Believe Him, not fate!

We wake up to find ourselves living through hardship that found us unexpectedly, don’t we?  I am ministering to a grieving family, remembering a good man, a friend to me, whose life ended too soon by my estimation. Given our limited knowledge we simply cannot sort out all the reasons for his death.  Joe was a kind of ‘walking miracle’ for the last decade, having come through some serious health challenges but this time he died days after entering the hospital.

I am no fatalist so I will not just say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  But, I do say, “I believe God and He will make a way for us.”

After Jesus’ Resurrection, one of His disciples found the idea that He was alive too much to believe even when his friends insisted that they had seen Jesus! Thomas dismissed their words. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:25-29, NIV)

Jesus tells us that we can choose faith. “Stop doubting and believe.”  Faith is not just something that springs up in us. Yes, it is a gift of God and our faith is a work of the Spirit, but we must feed our faith, live in ways that strengthen our faith, and pray for greater faith.

When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi from a prison, his words are marked by assurance. He demonstrates faith in a situation that he might have seen only in despair. After preaching the Gospel of Christ across the Empire for 20 years, here he was in prison. His work for the Lord met resistance.  Even Christians criticized him. He was thrown out of cities more than once. Yet, he is joyful and hopeful. Why?  

He looked at his life from a perspective of faith!

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.

And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:12-21, NIV)

Paul’s faith is not simplistic. He does not insist that everything is wonderful, nor does he dismiss the hardship with fatalistic resignation. He knew that choices, those others made and he made, had consequences. He was completely aware that evil was actively causing pain and suffering. But, Paul also understood that while God allows all things, knows all things, and is omnipotent;  He not the author of evil!  He never suggested that God put him in prison. 

But, he had full confidence that God would use his situation to bring about Kingdom results, IF he continued to live in faith.   He pointed out that he was guarded by the elite soldiers of Caesar’s guard, an audience he could not have reached for Christ outside of prison. And, He knew that if he was faithful despite his problems, others would be encouraged to remain faithful, too. Paul’s faith encompasses death itself!  “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”   Dead or alive, Paul belonged to Jesus Christ. It’s a win-win situation! Alive, he continues to advance the Kingdom. Dead, he goes home to the Father. 

Circumstances will challenge our faith!  We can choose to be like Thomas, insisting on proof, demanding answers; or we can be like Paul who courageously said “I rejoice!”  We do this, not because we are naïve or simple-minded, but because we choose faith and hope.

Today, your life may look nothing like you think it should. Will you kick and scream or invite Him to be at work, in you and through you, to take those things that others, that the Devil, meant for your destruction and to shape them into a means of displaying His grace and awesome power?  Let’s go steady on, patiently, in faith.

Here is a word from the Word, one that feeds my faith. “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:30-34, NLT)

Abba, increase my faith.
Turn my fears into courageous hope,
My struggles into a display of Your grace and mercy.
Whisper of Your power to save to me,
convince me that You secure my future, straight into Eternity.
Jesus, may You shine most brightly in me when the skies are dark.
Spirit of God, lead me on, through the storm, through the uncertainties,
Into the glorious Will of the Father.  Amen
________________

The Solid Rock

(take a few moments to worship with a great hymn!)

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

His oath His covenant His blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

Edward Mote | William Batchelder Bradbury © Words: Public Domain

Certain Uncertainty!

How do you deal with things that are uncertain? Life works best for me when I know the what, the why, the where, the way.  I am not very good at just ‘letting it happen.’  I value results and when I start a project, I tend to push hard to complete it as quickly as possible.  Maturity (some call it ‘old age’) has brought me the understanding that much of living is the process, with joy to be found on the journey as much as at the destination.

In 2010, Bev and I helped one of our adult children do a cross-country move, driving from California to Maryland, in a rental truck. Sound awful to you? It wasn’t!  We drove about 400 miles each day, just enjoying the trip, pulling over occasionally to take in the views of our beautiful country, eating at little local restaurants, living without hurry. Moments from that journey are etched into my memory including one of my beautiful wife standing in a mountain meadow high in the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver, CO.

The last 12 months in our world were full of uncertainty.  We could not predict the way ahead and it is still unclear. It is not my intent to minimize the pain or difficulty of life in our time, but I do believe that God invites us to walk it out, to appreciate His Presence in this moment. 

Jesus told us something that I am understanding in a new way these days. “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:28-33, NIV)

He invites us to enjoy the trip, to stop obsessing about the future so we can appreciate what God provides for this day!  Yes, friend, He has provision made for you, right now, where you are. The Israelites who were journeying from Egypt to Canaan knew God’s provision of manna. Remember that story? Everyday God fed them with a miraculous food that appears in the morning. He forbade them from collecting more than they could use for the day. If they tried to store it, it spoiled quickly, except on the Sabbath!  

There’s a lesson for us in that story. We cannot borrow tomorrow’s blessings today and we are fools to let the worries of next year rob us of our present reality.

Are you wrestling with fear or doubt, unsure of how to proceed?  I understand! I tend to awaken in the small hours of the morning concerned about the challenges that I know are coming my way. While preparation and planning are a good thing, Christians need not live in a state of worry or fear.  If we are walking with the Lord, He will make a way.  A half-century of pilgrimage has taught me many things including the fact that no matter how much I think I know about the future, it is a certain uncertainty!

Love God. Love others. Leave space for the Spirit to accomplish His will. Trust God with the ambiguities of life. They are many, dear friend.  He is a patient God, as Peter says, One for Whom a ‘day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.’ We need not jump at the idea that comes our way, fearing that unless we do, life will pass us by! 

We cannot allow the rapid pace of living create the illusion in us that we can become super-saints overnight.  God will not drop us and move on if faith slips from our grasp from time to time. He is full of grace, His desire to transform us, day by day, into the likeness of His Son. “When God is personally present, a living Spirit, … we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.” (The Message 2 Cor. 3:17-18)

Today, even if the way is murky, if questions far outnumber answers, be content to ask for ever-increasing faith!  If prayers come hard, then just wait in silence before Him.  Hold onto this – “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)  Yes, we can enjoy the journey.

Here is a word from the Word for our meditation today.  “I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:18-21, NIV)

_____________

Good, Good Father
(a prayer song!)

I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are, It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, It’s who I am
It’s who I am

I’ve seen many searching for answers
Far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers
Only You provide
Because You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love

Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett © 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

You are Free to live!

History has some dark chapters doesn’t it? Hate, cruelty, selfishness, murder, war, bloodshed are too much a part of the record. What about your history?  Are there chapters you would like to erase?  I look back and remember, with a sigh, days for which I would love a ‘do over,’ but reality tells me that even with a second chance at it, I would never get it exactly right.  Why? Because in my humanity, I am prone to sin. And, so are you. We may avoid murder and mayhem, but Self is never far away.

Never the less, I do not live in guilt or condemnation. I am well aware of my yet to be perfected life. I am also confident in the gift of God’s grace, provided to us by the Savior. He invites us to live in the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God.’  (Romans 8.21)  I am realistic about the temptation around me and conscious of my failure but I know that Someone greater is at work in me, that because of Christ Jesus, I need no longer exist with fear or regret.

This is the truth in which I live, by faith. “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father. (Abba) Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.” (Galatians 4:6 NLT).  Those who are alive in the Spirit, through faith in Christ Jesus, can speak of sinfulness in the past tense. No, we are not yet perfected. But, the guilt of sin is removed completely!  “There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NLT)

Because of Jesus, we are able to choose to live nobly, to serve God, and to defeat dark depravity.  “But, I am tempted and I fail,” you say. I do, too. The conflict of Self and the Spirit is very much alive in us even after coming to faith in Christ. However, unlike our “Before Christ” days, now we know what is right and good.  We can choose to grow in grace, becoming useful to God.

We are, by His declaration, no longer slaves to sin but rather servants of God privileged to know and live in the power of the Spirit. What a difference! All the church work and religious effort in the world can replace the amazing joy of sharing in God’s glory, released from shame and guilt to live freely.  In the century that followed Jesus’ time here on the earth, Christians traveled to the far corners of the depraved, cruel, ugly world that was the Roman Empire. They met prostitution, slavery, injustice, and poverty with acts of love. They served the least, the lost, the broken, the powerless. 

The Spirit working through them brought light and life, hope and joy, to millions.  They were known for their compassion.  Were they applauded and admired? Not by those in power!  The sinful recognized the threat of the Gospel of Christ and killed Christians by the thousands in a vain attempt to put out the Light. But, history testifies to the power of the Jesus message.  Christians who were free to serve changed the world.

Christian, our world waits for the beautiful message of freedom from sin

Let’s not just tell, let’s show the way to be free to love, free to serve, free from slavery to sin, Self, and Satan.

Will you reach out to our Abba, take your freedom, and then pray for the power to live in a way that you bring liberty and life to others? 

Like Jesus you will encounter evil and those enslaved will hate you just as they hated Him. But remember, “if we share in His suffering… we will also share in His glory.”   Let’s go change the world, one life at a time.

Here is a word from the Word …  “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1, NLT)  “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13, NLT)  “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 5:16, NLT)  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

Oh, the glorious freedom of the children of God.
__________

And Can It Be (Amazing Love How Can It Be)

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood
Died He for me who caused His pain|For me who Him to death pursued

Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me
Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

He left His Father’s throne above
So free so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race

‘Tis mercy all immense and free
For O my God it found out me
‘Tis mercy all immense and free
For O my God it found out me

No condemnation now I dread
Jesus and all in Him is mine
Alive in Him my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine

Bold I approach th’eternal throne
And claim the crown through Christ my own
Bold I approach th’eternal throne
And claim the crown through Christ my own

Charles Wesley © Words: Public Domain

Sorting through the ‘facts’

These days I find myself confused by the flow of information that is often completely contradictory from one ‘expert’ to the next.  For some matters I can just ignore the noise. When it comes to my faith in Christ and my life as His disciple, the issues are of first-line importance. Revisionists tell me that what I once believed about my Christian faith and practice is no longer applicable or true.  

Being “politically correct” often is more important than knowing the truth.  We live in an era when personal experience and affirmation of individuals is more important than what is right. The results for the work and life of the Church are catastrophic as they are for the world in which we live, one that slips deeper into chaos each day.

When I am confronted by a pastor or teacher who claims some new light, in my discomfort I do look first at myself. “Jerry, are you just attached to a tradition? Does your discomfort come from that tradition being violated or does your disagreement arise out of a necessary defense of principle?”  It is not a simple question, nor is the answer always clear.

While we err greatly in making our doctrine completely malleable to our culture, we also err if we become rigid and refuse to learn.  So I try to give myself to study, prayer, and reflection. I ask God to give me patience to listen to others while desiring to know the leading of the Spirit and His revelation of the truth above all else.  

I am quite aware that there will always be generational difference of understanding about ‘best practice’ in faith.  We will, given our perceptions and understandings, shift in our ways of worship. But, when the ways of the world and being accepted by others is allowed to be more important than fidelity to the revealed truth of the Word, a deadly drift starts to pull us away from the living God.

Life is full of ambiguity, with many choices I make every day involving many shades of gray. Though the Scripture gives me principles for life, there are many decisions that require the guidance of the Spirit.  I am so thankful for His promise to create the mind of Christ in me.

When the confusion of competing voices makes me uncertain, I go to this word  – “But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets. No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-12, NLT)

For an old man the safer choice, and often the most comfortable, is to hang onto the status quo.  There is so much appeal for me in these turbulent times to just say, “Not for me. I know what I know.”  If, however, we will not listen with a willingness to learn, we become people who are increasing isolated and ineffective for Christ Jesus. The world continues to spin, change continues today as it has since time’s beginning.  Let’s remember, too, that constant innovation that is not solidly grounded in truth will lead to disastrous consequences.

So, again, I circle around to ask, how do we choose?

Humility must be a part of the process that guides us. If we really want to know God’s leading, we need to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. He speaks to us through the Scripture, through the traditions of the church, and through dialogue with our brothers and sisters that can be intense. It’s that last part that I find most difficult! But in Proverbs I am reminded, “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17, NLT) Wrestling with the truth helps us not only to discover it, but to own it. I am learning that a decision that does not allow for honest, open dialogue is usually not the best, nor wisest, one.

Prayerfulness, too, must always be part of a decision-making process. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, NIV) It is the Holy Spirit that gives us true wisdom. We find life when we find His way. We find His way by remaining in a place of intimate communion with Him. When prods our conscience, quickly we respond, “yes, Lord!” When He lifts His peace from us, we stop and wait and listen. When we grieve Him with willfulness, we repent quickly. This walk with the Spirit allows Him to ‘guide us into all truth.’ (John 16.13)

The worst choice has become all too common – apathy. God calls us to be people of passion for Him, for truth, for the salvation of our world.

Got a challenge today?
Not sure what is the right course?
God promises to lead. Let Him.
Listen to counsel.
Meditate on the Scripture.
Pray!

The word from the Word tells us a great promise- “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:5-7, NLT)

_____________

This I Believe (The Creed)

Our Father everlasting
The all creating One
God Almighty
Through Your Holy Spirit
Conceiving Christ the Son
Jesus our Savior

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in One

I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the Name of Jesus
Our judge and our defender
Suffered and crucified
Forgiveness is in You
Descended into darkness
You rose in glorious life

Forever seated high
I believe in You
I believe You rose again
I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord
I believe in life eternal

I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saints’ communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again

For I believe in the Name of Jesus

Ben Fielding | Matt Crocker © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

It never stops!

The world never stands still, does it?  How do you deal with the unceasing demands of living? The homes we live in must be maintained:  a screw tightened, a leak repaired, a roof replaced … Our relationships require tending, too. If we stop paying attention to others, we will drift apart. I have talked with people who admit that they have not spoken to their sibling for 25 years. Why? They shrug – “We just grew apart.”  Life keeps rolling. One day’s problems solved only to find new ones today.

Who has not convinced himself that life will certainly be less complicated when … we find a new job, move to a new town, retire.  But, each change, each new season brings some new demand for growth. If we are completely honest, I think most of us would admit that there are days when keeping up with it all is just exhausting.  And there are people who choose to drop out, hide out, or wipe out! Some just lay down and go with the current, swept away to irrelevance. Others bury themselves in meaningless diversions from real life. Still others make terribly self-destructive choices. 

One of those parts of life where there is a constant demand for growth is our walk with God, our life in the Spirit. Yesterday’s victories are celebrated. Its failures are forgiven. Now we must lean into this day, making the most of the opportunities that are ours in this moment.

Christian, God invites us to persevere. It’s a word rich in meaning in the Bible, coming from a NT Greek word that literally means ‘to stand up under the weight.’  

Listen to God’s encouragement for the ongoing demands of life.  “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39, NLT)

How do keep on meeting the challenges?

First, we choose faith, our hope set fully on Christ’s life in us!  
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we meet with disappointment. In Ecclesiastes we are told that “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor satisfaction to the wise, nor riches to the smart, nor grace to the learned.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, The Message) Christians need the long view that takes in Eternity. Without it, we risk becoming disillusioned, perhaps bitter, and may become a casualty of the battles of life.

Second, we do God’s will, not ours!
James teaches us about the importance of taking the Way of the Spirit. “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, NIV)  Paul urges us to ‘keep step with the Spirit!’ (Gal. 5) When we are in tune with His will today we can be confident to walk into tomorrow.

Third, by faith we hold onto the Hope of all things set right, when the King returns! 

Peter answered Jesus’ invitation to discipleship with an objection, at first. “We have left everything to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  (Mark 10:28-30, NIV)  God never forgets what is done in His Name. On this side of Heaven we may not see our efforts rewarded, but in His Eternity, there is a sure reward.  He will set things right, bring justice (both a comforting and fearful thought), and give us a home where time does not exist, where we will live in perfection!

Meditate on this word from the Word today. Unpack God’s truth for encouragement that will keep you fully alive in the Spirit, meeting the challenges of the day.

Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:19-25, NIV)

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” -Vince Lombardi

______________

True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted
(A Scots hymn)

True-hearted whole-hearted faithful and loyal
King of our lives by Your grace we’ll stay true
Under Your standard exalted and royal
Strong in Your strength we will battle for You

Peal out the watchword and silence it never
Song of our spirits rejoicing and free
True-hearted whole-hearted now and for ever
King of our lives by Your grace we will be

True-hearted whole-hearted fullest allegiance
Yielding each day to our glorious King
Valiant endeavor and loving obedience
Freely and joyously now would we bring

True-hearted Savior You know all our story
Weak are the hearts that we lay at Your feet
Sinful and treacherous yet for Your glory
Heal them and cleanse them from sin and deceit

True-hearted whole-hearted Savior all glorious
Take Your great power and You reign alone
Over our wills and affections victorious
Freely surrendered and wholly Your own

Frances Ridley Havergal – Public Domain

Do you live with JOY?

I’m loving Springtime. The green lawn, the warmer days, the expectation of Summer trips, these things bring me a lot of happiness.  And, I am choosing JOY.  Thirty years ago, while I sat in my darkened office, in a real depression, a good friend, who was a mental health professional, stopped by. He opened the curtains while telling me: “Bro, you gotta let the sun shine in!”  Tom was so right. His words were both literal – about getting out of the gloomy dark, and figurative, about the importance of choosing joy.

Are you inviting the Light to shine in your life?
Are you living in ways that invite the Holy Spirit to be welcomed in your life?
Are you exercising faith, practicing real acceptance, learning to lean on the Lord?

Living with joy does not require a vacation to some exotic locale. A walk in the park can boost our spirits. Satisfaction of hunger does not demand a feast! A hamburger shared with friends can delight us.  So it is with joy. We can find joy where we are. We can be miserable or we can be joyful.

Oh yes, I am well acquainted with sorrow and disappointment.  Choosing joy is not the same thing as creating a fantasy that lets us escape from reality. Joy is a gift of God to those who will receive it. Pastor James says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3, NIV)  His counsel is that we ‘take charge’ of our thoughts, that we redirect them from dark places to hopeful faith.

Few things will sabotage joy more completely than trying to assume control of everything in life. Situations arise that defy explanation. God, Himself, allows us to go through experiences that leave us grasping at ‘why,’ wondering about His love and goodness. People we trust will disappoint us. That’s not being negative. It is just the reality of the world in which we live.

But, we can bend with the wind, bowing our heads to the Sovereign God to receive His grace. Acceptance must not be confuses with resignation. Resigned people just give up but usually with resentment which causes bitterness.  Acceptance is fed by faith that renews the soul and lets us live with joy.

As Christians we live purposely, not drifting. We ‘keep our eyes on Jesus!’ Pray often – “Lord, shape my life, lead me, keep me centered in You.”  If we misuse the gift of freedom we will rob ourselves of the joy of Jesus.  When we pursue Him with faith, we find rest and joy. When we are willful, when we choose our own way, ignoring the Spirit’s leading, we walk out of the sweet fellowship, the comfort of the Spirit, which is a lonely and vulnerable place to be.

If you are in a storm, a first step to joy is to remind yourself that nothing happening in your life surprises God.  Our successes, our failures, are all known to Him.  I confess this truth, praying for faith to live it. Will you?  “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:1-6, NLT)    As faith grows, joy grows.

Here’s a word from the Word. The preacher, Habbakuk, knew that terrible times were coming to the people of God because of their sins. What did he do?  “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT)

Rejoice in the Lord today.

_________________

Knowing You

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own;
All I once thought gain, I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now compared to this…

Now my heart’s desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and known as Yours;
To possess by faith what I could not earn,
All surpassing gift of righteousness…

Oh to know the pow’r of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your sufferings;
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You;
There is no greater thing!
You’re my all, You’re the best,
You’re my joy, my righteousness,
And I love You, Lord, love You, Lord!

Graham Kendrick © 1993 Make Way Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Fully Alive!

This Easter was, for me, one of the more meaningful in memory. Most of us like the flowers, the joyful songs, the positive sermons that come with the day, don’t we?   The mess that is COVID, a year’s worth of bad news, suffering, sorrow, and loss, made us desperately need the message of hope that is part of the Resurrection.  

After leading worship on Sunday, I made my way to the cemetery where I stood at the graves of my wife and parents, in the sunshine, holding flowers, but most thankful that I could say, as I did, “I left your bodies here in the ‘sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.’”  It is a brave statement to make in a place of such grim finality, but it is my hope. 

Resurrection faith is not just for cemeteries and Heaven, however. It is for now.
Christ’s death and Resurrection provides us with hope of Heaven and
makes us fully alive in this present temporal world.

Consider the inspired words of Scripture.  “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23, NIV)

Religion, alone, is based on cause and consequence, like the rest of life.  From the earliest days of our lives we learn that there are choices to be made that help things to go better for us. Apply yourself in school and you will get better grades.  Follow your parent’s guidelines and you will enjoy greater freedom.  

We naturally tend to bring that idea to our Christianity, somehow convinced that we can find acceptance with God and eliminate guilt by keeping the rules“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”   And, we slip into ‘legalism,’ writing evermore rules for ourselves and others, gradually squeezing whatever joy we might have found in Christ out of our lives. Some of the saddest people I know are Christians who are working hard to save themselves, attempting to be morally and spiritually impeccable by their own determination.

The Gospel of Christ is the wonderful truth that God meets us at the point of our worst failure to save us from our sins, not because we are good enough, but because He is perfectly loving.  What a liberating truth!

We enter into the life of Christ, by faith, and because of His Spirit, we come to know an entirely different way of life. We are fully alive to God even now.  The Word says Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV)  Yes, Christian, we delight in the fact that we are ‘raised with Christ!’   God’s Spirit fills us up and makes us people of confident faith, with vision that is able to see beyond the edge of time and into eternity.  

Oh yes, we are very much in this world for faith does not exempt us from aging, dying, or even disappointment.  But…  look at what being ‘raised with Christ’ makes possible.  We “know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.  … Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:14-18, NIV)  

Our lives are held in His hand, our eternal assurance wrapped in the truth of the Resurrection so that we are able to access the Presence of God, to know renewal, to experience joy, to love beyond the limits of human affection.  I love Charles Wesley’s eloquent words. They are from a Christmas carol but reflect Easter hope.

Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home.
Rise the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head!

Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

Today, I encourage you to move beyond the religion of rules and to embrace, by faith, the resurrection life of Christ. Thank Him that because He lives, you are fully alive now, even as you anticipate the glory to come.

The word from the Word  comforts us and challenges us to go and tell what we have found! “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19, NLT)  

Are YOU fully alive by faith in the Resurrected Christ?

_____________

Graves Into Gardens

I searched the world but it couldn’t fill me
Man’s empty praise and treasures that fade
Are never enough
Then You came along and put me back together
And every desire is now satisfied here in Your love

Oh there’s nothing better than You
There’s nothing better than You
Lord there’s nothing
Nothing is better than You

I’m not afraid to show You my weakness
My failures and flaws
Lord You’ve seen them all
And You still call me friend
‘Cause the God of the mountain
Is the God of the valley
And there’s not a place
Your mercy and grace won’t find me again

You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can

You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can

Brandon Lake | Chris Brown | Steven Furtick | Tiffany Hudson © 2019 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Maverick City Publishing Worldwide (Admin. by Heritage Worship Publishing)

Bethel Music Publishing

4, 3, 2, 1

Online people are having fun posting the ‘countdown’ that is tomorrow’s date.  4, 3, 2, 1.  With all of the chaos that is life these days there is more talk about the Second Coming, the ‘Last Days.’ I do not know if these are the days foretold by prophecy, but I do know this – Jesus did promise to return! 

Even if His return does not happen in my lifetime, I know a second thing – Life passes quickly! That I am looking at retiring after 45 years of pastoral ministry is like a revelation of the flow of time. That I have grandchildren who are entering adulthood – shocking – well, maybe not shocking, but certainly a reminder that the gray-bearded man in the mirror is growing older.

Be you 18 or 81, may you never forget to keep your heart right with God and prepared to enter His Presence, be it by way of the grave or at His Return.

In my ongoing readings in Matthew, this morning I came to Jesus’ words about the End of the age.  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-39, NIV)   

He followed that with a story about 10 women who were going to a wedding. Five were prepared for a long wait, bringing reserve oil for their lamps. Five were not.  The summation of that parable – “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13, NIV)

Most sobering is the next teaching story about 3 servants whose master left them each to care for a treasure appropriate to their abilities – 1 receiving a 10 fold amount, 1 a 5 fold amount, and 1 a single unit. Two were diligent, working and investing and they doubled their treasure. The one with the single unit took it home and buried in the backyard.

Here’s how Jesus explained His story. “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ”‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” (Matthew 25:26-31, NIV)

4, 3, 2, 1 – are you prepared to give an account to God for the way you have invested the life He’s given to you?

That question need not stir up fear in us, IF faith in Christ Jesus owns us – body, mind, and soul.  Neither the flow of time nor life’s outcomes are within our control. But, we can choose to respond with faith to the invitation of Jesus, finding security in the message of His grace.

Today (Good Friday) we walk to the Cross and ‘see’ the Savior Who died to save us, Whose sacrificed opened the way back to our Father’s house.  On Sunday, (Easter) we will celebrate the King Who overcame sin, death, and Hell on our behalf. That Resurrection power is ours today and if we will live in it, through faith and devotion, when He comes – He will find us ready.

Here is a word from the Word.
May the Lord help us to know the joy of those redeemed.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:17-21, NIV)  

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV)

4,3,2,1 – Because of His loving gift of grace I’m ready!  Are you?

__________________

Is He Worthy

(Take 5 minutes and listen. Worship and take hope!)

Do you feel the world is broken?
We do
Do you feel the shadows deepen?
We do
But do you know that all the dark
Won’t stop the light from getting through?
We do

Do you wish that you could see it all made new?
We do
Is all creation groaning?
It is
Is a new creation coming?
It is

Is the glory of the Lord
To be the light within our midst?
It is
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?
It is

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s Root
And the Lamb who died to ransom the slave

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory

Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us?
He does
Does the Spirit move among us?
He does
And does Jesus our Messiah
Hold forever those He loves?
He does
Does our God intend to dwell again with us?
He does

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s Root
And the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From ev’ry people and tribe every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests
To God to reign with the Son

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy
Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Andrew Peterson | Ben Shive

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More than Science

I am grateful for science. Getting into a hot shower with water pumped into my home, waking to a climate-controlled home in comfort, having an automobile to drive me to work, understanding more about the working of my body so I can enjoy longer life and better health – all these things are the result of scientific inquiry and the development of knowledge! But, I do not worship science because at the limit of human knowledge, there is God, Who is greater, God, the Creator, and Giver of Life.

In my walk with Jesus through the closing chapters of Matthew I came to the story of His encounter with the Sadducees. These men were elites of the day, holding power and wealth. They had a ‘form of godliness while denying His power.’ 

Here is a part of the text. “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:23-28, NIV)   

They came to mock the Rabbi Jesus, to poke holes in His message of hope. These leading men just ‘knew’ that Resurrection life was not possible, that the realm of angels and spirits did not exist. After all, they were enlightened.

But they were wrong because they made a wrong assumption at the beginning of their argument – that life after death is just an extension of the present reality.  They were not alone in that error. Many people make fanciful claims about Heaven even today, because they cannot grasp the amazingly wonderful life beyond this temporal one.

Here is how Jesus answered them: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.” (Matthew 22:29-34, NIV)

My point today is not to try to explain Heaven. I want to ask you, as we approach this holy weekend, to pray for faith, to ask God to give you eyes to see His reality.

Many Christians today are much like the Sadducees having discarded the supernatural, the mystery, the unexplainable, for a ‘faith’ that is subject to the limit of their mind’s ability to reason. They just ‘know’ that certain things could not possibly be true because the god of science has ruled out such things.

It is increasingly popular among Christians to say “I just believe the ‘red letters’” which is a way of saying that they only accept the words of Jesus (which are printed in red letters in some Bibles) as authoritative, discarding large parts of the Scripture.   In this claim, they slip into error, and worse, rob their faith of power, of hope, of the compelling truth that God meant for us.  It is a tragically misplaced worship of human knowledge that makes God secondary, which is idolatry.

Please know that I am making no brief for ignorance. Many stupid things have been done in the name of ‘faith.’  Some have let their mind rot because they are afraid of rigorous inquiry or too lazy to care about the questions. God is greater than our questions, His Truth able to meet our honest desire to know. IF, however, we come to Him proudly thinking that we can make Him fit into the box we create with our present knowledge, we lose in the end.

I stand humbly before God, first, and before science as well. There are things I do not yet know – either because He has not revealed them to me or because my knowledge is incomplete.  So, I allow for the mystery, desiring to know Him, desiring to understand my world, always a disciple and a student.

Will you come to the Cross to gaze on the mystery of Redemption with me? 
How can God become flesh and die for our sins?  I believe Him.

Will you hear the story of His Resurrection, and allow the wonder of the event,
confirmed by many eye witnesses, to cause you to worship in hope? I believe Him.

The word from the Word is a song of worship. Join in, won’t you?
” For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8, NIV)
________________

So Will I (100 Billion X)
(An amazing song of worship. Listen!)

God of creation
There at the start before the beginning of time
With no point of ref’rence
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You’ve made
Ev’ry burning star a signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain no syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You say
Ev’ry painted sky a canvas of Your grace

If creation still obeys You so will I
So will I
So will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in rev’rence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if ev’rything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created the light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You’ve done
Ev’ry part designed in a work of art called love


If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart eight billion diff’rent ways
Ev’ry precious one a child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

Benjamin Hastings | Joel Houston | Michael Fatkin

  • © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

The Big Religion Show

In my Scripture readings this Holy Week I am ‘walking with Jesus’ in the final chapters of Matthew. These passages are not among the most enjoyable in the Gospels, to be sure. They are full of challenge, confrontation, and conflict. Today’s reading in chapter 23 are Jesus’ words of scathing condemnation for the religious leaders of His time. He did not talk about sexual scandals, nor did He mention their salaries, which are favorite targets for church critics in our time.  

He challenged their habit of ‘puttin’ on’ a big religion show. They were very, very good at it. They knew how to look holy, dress holy, and walk among ‘ordinary’ sinners without even being touched.  Many lived in awe of them, thinking that they were amazingly godly. Jesus didn’t!

These are some of the kinder things He said. “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear extra long tassels on their robes.” (Matthew 23:5, NLT)  “How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23:25, NLT)

So what’s the big deal? Why is Jesus concerned with these pious frauds?   

Jesus explains that their big religion show is not just ridiculous. They keep people from knowing God’s grace and power. “How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves.” (Matthew 23:13, NLT)

Puttin’ on a show, having a religious ‘life’ that is inauthentic and mostly words, has been a sin problem for eons.  Centuries before the time of Christ Jesus, Isaiah saw it Jerusalem. The Spirit of God moved him to write this – “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  (29:13) 

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about a practice of prayer that accomplishes nothing – “babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”  (Matthew 6:7)  He plainly says that our most intimate moments with the Lord will be found in our prayer closet, not in public places. “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. … ““Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:1, 6, The Message)

Regular practice of spiritual disciplines – worship, Scripture intake, meditation, prayer, confession, giving, service – are good. We should do these things even when we do not feel like it not because we impress God or worse, other people, but because these are a means of opening up our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit.  

Remember that authenticity is not the same thing as spontaneity. As much as I love those moments when God’s Presence finds me and moves me, I do not wait for them to worship. However, we must take care not to just be content to go through the motions of daily worship without our heart engaged.  IF the only reason we pray, or show up at church, or talk about the Bible is to keep up appearances, we are hypocrites who offend God and look ridiculous.

Perhaps your conscience is hurting as you read this. (Mine was as I wrote it!)  You’re realizing how often you just slip into the ‘religion show.’ 

You sing songs you don’t understand or mean.
You write a tithe check to your church without praying for the ministries you support.
You open your Bible and read words you can’t remember even a minute after you put it away.
You pray prayers that fall from your lips out of habit but leave the basic issues of your heart untouched. 

Jesus reminds us that the answer is NOT just to try harder!  Curiously that is what we think we ought to do. He invites us to change our focus, to raise our eyes to Him. A first step is to admit – to yourself, to God – in real confession those areas in your faith practices where there is a yawning gap between your words and your reality.  I find that the discipline of silence is a good place to start. When I turn off the music, get on my face before the Lord, and just listen – I begin to get real.  Get honest and tell Him you’re sick of saying the same old words. 

Tell Him about the uncertainties you’re hiding inside. Confess your love for things of this world that contribute to your lack of desire for godly things. In your private prayers, how about admitting, out loud, that you would rather go golfing than to church, that you like others to serve you more than your like serving them, that Heaven seems far away and the pleasures of the moment are alluring.  Yes, it’s hard!  

“But, Jerry, I can’t admit to those things.”  Why not?  He knows your heart better than you do!  Humility and confession allow us to grow, to find the Spirit’s transformation that is inside out. 

Real faith is not a matter of doing religion better; it’s about loving Jesus, focusing on Him. He makes a wonderful promise to us about meeting us where we are.

The word from the Word is His invitation.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20, NIV)

So, ready to be real?
______________

At The Cross (Love Ran Red)

(a song of focus to turn our hearts to Him)

There’s a place
Where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place
Where streams of grace flow deep and wide
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood comes flowing down

At the cross at the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red and my sin washed white
I owe all to You I owe all to You (Jesus)

There’s a place
Where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart
Has peace with God and forgiveness
Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood comes flowing down

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down here I bow (down)

Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash | Jonas Myrin | Matt Armstrong | Matt Redman
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