Trauma produces Transformation

In the crucible
A crucible is a container made of graphite or porcelain in which metals can be heated to extremely high temperatures and melted. This allows impurities to be drawn off, leaving a pure precious metal. The process is hard but the result is great! The Word speaks of God as the Refiner who heats us in the crucible of life; not for our destruction, but to make us holy.

“Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3, NIV)

Trauma produces transformation.

At what moments did you dig into your faith most deeply? What makes you ask yourself the really probing questions about motive and meaning? We don’t tend to grow when life is a bed of roses. We need ‘boot camp’ experiences to force us out of complacency and into transformation. The moment that recruits arrive for basic training they are scared silly, intimidated, yelled at, awakened in the middle of the night, have their hair cut off…. why? Many reasons, but primary among them is the need to break down their old habits and force a bond to the ‘unit’ into place. And, yes, there is that issue of learning to instantly respond to orders! To those of us on the outside, basic training looks cruel, but ask the soldier in combat and he will be thankful for the trauma that transformed a bunch of kids into a disciplined, military unit.

Jesus frequently allowed his friends to get into a tough spot. He didn’t always protect them from failure or from testing situations. Had he done so, they would have been crippled, turned into dependent childish people, incapable of making hard choices, not knowing the ‘stuff’ of which they were made. The Lord took them through basic training so that they would learn to function as Spirit-filled people in this needy world. One stormy night on the Galilee Sea that we learn about in Mark 6, the men who had just witnessed the miracle of the feeding of thousands were bending their backs trying to overcome the wind to get to the other side of the lake, but they couldn’t make any headway. Out of the mists of rain, through the darkness, Jesus came walking across the water. They were terrified until he climbed into the boat with them. Another time they were crossing the lake when a storm kicked up and they thought they would drown…. “Master, don’t you care that we’re about to die?” they screamed. He awakened to say, “Peace, be still.” to the storm and they learned to trust Him a little more that day! Both of these experiences produced awe and deep questions about who Jesus really was. Those questions became fertile soil which nourished the growth of deeper faith!

James 1 is familiar. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” (The Message) One might ask, “Is God serious? Why would I welcome tough times as a gift, or as an “opportunity for joy?” (NLT) The short answer is that trauma produces transformation.

Are you in the crucible of life? Is God allowing you to go through trauma right now? By the way, don’t blame all of your trauma on the Lord. Sometimes we stupidly, sinfully, or short-sightedly bring down the roof on our own head! Peter practically reminds us that “It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad.” (1 Peter 3:17, The Message) But, he comforts us by saying that “if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.” (1 Peter 4:19, The Message)
It is hard not to complain when you’re getting melted in the fire, but pray for the ability to faithfully welcome the challenge as an opportunity to grow. Here’s a word from the Word for this day: “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.” (I Cor. 10:13 The Message)
_________________

All things work for our good,
Though sometimes
we can’t see how they could.
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth,
Our Father knows what’s best for us;
His ways are not our own.
So when your pathway grows dim,
And you just can’t see Him,
Remember, you’re never alone,

He sees the master plan.
He holds the future in His hands.
So don’t live as those who have no hope;
All our hope is found in Him.
We see the present clearly,
But He sees the first and the last.
And like a tapestry,
He’s weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him.

God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,
When you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand,
Trust His heart.

When you don’t understand,
When you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand,
Trust His heart.

Trust His Heart

Carswell, Eddie / Mason, Babbie

Word Music Group, Inc. / Word Music Group, Inc.

© 1989 Dayspring Music, Inc. (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) / May Sun Music (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.) / Word Music, Inc. (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) / Causing Change Music (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License No. 810055

Too close to holy things?

Familiarity is everywhere today. Most people ignore the honorifics and formalities that once governed our interactions. Few, if any, of the people that my Dad served as a minister ever addressed him as “Jerry.” He was Pastor Scott, to all. Dad’s generation worked harder at maintaining the formalities. For example, Dad wouldn’t have stepped into the pulpit without a dark suit and a tie, ever! He seldom disclosed his personal struggles and thus, appeared to many as ‘larger than life.’ By contrast, I go to the office in jeans and sweatshirt at least once a week, often wear an open shirt in pulpit, and people probably know too much about my humanity. Even some children in our congregation speak to me by my first name. But, that familiarity can complicate my ability to minister especially if it hinders spiritual correction or when it is misunderstood as a lack of holiness.
In 1 Samuel some of the young men in the holy ministry became too familiar with godly things. When the people came to make their sacrifices, the young priests took the best for themselves, abused the people, and enriched themselves at God’s expense! “This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.” (1 Samuel 2:17, NIV) Could the same happen to us in our age of informality? I think it’s great that conversational prayer is now the norm for Christians I know. Most of them do not even know that just a generation ago, it was almost unheard of to talk to God in ordinary everyday language! But, is it a good thing that many have no idea how to ponder His majesty deeply and shape prayers that are something more than sentiment expressed ‘off the cuff?’ I think it’s right that we understand that church is not God’s house! We are His temples, the church just a gathering place for the people of God. But, have we lost something by having fewer ‘holy places’ that call us from the commerce of everyday life to think higher thoughts?
With familiarity comes the risk of forgetting the high calling of serving the Living God.

There is not much awe in our worship of the Living Lord. I am too often guilty of rushing into His presence, whether privately or in corporate gatherings, with a list of demands. Sometimes I attend to worship of the Creator of the Universe while thinking about the deadlines that are pressing in on me. A low view of God will certainly steal our awe, turning the Lord of Glory into the Divine Buddy, the Dispenser of the Doodads! When was the last time you sat in the Presence of the Lord with a crushing sense of His awesomeness? When was the last time that instead of turning up the volume of the music, you felt only like contemplating His Person in silence?

Ponder these words –
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be revered above all the gods.
The gods of other nations are merely idols, but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. …
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. Let all the earth tremble before him.” (Psalm 96:4-6, 9 NLT)

Jesus Christ loves us. He walks with us. The Holy Spirit comforts us. This is no argument for turning God into a remote, unapproachable Person. And yet, we must balance our familiarity with the Lord with a Biblical awe which Proverbs reminds us is the fountainhead of wisdom! (1.7) Remember, even in the New Testament, the same Jesus who held children in his arms, who extended forgiveness to an adulterous woman, and who fed hungry crowds, is also revealed as being “in a robe and gold breastplate, hair a blizzard of white, Eyes pouring fire-blaze, both feet furnace-fired bronze, His voice a cataract, right hand holding the Seven Stars, His mouth a sharp-biting sword, his face a perigee sun.” (Revelation 1:13-16, The Message) When John saw this vision of Him, he reports “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” (Revelation 1:17, NLT) Jesus touched John and told him not to be overcome with terror! But there was real awe!

Disciple, recapture and nurture your awe of God! From time to time, read those passages in Isaiah or Revelation that invite us into Heaven’s Throne Room. Do not be resistant to the language that defies easy comprehension or images that are frightening. These visions are there so that we will not make Him too small. Yes, love Him as your Friend. Yes, come near to Him in full confidence of faith, but remember He is the Lord of Glory. The truth is that our Brother, our Savior, our Friend will be our Judge. With perfect justice and complete insight, He will evaluate every thought, every action, every motive without apology or allowing excuse. He is All-Knowing, All-powerful, Present Everywhere, King and Lord above all gods!
Ponder this word from the Word. As you do, note the juxtaposition of familiarity and awe in this passage.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.


So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:12-16, NLT)

________________
You are beautiful beyond description,
Too marvelous for words,
Too wonderful for comprehension,
Like nothing ever seen or heard.
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom,
Who can fathom the depth of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description,
Majesty enthroned above.

And I stand, I stand in awe of You.
I stand, I stand in awe of You.
Holy God, to whom all praise is due,
I stand in awe of You.

C 1987 People Of Destiny International (Admin. by PDI Ministries) CCLI
License No. 810055

Get up and get at it!

The Smith’s, a couple from some American suburb, were on the national news whining about the big, bad bank that was taking advantage of them. Seems that they had fallen on some rough times economically (lot’s of people have it tough right now) and they made the decision not to pay their homeowner’s insurance premium. After several warnings, their mortgage banker bought a policy in their name to protect the bank’s investment and billed them for it, at twice the rate. There is some issue with the cost, but if the Smith’s honored the terms of their mortgage, there would be no problem. Did anyone point that out? No! Headline – Big, bad business takes advantage of poor family trying to cope with job loss. The irony was that they claimed not to be able to buy their own insurance while standing in front of a large flat screen TV, the cost of which was equal to the full policy’s cost! It was symbolic of what’s gone wrong with us! They aren’t victims of the big, bad bank. They are passive people hoping for somebody to rescue them from life, unwilling and/or unable to make the hard choices about life for themselves. Here’s where I’ll step off my rant and go to things spiritual.

There are disciples of Jesus who play the same victim card about the state of their morality (or lack thereof), their lack of commitment, their failure to mature in faith. They are waiting to be rescued, to have someone do the work for them and hand them deep character, rewarding relationships, and a rock solid faith for the future.

Here’s what the Word says about that way of thinking. “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:23-27, The Message)
In Christ Jesus, we have a wonderful Savior. His gift to us is grace. In the Spirit, we have life. He brings the possibility of a daily conversation with God to us. And, we have a responsibility to take the grace, receive the life, and make the choices that lead to the ‘abundant life’ that Jesus promises. God asks each one of us to make the most of our own situation without comparison or complaint! Trying to figure out why someone else has life so much easier than we do is a walk down a dead-end street. Too many factors merge to create our own experience to figure out the why’s this side of eternity. Our calling is to become aware of what is going on and to start to make choices that reflect our standing as the children of God.

Let me illustrate this from my own current situation. Since learning that an obstruction in my gut had to come out in major surgery and that there is a very real possibility of some kind of cancer underlying this, I choose not to waste time crying, ‘Why is this happening to me, Lord?’ Am I happy about it? No, but my choice is to take this moment to my Father, Who knew this day and all the circumstances of it before time began, and say; ‘What do you want me to do now? How can I learn about You in this?’ It is my desire to be authentic in my response, yet disciplined in my decisions. I know and accept that God has made it my choice to live in faith or fear. I’m not a robot and I struggle emotionally with the possibilities that loom! But, I am committed to continuing to ‘train hard… living for the eternal gold’ that is promised to those who choose to take the grace offered. Do I do this alone? No. The Spirit is in me! I am connected to the Body of Christ, His church, and take the support and comfort offered by my fellow disciples. And daily I confess my utter dependence on the Lord’s power to strip away delusions that the world, the flesh, and the devil would create around me.

Here’s the challenge, disciple. “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. … now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. … Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:1-2, 8-11, NIV)

_________

And when the battle’s over
We shall wear a crown!
Yes, we shall wear a crown!
Yes, we shall wear a crown.
And when the battle’s over
We shall wear a crown
In the new Jerusalem.
Wear a crown, wear a crown,
Wear a bright and shining crown;
And when the battle’s over,
We shall wear a crown,
In the new Jerusalem.

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb.
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed thro’ bloody seas?

Sure I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage, Lord:
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

When The Battle’s Over
Watts, Isaac / Waters, Harriette / Lind, A.E.

© Public Domain

Are you a good lover?

As I listened to the family fighting, threatening each other with profane words in public without restraint, my heart broke. There was no peace because there was no love. They were affectionate, but none of them understood deep love. The wife and mother was a once beautiful lady shriveled into insecurity, defensive of her position, emotionally abused by the man who should have been her lover. He was a wounded man whose words about her revealed a deep confusion between sex and love. He was the slave of guilt which drove him to try to buy the affections of the children that had grown up distant from him and into dysfunctional lives of their own.

Sadly that family’s story is way too common in our world and I am convinced that one major reason is that many men don’t know how to be lovers. If you’re thinking I’m talking about conquests or sexual technique, refocus! Men are taught to lead, to compete, to work but many never understand the power of being a lover. A real lover connects with others emotionally, enters into their lives, expresses honest emotion, and copes with disappointment when relational strains come without descending into rage. He is discovering the Divine Romance that undergirds it all!

Men, don’t quit reading. This isn’t about being ‘soft,’ or ‘effeminate.’ This is about being tender enough to be touched and tough enough to enter into the struggle of life with hope and energy that makes a difference.  Our model lover is Jesus Christ.  The caricature that comes down to us in typical depictions of Him makes it hard for many men to understand that. Jesus is often portrayed as a man of indistinct masculinity. But, that is not the Jesus of the Gospels. Jesus was a man who boldly walked into conflict, stood up to bullies, and held children near his chest. He was confident enough in His own identity that He could allow a prostitute to wash His feet with her tears in public, an act that invited ridicule but which gave her nobility! He was a leader of rough fisherman, who eagerly left their families and livelihoods to follow Him. Do you really think Simon Peter would have done that for an effeminate or fearful man? Jesus gathered people wherever He went because He exuded the love of His Father, taking time to care, to get involved, to make people feel dignity once again when He touched them! And ultimately, with a most courageous love, He went to the Cross to reconcile wayward people to their Father.

Oh, oh, oh … I want to be lover like that! How desperately the world needs better lovers! Only an experience of Christ’s Love can birth love in us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. … We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, NIV) But, He did not stop sending us love letters 2000 years ago at the Cross! He continues to love us as a good Father, giving us good gifts, freeing us from our pride and self-obsessions, blessing us with a beautiful world, whispering into our hearts of His care, if only we will listen.

Would you pray with me?
• Lord, captivate us with your beauty.
Draw us to love You beyond the service and rituals of religious obligation.
Create in us a real passion for Who You are.
When we look to You and know that Love,
Change us into lovers: bold lovers,
Engaged, concerned, giving, reconciling people to You.

__________________

Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Hide me O my Savior hide,
Till the storm of life is past.
Safe into the haven guide.
Oh, receive my soul at last!

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.
Raise the fallen cheer the faint,
Heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
I am all unrighteousness.
False and full of sin I am;
Thou art full of truth and grace.

Jesus Lover Of My Soul

Wesley, Charles © Public Domain

Sin, at the point of our strength?

Most of us fear our weakness, well aware of the vulnerability to temptation there, but did you ever consider that it is quite possible to sin at the point of your strength? The past two Fridays were not high points in my spiritual life! Ten days ago, I unloaded frustration on a good friend about all of the things in my life that I did not think were proceeding according to plan. His gentle rebuke slapped me back to humility and reality. He said something like, “It would be so much easier and better if everyone just did what you wanted them to do, right?” Last Friday, after two sleepless night in the hospital, when I was in real post-surgical pain, and somewhat deranged by medication, I began to punch my pillow with anger that I would not express in words. I despised the dependence that held me like man in handcuffs! That night the Lord’s Spirit whispered to my heart, “How can I comfort you if you will not trust Me with the details of this situation which you cannot manage?”

As disciples, we may sin most in our area of spiritual gifting! I am, by God’s gifting, a person who sees the way ahead and devises strategies to get people there. When those abilities are offered to Him, in submission for His glory, they allow me to serve His people well and to know great fulfillment. But, if I allow pride to get in the way, those very gifts become sources from which sin grows in my life. It becomes more important to ‘have my own way,’ than to wait patiently for the will of God!

Let me expand that idea for you. Those with gifts of compassion may find themselves refusing to ’tell the truth in love’ because they desire to be loved more than they want to help others change. Those who are gifted to teach may come to love ideas more than the One who is eternally Wise. Those with creative artistic gifts may find themselves more desirable of birthing something novel to fulfill themselves than using their music or art to draw people to the beauty of the Lord. Those who are gifted to serve may find themselves critical of those who fail to ‘just do something practical’ for others because they come to love the work more than the One served.

We live in a culture that teaches us to respect ourselves, to assert ourselves – which is a good thing, but how quickly healthy self-esteem flows into selfish pride. The wisdom of God’s Holy Word urges us to a better choice. Take a look. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices!” The Message says, “God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. … fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message)

Here’s a word from the Word. Take it with you today.

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.


I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2, KJV)
_________

Thanks for your prayers on my behalf last week. I am home from the hospital recuperating from surgery.

See you on the ‘net!

A Band of Barney’s

A Christian who attempts to experience all that the Lord intends for his life while walking alone is abnormal. He will not develop the fully fruitful life in the Spirit that God intends for him. He will be exponentially more vulnerable to spiritual attack, deception by false teachers, and self-delusion. Beside all that, he robs himself of an incredibly rich source of blessing and encouragement. In short, you and I need the Church.

Yesterday, four men that I love, Elders (local pastors) in Christ’s Church, gathered and ministered to me. They did so in keeping with the word of James 5.16 which says, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (NLT) In the Jerusalem Room at our Assembly an altar was built, a holy place where the Lord met us. It was sweet! Brotherhood does not begin to describe the relationship in the room. No, these were not sterile prayers. They were heart cries – for me!

Later that day, a quiet friend rang my doorbell and prayed a simply eloquent prayer and left me with his benediction, words that I can still ‘hear.’ At least a couple of hundreds of emails and phone calls have brought promises of prayer my way in the last week. (Please do not misunderstand what I am about to say here. I do not intend to polish my halo, but to make a point.) Such love cannot be found in casual, ‘when it’s convenient’ relationships with other Christians. It requires giving, time, effort, and investment. It demands that we stay together when it’s good and not so great. These who are praying for me and I are invested in each other’s lives.

The book of Acts introduces us to a man who invested himself in the first generation church. He was not noted for preaching like Apollos or teaching like Paul. He was loved for something we often take for granted. His given name was Joseph, but nobody called him that. His nickname became the name we use to this day. He was called, Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” (Acts 4.36) Barney was a man who loved people and they loved him back. He’s a model for us. The medical crisis in my life at this time gave my band of Barney’s reason to gather ’round me. I only pray that when the opportunity presents itself, that I will be that kind of Barney, too!

Are you investing yourself in a local Body of Believers? I don’t mean just showing up to sit in a pew, either. I mean are you taking time to serve, to get to know others, to care? Are you loving others even when they disappoint you, hanging with them because God called you into that Boldy? Time will come when you need a band of Barney’s. Do not wait until then to connect, it will be too late to really experience the kind of blessings I have been so wonderfully privileged to know in the last few days.

To all my Barney’s – THANK YOU!

Here’s a word from the Word:

 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, NIV)
 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)

“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 10:25, NIV)

Stay in the Story

Yesterday John Podesta, former White House chief of staff to President Clinton, criticized the current President for “losing control of the narrative.” It’s a polite way to say that the White House is letting others write their script. This means that instead of leading effectively and setting the course, they are reacting to events. It isn’t my intention to comment on his observation but rather to ask – Whose writing the script for you? Are you sticking with the main storyline that God has written for your life?
My own short life history include many sub-plots that I never anticipated! Six weeks ago, I would have laughed if you told me that I was going to be sidelined for major surgery in mid-February! But, the main narrative which is about doing the will of God as I obey His Word and ultimately about making my home with Him in Heaven, when the credits roll has never been out of my mind. From my teen years to the present, the ‘story’ has directed my decisions. Some have a story that is about accumulating wealth. Others write their story around finding pleasure. What’s your story? What overarching plot moves you forward day to day and gives your life purpose?

Paul saw the church in Corinth going off story, sidetracked from serving God to being consumed with the novelty of self-centered religiosity. He declares his commitment to the Gospel story. He said, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, … I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. … My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power!” (1 Corinthians 1:22, 2:2,4 NIV) It’s not about miracles. It’s not about impressive philosophy. It’s about Jesus Christ who died to save us! The Christians in Corinth had lost the narrative. They thought their spirituality was found in speaking in tongues, in worship that was marked by confusion and disorder done in the name of the Holy Spirit. They were impressed by the ‘prophetic’ performance of speakers who wove words together with mesmerizing skill. Paul brought them a reminder of the central plot – to know and serve the Savior who died to save them and rose to promise them eternal life!

Are you sidetracked by sub-plots?
Are you spending inordinate amounts of time trying to work out things that won’t really amount to anything of substance?
Are you letting your energies be consumed by trivialities that are not part of God’s story?
Have you surrendered the script of your life to others, reacting to them instead of purposefully doing God’s will? Stay in the story!

Paul wrote those words about his single-minded focus of life early in his public ministry. History reveals that he lived them! About two decades later, he was once again reflecting on the course of his life, this time as he was imprisoned and waiting execution at the hand of Caesar He had stuck with the Story. He was not filled with regret or remorse. Note the anticipation in the words he penned to Timothy. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NLT)

I love those words!
Fought, finished, faithful!
Prize, crown, given to me!
Now that a great summary of the plot line.
________________

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light my strength my song.
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease?
My comforter, my all in all,
Here in the love of Christ I stand!

No guilt in life, no fear in death!
This is the pow’r of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry, to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell. no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand!
‘Til He returns or calls me home,
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand!

In Christ Alone
© 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
Keith Getty
Stuart Townend

CCLI License No. 810055

Serenity From the Source

Anxiety is stalking just about everybody in these turbulent times! Teenagers I counsel are less concerned with their pimples than the kind of world they will inherit in a few years. Apocalyptic headlines convince these tender souls that we stand on the brink of the world’s end. We don’t!

Our battered economy has young parents anxious about how they will provide for their kids. They will find a way! We middle-aged people hear all the dire news about government debt and the ‘certainty’ of no funding for Social Security and it makes our ‘golden years’ seem awfully grim! But, why?
As disciples of the Lord of Life, there is a promised blessing that we can and should take hold of for each day. That blessing is the ‘peace of God!’ The Bible urges us to choose serenity. Take a look. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)
Peace results from choosing our Source!

If we trust in ourselves, our President, or Glenn Beck- anxiety will surely build. Why? Because these times have revealed the relative impotence of all of the above! But, we also know this: the Lord God is a Rock, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17, KJV) Peace flows out of the certainty that He is able to care for us through each of the change points of our lives. Many Believers have not fully committed themselves to God because, to be honest, they do not REALLY trust Him.
I remember when I thought my Dad was bigger than life. When I was 4 or 5, I was convinced that Dad knew everything and could defeat any foe, any time, anywhere. When I was afraid, if Dad showed up, my fear evaporated immediately. Then, in adolescence, I discovered that he was not Superman. I began to understand that he, too, was sometimes afraid or uncertain. Things happened that he could not control regardless of his wisdom or strength. As an adult, I loved old Dad, but there were no illusions that he was a god.
Have you similarly ‘matured’ past child-like trust in your Heavenly Father?  When we are ‘new’ in faith, we trust Him unquestioningly. With time, we go through experience when He seems distant. He disappoints us by apparently refusing to answer our prayers, at least in the way we want them answered. Such moments can cause us to lose faith in His ability to handle our lives and fear grows. Some of us become even more ‘religious’ thinking that IF we just do more to earn His gracious favor, we can ‘make’ Him do what we want Him to do.

The truth is that He is God – unchanging, faithful, omnipotent, omniscient, and loving. He is worthy of our child-like faith. With study of the Scripture and meditation on His wonderful works, elevate your understanding of who He is and what He does. A higher view of God, a revelation of His majesty, will deepen your faith. You will find a bedrock foundation of trust to keep you steady until the day when His kingdom is fully revealed on Earth. Until then, keep faith strong and make the choice to trust.

Lynn DeShazo captures the doubting, distressed Believer’s confession perfectly in her great worship song —

Be Magnified.

I have made You too small in my eyes; O Lord, forgive me;
And I have believed in a lie that You were unable to help me.
But now, O Lord, I see my wrong,
Heal my heart and show Yourself strong;
And in my eyes and with my song,
O Lord, be magnified, O Lord, be magnified.

I have leaned on the wisdom of men, O Lord, forgive me;
And I have responded to them instead of Your light and Your mercy.
But now, O Lord, I see my wrong,
Heal my heart and show Yourself strong;
And in my eyes and with my song,
O Lord, be magnified, O Lord, be magnified.

Be magnified, O Lord,You are highly exalted;
And there is nothing You can’t do,
O Lord, my eyes are on You.
Be magnified, O Lord, Be magnified.

© 1991 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)
CCLI License No. 810055

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(This Coffee Break is one from the archives that encouraged me much and that I needed to ‘relearn’ today. Hope it blesses and encourages you, too!)

Golden Calf or Glorious God?

Exodus is a story full of lessons for those of us who would be God’s holy people! We learn that He really loved them, had great plans for them. His goal? To give bring them to the Promised Land. “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.” (Exodus 15:13, NLT) He richly resourced them. God gave them a place of worship, detailing the construction of the Tabernacle, and teaching them about Himself in the way it was laid out, centered on the Holiest Place where the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat of Atonement! He called Aaron and his sons into a priesthood to administer His grace. He commanded them to set aside a full day each week to remember Him, honoring Him by breaking their pattern of daily work to spend one day in worship. He fed and led them by His constant Presence. Why? Above all, He wanted them to be His! “You are to be my holy people.” (Exodus 22:31, NIV)
And what did they do?
They failed frequently, griped constantly, and resisted leadership! The episode of the Golden Calf is one of the saddest chapters in the story. The Lord called Moses up to the mountain leaving the people for a time. They went to Aaron and said, “Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:23, NLT) He took their gold and gave them an idol!

How could they forget God’s wondrous works in bringing them out of slavery?
How could they so quickly return to the gods of Egypt?

When confusion and uncertainty struck, they reverted to the comfort of the familiar, took the easy path instead of pursuing the mystery of the Lord’s ways. With the golden calf came a descent into lewdness, a riotous orgy of sensuality! Their choice was one made millions of times in history as people abandon their Creator to worship lesser gods.

Disciple, do you have any golden calves in your life? When the way gets tough, or God’s Presence is obscured by circumstances you cannot understand, are you tempted to find solace in things other than the Lord? The Word warns of this age old temptation that leads to depravity. Take a look. People “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. … (They) changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:23, 25, KJV) I doubt many of us will be tempted to make a literal figurine, but we might be tempted by money, sex, or pleasure!

Never forget- a man becomes like his god! If we pursue the Holy One, full of Light and Glory, He will lift us out of our depravity and allow us to share His holiness. If we pursue lesser gods, the image of our Creator will grow faint and ultimately die. When the way ahead disappears into the fog of uncertain situations, wait on Him. If necessary, stand still! Remember the Glory.

” God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, …
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3, The Message)

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Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
but when winter winds blow, then doubt?

Oh, let Your will be done in me!
In Your love I will abide!
Oh, I long for nothing else as long
as You are glorified!

Are You good only when I prosper
and true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree
and God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy!
You are true when I’m parched and dry!
You still reign in the deepest valley!
You’re still God in the darkest night!

So quiet my restless heart.
Quiet my restless heart.
Quiet my restless heart.

As Long As You are Glorified
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)

Mark Altrogge

CCLI License No. 810055

Like Jesus, not Don Quixote!

War! Earthquake! Death! Poverty! Disease! Disappointment! Flood! Fire! These and more have caused human beings to cry rivers of tears. Early this morning, as I was praying, my body was shaken with sobs. To be sure, some of my tears were for my own situation. My pending surgery has my emotions in turmoil. However, I was also weeping for a newly widowed woman in my congregation, for my Mom’s loneliness, for my friend’s new struggle with cancer, for the people of Haiti and Afghanistan, for my neighbors. It was beyond sadness. I was feeling what old-timers in the Pentecostal church call a ‘burden for souls.’ I believe that God was pressing me to pray and to renew my love for the lost, the broken, those who have no hope.

“Jerry, why emphasize the sorrow? Why not look on the bright side?” Yes, there is joy to be found. Bev and I were greatly blessed with a new granddaughter on Monday. Little Adelina entered this world whole and healthy! We’re thrilled by that. We have many wonderful friends and our hearts are made glad by being with those we love. We experience wonderful times of worship with God’s people. We are unbelievably blessed!

But, we live in a world enslaved by evil, pressed by the Curse of sin, in darkness. In my blessings, I cannot ignore those who suffer. I cannot, despite my overflowing cup of privilege, pretend that all is well. I am commissioned as an agent of the Savior, sent with a message hope and healing to those who are captives of the Evil One. His work is my work. Like Him, I want to let my heart be broken by the human need that is real. As the burden presses on me, I will not fall under despair. I will go to the One who gives me this invitation – “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:29-30, The Message) “Freely and lightly’ should not be understood to mean without sorrow or hard work! Jesus was Himself a man well acquainted with the sorrows of humanity, but He was renewed by His Father as He engaged in the work. So we can know the daily infusion of the Spirit’s hope and strength, IF we turn to Him and stand with Him in the yoke of service.

It may appear that sharing the Good News of Christ is like shouting down a dark alley with no visible results. Trying to help someone find a better life may not change the whole world, but it changes one life! Some may think that this mission of compassion is a fool’s errand, that the tide of human suffering is irresistible. But I know the One who has overcome the world! I have read the end of the Book, and I know that in the end He will vanquish evil, wipe away the tears, and invite us into the Kingdom of Light and Love. I want to be about the work of building that Kingdom now even as I wait to see it arrive in the fullness promised in the Word.
Join me, friend, won’t you? Let’s look evil straight in the eye, engage ourselves with those who suffer, even when it makes us weep! Let’s do the work of Jesus while there is opportunity. All the while, we can be sustained by this wonderful promise. “. . . they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17, NLT)

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Jesus! What a friend for sinners!
Jesus lover of my soul!
Friends may fail me, foes assail me;
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah what a Savior.
Hallelujah what a Friend.
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! What a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted tried and sometimes failing,
He, my strength my victory wins.

Jesus! What a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort helps my soul.

Hallelujah what a Savior.
Hallelujah what a Friend.
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Our Great Savior– J. Wilbur Chapman C Public Domain