Too Cool For The Gospel?

Bev and I watched Courageouslast night. It’s the latest release by Sherwood Films, a Christian company that makes movies with a message. It is not sophisticated film-making. The message is not subtly woven into a complex plot. In another time in my life, I most likely would not have watched it, or if I did, would have found the straightforward method of presentation too simple for appreciation. No more! I cheered the heroes, empathized with those in difficult circumstances, and felt inspired by hope. The producers met their goal – to share the Gospel of Christ and to challenge fathers to be real Dads.
Do we  clutter up the Message of the love of God with our pretensions?
Do we rob the Gospel of the power to change us by trying too hard to be ‘relevant to our culture?’
Do we think we need to improve on God’s Story?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that life lacks complexity. I am not ignoring the huge questions that cause us to struggle in faith. Christians must not duck behind “Jesus loves me, this I know, ’cause the Bible told me so,” to avoid issues of justice or applied grace. Mature faith confronts entrenched evil. The resulting conflict demands much from us – in both heart and mind. And yet– it all comes back to one Fact: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) Jesus says that this fact calls for two basic responses from us all: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV) No matter how long a person has been a Christian, it all comes back to accepting God’s grace by faith and to responding with authentic love.
Ponder these words. “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5, NKJV) Paul reflects on his ministry and reveals his dedication to the simplicity of the Gospel. My prayer is that we will renew our own love of the Truth and let the Story continue to change and challenge us.
A woman who is struggling to make a huge moral decision in her life came to me to talk over the options. “What can I do?” she asked me through sincere tears. Every apparent course of action looks too hard, demands too much of her. I recognized her dilemma and agreed that there was no easy way to marry obedience to God’s Word with her desire for personal happiness. But, then I pointed her back to the Cross and to the love of the Father. “Until you are secure in His love, until you have settled yourself in faith in Christ, you cannot know the peace and power of the Spirit that can make obedience to His will a joy,” I told her. It is true for all of us. If we become so sophisticated that we fail to lay the foundation of faith in Christ’s power to save from sin, we cannot know the true joy of the Spirit-filled Christian life.
Don’t let yourself become too cool for the Gospel. Here’s the word from the Word. Meditate on it.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes-Jews first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:16-17, NLT)
I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:12-14, NIV)

Will that seed produce a harvest?

Eleven men visited our church yesterday.  Each had been an addict, a slave to a life that brought them to the bottom. Their lives were a garbage heap of wrecked relationships, broken bodies, and empty hearts.  In their darkest night, the Light broke through and, in faith, they took the offer of new life and began a process of transformation.  As they sang of God’s “Amazing Grace,” I was filled up with joy.  When Rob told his story of addiction and the awful cost – living under a bridge, stealing, hopelessness – and then of the moment when Christ’s love began his restoration; I wanted to yell “thank You, Lord!”  My elation was tempered by the knowledge that Rob is just 39 days old in this new life!  By the Spirit, he will  become a person free and whole, and remain that way for the rest of his life ifhe makes the choice of faith today, tomorrow, the day after that – and every day for the rest of his life.
Jesus told a simple story about seeds and planting.  Not all the seed produced a harvest. Some never took root, falling onto hard ground. Some took root, but quickly died under the withering heat of the day. Some even grew for a time, but left uncultivated, died when overtaken by the weeds. Some produced a great harvest.  He told us the meaning of the story. “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15, NIV)
Those men yesterday who are relatively young in the Lord, and the man writing these words who has walked this road for 4 decades, have a choice to make today. Will we continue to trust the saving grace of Christ, focused on His ability to save me or will we turn away?  No, we cannot save ourselves from the World, the Flesh, or the Devil! But, we have to continue to gaze upon the Cross, humbly and faithfully accepting the strength for this day to live by the Spirit.  Our perfection is fully realized in Christ; yet, at the same time, is being worked out in us as we hold onto Him in faith, with hope.   I love the promise that as we look on Him we are “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”(2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)  He causes us to shine brighter and brighter with a radiance that comes, not from our religion or self-actualization, but from His Spirit occupying ever greater parts of our hearts and minds!  Hallelujah, what a Savior. 
Rob, you’re not home yet so keep looking to Jesus. Jerry, you’re not there yet either so fix your gaze on Christ anew.  Reader, He is sufficient to save. Will you trust Him with your fears, failures, sins, and successes?
Here’s a word from the Word. Meditate on it. Receive the Truth and go steady on, from faith to faith. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, (complete or whole)  but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:10-12, NIV)  “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”(Philippians 3:20-4:1, NIV)
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
And precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
Pure gold
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within
Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You my Master
Ready to do Your will
Refiner’s Fire
Brian Doerksen
© 1990 Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055

Why him, not ME?

A monk who lived in the desert who resisted all the Devil’s efforts at temptation. The demons that whispered to the man of greed, lust, and hatred were rebuffed as the man turned his heart to God. Then, one demon whispered, “Your brother was just made a bishop!” The monk fell immediately into the sin of envy wondering why he was not given the position: “All these years of devotion and they recognize my brother?”
Ever envied another, wondering ‘why them, not me?’  I will confess that I have and that nothing good followed. If we start to look around and compare ourselves to others we will grow discontent and from there, slip into envy. Somebody is running ahead of us in some way.  
Despite our education, he makes more money. 
His marriage looks so great; we struggle to keep ours intact.
He proudly displays his kid’s trophy, our kid struggles just to get an average grade.
The all-too-common tendency in us is to see the ‘advantage’ that is enjoyed by the other guy.  Envy blinds us to our blessings. It causes us diminish another’s success. It robs us of opportunities.  No wonder the Bible says that “envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV)  
A true test of noble character is contentment with God’s gifts and the ability to celebrate the success of another person!  David, whose story unfolds in 1st Samuel, went to serve King Saul after his victory over the giant, Goliath. David served him well, but all Saul could hear, every time he looked at the teenage hero, was the echo of the women’s voices who sang David’s praises.  “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.”(1 Samuel 18:7, NKJV) Envy drove the king mad.  Saul sent David away from the court, trying to get him out of the public’s eye by giving him charge of a small contingent of soldiers on the borders of Israel.  How did Israel’s hero respond to being sent to the frontier? David was faithful in obscurity! God saw to it that he continued to succeed in everything he did.  This made Saul “even more afraid of him.” (1 Samuel 18:13- 15, NLT) Over the next 20 years,  Saul’s jealousy drove him deeper into insanity. At the same time, David’s character grew stronger as he faithfully and selflessly served God and king.

Are you able to celebrate another’s success?
Are you an encourager or an envier?
James gives no excuse for envy.  The Spirit shows us that it is a seed of all kinds of sinful behavior! “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:14-18, NIV)   What an amazing and practical Word.  I pray to own it in my heart, do you?

Stay centered in God’s loving acceptance, always giving thanks!  Nothing kills envy more quickly than true gratitude which feeds real contentment.  There are amazing things to learn about those who live around us and life is richer, much richer, when it isn’t about ‘me, mine, and myself.’

The devil was the first to injure himself and others on account of jealousy and envy. Before he had ever hurled anyone else down by the impulse of his envy, he himself was hurled down by it. Through envy, he himself became a captive before he had ever taken anyone else captive; he himself was wrecked before he had ever wrecked others. How great an evil is it by which an angel could fall, by which such lofty and illustrious grandeur could be defrauded and overthrown—by which the one who deceived was himself deceived! Ever since then envy has raged on earth. Those who are perishing through jealousy are simply obeying the author of their ruin, imitating the devil in his envy.  – Cyprian of Carthage.  (a church father who lived about 200 AD)  (as quoted in Discipleship Journal : Issue 120. NavPress, 2000)
_______________
Father, I accept Your will for my life.
I pray for the grace to wait for You in hard times,
to give thanks in good times, and
to be faithful in all times!
Teach me to do my personal best as I remember
that You never forget, never overlook, and
klnow everything – even those things hidden.
Jesus, I pray that Your love will fill up my heart
making me a person who overflows
with life-giving words and encouragement
growing out of true gratitude.
Amen.
(Thank you for reading along.  CWTW will be back in your inbox on July 31. It’s time to take a break)

God, like a slick salesman?

When we balk at obeying the Lord’s word and will, what we’re really saying is “I don’t trust You.” I remember giving my kids direction that they did not like. When they argued, “it’s not fair,” or “nobody else has to do that,” or “you are so mean,” – I reminded them that I needed them to trust me. My experience and maturity gave me reason for whatever it was I asked of them. One of the more gratifying things in my life today is when those same children, now in their 30’s, thank me for having the courage to be a real father, willing to risk their anger, able to stand my ground. They now understand why it was important to learn how to manage their money, to keep their commitments, to show up on time, to learn good work habits, to practice self-discipline.
Our Heavenly Father sometimes leads us down paths that we would prefer to avoid. For example, our marriage hits a tough spot, with little apparent love and affection. God says, “Be faithful!” Do we stay the course, or argue with Him? “Lord, life is so short. Why should I hang in there when I could find another who would make me so much happier.” “Trust me, son, I know what I’m asking of you and I’ll make a way for you.”   Somebody reminded me yesterday of a sermon I preached years ago about not letting our lives be guided merely by expedience. I’m glad she remembers, I don’t! But, I am familiar with that line of thought. We are tempted to take the solution that ‘makes the most sense’ in the moment, to take the job that offers the most money, to move to the city that appeals to our natural desires. Sometimes common sense and the will of God are aligned, but if we will not trust Him to lead, how will we know that?
Did it make much sense for Abraham to leave Ur, an established city where his family lived, to go live in tents in Canaan? It took years for his faith to return a visible reward.
Did it make much sense for Noah to start building a boat 600 miles from any significant body of water? For 120 years, he was mocked as a fool, until the rain started.
Did it make sense for Daniel to maintain his habit of daily prayer when the king forbade it on the pain of death? He ended up in the lion’s den, which God turned into a gateway to greater influence in the empire!
When God says, “trust Me!” remember that He is not a slick salesman trying to sucker you into a bad deal. His way is the path to life, abundant and eternal. Proverbs warns us that “There’s a way that looks harmless enough; look again-it leads straight to hell.” (Proverbs 16:25, The Message) If you are struggling with a decision: stop, look up, and listen carefully. Do not rush forward. Trust Him.  When He directs, do not argue. Obey!  
We trust Him most profoundly when we give up our attempts to ‘be right’ and accept His gift of grace and salvation. Like Paul, let’s decide that everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me.” (Philippians 3, NLT)
Here’s a word from the Word. Let’s make it our trusting prayer for this day, leading us to greater obedience.
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” (Isaiah 12:2-5, NIV)

God can’t love me! If He did, He would make me happy

The surrender of Self, submission to the will of God, is the key issue of the Christian life. “She wants to have her cake and eat it, too” he said to me through tears.  His wife is convinced that having an open marriage is the key to her happiness. She wants to discard what she knows of the Scripture.  She is convinced that living for the Lord will steal her happiness.  A wife and mother struggling to find joy in the mundane work of her household finds herself tested by acceptance of her place.  So does the powerful executive who faces the choice to use his influence to build his own kingdom or God’s.  Will Jesus or Self be Lord, is the question faced by a teenager feeling the pull of his hormones and yet knowing the command of God about his sexuality.  A man trying to balance his budget sees the tithe (10% belonging to God) and must decide to give it or keep it. The test of submissioncomes to us all!
Behind the question, self or God, is faith. Choosing our own will often offers the most immediate reward. Walking God’s path, while yielding present joys, focuses primarily on things as yet unseen, on rewards anticipated only by promises! “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see … So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. … It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6, 8-10, NLT)
Here’s the paradox.  We do not will ourselves to believe, nor do we create faith by commanding ourselves – “Believe!”  Faith is the gift of God, given to us at the point of our desperation. Like that young father who saw his tormented son and was nearly overwhelmed by the impossibility of his condition, we cry out, “Lord, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)  There is no need to make ourselves pretty, to pretend to be other than we are, when we rush into the Father’s Presence.  We take our conflicted self and lay it before Him, confessing what we want, who we are, the terrible pull of our temptation.  And, there we receive the gift of faith to give ourselves away. Only then can we find the joy that is possible when Self dies.
Have you started to believe the devil’s life that God is mean, that He takes away happiness, that He crushes the life out of His people? Tell Him that!  Then, wait for the rise of the Spirit, the birth of new faith which enables the choice of submission to Him.  I promise (based on His Word, not my experience alone) that joy will come.  It most likely will be a joy you cannot even conceive at the moment of the testing.
Here is the word from the Word. May the Lord use it to plant a new seed in our minds and hearts from which strong faith grows. “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. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3, NIV) “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices”(Colossians 3:9, NIV)  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13, NIV)  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17, NIV)
___________________
Treasures

One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Until I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.

And I walked earth’s highways, grieving.
In my rags and poverty.
Till I heard His voice inviting,
“Lift your empty hands to Me!”

So I held my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches,
Till they could contain no more.

And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God COULD not pour His riches
Into hands already full!

–Martha Snell Nicholson

A Healer?

The surgeon picked up a scalpel and cut my flesh! He made a terrible wound on my body, worse than any accidental cut in my entire life.  His work was to bring about wholeness by cutting away that part of me that was diseased, that would sicken my body if not removed.  The physical therapist coaxed my damaged knee to move.  Her first efforts hurt worse than the original injury.  But, today I walk without a limp because the pain she caused strengthened the ligaments and tendons, causing them to function as they should.  The preacher spoke the Truth. His words painted a vision in my mind, giving me hope, stirring my desire to know Christ and live in the power of the Spirit. He opened my soul to the healing that Christ provided at the Cross! 

Are you a healer?  Healers bring wholeness.  You need not be a physician, a therapist, a preacher, or a counselor by profession to be a healer.  You must be filled with the Spirit and ready to forget your Self. Interestingly, healing is not externally given, though many seek it in that way.  The surgeon who cut away the diseased part of my body created a wound. He made it possible for my body to heal itself!  You and I cannot heal others spiritually, but we can bath  them in prayer that pushes the obstacles to their finding wholeness out of the way. We cannot take away addictions or habits of sin but we can offer encouragement and hope that help healing to come. We cannot forgive sin but we can point to Christ (with words and living demonstration of faith) Who restores the relationship to the Father. From the Spirit, healing flows into that person.

I pondered this wisdom about healing from Proverbs. Take a look.  “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. ” (Proverbs 12:18, NKJV)  “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful ambassador brings health. “ (Proverbs 13:17, NKJV)  “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. ” (Proverbs 16:24, NKJV)  Are my words healing or harming?  Am I wise, faithful to the truth, and kind? If so, I open up the possibility of healing!

As we read the Gospels, Jesus’ work in healing is reported again and again. He saw illness of mind, soul, and body and brought wholeness.  He did so in response to faith, an openness on the part of those in need to receive.  He created possibility, they believed and received. There, too, I am challenged. Does my life create possibilities for others?  I am often tempted to assume the wrong role in my desire for wholeness in others. I want to make the choice of healing for them.  That only creates frustration.  I cannot make a marriage whole if those who are married are unwilling to make the choice to forgive and love. I cannot turn a sinner into a saint if he is unwilling to forsake his old ways and turn to Christ to receive the Spirit’s life! I cannot make a sick person well if he persists in living in unhealthy ways.  Yes, I desire to be a person who brings healing, but I am only an agent.  The restoration of wholeness comes as a gift from God that can only be received by the broken.

This passage, our word from the Word, intrigues me with the possibilities offered. Read it thoughtfully, prayerfully, and ask God to make you a healer today.
“Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master.
Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven-healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” (James 5:13-20, The Message)
_____________________ 

Touch Through Me

Touch through me Holy Spirit
Touch through me
Let my hands reach out to others
Touch through me
There’s a lonely soul somewhere
Needing just one friend to care
Touch through me Holy Spirit
Touch through me

Flow through me Holy Spirit
Flow through me
Like a river in the desert
Flow through me
Springing fountain healing stream
Living water pure and clean
Flow through me Holy Spirit
Flow through me

Dottie Rambo
© 1981 New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055

Complete Failure

Complete Failure
The headline of the newspaper read, “Complete Failure.”  They reported on the investigation into the Sandusky child abuse issues at Penn State and the complicity of several influential leaders at the university in a plan to protect the offender and the school with a cover-up. It’s a tragic story with no real winners. The boys, now young men, who were victims of Sandusky’s sins still carry the emotional scars. A legendary coach, now dead, will have years of service footnoted with this scandal.
Integrity got lost to expedience! The leaders made their choices based on what seemed best for the few at the moment rather than on the principles of what is right. Now, before we get too self-righteous, let’s remember that we’re all tempted to walk this path. We can get very worked up over another’s sins while at the same moment excusing our own as ‘common human failure.’  A divorced single mother told me about hearing her former husband, who had been an invisible, absent father, going on at length about how the men’s ministry he led at his church was ‘really focused on encouraging men in their roles as Dad.’  Sam was oblivious to the irony! His actions are, sadly, more the rule than the exception.
Jesus told a story about this that I believe He meant to be humorous. “Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Luke 6:41-42, NLT) Jesus was not excusing us from dealing with our sins. Some reach this mistaken conclusion from his remarks – “Don’t worry, we’re all sinners.”  That’s not the point. “Deal with your own sin first!”is what He’s saying.
A person that is principled and committed to integrity is not always beloved. Some will call him ‘rigid.’ Others will avoid him, feeling the sting of conscience just because of his powerful example. “Let your light shine,” Jesus said, “and other will praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:15)  When we are loving and approach others with compassion, holiness is beautiful. If we are judgmental, critical of those who fail, we become religious irritants; like the Pharisees who earned such scorn even from the Lord.
May our prayer be, ‘Change my heart, O God. Let me walk with you ready to quickly respond to Your Spirit, ready to deal my own sins first, so that my life gives light to those who still walk in the dark. Lord, guide me to walk in integrity, not guided by mere convenience, but committed to the principles of the Word.’
Here’s a word from the Word.
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.”(Psalm 96:8-13, NIV)

Adrift on a sea of chance?

“NY Med” is a new summer program that features cutting edge medical procedures interwoven with personal stories of the patients. It’s not actors playing surgeons; it is real doctors dealing with real people. (ABC, 10 pm, Monday) While watching it, the tenuous hold we have on this thing called, ‘life,’ was refreshed in my mind. A person does not have to be living recklessly to have a serious illness creep up.  Suddenly, we find that we are fighting for survival.
Cancer shows up during a ‘routine’ exam.
Terrible infection takes hold.
A baby is born with some part undeveloped.
Alzheimer’s begins to steal memory.
This knowledge could fill us with fear and/or despair.
Then, we read the ‘God-story’ and the rest of the picture emerges. From our side of time it appears that we are adrift on a sea of chance, lucky if we dodge the bullet for another day. From God’s side, our lives are a purposeful journey with an assurance of His hand to guide us until we are finally home. There is peace found in the promise of the Scripture that says “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:14-17, NIV)
Though I live secure in His will, I am not a fatalist. God’s rule and the our gift of freedom are declared in the Word. They seem to be mutually exclusive, at first glance. The Bible teaches me that my Father’s will is always accomplished even as it makes plain that He gives me the freedom to choose to accept or reject His purpose. Dr. Richard Dobbins writes that “God’s will is like a stream. You can step in and out of a stream.   Many people see God’s will like a road that comes to a fork. If you take the wrong path at the fork, you can’t go back into the will of God. If you see God’s will as a stream, at times you will step into it and sometimes you will step out of it. When you step out, you will miss the refreshing that comes from it. That fact that you’re out, does not mean you cannot get back into it.”    (http://www.drdobbins.com/guidelines-for-great-living/articles/how-to-find-gods-will-for-your-life/)
If you focus only on your own resources, desires, and plans you will eventually come to the point of despair that shapes the book of Ecclesiastes. There ‘the Preacher’ (Solomon in old age) bemoans the emptiness of his life, the apparent meaninglessness of all his endeavors. His existentialism – his efforts to discover a life with meaning in pleasure, accomplishment, and study – was not enough to let him come to old age with hope. A bitter cynic, he says ” So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17, NIV) What a contrast is found in the words Paul writes from a dungeon at the end of his life.  He faithfully looked to live in the center of God’s will. Despite many disappointments and not a few days of sorrow, his reflection is full of anticipation and hope! “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) He had no regrets! Even though some did not consider him a success because he had found neither wealth nor acclaim, he states that he has nothing to hide or for which he felt any need to apologize. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV)
Secure yourself in the love of your Heavenly Father. When the feelings of fear come, when circumstances enter your life that you cannot explain, for which you can discern no purpose, choose trust. Here’s a word from the Word. Read it, believe it, own it! “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. …I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. … Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” (Psalm 40:4-5, 8, 11-13, NIV)
_________________
My Life Is In Your Hands
You don’t have to worry
And don’t you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning
Troubles they don’t last always
For there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say
(Oh) I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands
With Jesus I can take it
With Him I know I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands
So when your tests and trials
They seem to get you down
And all your friends and loved ones
Are nowhere to be found
Remember there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say
Oh I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands
Kirk Franklin
© 1996 Lilly Mack Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

War At Home

War At Home
Sean and Natalie
         
Guest author – Sean A. Scott
We’re in the midst of a war . . . not over there but right here, on this soil, in your home or neighborhood. We’re surrounded- there are double agents and traps set everywhere. Whether you’re seeing it or not is one thing but it’s real!! And I’m angry. This isn’t some conspiracy theory rant or scare tactic. I’m not some unstable fringe type whose spreading nonsense. I am a dad and husband in a world that doesn’t respect either title and the gravity of the position. “Oh, yes they do!” you say!  Really?
Just this past week I’ve heard directly about numerous marriages that are on the brink- one or both parties, ready to call it quits. But they’re not alone, there are millions going through the same thing right now and the MAJORITY will throw in the towel. Not because they have to but because they want to; it’s just easier. Forget easy!
“They know not what they do.” They’re seeing three feet in front of them not a mile down the road. Each time a covenant is broken our culture becomes a little weaker. Now that’s an over exaggeration you say! Is it though? Whole, solid families are the foundation of any society. This isn’t an American ideal I speak of; this is a human race ideal. Name one society that can rise on the backs of broken homes? Name one!
But why am I so angry, you ask? Because we’ve trampled the covenant of marriage! We’ve tossed it aside because the Housewives of NY, LA and wherever say it’s fine through their swollen, injected lips. If I hear ” . . . just do what makes you happy”, one more time! We’ve taken away any sense of shame or failure to divorce. We’re so obsessed with self that the rest of those in your life that you committed to get to pay, no matter the cost! That’s why I’m angry!
I knowingly entered into a covenant relationship when I married Natalie. You know what ‘covenant’ means?  It means we enter into a sacred vow that we both promise to honor before God. This isn’t a contract like a lease agreement or bank loan. This is entering into an agreement that transcends earthly commitments. In essence we’re saying, “God I promise you this!” Again, that’s big!  
Promising your creator that you will love, take care of and honor your wife for the rest of your days . . . THE REST of your days.  
Not until you’re unhappy or frustrated with her.
Not when the money runs out.
Not when she gets boring or grumpy.  
Not when she gets sick.  
This covenant says, no matter the circumstance (besides infidelity) you will stand by her side. You will love her more than yourself.  Did you read that? LOVE THEM ABOVE SELF!
Selfishness is a child’s game. Once we come of age, our decisions should largely be about others; building the foundation for those that come after us. When you marry, this is especially true! At the moment of the exchanging of vows you are stating that your life is no longer your own, that you are living to serve and love them. And that gets even more amplified when children come along. The marriage covenant now includes the lives of your offspring. As you have committed to your wife, you now owe your life to your children. It’s not about you anymore!
And that’s why I’m angry because we’re continuing to act like it is and should be about us but we still dabble in “being married.” The result is bad- look around! We are raising the first generation of children that will know more broken homes than whole ones. What is that going to look like for them? Will they even know the meaning of commitment, integrity, perseverance, etc.? Will they? Because actions speak WAY louder than words and we’re trashing the covenant of marriage right now. It’s a joke! So forget about our economic and physical battles that are going on and fight the battle at home!
Fight for your spouse!
Fight for your children!
Pursue each other.
Taste the bitter pill of sacrifice but reap the rewards that follow.  
Stop blaming! Start learning to love when it’s the last thing you want to do. Look into your children’s eyes and see the impact you have on their future.
For the sake of all that is good and right, believe and invest into your marriage!
__________
The word from the Word for us today calls us to know love that we might live in love. “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.” (1 John 3:16, The Message) ” My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” (1 John 3:18, The Message) “As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24, The Message)
Sean A. Scott lives with his wife, Natalie, and daughter, Selah, in West Palm Beach, FL where he is proprietor of Habatat Coffee Company)

The Keys to the Treasury


Dozens of people with various needs come through my life each week. Yesterday it was a woman who needed $301 to keep from being evicted. Last week it was a man whose heart was shattered by his son’s untimely death. I want to help! Sometimes I slip into a daydream about having so much money I could just write a check to help out. I am rich! A story in the book of Acts reminds me that my resources are not just measured with a bank account balance.
Peter and John were going into the Temple to pray at 3 in the afternoon when a beggar called out to them for money. The man had been in that spot near the gate for years, crippled and dependent on the kindness of those who passed by. “Help me, show some kindness!” he yelled, holding out his hand pathetically. Peter stopped; looked right at him and said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6, KJV) The crippled man “stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8, KJV)
Spirit-filled Christians are given amazing grace, infinite love, abundant mercy, astonishing kindness… need I go on? People need to be gifted with those things, more than money! Do you have a generous spirit? Giving is not a first impulse for most people. Naturally we tend to think about caring for ourselves; making certain that we have secured our place, our future, provision for our perceived needs. But, where the Spirit is in charge, He secures us and teaches us to give ourselves away; just like Jesus did.
How generous are you? 
  • When you tip a server, do you carefully calculate 15% or throw in an extra couple of dollars?
  • When you tithe (10% for God’s work) do you divide it down to the penny, or do you round it up with joy?
  • When you’re in line do you carefully guard your position or let the guy with a couple of items cut in front of you? Are you impatient with drivers who go too slowly in your lane, or cheerfully share the road?
When we possess the riches of God, not just in word but in our hearts, we are freed from the need to grasp tightly what we perceive belongs to us. We will gain a liberal heart, a generous spirit that overflows. We will take notice of the hurts, the sorrows, the pain of those around us and give them from the store of love that we have received from the Lord. We will readily absorb the insensitivities and insecurities that cause others to slight us without the least care because we are so rich in the Father’s love!
The Word observes the principle of reciprocity –
“It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:24-25, NLT) Jesus states it simply – “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”” (Luke 6:38, The Message)
Before you rush on to take on life, take a few moments to thank God for the riches you have been given in Christ Jesus. Meditate on this statement: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)  Yes, we are rich in Him.  So, let’s and give it away! Let’s have find joy today by blessing people with love, kindness, mercy, goodness – from the rich storehouse to which God has given us the key!
__________________
Who Am I
When I think of how He came
So far from glory,
Came and dwelt among the lowly
Such as I,
To suffer shame and such disgrace,
On Mount Calv’ry take my place.
Then I ask myself a question,
Who am I?
Who am I that a King,
Would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray,
“Not my will Thine” for?
The answer I may never know,
Why He ever loved me so,
That to an old rugged cross He’d go,
For who am I?
Rusty Goodman
© 1965 Playin’ TAG Music. Renewed 1993. (Admin. by Integrated Copyright Group, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055