Allies and friends

Josheb, Eleazar, and Shammah are three names linked forever in the Bible. Who? No, they were not the three guys in the fiery furnace. That would be Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego! The first three were collectively known in Israel as “David’s Mighty Men.” They were renowned for their battle field exploits, each one having distinguished himself with a courageous stand against impossible odds. Josheb fought with a spear and in one day killed 800 of the enemy. Eleazar fought so hard and long one day that the story says “his hand froze to the sword!” Shammah single-handedly defended a position against a whole troop. They were the Special Forces of the Israeli army of that day, the kind of men you wanted on your side.

They were tough, but yet there is a tender side to them as well. Take a look.
“While David was holed up in the Cave, the Philistines had their base camp in Bethlehem.
David had a sudden craving and said, “Would I ever like a drink of water from the well at the gate of Bethlehem!”
So the Three penetrated the Philistine lines, drew water from the well at the gate of Bethlehem, and brought it back to David.
But David wouldn’t drink it; he poured it out as an offering to God, saying, “There is no way, God, that I’ll drink this! This isn’t mere water, it’s their life-blood—they risked their very lives to bring it!” So David refused to drink it. This is the sort of thing that the Three did.”
(2 Samuel 23:14-17, The Message)

Their leader expresses a nostalgic desire for a drink of water from a well near his old home. He was just talking, sort of thinking out loud. But these Mighty Men loved him so they went and got one for him! David’s response is to pour it on the ground! The cost of that canteen of water was simply too high for him to drink it, so he turned it into a sacrifice to God. Was this a sign of disrespect? No way. It was a tribute to the men and their courage.

Do you have friends like that, who will give their utmost for you, who are really ‘there’ for you when you need them?
Are you a friend to someone in that way, where nothing is too costly, where your desire is to see them succeed?

We Believers talk about being the ‘Body of Christ’ and our love for each other. But, my observation is that a lot of our words about being connected are just hot air. Not many of us are dedicated to one another to the point of dying to self. A lot of us get irritated if somebody parks in our spot or sits in our pew! What a ‘kingdom difference’ we will make when we give up our self interest and form bonds that no one can break, that do not allow for selfish pique or unkind words or envious rivalry.

What causes people to form that kind of connection, the type of bond seen in the story of David’s Mighty Men?

First, there must be a shared mission of consequence. We need to sense that we are doing something of such importance that we are willing to forget about ourselves, our personal comfort, our reputation for the sake of seeing that mission accomplished.

Second, there must be a unifying leader who demonstrates his own commitment to the team, who teaches those he leads to think of the group first, and of themselves as individuals secondarily.

Third, there must be a realized reward that all can enjoy when the effort is finished.
Believer, our mission is to save the world! Is that mission big enough to pull us together? If we’re just thinking about building a church building, or creating a comfortable space for ourselves, or helping our kids be happy… we’ll fight with each other. IF we take up God’s challenge to establish His kingdom of love and light in this loveless and dark world, we’ll die for the cause and for those who work along side of us.

Our leader is Jesus Christ and He died for the team! His example ought to be enough, don’t you think?

God’s reward is available to all who hang in there, who finish the battle with honor. “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:8, NLT)

Are you ready to join the team, to become one of God’s Mighty’s? The world is waiting!

Wanted – World Changers!

Scanning the employment listings in the Sunday paper is an old habit with me! I’m not looking for another job, and yet most Sunday afternoons I read down the columns. The range of jobs is wide, the qualifications varied. I find the header lines used to capture attention most interesting. These appeared in the Express-Times yesterday.
-Welcome to your future.
-A real opportunity!
-Looking for a few good people.

This one, the header on an ad for a cruise ship company looking for cooks, waiters, and house-keepers is a little too cute – Don’t miss the boat!
The postings offer financial security, or a sense of purpose, or the promise of fulfillment. Urgency is often implied as was the case with that last one I noted.
The Lord has posted a standing job offer, too! He is seeking men and women who will ‘make a Kingdom difference’ in the world! It is true! He invited you and me to join His firm named, The Church, where we can work alongside of millions of others, with the aim of changing the world.

“Ah, Pastor, you’re feeling a bit grandiose today, aren’t you?” No, not really. Being a world-changer does not mean that we will all become Presidents or that we will all gain national recognition. It does not require that we have access to $millions or a stage from which we speak to thousands. It means we will be faithful to serve right there in the the place where we find ourselves today, using the spiritual gifts that God provides to us today, to touch the lives of the people that we talk to and work with today. God’s call to service is not just for those who would become pastors or church workers, either. It’s a call to be His representative in your corner of the world.
He may use you to speak a word of wisdom to a confused person.
He may use you to extend comforting mercy to a broken heart.
He may use you to speak a prophetic word to someone who needs to be nudged back to the right road.
He may use you to be a servant who provides critical help to someone burdened down by life.
He may use you to reflect His majesty by creatively helping your work group to achieve greater things.
He may use you to build bridges of communication between people who are suspicious.

Are you starting to grasp the concept? There are opportunities to serve God everywhere, including right where you are. It does not require a pulpit or a title. God’s only requirement is a willing heart that accepts His commission. And, whatever His purpose for us, God promises to make us competent by His Spirit’s work. Peter writes, “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT)

Here’s a line to take with you, to meditate on today. In the earliest days of the Church, the disciples began to do godly work. They attracted attention in the city of Jerusalem which led to their arrest. When they came before the leaders in the council of those who were rich and powerful, they were not afraid. And here’s what was said of them – “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV) The ability to be a world-changer comes from the Presence of Jesus in us. A couple of decades later, in the city of Thessalonica, another group of people observed two men who were faithful to Christ’s call and they said of them- “Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city!” (Acts 17:6, NLT)

Let’s go and change the world!

Jesus Saves- plain and simple.

The story of Jesus is powerful! I’ve always believed that, but in the earliest days of my ministry I was embarrassed by the ‘simplicity’ of the proclamation of the Good News. I thought that we needed to dress up the ancient story with psychology, with lessons on behavior modification, etc. I was mistaken. The Church’s reason for being is to tell the story of Jesus Christ, plain and simple! Our greatest need – to be restored to our Father’s love and then to live under His care – is accomplished when we believe the good story, the Gospel.

In Romans we read – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”” (1:16-17, NIV)

When the Spirit shows me some area where I am failing to live up to God’s purpose (yes, the word is ‘sin’) I will not become a holy person because someone offers me an explanation about why I am doing the wrong things. Nor will I become righteous if presented with a complex strategy to change my behavior. I need to be changed from the inside out and that requires an encounter with the living Christ! Sure it is helpful to understand our ‘wiring’ and how our experiences of yesterday are affecting our perception of life today, but transformation results when we humble ourselves and receive God’s gift of forgiveness that was fully obtained on our behalf by Jesus Christ on the Cross. Once restored to God, we then invite the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts. The Bible says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.” (Romans 12:2, NLT)

When great sorrow and disappointment flood into our lives, there is only one Truth that steadies us – Jesus saves. Yesterday when a couple of my friends called to tell me about situations they were going through that were hard; unexplainable experiences that had them hurting and confused, the one affirmation that I could share with them was that Jesus loves. To try to fit their pain into a grand theory of the design of the Universe would have been futile. But, the simple, and true, word is Jesus cares!

I want to be known as a “Jesus person.” No, I don’t want to be anti-intellectual, nor do I want to put my mind out to pasture. I just want the Spirit of Jesus to spill over from me, into the lives of those who are alienated from the Source of Hope, into the lives of those who are hurting and need the Healing Presence of the Lord, into the lives of those who are stumbling around in confusion who need to see the Light of the World.

Have you been distracted from the Good News of Jesus by religion, by good works, by high sounding philosophies?
Has your Christianity become a burdensome duty?
Is your worship just a ritual that fulfills some social obligation or that meets some psychological need?

Look again to Jesus Christ! Love Him! Read the story of His life and work from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

Thro’ death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Pay attention to Me!

I wonder if God ever wants to use that parental line with us? When He’s trying to communicate with us about some important choice, do we listen intently? Are we tuned in so that we are even aware that He is speaking to us? There are so many distractions around us. Our lives are filled with work, and play, and responsibilities, and people, and… the Lord’s voice is swallowed up. That is why we must make time, on a regular basis, to pay attention to Him.

Many American workers take pride in their ability to multi-task. They claim they can talk on the phone, read email, and enter data into their Outlook program -as they sip a cup of coffee and scan the newspaper, while the radio plays in the background. Our contemporary offices that are wired and connected make that frenetic kind of activity possible, but studies are showing that all this ‘activity’ is not generally positive. In fact, the activity that creates the illusion that we are getting so much accomplished, in many cases actually masks impaired efficiency, lower productivity, and decisions that are made without sufficient reflection and good judgment! We are beginning to realize that we will function at a much higher level IF we focus on a task, completing it before moving to another.

Does the Spirit of God have to compete with the TV, with a book, with your radio – for your attention?

I am not suggesting that we all need to move to a remote part of Montana in order to be better Christians! But, we do need to take time out of our day to listen to Him, to be quiet in His Presence. That time, for most of us, optimally needs to be in the front side of the day, not at the end. As much as we might think we are pleasing God as we offer up our drowsy prayers ’round 10 PM, we need to be giving Him priority time as we prepare for the day. 15-30 minutes set aside exclusively to listen to the Lord is an investment from which we will gain rewards for the rest of the day!

Moses, near the end of his life, called the Israeli people together and went over the Law of God that he had given to them. In the ending chapters of Deuteronomy he summarizes it all in passages that outline blessings and curses. Basically Moses says, “If you are obedient, you will be blessed. If you don’t obey God, you will fail at everything you attempt.” Fundamental to obedience is listening, knowing what God wants us to do. As I close this short TFTD, I urge you to read the next lines carefully – asking yourself as you do – “am I really paying attention to the voice of God?”

  • “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
  • … Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life,and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:14-20, NIV)

Explicitly we are told to PAY ATTENTION to God’s voice. Are you listening?__________________________

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will
Trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side
In the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go,
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.

Real Treasure

What do I value? That question shaped my meditation after I read Luke 12. My family is precious to me. I love my children and grandchildren! I adore my wife with feelings akin to worship. (Yes, I know that I have to careful there!) The privilege of serving a church as her pastor is high on the list. Then, too, I like the technology that I use in the course of doing my work. Getting a new gadget brightens the day! I take care of my truck because it is of some value to me as well. Of course, I need money and spend some time each week taking care of financial concerns. But, my real treasure? That would have to be knowing Jesus. Life without God is incomprehensible to me, for He is the core of my existence. Family, possessions, and position obviously are of great importance to me, but my basic identity and my foundational security is found in Jesus Christ.

One day as Jesus was teaching, somebody shouted from the crowd, “Tell my brother to fairly divide the family estate with me!” His reply is curious. Instead of inquiring about the details of this family dispute, he tells a story about a man who had a run of prosperity that was so great that he had to tear down his granaries and build bigger ones. This man was certain that he was ‘set’ for life! He said, “Now I can take it easy: I’ll eat, drink, and be merry!” Sounds a lot like most of us Americans, doesn’t he? We are busy with acquiring things, building wealth, for we are taught that in wealth we will find security and comfort. And there is some truth in that. Wealth provides us with options, allows us to control aspects of our lives, and earns us a measure of respect.

But when Jesus continued with his story, He captured the limitations of wealth with this stark declaration: “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” (Luke 12:20-21, The Message) God was not punishing this man for gaining wealth or for his success. The point of Jesus’ story is the limitations of wealth, and the emptiness that results from attempting to find life’s meaning in material good. No matter how rich we are, eventually we will leave this world behind, and our wealth will stay here to be taken by another. So, Jesus did answer the man who asked for help in getting a fair estate settlement, but not the answer he necessarily wanted. Jesus was saying to him, “Value your relationships, more than making sure you get what you think is rightfully yours.”

Jesus then taught about how to be wealthy in a different way. “Trust God! Be content! Share with those in need!” If we do these things, He promised that God would provide for our true needs while we live here on earth. Even more importantly, we will have invested treasure in Heaven, where it is completely secure and lasting. He sums up all of this with this challenging word- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34, NIV)

You want to know what you value most? Listen to yourself talk.
What occupies your attention?
What or who is the focus of your efforts? That is your treasure! How easily we are taken in by the glitter of gold! The Word warns us about the possibility of letting the seed of God’s Truth becoming “crowded out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things, so no crop is produced.” (Mark 4:19, NLT) We must keep weeding the garden of our mind so that the Truth can grow into a great harvest of true wealth. Be rich in your relationship with God. Love Him, love others in His name.

Father, You are my portion in this life
And You are my hope and my delight.
And I love You, yes, I love You,
Lord, I love You, my delight.

Jesus, You are my treasure in this life
And You are so pure and so kind.
And I love You, yes, I love You,
Lord, I love You, my delight.

My Delight; Andy Park
Copyright: 1987 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing

The essential Truth

“Did you know that they believe that…?” My friend had been to a Membership Class at the church she had attended for a year where she discovered that some of the doctrines of that church body were quite different from what she had been taught from childhood in a different congregation. She was surprised, even shocked, by some of the more unique understandings of that denomination. As we discussed the things she was hearing, I walked a tightrope! I did not want to cause her to think that doctrine is unimportant. What we believe to be true has a real effect how we live. But, I also wanted to help her to understand that within the Church, there are variations of understanding about secondary doctrines that need not divide us. So, I asked about her new church’s view of Jesus Christ. Did they believe He was “God, come in flesh?” Did they teach that the work Jesus Christ on the Cross was completely sufficient to restore us to right relationship to our Heavenly Father? Did they hold up the Scripture as the authoritative guide for the Believer’s life? These are the essential truths around which Christians join in unity. Doctrines about spiritual gifts, about prophetic matters, about modes of baptism, about worship practices, are, in my opinion, secondary and should never be made the test of being a Christian.

The Bible tells us to allow for latitude in understanding and practice within the Church. Paul specifically mentions holy days and matters of ‘right foods’ as being secondary matters. He says,
“Some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. …. Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path. … For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:5-17, NLT)

Please do not read this as dismissing the need for careful study of the Word or for the formation of statements of faith! I am so thankful for those scholars and theologians who study the Scripture and help us to formulate sound doctrines. Their work is of great value to us and we benefit tremendously from their work in helping us to understand the ways of God as revealed to us in the Holy Bible. Much evil work has been done in the Church down through her history as a result of willful ignorance and/or lazy minds! It is both good and right for Believers of like-mindedness to gather together in fellowships where they publish their understandings of both the essential truths and secondary understandings. The destruction comes when any group proclaims that they alone are True Believers based on their unique practices or understandings about the secondary matters.

Take this word from the Word and meditate on it today, asking the Spirit to open your heart and mind.
“Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. ….God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” “ (2 Timothy 2:14-19, NIV)

In eternity, those things which we have worked so hard to discern will be wonderfully and simply known. Until then –
Walk in the Light!
Keep step with the Spirit.
Stay accountable to God and His Church. Amen!

With hands lifted up

Raising our hands over our heads is a human behavior that recurs at different times, in different situations – but it always has a similar meaning.

If you attend a Charismatic church you’ll see people standing with their hands raised during the praise and worship segment of the service. The meaning? “Lord, I give myself, my worship to You!”

Go to a rock concert and you will see people swaying to the beat with their hands raised. Perhaps less consciously, but never the less plainly, they are expressing admiration for the musicians.

See a police team arrest a suspect, especially in a violent crime situation, and you’ll see the suspect with his hands raised over his head. Similarly a defeated army will march with their hands raised – a sign of surrender!

From the history of Israel comes a story of curious details. Take a look.
Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.””
(Exodus 17:10-16, NIV)

Most of the time that story is taught as a lesson about helping each other. The action of Aaron and Hur in keeping Moses hands raised is admirable, but it is not the focus of the account, nor do I believe it is the reason that this little incident is recorded in the Holy Scripture. The focus is on Moses’ attitude of submission to God! In keeping his hands raised, Moses is using that universally recognized way to say – “I worship You, surrender to You, accept Your authority!” God rewarded that submission by giving victory to His people.

Moses received a revelation of God’s Name that day – in the KJV we read, “Jehovah Nissi.” Other translations write, “God, my Banner.” The clearest meaning is “God, my War Flag.” When I live under His authority and by His power, symbolically described here as marching under His flag, I am victorious. Moses then explains this Name saying, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD.” He was recording for all of us to read, that when he saluted God with raised hands, when he recognized the power and authority of the God of Israel, he saw victory!

Are you a submitted, surrendered Believer who lives with a constant attitude of adoration?
Are your hands raised to the Living Lord, Jesus Christ – perhaps not literally- but figuratively?
Does your life reflect an attitude of that declares you’re living under the Banner of the LORD?
If so, you will triumph over sin and Satan!!

Let me leave you with these reflections of the importance of adoration and surrender that borrow the same metaphorical expression…
“Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place, and bless God. In turn, may God of Zion bless you— God who made heaven and earth!” (Psalm 134:2-3, The Message)

“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (Psalm 63:4-5, NIV)

“Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. “ (Psalm 28:2, NKJV)

I will bless Thee, O Lord.
I will bless Thee, O Lord.
With a heart of thanksgiving
I will bless Thee, O Lord.

With my hands lifted up
And my mouth filled with praise,
With a heart of thanksgiving
I will bless Thee, O Lord.

I Will Bless Thee O Lord- Ester Watanabe
Copyright: 1970- Admin. by New Song Music Company 45-707 A Lanipola Place, Kaneohe, HI 96744)

Leaders – we need them!

Whether it is a family, a Boy Scout troop, or a nation, leadership is one of the key’s to peace, for unity, and for success. People need to be led. I’m not talking about having or being a boss. There are plenty of people who love to be ‘in charge’ because they like having power, who are not really leaders. It is easy to confuse holding an office with exercising leadership, but they are not one and the same. Observing any organization or group, we will find that there are bosses who claim to be ‘in charge,’ and leaders who really make the group function. Often they are not the same person or people. “How can they lead without having authority?” you might ask. Real leaders don’t order people around, they spread influence! A leader is one who influences others – for good, perhaps, for bad!

If you’re a leader, remember this — leaders need to be led, too! A rogue leader who lives without a network of accountable relationships, who is not allowing herself to be positively influenced, will almost always eventually self-destruct and/or destroy the organization she leads as she begins to use more and more of its resources for her own purposes.

In the book of Judges, which tells stories from the earliest days of the Israeli nation’s formation, two of the final chapters open with this line: “In those days Israel had no king.” Both chapters recount events of social and spiritual chaos, of horrific crimes and recrimination. The message is – without leadership the people did not become who God wanted them to be. There was no one inspiring them to reach higher, to live better, to restrain the impulses of sin. To underscore the message, after these stories of spiritual failure, that book closes with this statement: “In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25, NLT)

In the era of the Church, God calls men and women into leadership, giving them spiritual gifts that enable them to inspire His people with vision, to call His people to purpose. Here’s how Ephesians talks about those leaders and their function: “He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NLT)

Do you see anything in that passage about being ‘the boss?’ Neither do I! Church leadership is about helping others succeed, inspiring people to look past their self interest to see the whole of God’s work and to come to a state of unity. Leaders, both those who are ‘in office’ and those who influence and inspire without an official title, are called to focus on creating an environment where God’s people can become giants of faith; deep and mature in spiritual things, Christ-like in character. That’s a high calling and it sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn’t it? Those called by God to lead His Church, are called to something far more important than managing church work, which is what often passes for church leadership.

Are you called to leadership? Then serve well, humbly, and for eternal purposes, remaining under Christ’s authority.

Are you being led? Make the work of those in leadership a joyful task. The Word requires this of each one of us. God says, “Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” (Hebrews 13:17, NLT)

Let the chaos and misery of the time of the Judges be a lesson of what happens when there are no leaders. Pray that God would call godly men and women to provide visionary leadership to His Church – and if he calls you – respond humbly, “Lord, here I am, use me!”

Hewn and fit in place

Do you ‘fit in?’
Have you allowed God to shape you and place you where He wants, contented to be a part of His work, by His design?

Peter uses a rich and wonderful metaphor that captures my imagination: “you, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5, NKJV) Reading that, my mind goes to the cathedrals built from common stone – often limestone which can be carved and shaped. Each stone, from the huge foundational ones to the intricately carved ones that decorate the tops of the walls, is carefully fitted into place, together becoming something beautiful. Ordinary blocks of stone, pulled from the quarry, of little worthy or beauty individually, are formed into an awe-inspiring place where God is worshipped.

That’s what He wants to do with you and me! In immaturity, most of us seek to be ‘known.’ We work at differentiating ourselves from the crowd. That teen with the amazing hair-do or with all that hardware in his face is just trying to tell the world – “Hey, look at me. I exist! I am me!” As he matures, he will find his identity, grow comfortable in his own skin, and begin to meld himself into community. With intellectual and emotional maturity, he will realize the importance of being a part of something bigger than himself, of giving up some of his individuality for the sake of society.

Mature Christians realize that God has called them into the Body of Christ, that He wants to fit them into His temple – and it’s not a terrible thing, either. God has to do some shaping, knocking off the sharp edges, preparing us for that place in His design. The Believer who’s jumping up and down yelling for attention, who needs to be the ‘super-star,’ just needs to grow up in Christ, to be settled and secure – becoming “a living stone!”

In the same passage, Peter (the nickname that meant ‘the rock,’ that Jesus gave to the man who was actually named Simon) reminds us of the secure foundation on which those living stones rest. “Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him. … As the Scriptures express it, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed.” ” (1 Peter 2:3-6, NLT)

So much of life is marked by change, by shifting priorities, by things temporary and passing.
Meditate today on the solidness of God’s work – on the immoveable and unchanging character of Jesus. Praise Him for working to cause you to ‘fit in,’ and rejoice in the opportunity to be part of a great Temple where His Presence lives and is shown in beauty to the world.

His hair grew back!

Guilty! With that verdict comes shame, a sentence, and a mark for life. “Convicted felon” is a line no one wants to put in his resume. As a rule, our failures will be remembered far longer than our successes. Mention the name – Jimmy Swaggart – and see what people say. Will they speak of his gospel music, the Bible college he founded, the evangelistic efforts he carried out around the world, or the millions of dollars he gave to missionary work? Not likely. It will be his failures, his descent into lust and greed, that will fill most conversations about him.

God is different! Time and again, He promises redemption and restoration!

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. …. I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)

“Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. You used to live … full of sin, obeying Satan… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead … And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:1-8, NLT)

Yesterday, I wrote of the sad saga of a man named Samson, who became first the captive of his lust, and then the slave of his enemies. When the Spirit of God lifted from him, his strength was gone. The Philistines blinded him and made him turn the grinding wheel in the granary. What a picture of the Believer who lives in sinful disobedience! When we reject the leading of the Holy Spirit and grieve our God, our true strength is gone for the fellowship with the Spirit who gives us life is broken.

But, Samson’s story doesn’t end in the prison granary! There is a line that makes me smile in the symbolism it contains, “But before long his hair began to grow back.” (Judges 16:22, NLT) Samson’s long hair was a outward sign of his vows to God. As his hair grew over time, his heart turned back to God and he discovered the miracle of restoration and redemption that is available to us all – because of the Lord’s mercy! Between the lines of the story, we can see the man broken in body, becoming strong in spirit. As he strained to turn the grinding wheel, though his eyes were gone – he began to really see. No longer could he gaze on the beauty of the women that once captured his attention, but he could ‘see’ the beauty of the Lord. And with the growth of his hair, his return to devotion to God returned, and with that came renewal of his strength. In the end, this hero of Israel, triumphed in death.

What a price his sin exacted from him! That is the tragic part of willful disobedience to God, Believer. He is rich in mercy, a Redeemer who ‘raises us from the dead,’ but the scars of sin are never erased. Yesterday’s sin can be forgiven, the guilt removed by Christ Jesus forever, but the consequences… ah, those residual effects, they remain part of our lives until we enter into Eternity.

So, if you’ve fallen – listen for the Spirit’s invitation. Receive God’s grace and mercy and be restored! “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the people turn from their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7, NLT)

If you’re being tempted – run, don’t walk, to the Presence of God where there is strength. Don’t abuse His grace. “Keep step with the Spirit,” and avoid the regret, the pain, the shame that can mark the rest of your life.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Title: Great Is Thy FaithfulnessAuthor: Chisholm, Thomas O. / Runyan, William M.Copyright: 1923. Renewed 1951 Hope Publishing Company