Speaking to my own soul

 

 

My emotions were fired up. The day was one of peaks and valleys, exhilaration and anxiety, all mixed into one potentially intoxicating brew. I could feel the tension rising and knew it was time to speak to myself. No, I am not mentally unbalanced! I have learned from experience that when emotions are running high, it is appropriate to remind myself Who is God, of His eternal promises, and of the calling to live as His child.  Remember Jesus’ disciples who were in a boat with Him as a storm rose on the Sea of Galilee?  They gave in to fear and soon were accusing Him of not caring for them! Graciously, He stood and quieted the storm and then He “reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
(Mark 4:40, The Message) 
Panic will run wild through the corridors of our minds if we give fear unrestricted access. Anger will become a roaring blaze of rage if we do not restrain it. Desire will turn rapidly to all-consuming lust, greed, or gluttony if we do not learn how to invite the Spirit to rule in us. So, David teaches us by example when he talks to himself! He says, “Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me.” (Psalm 103:2, NLT)
One of the great myths of our time is that every thought must be spoken, every feeling explored, every desire fulfilled. Self-discipline is despised, even demeaned. The result is that too many fully grown adults are still throwing tantrums, living irresponsibly, and expecting others to indulge them while they whine and cry about their lot in life. Sadly, they are often completely unaware of the deepening chaos they are creating because they will not speak to their own soul with the voice of reason and in the power of God’s Spirit.
Those who are Spirit-filled Christians are freed from the control of the sinful nature, released to be godly and whole people who live as overcomers in the middle of temptation. They do not gain this victory by ignoring the inner tumult, by denying negative emotions, or repressing unpleasant feelings. They know what they feel, but they also know that God gives a gift of a will, empowered by His Spirit! We can fully acknowledge our emotions without letting them take control. Jeremiah, called ‘the weeping prophet,’ faced calamity and felt the crushing weight of sorrow. His example is powerful. “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:18-23, NIV)
John reminds that the Spirit of God is ‘greater than the spirit that lives in the world.’ (1 John 4:4) So, step up Christian to the challenge. Pray for maturity. Let the Spirit help you to be self-controlled and alert so you do not fall prey to the schemes of evil. (1 Peter 5:8)
Here’s a word from the Word. Meditate on it and let the peace of God rule. “I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:2-5, NIV)
Let My Words Be Few
You are God in heaven
And here am I on earth,
So I’ll let my words be few.
Jesus, I am so in love with You.
And I’ll stand in awe of You.
Yes, I’ll stand in awe of You;
And I’ll let my words be few.
Jesus. I am so in love with You.
Beth Redman | Matt Redman
© 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

Dating or Married?

This Sunday at Faith Discovery Church we will be talking about something everybody ought to know. Yep, we’re going to point out the obvious. What is it? That the church is a family and that Christianity is about relationships!  Christ commissions us to faithfully do His work – feeding the hungry, comforting the broken, preaching the Gospel – but that’s not all that it’s about.  His church is a place to belong, a place of grace. We miss that sometimes, getting so busy in the work of the Lord that we forget the importance of loving and listening.

Are you, disciple, part of the Body? Are you committed to the Church and the church?

Bible doctrine teaches us that the Church is the universal Body of Christ. We are joined to her when we are born of the Spirit and baptized in faith. But, we need to do more than know this. We need to do this!  When we make gathering with our church family a priority, we discover support, fellowship, and encouragement; and who doesn’t need that?  So, why don’t more of us find the richness of relationship I’m describing? Because churches are made up of real people, flawed people, who don’t always love well.  It takes commitment, patience, and time to create the connections that return the kind of joy promised to those who are ‘in the Body.’  Look what is possible. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NLT)

Experiencing that connectedness requires radical commitment; akin to that which we make in marriage. Some Christians “date” churches endlessly, but never marry one! Thus, they never know the great joy that can only be experienced as a part of a team that is building the Kingdom of Christ. They let the superficial stuff – who was nice to me, who talked to me, who noticed me – replace the unity of the Spirit that binds us all together.  When we let the Tempter stir up feelings of resentment toward other people in Christ’s Body, we will fall into the sin of offense.  Inevitably a high wall will appear dividing us from those who are our best allies in the fight for faith. Even worse, when we let resentment loose, we will begin to attack and destroy what Christ loves! Think what it does to His heart when we tear down, for selfish reasons, the Bride (the Church) that He loves so much that He gave His life for her.

The Bible offers this lofty description of Christ’s Church. “By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:7-11, NLT) God’s plan is to use the church to demonstrate His grace and goodness to Heaven and Earth!


Don’t miss out. Join up! Make a radical commitment to the work of God in your local church.  It’s not just about joining a mission! It’s about being ‘in a family.’  Sunday, we’re going to present the vision of “Discovery Groups” a place outside of the church building where we can learn to be the people of the Lord. It’s not about yet another ministry. It’s about a place to belong, a place of grace.
Here’s a word from the Word to ponder today. “I … beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each  other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NLT)

Ears to Hear?


Ears to hear?
How’s your hearing?   With age, mine isn’t what it used to be.  When I ask Bev to repeat something she said while in another room, it frustrates her. But, some loss of ability to hear quiet or higher pitched tones is normal.  Of greater concern to me is the ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit!  In the book of the Revelation, there is a phrase repeated seven times in the first three chapters: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:29, NIV)  If I become spiritually hard of hearing, I lose a precious treasure – the joy of knowing Him, being led by Him.
Francis Chan, author of Forgotten God, a book about the Spirit’s ministry, reminds us that we should live with an amazing intimacy with the Spirit.  His Presence and voice reaches us in places where other people cannot come.  When we are sick, traveling, fearful, alone, worshiping, working … everywhere, He is there!  But, are we aware of Him? Are our ears open to His voice?  Obviously living in open rebellion cuts us off from knowing the fellowship of the Lord.  Chan suggests less obvious things that creep into our lives that rob us of our ability to listen to the Spirit.
First, he says, we can value our comfort more than His leading!  Are you willing to let Him direct you out of the place where you feel ‘at home?’  I am not just talking about a call to missions work in some nation on the far side of the world!  Will you let Him lead you across the street to serve a neighbor?  Will you let Him lead you to forgive that person you have grown to despise?  Will you let Him lead you to a place of obscure service that has no immediate reward? Will you listen when He invites you to grow deeper in the character of Christ Jesus, by taking you along a path that is difficult?  OR, will you love comfort so much that you ignore Him?  The cost of discipleship is obedience. Knowing the rewards of being the child of God demands that we are willing to live as Jesus lived.  “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15-17, NIV)
Second, Chan says that we can be spiritually deafened by the noise that fills every waking moment. For most of us, every day is full of interaction.  Phones we carry everywhere buzz, beep, and jingle signaling texts and requests to talk.  We stick little speakers in our ears that pipe a stream of music into our brain while we walk, work, and exercise.  The TV is on for hours.  In all that clamor, the Holy Spirit’s voice can be lost to us.  We may hear His voice deep inside, but only respond with a ‘huh, what did You say?’ before turning up the volume of the noise of life.  Jesus found time to be alone with His Father.  If the perfect Man needed that quiet to hear the voice of the Spirit clearing, how can we think we have less need for listening in the quiet?  Contemplative prayer is a lost art for many of us. No wonder we wander so far from God!
The Spirit is not silent!  Can you hear His voice?
This word from the Word carries great promise. “Oh, Lord, may we listen well that we may live in the place of Your peace. Amen.”
“Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.”
And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, with his Spirit. This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
(Isaiah 48:16-18, NIV)

Right Where You Are


Joseph’s life is an inspiration for me! As a teenager, the Lord gave him big dreams for the future. He saw a bright, wonderful promise ahead. For the next 20 years, he experienced one setback after another. His brothers’ hatred caused them to sell into slavery. The wife of the man in whose household he served lusted after him and, when he kept his integrity, lied about him. He ended up in prison. What if he had said, “This is my fate” and decided that his dreams were too big? What if he had just settled down in that situation? He would not!  


He continued to pray, help onto faith. The Bible says, “The Lord was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer. Before long, the jailer put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison.” (Genesis 39:20-22, NLT) Things are looking up, right? No, not really. A man he helped promptly forgot him after being released from prison and he languished there for two more years. Was this the moment when he decided to ‘accept’ life as it was, to give up on people? He kept faith, not bitterly, not selfishly. Finally, the moment comes when Pharaoh learns about the young Hebrew whose connection to the Almighty God was authentic. He sent for him and Joseph ultimately realized the promise that he received decades prior to that moment.
So, how did Joseph hang onto the promise and still live faithfully and at peace throughout the years of disappointment? He experienced the Presence of God in each moment! He did not wait to know or to serve God for some future time when the circumstances of life were all he hoped they might be. When he was a brother, he was the best brother possible. When he was a slave, he chose to live with excellence. When he was a prisoner, he served the captain of the guard well.
Niebuhr’s prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” is one I pray often! I want to live in the peace and joy of the Lord today, but not at the expense of failing to fulfill His high calling. We cannot confuse acceptance of our circumstances with resignation to fate! There is a huge difference between choosing to live in peace as we take the grace He offers for this day and just giving up on our dream so we can exist. 
In the Philippian letter, Paul reveals the tension between present grace and future hope. He exults in what God has done for him. He is in prison, yet knows that the Lord is using that situation to advance the kingdom. He is a man at peace. “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14, NKJV)
But, he is not resigned to living in prison for the rest of his life. God promises more and so he writes, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NKJV)
The open secret of living in peace while pressing on is knowing the Presence of God; right here, right where we are. How?
First of all, we reject the false comfort of sin and/or disobedience! When life is turbulent, temptation will come. Food, sex, new stuff, anger, pride – these things have a special appeal when we are walking through situations that are hard or beyond our understanding.
Second, we do the right things! Prayer may be hard, the words just don’t flow, pray anyway. Joining with others for worship may feel like an empty ritual, do it anyway. Serving, loving, giving may be the last thing you want to do; do them anyway.
Third, we look up. The Bible tells us to “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.”  Why? “Because he never lost sight of where he was headed-that exhilarating finish in and with God-he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (Hebrews 12:2, The Message)
Accept the grace for this day, but don’t settle for the status quo. Here’s the word from the Word: “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NLT)
___________________
Great is Thy Faithfulness,
Oh God, My Father.
There is no shadow of turning
With You.
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be.
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan
© 1923. Renewed 1951 Hope Publishing Company

Two Weeks from Today

Two weeks from today


Vote! Are you planning to vote? In Presidential elections years about 2 of out of 3 eligible Americans will do so, leaving an amazing 30% who stay home for one reason or another. Electing our government officials should be regarded as a duty as well as a privilege. We can attempt to justify our decision to stay home by pointing to the fact that we are just one in millions. We can excuse our failure to vote by pointing to the corruption of political processes. In both cases, we would be wrong. Each vote counts and if higher percentages of voters insist on accountability, better candidates will be put into office.
With all the noise about the election of a President, it is easy to overlook that there are candidates for a whole range of offices from local town committees, to state legislatures, and Congress. Though the Presidential race gets the lion’s share of attention, it is often the actions of those in lesser offices that actually effect our lives on a day to day basis. Can you even name those running? In a few days you will receive a sample ballot in the mail. Review it! Do your homework. Talk with others and become an informed citizen, then vote!
So, you might be wondering why a daily devotion written primarily to encourage Christians in their walk with the Lord engages this topic? Perhaps you believe that as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven you are above the dirty process of politics with all the mud-slinging that goes on. If so, I want to change your mind.
We are, first and foremost, subjects of Christ, our Lord. The Word reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20, NIV) Interestingly, the word ‘citizenship’ in that passage is translated from the NT Greek word “politeuma” which referred to civil life, to the administration of public policies. The Bible is telling us that our daily lives here on earth are governed by Christ from Heaven. Our constitution and by-laws are written by Him. And, that includes how we act in the context of the earthly government under which we live. Our Christianity is expressed, in part at least, by our earthly citizenship.
Jesus never advocated anarchy. He paid His taxes and urged respect for those who ruled. A Christian is commanded to ” submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1, NIV) I’m certain that the idea of people selecting their own leaders through the electoral process was not in Paul’s mind as he was inspired to give us that directive. We have an amazing privilege of helping to choose those to whom we are to submit.
Give me another couple of minutes today to opine. (Thank you for your patience.) Please do not become one of those simple-minded Christians who cast votes for a person based on a single issue or because “he looks like a good Christian.” Educate yourself on the totality of a candidate’s positions, as best you are able to do so. There is no perfect candidate. Look for values, for evidence of integrity, for qualities of leadership. It is true that “when the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” (Proverbs 29:2, NLT) Don’t be duped by the candidate who learns the code words that appeal to Christians. That fact that he says, “God bless you,” and shows up in the pulpit of a famous preacher does not necessarily indicate that he will govern in a godly way. Be wise.
Finally, be prayerful. The Spirit promises to guide us. As we study the roster of candidates standing for election, let’s pray for insight. God’s design for humanity includes leadership, those who exercise the right to set the policies that govern us. He has sovereignly chosen to allow you and me to live in an era in which we participate in the selection of our leadership. We can become His partner in choosing those who will spend our taxes and defend human dignity. So, I appeal to you to be an informed, active citizen; one who exercises the privilege of the ballot in a way that honors our Heavenly King – two weeks from today.

He’s your Dad!

He’s your Dad
Papa
For a few days last week I was with my children and grandchildren.  Of all the ways I am described by others;  friend, brother, Pastor, counselor;  none compares to “Dad.” My adult kids love to tease me and can do it so well knowing all the right stories to tell. When one of the little ones approached and said, “Hi, Papa” I literally wept with joy!
Jesus taught us to address God primarily as “Our Father.”  We come to Him with open heart and an expectation of acceptance because that’s Who He is. “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.” (Romans 8:15-16, The Message)

There are many ways to know and understand our God. He is Majestic Lord, Creator of the Universe, the Divine Warrior, the One who lives in Heavenly Splendor,  the Great I Am.  And He is our Father, our Abba!

“But, Pastor, if I relate to Him like that, won’t I lose respect and treat His demands with contempt?”  No you will not.  If your love for Abba is deep and authentic, your obedience will be complete; not fear-based but love inspired.  My adult children are self-sufficient, having nothing to fear in me. The respect they give to me has its foundation in love.  Love is a much stronger motive than fear; more sustainable, too!

Is God just an idea to you?  Is He ‘someone out there, somewhere?’  Pray to know Him.

Receive the Father love He has for you.  John says that this ‘love casts out fear.’  If we only fear God we have not yet known the fullness of His salvation offered to us through Christ.

Receive the Father provisions prepared for you. He will meet your needs from His riches!
Receive the identity.  A father provides an identity.  Long before his children can consciously process thoughts about who they are and how they fit into the world, a good Daddy shows them by his life.  His values become theirs. His way of ‘doing life’ is unconsciously adopted.  He anchors them in the world.   My primary identity in this world was given to me by my Dad and, later by my Heavenly Abba.

Here’s a word from the Word.  May this truth go deep and become a rock of stability for us in a world filled with instability. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NIV)
____________

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed (revered as holy) be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”  Amen (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)

I DESERVE it!

Our political leaders are challenged by the fiscal demands of ‘entitlement’ programs. With mountains of debt threatening to break our state and national economies, they face hard choices about Social Security benefits, spending on education and health care, and public pension programs. No beneficiaries are going to willing say, “trim my programs.” After all, that’s why they are called entitlements.

There are days when I slip into an entitlement mentality. It goes like this:  “I’m a good guy.  I’m owed … ”  It’s an ugly place and it does not long to go from brooding about how unfair life is to being angry at people for not giving me what I deserve!  In that moment, life becomes a very small bundle of ME. Gratitude becomes impossible.

Entitlement is at its worst when it enters our relationship with God. If love Self enough to believe that God “owes me,”  real spiritual sickness is soon to follow! He owes me nothing. I owe Him everything.  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:35-37, NIV)

Need to defeat entitlement thinking?  Here’s the way. Cultivate gratitude! Practice giving thanks today, right where you are. Thanksgiving inspires worship and faith grows. Consistently offering heartfelt thanks to God breaks the mesmerizing hold of Self. This births a new humility in which we willingly trust and obey the Lord.

Disobedience is always fed by the root of ‘me-ism,’ the insistence that Self must be served above all things – the welfare of others and even God Himself. Look at these examples from the Scripture.
  • Eve sinned because she wanted to indulge her desire.
  • Moses sinned when he allowed himself to be fed up with serving the ever-demanding people Israel.
  • David sinned when he thought he just had to have Bathsheba, and his lust fed an escalating series of sins that led to proxy murder!
Perhaps you are in a hard place; struggling to meet your bills, or dealing with disappointment in a broken relationship, or facing a health crisis. As you see it, you deserve better!  Don’t go there. Instead, choose to thank God for His goodness and for His promise to provide all you need, not all you think you need.

The NT tells us to ‘crucify the sinful nature.’  That’s a brutal phrase that reveals the intensity with which we must deal with Self.  Give it no place! One way is to offer what the Bible calls a “sacrifice of praise to God.” That means we intentionally stop complaining and give Him thanks.  Further the Word urges us to offer this sacrifice “continually, … the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name .” (Hebrews 13:15, KJV)

God cannot bless those who think of themselves as entitled! But, to the humble, who are full of gratitude, He shows abundant mercies.

Here’s the word from the Word. Let it own your heart and mind. It’s His divine prescription for peaceful contentment. “Offer proper sacrifices, and trust in the Lord. Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let the smile of your face shine on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
(Psalm 4:5-8, NLT)
________________

The BEST of Intentions


The Best of Intentions
Good intentions are not enough in our worship. Obedience is!  In an intriguing story from King David’s adventures, we catch a glimpse of an awesome God, in the most frightening sense of the word. David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of the Presence of the LORD among His people, back to Jerusalem. In ancient Judaism it was the most sacred piece of furniture (dare I label it so casually?) in the tabernacle of God.  When Moses received the directives for proper handling of this holy thing, God said it was only to be carried by men of the holy tribe and in a very specific manner. (see Exodus 25) Rings were built into the sides of the ark through which long poles were to be passed. When it was necessary to move the Ark, priests were to carry it on their shoulders with these long poles.  Between the time of Moses and  David’s reign several hundred years passed and these directions apparently were forgotten!
So, when David set out to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem, symbolically returning God to the center of the people’s attention in his royal city, he did what seemed to be reasonable and appropriate. He even built a new cart to honor this holy thing before going to retrieve it.  After a proclamation, they set out to do this thing. (1 Chronicles 13:7-8) Uzzah and Ahio were tasked with guiding the oxen pulling the cart. David was celebrating before God with all their might, singing and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets. It must have been quite a parade/worship celebration. Until…  “they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah put out his hand to steady the Ark. Then the Lord’s anger blazed out against Uzzah, and he struck him dead because he had laid his hand on the Ark. So Uzzah died there in the presence of God.” 
Right there, in the middle of trying to do a good thing, tragedy struck;  David didn’t know why! First, he grew angry at the Lord.  “I try to honor You, and this is Your response?  You kill a good man?”   Then, on further reflection, he became fearful. He trembled in terror and he wondered how he could ever please the Lord if even his best intentions failed in such a spectacular manner. Only after time and research did he learn the proper way to move the Ark and thus to show reverence for God.
Good intentions are admirable, but they are not enough for a holy God.  We all wrestle with our will and His, with what ‘seems right’ and what ‘is right.’ As much as we might think that just ‘doing our best’ is acceptable, our holy God indicates that His desire is that we revere Him sufficiently to submit ourselves without reserve. When we argue with Him, resist what we know to be His plans, or take our lives into our own hands – we invite His displeasure.  Sobering, isn’t it? This little story from David’s life helps me to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to ‘serve’ God. I realize that I am giving aid and comfort to those who ‘sanctify’ a certain worship style or to those who are bent on writing rules and regulations for others in the name of God. That, however, is a shallow misuse of the principle of this story.
My intent is to point us beyond such legalities to our own relationship with God, where we know better in our heart, but where we choose to go our own way believing that God will ‘cut us some slack.
This IS true. If we fail to listen with an open heart and mind for the Spirit, plunging ahead with our ‘best intentions’ we will likely plant seeds that will produce an eventual harvest of alienation, fear, and ultimately death. He is a wonderful God who is worthy of our reverent, submitted, entire obedience. When the conviction of the Spirit comes ( and thankfully He doesn’t strike us dead in this era!) let’s have the humility to confess our failure and to accept the Spirit’s grace. Then, in His will, let’s walk joyfully into the full, rich life found in total obedience!
Here’s a word from the Word.  Read it prayerfully, thoughtfully, honestly.  Move beyond your own best intentions and learn to ‘keep step with the Spirit.’  
“How can I stand up before God and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.
– Micah 6:6-8, The Message

Time to make the donuts!

Vision teaches us the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’  Lose vision and motivation dies.  The lead guy on the crew that installed the new boiler at our church last week wasn’t just putting pipes together. He was building something in which he took pride. He had vision for his work and it is evident in the quality work he left behind. He showed up with enthusiasm, a smile on his face, and a readiness to do the work.   Are you like Fred, the baker, the star of the old “Dunkin’ Donuts” ads who was up before dawn heading out the door because it was ‘time to make the donuts?’  Somehow you knew he was pushing himself out the door, that making donuts was a job to which he was faithful, but for which he was not terrifically enthused.  

  

I pace myself through the routines of church business,  doing the invisible chores that maintain the organization, gladly because they support the vision God gave me. My vision is not to maintain a building, however. It is to build a community of people who make a noticeable difference for the Lord Jesus in our corner of the world! If I lose sight of the bigger mission, (and there are those days) the tedium can become overwhelming. Then I realize I need to look up, to catch another glimpse of that glorious Church that my Lord Jesus will find worthy of commendation. I believe whole-heartedly that the only hope for this world is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a message that transforms people into amazing saints, infuses life with purpose and meaning, and lets us live in the promise of eternal life. I want as many people as possible to hear that good news, to experience the love of Christ, and that is the vision that keeps me going!

·         Friend, do you know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ in your life?
·         Is there a God-given vision that draws you to love God with devotion?
·         Do you have visionfor your family, your church, your daily vocation, your neighborhood, your financial management…. Yes, for all of life?
Some of you are thinking, “Yeah, Jerry, I’ve heard this hype before. My ‘vision’ is just to hang on one more day. Mostly I feel like Fred, the baker and it’s just time to make the donuts”  
If that’s you, take charge now. Stop letting life lead you and make a decision to become a person who lives ‘on purpose.’ Hit the pause button. Take a day off and spend it in prayer, not in front of the TV!  Invite God, the Holy Spirit, to renew your understanding that you “are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT) God is purposeful. God is concerned about you and able to use you – but you must make yourself available and let Him mature the vision in you. Borrow the prayer that little Samuel prayed in the dark when the voice of the Lord echoed through his heart – “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9, NIV) When he prayed, God showed him a plan and then the boy worked and waited faithfully on that plan for years – in the process becoming a key person in Israel. Invite Him to speak, then wait for the answer.

Here’s a word from the Word for you today.  “Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer in large, clear letters on a tablet, so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else. 

But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. 
“Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith.” (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NLT)
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I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith on heaven’s table-land,
A higher plane than I have found:
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, ’til heaven I’ve found
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Higher Ground – Johnson Oatman, Jr.
Public Domain

Reboot!


Reboot!
If one of my computers start running slowly or drops the network connection, the first thing I do is a reboot! I have learned that just shutting it down and starting over usually gets things going again.  It’s a simple fix, yet very effective in most cases.  Don’t you wish that life had a reboot sequence?  A relationship go sour, every effort to make it better apparently only making things worse.  Wouldn’t it be great to hit a reset?  A choice is made that proves to be much more costly or difficult than you thought it would be – reboot!  I’m just dreaming, right?  In a sense, I am.  There is no quick fix for life. But …
 God does provide fresh starts. “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)  When we bring our broken, regretful, sinful life to Him we find forgiveness, restoration to our God, and hope to start anew.  King David fell hard.  As he reached the pinnacle of influence in Israel, he looked away from the LORD and down into the courtyard of beautiful Bathsheba. Lust became adultery. Adultery became murder. Murder became conspiracy.  Guilt chewed him up from the inside out.  Then, in a dramatic way, Nathan, God’s prophet, confronted him with his sins, publicly.  “God sees, God knows, God holds you in contempt!”  What would he do? Where could he go?  Was there any hope?
Psalm 51 is the song he wrote in his repentance. “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.” (Psalm 51:8-14, NLT)   I love the way one of those lines reads in The Message. “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. ” (Psalm 51:10, The Message)
A persistent theme in the Scripture is restoration.  God is a restorer who reaches out to offer a new perspective, to erase our guilt, to create a whole new way for us where there seems to be no way.  The grand culmination of earthly history is a renewal of all things.  In the final words of the Revelation, Jesus says,  “Look, I am making all things new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!”(Revelation 21:5-6, NLT)  We don’t have to wait for the Final Day to receive a fresh start.  He is here now.
Gather up the broken dreams, the sins, the mistakes, the failures; yes, even your ‘successes,’ and take them to Jesus Christ. Lay them down and leave them with Him.  God says, “And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)   Now, that’s a reboot. 
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Abba, I am deceived by illusions of self-sufficiency.
I think I can fix my life, create my own happiness;
But my sin deepens, my regrets multiply.
So, here I am, heart open; hands extended.
I ask for a fresh start, a new heart.
Take the chaos, and Spirit who rests on us
Draw something beautiful from it all.
Hold me close to You,
Whisper hope anew, the promise of life eternal.
In Jesus’ Name, I ask this.  Amen