Thanksgiving includes you!

The story is short but the lesson gets delivered. Here it is.
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out,
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!”
He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?”
(Luke 17:11-17, NLT)

Assumed gratitude is no thanks!
“But she ought to know how much I appreciate what she does.” Really? How, exactly, by reading your mind?
“He needs me to tell him that I appreciate his efforts? Why? Is he insecure or something?” No, he’s just a normal person in need of affirmation from time to time.

God desires our praise, our gratitude, too. He doesn’t need it, nor do we add anything to the One who is sufficient in Himself, but He desires it. Praise, a form of thankfulness, is the way we are told to enter into His Presence. If your having difficulties entering into worship individually or when you’re in church, start to thank God. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. Murmur your praise for what He’s done, Who He is, or the things He has promised to do!

On Thanksgiving Day, make sure to be thankful. Many will fail on this key point. It’s not that they will complain, they will just assume that God and everybody else knows that they are grateful. Enjoy your feast! Watch some football! And, make sure to take some time to give thanks – liberally and sincerely. Don’t cause the Lord to say of you, “Didn’t I… where is his thanks?” If you’re a little short on gratitude or unsure of what to say, then read this Psalm aloud. And, I assure you, He will be blessed by your praise!

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100, NIV)
____________________________

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!

Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and dreary fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!

Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside.
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!

Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity! Amen.

Thanks To God For My Redeemer
Storm, August Ludvig / Hultman, John A.
© Public Domain

Thank you for reading along! It is my privilege to share my devotional journal with you each day. TFTD is sent with a prayer that God will use these words to encourage you to serve Him with gladness.See you on Monday, Lord-willing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

An American Heresy

I do not expect to get any “amen” emails in response to this TFTD!
What I am about to write will be thought to be almost ‘un-American.’

Here goes: We all should re-think how we celebrate Christmas this year! Why this note now? Because the orgy of consumer spending is set to kick off in just four days on the infamous ‘Black Friday’ that follows Thanksgiving.

There is a big LIE that we learn as toddlers which continues to deceive many people to the grave; I am what I own. A variant is; I will be happy when I own ______ . I am not exempt, either. I want a 42″ LCD HD 1080i TV, even though the TV I have works perfectly well. I just want it. My last two forays to stores have included at least 15 minutes of gazing on large screen TV’s with deep longing and the urge to buy one screaming in my mind. Is there anything wrong with a bigger TV? No, of course not. What I must deal with is the deception: ‘Jerry, you will be happy and more cool if you buy it!’ If I buy a new TV the decision should be about the functional place it has in my life. If the purchase is made in an attempt to soothe my soul or to try prove my worth as a person to myself, I only make the big lie stronger in my life! I am wise enough to know that even if I buy one, in a couple of months my ‘want-er’ will be demanding something else telling me that it will make me happy.

We manage to conveniently ignore much of what the New Testament says about materialism and/or greed. One does not need to understand Koine Greek (the original language of the NT) or have a Master’s degree in Biblical studies to grasp the truth. Here are a couple of those passages.

  • “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8, NIV)
  • “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)
  • “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:10-12, NLT)

Here’s the keystone truth, from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15, NIV) In other words, ‘we are not defined by what we own!’

Before you jump into the typical spending spree that has come to define an American Christmas, prayerfully meditate on those passages. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to enter joyfully into the discipline of ‘fasting’ – yes, that ancient choice to say no to desires of the body that refocuses our love towards God, the Spirit. Perhaps the best fast this month would be the ‘mall fast!’ One of my ‘fasts’ this month will be not reading all of those advertising inserts that offer 40% off retail, that seduce me with not so subtle messages that ‘the good life’ can be purchased!

The gifts that I do buy this year I want to be thoughtful, chosen as an expression of love, not given to satisfy a sense of obligation. No, I am not Scrooge. This has nothing to do with wanting to hang onto my money. I pray these choices will be part of learning to give and receive the best gifts, those that will not lose their luster a few days after the wrapping paper is torn off.

Let this great promise wrap you in peace today and then go love others extravagantly.

“My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you…. My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. …
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. …
This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.”
– 1 John 4: 1,4, 7, 10-11, The Message

Stupid Words?

The talking heads on television are amazing in that they just keep talking, and talking, and talking. Panels of ‘wise men’ inform us of the right course of action for our nation’s ills, each convinced of his superior insights. Have Bill Bennett, James Carville, or Ann Coulter ever taken a moment to reflect on their bombast? I love to watch football, but when John Madden is calling the game, I turn off the sound from time to time, just to avoid his endless blather. Instead of helping me enjoy the game, the words that spill out of him just get in the way.

Wasted words, if piled up, would make the world’s largest garbage dump. We humans have a love of talk which quickly gets us into trouble. When we think we just have to say something if we want to appear informed, clever, or included; we quickly wander into the realm of toxic speech. “Me, too,” is a quick way to dig ourselves a hole from which is it tough to escape. Conversation is a great gift and those who know how to share their knowledge and/or life with others over a cup of coffee enjoy a real advantage in the world. But, gossiping about others, which is what happens too frequently, has no good end. Boasting about our achievements quickly leads us to lying. Trying to address issues of which we have no real knowledge will soon bring folly to light.

Paul wrote a couple of letters to a young preacher he loved like his own son. His counsel to Timothy is now part of the inspired Word, wisdom for all ages. In his second letter to Timothy, he says, “Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. … Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. … Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.” (2 Timothy 2:23, NLT) What wisdom!

James is equally direct. He says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. “ (James 1:26, NLT) In Proverbs, that book packed with pithy wisdom, we are advised that “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (Proverbs 10:19, NLT) Consider this: “Fools are undone by their big mouths; their souls are crushed by their words.” (Proverbs 18:7, The Message)

Yes, words can bless, heal, and encourage. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, NIV)

Think of those conversations that have left you with a joyful heart, or with insight that was critically important. Don’t you want your words to have that kind of impact on others? I sure do!

So, let us pray this today: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NIV)
__________________________

The Swindler

A swindler is a person who cheats another out of money or property with fraudulent claims. Just about everyday, someone attempts to swindle me. Email arrives from a grieving widow whose late husband accumulated $millions which she now wants to give to the Lord’s work. All I have to do is send her my bank account information and she will deposit the funds in my account immediately, before she dies of her own grave illness. Right, and the moon is made of green cheese, too! Can you believe that people fall for those emails? I cannot, but the fact is that there are $millions lost to these swindles every year in America and here’s why: greed! The ‘promise’ of a windfall sounds so good to somebody desperate to make a change in life that they set aside caution and ignore conventional wisdom.

There is another swindle that starts in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day. Paul writes about it in his letter to the Romans.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. . . . .
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . .
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
(Romans 1:18-25, NIV)

Are you in danger of a swindle, friend?
Are you ready to trade away a rich relationship with the eternal God for a god like status, happiness, or pleasure?
Are you feeling so desperate that you are considering giving up your pursuit of the Holy One for the love of something or someone else? Don’t say it cannot happen to you! If we linger long enough near temptation, gazing at the trinkets offered by the Swindler, they start to look like things of great value which we crave to own. Cheap pornography takes the place of real relationship. Pleasure from a glass of wine or a pill replaces genuine joy. The security of knowing God and being known by Him is set aside for the ‘security’ of wealth, which is no security at all.

So, how do we avoid the swindle? Two choices must be made daily.
First, glorify God. What does that mean? Worship Him. Acknowledge His supremacy. Make His Name great.
Second, give thanks. Thankfulness reinforces contentment. A contented person knows an inner peace that keeps the lies of the swindler from taking hold.

The Israelites were miraculously brought out of slavery in Egypt. They enjoyed the constant Presence of God in the cloud and fire and were fed by His hand each day. But, they complained against Him, fought with those God appointed to lead them, and resisted His will. And, they exchanged God’s glory for a gleaming golden calf! That generation of people died in the desert blocked from the Promised Land by their faithlessness to the God who had called them. Alluding to their experience, Paul urges disciples to stay faithful.

Take this word from the Word to heart today.
“Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.
Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14, The Message)
________

Be in worship on the Lord’s Day!
If you unable to attend church, you’re invited to join the Assembly online at http://www.washingtonag.com/sermon_audio__on_demand.htm

Wow’em II

Applause is as addictive as any drug. Ask any ageing performer or politician. Long after prudence and any semblance of pride would dictate that it was time to get off the stage, they are still appearing, in smaller and smaller venues, craving the rush that comes when the audience responds with a standing ovation. That part of human nature lurks in the shadows to twist the Believer’s desire to let the beauty of Jesus shine through him into a pathetic religious performance. The goal of that performance is approval and applause. If you think I’m off base here, consider these words from Jesus Himself.

“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. “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“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)

You’re not exempt from pride, nor am I! I confess that more than once when at neat turn of phrase emerges in something I am writing, the thought occurs to me: “Now, that should get somebody’s attention!” Isn’t that ugly? I am not above the temptation to evaluate a sermon’s ‘success’ more by the remarks of those in the congregation than its fidelity to the Word of God! Ugh! With Paul, I say, “What a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me?” When we take the stage of life as “Good Christian actors,” the beauty of Jesus disappears; the blessing of the Spirit evaporates; any glory to Heaven lost.

So the Lord tells us to make certain to include large chunks of secret service, extended time of quiet seclusion, and much solitary prayer in our lives. There, in the secret place, where the only audience is the One, our true self is revealed and, praise God, the Spirit changes us – from glory to glory! Remember, who you are in secret will most surely make its way into the light, sooner or later. Jesus tells us that “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” Let’s use that principle for good, learning the disciplines of discipleship, cultivating a deep relationship with God where others cannot intrude, where temptation to dance for the crowd cannot reach us. Then, when we emerge to public service and ministry, we will wow’em with the beauty of the Lord, but we won’t notice or care if they notice because the incredible joy of receiving His approval will eclipse any need we might feel for men’s applause.

Here’s a word from the Word. May the Truth inspire you today.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (John 7:37-38, NIV)

Lord, flow from us. Make Your beauty known through our words and actions. May we never try to be what we are not and may we always be authentic so that – come rain, come storm – You will be seen in us. Amen.
_____________________

I’m calling out to You:
“There must something more,
Some deeper place to find,
Some secret place to hide,
Where I’ve not gone before.

Where my soul is satisfied
and my sin is put to death,
and I can hear Your voice
and Your purpose is my choice,
as natural as a breath.

The Love I knew before
when You first touched my life,
I need You to restore,
I want You to revive!

Could You place in my heart
a passion for Jesus;
A hunger that seizes
my passion for You?
My one desire,
my greatest possession,
My only confession,
my passion for You.”

Passion For Jesus
Brian Houston
CCLI License No. 810055
________________________

Wow’em!

Beauty abounds in God’s Creation. From the colors splashed on the sky, to the span of the view from a mountain peak, to the mesmerizing song of a waterfall, to the engineering of the crystals of a snowflake, to the stupendous variety in aquatic life… the list of places to be awed in Creation is long. God loves beauty; not the plastic perfection we are trained to admire, but the truly awesome of grand design. Those who love and serve His purposes in this world are commissioned ‘make all things bright and beautiful!’

In the 5th chapter of Ephesians there is an extended passage that compares two ways to live- one ugly, the other, beautiful; one the result of sin, the other the work of God. The opening lines are our commission. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love.” Imitators of God! Co-creators of beauty, beginning with our own hearts. The passage calls us to set aside immorality, impurity, and greed. “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” The Spirit urges us to reject the emptiness of drunkenness that deceives us to think of the coarse, the base, and the ugly as beautiful! “Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Take a look at the aim of the Lord in loving us! “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5, NIV)

  • Are you bringing out the beauty in life by using your creative gifts, by loving deeply, by being the one-of-a-kind person God asks you to be?
  • Are you letting the Spirit transform you from ‘glory to glory?’

Let me encourage you today to let the beauty of Jesus Christ shine through. Just as a true work of art creates a ‘wow’ factor in those who take it in, pray that God will make your life a work of divine art. Then, others will know what an awesome Designer you serve, for the praise of His glory.

Here’s a word from the Word for your meditation. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, NLT)
_______________

He gave me beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise
For the spirit of heaviness,
That we might be trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
That He might be glorified.

Beauty For Ashes
Manzano, Robert
© 1976, 1979, 1983 Maranatha! Music (Admin. by The Copyright Company)
CCLI License No. 810055

Beware of dogs!

Leonard Sweet, in his book The Gospel According to Starbucks (Waterbrook Press, 2007), asks – “Is God a reality to be experienced or a belief to be remembered?” He goes on to point out that the Bible is less a book about how people thought about God than it is a book about how people experienced God. It is not my intent to set doctrine and experience against each other as though one or the other is unimportant. However, we must not allow ourselves to fall into the error of making Christianity a creed only, just a set of rules and/or statements to be memorized. Christ Jesus is not just to be described, He is to be known- experienced as a real Person!

Paul warned that “the Letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” His reference was to the practice of those who took the First Covenant and substituted its rules for the living Experience of the Holy One made possible in Christ Jesus. The glory of Christianity is that God has given His Holy Spirit to live in us, allowing us to know Jesus Christ.
He writes, “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Philippians 3:1-12, NLT)

Paul’s astonishing claim is that he was a master of doctrine. He even had applied the doctrines nearly flawlessly to his own life and yet he did not know God! Then, he met Christ, through faith, and came to experience the life offered to him by the Spirit. He was writing to the church in Philippi to warn them about certain teachers who wanted to turn the experience of knowing Christ into a set of rules for behavior, substituting puny attempts at self-righteousness with the authentic relationship with the Lord that came through Christ, by faith. With high scorn he says, “Watch out for those dogs!”

Sweet observes that “Authentic Christian experience is not playing praise music on your car radio or placing your body in a pew to listen to a sermon. Authentic Christian experience is the process… of growing into Christ. The world is not impressed that people attend church on Sunday mornings. If anything, such a habit is viewed as a quaint waste of time. But, imagine if every Christian in the world were living as a little Christ.” A passionate, transforming experience of the living Christ tantalizes those who live around a living disciple, drawing them towards Christ, causing them to desire to share that experience. Who wants more rules for living? Who wants a holy nag adding to their sense of failure, heaping guilt upon guilt? Few, if any, seek more religion. But, we all crave an experience that gives Life!

Believer, do you simply know about Christ, or do you know Him?
Those who know Him, experience the renewal of the Spirit and are ‘becomers’ exchanging death for life, filled with the evidence of the Spirit’s life. Here’s a familiar passage about the fruit of the Spirit, paraphrased in The Message. As you read it, believe.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Galatians 5:22-25, The Message)

You are a priest!

One of the privileges that a Pastor enjoys is being part of the emotional moments, the crises of life, that happen to those he shepherds. A baby is born and we celebrate. A death occurs and we comfort. Marriage gets stormy and we counsel. Disappointment comes and we console. We share life and connect those we love with the One who loves them most. That is what Jesus modeled for us in His ministry! He did not run from people’s needs. He shared their lives, stepped into the fears and tears and storms and joy and pain. His Presence made a difference and it still does!
In Mark, there are two stories of His compassion that show me the depth of His care.

  • In chapter 5, we meet a woman sick for years who is too fearful to face Jesus so she just tries to touch Him. When she succeeded, her faith allowed her to experience healing. Jesus sensed the touch and when she came out of the crowd trembling with fear, He gently called her “Daughter!” and then told her that her faith was rewarded.
  • Wrapped around that little drama, we meet a desperate father whose daughter lay dying. Jairus pressed Jesus to come to his home, but the delay on the way brought word she died. Jesus’ words are so tender and challenging – “Don’t be afraid, just believe!” And he saw his daughter restored.

An important part of being a shepherd of God’s people is remembering that it’s not about me, but rather about becoming a priest that connects people with the grace, peace, and wisdom of God. It’s all about Jesus Christ! Never forget that, disciple. Don’t get in the way of what the Lord wants to do through you, by thinking it’s about you. Serving Christ and becoming a minister (and every Believer is a minister!) is not about giving you or me a sense of importance; it’s not about providing a way to gain affirmation; and it’s not about creating a list of wins and losses. It’s about letting the Presence of Jesus Christ be known as we share life with others. The Word says, “The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.” (Colossians 1:27-28, The Message)

As you walk through this day, let yourself be touched! Take an active interest in the people you among whom you live and work. Connect them with Jesus and stand amazed at what He does for them.

Here’s a word from the Word. I pray it challenges you to a renewed sense of ministry. “. . . for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NLT)
________________________

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds,
In a believer’s ear;
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded Spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
‘Tis manna to the hungry soul
And to the weary, rest.

Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With ev’ry fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.

How Sweet the Name
John Newton © Public Domain

Wrinkles and Wisdom

I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror this morning and wondered who that old guy staring back at me was! Grandpa Scott- that’s me! All grown-up, just starting the last quarter in this game of life. Aging is inevitable, but not maturity! Some men die of old age while still thinking and acting like a teenage boy. I don’t want to be one of them.
Maturity gives a person the freedom to choose to master his impulses because he understands that he won’t ‘just die’ if he doesn’t get what he thinks he needs or wants.
Maturity clarifies the truly important from the merely urgent. Maturity refocuses the man from image-building to authenticity. It allows a person to live ‘now’ instead of waiting for some ideal set of circumstances to develop so that he can really live.
Maturity brings acceptance (not apathy!) of spiritual gifts, opportunities, and yes -even limitations – and in that acceptance is found the fertile soil in which real effectiveness grows a rich crop of spiritual and relational fruit. Instead of striving to become somebody’s ideal, the mature man is content to be the best at who he is.

The Word urges us to grow up. “No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd.” (Ephesians 4:14-17, The Message)

For the disciple, maturity develops from two things: Commitment to the Truth and a Radical obedience to Christ.

We will not mature as long as we hide from the truth – about ourselves, about life, about what we’ve done or who we are. Jesus said it simply: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth can be devastating. Admitting that we sin and fail, letting the Spirit of God and/or those He brings into our lives tell us the the truth, won’t always be much fun, but if we face it, God will give us grace to deal with it as necessary.

James, that practical teacher, reminds us of the importance of acting on the truth. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25, NIV)

We will not mature if we let discipleship remain an idea that is separate from ‘real life.’ James tells us to ‘do what the Word says!’ By way of illustration, he goes on to say, “Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:26-27, The Message)

Disciple, it’s time to grow on. You’re going to get older and there’s not a thing you can do about that. Match aging with maturity and then you will be able to enjoy the blessings of being all grown up.
____________________

I am Thine O Lord; I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me.
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Consecrate me now to Thy service Lord,
By the power of grace divine.
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord.
To Thy precious bleeding side.

I Am Thine, O Lord
Fanny Crosby © Public Domain

Who going to pay for it?

I encouraged dreaming yesterday. I hope you didn’t take that as permission to get lost in silly fantasies. With a child-like faith, allow yourself to think about how God wants you to go against the flow, how He is asking you to apply yourself to make a difference for the Kingdom. Somebody asked me, “And just where do I get the resources I need to make that dream into a reality?” With confidence I can say, “If your dream is inspired by God, and if you’re willing to work hard and think ‘out of the box,’ He will provide!” A story from Genesis makes that point.

“Dad, we have the flint and the wood for our sacrifices, but where is the sheep for the offering?” Abraham and Isaac were on their way to Moriah. Both are filled with questions. One of them is wonders where the lamb is and the other is trying to understand what God is doing and why! The account of the testing of Abraham in Genesis 22, wraps up with a Hebrew proverb…. “When you get to the mountain, God will provide.” That was how Abraham responded to his son’s question. “Isaac, God will see to it that there is a sheep for the offering.” In other words, “we will just keep going and see how He works it out.”

Is God calling you to some sacrifice, has He pointed you down a road filled with challenges that you have NO IDEA how to overcome? “When you get to the mountain, God will provide.” If you’re at all like me, you prefer that He show you the plan BEFORE you get to the mountain. Being the planning type, I rest better when the route is laid out, the provisions set aside, and the outcome is assured. There’s nothing wrong with purpose and planning, but God reserves the right to CHANGE our plans and not to tell us what He’s doing. That is why faith is a basic requirement for living out His dreams in our lives. “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NLT)

When He calls us to take up His challenges, He is not cruel nor is He impulsive. He wants us to know that it is His doing, not ours. He is leading us into new revelations of Himself. Deeper vision; greater dreams!

The text of Genesis 22 gives us no insight into Abraham’s emotions on that three day journey to Moriah. What is underscored is that he was obedient and trusting — even though everything he had built his life around — God’s covenant, the life of his beloved son — was on the line. It appeared that God had kicked the legs out from underneath him, that God was a deceiver who gave with one hand and took away with the other. But Abraham did not accuse God, rebel against God, or even resist. After receiving the Word of the LORD, the Bible says, ‘early the next morning, he got up and saddled his donkey’ to go and obey!

I think he must have kept repeating to himself, “God will see to it. God will provide” over and over and over. What would God do? The writer in Hebrews says that Abraham considered that God could raise his son from the dead if necessary!

You know the story. As he raised the knife to slay his son, God spoke. “Enough! I have seen the depth of your love.” The Message translation concludes the story like this: “Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. He named that place GOD-Yireh (God-Sees-to-it!). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of GOD, he sees to it.”

Live obediently today.
Keep moving toward the mountain trusting that when you get there, GOD-Yireh, the One who sufficient and able, will ‘see to it’ giving you just what you need at that time! He will because He is faithful.

Jehovah Jireh, my provider,
His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me.
Jehovah Jireh, my provider,
His grace is sufficient for me.

My God shall supply all my needs,
According to His riches in glory.
He will give His angels charge over me.
Jehovah Jireh careth for me, for me, for me.
Jehovah Jireh careth for me.

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