I will not be afraid

ImageWho enjoys being afraid?  Yes, there are those who ‘enjoy’ the temporary terror produced by a horror flick. (Not me!)  Then, too, there are thrill seekers who like to push the envelope in life feeling the surge of emotion that is triggered by a moment’s fear. (Think sky-diving!) But, on the whole, feelings of insecurity and threats are not pleasant.  Our experience in this world can create fertile ground in which fear can readily grow. Storms comes. Illness visits. War rages. Economies fail. Evil is a reality. In the middle of all those things God invites us to leave fear behind for a life of faith.

Some Christians mistakenly believe that they can pray away all the things that trouble them. They invest huge amounts of energy in trying to eliminate all their problems; rebuking this, cursing that, calling on God to make their lives unending bliss. There is nothing wrong with asking our Father for healing, victory, or prosperity.  Even as we pray for blessings, our core hope must always center on His Presence.  Since we live in a broken, sinful world where the rain falls on both the just and the unjust, we cannot realistically expect unending days without pain or troubles. We can live near to the heart of God!

“The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6, NIV)  “God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT)

 Living near to God’s heart requires choices to love Him more than we love ourselves. Jesus said, “If you love me, do what I say!”  There is a sweet intimacy with the Spirit that is possible, but not if our willfulness or love of this present world grieves Him and pushes Him away.  Read John’s instructions for a live of confidence thoughtfully. “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:16-18, NLT)  We live in God, that is, as He desires and allowing Him to direct us. When we do, He grows greater love in us and that love displaces the fearfulness of the things of this world!

 

The time to build this kind of intimacy with God is before the storm, not during it!  Christians who have lived carelessly, without any real ongoing desire for God’s Presence, encounter some life-shattering circumstance and come running to church, crying, wondering why they are so afraid.  Desperately they seek a place of comfort. My heart breaks when I see their frantic reach for the peace that they know exists but that seems beyond their grasp. Then, there are those who have steadily walked with God, loving Him with their heart, soul, mind, and strength, who enter the same kind of storm and ride it out with assurance. Sure, they feel the same pain and they cry, too.  But, they know peace.

 

Here’s the word from the Word. It is Jesus’ promise for us. I will not be afraid, what about you?  “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17, NIV) “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-27, NIV)

_____________

 

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above.
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.

 

    W. George Cooper | Warren D. Cornell

    © Words: Public Domain

Extending a Warm Welcome

ImageMy friend was socially awkward. Conversations with him tended to have long, uncomfortable pauses. Amazingly, he loved entertaining people so much that he built his house specifically to allow for extending hospitality.  He included two extra bedrooms, a big dining area, along with an over-sized kitchen in the plans. Every visit with him was enjoyable in spite of his quirky personality.   I am sure you have noticed how some homes just say, “Welcome, friend” from the moment you enter the door. It’s not just the meal that has been prepared or the towels laid out on the guest bed for you. You can feel the love and acceptance of the host that says, “We’re glad you are here with us.” 

 

The Bible says  that being hospitable is one of the traits of a Spirit-filled Christian. Paul tells us to “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, NIV)  Peter says it, too. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9, NIV)  John also teaches Christians to be welcoming. “Show hospitality … so that we may work together for the truth.” (3 John 8, NIV)  Has the warmth of God’s love radiated to every corner of your heart so that you are able to warmly welcome others into your life? 

 

Here’s the key to genuine hospitality: Welcome the Spirit into your life.  He will cause you to love and accept others. A Christian who wants God, the Spirit, to be ‘at home’ in his life, will be hospitable to Him. Does the way you live extend a warm welcome to Him?  We must consider that it is possible to push Him away, to make Him feel unwelcome. “Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.” (Ephesians 4:30, The Message)

 

If our lives are filled up with self-interest; if we let filthy speech spew out of us; if we clutter our minds with images and songs that celebrate sin; we should not be surprised that His Presence is unknown to us.  He will be grieved by our lack of hospitality! Hospitality requires choices that put the other person first.  Likewise, if we want God, the Holy Spirit, to be our Friend, we will throw out the welcome mat to Him, concerned that we do not drive Him away with our thoughts, words, and actions.

 

Here’s a word from the Word.

“If God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.
Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about.

But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?

When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

(Romans 8:9-11, The Message)

________________

 

Holy Spirit Thou Art Welcome

 

Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome in this place.

Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome in this place.

Omnipotent Father of mercy and grace,

Thou art welcome in this place.

 

Lord, in Thy presence there’s healing divine.

No other power can save, Lord, but Thine.

Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome in this place.

Thou art welcome in this place.

 

Fill all the hungry and empty within.

Restore us, Oh Father, revive us again.

Holy Spirit, Thou art welcome in this place.

Thou art welcome in this place.

 

Rambo, Dottie / Huntsinger, David

© 1977, 1983 John T. Benson Publishing Company (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Coolsprings Blvd., Franklin TN 37067) / HeartWarming Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Coolsprings Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)

 

CCLI License No. 810055

Can I be trusted?

A sign taped to the wall of the man’s home was written in big, hand scrawled letters.  “Trust no one ever!
There had to be a story behind it. I did not get the sense it was posted in jest. I knew he had a past that included broken relationships and that he was estranged from his extended family.  Whatever had happened, the result was a tragic.

Who would want to live in a world where everyone was perceived as a threat, where suspicion tinged every interaction with other people?  That sounds exhausting to me!

Who do you trust completely? We know we cannot trust everyone. That would be naïve and yet I hope there are some who have proven trustworthy and true. A Frontline (PBS) documentary about the Vatican (broadcast 2/25/2014) discussed the broken trust of people who were victims of corrupt priests and a structure of power that refused to be accountable. Watching a woman now in mid-life relive her abuse at the hands of a priest was heart-wrenching. Hearing a man, once a priest of promise who was called to Rome, describe how he lost his ability to trust many in high church office, was painful to say the least. As I processed that program when I went to bed, I lay in the dark talking to my Heavenly Father, asking the Spirit to help me to be a friend, pastor, and father worthy of trust.

Trust. What creates it?

Above all, a trusted person must have integrity. Does your ‘inside’ match your ‘outside?’ Does your private life align with your public profession? Jesus’ scathing words addressed to the Pharisees are a lesson for us all.“Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs-beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy.”  (Matthew 23:27-28)

Then, too, Jesus says, trust emerges from a life that handles the details faithfully“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11, NIV)  If we neglect the stuff of life we think is inconsequential, we will also fail in the major commitments.

And He teaches us to keep our words simple and direct. “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NIV)  In our time of extended contracts, 100 page mortgages, and pre-nuptial agreements that command seems so out of reach.

I realize that trust is my choice, as well.  When we are hurt by the faithlessness of another, choosing to trust others again can be difficult. Like the man whose story opened this thought, we may decide that we will never trust.

The wisdom of God asks us to forgive, to grow, and to secure ourselves in His love. And He says that true love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV)   May the Lord teach us to be trustworthy and surround us with those we can trust. In this we are made rich.

________________

I Would Be True

I would be true,

For there are those who trust me.

I would be pure,

For there are those who care.

I would be strong,

For there is much to suffer.

I would be brave,

For there is much to dare.

 

I would be friend of all,

The foe, the friendless.

I would be giving,

And forget the gift.

I would be humble,

For I know my weakness.

I would look up and laugh,

And love and lift.

Howard Arnold Walter

Public Domain

God’s own for God’s glory

 A young man I know was probably destined for prison. He was failing in school, hanging out with a crowd of losers, going nowhere. He made ‘easy money’ by being a courier for drugs from one city to another. One day he met a Marine recruiter and somehow, despite the haze that clouded his vision, saw something to admire. The Marine helped him see a new vision for his life, that he could become a United States Marine! When I saw that young man after he finished basic training, it was hard to recognize him. He stood erect. He had pride in the corp. He was disciplined. The Marines boasts that they can take a young man without purpose and/or direction and make him into a warrior. It must be true, for I have witnessed the transformation, more than once!

Becoming one of Christ’s Own, a genuine experience of the Spirit’s renewal will produce a transformation that is even more dramatic! Jesus commissions us (Christians) to live in such a way that we lift Him up. Our lives become a thing of beauty when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  And, having attracted notice,  He tells us to ‘go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.’ (Matthew 28)  Peter exults about the power of God to take ‘nothings’ and make them into ‘somethings.’  Peter defines how God sees those He calls into His “Ekklesia,” His Church! “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10 NASV

Elect, royal, holy, God’s treasure! Those words give us an identity, call us to a purpose, and ennoble our lives. Is pride possible? Not if we know the whole story which includes the reality that we are who we are only because of His work of Grace. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (Ephesians 2:8, NLT)  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

Are you living in your God-granted privileges today?
Are you rejoicing that He has called you out of the dark and into His wonderful light?

Zechariah urges people called by God to take their place, to live in His promise, and to know their destiny. The pictures painted by his words are jolting yet compelling. “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey… Then the LORD will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign LORD will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south, and the LORD Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones. They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar. The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!” Zechariah 9:9,14-17 NIV

What are the words used to describe the people of God?  Protected. Powerful. Celebrating their victories with the abandon of those who are intoxicated! Precious as jewels and as beautiful, too!

 

IF you are Christ’s then you can live that description. Shake off that ‘I’m nothing, unworthy; don’t look at me’ attitude.
You’re one of the Chosen. God has set His favor on you. Live in it today with thanksgiving, humbled by His grace, and fed by His goodness!

 

Warriors of love, empowered by the Spirit, we defeat the powers of hell and extend the borders of the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ!

_________________

Do you hear them coming brother,
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments,
Blood washed garments pure and white?

Do you hear the stirring anthems
Filling all the earth and sky?
‘Tis a grand, victorious army,
Lift its banner up on high!

‘Tis a glorious church,
Without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb;
‘Tis a glorious church,
Without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Wave the banner, shout His praises,
For our victory is nigh!
We shall join our conqu’ring Savior,
We shall reign with Him on high!

A Glorious Church
Hudson, Ralph E. © Public Domain

Steady on!

ImageEvery so often a picture appears in the local newspaper featuring a couple that married for 50 or 60 years. I look at it and quietly congratulate them. 
Last week I spent a couple of days at a retreat led by a man who has served the Lord and His Church for 50 years! In that time, he was pastor of just 4 congregations, serving one for 21 years.  I was inspired. 
A friend on Facebook posted a picture of his car that has a little over 300,000 miles on it and he’s still driving it to work every day. These examples speak to me about an often undervalued quality of character: steadfastness.

 Peter wrote to Christians who are in difficult, testing circumstances with a promise of the Spirit.  He does not offer to release us from trials!  He gives us strength to endure them. “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10, NIV)  He uses 3 words to make his point – ‘strong, firm, steadfast!’   Our Lord desires to make us solid on whom He can depend. 

 We must not confuse steadfastness with stubbornness. I know a few stubborn people who refuse to say, “I was wrong” or “It’s time to adapt.” They are stuck in a certain era, or they have confused their own prejudice with principle, or perhaps they are so fearful of change that they have retreated into a fortress from which they cannot be dislodged. This is not the kind of steadfast the Spirit desires in us.

 The Lord looks for people who will stand up under pressure, resist temptation, keep their focus, and finish well. They are not quitters. They do not dabble in this, then that. They will not chase fads or seek an easy place. They show up on time, prepared, and stay ‘til the job is done.  Their attitude is like that of the unofficial motto of the US Postal service: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  (This quote from Herodotus, 503 BC, who spoke of the couriers in the Persian empire and it is chiseled on the face of a New York City post office)  

 We love to romanticize the perseverance of those who finish well.  Truthfully, steadfastness is never easy.  50th wedding anniversaries are celebrated by real people who reject temptation, who learn how to deal with conflict, and who know the value of saying, “I’m sorry.”  Those who serve in Christian ministry for 50 years don’t leap from excitement to success to affirmation.  They “preach the Word …in season and out of season; …with great patience” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV) all the while keeping their eyes on the eternal prize of their high calling.

 Are you steadfast? Are you tempted to quit today?
Are you prepared to finish what you start, stick with that project as you adapt to new demands, willing to nurture relationships even when they are hard? 

Pray for faith to live in the promise of the Spirit and finish well.

 Here’s a word from the Word.  Take note of the middle part that describes the way in which the steadfast person is prospered.

 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers
.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.” (
Psalm 1, NIV)

___________

One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

Higher than the mountains that I face,

Stronger than the power of the grave,

Constant in the trial and the change,

One thing remains,

One thing remains!

 

Your love, Your love, Your love will never change.

 

Your love never fails,

It never gives up,

Never runs out on me!

Your love.

 

On and on and on and on it goes,

It overwhelms and satisfies my soul,

And I never ever have to be afraid,

One thing remains,

One thing remains!

 

In death, in life, I’m confident and

Cover’d by the power of Your great love.

My debt is paid.  There’s nothing that

Can separate my heart, from Your great love.

 

Brian Johnson | Christa Black Gifford | Jeremy Riddle

© 2010 Bethel Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing)

ChristaJoy Music Publishing (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing)

Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)

CCLI License # 810055

Times and Seasons

SeasonsChange
Here in the Northeast part of these United States we are ready for Springtime! It’s been an epic winter, and not in the good sense. Tons of snow and ice, bitter cold, expensive and extensive damage will make this one stick in memory for a long time. But, the warmth will come.  In a couple of months the ice will be gone, the earth will green.  My life parallels the cycle of seasons.  There are times of sorrow, followed by days of joy. There are times of success and times of failure. There are arrivals and departures.

Our church will experience a departure this week. Eric came to us almost 4 years ago, new to ministry, full of optimism, ready for change.  He departs with a new degree, a promise of ordination, a wife, and hopefully, a heart and head full of memories. He leaves behind students who were taught and changed by his ministry and in the outreach that he spear-headed in the town. Watching his departure to a new call unfold, I noted that most are accepting that it is ‘the time,’ like the coming of a new season.  We enjoyed what Eric brought our way and now it is time for all of us to “grow” on seeing an end as a beginning. This is a lesson in life.

At the Pastor’s retreat that I attended this week the speaker, Gordon MacDonald, who is 74 years of age and fresh in his thinking, urged us to think of our lives as a four lap race. The first 20 years we get ready, developing character, learning from others.  The next 20 years we work at assembling skills, discovering strengths, growing into maturity.  From 40 to 60 we are equipped to make our maximum contribution to the world using our experience, resources, and positions in the structures of business and society. The final lap from 60 to 80 is not, as many think, a time to retire. It’s a season of influence.  As we move out of organizational positions we have the time for extended conversations, the time to come alongside people to offer encouragement and affirmation, and the opportunity to build lives through wisdom. What a way to see life – a natural flow, a planned progression, God’s plan and purpose in each season.

Unlike the inevitable flow of  winter into spring, our lives can get derailed. We can resist change. We can slip into sin and hinder progress. So, Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, tells us that focus and discipline are necessary. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV)  The language seems harsh at first. “I beat my body,” he writes.  I wrestle into submission those impulses that would sideline me in the race.  How many have disqualified themselves by giving into temptation, by loving leisure, or by losing sight of the finish line?  God help us to match the power of His Spirit and steely determination so that we will run the race well.

Where are you in the flow of time?
Are you moving with God’s seasons, making the most of each time?
Are you aware of time’s passing, but ready to respond to the call of the Spirit today?

Our word from the Word urges us to leave and look, to forget and to anticipate.  Read it with a prayer to finish well, both in the present season and in life itself.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, …
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. …

I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (Philippians 3:10-4:1, NIV)

Thank you Lord for the lessons of yesterday,

the opportunities of today, and

the promise of tomorrow.

Help us to make the most of Today,

even as we look and listen for Your call to move onward.

In Jesus’ Name.

Amen

I’m too tired

ImageThe phone rang just as I was settling down for the cold wintry evening.  The voice on the other end expressed a need, one that could not wait. Could I just say no? Would I overcome my weariness and go?  God does not always schedule opportunities for doing His work within our work schedule or when we find it convenient. 

 Jesus’ disciples had just returned from a missions trip. Mark says that “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:12-13, NIV)  It is not a stretch to imagine that they were both pumped up with excitement and exhausted by their work. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:30-32, NIV)  It looks like they are going to have time to regroup, to debrief. Every wise Christian will step back regularly for renewal.

 On the way to the ‘solitary place,’ they anticipated having Jesus’ attention.  When they arrived, they found that word got out they were coming.  A huge crowd waited. Jesus’ love, His sense of the peoples’ deep spiritual need; “they were like sheep without a shepherd,” caused Him to spend the day teaching them.  As evening approached the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place and it’s already very late. Send the people away.” (Mark 6:35-36, NIV)  They were tired, done for the day. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?  But. . .

 Jesus has another plan that none of them saw coming. He says, “Feed them!”  There were 5000 men, plus women and children, there.  After arguing with Him about the lack of resources, the cost of such an effort, they took on the challenge.  That evening, they participated in an amazing miracle, one that revealed who Jesus was and is – God in flesh, the Bread of Life. Five loaves of bread and two fish multiplied in their hands and when supper was over everybody was satisfied. Just to make the point of His sufficiency, Jesus let them see 12 baskets of left-overs gathered!

 If God, the Holy Spirit, asks us to step up when we think it’s time to lie down, we can anticipate that He will provide the energy and resources needed to finish the work. The point is not to be driven by need. That will surely cause us to burn out.  Nor can we simply say, “I’m too tired,” and ignore inconvenient requests.  The saying is true:  “Where God guides, He provides.”  

 Will you and I discover the joy being part of His plan by responding with ready obedience?  And, by the way, on that wintry evening, I did get up and go. God, the Spirit, created an opportunity to do His work in a way that proved rewarding and fulfilling and my weariness was forgotten in that moment.

 Here is a word from the Word.  May it describe our attitude toward our Lord.

“I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help.
Like servants, alert to their master’s commands,
like a maiden attending her lady,
We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath,
awaiting your word of mercy.
Mercy, God, mercy!”

(Psalm 123:1-3, The Message)

__________________

 

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit!
His grace has no measure!
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

 When we have exhausted our store of endurance.
When our strength has failed
‘Ere the day is half done.
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources.
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

Annie Johnson Flint | Hubert Mitchell
© Words: Public Domain

 

Burnt out?

ImageA catch phrase that I heard often as a young preacher was ‘I’d rather burn out for God than rust out.’  The intent was laudable, urging diligence in a cause of paramount importance. Souls needed to be rescued. Suffering people needed healing. Children had to be taught, disciples made. I internalized that idea without much critical thought.  However, the truth is that the choice between ‘burnout’ and ‘rust out’ is a false one.  
 
God orders our live with cycles of work and rest. He teaches us from His own creative work. We learn that “on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2).  Even the Almighty took time to rest!

 

What does burnout look like?  It shows in resentment, in cynicism, in feelings of helplessness. Burnt out people are overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities. Everybody has days when multiple demands overload their schedule, when come to the end of day exhausted. Burnout is different!  A person who is suffering this way starts the day exhausted. While he may drive himself to work, his productivity is diminished, motivation derived from passion lost to duty.

 

Christians will almost certainly suffer from ‘burnout’ when they adopt a standard of perfection!  If he feels that he can never ‘be enough’  he is at high risk. The call of Christ to a holy life of devotion is a worthy one and, to borrow Oswald Chamber’s memorable phrase, requires ‘my utmost for His highest.’  

 

However, experiencing Christ is never just about things we do.  If the focus of our faith devolves to counting hours spent in prayer, chapters read in our Bible, Sundays spent in church, or time invested in ministry work – burnout is nearly inevitable. We will become one of those drudges who occupy church pews, joyless, hanging on to God knows what, to stay out of Hell.  Christians must pray, take in Scripture truth, worship, and serve. These things prove nothing about worth or even devotion.  They are a means not an end. Jesus wants us to know Him even as we serve Him.

 

God calls us out of isolation and into His Church, into loving relationships. Why? Because deep, intimate, supportive friends are a primary defense against burnout! Spend a couple of hours at a table with people who know you, who listen to your stories, who make you laugh, and you will feel renewed. Share a passion for some project with 3 or 4 other like-minded Christians and you will multiply your effectiveness and find joy in the journey! 

 

Practice God’s own ‘Sabbath’ principle faithfully. (Careful, we are incurably religious and we can turn even this gift into a rule and a curse.)  Genesis says,God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 1:31 -2:3, NIV)  

 

Reflect! See what’s done.  
Rest! Break the drive of endless demands and rest.  Christians never stop‘being’ but they must take a break from ‘doing.’

 

In the interest of authenticity, I must confess that I have far too often allowed myself to be driven by the work of ministry. (Thank you for praying for me to be wiser.) Only recently have I started to grasp the very real danger of hurting the very people I serve if I burn out.  

 

Let’s learn how to pursue Him with passionate diligence, renewed by days of rest, reflecting on the journey with joy.  Jesus calls us to ‘life to the full,’ promises us joy.  Meditate on this word from the Word and see what the Spirit is saying to you today. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)  Eugene Peterson offers this commentary on that passage – “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

 

Now that sounds like a life I want to live. How about you?

________

 

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

 

You call me out upon the waters,

The great unknown where feet may fail.

And there I find You in the mystery,

In oceans deep my faith will stand.

 

And I will call upon Your name,

And keep my eyes above the waves,

When oceans rise.

My soul will rest in Your embrace,

For I am Yours and You are mine.

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters,

Your sov’reign hand will be my guide.

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me,

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.

 

Oh and You are mine!

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Saviour.

 

I will call upon Your name,

Keep my eyes above the waves.

My soul will rest in Your embrace,

I am Yours and You are mine.

 

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm

© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Listen to the song

Wealth-building

ImageSunday was a day full of activities- prayer, preaching, people, and yes, problems!  In the afternoon, I found out that an entry porch at one of our church’s buildings had collapsed when heavy snow pulled it down.  Parking lots were icy despite $’s (lots) spent to clear them.  Despite all these things, as my day came to close about 8 PM, while I was driving to my home, I thought about the dozens of interactions with others that brought joy. I reviewed the list of faithful servants who are committed to the work of God’s kingdom. In that moment, an old song echoed through my mind.  How rich I am since Jesus came my way, redeemed my soul and turned my night to day. How very rich I am!”  A summary of my financial net worth wouldn’t qualify me as a wealthy man. But I am rich!

God has allowed me to know His grace, repeatedly, during my life.  He has used me, a flawed man, to pour His grace into the lives of others, often through my scars, marks left where He has healed me. He blesses me to love and be loved by many – in my family, in the church I serve, and in this world. Yes, I am a rich man! “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NKJV) I am a son of God and my Father has written me into His will, making me an heir of incredible wealth. I exult in this great wealth. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV)

I encourage you to include ALL of your wealth when you’re doing an inventory of life.  My bank accounts are not the sum of my wealth. Only when I look count my blessings do I see my true wealth.  The invisible riches of my inheritance in Christ changes the bottom line on the balance sheet of life considerably.

What kind of wealth are you striving for? Where is your treasure?  Are you measuring your wealth by the amount of resources you are able to keep in store in a 401(k) or by the performance of your financial portfolio?  Or are you committing to building true wealth? There is nothing inherently wrong with material wealth, but the moment will come when the things of this world are left behind. Only the treasure stored in Heaven- through service, through generous giving, through loving others – will figure into the balance sheet then.  Be a real wealth-builder, as Jesus counsels. “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV)

Here’s a word from the Word to take along with you today. Think it over – maybe even jot it on a piece of paper – and let the Spirit guide you in applying it to your life
“True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.”
(Proverbs 22:4, NLT)
______________________________

How Rich Am I

How rich I am since Jesus came my way,
Redeemed my soul and turned my night to day.
How very rich, how very rich I am!

Such peace and joy I never knew before.
And countless blessings from His boundless store.
How very rich, how very rich I am!

There’s a greater glory in a sunset,
A brighter twinkle in a star,
There’s much more promise in a rainbow,
More music in a singing bird by far;
All things have changed my eyes once blind can see,
The whole wide world is now a symphony,
And with all this, heav’n is my destiny,
How rich I am!

Author: Peterson, John W.Copyright: 1956.
Renewed 1984 John W. Peterson Music Company
CCLI License No. 810055

Just an object, without a name?

dehumanRecent encounters with government agencies made me know, first-hand, the many ways our society turns us into nameless, faceless objects.  Someone else was ‘in control’ of my life and that they cared little, if at all, about me.  From that experienced I developed real fear, a sense of helplessness, that I cannot recall ever feeling in the same in my entire lifetime.  I thought back to times when I did prison outreach work and what some of those men and women told me about being trapped and afraid.  They were not Jim Smith or Jane Jones to the system. They were a case or a number, their identity ripped away. Now, I ‘got it.’ It’s so much easier to deal with things than it is with people!  That’s why we depersonalize others before we exploit them.

Are you feeling like a number?
Does it seem to you that no one really cares if you exist?

Mark tells us a story about Jesus’ love for a person who was invisible to the world.  She had an “issue of blood,” (KJV) the Bible says. This means she bled constantly as if her menstrual period never stopped. “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (Mark 5:26, NIV)  Chronic illness, left broke by those who could not help – that’s terrible. Left unsaid is that she was ritually unclean, isolated from general society, unable to attend synagogue, making others who risked contact with her ritually unclean as well!  Complicating matters, generally those who suffered as she did were thought to be under the judgment of God, receiving what they deserved.

One day, she took a huge risk. She heard about a healer named Jesus, that He was coming to her town. “She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.” (The Message. Mark 5:27)

But Jesus knew she needed more than physical healing. Her heart was broken and so He stopped and asked, “Who touched me?”  His disciples chided Him for the ridiculous question. “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (Mark 5:31, NIV)  The woman, who was trembling with fear Mark says, emerged from the shadows and identified herself.  Tenderly, lovingly, Jesus finishes her healing! How?  She expects a rebuke from Him for making Him unclean.  She’s used to being an object but instead He gives her dignity. “Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”  (Mark 5:34, The Message)  Daughter! It’s a relational word. She’s not just ‘woman.’  She’s not just ‘unclean.’ She’s a daughter of God, a person who matters enough that the Master will look her in the eyes and call her His own!

Deep emotion wells up in me as I read that and, by faith, know that He knows MY name, too.  In a world of billions of people, where I am often an object or useful only for my work, He loves ME. And, Christian friend, He loves YOU.  Ask Him to heal you.  Take a step of faith to present yourself, as you are, to Him.  My prayer is that the quiet voice of the Spirit will answer with the revelation that He knows YOU.

Here’s the word from the Word. “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7, NLT)

___________

 

 

(Listen to the song)

                                                                                                                                                             Love Me              

 

He cries in the corner where nobody sees,

He’s the kid with the story no one would believe.

He prays every night, “Dear God, won’t You please,

Could You send someone here who will love me?”

 

Her office is shrinking a little each day,

She’s the woman whose husband has run away.

She’ll go to the gym after working today,

Maybe if she was thinner,

Then he would’ve stayed,

And she says…

 

“Who will love me for me,

Not for what I have done,

Or what I will become?

‘Cause nobody has shown me what love

What love really means.”

 

He’s waiting to die, as he sits all alone.
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done.
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul,
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home.”

 

Then he heard a voice somewhere,

Deep inside and it said,

“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied,

I have watched you suffer all of your life,

And now that you’ll listen I’ll tell you that I…”

 

I will love you for you,

Not for what you have done,

Or what you will become.

I will love you for you,

I will give you the love,

The love that you never knew.

David Heller | JJ Heller

© 2006 Stone Table Records –
CCLI License # 810055