Defeating Confusion

Uncertain of the future?  Who isn’t?  Financial markets are unpredictable. People who die too young.  Companies that look rock-solid go bankrupt. Tornadoes appear at the end of a day and blow a city apart. These surprises may cause us to become paralyzed with fear or confused about the course to take. That’s is why we need core values built on principles that are unchanging.  What is the organizing principle of your life?  We all have them, even if we are not aware of what they are or are unable to put them into words.

 Is our goal to be happy?
Is it to enjoy life?
Is it to be admired by others?
Is it to gain wealth?
Is it to control others, to have power?
Is it to hang onto attractiveness or sex appeal?
Is it to discover the will of God?

Jesus knew and cared for a very busy woman who had allowed herself to lose sight of primary things. In her confusion, she was frustrated, angry, and wondering why others did not feel the urgency she felt. Jesus wisely challenged her to re-evaluate the organizing principle of her life.  This is Martha’s story. During one of Jesus’ visits to her home in Bethany, she set the household in motion to prepare dinner. In the middle of her efforts, she noticed her sister, Mary, sitting near Jesus, listening intently to Him. She exploded: “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits there listening to You while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” (Luke 10) Jesus’ answer was not at all what she expected. Instead of sending Mary to help, He challenged Martha’s idea of what was most important! He even commended Mary! “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42, NLT)  Martha’s efforts over dinner were good, but they were not the most important things in life.  People who ate the meal she prepared would be hungry again tomorrow.  Mary was gaining wisdom, doing something of eternal value!

Confusion, fear, and anger will disappear when we get first things put back in first place.  Vision keeps us from allowing the tyranny of the urgent to push the truly important to the side. The unpredictable things of normal life will still show up on our front porch, but  we will remain on course if we know Who we serve and are secure in His promise.

Think about why you do what you do!  We can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Martha’s dinner was one of those ‘right’ things.  There’s nothing wrong with preparing a great dinner. What did Martha do wrong? She invested too much importance in her roast lamb!  Security and self-esteem can never be found in such things.

 Even religion will fail us if we lose sight of God in the process. Jesus pointed to the prayers, service, and giving of the Pharisees, commending their diligence while telling His disciples that it was all worthless.  How can that be? Their acts of worship were good things, but because they were done to gain people’s admiration their value was lost.  The Pharisee’s organizing principle was to do ‘holy stuff’ to prove how righteous they were. Holiness, which allows us to be intimate with a holy God, was being used for prideful purposes. The core was flawed and therefore their entire structure was wrong!

Ponder these words from the Word today. Ask yourself if pursuing Christ and His rule is ‘the one thing’ that organizes all the rest of your life.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ, … I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. … I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:8, 10, 12-14, NLT)
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I belong to a mighty God,
I belong to Jesus;
I’m guided by His staff and rod,
I belong to a mighty God.

I belong to the Holy One,
I belong to Jesus;
His work in me has just begun,
I belong to the Holy One.

I belong to the Lord of All,
I belong to Jesus;
I’ll stand in Him and will not fall,
I belong to the Lord of All.

I am justified
By the good gift of the Lord;
And I will testify
That I belong to a mighty God,
I belong to a mighty God.

I Belong To A Mighty God
DeShazo, Lynn
© 1993 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (c/o Integrity Music, Inc.)
CCLI License No. 810055

 

(Vacation time!  CWTW will be back on July 3)

You think you’re too good to fail?

Failure happens every day. Though we might desire to be perfect, it’s not happening in this world where machines malfunction, computers crash, and people act like, well; people!  The Lord blesses me with many advantages, enriches me with gifts of grace, and still I fail.  Some failures creep up on us, the result of multiple choices that produce unforeseen results.  Other failures happen in a moment as we react before we think.  Sometimes we just  do what we want to do, knowing full well that we are offending God and/or man, yet we are willful enough to do it, say it, choose it anyway – consequences not withstanding!

Peter was forewarned of pending failure. At the Passover table  “Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” “Peter,” Jesus replied, “the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.” (Matthew 26:33-35, NLT)  And hours later, they all ran off into the night when soldiers showed up.  Peter stood at a fire and swore to those who questioned his Galilean accent, “I never knew Him!”  Failed!

David comfortably settled into the role of king. The borders were secure. His generals capably in charge of his army. He was full of confidence. Life was good, very good, after many years of hardships. So, what does he do with his success? “The following spring, the time of year when kings go to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to destroy the Ammonites. … But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon David got out of bed after taking a nap and went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.” (2 Samuel 11:1-2, NLT)  He was no kid, unaware of the power of his sexuality. Will he look again?  He did and more.  A afternoon tryst led to an unplanned pregnancy.  He created a conspiracy to bring about the death of Bathsheba’s husband. Ultimately, he disgraced himself in the eyes of God and man.  Failed!

A couple lived in a garden perfectly balanced, their every need provided.  God walked with them every evening. They never disagreed, had no weeds to pull, enjoyed perfection. There was just one proviso – “Don’t eat of the tree at the center of the Garden!”  Along comes the tempter, with a suggestion that God is not good, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.  “He’s holding out on you, doesn’t want you to be like Him, that’s why He won’t let you have that forbidden fruit.”  Ah, Eve turn away from him!  Adam lead her to renewed worship of your Creator. But, alas, they did eat of it. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7, NIV)  Failed!

These are our stories, too. They are part of the Scripture to help us to learn, to show us that we have a shadow that lurks just out sight that will draw us from the love of Abba, that will lure us into sin where seeds of our destruction are sown. 

So, what can we do with our failures?

Learn from them!  Failure creates pain and that is a powerful motivation for change.

Accept and give forgiveness!  Failure can open us to the grace of God and, when we experience His divine mercy, should make us tender and merciful, too.

Grow through them!  Yes, failure is part of life.  The more boldly we live, the more we risk, the greater our potential for failure; and success.  In his quest to create the incandescent light bult, Thomas Edison spent a fortune as he built model after model that failed.  His comment? “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”― Thomas A. Edison

Lean hard on the One who cannot fail! “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:22-26, NIV)

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I want what is mine, now!

Southwest Airlines has a reputation for customer service. On a recent trip I flew with them. My experience confirmed what I had heard. They really do take care of the traveler.  I dug a little deeper and found out that Herb Kelleher, the founder of the airline, adopted a principle called ‘servant leadership.’  Every team member employed by Southwest is expected to do whatever it takes to make the business a success.  So, for example, a pilot may take charge of a young boy who is traveling alone, helping him from one flight to another. It’s not his ‘job’ but it’s part of serving, however, wherever, for the sake of the mission. Kelleher says, “I think it’s very important to choose people who have a predisposition to serve others, and it’s hard to be successful if you hire people that are totally self-centered and bent only on serving themselves, so I think the hiring process is very important in that respect. On the other hand, I have seen people come to Southwest Airlines from other organizations that kind of sniff the air a little suspiciously, wondering whether this is real, and then when they find out that it’s real, they love it.”  Apparently the corporate culture he’s created works.  The airline has remained profitable and the employee turnover rate is, far and away, the lowest in the industry.

Servant leadership is a Christian principle!  Jesus taught it and it works – in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, and yes; in our companies. He said, “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” (Matthew 23:11-12, The Message)  

 Those who follow Christ take up the towel readily. What do I mean? On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus brought his disciples together for Passover dinner. As they arrived in the Upper Room, there was no servant on hand to wash their feet, the custom of the time.   They were arguing about who was the greatest, the Bible tells us, so none of them was willing to do the lowly task. “So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, … After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:4, 12-15, NLT)  That is servant leadership.

Pride is the ever-present opponent of this way of life.  “Take what’s yours,” it whispers. “If you don’t take care of you, who will?” Truth is- God promises to care for those who choose to serve, who give away their lives for His sake. “God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them! “ (Matthew 5:5, CEV) God says that the way up is down, that the route to greatest influence is not through position but rather through service.  Proverbs wastes no words speaking of the results of pride: “Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honors. ” (Proverbs 29:23, The Message)

Lord, help me to remember the blessings of servant leadership, is my prayer.  Is it yours?

Here is the word from the Word.  May we have the faith to own it and live it. ” Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7, NKJV)

Nailed down or held in His hand?

When life is rushing along at full speed, like it does most days, decisions come along demanding my response. “What’s right? What wrong? Do I choose that or this, go here or there?”  As I write this my mind is weighing an important question and I want to make the wise decision in my answer. Do I just ‘follow my gut feelings’ or make the most expedient choice?  As a Christian I am doubly blessed, given the wisdom of the Word and the Presence of the Spirit.

 Isaiah reminds us that there is security found in just One.  Read on.  “The craftsmen rush to make new idols. The carver hurries the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. “Good,” they say. “It’s coming along fine.” Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over.  “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from my friend Abraham, I have called you back from the ends of the earth so you can serve me. For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:7-10, NLT)

 There are two ways to live set in contrast here. If we make our own god, we are on our own in the quest for security.  Idols don’t hold us up, we must  nail them down!  But, if we receive the offer that God makes to own us, He ‘will strengthen… help… and uphold with my right hand!”  

 Are you shaping your own god and expecting that tin idol to show you the way to live?  In fact that idol will not settle you; you will find yourself trying to prop it up: “pounding in nails at the base so that the thing won’t tip over. ” (Isaiah 41:7, The Message)  Go to the True God, the Lord of Eternity, and seek Him. “As for God, his way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength; he has made my way safe. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights.” (Psalm 18:30-33, NLT)

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 All Creatures Of Our God And King

 All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam,
O praise Him O praise Him,
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

 And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others take your part.
O sing ye, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care.
O praise Him, O praise Him.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

St. Francis of Assisi | William Henry Draper

Public Domain

Are you an Idolater?

Few Christians would consider themselves idol-worshippers.  They don’t have any shrines to gods in their homes, no golden figures or pictures of strange beings to which they attach divine characteristics. The idol question is never even considered.  “Idols?” they say, “Not my problem!” 

 Or are they?  What is elevated in your life?  From what or whom do ask satisfaction or security?

 Worship is not just singing in church or saying prayers with the congregation. Worship is the act of giving worth.  Is the idol question coming into clearer focus as you think about that definition?  Idols can take many forms.  Do you work hard at keeping your reputation stellar so that others will respect and/or love you?  Are you endlessly anxious about your children?  Do you spend more time on keeping your body fit than seeking godliness?  Do you obsess over your landscaped yard?  Does the thought of having money consume your waking thoughts? 

 In addition to being a major offense to the Lord who deserves our whole-heartedly worship, idolatry has a personal consequence. The runaway prophet, Jonah, worshipped his own security and safety more than his God. His idols brought about his destruction. In belly of a great fish, which a merciful God provided to preserve his life, he came to realize the cost of misplaced worship. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:7-9, NIV)  When we elevate something above the one true God, we, not He, cut off the flow of His mercies that would make us whole.

He has prepared gifts of peace, real and deep serenity, for us.  There is security that extends beyond the grave available that we can own in a world others know as chaotic and unpredictable.  Christians often wonder why He withholds those things from them.  In fact, He holds them out for them, but they cannot take them because an idol stands in the way! They are trying to get the ‘abundant life’ Jesus promises from something or someone they have made their god. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

 Tearing down our idols is much more difficult than it might seem at first.  We get very attached to our gods, though we would not generally call them that.  We learn to rationalize, excuse, and justify our choices.  Throughout the Old Testament, the people of the living God, constantly ran after the idols of the nations that surrounded them.  Times of spiritual renewal came, the idols were destroyed, and the pure worship of God restored.  But, within a generation the false gods were brought back.  When those shrines were built, they turned away from the very God that would save them.

 Take this word, dear Christian, to heart today.  May Isaiah’s warning cause us to trust the Living God completely, to worship Him with our whole heart.
“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15-16, NIV)

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My Burdens Rolled Away

I remember when my burdens rolled away.
I had carried them for years, night and day.
When I sought the blessed Lord,
And I took Him at His word,
Then, at once, all my burdens rolled away.

 I remember when my burdens rolled away,
That I feared would never leave, night or day.
Jesus showed to me the loss,
So I left them at the cross,
I was glad when my burdens rolled away.

 Rolled away! Rolled away!
I am happy since my burdens rolled away.
Rolled away! Rolled away!
I am happy since my burdens rolled away.

 Minnie A. Steele
Public Domain

 

Wash up!

ImageHey, guys, it’s time for dinner. Wash up!”  With that call, dinner is served. Before pulling up to the table, the grime of the day needs to be washed away.  Who wants dirty hands serving and handling the dishes?  The Psalm carries a similar theme.  “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths. Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” (Psalm 24:1-4, NLT)

 

God invites us to live in His Presence, to enjoy a place of security only found in Him. But, He says, “Wash up!”  Make no mistake. The call is not to self-righteousness or even to superficial goodness. The privilege of walking in the Spirit, which provides us with all that we need for the ‘abundant life’ of which Jesus spoke, is for those who are ready to leave their sin.  Let’s underscore what we ought to know already:  only Christ can make us clean from the inside out!  However, as John teaches, we must cooperate with the Spirit, forsaking our Self, to find the promised peace.  “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.” (1 John 1:6-7, NLT)  The person who turns his heart and mind to the pursuit of holiness “will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:5-7, NIV)  

 

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk, entered the monastery, without the education required for ordination. He spent his life working in the kitchen and fixing sandals. But, in time, he became the spiritual hub of that place, a man recognized as being full of the Spirit of God.  He left us a little book that is a classic: The Practice of the Presence of God.  In it, he describes his delight in knowing God, not just in formal worship, but everywhere, all the time.  He writes, “A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God, and far from making a soldier lose his courage on the most dangerous occasions, bolster it. Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.”   Repeatedly, Lawrence reminds his readers that the heart must be turned to the Lord.  There will be resistance and distractions.  In the adoration, sin loses its hold and the beauty of God’s Presence takes residence!

 

Is living in the Presence of God your desire, Christian? “That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD’s Presence, by continually conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries.” – Brother Lawrence    Let’s not approach Him covered in the grime of sinfulness. Instead, let’s ready ourselves for the entry of the King by keeping ourselves aware that He is near, that His love is without end, that He has prepared a banquet for us even as we walk among our enemies!

 

_________________

 

 

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

 

O soul are you weary and troubled,

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free.

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in His wonderful face!

And the things of earth

Will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

 

Helen H. Lemmel

Public Domain

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

kiss-02Tuesday was not a banner day in Jerry’s life!  Something ‘round 10, snapped in me. Church ministry budgets that don’t balance, human needs for which I have no quick fix, a crazy mixed up world that seems to be getting more upside down recently – these things pressed in on me.  My first response should have been to retire to some quiet place to pray. Instead, I  got angry. “Why doesn’t he do this? What’s the matter with her? Can’t she just do her job?”  After a few minutes of anger, I settled down to whining about why life has to be so tough. (I agree, that’s one ugly picture!)   Later, while I drove alone in my car, praying (better late than never, right?) the Spirit drew me  back to the Truth, a reassuring center point for life. What is that?
“I am a beloved son of the Heavenly Father and with Him on my side, I can faithfully fulfill His calling!”

Do you know the K.I.S.S. principle? I’m not sure where it originated.
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Our Christian life gets awfully confused if we turn it into long debates about doctrines, slogs through philosophical ideas, or doing enough religious things. Am I belittling doctrine or wrestling with ideas to find the truth? Not at all.  Am I saying that serving God faithfully in our ministry for His kingdom is unnecessary? No, again!

However, the heart of the Christ life is relationship – with God and with others.  When I stand before Jesus to receive His evaluation of my life, He isn’t going to ask me how many years I balanced the church’s budget or how polished my sermons were.  His questions will be simple:  “Did you love me with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength?  Did you love others?”   He’s already told us what will be on that test!  He said that the whole Law of God is summed up this way: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39, The Message)

The writer of the book of Hebrews makes an extended argument for the superiority of the Gospel over the Law of Moses.  After all those carefully reasoned arguments, the Holy Spirit inspired that writer to circle around to the K.I.S.S. principle at the close: (13.1) “Keep on loving each other!”  If theology conforms to orthodoxy, but we fail to love- it is all a waste! 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, “Without love, your preaching is as edifying as a gong or noisy cymbal. The ability to speak lofty theology, the insight to grasp spiritual mysteries, even a mountain-moving faith — is worthless!”

Those unbalanced budgets are still there. That marriage crisis is still pending. But, I am re-centered today and I have sincerely repented for my ungodliness of yesterday.  I know that “I love God and He loves me!”  In that centering Truth there is a Solid Rock on which I stand.  I can, and I will, deal with my life, ministry, and the tests that will keep coming my way until I am received into His Presence for Eternity.  If you know that, you, too, can deal with the rest of the stuff! So, keep it simple today, OK?

Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so,
Little ones (and big people, too) to Him belong,
when they are weak,
He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible (and the Spirit in my heart) tells me so!
– public domain

Yes, I am!

A painter does not exist to stir colors.  He mixes paint to create beauty. We can get so close to our lives, so wrapped up in work, projects, people, and plans that we lose sight of real LIFE.  (Well, I do, anyway. Do you?) We can mistake the ‘doing’ for the ‘being.’  There is a reason I exist that includes oil changes and lawn mowing, but that is not the ‘all’ of it.  My true identity is found in that fact that I am a child of the living God, a citizen of His eternal kingdom, called to make the world beautiful, and privileged to make the invisible God a real Presence in the envelope of time and space.  When people do not have that vision or when a Christian loses it, life devolves into a struggle for money, sex, or power. Without the divine, we become like the creatures of the forest, fighting to survive. Period.

 

Paul’s letter to the Romans, that amazing treatise on God’s grace, says “Now this wonderful truth … assures us that God will also declare us to be righteous if we believe in God, who brought Jesus our Lord back from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 4:23-5:2, NLT)

 

Righteous! God offers us full acceptance.  We need not live shamed, in guilt, or feeling alienated from Him. The Cross connects us to our Abba and settles, once and for all time, the question of His love for us.

Peace with God!  There is no need to avoid Him, to pray tentative prayers from a distance.  We are (not because of perfect performance) living in harmony with Him, filled with His Spirit, one with His purpose.

Highest privilege, where we stand!  We are not subject to the accusations of the evil one, nor need we be pulled down by the nagging voice of our old sinful nature. God has pulled us to our feet and give us a Solid Rock on which to stand.

Confident, joyful, anticipation!  Yes, yes, yes… there is hope for the future.  Our bodies will die, but a grave is not our destiny. We are already alive in Christ, so death is just the transition point from living within the confines of time and space to an existence beyond them.

 

By faith, live the Truth He states about you.  Sometimes we read those passages and nod but we leave them on the page, so to speak. Pull it out and place it in your mind, at the forefront of your conscious thoughts today.  It will make a difference.

 

Here’s the word from the Word. “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.(Colossians 3:1-3, The Message)

 

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Jesus, You Are My Life

 

You are my life,

O precious Christ.

You are to me

The pearl of greatest price,

 

My love for You will never die.

Jesus, You are my life.

 

O holy fire,

Love’s purest light.

Burn all desires ‘til

You are my one delight.

 

My love for You will never die

Jesus You are my life

 

O conquering King;

Conquer my heart!

And make of me a pleasing gift to God,

 

My love for You will never die

Jesus You are my life

 

I come to You.

I run to You.

There’s no greater joy,

Than knowing You.

 

 

Steve Fry

© 1994 Maranatha Praise, Inc. (Admin. by Maranatha! Music)

Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

 

You’d better say, “Thank you!”

Two Christians I know work at ministry. Both are bright, talented, and show up to do what they do faithfully.  One serves the Lord for the pure joy of serving and it shows. She doesn’t ask for thanks or seek glory. Many have no idea what she does for the Lord, but even more would miss the work should she stop doing it! The other is always fishing for compliments. He angles for attention, making sure that anyone who will listen knows just how much time and effort he puts into his ‘service.’ In a conversation I had with another Christian, she spoke at length about her long-time ‘service’ in the various churches she has attended over the years. She complained about how one church after another failed to recognize her abilities, about Pastors who didn’t give her the place she thought her talents deserved. She’s been a Christian longer than I’ve been alive, but, alas, seems to have missed out on maturing in faith. 

 

Ministry is never about ‘me,’ never about what service does for ‘me.’ True service in God’s work is about giving ourselves away without thought of cost, recognition, or reward.  A Christian who seeks to use ‘ministry’ (be that teaching Sunday School, making meals, preaching, or giving) to gain affirmation, personal fulfillment, a sense of self-worth, or just to ‘be somebody’ in the big wide world will miss the true blessing of God’s reward. And, what is supposedly done “for the Lord”  will be tainted with pride. This will corrupt the service and rob the work of spiritual power.

 

A story in the book of Acts helps us to understand the importance of selfless service. Barnabas was a learned Christ-following Jew who was very influential in the early years of the development of Christianity. The Bible describes him with these glowing words… “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. ” (Acts 11:24, NLT) This leader heard about a man named Saul who once had been very hostile to Christians. Paul had been converted but was finding it hard to find acceptance by Christians who were still frightened by his reputation. So, Barnabas went and found Saul (later renamed Paul) and introduced him to the Church. For the next few years, when people spoke of the team, it was always “Barnabas and Paul.” But, the mentor was soon eclipsed by the gifts of his student. People came to refer to “Paul and Barnabas.” A few years later, Barnabas slipped into obscurity and Paul went on to be known throughout the Church!

 

Think about it!

What might Christianity be like today if Barnabas had gone to see Paul, recognized the man’s greater gifts and tremendous abilities, and thought “if I help him, he will steal my position.”?
What if he saw Paul’s potential to become greater and decided that he didn’t want the ‘competition?’

Thankfully, good ole’ Barney didn’t see his ‘service’ to the Church as a means of building his reputation, feeling good about himself, or gaining a place where he could be recognized in this world.

 

Jesus told a story about service that pierces prideful motives. Think deeply about it. If you realize that your service has even a grain of pride, of self-serving, of concern for reputation or reward, ask the Lord for forgiveness and for the Spirit’s help in developing true humility.  “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, he doesn’t just sit down and eat. He must first prepare his master’s meal and serve him his supper before eating his own. And the servant is not even thanked, because he is merely doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7-10, NLT)

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Love Divine

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down.
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion;        
Pure unbounded love Thou art!
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter ev’ry trembling heart.

 Breathe, oh breathe, Thy loving Spirit
Into ev’ry troubled breast.
Let us all in Thee inherit
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning
Alpha and Omega be!
End of faith as its beginning
Set our hearts at liberty.

 Come Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive.
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above.
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

 Finish then Thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
‘Til in heaven we take our place.
Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder love and praise.

 Charles Wesley | John Zundel
Public Domain

Toxic Waste or Refreshing Rain?

Let me tell you two stories about words.

A corainuple asked to meet with the church board to discuss a situation they blamed squarely on me. They opened with a salvo of critical statements and then launched into a tirade of accusations.
Somehow a simple misunderstanding, a set of missed expectations, escalated into full-blown attack on my character. Did they lay a hand on me? No. Did they fire a bullet into my body? No.
But their words hurt worse than a beating! Even the memory of that night still hurts. (Their allegations, by the way, were found to be baseless.)

Many years ago a father-like figure found me in a hotel coffee shop early one morning. I was broken by failure and disappointment, ready to leave my calling as a Christian minister. Events of the previous two months had convinced me that I was not the right kind of man to serve Christ’s church as a Pastor. Joe sat down with me and the words he used that morning were a healing salve. He expressed confidence that I could find my forward, that I could regain my confidence, that God was good and that He restored those who trusted in Him. I hung onto that affirmation for dear life, recovered my balance, and moved ahead.

Two conversations; two very different results. Some conversations leave me feeling refreshed, encouraged, saying – “I can do this!” And some . . . well, I feel like a need a bath. James reminds us of the power of our words. “And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (James 3:4-7, NLT)

Reading that, you might determine to put a filter in place to clean up your speech. It won’t work! That’s like trying to clean up a toxic waste dump by filtering the water that flows out of it. Want to change the effect of your words? Want to change your speech? It demands a heart transformation. Jesus tells us that our words are the overflow of our heart. (Matthew 15:18) What we say reveals what we think, what we believe, what we truly love and value. God, the Holy Spirit, can and will change the source from which our words flow. He can remove greed, pride, lust, hate, fear, greed; replacing those poisons with generosity, humility, real love, peace, and a desire to share.

What is our part? First, we must own our words. Don’t blame what you say on others. Have a filthy mouth? Admit it. Don’t excuse it as ‘what everybody does.’ Do you gossip endlessly about the foibles and failures of others? Tell yourself it’s a sin. Do faithless words of fear constantly rain from your mouth, tearing others down, defeating their dreams before they’re even born? Stop excusing it as just ‘telling the truth.’   Take your broken, sinful heart to the Savior and ask Him to make it new. Pray that your words will be like a refreshing spring rain, producing life wherever they are heard.

Here’s a word from the Word. “The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. … By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:8,11 NIV)

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Change My Heart Oh God

 

Change my heart, oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, oh God,
May I be like You!

You are the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me;
This is what I pray.

Eddie Espinosa
© 1982 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055