"He Sent His Word and Healed Them"

Most of my communication is about the stuff of life, practical exchange of necessary information such as, “Please take out the garbage this morning.”  Or, “Who’s picking up the kids from school?”
There those conversations that cause us to linger, when words are an expression of what’s in our heart. We talk about our dreams and disappointments. We caress with tender words of affection. We affirm with words of love that sparkle and dance!  Not all the words I use are original. On occasions, I buy the ‘words’ of another – printed on a card – to express sympathy, love, encouragement, or celebration!

Prayer is our daily conversation with our Abba (heavenly Father). Many of those prayers are often about the mundane stuff of living, aren’t they?  Since marriage is a model of our relationship with Him, there are lessons to be drawn from that source. We should pray about our budgets, about the health of our bodies, about our kids and school; talking with the Lord about the ordinary stuff of living.  And, should also find times to pray with worshipful words, thoughtful words, words of wonder, pauses full of awe, interludes of stirred emotions – at least every now and then! The Bible tells us to ‘pray about everything!

Do you have difficulty going beyond  prayers that are like this – “Lord, bless the kids, my wife…”?  Why not borrow the beautiful prayer words of the Scripture? There are some amazing prayers recorded in the Word that touch on our deepest needs, our most intimate longings, that give us ways of expressing our love to Jesus Christ that are incredibly beautiful.

In the Psalms we find ways to express our adoration – “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1, NIV)  
There are words to help us pour out our grief- “My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my pleading hands to you for mercy.” (Psalm 88:9, NLT)  
There are words to pray for our friends. What surpasses Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1? “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:16-18, NIV)
Praying like that takes us out of the superficial ‘bless me’ language, the ruts of communication into which we fall so easily. Remember, the prayers in the Scripture are not just poetry written to our emotions! Those words are Spirit-inspired and are given to fill us with hope. When we make them our own, when we call on the Lord with them, we invite Him to meet our need and to build our faith.  And yes, praying the Word will enrich our understanding of ourselves and our Lord. He will use His Word to change the way in which we think even as we pray those ‘borrowed’ prayers.

So, take time to use the Word in prayer from time to time. May those inspired Words shape your thoughts, express your heart, and deepen your conversation with God.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”
(Psalm 107:19-22, NIV)

The world is going to Hell all around me

America is rapidly losing faith. For the first time in her history, this country no longer counts Protestant Christians as a majority. The ‘church’ has become increasingly irrelevant in a nation where the vast majority would “rather sleep in or play golf on a Sunday morning.   (America Is Losing Faith)  A seismic shift in cultural attitudes is happening in the next generation who religiously define themselves as ‘nones,’ not at all meaning that they are without belief in God, but that they refuse to align themselves with organized religion, particularly with a Christian church.  This trend is wider than church.  Younger Americans don’t trust government, banks, or corporations, either.
In my opinion, most conservative Christians made a tragic mistake 40 years ago with the birth of what has come to known as the ‘religious right.’ We chose to align ourselves with a political movement and to seek to enforce our values through restrictive laws. The good that the church does in the name of Christ; feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, giving support to grieving families, strengthening basic social structures, bringing a message of eternal life, was obscured by the noisy attacks of media savvy preachers who majored on condemnation of homosexuals, women who sought abortions, and entertainment that they deemed unfit.  Issues of human rights, care for Creation, economic equality, peace, and justice went largely ignored by conservative Christians, even as the nation moved progressively on those issues.  
 Most tragically, the Gospel became the Law, Christ’s glory hidden behind rhetoric of power.  True or not, the church came to be viewed as just another place where the old generation was using the instruments of the establishment to protect their privilege.
So, what should those who love Jesus do?   First of all, stop being so afraid! Fear is the worst motivator in the world. Fearful people become defensive, shrill, and angry. The Christian story in the book of Acts reveals the power of God that will keep His Church alive.  If we are people of the Spirit, we can boldly go on the offense against the sins of the world, but not as mean, angry, punitive people. Our offense is to be mounted in long-suffering love. The Truth we tell is unyielding, but wrapped in the compassion that Jesus showed for the sinners he met. Did He attack the adulterous woman? No, He defended her with His love and then challenged her to ‘go and sin no more!’  Did He attack Zacchaeus, the tax collector? No, He went to his house for dinner and, while there, laid out the message of God’s redeeming grace.  What happened?  The greedy crook was transformed and gave away his ill-gotten wealth!
We are called to bear the light in dark places. It’s what Christians have always done. Jesus did not tell us to go wave banners, form coalitions, or elect people to office to protect our privileges. He told us that we are “the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”(Matthew 5:13-17, NIV)
Our concern need not be ‘relevance.’  The ancient principles of God need not be discarded in a vain attempt to attract sinners back to God by watering down His Word. But, we must be people of integrity who are committed to living His Word in its entirety.  God’s people will value the gift of life, but not just when it comes to abortion. They will also defend those who die when drones rain bombs on civilians in poor nations.  God’s people will value moral covenants, and keep their own marriage vows.  God’s people will be willing to give up their own lives by unselfishly giving away their wealth. We must shed our concern about being safe, about having our ‘rights.’  Remember, in most places and throughout  2,000 years of history, true Christians have been a persecuted minority. What did Jesus say? “Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” (Matthew 5:11-12, The Message)
And, yes, we will major on the Gospel, realizing that the true change is one that begins in the heart when the Spirit gives life.  We preach Christ, not rules.  He makes us righteous, not regulations.  Here’s a word from the Word.  As we live it, God will build His Church!  Even as the world goes to Hell all around us, and yes, the sins of sensuality and self-indulgence will bring death; let us remember to preach Christ.
“So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the mighty power of God and the wonderful wisdom of God. This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus.
For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.”(1 Corinthians 1:23-30, NLT)

Living in perpetual happiness?

Gerald Sittser, a devout Christian, was enjoying a family trip when a car driven by a drunk came around a curve. In a moment, he lost his mother, his wife, and his daughter.  Out of his anguish, he wrote A Grace Disguised, How the Soul Grows Through Loss.  He did not pretend that his loss was without pain. He did not indulge himself in sin to avoid the sadness. He endured it, carried the crushing burden, and from his searing experience shares this;  “The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering. Loss can enlarge its capacity for anger, depression, despair, and anguish, all natural and legitimate emotions whenever we experience loss. Once enlarged, the soul is also capable of experiencing greater joy, strength, peace, and love. What we consider opposites—east and water, night and light, sorrow and joy, weakness and strength, anger and love, despair and hope, death and life—are no more mutually exclusive than winter and sunlight. The soul has the capacity to experience these opposites, even at the same time.”
The belief that those who are good Christians can live in perpetual happiness, always serene, never uncertain, is common and persistent. Somehow the promise of the joy of the Lord gets turned into an expectation that those of deep faith will avoid life’s trials. When that false hope merges with an experience of deep sorrow,  a person compounds his pain with unnecessary feelings of guilt or failure.  Let me state it plainly here: Real Christians go through dark valleys!  The great tragedy is that many Christians prefer a superficial faith and will do almost anything to avoid hard things, to go around rather than through experiences that can make God their treasure.
David endured much sorrow as he walked out God’s plan for his life. He lived for nearly 20 years in the shadow of King Saul’s jealousy. He had to deal with threats of death, irrationality, and isolation. Even David’s friends questioned his faith!  Was it easy for him? You judge as you read his song. “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.” (Psalm 13:1-4, NLT)  He longed for relief, but trusted God through it all!
This Passion Week we must remember that our Lord chose to go to the Cross. He was not forced. He willingly submitted Himself to the plans of the Father, enduring great sorrow and pain in the process.  In the garden, as he prayed, the Gospels say that He was in anguish!  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:42-44, NIV)  The way to His highest purpose and greatest glory was through terrible suffering.  We should not expect a different way.  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5, NIV) “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NIV) “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10, NIV)
Please do not wrongly conclude that you must seek out suffering, that you must work at causing yourself pain. The Word does not encourage misery for its own sake. Ascetism (denying one’s self pleasure or comfort) can be just religiosity, a vain attempt to earn God’s favor or impress other people.  The road to Glory, to an ‘enlarged soul,’ is one where we are led by the Spirit and should He choose to lead us along a darkened pathway, let’s walk it out with faith, authentically entering into the suffering and taking the grace offered by the Spirit in that moment.
Here are words from the Word. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5, NIV) “Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven. ” (Luke 6:21-23, NKJV)
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
My life is in Your hands
My life is in Your hands
My life is in Your hands
Kirk Franklin
© 1996 Lilly Mack Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

The time is NOW!

Phil Malcolm, a missionary coordinating ministry to Africa’s Children, laid out numbers that boggle the mind. There are 500 million kids in Africa, 90% of whom live in abject poverty, illiterate, without access to healthcare, and often victims of the violence of war. The challenges to Christian ministry on that continent are huge. One man raised his hand and asked, “How can you do it? Don’t you get overwhelmed by the needs confronting you?” Phil acknowledged that sometimes discouragement does come his way, but he chooses to look at the face of the one child in front of him that he can reach today!

What can you do for the Lord today? If we think about trying to change the world, feed all the hungry, comfort every sad person, bring the Gospel to the millions who do not really know Christ – we will most likely do nothing. Our mind just will not be able to wrap around the need or find a solution. The Word tells us to “Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:16-17, NLT)  

Serve the one person standing in front of you. Love the one person that stands nearest to you. Find a way to act in the place where you are in life right now. We are all tempted to wait until another day to join some grand scheme, to look for that ministry that really excites us, before we get our hands dirty. And, we wait, and wait, and wait… while life passes us by and Hell celebrates our inaction.

Phil also mentioned that there are some who come to Africa, make a lot of noise, and then go home. They find that Africa’s needs cannot be met in a month, that some of her challenges are so rooted, that they simply do not visibly yield to the solutions offered up. We love results so much, he observed, that we just will not stick with the project when it’s not fun anymore. What an observation!

Will you make a commitment to do what the Lord shows you to do faithfully; today, tomorrow, and the year after that? Ministry should be fulfilling! But, ‘fulfilling’ is not always found in something ‘new’ or in success that can be measured in numbers. God blesses faithfulness, showing up each day with excellence, dedication, and a willingness to get the job done.

You have heard it before, but it needs to be repeated. Do not quit too soon! Take a break for renewal. Re-evaluate methods. Learn from those who do it best. Listen for the voice of the Spirit. Enlist people to stand with you; but don’t quit!

Study this word from the Word. Before you read it, pause for moment and pray this: “Lord, teach me and give me courage to accept the Truth.” OK, now read it.

“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good.
Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”
(Galatians 6:8-10, NLT)

Go, the world is waiting for you. Start where you are!

Want to know more about the Malcolms? See Malcolms in Africa

By and by, I’ll place an Ebenezer! (see below)

I spent some time looking through old pictures yesterday. Each image triggered memories – some happy, some sad, some wistful.  There were photos of a trip to family reunion in Indiana that I took with my Mom and Dad. Going with them was a spur of the moment decision.  I am now so thankful I took a the time. None of us knew that it would be the last trip together, that Dad would become gravely ill not many months later.  Did God play a part in guiding me to take the time to go? I absolutely believe He did.  It wasn’t the only moment where yesterday’s reflection revealed His hand guiding me.    
The Word tells us that “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23, NLT)  Often His hand is unseen in this present moment, but we continue to walk in faith. And, like I did yesterday, as we look back, we can, like Samuel create memorials to remind us of God’s faithfulness.  “Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—“the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT)
Abraham was directed to take his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah.  God demanded a sacrifice. As they traveled, the boy wondered aloud about a missing element. “Father, we have the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb?”  The man of faith answered, “The LORD will provide!”  Only at the moment of surrender, when Abraham was willing to give that which was dearest to himself, he experienced the fulfillment of his words of faith. “Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the bushes. So he took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son. Abraham named that place “The Lord Will Provide.” (Genesis 22:13-14, CEV)
I am in one of those times when it is hard to see the Lord’s hand. Frustrating situations, multiple problems for which no solutions are evident, and questions about the future are very much a part of my life right now. My choice is to trust. Why? Because of His promise to direct my steps, to be my Provider.  Only half in jest, I wonder why He doesn’t choose to put enough resources in my bank account to eliminate any concerns, why He doesn’t let me see a level, straight road into tomorrow.  In my heart I know why, though.  Then, I would grow complacent, perhaps even apathetic, in my pursuit of Him.  He loves me enough to keep me close to Him, to encourage me to walk in faith. 
Do you want to look back and know that He has led you? Then, follow the path of Abraham, which is one of faithful obedience for this day. Even if we cannot see the outcome, we must submit our will to His  In time His ‘delight in every detail of our lives,’  will become evident. In eternity, when He reviews our lives, we will see His purposes and plans completely.  Faith will become sight!
Here’s a familiar passage from the Word.  Let’s own it and live in the promise. “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:3-7, NLT)
Blessed Assurance
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, all is at rest.
I, in my Savior, am happy and blest.
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
This is my story, this is my song;
Praising my Savior, all the day long!
This is my story, this is my song;
Praising my Savior, all the day long!
Fanny Jane Crosby | Phoebe Palmer Knapp
Public Domain

Loving the Truth

Loving the Truth
What is a lie?  Is it just telling somebody something that is blatantly untrue?  That’s one kind of lie. A much more common way of lying is creating subtle impressions, allowing others to form wrong conclusions that are encouraged with a wink and a nod, a dropped hint, an arched eyebrow.  But, is that really lying? Yes, it is. We can create an aura of spirituality by dropping the right words or folding our prayers in a prayerful pose. We can devastate another’s reputation without ever explicitly saying a negative word.  In the realm of politics this is called, ‘spin.’  A whole profession has grown up around image-making, teaching people who live in public how to create the right impression or to encourage the slant on the story that puts them in the best light.  And, all of this is an offense to the Lord who calls you and me to authentic living, to love the truth.  
Truth, as a word, is fairly easy to define – the actual state of a matter, conformity with fact, honesty.   Living truthfully is much more difficult.   Admitting to the reality of certain attitudes or thoughts,  acknowledging that we are tempted in certain ways,  dealing with the things we would like not to be true, is a huge challenge.    When I look in the mirror every morning my mind is tempted to superimpose the image of an energetic 30 year old man over the reality staring back at me.  Seriously, it is much more difficult, when I am before the Lord, to acknowledge the realities of my sinful nature that the Spirit brings before me.   When He says, “Jerry, this attitude must change,”  I would rather excuse it or deny it, than deal with it.  
The upside of loving truth is freedom!  The Bible says that “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25, NIV)
Consider the gifts that loving the Truth provides:  
·         Truth makes us free. No one can control us, deceive us, or blackmail us if we live in truth. 
·         Truth opens the door to Christ’s gift of grace that makes us holy. “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (John 17:17-19, NLT)      
·         Truth lets us to live ‘in the Light.’  We don’t stumble around, falling into things, hurting ourselves when we live outside of the shadows.    Jesus said, “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32, The Message)    And, “he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:21, NKJV)   Interesting statement isn’t it?  “Does the truth.”    Truth is not abstract nor is it merely philosophical.  We can live it!   
Do you love the truth?  
Is your life characterized by honesty, authenticity?  
Do you refuse to play games with yourself and others?  
Living in that way will not necessarily win any popularity contests.  Jesus confronted the world with the truth and they killed Him for it!   But, living in the truth and letting truth shape your life from the inside out will make you whole and holy, a person who conquers temptation and pleases God.    Look for even the smallest kinds of bending the truth in your life and ask God to give you the courage and strength to get it right.
Here’s a word from the Word for your thoughts today:   “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV)  No spin, just the Truth!

Tears of Engagement

I find myself in tears after a phone call to my office from a young mother who can’t afford diapers for her baby because Daddy decided it was more important to have ‘fun’ than to take care of his child.  Driving down the street in our little town, I see teenage kids shuffling along, trying hard to look cool, and I cry for  them because I know that they find the world a scary place these days.  Reading about 2 boys in an Ohio town who decided a dead-drunk girl was just a toy for their gratification makes me cry – for her, for them.  The empire-building that continues in this world – the rich exploiting and oppressing the poor – makes me cry, too.  Yes, I cry about myself, too, when I realize how easily I am distracted by some trinket, taken up by some fad, deafened by choice to the Spirit’s voice.
These tears are not born of despondency or depression. They are the Spirit’s work. He allows us to catch of glimpse of the heart of the Father that is broken by the sins and suffering of His Creation. Do you realize that the Bible’s Gospel is not at all about escape?  It is about engagement.  God did not abandon the world to sin, He came to be part of the world to bring salvation to us. “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” (John 1:14, NLT) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)  Jesus Christ is God come to earth, God becoming Man, God warring with Evil, God defeating sin.  Our churches are decorated by crosses and from that many people gather that what happened there was the grand finale of God’s plan, except it wasn’t!
Yes, the Cross is amazing and key to our hope.  There we see Jesus becoming sin for us, bearing the guilt of the world.  But, the story of the Cross is incomplete without Resurrection morning.  When Jesus stepped out of the Tomb, alive forever more, He gave us evidence that sin’s power is broken.  Like Jesus we need not preserve our lives by escape.  We can ‘die’ to Self, engage with a suffering world at great cost, because of the Resurrection!  We must remember that we are invited to enter into new life with Him, not just so we can eventually go to Heaven, but to wrench Creation and those who live in it from the grasp of evil.  We can give our lives with the certain hope that He will give us everlasting life. After a long, detailed argument about the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, the Word comes around to this conclusion: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV)
Are you so assured of God’s power to save that you will follow Him into dark places to be His light, serve Him in difficult situations without complaint?  Here is a word from the Word. Take hold of its promise by faith then boldly go where tears abound, with complete confidence in His promise to save. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11, NIV)   Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, NIV)  We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39, NIV)

Life in Three Tenses

Maribel, one of our kids, was a sprinter when she was in prep school. One of her events was the 4 x 100 meter, a race with four runners. The continuity of the race is the baton and the key is the hand-off. It happens in a blind fashion. The outgoing runner does not look backwards, even as she extends her hand to receive the baton. It is the responsibility of the incoming runner to thrust it into her outstretched hand, and not let go until the outgoing runner takes hold of it.

It’s a metaphor for life. We are part of a long relay, generations overlapping, influence passing from one person to the next. We anticipate tomorrow even as we remember yesterday!  Like Paul, I often say, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3, NIV)  I live in three tenses: past, present, and future.
Yesterday is a treasure!
Today is taking shape.
Tomorrow is full of promise – because of those with whom I walk and the plans of God.  

Last week, I had to write a letter of farewell to friends who moved on. It is hard to extend the baton and release it to them as they run on. But, as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes writes, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. … A time to cry and a time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, NLT) Even as one partnership dissolves, another takes shape. There is sadness, offset by joy.  In our extended families, we gather for funerals or weddings. Friends, people we knew in the past, relatives; as well as new acquaintances, come for a time to sit down to feast. Ties from the past are strengthened and possibilities for the future are formed around those tables.  

In the book of the Revelation, so full of conflict and suffering, there is a moment of promise. John sees a great celebration, a gathering of God’s people that never ends. “I heard again what sounded like the shout of a huge crowd, or the roar of mighty ocean waves, or the crash of loud thunder: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and honor him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She is permitted to wear the finest white linen.” (Fine linen represents the good deeds done by the people of God.) And the angel said, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” (Revelation 19:6-9, NLT)

Eternity offers us rest, completion, the joy of no more handing off the baton! I so look forward to not needing to say, “so long” to anyone ever again. But until then, I’ll keep running. How about you? Here’s a word from the Word. ” Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running-and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.” (Hebrews 12:1, The Message) There is a race to be run. Let’s go!

This Could Be The Dawning

A parade began at Calv’ry,
The saints of all the ages fill its ranks.
O’er the sands of time they’re marching,
To their King’s great coronation,
And this could be the dawning of that day.

Oh, this could be the dawning
Of that grand and glorious day!
When the face of Jesus we behold.
Dreams and hopes of all the ages,
Are awaiting His returning,
And this could be the dawning of that day.

Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither
© 1971 William J. Gaither, Inc. ARR UBP of Gaither Copyright Management
CCLI License # 810055

Treasure Pots, Chamber Pots!

Three years ago  whatever illusions I had about being invincible, disappeared when I had to go through a major surgery to remedy a problem that would have otherwise ended my life!  It was a kind of moment that changes a person. Far from being a grim experience, it remains an enlightening one.  I took two things away from it.
The first was an even deeper conviction that “He is God and I am not!”  Isaiah says it like this: “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) The work of His hand, what a thought! God is actively working to shape me (and you!) into a useful person.  Oh, yes, He is the one in charge.  As the Word reminds us, some of are shaped into treasure pots and some of are chamber pots! The Word says, “When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power.” (Romans 9:21-22, NLT)
The second conviction is that I must ‘Seize the day!’  My earthly life will not stretch on tomorrow forever.  James said, “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT) His words should not make us sad or hopeless! They should remind us of the amazing privilege of being part of the Lord’s plan, and ultimately finding ourselves at Home in His Presence.

My brush with mortality, far from being a curse, is a lesson about choosing each day to live with the gate of Heaven on time’s horizon. No, I am not being overly sentimental or super-spiritual!  This is reality that sharpens the focus.

Christian, are you submitted to the Potter? Are you glad to be who He desires you to be?
Are you wasting time or making the most of it as you live near to the heart of God?
Here’s a word from the Word. Make it your prayer. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. … The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. …  Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:1, 10, 12, NIV)
The Potter’s Hand
Beautiful Lord
Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure
All of my days
Are held in Your hand
Crafted into Your perfect plan
You gently call me
Into Your presence
Guiding me by
Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord
To live all of my life
Through Your eyes
I’m captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart I know You’re drawing
Me to Yourself
Lead me Lord I pray
Take me mould me
Use me fill me
I give my life
To the Potter’s hand
Call me guide me
Lead me walk beside me
I give my life
To the Potter’s hand
Darlene Zschech
© 1997 Wondrous Worship (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055

Play Me a Sad Song?

There’s a theory that we can get past negative emotions only by giving vent to them.  There is a some truth in that. Bottling up rage or suppressing grief, for example, can take a toll on our bodies and become a toxic brew of twisted thoughts in our brain!  But, playing a sad song continually, whining and complaining, is not helpful, either.  We strengthen those emotions when we rehearse them, asking everyone around us to sooth us in our disappointment, or to join us in our bitterness.  The Word teaches us to deal honestly with all of our emotions. And, then we taught to go beyond Self and to offer ourselves in submission to God, to give forgiveness readily, to invite the Spirit to work with us right where we are.  Best of all, we are told to intentionally offer praise to God!  The act of praising Him creates beautiful background music for your life. Constant complaining will only deepen the sense of futility.  Here’s the directive- “With Jesus’ help, let us continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of his name.” (Hebrews 13:15, NLT)

Take care that ‘’praise” is not confused with empty rhetoric.  Does your ‘praise’ ever sound suspiciously like swearing in disguise?  I hear Christians in terrible situations mouth words like  “Praise the Lord,” and know that they are fixing a fig leaf in place that is a thin cover over their impulse to curse the situation! But, if that same person steps back after shakes off the pain, choosing to offer sincere thanks to God for being present in the moment,  sweet worship can emerge from the worst sorrow, pain, or disappointment. he is learning to give God proper praise. We can always praise Him for who He is, for His enduring mercy and unending love.

Why change the soundtrack of life? There are practical and powerful reasons for living with a sacrifice of praise constantly on our lips.

·         When we sincerely praise, we destroy the Enemy’s ability to skew our point of view and we gain God’s perspective on life. What seems like a mountain to us is but a molehill to Him. What seems to be a dead-end is really a door to “immeasurably more than all we ask or  imagine,”  (Ephesians 3:20, NIV) When we sincerely praise, we look away from our ‘dis-ease’ to His wholeness. The fact that we are uncomfortable in a situation is eclipsed by His sovereign control of our life when we worship.

·         When we sincerely praise, we release Divine Power into our lives. Praise is the protocol for entering into God’s holy Presence. Psalm 100:4, (NLT) says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name.” If you were invited to the White House to meet the President personally, the office of Protocol would brief you about how to greet the President, what to wear, where you would sit, and when you should stand. There is an accepted way of doing these things that preserves the dignity of the high office. God asks us to come to Him with thanksgiving on our lips and praise filling our hearts. It honors Him and lifts us up, too!
‘But,’ you might be saying, ‘what if I just don’t feel any sense of praise?’ Then, offer a sacrifice of praise! No, you don’t have to thank Him for the situation you find yourself in. But you can thank Him that He is greater than that situation, that He knew what was coming your way and has prepared just what you need for this day, that He has gifted you with an eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus that your problems cannot steal away!

Choose to praise!  Enter willingly and gladly into worship. Then, watch His glory flow into your situation.

“Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”
(Psalm 51:14-18, The Message)
I Will Praise Him
When I saw the cleansing fountain,
Open wide for all my sin,
I obeyed the Spirit’s wooing
When He said,  “Wilt thou be clean?”
Tho’ the way seemed straight and narrow,
All I claimed was swept away.
My ambitions plans and wishes
At my feet in ashes lay.
Then God’s fire upon the altar
Of my heart was set aflame!
I shall never cease to praise Him,
“Glory, glory to His name!”
I will praise Him! I will praise Him!
Praise the Lamb for sinners slain.
Give Him glory, all ye people,
For His blood can wash away each stain.
Margaret Jenkins Harris
Public Domain