often do, I draw an analogy to God and our relationship with him.  He says that our sin has seperated us, and keeps us from enjoying his presence in our lives.  God's plan included the sending of Jesus, not just as a prophet or teacher, but as a sacrifice for our sin.  As much as we take our lives and problems and try to figure them out on our own, this was, and is, the only way to ever make a bridge between ourselves and God.

John 15:13- Greater Love has no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

   My father was a wonderful man who found the way to God in Jesus.  Since his death in March, we've been going through old boxes of papers and memorabilia, and consequently, a lot of memories.  Today I found a couple of annuals from eighth and ninth grade with pictures and notes from a lot of old friends.  As much as this meant to me, I also found a notebook from a summer camp that means even more, for in it I wrote, "Tonight- August 1, 1972, I trusted in Christ as MY Savior." It's great to find such a personal heirloom as this. I've never doubted my relationship with God since then, but it's nice to see how real it (and he) was to me way back then.

   Perhaps you've never experienced that time in your life where you allowed God access to your life by believing in his Son.  Jesus described it as having a rebirth.  Seems odd.  It did to the man Jesus was explaining it to back then. He wanted to know how he, a grown man, could enter again into his mother's womb and be born again. What a ludicrous thought!  Jesus must've laughed.  No, no.  It's a spiritual rebirth, in which God forgives us and renews our spirit with His spirit.  I trusted in him to do that back in the summer of 1972 and I've never been the same since.  It made me a new and different person.  And whenever I lose sight of him in my life, or begin to drift a bit, I go back to that first night when my life with him began, and look at a signpost to lead me back, and let me know everything's going to be alright.

   As I looked back at pictures from school days gone by, I wondered and thought back to those times.  I miss some of my old school buddies and wish I could see them again.  Sometimes I do, at class reunions or from time to time. And it's good to get together, and renew those old friendships once again.  I cherish many of those friends.  But even better, I have this True Friend that I met back then, and we will never ever have to part, for he is with me each and every day, and I carry him with me in my heart forever.

Hebrews 13:5-- I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

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BOB WINGATE is a free lance writer, guitar player and teacher, and music promoter living in Salisbury.  
His web blogs are at --- www.thebobpage.com and www.blogsbybob.com.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Behind the Curtain

   I was just watching a video of a pop singer.  She was performing in concert, and dressed in a bright, shiny jumpsuit.  Her dark, black hair shimmered in the spotlight.  And when she began to sing, the audience suddenly became silent in anticipation.   The time had finally come.  All of her fans delighted in her performance.

  As I listened and watched this, my mind thought of what that star must have gone through to get herself ready for that moment.  Hours of practice.  More hours with wardrobe and makeup.  All for a few moments in the spotlight.  And then what ?


Fans Can Be a Fantasy
  Most of us probably don't have moments in the spotlight, performing before adoring fans. But we do have times of performance, where we have to be at our best.  And our peers and onlookers are not always so forgiving and adulating as a successful pop singer.  We have the pressure of being at our best, and looking our best.  And with that pressure comes stress and anxiety.

  When that star comes off of the stage, there are down times, when there are no fans seeking autographs or longing to hear them sing.  There are lonely times, and other times with friends and family.  Some of those friends, no doubt, are friendly because of what they can get out of being close to someone who is rich and famous.

   It is a rare occasion when one finds someone who is there, loving and accepting us, not because of what we can give back to them, but only because of who they are.  God is like that.  The Bible tells us that the definition of Love is that "God gave."   It is not so much in the moments that I feel 'religious' and close to God, but in those times of deep loneliness and despondency, that I need to know this reality.  He is my best friend.  He is as close to me as my heart. His presence is as necessary as the air that I breathe.

   When the lights go down, the curtain closes, and we retreat off stage to our private lives, it is important that we have someone there to remind us that our worth is not in our performance, but in our essence.  A good friend gives a hug or says a kind word, not for selfish gain, but to encourage.  God has accepted you in his Son, and made you his child. If you are in Christ, you have God's love.
REAL LOVE

This is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son.
[I John 4:10]

   Don't let yourself get in the habit of feeling great when you are congratulated and adored for your good performances, and feeling sad whenever you are without that applause.  When you go behind the curtain, you are still the same person that you were on the other side.  If you understand that, you will seek God's approval and love, and begin to bask and live in it every day of your life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Attics, Basements & Closets

Originally written in August 2013, 
this blog was recently published in The Salisbury Post.
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  The title for this journal entry just came to me.. it's a complete coincedence that its alliteration is A-B-C.  But this also paints a picture of our lives.. how simple they are, and yet how complicated they can become, if we let them.

  All houses have closets.  Many of them also have attics and basements.  They seem like "add-ons" to houses, places that are "a part" of the house, but also "apart" from the
house.  Places that we may not spend a majority of time, but places that we can run to whenever we need to.   I have fond memories of these places.  I also, if I struggle to think back, have some scary memories of these places too.

  Early in childhood, I remember being scared when I heard noises in the night (maybe sometimes in the day too!) and went and hid in the closet.  I also remember being scared of these places too.  I once heard noises in our basement, and didn't go down there for awhile.

  But I also have good memories.  I remember hiding out in the basement.  We once had an orange beanbag chair, which I used to plop down on, and probably took naps on many times.  During the summer especially, I remember playing ping pong or cards with friends.  Playing hide 'n' seek.  Hanging out all by myself, and hiding from other members of my family.

  Attics, at least for me, have always been places of storage.  I didn't often visit our
attics.  They were usually hard to maneuver, and full of cobwebs and dust.  And hot during the summertime.  But occasionally, it was also a place of discovery, where
when adventurous enough, I might find something appealing, perhaps a long-lost toy or relic.  Just recently, an ole college friend mailed me an envelope with a series of messages that I had sent to her.  In that envelope was a picture of me at about 22 years old.  It is now on this site ("What About Bob?").  She found these while going through a box of her old college memorabilia.

  Attics.  Basements.  Closets.  Places to hide.  Also- places where we hide things from our past.  Some cherished.  But some- that we are avoiding, for they make us remember things that we would rather forget.  Places where we store things that we cherish. But also, places where we hoard things that would best be thrown away.

  Attics.  Basements.  Closets.  Real places.. in our lives.. our present.. our pasts.  But also- symbolic of our lives.  How we often hide from things that we cannot face.  How we hold on and cling to our pasts, rather than move on into our futures. 

  [ PRAYER:  Lord, help us to recognize the attics, basements and closets of our lives.  They can be useful at times, but help us not to use them as places to hide and hoard.  Set us free from the things and places that bind us.  Help us to move into your freedom.  Amen. ]