Deposits and Withdrawals

This morning my inbox included an email that announced a deposit to my bank account! It is payday. I like deposits. Another email today notified me that my November mortgage payment would be deducted on Monday!  Here today, gone tomorrow.  That’s life, right?

generous2Some people I know add value, others make withdrawals.  Some enrich us, others deplete us.  Let’s think about that and personalize it.

Will I be a giver or a taker?
Will I make deposits of resources into the lives of those I speak to or will I drain them?
Do I leave people around me richer or poorer?
Givers bring encouragement, support, unity, and prayer. We anticipate meeting with them, don’t we?  Takers complain to us, criticize us, or even shuffle their responsibilities onto our shoulders. When their number shows up on the caller ID, I’m tempted to not answer.

The book of Acts introduces us to a man who was generous.  He was a man who left people so encouraged when he was a part of their lives that they gave him a nickname- Barnabas. Look at his story. “There was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). (Acts 4:36-37, NLT)  He wasn’t eloquent, did not project an air of great competence.  Unlike Paul, he is not known for his teaching. He was an encourager, a real people-person!

When the early church was skeptical about Paul’s new-found faith, Barney stood by him and vouched for the genuineness of his transformation. His great heart clearly made a positive difference wherever he went. One passage tells us that “When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23-25, NLT)

Jude tells Christians to learn to be generous with encouragement. For those who suck the life of others he says: “They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. …These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.” (Jude 12, 16, NLT) Then, he urges us to an entirely different kind of life: “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 20-22, NLT)

So, friend, which will you be today – a giver or a taker?

If we live in God’s love, if we accept grace and mercy from His hand, we can overflow with love, grace, and mercy to others. We never run out because “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, NIV)

Here’s a word from the Word.“One man gives freely yet gains even more,  anotherwithholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:24

 
Lord, as we receive your gifts, let us give them away.  Help us to lift up, to love, to enrich others.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Looking for the Kingdom to Come

We pray, “may your Kingdom come and Your will be done.”  Are those just old, familiar words or do they flow from a real desire? Do we want Christ to be in charge?  Sometimes the frightful state of the world makes me pray with a sigh, “Lord, let Your Kingdom come.”  Sometimes the pile of problems that bring such pain to the people I care about cause me to pray in tears, “Lord, let Your Kingdom come.” Why pray for this?  Because where Christ reigns, there is hope, peace, and joy.

kingdomcomeA long time ago, I accepted the invitation of the Holy Spirit into the family of God.  Christ is my King. In one sense, His Kingdom has come.  Let me quickly qualify that by acknowledging I am far from perfection! Like Paul, I know I am a work in progress. He said,  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV)  He will be your Lord, Savior, and King, too, if you’ll receive His gift of life.

There is another aspect to praying for the coming of His Kingdom.  We anticipate the coming of the Lord!  This Creation, which was sold into sin and suffering by the choice of Adam, will only be made right when the King comes in power.  We do not hope for the coming Kingdom because of a few isolated texts in the Bible. That promise appears again and again. Isaiah looked for the Kingdom of God to come with peace. Ezekiel saw frightful visions of the Kingdom to come.  Daniel stood before the Babylonian emperor and recounted his dream that revealed the empires that would follow to the time of Christ’s birth. (Read the amazing dream – Daniel 2: 31-45)  But, the most amazing part of Daniel’s prophecy is about the Kingdom to come. “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:44-45, NIV)

The hope of the coming of the Lord is often turned into sensationalism and speculation.  Rapture fever distracts too many Christians from living for Christ, right here and right now.  The Blessed Hope of the Church is turned into a silly superstition about escaping from the world.  That’s not what I pray for when I pray for the Kingdom to come.  The Scripture promises a renewal of all things, a final defeat of evil, and the revelation of God’s glory.  This is the Kingdom to come!

Are the headlines about war, poverty, and violence tearing at your soul?
Does the cruelty of sin get you down?
Are you weary, Christian, wanting to be holy but finding yourself failing too often?

Jesus will come. The word from the Word is His promise. “It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking. “And then—then!—they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”  (Luke 21:25-28, The Message)

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Mystery

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity.

Sweet Jesus Christ, my clarity.

 Bread of heaven, broken for me.

Cup of Salvation, held out to drink.

Jesus, mystery!

 

Christ has died, and

Christ is risen,

Christ will come again!

 

Celebrate His death and rising,

Lift your eyes, proclaim His coming!

Celebrate His death and rising,

Lift your eyes, lift your eyes.

 

Sweet Jesus Christ, my sanity.

Charlie Hall

© 2008 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

But God, I am just too miserable to do anything

Elijah’s victory on Mt. Carmel was followed by a terrible depression.  He ran off, alone, into the wilds and complained to the Lord: “Nobody ever comes through for me. I am so lonely.  I’m the only one left here who loves You.”  It was not true, but he believed it. The prophet’s exhaustion created a skewed perspective far from reality.  He was tangled up so tightly in self-pity that he could not even remember the triumph of a few days prior. God was patient with him.  He sent a fresh vision to the prophet, gave him rest, and told him to go find Elisha to help carry the load!  *1 Kings 18

nobodyDo you ever get tangled up in a web of self-pity, feeling like you are the only one going through pain, the only one who struggles, without a real friend, living a life no one else would want to live?

The angst is real and so is the pain.  You long for someone to ‘really understand,’ don’t you?   Here’s the hard truth. The last thing you need is to have someone jump into the pit with you!  As much as you might think it would be good to have all those negative thoughts affirmed by someone who “really cares,” you need to be pulled up and out of that swamp!

John Maxwell writes that ‘a major cause of poor mental health is self-absorption. Selfishness ultimately hurts not only the people around a self-focused person, but also the selfish person himself. …That is the reason that Dr. Karl Menninger (renowned psychiatrist) responded the way he did when someone asked, ‘What would advise a person to do if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on?’ Most people expected him reply, ‘consult a psychiatrist.’ To their astonishment, he said, ‘Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.’” – Failing Forward, Nelson, 2000

The wisest Counselor said – “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9:24-25, NLT)

Gain by giving. Win by losing. Forget yourself, find yourself!  It just isn’t natural! Perhaps not, but, it’s the truth!

Is your life a mess?  For a thousand reasons, it can be.
Sickness comes and stays!
Your spouse gets mean and miserable.
Yesterday’s poor choices about money come collecting today.
A time of high output leaves fatigue that overwhelms.

So what are you going to do?   Run away? Elijah tried that.  Complain? He did that, too.  Many will struggle with the instinct to protect self, to hoard resources, to feed their pain!  Elijah did.  God asked him, “What are you doing here? Go back home!”   It must have been a tough choice for the prophet, but in obedience he found the grace of God and the renewal he needed.  So will you!

The word from the Word  says “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:38, The Message)

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Be Thou My Vision (Slane)

 Be Thou my vision,

O Lord of my heart.

Naught be all else to me

Save that Thou art.

Thou my best thought,

By day or by night,

Waking or sleeping,

Thy presence my light.

 

Be Thou my wisdom,

Be Thou my true Word.

I ever with Thee

And Thou with me Lord.

Thou, my great Father,

I, Thy true son.

Thou in me dwelling,

And I with Thee one.

 

Be Thou my shield

And my sword for the fight.

Be Thou my dignity,

Be Thou my might.

Thou my soul’s shelter,

And Thou my high tow’r.

Raise Thou me heav’nward,

O pow’r of my pow’r.

 

Riches I heed not,

Nor man’s empty praise.

Thou mine inheritance,

Now and always.

Thou and Thou only,

First in my heart!

High King of heaven.

My treasure, Thou art.

 

High King of heaven,

When vict’ry is won,

May I reach heaven’s joys,

O bright heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my own heart,

Whatever befall.

Still be my vision

O Ruler of all.

Eleanor Henrietta Hull | Mary Elizabeth Byrne

© Words: Public Domain

Those kids!

linahradhikaOur church hosted a children’s choir from World Help Ministries on Sunday night.  Little ones from Nepal, the Philippines, Uganda, and Honduras sang with their whole hearts about Jesus. Between songs we were reminded of the poverty, malnutrition, and lack of basic needs that are part of life for so many children around the world.  My eyes were wet with tears and I wondered, “Lord, why do I enjoy so many blessings when others do not have even clean water?”   Sunday evening, Bev and I hosted Rina, a young woman from Nepal, who helps with the children; to Radhika, a 10 year old girl from Nepal, and to Linah, a 9 year old from Uganda.  What joy!  A couple of their friends from the choir joined us for dinner last night and our table rocked with laughter. Did I mention that those kids can eat?

Does the work of groups like World Help, Compassion, or World Vision, matching American sponsors with children in developing nations make any difference? Can $40/month, less than the cost of one dinner out for us, do anything meaningful for a child in Honduras or Nepal?  Yes and yes, again.  These kids (and their chaperone) are living proof. Rina told us about being abandoned by her father, her Mom a single mother with three daughters she could not feed.  World Help came alongside, gave Rina a home, food, medical care, and an education – all on less than $40/month! Today, she is a beautiful healthy young woman, who knows Christ, who has a bright future.

One day Jesus was teaching and ministering when some parents brought their children to Him.  The disciples tried to protect the Lord from this ‘nuisance,’ not seeing the value of those kids!  Jesus’ response is familiar and needs to direct us today!  “One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17, NLT)

Two statements stand out in His words.  “Let the children come to me.” And, “the Kingdom belongs to those who are like these children.”  Jesus loves those kids!  He is looking for the same kind of open earnest love in us that a child shows.  I received a dozen hugs from those little girls yesterday. “Thank you, Uncle, for dinner, for the nice bed, for letting us come to your house.”  Will I come to my Father in heaven with that kind of gratitude, taking this day from Him with joy?

My prayer as I walked in the darkness of the early morning was that my hands would be His hands, my feet His feet, my money His treasure, my life His life!  I want to love those kids and a thousand more here and ‘round the world in His Name.  I pray that my life will inspire them to trust Him.  How about you, Christian?

Here’s the word from the Word. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27, NIV)

Here’s a place to start:  http://worldhelp.net/sponsor-a-child/

____________
Hands And Feet

 I wanna be Your hands,

I wanna be Your feet.

I’ll go where You send me,

I’ll go where You send me!

I’ll be Your hands,

I’ll be Your feet.

I’ll go where You send me,

I’ll go where You send me!

And I’ll try, yeah, I’ll try

To touch the world
like You touched my life,

And I’ll find my way

to be Your hands.

Bob Herdman | Charlie Peacock | Mark Stuart | Tyler Burkum | Will McGinniss

© 1999 Allen Vaughn and Ray Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Andi Beat Goes On Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Like Dad?

fatherI serve as pastor of the congregation that my father served before me for 29 years.  I hear this often – “The older you get, the more you sound like your Dad!” It’s not conscious imitation. DNA and training are probably equally responsible for the resemblance.  Phrases I heard him say find their way into my own conversations. His   The values were caught and taught and are engrained in my life.  I have another Father and I pray to live in His likeness.  How about you?

He is a loving Father, a rich resource.  And, He desires that we, too, live lovingly and generously.  Then, we are like Him.  Isaiah talks about living in the Father’s favor. “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly. Free those who are abused! Share your food with everyone who is hungry; share your home with the poor and homeless. Give clothes to those in need; don’t turn away your relatives.  . . .  Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the noonday sun. The Lord will always guide you and provide good things to eat when you are in the desert. He will make you healthy. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water or like a stream that never runs dry. You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years; you will be known as a builder and repairer of city walls and streets.” (Isaiah 58:6-7, 10-12, CEV)

So how do we become like Him?
How does this kind of love replace our natural love of Self?

First, we need to be born anew, His Spirit making our spirit alive.  John says that Jesus came into the world to make this possible for those who come to Him in faith. “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13, NIV)  The Holy Spirit comes to live in us and God’s nature becomes our nature. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14, NLT)  Does His life fill you?

Second, we must invest time to be with Him.  In my formative years I was always in the company of my Dad. From my infancy until entering school, he took me with him just about every day. I was his ‘sidekick.’   As a young adult, I worked alongside of him for a decade and his methods and manners rubbed off.  If we desire to be like our Father in Heaven, nothing can replace time in worship, in meditation, and in prayer.  Only then will His heart will become our heart.

My desire, and I pray it is yours too, is that God, the Father, will see Himself reflected in me.  When He does, He will be pleased and say, “that’s my son!”  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that being like Him means being religious!  Go back and re-read that passage in Isaiah. God, the Father, does not seek long fasts, rituals, and sacrifices. He desires a heart  that loves and cares for the world He loves.

Here’s the word from the Word – “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

May they say of us – “You’re becoming more and more like your Dad every day!”

________________

A Man With A Perfect Heart

Let me be a man

With a perfect heart,

Let me be a son

Who will please You Father.

Let me be a child

Who reveals Your will

In all I do and say.

Fill me with Your Spirit

Lord, I pray, that Jesus

Will be seen in all of my life.

Let me be a son

Who will please You Father,

Let me be a man

With a perfect heart.

Jack Hayford

© 1995 Annamarie Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Another chapter closes

fearsBev and I met with her doctor yesterday. She finished her chemo rounds 3 weeks ago and last week had follow up tests.  When we discussed it all, he told her that further chemo was not needed, and that she would see him again in 3 months. He was positive about her progress. After leaving his office, we cried, our tears a mixture of release of tension and deep gratitude – to God for mercy, for friends who have prayed for us, for love of family so strong.  We are realistic about the kind of disease she had.  Her doctor was clear that the likelihood of recurrence is high, but we have learned to be thankful for this day; and this day was a good one!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1, NIV)

“I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
(Psalm 118:13-14, NIV)

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” (Psalm 118:17, NIV)

This chapter was written in sorrow. The valley was deep. I will not pretend it was easy.  Many nights eternity was near, mortality too obvious to ignore.  I am not sugarcoating the anguish when I say that our love for the Lord and one another grew deeper.  Knowing what I know today, would I choose the road we walked since March voluntarily?  I suppose the “Sunday School answer” would be yes, but I’m too human.  Though there are the blessings found in the dark caves we explored, I prefer happy!

Yet, the suffering and uncertainty were not without meaning or purpose.  Paul’s words about his own time of anguish take new meaning to us.  He said of his experiences,  “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”  (2 Cor. 1:8-11 NLT)

Have I learned anything?  I believe I have.

  1. I know better than ever that life here is short and Heaven is home!  Even with the close of this chapter, I know that in terms of this earthly life I have much more past than future!  I am loving life but can say “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21 NIV)
  1. Sometimes all you can do is ‘hang on.’ Some days and nights stretched on endlessly. The old cliché about reaching the end of my rope, tying a knot, and hanging on came to mind. Was it faith or stubbornness?  God knows, but I pray it was faith anchored to the Rock of my Salvation. Even when there was no good road ahead the choice was to trust, to take a step, to go forward… and night yielded to day, time and again.
  1. Friends are treasures. Solomon said  that “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. 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)  Amen!  Oh, how we treasure the love of friends and family.

Here’s the word from the Word. It’s my song today.
“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

(Psalm 34:1-10, NIV)

________________

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

 

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 Savior

 

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

Doing Preventative Maintenance

pmMaintenance is constant in this world where things break, decay, and fall apart. I’m always fixing something on my house, a piece of siding that comes loose, a door that gets hard to open, a faucet that drips. I could ignore them; for a while, but in time neglect would cost me major dollars.  My car demands maintenance, too. Sure, I could drive on tires that are under- inflated for a while before they would fail. I can overlook oil changes and the engine won’t stop immediately. Saving $40 on an oil change can turn into a $3000 engine replacement! Preventative maintenance is a wise investment – a few dollars now saves thousands later!

The principle holds in our Christianity. Regular engagement with the spiritual disciplines opens us to the Presence of the Spirit. Making the choices for worship, prayer, study, service, and giving are an investment. Yes, they are a kind of preventative maintenance that keeps our relationship with God intact and healthy.

Do you have to go to worship regularly to be a Christian? No, you don’t. You won’t be as effective as a solo act, but you can have saving faith, apart from being in your local church. I’m sure you did not expect that from a veteran Pastor.  You can make Sunday into a play day: golfing, fishing, and visiting with family. Short term you won’t see much impact on your life. You might even feel some relief about getting rid of the need to be up and out of the house on Sunday morning.  However, a subtle erosion of spiritual health will start immediately when you neglect the fellowship of the Church.  With time, the edge will go out of your faith. Without teaching that helps you to apply the unchanging Word to an ever-changing world your spiritual understanding will stagnate. If you are a parent, know this: your kids will conclude that church is just one of life’s options, and as young adults, they will discard church attendance all together, along with saving faith.

Neglecting to read the Scripture on a daily basis won’t cause you to immediately descend into gross immorality.

Failure to engage in generous giving won’t make you into Ebenezer Scrooge in a year’s time.

Failure to pray won’t turn you into an atheist overnight!

But… over the long term a failure to practice these things will bring on spiritual collapse. Your ears will not discern the ‘still, small voice of God.’

Your spiritual eyes will not perceive His hand at work. Your short prayers will turn into childish whimpers and whines… ‘bless me, give me, help me.’

Eugene Peterson says that the Christian life is “a long obedience in the same direction!’ 

Here is wisdom from the Word.  “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” (Proverbs 6:6-11, NLT)

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, The Message)

Make an investment in doing the small things.
Amazingly- the big stuff will take care of itself!

_______________

Tempted, Tried, and Sometimes Failing

temptedThat apple pie was right around the corner in the kitchen.  I resisted for a half-hour, my thoughts turning again to the possibility of enjoyment that could be mine with minimal effort.  In the end temptation won. That was just pie and a few hundred calories.  What about the yearning, the temptation that has a much more serious consequence?

Hearing of person who falls flat on his face, some Christians shake their heads in disgust – “How could he do that?” Others are quick to declare, “I’d never do that.  I’m above being tempted in that way.”  Here’s the truth as God sees it – like it or not: “You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, CEV) The nature of what tempts me will be different from what tempts you, but Satan baits the hook for us all. Old, young, smart or not, pastor, teacher, police, or plumber – we all come to that fork in life’s road where there are just two choices:  our will or God’s will.

For one it may be laziness: “Let it go ’til tomorrow.  Why sweat?”  For another it may be the allure of sex:  an escape from life’s drudgery. For another it is the alcohol that takes the edge off of life, that makes it hurt less for a while.  Pride may pull another to pretend to be what he is not. Many fall prey to the lure of stuff – more shiny toys, clothes, a new car. Yes, we’re all tempted!  “But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, CEV)  However, victory requires our cooperation with the Spirit.

How do we resist temptation?

Expect it.
Evil circles, the Bible says, like a lion on the prowl, looking to have us for dinner. And, contrary to accepted wisdom, evil and the father of it do not always attack at our perceived weakness.  We generally have our defenses in place there. So, he may surprise us at the point of our strength. Peter reminds us that when we’re going through the trials of temptation we are sharing the same experience that Christ endured and he says, “do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, NIV)

Never negotiate!
You can’t outwit temptation.  If you want something badly and spend long enough thinking about getting it, you will find an excuse or a justification. That is why the Bible says, “O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:11, NKJV)   “But, Jerry, doesn’t the Bible tell us to ‘resist the Devil‘”   That does not mean we stand as close to the fire of temptation as we think we can without getting burnt! We resist him when we humbly surrender to God and anchor ourselves in faith.

Take care of your REAL needs!
We need love, security, food, intimacy, and significance. He has provided a way for each of those needs to be met in a way that makes us whole, and when we do, we are much less vulnerable to temptation.  That apple pie I mentioned a moment ago is not that desirable when my hunger has been satisfied with a solid meal. Fatigue is relieved by rest. Love cannot be found in an illicit affair. When we do things God’s way, it may appear hard, but in the long term, His way is THE way that we find all our needs met.

Live openly before Christ!
We can endure “by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:2-3, NLT)  Temptation makes us feel like we are being torn in two, emotionally and spiritually.   The battle rages on as in – I just “gotta have it!” whatever the ‘it’ is at that moment.  Don’t hide out. Don’t try to muscle it out. Go and tell the Lord about the battle. Ask for the the reinforcement of the Spirit!

When we  humble ourselves, quietly waiting before Him, His peace will come.   Why?  Because Jesus is our Priest and Intercessor before God.

Remember, Christian, there is no shame in admitting to the temptation, for temptation is not sin!     While we live in this world, temptations will come at us.   Some come from the world systems in which we work and live.   Some come from what the Bible calls, ‘the flesh,’ or the sinful nature, the desires and needs of our physical body that crave satisfaction in destructive ways.  And, some are diabolical, devilish schemes that come from the enemy of God and good.

Here’s a word from the Word.  Draw the strength of the promise from it today and meet temptation with the Truth that in Christ, you can overcome!  “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared.

You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, The Message)

______________________

In The Light

I keep trying to find a life

On my own apart from You,

I am the king of excuses,

I’ve got one

For every selfish thing I do.

 

What’s going on inside of me?

I despise my own behavior.

This only serves to confirm my suspicions

That I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

 

I wanna be in the light as You are in the light.

I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens.

Lord be my light and be my salvation.

All I want is to be in the light of love.

All I want is to be in the light.

 

Is there such a thing as a man of peace?

If there is then a man of peace I want to be.

I will need Your help if I am ever to be that,

If I’m to lay down, lay down, lay down,

Then, I’ll lay my life for my brothers and sisters,

I will need Your help,

Jesus, I need Your light forever shining bright.

Charlie Peacock

© 1991, 1997 Sparrow Song (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

With Whom Do You Walk?

walkIn a long reading of the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles, I read name after name, records of Israel’s history. In the text are scattered notes; about where a clan lived, about some event in a man’s life, and then there is this: “In earlier times Phinehas, son of Eleazar, was in charge of the gatekeepers, and the LORD was with him.” (1 Chronicles 9:20, NIV) Phinehas, the gatekeeper, a security guard for the Temple, lives in the Bible as a man noted for his intimacy with God!  Not a lot of sermons get preached from those chapters. Sometimes we wonder why this long list of Hebrew names is even in the inspired Scripture.  Then, a line like that one jumps out. “And the LORD was with him.”

Could there be anything better to be said about a person?  “He was a really kind man,” is good but does not compare.  “He was very hard-working,” is good, too.  “She was amazingly creative and skilled to lead,” would be nice. But, “the Lord was with him,” has no equal.  When God’s Spirit fills our life, everything else finds the right order.  Those who walk closely with the Lord will be loving people for God is love. Those who know Him intimately will be faithful, steady, and committed to the things that actually matter.

There are few people who share similar reputations with Phinehas. Enoch, of whom we know little, “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24, NIV)  Mary, the mother of Jesus, even as a young woman, enjoyed a rich spiritual life.  The angel who brought her the news that she would be the mother of the Messiah said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28, NLT)

We are tempted to turn these people into special saints, persons unlike us.  Truth is, they were ordinary people who chose to respond to the Presence of God and who came to be known to us for their deep relationship with the Lord.  Someday in the future, when someone is describing you will they say, “The Lord was with him.”?

Here’s the word from the Word.  Believe it, live it! I “beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. …  (so) throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, 22-24, NLT)

 

Now Walk With God

 Now walk with God

And He will be your dearest Friend,

Where’er you go,

In everything you do.

And may your life

Reflect His love to ev’ryone,

Now walk with God

And He will walk with you.

 

Otis Skillings

© 1969 Lillenas Publishing Company (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Closing the Gap!

holy“Be holy as I am holy,” is the Lord’s word to Christians. He wants us to live a distinct kind of life, separate from the world around us, characterized by the beauty of spiritual fruit. Should a Christian spend time grasping for more things? No.  Should a Christian be lustful and/or immoral? No. Prideful? No.  Profane in speech, lewd in conduct? Never.  The Lord is honored by us in holiness – when we are filled with “ the fruit of the Spirit (which) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV)

Are you a holy person?  Is there evidence in your life that you belong to the Lord and that your thoughts, words, and actions are shaped by a desire to please Him?  Tough questions, aren’t they? Some days we do better than others.  There are days when love for others just spills over from my full heart and there are days . . .  yes, it’s hard to admit . . . when I am a selfish man. Most days I have few concerns about material things, but moments come when I want more and envy shows its ugly face.

Yesterday, while sharing the Cup and Bread of Communion, I spoke those ancient words –  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25, NIV) and the truth was renewed to me. He closes the gap between my imperfection and the demands of a perfect God!  Holiness is a work in progress in my daily  life, but because of Jesus’ gift at the Cross I am privileged with full access to the Throne of God, with eternal life. God extended a new agreement, purchased by the blood of Christ Jesus, that I accept by faith. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV)

That I could never be by my own efforts who God makes me through faith is the paradox of holiness.  The Christian of best intentions who decides to make himself holy is always frustrated by the sinful nature which remains active.  The person who comes by faith to Christ and allows the Holy Spirit to work in his life finds that the gap between intentions and actions closes.  Paul says “God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)  “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 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 2:9-10, NLT)

Let me ask you again, are you a holy person?  The answer for those in Christ is yes!  Now, let the Spirit work out the implications of your faith!  You are holy, set right with God. Now, “since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25, NLT)

___________

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

 Come, Thou fount of ev’ry blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

Streams of mercy never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the Mount, I’m fixed upon it, (Calvary, where Christ died on the Cross)

Mount of Thy redeeming love!

 

Here I raise mine Ebenezer, (a memorial)

Hither by Thy help I’m come.

And I hope by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wand’ring from the fold of God.

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood.

 

O to grace how great a debtor,

Daily I’m constrained to be.

Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter

Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee!

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;

Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.

 

John Wyeth | Robert Robinson

© Words: Public Domain