Meeting the Minimum

Meeting the Minimums
My son, Sean, loves coffee and it shows. I just make a cup of coffee. He creates an amazing beverage! He takes pride in the freshness of the beans and getting the grind just right. Some people landscape their yard, carefully trimming, raking, mowing, spraying; and it shows in a lawn that looks like a golf course. I just mow mine.  When I prepare to speak, I never just ‘get up and talk off the top of my head.’ I think, pray, plan, write and re-write, with the goal of moving my audience to take action. Why? I am passionate about communication!

Here’s a pointed question:  do you have a passion for serving God, or are you content with meeting minimal expectations? It’s a serious issue.  Christianity without passion offends the One who deserves our highest and best.

In ancient Judah, even the priests were just going through the motions of worship. God spoke and did not spare their feelings. “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’” (Malachi 1:6, NLT) “When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”(Malachi 1:8, NLT) “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.” (Malachi 1:10, NLT)  “Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!” (Malachi 1:13-14, NLT)

Simply stated, God says that no worship is better than half-hearted worship.

Do we give God the best part of our life or the leftovers?
Does He get our attention in prayer or just sleepy words?
Do we do ministry in prime time or just ‘fit it in’ as conveniently as possible?
“Shut the Temple doors!” He says. “If you won’t give the best, then don’t go through the motions!”  It’s not just an Old Testament principle.  In His address to the churches in the book of the Revelation, Jesus says “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Revelation 3:15-16, NLT)

If we want a God-blessed life, if we want to enjoy His favor and know the fullness of joy that Jesus promises- we must give Him the first, the best, ‘our utmost for His highest.’ (Oswald Chambers)

Here’s a thought to ponder –
Would you want God to love you in the same way that you love Him?

Give me one pure and holy passion,
Give me one magnificent obsession.
Jesus give me one glorious ambition for my life.
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after You,
To grow as Your disciple in the truth.
This world is empty, pale, and poor,
Compared to knowing You my Lord.
Lead me on and I will run after You.

One Pure And Holy Passion
Altrogge, Mark

© 1988 PDI Praise (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.) / Dayspring Music, Inc. (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License No. 810055

Are you full of … the Spirit?

Solomon, king of Israel, spent a fortune to build a Temple in Jerusalem. From the mount it stood out visible for miles. The walls of white stone gleamed, the gates of polished bronze shone. It’s splendor made it a wonder of the ancient world. But, it was not architecture that was the greater glory of that building. It was the Presence that filled it. At the dedication, Solomon prayed for the Lord to come and be among His people. “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.”(2 Chronicles 7:1-3, NIV)

The “glory” of which this passage speaks is the Presence of God, His indescribable Radiance. Though He is an invisible God, those who were gathered that day felt Him and the only appropriate response was to fall down in worship. 

Today, God does not inhabit buildings or holy places. He lives in us, His temples. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV)

Christians, you and I, are given the awesome privilege of carrying the Lord’s glory wherever we are, whatever we are doing. It is not us, but the One in us, that is magnificent. Even more wonderful is that fact that where His Presence goes, there is joy. My desire is to be a temple prepared for His Presence, a person marked by His radiance. How about you, Christian?

What spills over from you? What fills your thoughts, your dreams, your days? It’s not a silly question because whoever we are on the inside will become what we are in our world. Jesus said that “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.’” (Matthew 15:18, NIV)

When the Spirit fills us, the beauty of His Presence will spill over from us. 

Invite Him to fill you up! Yes, we participate in this process. As He comes to live in us, He points out attitudes, actions, and choices with which He will not share space in our lives. He asks for access to every part of our lives – our past and present, our resources, our pleasures, and our personality. Some think He steals from us, robbing us of our creativity. Exactly the opposite is true! Where He makes holy, He also make whole. In that wholeness we become the amazing creatures He designed. The Spirit-filled life is a thing of beauty very different from the religiousness that some practice in the Name of Christ.
Ponder this word from the Word. Pray, “come, Holy Spirit.”
May the Radiance shine from deep inside of you.
“So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord… The god who rules this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They cannot see the light, which is the good news about our glorious Christ, who shows what God is like…. The Scriptures say, “God commanded light to shine in the dark.” Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.”
(2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:4,6-7, CEV)
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
and make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Has thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see thy cross; there teach my heart to cling.
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find.
Teach me to feel that thou art always nigh;
teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart
  – George Croly, public domain

Are you a cracked pot?

Are you a cracked pot?

We have this expectation that the call of God will somehow turn us into a perfect person.  Consciously we know that is not true, but still it persists in our unconscious mind.  When that Christian artist who writes songs that move us so deeply leaves her husband and gets involved with another man,
we are beyond disappointed.  “How could she do that?” 

we wonder, often angrily!  When our favorite minister reveals a side of his personality that is deeply flawed, we tend to toss every lesson we ever learned from him, as if the truth he taught is invalidated by his human nature.  The fact is that the call of God does not perfect the person.  The Bible tells us, repeatedly, about God using some very broken, sinful people to accomplish His purposes.

Jonah is one. They don’t come much more flawed than this man. His story opens with rebellion. The Lord said, “Go.”  He said, “No!”  This prophet was acquainted with God and His Presence, enough that he knew the call clearly. In spite of his familiarity with the things of God, he chose to run in the other direction when sent to Nineveh.  He was not just a rebel, he was a coward.  His actions endangered the ship on which he was traveling, while he hid out below deck. When he got to Nineveh after his famed weekend in a fish’s belly, he whined and complained when the Lord spared the city from destruction. There just isn’t much to admire in Jonah. Never the less, he was a man God used, and quite effectively!

Does that mean we can live in willful disobedience and expect to continue under God’s blessing? Not at all.  The point is that the Lord is faithful to His Promise and that He is able to use ordinary sinners, like me, to do amazing things for His glory.  We must not put doing His will on hold until we think we are ‘good enough’ to be used.  We also need to think twice about insisting that someone else should be perfect before we allow God to use them to minister to us. 

Paul, the great apostle, referred to himself as the ‘chief of sinners.’  (1 Timothy 1:15) This was not just rhetoric! He understood that God found him in sin and used him despite his sinful nature. He reminds the Corinthians that the treasure of the Gospel and the Spirit  were carried on earth “in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)  The gloriously perfect message comes our way through quite ordinary, unimpressive people. We need to rid ourselves of the need to pretend that we are better than we are even our desire is to ‘help out’ the Gospel message. Prophets who pretend to have it all together in their lives do worse in their hypocrisy than those who admit to being a cracked pot!

I am not making an excuse for any Christian to live in open rebellion against God or His Word!  When we receive the call of Christ, “Follow Me,” that’s what we should do. And, as we walk with Him, we are ‘becomers,’ increasing like Him, by the work of His Spirit.  The Bible says that “when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, The Message)

Are you looking for perfect people to lead you? 
Are you holding back on doing what God would have you do because you think you’re too sinful to be useful?

Remember, the Lord uses cracked pots to do amazing things and as He restores those broken lives, His Gospel shines ever more brightly.

Those are MY kids!

I love my kids and it brings great joy to my heart to do whatever I am able to do to help and encourage them. Yes, I was and I am a tough Dad who doesn’t shrink from speaking truthfully.  I know that love is sometimes best expressed in discipline, but it also is full of mercy, quick to forgive.  My Heavenly Father feels the same way about His kids. Do you know that?   He delights in showing us love, in caring for us.  He will, as necessary, allow us to walk a rough path of discipline, too. 
When I call my children to account, they do not always show appreciation!  Years ago, when Bev and I grounded one of our daughters being openly defiant we heard these angry words from her:  “Right now, you two are not my favorite people!”  We laugh about that moment now realizing it was a natural reaction to unpleasant circumstances, part of the price that a loving parent pays for attempting to shape irresponsible teenagers into productive adults.  
 Let me ask you if you have ever hurled a similar charge at your Father in Heaven?
In the writing of the prophet Malachi, the actions of the Lord’s people are called into question.  “Why are you offering me inferior sacrifices?” God asks. “Why are you breaking faith with the wife of your youth? Why are you robbing Me by cheating on your tithes and offerings? Why do you pretend to be devout and ‘flood my altars with tears’ while doing whatever you want to do?”  When He called them to change their ways and explained the inevitable consequences of His discipline; they did not repent! Instead, they justified themselves, excused their perfidy, and angrily accused Him of being uncaring.  
As you read this excerpt from Malachi, note the counsel of the Lord and how applicable it remains for us. “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’”  
With a failure of memory, the people responded to God’s challenge by telling Him it did no good to serve Him, that He never came through for the righteous.  If we’re honest, there are times when we may feel the same way. Though we might hesitate to say it out loud, we think – “What good does it do to serve the Lord?  Good guys finish last!” Such a point of view ignores reality. 
When we are angry with the Lord, like teenagers who are angry with parents for simply doing what loving parents must do,  there is an important lesson in this text. “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.”  They stopped looking only at that moment and reviewed their history. The record they compiled revealed the goodness of the Lord.  As they worshipped, this promise was renewed. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Malachi 3:13-4:1, NIV)
God says, “those are MY kids, and everybody will know it by the way I take care of them!”
Christian, let’s love Him, even when we cannot see the ‘why’ of the present, the reason for the discipline, or the value of living a holy life. Own these words from the Revelation; the promise to all those who walk in fellowship with the Spirit. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. … They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”(Revelation 3:2-7, NIV)  We are His children, beloved treasures.
How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure!
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Stuart Townend
© 1995 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

The Wisdom of Waiting

The Wisdom of Waiting
So, how well do you deal with waiting? Yesterday, my flight to Newark was delayed for about 15 minutes because of two elderly persons, obviously not well, who needed a lot of help boarding the plane.  I was generally surprised at the level of anger among the crowd of waiting travelers. It rose steadily each passing moment. When we finally boarded, the captain urged people to quickly stow their carry-on luggage so that we could get underway.  Impatient irritation showed through in his tone. But I cannot throw any stones at those impatient people, for I too often have also been impatient. When I sense that impatience in myself, I work at defusing any anger.  Anger only adds to the unpleasantness of waiting. I only wish I had learned that lesson much earlier in life.
The Scripture counsels patience, not just with the irritants, but with the Lord and life. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8, NIV) This passage speaks to us in the imperative; it is not a suggestion. It is God’s command! Those Scriptures tell us that only time will bring about the results we desire. 
·         Those teens that drive us to distraction will eventually mature, but it will take time. 
·         A marriage characterized by powerful love and deep intimacy only emerges with years of patience.
·         Proficiency in some skill we are learning demands time and practice. Nobody becomes a concert pianist overnight! 
I was amused by a recent promotion on a Christian radio station.  A book titled something like “30 Days to Becoming the Christian You Want to Be” promised to make the reader a fully equipped Christian in one month if they would read for ‘just 15 minutes each day.’  Impossible! The likeness of Jesus Christ is produced in us over years – through study of the Bible, worship, prayer, and walking with the Spirit through life.  
The most difficult waiting is for justice. When we are wronged, when others misuse or abuse us, when we do right and things go wrong; we want to set it right now, don’t we?  Sometimes the pain seems too much to bear, the frustration makes us miserable.  God counsels patience. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:7-8, NIV)  Don’t confuse ‘being still’ with being passive!  Jesus taught us to “always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1, NIV)  Our choice in times of waiting is not surrender to circumstances.  Instead, we submit to God!  We carry our plea to Him. We receive the gracious gift of faith from Him, and we learn to wait on Him.  The supernatural result is something that defies logic.  The word from the Word I leave with you today describes it.  May this be ours in abundance as we learn the wisdom of waiting.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)  Supernatural peace! It is possible even in life’s seasons of waiting.  Praise Him.
It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river
Attendeth my way
When sorrows
Like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well
It is well with my soul
Tho’ Satan should buffet
Tho’ trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded
My helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood
For my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well
It is well with my soul
Horatio G. Spafford | Philip Paul Bliss
Public Domain

Confirmed Reservations Made

Confirmed Reservations Made

Good morning! I am sitting at Gate 8 in Little Rock, Arkansas as I jot my thoughts today.  I remember when, as a student, flying with ‘stand-by’ status.  On the way home from college, I would go to the airport with the hope of finding an empty seat on a plane which allowed me to travel at much reduced rate. It seemed like an adventure then, but I can’t imagine traveling that way today. It’s good to know that I’ll on Flight 2235 in seat 12C in about 30 minutes, headed for home this afternoon.

Some people apparently believe they’re going to go to heaven on a stand-by basis. They make no advance reservations, pay little attention to their spiritual life. Somehow, when they appear at the gates of Glory there will be a home awaiting. The stakes are too high for ‘hope so, could be’ thinking. No wonder so many fear death with such intense dread. Death for me holds no terrors. Sure, I’m not exactly gleeful over the process of dying, but once the transit from earth to glory is made, I have no fear. Why? Because, I have a confirmed reservation, purchased by the willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ, made available to me by His amazing grace. 

Like Paul, I can say, “I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I’ve entrusted to Him…”  The Word makes this promise to those who live in faith – “So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that great, perfect sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands and not part of this created world. Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever.” (Hebrews 9:11-12, NLT)
“He secured our salvation forever!”  Do you have a secure reservation?  We can enter into eternal life, right here, right now. We don’t have to wait to die to see if there is room in the Father’s house for us. We need not be anxious about our inevitable trip beyond the skies. He, at His own expense, purchased our salvation and gives us life, eternal and full! The ticket is issued, paid in full. These words of Jesus are too often reserved just for funerals, but they are really words to live by. He said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)

Salvation is not just about ‘getting into Heaven.’ Some mistakenly think that praying a prayer to receive Christ, a prayer affirming their hope in Him, is the whole thing wrapped up and done in one little package. Wrong! Being ‘saved’ is as much about how we live now as it is about going to Heaven. When Christ purchases a reservation for eternity for us it comes with a high and holy calling to become Kingdom people, responsible for extending the reign of God here on earth. We are commissioned to ‘go into all the world’ and preach – both with words and actions – the goodness of God. Like Abraham of old, we realize that we are looking forward to a city not built with human hands, and we begin to live differently, focused on the values of Heaven, even as we live here on earth.  

I want to be one of those Christians who brings a little bit of Heaven down to earth, don’t you? I want people to sense the Presence of God in me, to catch a bit of the fragrance of Heaven when I pass by. And, as I walk in the Spirit, with a heart that is already at home in God’s house,  that will happen.

Here’s a word from the Word for you today. Believe it and live! “… because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as he decided long ago. God’s purpose was that we who were the first to trust in Christ should praise our glorious God. And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.”(Ephesians 1:11-14, NLT)

Got your ticket? If not, confirm your reservation for Heaven today, right now.

"Get the Credit You Deserve"

“Get the credit you deserve”
The fast-talking salesman in the radio commercial made his pitch to those who ‘needed’ a car but who had a bad credit history. He closed with the line, “get the credit you deserve.”  A loan is not a right, but there is a sense that we are entitled to one anyway.  A person can have made terrible decisions, overspending in the past, and still he ‘deserves’ to have a financial company trust him with its money.  She may have a low-paying job or have had her credit score wrecked by some disastrous set of circumstances, yet she ‘deserves’ a loan.  What a world we live in.  A good credit score is not a right.  It is earned by a combination of hard work and good fiscal management. (Yes, I know, fortunate circumstances are needed, too.)
I wonder how many of us come to the Lord with the same mindset? “Lord, give me the blessings I deserve!  Oh, I doubt most of us would be so crass as to pray in exactly those terms, but many of us do have a sense that He owes us. He doesn’t. As painful as it may be to accept, the Scripture says that we are “by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3, NIV)  The Psalm says “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5, NIV)  (By the way, that is not saying his mother was sinful for having sex!) The truth is that we are born in sin, our very nature corrupt, our inevitable bent is rebellion, our destiny is destruction. We deserve nothing.  That is not the END of the story, however.  I love the divine conjunction that offsets the terrible indictment.  ButGod is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)   I deserved nothing, HE gave me everything.  This is why we worship Him, why we love Him.  
Grace is meaningless to the person who thinks he deserves something.  Ask any parent of an adolescent what she finds among the most frustrating things of parenting and she will talk about the sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in our age. 
·         That ride to a friend’s house at the busiest time of day?  You owe it to me. 
·         The latest video game? I deserve it. 
·         A car? Well, of course, you’re buying me, aren’t you?  And, make sure it’s not too old!
 Such an attitude produces little in the way of appreciation. 

Are we coming to God with this same attitude? If so, singing of His grace will be of little meaning.  Our prayers will show little adoration (or submission, for that matter) because like spoiled kids, we believe He is blessed just to have us around!
I once knew little of His grace. Raised in a Christian home, my parents protected me from major failures in my early life. A combination of fear and respect kept me from drug use, drunkenness, or sleeping with my girlfriend!  Like the Pharisees whose self-righteousness earned such scorn from Jesus, I was adept at religious games. I knew the right words, said the creed, and looked great from the outside. Only with the dawn of adulthood did I have to face up to the ugliness of my heart’s depravity. No, I wasn’t an adulterer or a thief.  I was proud; critical, rebellious towards authority, and confident in my own goodness. That’s a combination that makes for one loveless person! And, I was.  I looked down on those poor souls who “just couldn’t get it together.”   But as my sinfulness became obvious, my life collapsed.  In that season of life the God of Grace became my true Savior.  No wonder that every time I read the letter to the Ephesians which speaks of His loving grace, I find myself in tears.  They are not born of regret, but of wonder, of worship, of amazement that He would love a sinner such as I!
Are you trying to claim credit with Him that you think you deserve? Think again!  Read this passage again. I pray that it will cause you to worship in humility and with great joy.  
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”(Ephesians 1:12-14, NIV)
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2:6-8, NIV)  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10-12, NIV)  
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman
© 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

Bent, Broken, but not beyond Restoration

I stood admiring the car that was more than 60 years old. I saw the ‘before’ and the ‘after.’ It had just been towed in from the barn where it had sat for decades the first time I saw it. The paint was dull with spots of rust. The upholstery was ripped, the window latches broken. The engine ran, but the transmission was gone. A year later, there it was, gleaming with a new coat of paint, looking like it did in a showroom long ago. The owner raised the hood and started the engine. It ran smoothly. Believe it or not, he had completed a 3000 mile long trip with it!
During my lifetime, I have met people who were broken, too. Some were abused as kids, others battered by husbands. Some had become addicted to drugs, others enslaved by sexual desire burning out of control. There were those incapable of loving deeply. And, I have seen those same people restored to whole beauty, transformed by an encounter with Christ Jesus. We are all bent, broken; but we are not beyond redemption! One of the hardest truths to face is the one that teaches us that compiled this long and sorry record as sinners … and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us.” (Romans 3:23, The Message) It’s hard to admit that the world is broken. We hope that tomorrow will be different, that this person will not hurt us, that the Curse will not show its ugliness. We try to ignore the evidence of evil, divert our attention with trinkets and pleasures, or anesthetize our pain with entertainment. Sometimes we just give up on life, allowing ourselves to grow distant from our family and friends in bitter cynicism!
God offers a new way. He says that we can look at the ugliness of hatred, admit to our own failings, weep over our depravity – and find the promise of renewal in Him. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT) Conversion is not the end, but only the beginning. The Spirit of God comes on us when we respond to God’s call with faith, but the process is just beginning. From the inside out, we are being changed. The Lord says, “I will take away your stubbornness and make you eager to be completely faithful to me. You will want to obey me and all my laws and teachings. You will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, CEV)
It’s not an easy road! The Devil seeks to sabotage and destroy every good thing God does in our world and in us. But, we take hold of His promise that He “is greater than he that is in this world.” God has spoken: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:6-7, NIV)
Bent, broken by life and the sin in yourself and/or those who live around you?
There is a Redeemer, God’s own Son. Let Him restore the beauty God meant for your life.
Here’s a restoration prayer from the Word. “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.” (Psalm 51:9-14, NIV)

God’s Guerrillas

God’s guerrillas
You are on a mission for God!  Your aim?  Reconciliation of people; to each other and with God. It’s a dangerous calling, often putting you into the cross-fire.  It can be thankless and is best accomplished when you keep a low profile, gently moving others without attracting much attention to yourself.  Here’s how the Bible describes this mission: “We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, The Message)  Jesus said that being a guerilla warrior who sabotages the Devil’s work of hate, death, and separation creates a reputation we desire. “God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children!” (Matthew 5:9, CEV
The message of Christ was first adopted by Jews who accepted Jesus as their Messiah, but within a few years, first Peter, and then Paul, were directed by the Holy Spirit to take the Good News of Jesus to Gentiles, too.  Many Jewish Believers resisted that. They thought that as God’s chosen people, Christ belonged exclusively to them. If a person wanted to be a Christian, they insisted that he first become a Jew – keeping their religious laws (Sabbath rules, kosher dietary laws, and the rite of circumcision).   But Paul, inspired by the Spirit, said that Jesus had a new plan – a plan to include those who were once excluded.  Paul took up the mission of reconciliation! “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away (Gentiles) have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, (Jew and Gentile) thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”(Ephesians 2:13-18, NIV)  Plainly stated, bcause God reached out to us and brought us ‘in,’ we reach out to others and bring them ‘in.’   
Christians ought to be the most inclusive people in the world, inviting everyone into the same relationship with Christ and celebrating that we  “ are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT) Do you see people who are estranged from God or others? Invite them in, extending a welcome, going the distance to bridge the gap. As you create trust and discover common ground, you will also create opportunities to share the love of Christ.

As a Christian, are you consciously focusing on the Cross and the Spirit that bind you to others who are in the family of God, or … are you falling into the natural (and sinful!) pattern of playing up the differences, creating division and disunity in the world, or in the Church?  Be a peace-maker!  Build up the Body.  Create unity- for God’s sake. And others will say, “I knew he was a real child of God!”

More to his life than . . .

More to his life than . . .
Most morning as I page through the local newspaper, I scan the obituaries.  Lives are compressed into a few paragraphs that tell us the essential facts but seldom very much about the person. We remember others and often just a few things remain from all their days among us; a favorite phrase, an image burned into our brain, or – and this is most tragic – a singular moment of failure.  For example, if you mention President Richard Nixon what comes to mind? Watergate!  Bill Clinton’s legacy will forever be marked by his stupidity over a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. 
Is it morbid for me to think about my obituary? I wonder what things will be remembered, what will stand out about me? Will it be noble things or failures, selfish acts or Christ-honoring decisions? The Holy Spirit can bring about health and wholeness in our thoughts and plans. He will, if we walk with Him, keep us from the temptations that call out seductively.  We need to pray- “Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” (Psalm 90:12, The Message)

We remember this, too. Should we somehow fall or fail, and we will; the Scripture is replete with illustrations of the redemption God offers to those who turn to Him. David, the poet–king of Israel, fell long and hard into deep sin. When the ugly facts were exposed, he turned to God in humble prayer. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. … Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12, NIV)  

People may never forget those things we do wrong, but God will put our failures far from His mind. “Where is another God like you, who pardons the sins of the survivors among his people? You cannot stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing mercy. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised with an oath to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago.” (Micah 7:18-20, NLT)  What a powerful image – our sins buried in dark, deep ocean.  Why? Because He delights in restoring us, when we call on Him.

Disciple, be vigilant about those choices that really matter. Walk near to the Lord. Respond quickly to the Spirit’s gentle prompts.  
“Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.”
(Matthew 6:9-13, The Message)

O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home!

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Be Thou my Guide while life shall last,
And our eternal Home.

O God Our Help In Ages Past

Watts, Isaac / Croft, William© Public Domain