You don’t have to be Amish, but you are called to be separate!

Many would-be followers of Christ try to live while holding onto polar extremes: they want to be ‘hip’ and ‘godly’ at the same time. It’s the proverbial oil and water thing. We cannot love the purity of Christ and the baubles of this transient world at the same time.

The Bible says it like this: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)

Jesus was more blunt: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.” (Revelation 3:15-18, NLT)

A Christian disciple’s separation from worldly systems and values involves everything about us; where we play, what we eat, how we think about our money, marriage – the very meaning of life! Being a Christian is not just about believing the right thing about Jesus Christ and having a ‘get out of Hell free’ card in our wallet. It isn’t just about going to a church where we take Communion, promise God we’ll do better this week, and go back out to live as we please. A Christian is also a disciple, a word that shares the root concept with discipline. There are decisions to be made about following Him which are evident in the choices we make about life on Monday morning and Friday night as much as Sunday morning. If we won’t follow His lead, we cannot claim to participate in His life, which is the essence of being right with God.

There is a lie that goes back to the early days of the faith that says: “As long I as I believe the right things and know what is right and wrong, it doesn’t matter what I do, because after all, this world is just temporary.” The heresy goes by the name of Gnosticism. That word comes from a Greek word that means “Knowledge.” Gnostics think that salvation comes by enlightenment, by gaining esoteric insights into spiritual matters. Christian Gnostics (they are not really Christian) live with a huge gap between their belief system and daily life. They falsely comfort themselves that they can claim to love God while serving Self because they are enlightened.

When we love the Lord, it will cause us to be ‘holy,’ that means distinct from the culture that surrounds us because we belong exclusively to God. Holiness, much mocked by the worldly wise, is sometimes confused with shallow piety, a thin veneer of rigid rules that covers a heart full of sin. That’s not holy. That is Pharisaic legalism. Real holiness is beautiful because it is whole, pure, and reverent. Being holy doesn’t mean we have to be Amish, but it means will be separate from worldly things. Here’s a word from the Word for your meditation today. May the wisdom of the Spirit lead you to a life that honors Him in every way.

“Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.

God himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself.

I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to me.” The Word of the Master, God. With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, The Message)
Disciple, are you holy? That’s not just for pastors and old ladies! Without holiness, there is no real knowing God. What in this world could compare to the assurance of the Father’s love?

________________________

A pure heart, that’s what I long for,
A heart that follows hard after Thee;
A pure heart, that’s what I long for,
A heart that follows hard after Thee.
A heart that hides Your Word
So that sin will not come in,
A heart that’s undivided
But one You rule and reign;
A heart that beats compassion,
That pleases You, my Lord,
A sweet aroma of worship
That rises to Your throne.

A Pure Heart
Nelson, Rusty

© 1992 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)

CCLI License No. 810055

Fidelity is about more than where you will sleep tonight

This CoffeeBreak is not warmly inspirational. It wasn’t fun to write. But, like Ezekiel of old, I feel a call to be a watchman, to issue a warning.

American culture has so blurred the lines of morality that many are confused about what is wrong. Even among Christians, many are ignorant of God’s demands of His people. So, let me talk frankly today. Are you married? Then, you are in a covenant that includes Christ as the third Person who stands as the witness to your fidelity to your spouse. God calls us to keep our hearts exclusively for our spouse and our bodies only for them, as well. It has been this way from the very first. The Creation account teaches us: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” … So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’ ” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:18-24, NLT)

There are numerous reasons for preserving fidelity in marriage, not the least of which is that the marital covenant is a living illustration of God’s relationship with His people – the Church. Through the grace of Christ, we are married to Him, His beloved Bride, called to spirituality fidelity. The expectation of faithfulness to God precedes Christianity. Moses told Israel that the LORD wanted an exclusive relationship with them. “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24, NIV) The Decalogue begins with the stark and clear command – Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” When Israel strayed to follow other gods, the Lord called it spiritual adultery.

Our marriages are to reflect God’s grace and wholeness. We read this in Ephesians: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32, NIV) A Christian who does not honor his or her vows not only dishonors the spouse, they dishonor God. But, where love is deep and disciplined with fidelity, God is revealed before the world, for He is love!

Adultery is a word loaded with pain! When a spouse discovers that the person they love has become involved emotionally and/or sexually with another, it causes deep sorrow, a sense of terrible loss, and sometimes even murderous rage. Why? Because adultery is a basic betrayal. The pain it causes rips through families like a tsunami bringing devastation. The story of David, a man who loved God and wrote some of our best worship songs (the Psalms) includes a sordid episode of infidelity. One night this king allowed himself to entertain a friend’s wife for dinner. His sexual desire overcame his self-control and Bathsheba became pregnant. When the whole thing was over, Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was dead. David’s sin was forgiven when he finally confessed, but Nathan, God’s messenger, warned him that he had destroyed the trust of his sons and as a result, “your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” (2 Samuel 12:10, NLT)

David ignored the lesser boundaries that were in place to protect him from his lust. Because he ran through those stop signs, he found himself in a situation where he was overcome by desire. John Mayhall describes the choices that are made before adultery actually happens as ‘leaks.’ He writes:  The “leaks” leading up to sexual infidelity include:
• a feeling that you can talk to a particular person of the opposite sex more freely—and with more understanding—than you can talk with your spouse
• a stirring of the senses when you think about or anticipate seeing a particular person
• an interest in pornography
• unhappiness and dissatisfaction with the physical side of your marriage.
-(Discipleship Journal : Issue 75. 1999)

Here’s a word from the Word. May the Spirit cause it to take root in us, guiding our choices for the glory of our God.
“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-21, NLT)
____________________________________

God, our Husband and our Lover,
we pray for a true heart that loves You.
As a sin-filled world and
the Devil sing their seductive songs,
help us to hear Your song of love alone.

In a culture that worships sexuality,
We pray for protection, and
For the clarity of the Spirit to keep us
From deception.

Lord, as you love us deeply,
Help us to love.
Teach us to cherish our marriages,
To love even when it’s hard,
To forgive often,
And to go home – with our heart and body.

We pray this in the Name of Jesus, that You will be honored by our lives.
Amen.

Sunk or soaring?

Sometimes my life resembles an emotional earthquake! You, too? Are you afraid? Feeling lost? Confused and confounded? There are plenty of reasons for fear. Things we assumed were unshakeable are changing! Our political scene is chaotic both in these United States and in the world. The economy is stalled and prospects for a quick return to prosperity are not in sight. Our government is broke. Some say the dollar is going to rapidly devalue over the next two years. Socially, there are huge challenges in the area of marriage and family.

One might look at these issues and choose to downplay and/or dismiss them: “Change is constant and life turns out just fine.” That’s only partially true. Life always changes, to be sure, but things don’t always turn out for the best! Nations do collapse, families are destroyed, people die. Indifference is not a real option.

We can try to turn off the alarms. There are many ways to drown the sirens that signal distress.

Turn life into a party! “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!”

-Work hard! We can become consumed in what we do and for a time succeed in ignoring the fear that stalks us.

-Get religious! Some people use religious practice like a mind-numbing drub to AVOID engaging with life’s problems. Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses.”

God offers real peace to those who deal with fear in His way! We meet fear with faith. If we try to secure ourselves by performing at an ever higher level, or by seeking affirmation from other people, or by pushing away from intimate involvement with others (isolation); we will only increase our fear. But, if we make the active choice to trust God we move from the instability of reacting to our fears to the steady mature endurance that helps us to hold onto the Lord’s way through Hell and high water.

Isaiah was inspired, at a time when terrible crisis loomed before God’s people, to remind them of the way to true peace. Take a look. Read it slowly, with understanding, even if it is familiar to you. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

We can soar if we make the choice to meet fear with faith. What is a better picture of freedom than an eagle with wings spread, being carried aloft by the currents of the wind? The Wind of the Spirit will lift us, if we choose to release our fear and embrace His promises. Trust is active, not passive. We look to the Lord to lead. We actively listen for the Spirit’s inner voice. We are students of the Scriptures. We conscientiously choose to meet the circumstance of life with integrity. We turn our life to Him, prayerfully committing this day’s decisions to His guidance. We stop fretting and ask Him to help us to stand with courage while we wait to see what He’s up to!

In this, we are not exempted from troubles, but we gain the assurance we are secure in the Father’s embrace and that even death itself cannot separate us from the Father’s love! Today, look up and pray:
“Father in Heaven, be the Lord of this day! I choose to trust You. Grant me courage. Settle my soul with your divine Presence so that I will live on purpose and proactively. Keep me from reacting to my fears and help me to respond to Your call. In Jesus’ holy Name, I ask this. Amen.” Then, take His strength and go live with courage.

___________________

In 1950, a preacher songwriter named Ira Stanphill faced some huge personal problems and tragedies. From the dark moments emerged this poem which became a well loved Gospel song of that era. A few years ago, country singer, Leann Rimes re-released it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fXin6ofsc8
I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

I don’t know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said;
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

I don’t know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty.
But the One who feeds the sparrow,
Is the One who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion,
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me,
And I’m covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow,
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.

© 1950 Singspiration Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Coolsprings Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)  CCLI License No. 810055

Father; yes He is ‘Abba’

Few things in life predict a future of success and/or security like having a loving, involved Dad! Being fatherless can make a child insecure and lead to all kinds of self-destructive behaviors; rebellion, crime, and failure to achieve. In an interview on 60 Minutes, Senator Scott Brown (R – Massachusetts) recounted a childhood with several different step-fathers, a lot of abuse, and delinquency. Not having a strong father made him vulnerable in many ways, including being sexually molested by a camp counselor when he was an adolescent. Finding discipline in sports helped Brown turn his life around but the pain of fatherlessness is obviously still a factor in his life even after his successes.

Christians who accept and believe that God is their good Father gain a great blessing. Many who worship and serve the Lord call Him Father, but do not love Him as such, nor do they really trust Him to care for them with a father’s love. They relate to God as a Boss, as a Judge, or as a Source; but not as their ‘Abba.’ (A Biblical word for Daddy) The Word urges us to love our Father in Heaven familiarly, calling Him “Dad” as a beloved child would. “You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16, NLT)

Jesus explains our most basic relationship with God by teaching us to address Him as “Our Father in heaven.” He goes on to tell us of His care. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11, NLT)

Then, too, the Word reminds us that like a good earthly father, our Father also disciplines us! “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:7-9, NIV)

Are you scrambling to live self-sufficiently, like a orphan, trying to protect yourself, unable to trust the care of One more powerful?
Were you poorly or sinfully fathered so that it is hard for you to relate to God as “Abba?”

Go again to the Scripture and read of the Father-heart of God. Ask the Spirit to reveal the depth of your Father’s love to you, to help you to grasp that He is not the looming Authority Figure trying to catch you in failure so He can punish you; but rather that He is the Waiting Father, whose grace is amazing, whose mercy is deep and wide, and who acts always for your ultimate good. When that is settled into your heart and mind, you will pray with more faith, live with more peace, and live a holy life that grows from intimate love of the Father.

“Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13, NLT)

__________________

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears;
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world;
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world,
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world;
The battle is not done;
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.

This Is My Father’s World

Babcock, Maltbie D. / Sheppard, Franklin
© Public Domain

"Oh, those idiots!" Fuming and Fussing?

Mark Batterson tells about hearing a speaker named Denis Waitley talk about how he came to live with radically adjusted priorities. Waitley arrived at the Chicago airport and was delayed. When he finally reached the gate the door was being closed. In spite of all his threats and pleas, the gate agent would not allow him onto the aircraft for Los Angeles. He rushed back to the ticket counter prepared to register an angry complaint and re-schedule his flight. Just as he was about to reach the agent, the announcement came that the flight had crashed on take-off, killing all those aboard. Waitley never even turned in his ticket, preferring to keep it ‘as an unforgettable reminder that life is a gift that should never be taken for granted.’ – Soulprints, Multnomah Press, 2011

In the complex world that we live in, I can guarantee that sometime, somewhere, in some way, nearly everyday, we will find ourselves in situations that are not going the way we think they ought to go. Traffic will come to a standstill, keeping us from an important meeting. Our cell phone will go dead just when we have to get a call to the office and we will discover that we forget the charger at home that morning. Our PC will lock up the very hour that our presentation is due. The morning we feel most fragile, our spouse will respond to our need for affirmation with a blast of criticism. The list goes on and on. Are we so in love with ourselves and our agenda that we will give vent to a temper tantrum, treat one of God’s treasures to our word full of contempt, or even shake our puny fist at God for making our life difficult?

I confess that I have been that angry man too many times in my life. I cannot shake the memory of a June Sunday in 1995, when, following church services, we were rushing to our eldest son’s high school graduation. I wish I remembered the day for the joy of his achievement, but instead with terrible regret, I recall bullying everyone; frustrated because some were not moving fast enough to suit me! I got us to the event on time, but my emotions were so ragged, I didn’t really enjoy it! That’s just one memory of too many. I am thankful that those kinds of outburst are much fewer these days. Perhaps I’ve just mellowed with age, but I think the truth is that I have come to realize that my life is not my own. Someone much bigger is in charge of my life and He is able to direct my footsteps and even use the mess ups and missed flights to accomplish His purposes for me.

Near the end of his life, Paul wrote to young Timothy (and to us!) with these inspired words. He was not in a good place. He was not spending his golden years in a villa on the Med, sipping cool drinks and soaking up the sun! He was in a dungeon in Rome, falsely accused of sedition, and facing execution. But, instead of fuming and fussing, take a look at the attitude of a man whose was submitted to the Spirit’s control. “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV)

This kind of calm assurance was a life pattern for this man. It wasn’t that he lacked fiery passion. He was highly motivated to spread the good news of the Kingdom across the Roman Empire. But, he also knew that his life belonged to Another. By faith, he chose to accept that the things that appeared to be detours were actually unforeseen opportunities. During an earlier imprisonment, he took note of God’s ability to use his confinement. “I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah.” (Philippians 1:12-14, The Message)

Stop right now, wherever you are, and honestly thank God that nothing that is happening to you right now is surprising Him!  Take your frustration- big or small – and offer it to Him. Surrender! I mean it. Let the tears spill. Shout, if you must. Don’t give yourself any excuse. Confess that selfishness and thank Him for the privilege of walking through the stuff you’re dealing with today with Him in the lead. Let God, be God.

Here’s a word from the Word.
“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:14-16, NLT)

___________________

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness
All I have to do is follow
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness
All I have to do is follow

Strength for today is mine always
And all that I need for tomorrow
My Lord knows the way through the wilderness
All I have to do is follow

My Lord Knows the Way Through the Wilderness
Word and music: Sidney E Cox

It’s a ‘faith thing’

She’s only 6 and her question to me was, “I want Jesus to live in my heart. How can I know He is there?” Exploring the subject of knowing God’s Presence with a child is fun! I told her it was a ‘faith thing.’ Her little eyes told me that wasn’t enough, so I asked her if her Mom had any cans of food in their kitchen. Of course they did, so I followed up by asking her about what you find inside a can that is marked ‘corn.’ You don’t find green beans, right? She giggled. The thought of beans in a can of corn was silly. Even she knows that she can have ‘faith’ that the can holds what the label says. It’s not a perfect illustration, but it’s a start to help a child understand the concept of trusting God.

We all practice faith in hundreds of ways every day. We flip the light switch fully expecting the lights to come on, even though we can’t see the electricity flowing into our homes. We put our money in the bank with faith that we will get it back. We say, “I do,” to the person we love, believing they will keep the covenant. In each situation, our faith could be disappointed because it is not a perfect world. But when it comes to the promise of the Presence of God, there is no possibility of failure! Ah, but that does not mean that He will exempt those who love Him from walking through valleys, deep and dark. He does say, “I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, The Message)

There is something that little disciple will come to know all too soon. There is one thing that will certainly drive her to the arms of the Savior; suffering! She will, as she matures, discover that there is pain in life. People fail to keep their promises. Bodies break down with age and/or disease. Plans unravel when circumstances beyond our control or anticipation intrude. Unexplained sorrows are part of the human experience. In those times she will have the choice, as each of us does, to trust God more deeply and find the comfort of His Spirit. The Word says that our suffering in this sin-broken world, creates an opening for God’s grace to pour into us. “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:1-5, NIV)

Are you asking, “How can I know He’s there?” Has the pressure of life made you wonder if God has abandoned you? He has not! Sometimes our walk with Him is a ‘faith thing!’ We trust Him, even when we cannot see what He’s doing or even sense that He is there. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)

Here’s a word from the Lament of Jeremiah. Jerusalem was destroyed. The Temple was rubble. The people of the Lord were captives of a pagan nation. The prophet’s heart was broken and it seemed, to every appearance, that the Lord God had utterly forsaken him. May his faith inspire more in us.
“But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.

It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.


When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst.

Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.” (Lamentations 3:21-31, The Message)

______________

Natalie Grant sings “Held”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-hJ87ApWtw

Two months is too little, they let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling

Who told us we’d be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it’s unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

This hand is bitterness, We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

If hope if born of suffering, If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour
Watching for our Savior

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

Held – Christa Wells
Performed by Natalie Grant

You’re Beautiful – Just the way you are

What is it in yourself you intensely dislike: your temper, the way you look, your personality, some chronic physical weakness, a handicap? You have likely prayed to be changed, healed, delivered… right? It is right and good to ask our Father for these things, but there are times when He will not take what we think to be a curse from us because it is that thing keeps us faithful to Him and/or provides for greater ministry opportunities.

At that very point of ‘weakness’ God has an opening into your life to do His greatest work in you and through you. I asked a friend who’s been struggling through a severe time of testing recently, “How’s are you doing?” I wasn’t just being polite. I’ve prayed for him regularly and trusted God with him for freedom. His reply showed amazing spiritual insight. I’ll paraphrase his reply — “Jerry, God’s presence is nearer to me now and I am discovering so many new things.” As we talked for a few moments, he told me how he still wants to be healed, but that he is much more ready to trust how God works in the middle of the problem, too!

Paul was extraordinarily used of God. Because of his gifts, he was subject to pride, which could have destroyed him so the Lord gave him another ‘gift,’ that kept him God-aware and Spirit-reliant. Here’s what he told us about that: “I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NLT) It is useless to speculate over Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ (NIV) but whatever it was, he disliked it enough to pray long and hard for healing. God said, “No! That thing is my gift to you to keep you leaning hard on my grace, not yourself.” Suffering, as much as we hate it, can be God’s leash that keeps us from running headlong into soul destroying situations.

Remember Jacob, the patriarch in Genesis? He wrestled with a heavenly messenger at the ford of Jabbok all night long. The encounter left him a changed man and limping! His limp reminded him of God’s Presence!

We quickly develop illusions about our self- sufficiency, our ‘deserving-ness,’ our abilities – when our bank account is full to overflowing, our health is good, our kids are doing well, and no besetting sin is apparent. “What a good guy I am. God must surely bless me with more because I deserve it.” While we may not actually utter the prayer of the Pharisee, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11 KJV) but we easily slip into thinking something like it, don’t we?

Self-righteousness stinks. It turns the fragrance of Christ’s grace into the stench of human religiosity. It turns us from child-like prayers of faith, to manipulative schemes to get our own way. It robs us of love and empathy and turns us into harsh judges who readily condemn others. “Why can’t they just get it right?” with the implied clause, “just like me.” We lack grace both inwardly and outwardly.

Go back to that thing in your life you would like to be rid of, that makes you feel pain, that drives you to your knees. Prayerfully consider, with the help and insight of the Spirit, whether God is giving you a ‘gift’ to keep you close to Him. Thank Him that He is greater than your weakness and present Him with your ‘problem,’ inviting Him to remove it or use it — in keeping with His eternal purposes. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” As you discover more about Jesus and His wonderful love for you, watch His joy begin to fill your heart and mind.
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Days will come when you don’t have the strength
Wondering if you ever could be loved,
If they ever truly saw your heart
They’d see too much

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful,
You are made so much more than all of this.
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful,
You are treasured, You are sacred, You are His.
You’re beautiful!

I’m praying that you have the heart to find
‘Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you’ve held inside so long
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

Before you ever took a breath
Long the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You’re the one He madly loves
Enough to die!

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
In His eyes!

– Mercy Me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6pS5HCkgPI

Conceit of Competence

Are you a conceited Christian? Most of us begin our faith walk with God in desperation; our cry like that of an infant. “Oh, God, help me!” In a short time, when we’re back on our feet, doing good, the temptation comes ‘round to start believing how great we’re doing. Unconsciously the focus shifts from ‘I serve at the Lord’s pleasure,’ to ‘Lord, do this, please.’ Yes, I am writing autobiographically here. Perhaps that is one reason God lets my path take me through dark valleys and difficult days. He needs to remind me to trust Him- wholly.

Ben Patterson, a fellow pastor, mentored me with his writing over the years, sharing authentically and transparently, his journey of faith and ministry. His conceit was revealed to him during a life trial.

• “For 6 weeks I was totally out of commission. During that time I crossed a frontier in my prayer life… toward the end of my convalescence, I had a conversation with the Lord that went something like this: ‘These times of prayer have been sweet. I’ve actually had time to pray for every single person in this congregation, every day. It’s too bad I won’t have time to do this when I get back to work.’ The Lord’s reply was quick and blunt. ‘Stupid, you have the same 24 hours when you’re well as when you are sick. The trouble with you, Ben, is that when you’re well, you think you’re in charge; when you’re sick you know you’re not.’ ” – Leadership, Winter, 2005

Do you ever mistake activity for genuine work, doing things for accomplishing something real? The conceited Christian will quickly burn out, grow disgusted and ill-tempered – not because God asks too much of him, but because he does not ask enough of God! Convinced of his own competence, he takes charge, and charges after his own agenda, not the Lord’s. Listen to how many times the personal pronoun “I” creeps into your conversation. If you or I are convinced that we are getting God’s work done, all by ourselves, ugly things start to happen in us, around us, and yes; because of us! Failing to seek God’s ability, we become frustrated by our inability. The Bible turns us again to His sufficiency!

Take a look: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:1-2, NIV)

We need to know this:
Whatever callings and gifts we may have, they are of little use and less effect apart from the grace and power of God!

God called Moses to greatness while he was a failed prince and fugitive murderer, living in exile, tending a flock of sheep on the backside of the desert. The LORD told him to go back to Egypt and to prepare the people to return to the Promised Land. It was a tough assignment! He wondered how would he inspire a people enslaved by a powerful nation to leave behind the lives they had formed for centuries in the land of Egypt? Creating a new vision for a nation is a daunting challenge! Knowing that there was no ‘up side’ for the king to release his work force, Moses could see no earthly reason that the Pharaoh would let Israel go. So, Moses refuses the commission of God, at first, proclaiming himself unfit and unable. After, God shows him His power, he surrendered himself to the will of God, asking a question that intrigues me: “Who should I tell these people has sent me? What’s your Name?” The LORD reveals His majesty saying, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:14, NKJV)

We who would do God’s work in this world need to go to that place of commissioning again and again. We are sent by “The Self-Existent One, The One Without First Cause.- the Great I AM!” He asks much of us; our very lives! He requires that we use the gifts He’s given to us diligently, and that we press on to do His work and His will. BUT, He doesn’t not leave us without resources, orphaned, or desperate. Jesus promised to be with us, by the Spirit, “day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, The Message)

How are you responding to God today?
Are you living in the conceit of your own intellect, education, skills, or charisma?
Are you trying to get Him to help you do your work, OR are you letting go of control and putting yourself at His disposal to do His work?

Thank God for the resources you have, then place them at His command. It’s amazing what God can do with us. Let’s let Him.

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Oh Lord, You’re beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,
For when Your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.

Oh Lord, please light the fire,
That once burned bright and clear.
Replace the lamp of my first love,
That burns with holy fear.

I wanna take Your Word
And shine it all around.
First help me just to live it, Lord!
And when I’m doing well,
Help me to never seek a crown,
For my reward is giving glory to You.

Oh Lord You’re Beautiful– Green, Keith
© 1980 Birdwing Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing; Admin. by BMG Music Publishing) / BMG Songs, Inc. (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing; Admin. by BMG Music Publishing) CCLI License No. 810055

The right message?

The schoolyard game of ‘telephone’ can produce strange results. A phrase is whispered into the ear of one child, who then whispered what she heard into the ear of another. After the message is passed through 20 people the person who last heard it states what she heard. Is it the same as the original? Generally not. It gets garbled in transmission! Sometimes I feel like God’s Word is treated like that. He gives a perfect Word to us, but when we transmit it to others we run it through our filters and preconceptions until what they receive is nowhere near what He says.

When Dad died from cancer and then my Mom was diagnosed, I started to hear some of the strangest messages purporting to be a ‘from the Lord.’ Using isolated Bible verses and often not so sound methods of interpretation of the Word of God, well-intentioned Christians declare: “God is going to raise you up.” Usually that is accompanied by some condition: ‘if you repent of your hidden sin,’ or ‘if you have enough faith to receive your healing,’ or ‘if we can get enough people to pray for you,’ or ‘if…’ Being a lover of His Word, I am equally appalled and angered by the widespread abuse of the sacred text. When people mangle His Word, they do not create faith. They create confusion and diminish the glory of God!

A very strange paradox is that the very people who claim to ‘love God’s Word,’ and who hang onto the 1611 translation of the Bible called the ‘Authorized’ or ‘King James Version’ – so called because it was authorized by King James of England as the first widely distributed English translation of the Bible – are often guilty of the worst misinterpretations and misunderstandings of the Bible. Frequently they fail to account for the vast changes in the English language over 4 centuries and do not take advantage of the benefits of Bible scholarship that have allowed us to understand the Text more accurately in terms of context and nuance. Thus they read the text with good intent but do not ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’

Take that verse as an example. The KJV says – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV) So what is the first thing commanded in that verse? It means that God likes it when you hit the Book, being a real student, right? Well that’s a great idea, but that not really what the word ‘study’ meant back in 1611. The meaning of study back then was ‘work hard.’ A little digging into the text reveals that the actual command is ‘to be diligent, to work hard!’ So, newer translations give us the verse more accurately: “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.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV)

Love the Word of God and like the ancient Jews who were called ‘people of the Book,’ handle it with care and reverence. Before you run off to tell somebody what God said after you read one verse, out of context, and with little understanding; take time to listen to the Spirit and to learn how to understand what God says. If you are a student of the Word, you will find that the Truth you find there is challenging, comforting, convicting, and never failing.

Here’s a word from the Word. Receive it with joy and submit your mind and heart to the Author of it.

“Remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.  You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.


All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.


It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17, NLT)
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Balloons, A Stuffed Bear, and Red Roses

I made a sweet trip yesterday with my little brother, Eddie, age 10. If you’re a regular CoffeeBreak reader you know that my Mom is very ill with lung cancer, confined to her bedroom. Her illness is made all the more difficult to understand by the fact that she is still parenting the little ones that Dad and her adopted. Eddie is the youngest, the most active, and the most sensitive.

“Hey, buddy,” I asked him, “would you like to go and get a Valentine gift for Momma?” So, off we went on Sunday afternoon.
“Should we buy flowers?” I queried. “Well, yeah, but red roses are classic and I want something different” he responded. We chatted about the merits of red roses for the day, an interesting topic to discuss with a 10 year old. We ended up with a huge three-part balloon array that spells out “I LOVE U” and a bouquet of pink roses mixed with other flowers. Just as we were leaving, he spotted a little stuffed bear with a red heart on it’s chest in a mug decorated with a heart and a message of love. He determined it was a must-have for Mom! I had to hide my tears from him as he nearly burst with excitement, anticipating sharing his gift with his Mom, whose illness he seems strangely unable to comprehend.

$19 billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day gifts according to a story I saw on CNN. Men will outspend women, but I don’t think many gifts will carry the same sweet joy and pure love that we carried home for the net sum of $35 yesterday! Love can’t be bought with a balloon, a rose, or even a diamond. Pity the person who thinks it can. But, a gift can’t hurt, either. I hope that you’ll take time to make Hallmark richer by choosing a card that reflects your personality and relationship. (Or, if you’re creative, even better, make your own!)

For the record, here’s a little history about Valentine’s Day.
Thanks to the American Catholic website.

  • “The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year. Pope Gelasius I was, understandably, less than thrilled with this custom. So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year. Instead of Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine. (There are three Valentines, each a martyr for their love of and work for Christ.) For Roman men, the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included Valentine’s name.

    There was also a conventional belief in Europe during the Middle Ages that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus the day was dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved. Legend has it that Charles, duke of Orleans, sent  the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.”

Does not all that just warm your heart?

I’m glad for the changes that time has brought! Whatever else you might do today, I hope that each of us will make it a day of authentic love for others. Remember, too, that Biblical love is costly and other-centered.

Here is a word from the Word for this Valentine’s Day.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.


Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters… Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (1 John 3:16,18, NLT)

_____________________

Love divine,
all love excelling,
Joy of heav’n,
to earth come down!
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling;
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion;
Pure, unbounded love Thou art.
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter ev’ry trembling heart.

Breathe, oh breathe,
Thy loving Spirit
Into ev’ry troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be.
End of faith, as its beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

John Wesley

© Public Domain