Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Pictures, sounds, smells, faces- an amazing collage of information out of which I formulate memories – is stored in the billions of cells that form that lump between my ears called a brain! On Sunday, Bev and I set off for the little town in Massachusetts where we raised our family and invested a dozen years in God’s work at Calvary Christian Chapel. On Monday, I stood at that little church and was overwhelmed to the point of physical illness by memory. In my mind I could hear the chatter of my children again, the voices of that congregation raised in song, the strains of a song Larry sang on my first Sunday as their pastor – “Welcome To the Family.” My mind flipped through pages that held weddings, funerals, dinners, and faces of friends gone for years. At age 53, I certainly have many more memories than expectations! Yet, I am grateful, beyond words, for those memories for they are my ‘life experience,’ and that, in large part, makes me who I am today! In sum, the satisfactions outweigh the regrets, thank God.

It isn’t, as I discovered this week, always a pleasant thing to ‘see’ the past. There is the ache that comes with longing to re-live happy moments, the stab that comes with recall of stupid or sinful decisions, and the knowledge that all is now out of reach, only a collection of memories, sometimes supported by a photograph or a video! But remembering is important! Burke reminded us that ‘Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.’ Maya Angelou sagely observes that ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, it need not be lived again.’

I find it compelling to note that Jesus Christ commands remembering and makes it one of the core practices of Christians. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20, NIV) “Never forget,” He says, “what I did on your behalf, the sacrifice at the Cross that reconciles you to God.” Interestingly, He built that ritual meal of remembrance around another – the Passover Seder – that the Jews have celebrated for thousands of years which recalls their own salvation and calling out of Egypt.

The Lord’s Supper or Communion serves not only to remind us of our salvation. It is also a time to renew our ties to the family, the Church. On our trip, Bev and I shared meals with friends. It was remarkable how years of separation fell away as we laughed and listened around tables! When Christians take the cup and the bread together, it should be a vivid reminder of the unity to which God calls us. At Communion, we are all on the same level ground- sinners saved by grace, now children of God, the Elect “who once were far away … brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13, NIV)

Disciple, remember!
Remember God’s faithfulness and rejoice.
Remember God’s forgiveness and let go of regret.
Remember with gratitude those who blessed you along the way.
Remember and let experience be your teacher.

Here’s a word from the Word. May the Spirit use it to remind you of God’s goodness.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes,
I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?”
(Psalm 77:11-13, NIV)
______________

Great is Thy faithfulness

O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
    Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan
    © 1923. Renewed 1951 Hope Publishing Company

You Want the Keys?

One of the side-splitting scenes in the film, Meet the Parents, occurs when the father of the bride, a former CIA agent, explains his concept of the ‘circle of trust’ to his future son-in-law, Greg Focker.  The paranoia of that father drove him to constant surveillance of the poor guy who was joining his family. We laugh as we watch because intuitively we know that trust comes from character, not from enforcement! The true test of our values comes when nobody’s watching us. What choices do we make then?
Parents teach their children –“Trust is built over time, destroyed in a moment.”  Are any of us perfect?  Of course not. We are prone to failure, liable to make some stupid choices, and likely to succumb to peer pressure at least occasionally.  Trust isn’t a flawless record. It is shaped by honesty about the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives.
Every relationship in our life depends on trust! As we interact with others – be they family members, co-workers, or business partners – we are measuring trustworthiness. Love, alone, is not enough to make us ‘hand over the keys’. There are people in my life that I love wholeheartedly that I would not even let drive my car!

How do we build trust?

1. – We live with integrity.
Trustworthy people get rid of hidden agendas and secret motives. They refuse to shade the truth to favor themselves. Being around people who are deceptive and manipulative is exhausting because we always have to wonder, “What their angle? What are they really trying to do here?” Integrity – that is, being the same inside and out, in reality and appearance, is basic to gaining and keeping the trust of others.

2. – We are humble.
Humility has nothing to do with being a self-hating worm.  It’s about a real grasp of our strengths and weaknesses, knowing when we need help and being willing to ask for it. If we try to do something that is beyond our training or capability, pretending competence- the subsequent failure erodes trust. The next time, the question hangs in the air – “Can he, or will he mess this task up, too?”

3. – We keep our promises.
It is so easy to make a promise. When somebody presses us to do something, even relatively simple, the best way to make them happy is to say, “Oh, sure, I’ll do it.” So, we are often likely to over-promise and under-deliver. My experience has taught me to generally expect much less from people than they say. It’s not because they are morally deficient! It is because in their eagerness to please they over-promise. It is far better to say up-front, “I would like to help you with that, but I don’t have the interest to follow through.” We trust people who, in Jesus’ words, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ (Matthew 5:37, NLT)

4. – We are ‘other-centered.
Nobody should trust a person who is selfish. The moment we sense that another is out for his own reputation, serving his own interest, or feathering her own nest- we withdraw our confidence and start to build walls to protect. Only the person who shows real empathy and the capacity to transcend her own interests is trustworthy.

Take a look at your own ‘circle of trust’ today. Are you trusting people who are trustworthy? Are you a person worthy of trust?


God is seeking faithful people in whom He can invest eternal riches, people to whom He can hand the keys to His Kingdom!
 How does He know those He can trust?  This word from the Word tells us: “Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. If you cannot be trusted with this wicked wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
And if you cannot be trusted with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something that will be your own? You cannot be the slave of two masters. You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:10-13, CEV)

It WILL Change Your Life!

“It will change your life!  This is the implied statement behind all kinds of advertising. The right car will make you a success and bring you respect.  A splash of cologne will make you irresistible. This pill will extend your youth.  We learn to ignore the hyperbole after a while, discounting the claims, explicit and implicit, in the ads. Please don’t discount what you’re about to read. It really is a Truth that will change your life.
In the 3rd chapter of Peter’s second letter, we are told about the “day of the Lord.”  When Jesus ended his ministry here on earth, He promised to return. Human history will be brought to a close,  perfect justice will be handed down, and the present order will be destroyed before the emergence of a ‘new heaven and new earth. Peter writes all this not as a feared threat, but as a promise to be eagerly anticipated by Christians. Paul calls the return of Christ our ‘blessed hope.’ (Titus 2:13)  In my estimation, this doctrine is largely off the radar of most Christians today.  Taken up with life, we lose sight of the fact that all this is destined to pass away, that our real home is not here, but with our Father.
If we look forward, consciously and eagerly, to the coming of the Lord, that truth will change our lives. How? Take a look. “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11, NIV)  … since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14, NIV) “… since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17-18, NIV)
Peter’s appeal is not to fear or dread. It is a tragedy when the Lord’s return is used in that way to manipulate Christians into giving money or serving in ministry.  If we only fear His coming, we will act like kids in December, won’t we?  Every little kid who believes in Santa Claus suddenly starts to think about reforming himself so that the jolly old man will bring the presents! But the effort is short-lived.  The Christian who understands that Christ’s return is still on schedule (God’s time, not ours!) will not reform himself for a few days or weeks. He will reorient his entire life, looking away from trinkets destined to perish to treasure set aside in Heaven that will survive the destruction of this present world.
There is a little phrase tucked into Peter’s writing that urges us to live “at peace with Him.”  We tend to think of peace as being the absence of conflict but that is not what the Spirit is offering to us. When our hope is settled on our eternal inheritance, on the promise of God’s just rewards,  we gain a life that is whole, complete, and ‘settled’ rather than fragmented and/or confused.  This true Peace is a quality of life that flows from the Spirit and choices that look past economic woes, present illness, and disappointment.
Christ return, though often mocked as a pie in sky illusion, is a truth that changes our lives! Here’s the word from the Word. “This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember and understand what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire.”(2 Peter 3:1-3, NLT)  “But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:8-9, NLT)  But grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be all glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18, NLT)
Lord, settle it deep into our hearts and minds, lifting our goals higher, settling us on a solid foundation of unshakeable hope. Amen.

Don’t Tell Me What To Do

In the months prior to D-Day, that pivotal moment when the Allies would send thousands of men across the English Channel to face the Axis powers, Dwight Eisenhower was appointed the Supreme Commander of all the forces! The massive invasion effort would require the coordinated efforts of military units from several nations commanded by generals who were accustomed to being in charge.  In addition to working out the strategy of the expedition, Eisenhower found himself faced with a huge challenge in overcoming the towering egos of generals who believed themselves his equal. With quiet determination, Ike led, ignoring the critics, listening to advice, making decisions using the authority invested in him, all the while keeping his own ego in check. Like a petulant children some of those other generals whined, argued, and resisted. But the effort needed a leader. History shows that Ike served well. Many of those same generals who were so offended by his appointment came to appreciate the man and his service.
Leaders are important – in families, in society; and yes, in the church.  Some imagine the church to be above the need for leaders. That ignores the Scripture that refers often to pastors and elders who are called to serve in leadership.   Jesus, the Head of the Church, “is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, NLT)  I see two critical principles here:  the church has leaders and those leaders are not charged to do ‘all the work,’ but rather to coordinate those in the church for maximum Kingdom effectiveness.
One of the major difficulties of the church in America is a failure of leadership. Some pastors are cowed into silence by multiple critics, others choose to use their holy calling for personal gain. Let me ask you to think carefully about these questions which I ask myself as I participate with those who lead me.
Are you one of those Christians who is stealing a blessing from yourself by being a critic, resisting the efforts of those who are your leaders?
Are you buying into the anti-authority sentiments of the culture and bringing it to church? 
Have you learned the theme of the New Testament, unity and cooperation?
The Bible says “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV)  “Obey” and “submit” are two words that are hard to accept.  There is a real spiritual issue involved.  The humility that motivates a person to support leaders bring a double blessing – one for those who lead and another for those who come into a deeper unity of purpose and work in the church.  

Miserable Ingrates!

Just about any parent of a child, particularly a teen, knows what it is to deal with a lack of appreciation.  After scarfing down dinner, that boy whose just eaten his fill, walks away apparently without any idea of the effort that put the food in front of him. That same 15 year old fails to grasp that his  clothing does not just magically move from hamper to closet, becoming clean along the way. “I need,” is a common refrain, with no thought about how much that new pair of shoes costs Dad. The cell phone in her pocket? She feels entitled to it, offended if the suggestion is made that perhaps it’s time to start paying for her own.  Many outgrow their narcissism and come to realize the love that caused Mom and Dad to invest so much time and treasure in them. Some, tragically, never do; and they carry their ingratitude into adulthood. Ingrates spread their misery like a virus!
Do you recognize the goodness of God and give sincere thanks?
Ingratitude, believe it or not, is a fertile soil that nourishes spiritual rebellion!  In the first chapter of Romans, the desperate state of depraved humanity is outlined with an ugly recital of the worst kinds of behaviors. The beginning of it all?  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21, NIV)  If we act like spoiled kids, demanding more and failing to give thanks, we will increasingly become Self-centered, full of doubt, and eventually bitter – far from the fellowship of the Spirit.
This is more than a nice saying, it’s a life principle: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV)  Real gratitude goes beyond a flip, “thanks.”  It appreciates the effort and cost.  Thankfulness expands our capacity to love – both God and others.  Thankfulness is an expression of a loving heart. One feeds the other.  When I deal with a person who lacks gratitude, whose attitude implies that they think I owe them something, I am much less inclined to want to be generous. You, too?   God resists our selfishness, too.  He is not, however, offended in the same way that we are by unthankful people. Our Father desires our worshipful gratitude, not because He craves our appreciation, but because it reveals a heart in which Self is dethroned.
Here’s what the Word says. It’s simple, often quoted, and ignored just as often: “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV) Let’s cultivate thankfulness.  If we wait for it to just ‘show up’ in our lives, we will die feeling God and the world owes us more!  But, if we humble ourselves, take note of His faithfulness often as well as the goodness of others, we will become more and more thankful; able to receive and give from a great heart.
“Thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves. He poured great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry got plenty to eat. ” (Psalm 107:8-9, The Message)
__________________
Give thanks
With a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ His Son
And now let the weak say
I am strong
Let the poor say
I am rich
Because of what
The Lord has done for us
Give thanks
Henry Smith
© 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

Allow room for God to work

“I’ve got to do this,” he insisted. “If I don’t, everything will fall apart.”  He knew the choice he was about to make was not aligned with the Christian principles he had been taught.  But, he was certain it was the only way to solve the  problem.  So, he shut the door on the Lord.  A few weeks later, he was crying on the phone, asking me to pray.  “I wish I could go back and do things differently!”   Choosing expedience over obedience is nothing new. 

The first book in the Bible, Genesis, tells the story about an ‘expedient’ choice that left no room for God.  Abraham concluded that since Sarah was too old to have the son God has promised to him, he needed to follow the ancient custom of fathering an heir with her servant, Hagar. His intellect provided him an answer to his dilemma but it wasn’t the plan of God. Terrible chaos resulted from his choice to figure out his own way to fulfill God’s promise!  Ishmael was a beloved son, but his birth created awful conflict between Sarah and Hagar.  Several years later when God gave Sarah the miraculous ability to conceive and bear Isaac, the rivalry within the family only deepened, tearing them apart for generations.

There are probably decisions you would like to go back and re-visit.  What seemed to be “the only way,” the obvious choice, created unforeseen consequences. I am thankful for the wonderful faculties of reason that allow me to plan and strategize, but even the wisest of the wise, is limited to using the information available to him. Only God knows the rippling effects of our choices.  He cautions us about becoming ‘wise in our own eyes.‘ We must not exclusively trust in our intellect if we hope to live in a way that pleases Him. In a time of great challenge, the Lord spoke to the prophet Isaiah reminding him – “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT) 


In your plans, do you submit to His principles and allow room for the Lord to work? When we are facing multiple options and lack clear direction this simple advice is a clear guide:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

There are three pre-conditions to being led by the Spirit taught to us in that passage.


First, trust God completely. Make Him the center of your life.


Second, “Don’t try to figure everything out on your own!”

Third, God’s direction can only emerge when we consistently make the choice to honor Him with obedience.
If we are refusing to follow the Lord’s lead in those areas where He has already made His will plain, we should not think we will be able to clearly discern His way for our lives.

Simple obedience is the most basic evidence of deep faith! Need guidance today? Me, too!  Don’t turn God into a personal genie, waiting for the crisis to call on Him. Don’t go your own way and then beg Him to get you out of the mess you’ve made of things.  Trust, wait, listen, obey – and He will make your way clear.


Take this word to heart today. May the Lord use His Word to inspire you.


“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!  This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!  We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” (Romans 8:12-17, The Message)
_______________________________


Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,
feed me ’til I want no more,
feed me ’til I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar,
guide me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, Strong Deliverer,
Be Thou still my strength and shield,
Be Thou still my strength and shield
.


– public domain


Amen.

Like the Lemmings

Small rodents called a lemmings occasionally engage in migrations. Sometimes these movements lead them to a body of water. They plunge in, thinking they can swim, but often, exhausted by the effort, they drown in what looks like a mass suicide!  People act like lemmings sometimes, too.  Unthinking, caught up in the flow of events, they march straight into self-destruction, victims of their failure to discern. History is replete with tragic stories of people who fall under the spell of cultish leaders, some political, some spiritual.  The Nazis rose and fell on the charisma of Adolf Hitler. We look at him today and wonder, “How did he lead so many to such a terrible end?” His speeches look like ranting and ravings in retrospect.  The Rev. Jim Jones deceived thousands and eventually led nearly 1,000 people in a mass suicide in the ‘utopian’ town he created in Guyana.  
Are you discerning about what and who you accept to guide your life, to shape your spirituality?  Peter warns us that “there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other—biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong.  They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything, that sounds good to exploit you!”  (The Message  2 Peter 2:1-3)  These teachers don’t look like the Devil when they show up. Often they shine brightest with a polished presentation that uses all the right words in wrong ways.  Peter says, “They mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Peter 2:17-21, NIV)
Recently while reading the blog of a ‘Christian’ teacher, the Holy Spirit stirred in me.  I had been reading the man’s writing for some time and found myself nodding along with his ideas. Then, I began to see a trend that was unbiblical, an expression of bitterness that was a common thread.   As I went back and took a long look at the writings I had found so compelling, I prayed that the Spirit would give me discernment.  And He did! What had looked like novel, engaging ideas were actually the reactions of a rebel bent on stirring up division in God’s church.  I asked myself, “how did you not see this before?”  Such is the nature of deception. It starts so small, just a few degrees off of the Truth, but left uncorrected leads us far, far from God and good.
Now, with so much teaching is available on the Internet or on our television screen, the spiritual gift of discernment is more critically important than ever! It is almost impossible to know if our favorite media teacher is just “mouthing empty, boastful words” because we have no access to his/her daily life. Paul pointed out the false teachers that had come to spread their lies in the Church and then offered this about his own ministry: “But you know what I teach, Timothy, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith and how long I have suffered. You know my love and my patient endurance.” (2 Timothy 3:10, NLT)  The proof of his teaching was in the daily discipleship that could be observed. Know how your teachers live!
Here’s a word from the Word.  “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15, NIV)  Don’t be a lemming!

Memento Mori


Ed (he’s 11) asked me a tough question yesterday – “What if time stopped?”  I tried to explain to him that his query is unanswerable, that time flows irresistibly.  But, then I considered eternity which is timeless!  In the Presence of God, time does not merely stop, it does not exist.  Everything I know is conditioned by time. Days begin and end, life is passing by.  Yesterday’s gone, tomorrow is inaccessible! At age 56, I am much more aware of time now.  When I was 36 the future stretched out without apparent limit.  But, with the death of friends, then parents, the boundaries of time moved closer, giving a greater sense of urgency to today. There are many things to do and less time (which God only knows for sure) in which do them. For me, pondering the limit of my earthly life is without dread. There is anticipation of the wonder of timelessness;  of just beingwith no hurry, no moving to the next stage, no leaving.  

Many tombs in churches in Europe during the late Middle Ages and early modern age included memento mori  (Latin for “Remember death”).  These paintings or sculptures included a skull, or at least bones, vivid reminders for the surviving family members that they should prepare for their own inevitable demise. What a contrast to our way of life in which we do everything possible to avoid the idea of mortality.  We sanitize death and worship youth. The dying are removed (in most cases) from our homes, placed in the care of medical professionals.  We move quickly through rituals of death and grieving  to resume ‘life.’  But without memento mori, we tend to superficiality, spending inordinate amounts of time and resources on things that are quickly gone!
Those who are in Christ need not be gloomy or dark. Memento mori can be cause for living a richer, nobler life of service and worship. It can move us beyond the worship of our bodies and give us the motivation to master the appetites that might otherwise destroy us. The Word says “All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:9-12, NIV)
Here’s a word of hope from the Word.  “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:53-58, NIV)
_______________
When The Battle’s Over
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?
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.
Isaac Watts
Public Domain

One Tough Command!

As parts of Europe slide over the brink into economic oblivion, I wonder what the trans-Atlantic effect will be.  Will the bankrupt countries there pull our country into a deeper hole?  Much closer to home, I look at the earning years left to me and wonder if I’ll have enough to keep my life intact. Another visit to my physician’s office yesterday reminds me of the unavoidable process of aging. Plenty of concerns plot to take over my mind, to keep me on edge. From time to time, I allow them to do that very thing!  When I do, the character of Christ is hidden.  I find the following command that Jesus gave to us one of the toughest to keep: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31, NIV)  Do you let yourself grow anxious?
Anxiety is very much a part of being an American. About one in five of us is affected.  We spend $billions on medications and therapies designed to help us cope.  Anxiety shows up in many ways:  panic attacks, refusal to leave home, insomnia, increased irritability, over-consumption of food, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and even depression. So, what can be done about this?
If we are prone to fear, we must  admit it.  Admit it? But, won’t anxiety overwhelm me if I acknowledge it?  No.  Facing our fears and dragging them out of the shadows is a primary way to defeat them. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3, NIV)  We can and should tell the Lord and someone we trust about our fears with honesty.
We choose to live wisely this day.  If we squander the opportunities to prepare for the future, our neglect will come collecting, with interest. My boys are facing their final exams at school this week.  If assignments are complete, studies done with diligence, the fear of failure is largely eliminated. If they played away the days, their fears are not baseless.  Want to experience peace in the future? Do what you know  is right today.  
Stay in the care of your Father! No matter how much we think we have made provisions, prepared, and done the right things; circumstances manage to go awry.  Appliances break. Illness comes. Kids rebel. Spouses walk. Heartbreak arrives.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  At that moment, we have a choice to bend or break, to grow bitter, or to pray for faith.  A father whose son was terribly tormented brought him to Jesus.  His desperation was tempered with some small hope that Jesus could do something to restore wholeness. “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” ”‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”” (Mark 9:22-24, NIV)  I love that last phrase.  It finds its way into my prayers often. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”
Faith is both a choice we make and gift that God gives. We express faith when we choose obedience, though to do so makes our situation even more impossible.  Fearful today? Here’s the word from the Word:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”(Hebrews 11:1, NIV)  “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”(Hebrews 11:3, NIV) “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV)  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)
If we will do these things that tough command to cease worry will not be so tough after all, for we will be secure in faith in our Father.
______________________
Power Of Your Love- Bullock, Geoff

Lord, I come to You,
Let my heart be changed, renewed;
Flowing from the grace
That I’ve found in You;
And Lord, I’ve come to know,
The weaknesses I see in me,
Will be stripped away
By the pow’r of Your love.
Lord, unveil my eyes,
Let me see You face to face,
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me.

Lord, renew my mind,
As Your will unfolds in my life,
In living ev’ry day
In the pow’r of Your love.

Hold me close,
Let Your love surround me;
Bring me near,
Draw me to Your side;
And as I wait,
I’ll rise up like the eagle,
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on
In the pow’r of Your love.

© 1992 Word Music, Inc.
(Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.) / Maranatha! Music (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.) CCLI License No. 810055

168

168 hours from now a week will have passed.  For most of us the single largest chunk of that time, about 56 hours, will be spent in our bed, sleeping.  Another  50 will be given to our work and commute- more for some, less for others.  What about the rest? Where does it go? Do you know?
We ‘spend’ our time very much like we spend our money. Some of us are careful budgeters, thoughtfully allotting hours to exercise, worship, community service, and personal enrichment. Others are profligate – throwing hour after hour away, having no real idea where their time goes, even though it is an irrecoverable asset; our most valuable resource. Some invest the hours of each day looking for maximum return, others let days, weeks, months, even years slip by with no gain.
On Friday, Bev pulled a red leather folder from a box in our attic. It is stamped with the name of an elementary school and inside is a neatly printed diploma and a folded typewritten sheet.  That diploma marked my 8th grade graduation in June, 1969; the paper holds the text of a little address I made that night at Spruce Run  School.  In a matter of seconds I can run through the intervening years; schools, friends, marriage, babies, churches, deaths. If I pause, I can remember moments of achievement and failure, joy and sorrow.  At age 56, there is a lot more ‘past’ in my life than future.  However, I am not spending a whole lot of time with celebration or regret! Instead, I am focused on the next 168 hours, this week, that are now at hand. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
God asks us to ‘make the most of every opportunity!’ (Col. 4:5)  Killing time is a sin, really! A day of recreation and rest is not the same as a day wasted.  Nor is a day packed with activities that look like ‘work’ necessarily one well spent.  The difference is in the investment, the why and how, of spending each hour.  There are 168 shiny new ones coming our way. What are we going to do with them?
Here’s a word from the Word.  Ponder it and then go live fully. ” There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-6, NIV)  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)