Who tells you the truth?

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success. Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:22-23,NLT) I thank the Lord for my wife’s good sense. Too many times to count she has provided me with a perspective that helps me find the right balance, or she has wisely steered me away from some impetuous, regrettable action. In our church, I am doubly thankful for our leadership team, men and women who bring wisdom to our planning and programs.

ImageKing David enjoyed the counsel of good friends. He nicknamed his inner circle, “the Mighty Men.” The Bible says “David’s Mighty Men, …linked arms with him as he took up his kingship…” (1 Chronicles 11:10, The Message)   They were his allies, offering encouragement, surrounding him with support.  

In the book of the Acts which tells us the stories of the first generation of the Church. When they faced thorny issues councils were called and God’s wisdom emerged. Peter and Paul were decisive and bold leaders, but they were also willing to let God speak to them through the counsel of from the Body. Sometimes the debate was sharp and words pointed! Feelings got hurt, too. But, with the help of the Spirit, those early church leaders kept their eyes on the goal and built Christ’s Kingdom, not their own!

Who are your ‘mighty men?’
Are there people in your life that you have invited to speak truthfully to you, no matter the situation?
Are you a “Lone Ranger” trying to live self-sufficiently?

Jesus calls us into the community of the Church. That means more than coming together for worship on Sunday morning. He asks us to lay down our ego, to ‘die to self,’ and to become servants to one another. In obedience, we gain so much. Our society loves radical individualism. We are quick to discard relationships with those who challenge us, who offer counsel that does not soothe us, or seem to affirm us.   Let’s take that descriptive line from the experience of the Mighty Men and ‘link arms!’ Let’s go beyond romantic notions of fellowship that only values the ‘warm fuzzies’ that come from the good times of fun and laughter, to build a real team that builds our character, that calls the highest and best from us in the cause of Christ.

Take this word from the Word with you today. Ask God, the Spirit, to teach you how to build a circle of counselors in your life.

“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.
And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other.But how can one be warm alone?

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)

 (CoffeeBreak will not go out next week. I’ll be taking a break. See you in June!)

So Sleepy . . .

ImageAround 2 in the afternoon I get so sleepy. Concentration eludes me, eyelids heavy. If I am on the road, I know I am a hazard to myself and others. Sometimes I find a place to park and take a 10 minute long power nap. Do you have a midday lull in energy, too?

Jesus was in the struggle of His life! In the garden, He was readying Himself for the Cross. The terrible separation from His Father when He took our sins on Himself loomed just ahead. The suffering of crucifixion was waiting. He cried in horror and pain, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mark 14:36, NLT) Not wanting to be alone, He took Peter, James, and John with him and asked them to pray. Instead, they fell asleep! Overcome by emotion and stress, worn out by the activities of the day, they drifted off. Jesus turned from His prayer with a warning: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (Mark 14:38-40, NIV) In the days ahead they would be tested. They would taste fear, find themselves confused, and become disillusioned.

Failure was not just possible, it was likely. “Pray, men! Get in touch with God and stay strong!” But, they slept! And they failed. Every one of the disciples ran off into the darkness except Peter. He stayed with Jesus, but hours later was weeping bitter tears of regret when the crowing rooster reminded him of Jesus’ warning that he, too, would deny His Lord.

 Life might have been so different for these men if they had entered deeply into prayer with Jesus that night. But, sadly, they did not.

 “Watch and pray!” is still Jesus’ call to us. He knows that our heart’s best intentions can be overcome by drowsiness, by neglect. If we are prayerful, often with Christ and filled with the Spirit, we will be energized from the inside out, wide awake, and ready for the challenges that will come our way. There is an amazing power that is found in real prayer. I am not talking about the half-focused prayers we sometimes offer up or the prayers that are a habit before meals or bedtime. The prayer that empowers is that which draws us into the heart of God, that is intense, honest, and deep! In that kind of praying the Spirit reveals the mind of God to us. He lets us ‘see’ from heaven’s perspective. And, in those moments, ‘the things of earth grow strangely dim in the Light of His glory and grace.’

 Christian, are you awake, alert, and prayed up?
Or, are you a sleepy, drowsy Christian, drifting near danger without being aware of the perils of temptation?

 Here’s a word from the Word. Make it a call to prayer today, especially when you feel so sleepy spiritually.

“You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars.
He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would.

About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart.

It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this?

You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others.

Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8, The Message)

_____________

Father in heaven, we are sometimes lulled into complacency,

Overtaken by the urgent so that we ignore the important.

Our lives are packed with activity and responsibility; and yes,

We grow weary.

Keep us alert to Your Presence.
Holy Spirit, draw us from the rat race and teach us to listen.

And when we hear Your call strengthen us to answer,
“Yes, Lord. I’ll do what You want me to do.”

May Jesus Christ be honored by our thoughts, words, and actions.

We pray in His holy Name. Amen.

Tears by the bucket

I am no stranger to sorrow. Pastors spend a lot of time in the presence of people who are going through dark valleys. But, this time ‘round the sorrow is mine. “You have fed us with sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.” (Psalm 80:5, NLT) “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.” (Psalm 42:3-6, NIV)

I once read those kind of Psalms as beautiful poetry. Now, they are prayers, mine! With great hope I cry out, “Restore our fortunes, O LORD… Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:4-5, NIV) It is not despair, for I am not without hope. It is deep sorrow, pain that is unyielding. Oh, I know I am not alone. I empathize with the pain of those with broken hearts much more these days. I weep for those who are refugees, who live with abuse, who suffer and I pray!

ImageThis broken world is full of suffering. Oh, I know the theology that explains the Fall: that Adam sub-let the Creation to evil with his disobedience. Still, I wonder why. There are no answers, right now. But, I know that God sent His Son Jesus to save us- from our sins and from the destiny of destruction. In that salvation there is a wonderful, wonderful promise. Yes, when His kingdom comes, tears will dry. When the struggle’s over, God will draw us close and dry our tears!  “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV)

 Are you crying? Is your heart broken? Don’t rush about trying to hide from the pain in activity. Don’t try to numb your soul by turning up the noise or burying yourself in drink or diversions. I hear you, “But why not, Jerry?” Because those things are no balm for the soul. Instead, wait on God. Sit quietly. Let tears flow. Accept the love of friend and family, even from those who repeat words that grate on you, even from those who have never hurt in the way that you do. Pray for protection from cynicism that turns people into ugly, self-absorbed, and mean being! Suffering can, if we allow it, make us into beautiful people; full of grace, tender, and with an other-worldly grip on eternity.

And remember … “He will wipe every tear” from our eyes. Gordon Jensen wrote a song with this memorable line, “God weeps along with man and takes him by the hand, tears are a language God understands.”   Are the tears ready to fall today?  Has the disappointment, the pain, the unrelenting struggle with the curse of sin nearly broken you in two?

Go ahead and cry. Find a place alone with Him and let the tears that fall become a wordless prayer for renewal of hope, for healing, for forgiveness.  Then, with courage, offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving even as you pray for the grace to hold onto the hope that He will someday wipe every tear, and even the memory of those things which make you cry, from your eyes forever.

_______________

 

There is coming a day

When no heartaches shall come,

No more clouds in the sky,

No more tears to dim the eye.

All is peace forevermore

On that happy, golden shore.

What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

What a day that will be

When my Jesus I shall see,

When I look upon His face,

The One who saved me by His grace.

When He takes me by the hand,

And leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

There’ll be no sorrow there,

No more burdens to bear,

No more sickness, no pain,

No more parting over there.

And forever I will be

With the One who died for me.

What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

What A Day That Will Be

 

Hill, Jim

© 1955. Renewed 1983 Ben Speer Music (Admin. by Integrated Copyright Group, Inc.)

CCLI License No. 810055

Just one terrible mistake

Image5 years ago, I was speaking one Sunday morning on the subject of loving others  whole-heartedly and about some of the situations that complicate our relationships. Then, it happened.

I spoke three words and saw the eyes of a woman in front of me widen as she thought of an entirely different image than I was reaching for! Then I heard the quiet laughter spread across the church. The unintended meaning of what I had just said came into my mind. My face grew red with embarrassment! It was a gaffe and a half. No, I won’t repeat here.  Every now and then, someone is kind enough to say those three words, just to remind me.  35 minutes of preaching and most people remember just three words!

Your life can be defined by a single decision, a mistake, a choice made in haste or for ignoble reasons. That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?  My little mistake only ruined a single sermon. The mistakes of some ruin their lives.  President Richard M. Nixon’s entire political career is eclipsed by a single word, “Watergate.” A stupid decision to cover up a crime of little significance destroyed him and His Presidency.   What history reveals to us about that man, however, is a sobering lesson for us all.  In reality, Watergate revealed the arrogance and paranoia that ran wide and deep in the Nixon administration.  If a younger Nixon had overcome his sense of inferiority and defeated his fears, there would have been no conspiracy, no impeachment, no Watergate.

Often that ‘single mistake’ that defines somebody’s life is really the moment when a deep flaw finally surfaces. Infidelity starts with a wandering eye.  Embezzling company funds is preceded by small dishonesty. Being caught in a major lie is the result of telling little lies along the way.  More positively, a holy life on the outside starts with a transformed heart, filled with the Spirit!

Jesus made it easy to understand: “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:43-45, NLT)

Are you living wisely, disciple?
Are you giving the Spirit access to your heart and mind so that He can bring about health and wholeness in your thoughts and plans?

Christians believe in redemption!  No one is defined, in God’s eyes by a singular sin. The Bible is filled with stories of failed men and women who found forgiveness, new hearts, and fresh starts.  David, the poet–king of Israel, became a  notorious sinner in mid-life. When the ugly facts of his adultery, treachery, and murder by proxy were exposed, he turned to God with a broken heart, the enormity of sin weighing heavily on him. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. … Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12, NIV)  In the New Testament, we meet a hateful man, a religious zealot named Saul who murdered in God’s name until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.  Grace changed him and he changed his world!  Yes, you know him as St. Paul!

John reminds us that restoration requires confession, owning our sins without excuse. “If we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus.” (1 John 1:9-2:1, The Message)  That promises makes me want to shout-  Hallelujah!  My past need not define my future because of God’s great love and mercy.  Have you knelt before the Cross of Christ Jesus for renewal?

I’ll have to live with the jokes about my gaffe for the rest of my tenure as pastor at Faith Discovery! It was a teaching moment that has made me much more vigilant in my choice of words.

Disciple, walk near to the Lord. Respond quickly to the Spirit’s gentle prompts. He will guide and guard.  And, should you fall, turn back quickly. He forgives and restores.
“Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge! You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.”
(Matthew 6:9-13, The Message)

____________

 

Alas, and did my Savior bleed,

And did my Sov’reign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For sinners such as I?

 

Was it for crimes that I have done

He groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown,

And love beyond degree!

 

But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe.

Here Lord, I give myself away,

‘Tis all that I can do.

 

At the cross, at the cross,

Where I first saw the light;

And the burden of my heart rolled away.

It was there by faith I received my sight,

And now I am happy all the day!

 

Alas And Did My Saviour Bleed (Hudson)

 

Isaac Watts | Ralph E. Hudson

© Words: Public Domain

Church? Who Needs It?

Sam was a recluse. He had been married, had a family, and been active in his church.  Around the age of 50, he abandoned family, friends, and church to live in a little cabin in the woods. He emerged to deliver a load of firewood and buy groceries then retreated to solitude. In the years that I knew him, Sam’s personal hygiene became non-existent. He wore the same filthy clothing, did not bath or shave. He grew increasingly delusional gripped by conspiracy theories about the world from which he had withdrawn. His loneliness only increased his problems. What a tragic life. When he died only a few of us were there to remember him and even those memories were just regrets about what might have been.

ImageGod designed us to live with people.  Sure, we get fed up with people, from time to time, don’t we?  When someone we love hurts or disappoints us we are tempted to withdraw, aren’t we? When our church goes through a tough time, leaders changing, programs we loved let go, we may seriously consider looking for another one. When being around people feels like too much work, we could conclude we can just live without them, like Sam did. But, we must not! Rubbing up against all the irregular edges of the ordinary folk who jostle you through life is God’s way of polishing you, making you a better person- really.

There’s a growing trend among followers of Christ to abandon the church, to go solo with their faith. I understand why that choice could be attractive.

  • Some Christians live fraudulently, laying claims to a life that they never actually live.
  • Decisions are sometimes made by church leadership with which we disagree.
  • Sometimes pastors get caught up in building their kingdom, not His, and people think, ‘why am I here?’ 
  • One of my issues is that some Christians are just plain mean! Quick to point out the sins and flaws in others, they won’t lift a hand to offer help, to part of a solution. They have been ‘saved’ for so long, they lack any empathy for the plight of those that the Bible reminds us are ‘slaves to sin.

Too many Christians are saying, “Church? Who needs it?”  My answer, short and sweet, is – WE ALL DO! The Church, which in the New Testament is called the ‘ekklesia,’  literally – the called out ones– is God’s design for His people. She’s not perfect and never will be until her Lord returns to lead her. Michael Spencer, author of Mere Churchianity, writes: “The life of faith involves both time alone and togetherness. Jesus calls us as individuals. The decision to follow Him is an individual decision and commitment. But the life of a Jesus-follower involves both time spent in solitude with God and life in a community of faith. This is the balance we are seeking in Jesus-shaped spirituality.”

Note how the Word defines the ‘church.’ “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, NIV)  The church is not the building in which we gather.  We, the ones who are called by God and who respond with faith to follow Jesus, are the church. Our gifts complement those of others. Our combined efforts multiply results. Our shared burdens are lighter, our joys amplified!

My late father was fond of saying, “The church is a lot like the ark in the flood. It stinks inside, but it’s the only thing afloat.” An authentic community of people who are following Jesus will will cry as often as they rejoice.  They will have conflicts but will allow the grace of God and the spirit of forgiveness to keep them together. They will love those who fall and fail back to spiritual vitality instead of kicking them out into the street. Yes, and each church will hopefully recognize that she is part of the Church and that She is the Bride of Christ.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:20-22, NIV)

See you in church!

Invested in Hope?

ImageI invest money in an account that has existed since I was about 30. When I send those funds off to my 403 (b) account, they ‘disappear.’ Would I enjoy hanging onto those dollars right now? Sure. But, I keep on sending funds there each month as I have done for many years. Why? Because I can ‘see’ a future when I will no longer produce an income. I am trying to prudently prepare for an era that still is over the horizon of time for me.

There are two quite similar phrases that have very different meanings. We are urged to ‘live in the moment,’ to enjoy this day and the opportunities that present themselves. We cannot re-live yesterday. Tomorrow does not yet belong to us. Some suggest that we ‘live for the moment.’ That is a recipe for disastrous decisions. People who forget that there is a tomorrow become reckless and/or foolish. Jesus told a parable of a man who enjoyed a windfall of prosperity. He forgot about God and eternity, living for the moment. He decided to Take life easy; to eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12)

Christian, does an active hope of Heaven shape your choices today, or are you foolishly living for the moment? Jesus was willing to endure the Cross because of the ”joy that was before Him,” the promise of Resurrection and restoration to the Father’s Presence. Faith is the line that connects our decisions in the present us to the anchor of God’s promise of eternal life! Hebrews 11, the Bible’s Hall of Faith, reveals the secret that kept people like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and Rahab living in a way that pleased God. “Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16, The Message)

The things we hope for in this present life, the plans we make with the best intentions, may be frustrated by circumstances over which we have no control. But, the hope of Heaven is secure and nothing can keep us from that which He has prepared for us. Do you want to live most wisely today? Then, understand God’s eternal promise! “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:20-21, NLT)

____________

 

In Christ Alone

 

In Christ alone, my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song.

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.

My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ, I stand!

 

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the power of Christ in me.

From life’s first cry, to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny!

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand.

‘Till He returns or calls me home.

Here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand!

 

Keith Getty | Stuart Townend

© 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Off the Interstate Highway?

Bev and I mused about the ways in which our lives are changing as a result of her illness. We are working toward understanding that life will never be what it was, that we are in a time of transition, and that a new future will open us as we accept each day from the Lord.  It’s so much easier to write those words than it is to live them! I want to race through these hard days. I want to find a way to make it go away, but God and His grace are found in the process.

ImageGordon MacDonald says that God sends ‘disruptive moments.’  They allow Him to reclaim our attention creating new ways for us to experience His purposes fully. He takes the American road system as a parable! The Interstate highways let us drive 70 miles per hour, traveling with efficiency.  Stoplights on an interstate highway? No way!  Curves are long and sweeping so as not to slow traffic.  For the sake of ‘fast’ all the towns that make up America are by-passed.

If you want to experience these United States, you have to travel  on secondary roads.  “They wind through small towns and villages … you see things on them, even though it takes more time and caution to travel them.  Secondary roads do not promise unhindered passage. Sometimes they are poorly maintained.  … Each town has one police officer with a radar unit designed to raise revenue. … Be prepared for the inevitable slow-moving vehicle that keeps you crawling along for miles in no-passing zones. … There are many potential disruptions along the way.”  (The Life God Blesses)

Most of my life I lived in the way of the Interstate Highway. I was focused on efficiency in reaching goals that precluded stops to experience people and places to their fullest. Perhaps I am poorer having missed the opportunities that might have emerged in a slow conversation over a cup of coffee that was not scheduled on my full agenda! God, in His infinite wisdom, has detoured me onto a secondary road at the present. Some destinations and dreams are now out of reach as the trip will be slower. I pray for faith to accept that this new normal will teach me how to live a richer, fuller life, more accessible to others, and loving God and people in better ways.

Are you open to the Lord’s ‘disruptive moments?’
Can you allow for the fact that your recent job loss may be His call to a new way of life along lesser traveled paths of deeper intimacy with Him?
Could it be that what you have resisted so ferociously is actually His persistent urging to a life more centered on His Way?
That painful situation you have resented so bitterly could be an invitation to greater faith and to a new dream.

Here’s the word from the Word. May it bless you with His peace this day.  Paul experienced disruption and pain. The Spirit showed him the purpose.  “To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.  Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT)

____________________

Blessings

 

We pray for blessings,

We pray for peace, comfort for family,

Protection while we sleep.

We pray for healing, for prosperity,

We pray for Your mighty hand

To ease our suffering.

And all the while You hear each spoken need,

Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.

 

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights,

Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life

Are Your mercies in disguise?

 

We pray for wisdom,

Your voice to hear.

We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.

We doubt Your goodness,

We doubt Your love,

As if ev’ry promise from Your Word is not enough.

And all the while You hear each desp’rate plea,

And long that we’d have faith to believe.

 

When friends betray us,

When darkness seems to win.

We know that pain reminds this heart

That this is not this is not our home.

It’s not our home.

 

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?

What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights,

Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments,

Or the aching of this life,

Is a revealing of a greater thirst,

This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life,

The rain, the storms, the hardest nights,

Are Your mercies in disguise?

 

Laura Story

© 2011 Laura Stories (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Jesus knows!

ImageWhen I bowed my head to pray there was only silence. What could I ask that I had not already asked? No words were able to express the content of my soul, the anguish of heart, that I felt. Ever been in that place, overwhelmed by pain or sorrow?

Job was! The ancient prince, who story is told in one of the oldest books in the Scripture, was laid low by sickness, crushed by tragedies, broken by rejection. As his friends offer their counsel, they insist that he is responsible for some sin that is causing his troubles. They see life as a direct line of cause and effect. The good and just live in God’s blessings without exception, they believe.

Job knows that he has faithfully served God, but he cannot convince his friends. In frustration, he cries out: “God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together. The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.” (Job 9:32-35, NLT)  If only there were a mediator. For us, there is One!

 Christian, we have a Meditator! Jesus knows our humanity. He was fully Man! He now represents us in the Presence of God. “Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6 NLT) When life reduces us to quiet groans and tears, He knows what we feel. “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

We do not need to construct eloquent prayers or persuasive arguments in our prayers. We do not have to try to convince the Almighty to hear us. We have a Mediator and He is well acquainted with our situations. Grieving? He wept. Alone? He prayed in the garden alone. Feeling abandoned by God? He cries out the same. Struggling to find faith to accept the trials of the day? He did, too! Now, exalted in Glory, at the right hand of the Father, He is our advocate. Even if the only words we can find are mumbled cries for mercy, He knows the deeper need. Moreover, He has taken away our guilt and given us confidence to come into God’s Presence. When I pray sometimes I think of Him standing alongside of me. I am shabby, without beauty, but this Lord of Glory puts His arm ‘round my shoulders and says, “Father, meet my brother!” Yes, Christian friend, that is the truth.

 “So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.” (Hebrews 10: 19-23, The Message)

Jesus knows!

_____________

 

Before The Throne Of God Above

 Before the throne of God above,

I have a strong and perfect plea,

A great High Priest whose name is Love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,

My name is written on His heart,

I know that while in heav’n He stands,

No tongue can bid me thence depart;

No tongue can bid me thence depart.

 

When Satan tempts me to despair,

And tells me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there,

Who made an end to all my sin.

Because the sinless Saviour died,

My sinful soul is counted free,

For God the Just is satisfied,

To look on Him and pardon me;

To look on Him and pardon me.

 

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,

My perfect spotless righteousness,

The great unchangeable I Am,

The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself I cannot die,

My soul is purchased with His blood,

My life is hid with Christ on high,

With Christ my Saviour and my God;

With Christ my Saviour and my God.

 

Charitie Lees Bancroft | Vikki Cook

© 1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing (IMI))

CCLI License # 810055

Working with joy?

ImageMost people probably would not put the words ‘joy’ and ‘work’ in the same sentence unless they said something like, “I was full of joy when I left work on Friday.” Do you ever dream about finding a source of income so that the daily responsibilities could be left behind, once and for all? I do not expect much applause for the next couple of lines. Nobody will write to after reading this and say, “Jerry, thanks! That word was just what I needed to get through this time in my life.” But, here goes anyway.

Your work matters to God! Regardless if you’re a laborer, a teacher, a homemaker, or a preacher – God takes an interest in your life. A person known to be a disciple of Christ who goes to work and carries his responsibilities well is a credit to the Kingdom! Other than outright hypocrisy, nothing else brings more disgrace on the Name of Christ than those who fail to do their work with excellence and diligence.

In the Bible we find this encouragement. It was originally addressed to the slaves that had come to Christ but the principle applies to all us who work for others. “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” (Ephesians 6:7-8, NLT) Another passage repeats and emphasizes the same point: “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.” (Colossians 3:22-25, The Message)

Genesis tells us that because of sin, our efforts never produce all the results we desire. The gardens we plant will develop weeds. The strategies we so carefully construct will be frustrated by unforeseen problems. But, still we work, not just to produce an income but, as the Word says, to please God! Our boss will not always reward our effort. Others may claim the credit for the good we do. We might even have to work for lazy supervisors who make us to what they should be doing, but God knows, He sees, and His rewards and commendations are perfectly just. If we have been diligent, we can anticipate standing before our Lord and hearing this: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:20-21, NIV)

Struggling to work with excellence? Finding it difficult to perform at a consistently high level? Let me recommend a book that’s been around a while. It’s not a “Christian” title, but the principles in it are rooted in spiritual truth. Stephen Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. It is simple wisdom that will change your life if you take it to heart. The Christian who weds this wisdom with the powerful encouragement of the Holy Spirit becomes a force for good. Really!

Take a second look at your work. Commit what you do and how you do it to Christ Jesus, prayerfully bringing Him to work with you. Ask Him to help your life in the workplace to honor Him and side effect will be greater joy for you. I know it!
Father, the world in which we live frustrates us.
There is such an emphasis on leisure and pleasure,
There are so many unfair and unjust situations
That we are sometimes tempted to join with the
Complainers, slackers, and minimalists at work.

 Help us to see that our work matters to You.
Teach to work at what we do wholeheartedly, and
Prosper the work of our hands.

We pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Love your story, but . . .

ImagePeople tell a lot of stories. Pull up a chair among friends and listen to the conversation. The words flow from one little story to another.

In a past era, my Sunday nights were spent in church where ‘testimony time’ was standard practice. Christians had the opportunity to tell a story, hopefully one that showed the power of God at work in their lives, a God-sighting in this world. Some were exciting, many were predictable, a few memorable.

A personal story is compelling. However, it is no substitute for the Word of God as we form our convictions about the Truth. What your pastor thinks, what your best friend believes, what your favorite author writes is helpful in shaping your understanding but only the Holy Scripture is “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Can our story give a context to the Scripture’s principles? Yes, and it is good to talk about that! The Bible teaches us that faith is basic to knowing and serving God. That’s a conviction. Learning from others about how they learned to live in faith is valuable.

Make sure you don’t have a second-hand Christianity. It’s not enough to know some good stories about God’s work in the lives of great Christians. Know what God is saying to you. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV)

Can the Bible sometimes be dense and hard to understand? Yes, there are parts that I wrestle still to today after spending 4 decades, day in and day out, studying and reading those words. Are there portions of the Scripture that offend me? Yes, again. But, I approach the Word with humility, letting the Spirit speak to me. Where I am unclear or unsettled, I wait on His revelation, coupled with study, and the correction of the Church’s body of doctrine.

On the other side of that coin, the Scripture is often wonderfully comforting and clearly instructive. With the Psalm writer I exult in God’s Words. “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:8-11, NIV)

So, I love your story, but it is no substitute for the revelation of the Truth given to me in the Holy Word. Let’s be students in the school of the Word, willing to learn, listening carefully, whose lives are rich with the eternal wisdom of

Pray this today …

“God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me— my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments; I love traveling this freeway!

Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.

Affirm your promises to me— promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics— but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways! ” Amen

(Psalm 119:32-40, The Message)