Snarling at God?

Whenever Sam, my Irish Setter, hurts herself- getting thorns tangled into her coat, twisting her leg during a hard run – she sulks. When I attempt to help her, she growls and snarls at me, apparently conscious only of her pain and somehow mistakenly thinking I am the cause of it. I don’t take it personally. After all, she’s a dog, with limited understanding. The tragedy is that in my pain I sometimes react similarly to my Lord. Life hurts, my soul aches, disappointment washes over me. Do I run to Him? Sometimes, yes. But, sometimes, sadly, I grow mean and surly, snarling at the very One who is my Healer!


Bitterness is a terribly toxic condition of the soul. It hinders prayer, destroys faith, breaks down healthy relationships, and skews our perception of the truth. The Psalm of the embittered says this: “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. … This is what the wicked are like- always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. … When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalm 73:2-4, 10-12, 21-22, NIV)

Have you allowed yourself to slip into this state, where everything in the life of everyone looks better than your lot in life? Have you started to accuse God of being cruel and unfair, singing the woeful tune- “Why me, Lord? Nobody else has to go through what I’m enduring. You’re mean!”

Life does get painful. Disappointment is real. Deep faith does not demand denial of our pain; but it does require that we are willing to give up our snarling attitude so that the Spirit can come to comfort us. “Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (Psalm 73:23-28, NLT)

We need not resign to fate, settle for what we think is ‘reality,’ or grimly slog on through the dark. We go to the Rock of our Salvation with our broken heart. Find a place alone with Him, or in the company of a trusted friend and weep. Brokenness is not the same as bitterness. In fact, expressing our emotions honestly can protect us from becoming a little angry ball of self-protective misery. Then, too, there is a time when, like suffering Job, we must choose to silence, expectantly waiting on the Lord’s revelation of Himself. He railed at God in his pain (which was very real!) and then, as he caught a glimpse of the majesty of the Lord, he regained perspective and with it, humility. He said, “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer- twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5, NIV)

The old song advises:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one!
Count your blessings see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. –Public Domain

“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submit to and delight in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” – Jeremiah Burroughs

So, what will you do with that pain today?
Will you react like a wounded animal or will you choose to let our Abba minister to you?

Father, life hurts when disappointment overwhelms.
I confess that I wonder why the reward seems so disproportionate to the effort.
Keep my heart tender. O Christ Jesus, I need You to intervene, to give grace.
When I’m tempted to look around and compare,
Draw my attention to You and teach me to look up!
May I come to the place of contentment in You that allows me to think and proclaim:
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”
(Psalm 73:25, NIV) Amen.

What do you ‘see?’

What joy I find in looking into my wife’s face, taking in a sunrise, or watching a child play contentedly. Eyes are part of my amazing body, a gift of my Creator. Because of my age I need glasses to see the fine print, to do detailed work. I get frustrated when a job is in a tight spot where I cannot adjust my head to let me see through my bifocals, but I am very thankful that I can see. What would I do if my sight were taken from me? I would adjust, I’m sure, but the loss would be huge.
There is another kind of vision, just as important as that sight provided by our eyes. That vision is what we ‘see’ with our mind, our view of life, of the future, of our purpose in the plan of the Lord. In a deep discussion yesterday, when pressed about a critical issue, I had to admit, to my sorrow, that I had lost my vision in one part of my life! I could no longer a better future; hope for a different outcome, seek a better situation in that situation. That failure of vision has left me stuck, unable (or maybe unwilling?) to move towards God’s will. My prayer is for healing of my sight, for faith to recreate vision.
God gives us the ability to see, by faith, what does not yet exist. That kind of vision gives ‘big picture context’ to the work of the day. Vision is the ‘why’ that informs the ‘what.’ For example, I can choose to view preparing sermons in two very different lights. It can be ‘just doing my job, having something to fill 25 minutes in church on Sunday!’ God help me, and the church I serve if that is my vision for preaching. When I ‘see’ the work as a God-given opportunity to nudge the flock along the road to godliness and towards eternal life, that ‘vision’ a delight rather than a duty.
Vision pulls us to invest in the future, even for eternity. A person who plants tree seedlings has to have vision! Trees do not grow quickly. An oak planted in the back yard won’t be a shade tree to sit under for decades. If a person wants only immediate gratification, he will plant flowers. Petunias will grow quickly into flowering gardens. Is your vision shaped by eternal values, inspired by the Spirit, drawn into existence by faith? Have you excused yourself from pursuing a God-shaped vision because you believe it is easier to just settle for your present reality?
God calls us to active pursuit of the good He has purposed to do through us – patiently and persistently.  Andy Stanley writes, “The daily grind of life is hard on visions. Life is now. Bills are now. Crisis is now. Vision is later. It is easy, therefore, to lose sight of the main thing, to sacrifice the best for the good. All of us run the risk of allowing secondary issues to rob us of the joy of seeing our visions come to completion. Distractions slowly kill the vision.” (Visioneering, Multnomah, 1999)

James uses the work of a farmer to illustrate the way to resist the deception of the day. “Wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.” (James 5:7-8, The Message) Regain your vision. Remind yourself why you started down this road. Pray that God will set this day into the context of the larger picture of life for you, then – push ahead, steadily.

Paul stood before a pagan king who wanted to know why the apostle had chosen to live such a difficult life. The king wanted to know why he traveled, risked persecution, endured arrest and imprisonment. Paul described his calling beginning with his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus. He said that the Lord told him, “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Then, note what he tells the king- “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” (Acts 26:17-19, NIV) When the Spirit gives you vision – by revealing His will to your heart or by showing you the Word – what will you do with it?
Here’s a word from the Word. Own it! “Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright- but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:2-4, NIV)

You Can BE Good, but not like you think


I ask the children and teens in our church, “How are you?”  They answer, as we all do, “Good!”  “But,” I ask, “are you righteous?” Yes, it’s a preacher kind of joke and often they don’t get it.  But, my teasing has a purpose. Over time, I hope they will think about the difference between the two.  Do you know what it is?
A 12 year old asked me, “do think I’ll go to Heaven?” He knew that his behavior did not come close to even acceptable, and like most people, assumed that God’s heaven was gained the same way that he got his teacher’s approval – being good.  We all are prone to think that being ‘good’ is the same as being ‘righteous.’  Truthfully, the Bible says that ‘there is none that is righteous, not even one.’  Even good people cannot achieve it apart from a Divine intervention. Righteousness, which is defined as enjoying God’s acceptance, is a gift of the grace of Christ Jesus. It cannot be earned, only received.
Good people are not necessarily righteous, but righteous people will be good!  Are you struggling to find peace with God, to lose the sense of shame or guilt that keeps you from confident prayer? There is a gift waiting for you.  The grim fact is that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Regardless of our good intentions, we fall into pride, rage, greed, self-absorption; or some other sin because our human nature is fatally flawed.  Our hope can never be anchored to being good enough.  The Lord says we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)  Justified” is not a word we use often.  It means that we are made right (yes, righteous!) before God when we let Jesus wrap us in His forgiveness and wholeness.  If that sounds like so much theological mumbling, consider the promise attached:  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV)
Trusting Christ to set us right with our Heavenly Abba takes away the angst of guilt and allows us to become true children, beloved, full of faith and hope!  “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.””(Romans 8:15, NIV)   The Holy Spirit begins to renovate our mind and we change from the inside out.  Hate loses its grip and love burgeons.  Fear of the future is overtaken with hope for tomorrow.  The loneliness we feel as spiritual orphans is erased and we become part of the family of God.  And, we become good, not because we try so hard at it, but because sin has lost its hold over us.
Are you alienated from God?  Has religion left you feeling only more like a failure?   Here’s a word from the Word:  “’Even now,‘ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.‘ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:12-13, NIV)  “Then you will know that I am here among my people of Israel and that I alone am the Lord your God. My people will never again be disgraced like this. “Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike.” (Joel 2:27-29, NLT)
________
Jesus Messiah
He became sin, who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness.
He humbled Himself and carried the cross,
Love so amazing, love so amazing!
Jesus Messiah! Name above all names!
Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel.
The Rescue for sinners,
The Ransom from heaven,
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all!
His body, the bread, His blood, the wine;
Broken and poured out, all for love.
The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn
Love so amazing, love so amazing,
All our hope is in You,
All our hope is in You,
All the glory to You, God.
The Light of the world
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all!
The Lord of all, The Lord of all.
Chris Tomlin | Daniel Carson | Ed Cash | Jesse Reeves
© 2008 Vamos Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

Seeing Into The Future

Seed

Forecasts, analysts, fortune cookies, and prophets all claim to see through a window into tomorrow. Humans say that they want to know what the future holds. I wonder if that is really true? Frequently we

choose to be ignorant of the trends that reveal what lies ahead. How many of us (me, included) choose to ignore warning signs in our bodies that signal a need for weight loss, diet change, or lifestyle adjustment? How many heavy smokers do you know that refuse to acknowledge that their habit will have a real negative effect on their health, even shortening their lifespan by years? I have, on too many occasions, known of a pending marriage failure, even as a young husband refused to see the warning signs.


On the dashboard of our automobiles there is a ‘check engine’ light. An onboard computer warns us that the engine is not functioning as it should. We have a choice. Go get it checked or ignore it. Some seem to think they have solved the problem by putting a piece of black tape over the indicator! Life is filled with warning indicators, and as much as we claim we want to know the future , many of us choose to ignore or even block them. When things go terribly wrong, we bitterly blame others or God for failing us. “How could He do this to me? Why do I have such awful ‘luck?’” To be sure, there are circumstances that come our way we could not foresee, things that happen to us for which we have no explanation, but largely life is what we choose to make of it.


And, yet, we know that God’s law of harvest is in effect. The Word says, “Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow! 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 6:7-10, NLT)


Memorize these principles about harvest:


   1. We will harvest of the seeds plant.

   2. We harvest only after we plant, in a different season.

   3. We will harvest more than we plant.

   4. We harvest in proportion to how much seed we plant.


Only a stupid farmer would expect to harvest wheat after planting acres of seed corn! A wise farmer plants his fields knowing that his investment of seed and labor is creating the future he desires. Are you showing that kind of wisdom? Are you investing yourself in the kind of efforts that will produce the future you desire?   You may object, “Jerry, there are too many things that could come between me and the harvest I desire. There are unanticipated storms, disasters, wars, acts of others over whom we have no control.” And you are right, except for one thing: the promise of God.

While we do not always know exactly what tomorrow’s harvest may be on this side of eternity we have an absolute assurance that what is invested in God will return an abundant harvest. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV) Jesus promised that the treasures we store in Heaven are not touched by moth, rust, or thieves! (Matthew 6: 20)


What’s in your future? You don’t need a crystal ball or a prophet. Just look at the seeds you’re planting.
Sow love, reap love.
Sow generosity, reap generosity.
Sow kindness, reap kindness.
Sow obedience to God, reap a rich reward of His blessings.


“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and be wise! Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.” (Proverbs 6:6-8, NLT)


“If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.” (Proverbs 20:4, NLT)

Don’t Live in The Cemetery


Don’t live in the cemetery.
Between hamburgers and potato salad, take time today to remember those who paid the ultimate price in defense of the nation. It might be a cliché but it’s true none the less – “Freedom isn’t free!”  Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day. It began in the United States after the Civil War as a day to visit the cemeteries to decorate the graves of those who died in that terrible conflict. After the first World War, the day’s focus widened to include a remembrance of all those fallen in war. Visiting a memorial to soldiers lost can be a powerfully moving experience. On several occasions, I have walked the length of the Vietnam memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC and each time, I find that black slab bearing 50,000 names evokes deep emotions.
We never forget but we cannot live in the cemetery with them!  Their sacrifice is meaningless if we do not move on, building a world that honors their sacrifice, cherishing freedom.  In 2013 true patriots need to insist that “liberty and justice for all” is not just something we say.  We must speak up, vote, and make certain that our government maintains the principles of our Constitution!
Yesterday, in our worship, we remembered another sacrifice, a gift of life, that sets us free! On the night before He went to the Cross, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Communion meal that Christians have celebrated for two millennia. We lift the cup to remember His shed blood which sets us right with our Father.  His death makes it possible for us to forgiveness of our sins. The bread reminds us of His broken body, that He is our Wounded Healer. The Bible’s familiar words are:  “On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people-an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, NLT)
Disciple, we don’t live in the cemetery! We remember the Cross, but live on the other side of the Resurrection. His death brought us life! That is the amazing fact we remember at the Lord’s Table. “Walk worthy!” is the command we hear. Take the gift of the sacrifice and make it count in your day to day choices.
This Memorial Day, I hope you will remember, perhaps even walking through a cemetery where flags decorate the graves of those who died in the armed services of our great nation. Then, I pray you will leave the cemetery inspired to be a citizen who makes their sacrifice meaningful.
Enjoy the holiday! 

Living in the Mediocre Middle?


Any parent can tell you that there are two kinds of obedience – one is a grudging compliance, the other is wholehearted engagement.  My sons, Sean and Jay, were on the ‘lawn crew,’ when they were teens at home.  At first they did the minimum to comply with my requests. It showed in the results.  The corners were left uncut, the areas around trees untrimmed, the cut ragged from driving the tractor too fast. Then, as they matured, they began to take pride in their work and their obedience changed.  The lawns were neatly done; completely.

Christians choose duty or delight, too.  Some just try to get by while others fully engage. The immature disciple asks, “Can I do that and still call myself a Christian?”  What kind of obedience does the Lord get from you?  Is it just a dutiful, grim, ‘get it done,’ kind of thing; shaped around meeting bare minimums?  Or, do you take delight in doing what He commands so that your life will display the beauty of His will?
The Psalmist sings, “Your decrees are my treasure; they are truly my heart’s delight.” (Psalm 119:111, NLT)
The disciple who tries for minimal compliance robs himself of joy.  He cannot enjoy the sins of his world  because of a guilty conscience, but he finds no joy in the things of God because his heart is corrupt.  His is a miserable existence between two worlds!  The prophet Elijah threw down a challenge to ancient Israel.  We need to consider it for ourselves! “How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.” (1 Kings 18:21, NLT)
We need to make up our minds about serving God, then go for it; without reservation, without excuse. It’s the only way to find the joy of the Lord promised in the Scripture.  If we choose to live in the mediocre middle,  we consign ourselves to blah and bland; no beauty, no joy!
Before you rush on today, take a few minutes to prayerfully absorb the principle that Jesus gives in these two illustrations.
 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:43-46, NIV)
_____________
Abba, let me see the treasure of Your will and
embrace it with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Many temptations allure me, seeming to offer satisfaction.
Daily life pulls me from awareness of You,
blinds me to the real joy to be found in unreserved obedience.
Forgive me for my short-sightedness,
My love for this present world.
Open my eyes, capture my heart, break my will to Yours.
Give me delight in You and Your ways so that
The beauty of Jesus will be seen in me.
Amen.

No aspirin for this pain


A guilty conscience? Hurts, doesn’t it? The pain of shame and guilt that follow doing wrong are as common as a cold. In a moment when our resolve is weak, we make a fateful choice. A cruel word can be uttered, an immoral choice made in just a moment’s time, but the memory is indelibly burned into our mind.
“Why did I do it?” we ask; “What was I thinking?” 
Not far behind those thoughts comes the fear of discovery. “If I’m found out, what then?” Have you ever experienced that kind of torment? It takes away sleep at night, robs us of the ability to appreciate the most beautiful day, makes song like scraping of fingernails on a chalkboard in our ears.
King David, a man who loved God and he became an adulterous murderer! Even before his sin was exposed, he was tormented. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4, NIV)
Guilt is God’s gift that calls on us to come back to right living. There is false guilt. Our conscience can be damaged, made too sensitive by constant criticism or scarred into uselessness by constant abuse. But, if our conscience is functioning in a healthy way; if it is responsive to the Holy Spirit of God and informed by the truth, we should thank the Lord for the pain that comes after we sin against others and/or Him.
 
That ache that David felt was only relieved when he made another important decision. “Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched.” (Psalm 32:5-6, The Message) 
Confession is so hard, yet so liberating! It opens our heart to God’s forgiveness. Often sincere confession will also win the forgiveness of another person, even those we have wronged in the most serious way.
Confession must be followed by something that seems largely absent in our culture of tolerance and relative standards: repentance. I find that many desire the release from guilt and even regret their actions because of the negative consequences, but they feel little need to change their ways! The ancient people of God disobeyed the Lord, knew they were estranged from Him, confessed, but often failed to turn back to Him! They only wanted release from the consequences of their sins. They had no hunger for righteousness, no appetite for real holiness.
The prophet Joel tells us that we need to let ourselves feel sorrow for our sins and then to make real change in our lives. Read his call. “Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; …  (Joel 1:13, NIV) “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:12-13, NIV)
Is guilt over sins past plaguing you?
Are you alienated from the Lord who gives you peace, from His church that is your home?
Spend some time truly mourning your disobedience, but do not stay there! Go and own up to your sins, without excuse, without self-justification. Accept forgiveness, then take the steps that will produce real change of repentance. “God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me. ” (Isaiah 30:15, The Message)
_________________
We bow our hearts,
We bend our knees.
Oh Spirit, come make
Us humble.
We turn our eyes
From evil things,
Oh Lord, we cast down
Our idols.
Give us clean hands,
Give us pure hearts.
Let us not lift
Our souls to another.
Give us clean hands,
Give us pure hearts.
Let us not lift
Our souls to another.
Oh God, let us be
The generation that seeks,
Who seeks Your face,
Oh God of Jacob.
Oh God, let us be
The generation that seeks,
Who seeks Your face,
Oh God of Jacob.
Give Us Clean Hands
Hall, Charlie
© 1997 Generation Productions
CCLI License No. 810055

Descending into another Dark Age?


The Dark Ages, that time in Europe from the fall of Rome to the dawn of the Enlightenment, describes a millennium of violence. (500 to 1500 A.D.) With the disappearing of the authority of the Roman Empire, a brutal chaos erupted that destroyed urban life, made commerce nearly impossible, and reduced life to a struggle for survival.  In the absence of the rule of law, those with the sharpest sword, those without regard for human life, held sway. The only bright spots in Europe were the monasteries that kept education and faith alive. The renewal of faith in Christ Jesus, made personal and presented as transformative in the Reformation, ultimately brought about the way of life most of us take for granted in the West today. 
We live in a terribly violent world where power is the currency of greatest value.  Nations of great power are quite willing to drop bombs, to send drones with deadly missiles, and to starve people into submission with economic sanctions to get their way in the world.  People who have little power are willing to blow themselves and/or others to bits in public places, are willing to shoot children in schools, or commandeer airplanes to bring buildings crashing down to attempt to bring about their agenda. We find abundant cruelty in most every kind of human relationship. The Church has fallen strangely silent in all this, many Christians even complicit with violent schemes to maintain their place of privilege.
There are abundant calls in the New Testament that Christ’s followers are to be people of peace. We are reconciled to our Father in Heaven and our mission in our world is to build bridges of reconciliation. Jesus tells us that when we are peacemakers we are known as ‘children of God.’   The Word commands-  “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19, NIV)  “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:1-2, NIV)   But, a life of peace is the foundation necessary if we desire to call others to peace. 
Would you agree that we are, by and large, angry people?  When our desire for personal pleasure or comfort is hindered – by a slow driver, by a thoughtless clerk, or a life-altering situation;  it is common for us to slip into anger, even rage.  This must not be true of those who claim Christ as Lord. James instructs us: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21, NKJV)  Sure, there are plenty of things that could potentially make us angry – rude people, unjust authorities, uncooperative kids, selfish spouses – but Christ, the Lord of peace, makes it possible for us to live gently, to forgive, and to pursue peace!  Will we radically TRUST Him and give away our demand to be served?  (A confession is in order here. It is much easier to write about this serenity than it is to live in it.)
If we persist in our demand to own more, to control more;  we will give in to violence.  No we won’t all build bombs or buy guns, but we will arm our tongue and fire away. James says it is ‘full of deadly poison,” or as the Message puts it, “wild, a wanton killer.”  (3:8)  Our ability to change the world rests on love.  No, we don’t have to gather ‘round the campfire to sing “Kum Ba Yah.”  We do have to gather with other Christians and worship the One who makes us free from evil, then we go out as messengers who invite the world to live in peace and at peace.  If we do not, I we will plunge into yet another Dark Age, a time of escalating violence that destroys life’s beauty. 
Are you living in a Dark Age, the light of love hidden behind fear, rage, hate?  Come into the Light! Invite Jesus to be Lord of your life and begin to rest in His peace.
Take this word from the Word to heart.  Start now, at home, in your life, and spread the Word. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-23, NIV)
___________
Wonderful Peace
Peace, peace, wonderful peace;
Coming down from the Father above.
Sweep over my spirit, forever, I pray;
In fathomless billows of love.
I am resting this day in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control.
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day
And His glory is flooding my soul.
Ah, soul are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark,
O accept this sweet peace so sublime.
W. George Cooper | Warren D. Cornell
Public Domain

Who is Whispering in Your Ear?

“You keep your son away from mine. He’s a bad influence.” No parent wants to hear those words. “I am impressed at the positive impact your son had on mine.”  Now that we like, right? Peer influence IS strong – for good, for ill, and a parent who is not working to stay aware of his child’s choice of friends is foolish. The Proverb says, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” (Proverbs 13:20, The Message)  
Many teens live in isolation from parental influence. They are be physically present in our house and yet; because of messaging, Facebook, texting, email, online gaming; their need for social interaction is met entirely without us. As a result they grow up in a echo chamber filled with their friends’ voices,  a place where uninformed, sometimes silly, opinions are amplified. Without corrective input, they are robbed of the wisdom that allows them to evaluate the inexperienced advice of peers.
And, it’s not just kids who are influenced by peers! Every one of us, regardless of age or maturity, values the opinions of others. This pity comment from a Union General during the Civil War might well be engraved in our memory: “We have more to fear from the opinions of our friends than the bayonets of our enemies.” – Nathaniel Banks
Do you use the power of peer influence for good? People can lift us up! That’s one of the reasons God calls Christians into His Church. The connections we form with those who are pursuing His ways, who love Him and His kingdom, sustain us when we hit those inevitable hard times. The Spirit says, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT) If those with whom you are practicing your faith are not helping you to grow in faith and obedience, it is time to ask yourself if you’re among the right kind of people.
Scott Williams, a speaker and executive at Nxt Level Solutions, offers the B.E.C.C. pattern for our peer relationships. It’s a way each of us take the lead among those with whom we serve, work, and live.
B – Believe in them no matter what.
           E – Encourage them to do more.
           C – Challenge them to do it better.
           C – Correct them when they are off.
At the beginning of this week, let me encourage you to give yourself to the Spirit. Let Him own your heart, control your mind.  We become what we think!  
The Bible teaches us to let the Spirit transform us from the inside out, because “those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:5-7, NIV)  Connected with God, the Spirit, strengthen ties to those who love Him. Encourage and be encouraged.
Here’s a short word from the Word. Is it true of you? “I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.” (Psalm 119:63, NIV)
____________
We Will Stand
Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,
Why we pull away from each other so easily,
Even though we’re all walking the same road.
Yet, we build dividing walls
Between our brothers and ourselves.
You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us
When we’re walking side by side.
As long as there is love
We will stand.
The day will come when we will be as one
And with a mighty voice
Together we will proclaim that –
Jesus, Jesus is King!
It will echo through the earth,
It will shake the nations,
And the world will see
See that
You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us
When we’re walking side by side.
As long as there is love
We will stand.
James Hollihan | Russ Taff | Tori Taff
© 1983 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055

Everything means just that!


Everything- means just that!
The office printer just stopped working yesterday. I am tech savvy, so I did resets, restarts, unplugs – all the normal things one would do to get it going again.  A call to tech support from Xerox dragged on for 15 minutes but to no avail.  In the evening, I was back at the church for a meeting and needed to print documents for it. What could I do?  I exercised some very child-like faith; I prayed for the printer. Yes, really!  I put my hands on it and prayed something like this: “Lord, if You could make the universe, I am fully confident that You can make this thing run.  I thank You for wisdom to fix it, if that’s how You choose to act or a miracle of restoration. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”  I pushed the switch and heard the internal fan kick on.  Then, it went into error mode and stopped again.  So, I prayed again. “Lord, please.”  I pushed the switch once again.  15 minutes later I walked to my meeting carrying neatly printed documents from a fully functioning laser printer.  Call it coincidence, if you like. I’ll thank God for answered prayer.
Is God at my beck and call, my Divine Tech Support? No, He isn’t, but He is my Abba, the One who is concerned about those things that concern me. I accept, each day and in simple faith, His invitation to “pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”(Philippians 4:6, NLT) I request wisdom. I talk to Him about my work. I ask for provision for my needs and yours, too. I pray for people, kids, cars, buildings, healings, peace, insight, suffering nations, world peace, belly aches … yes, everything.  Why? Because, “everything” means just that!  Perhaps you don’t share my point of view, but since He is my Father in Heaven who loves me, He enjoys our ongoing conversation.
The Word tells me that “The LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4, NIV)  He finds pleasure in being my Abba (and yours, too)!  If you are ‘in Christ,’ then there is a standing invitation to ‘come into His Presence.’  You don’t need an appointment.  You don’t have to beg, cower, wheedle, or whine. Just come confidently to Him, thanking Him for all He has done and will do.  Like a beloved child, be ready to accept His ‘no,’ or ‘wait,’ as readily as His “yes.”  I don’t always find that printers start to work the moment I pray for them, that cancer falls away the instant I ask Him for healing on behalf of others.  However, I see His providence all of the time when I open my eyes in faith.
Learn to talk with God; listening, responding, making requests about everything.  Take this word from the Word. Own it by faith and then live it.
“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:3-6, NIV)  “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:9, NIV)
_______________
Father God
Father God,
I give all thanks
And praise to Thee!
Father God,
My hands I humbly raise to Thee,
For Thy mighty pow’r,
And love amazes me, amazes me;
And I stand in awe and worship,
Father God.
Jack Hayford
© 1973 Rocksmith Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Cool Springs Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)
CCLI License # 810055