Happy Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

thanks“A psalm. For giving thanks.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name
.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
(Psalm 100, NIV)

I’ll keep it simple today –

I’m thankful

that my wife is strong and healthy after her long ordeal with cancer.

for the privilege (and it is that!) of serving a local church as pastor.

for the amazingly rich life that God has allowed me to enjoy.

I’m thankful

for the love of friends who are precious treasure in my life.

for great kids (yes, they are adults but they’re my kids) who are blessed with health, strength, and creativity.

for Jesus and His love.

And the word from the Word today – “Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NIV)

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Come Ye Thankful People Come

 

Come ye thankful people, come.

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in,

‘Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come,

Raise the song of harvest home.

 

All the world is God’s own field,

Fruit unto His praise to yield.

Wheat and tares together sown

Unto joy or sorrow grown.

First the blade and then the ear,

Then the full corn shall appear,

Lord of harvest grant that we,

Wholesome grain and pure may be.

 

For the Lord our God shall come,

And shall take His harvest home,

From His field shall in that day

All offences purge away.

Give His angels charge at last

In the fire the tares to cast,

But the fruitful ears to store,

In His garner evermore.

 

Even so, Lord, quickly come,

To Thy final harvest home.

Gather Thou Thy people in,

Free from sorrow, free from sin.

There forever purified,

In Thy presence to abide,

Come with all Thine angels, come.

Raise the glorious harvest home!

George Job Elvey | Henry Alford

© Words: Public Domain

And When It Comes Down to this . . .

strengthMarie’s face brightened when she saw me come into her room. Age has taken her mental abilities. She does not know my name, but she remembers I am ‘the church man.’   A normal conversation is all but impossible.  She does not know the day of the week or what’s going on in the world around her. I opened my Bible and asked if I could read a passage to her.  “Oh, yes,” she said with enthusiasm. As I read the familiar words of the 37th Psalm, she murmured in agreement, in obvious joy at God’s Word.  This woman who centered her life on the Lord and on serving His people still knows His Spirit and His Name!  When we prayed together, she calmed and it was clear that she continues to commune with the Lord.

This elderly saint has made God her refuge. She lives this:  “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:24-26, NIV)

Make the Lord your portion. What does that mean?  The Hebrew word in the Psalm means “reward, inheritance, or share of land.”  Another way to say it, “The Lord is my treasure.”  So many other things offer themselves as our portion, don’t they?   Wealth offers to secure us. So do our possessions. We may attempt to anchor our life to our children, our position, our reputation, or even our physical strength/beauty.  And what if they fail us or are taken away?

Jesus counsels us to invest in treasure that cannot lose value.  “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Matthew 6:19-21, The Message) There is such assurance in those words. Failing economies are of little consequence to those who own Heaven’s treasure.  Age only means we are closer to Home!  We can know a Friend Who will never abandon us, never move away, never forget us.

Marie’s love of the Lord is all she has left. Or, could it be that is the wrong way to see it?  Her true Treasure, Whom she loved for so many years, is now the Love of her life.  Most other things are gone, but He remains.

Is Jesus your Lord?
Is your life built on an eternal hope of knowing Him?

Here’s a word from the Word –  “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”—(Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV)  “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession.” (Malachi 3:16-17, NIV)

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Father, You are my portion in this life,

And You are my hope and my delight.An 

Jesus, You are my treasure in this life,

And You are so pure and so kind.

 

And I love You, yes, I love You,

Lord, I love You, my delight!

My Delight

Andy Park

© 1987 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)

Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)

CCLI License # 810055

“Light Up the Darkness”

shineIt’s a dark world in which we live. Yesterday, a major university suspended all fraternities on campus after a young woman’s horrific account of a 3 hour long sexual assault was published in Rolling Stone magazine. Two years ago, in the first month of her freshman year, this small town honor student was invited to a fraternity party where young men of privilege and standing did unspeakable things to her.  What would cause these boys to think that this was right, even if they thought they would not pay any consequence?  I am not naïve and realize these things happen every day. So, we must let our Light shine!

Then, the news this morning is full of stories about the anger that smolders in this country.  When the grand jury in St. Louis found no cause to indict the police officer in the death of a young black man that anger exploded. Christian we can shine the Light.  Before you speak today, pray.  Let your words reveal a heart that seeks peace. Choose to bring light, not to deepen the darkness of hatred.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NLT)

Being the bearers of light is our mission and a great privilege. It’s not our own radiance that we offer. “It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-8, The Message)

What can we do to be His lights?

First, we love, boldly, sacrificially. We cannot be content to know Christ and isolate ourselves in little safe groups, a holy huddle. Each one of us will interact with people today who are hurting. In some cases one kind word will be enough. For others love will be patient listening.  Where the Spirit leads, we can point others to Christ, to hope in His power to change.

Then, we live holy lives.  Yes, we show the way to live – with integrity, with excellence. “Good deeds,” Jesus called it. Knowing that we belong to Him, that we are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit,’ we pray for the enablement to live differently.  We go beyond mere pious displays of folded hands and public prayers!  We do right things, adopt right attitudes, and ourselves commit to His plans.  And His light shines.

As you take up the challenge of reflecting His Light into the dark places of this world, don’t think that everyone will admire or thank you! Some love the darkness and when the light threatens to expose their acts, they will try to put it out. But, be fearless.  John wrote of the promise of the Lord’s power and reward. “Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying, Salvation and power are established! Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah! The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out, who accused them day and night before God. They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb and the bold word of their witness. They weren’t in love with themselves; they were willing to die for Christ.” (Revelation 12:10-11, The Message)

Will you light up your world today?  Here’s the word from the Word – “When God is personally present, a living Spirit … Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”  2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Message

______________

In The Light

 

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,

All I want is to be in the light.

 

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

Lead me into the presence of the Father!

I will follow right behind, true love I will find.

All I want is to be in the light,

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

“Because I said so!” Dad

psalm119Just about every parent comes to a moment of frustration when dealing with a child’s questioning of some rule and goes for that old line – “because I said so.”  We promise ourselves we will not do it, but then … well, we do.  My wife will tell you that I am for less regulation.  Few things make me fume more than dealing with the regulations imposed by government, especially the ones that seem to be written only to give somebody as job in enforcement.  Of course my higher intelligence, understands that those same laws that make me crazy keep good order in society – be they speed limits, zoning regulations, or public safety laws. I am not very thankful when a police officer pulls me over for going a little too fast, but I sure appreciate that he is there to to keep drunk drivers from menacing my safety.

Fences and boundaries can be a very good thing in a world where real sinners live.

Our Heavenly Father gave us rules. They are not silly or petty. He does not just hand them down and tell us to keep them because He can.  He designed a world and His directions allow us to live at peace with others and in the best way possible. In Exodus we find a list, a kind of summary, called the “Ten Commandments.” Read them recently? We would do well to memorize them. Make no mistake! Keeping them, if we could, won’t get us to Heaven!

No amount of rule-keeping can make us right with God. Only Jesus Christ can forgive our sins, but the “Big Ten” serve the purpose of building some fences. Galatians calls them “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24, KJV) As the Lord was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land, He held a meeting with them to show them the kind of people He wanted them to be. (Exodus 20) Here’s a paraphrase of what He told them.

1.No other gods but Me.
2. No idols (things  we love more than Him) in your life.
3. Don’t misuse my Name by claiming to act under my authority when you’re not.
4. Keep one day out of seven for worship (a Sabbath) following the Creation pattern I established.
5. Honor your parents and you’ll live longer.
6. No murder.
7. No adultery.
8. No stealing.
9. No lying about your neighbor.
10. No lusting for your neighbor’s stuff, his wife, or anything belonging to him.

Kids everywhere work at finding loophole in parent’s directions, don’t they? Yes, we who are God’s kids, often do the same. We study them to death, not always to find the best way to observe them, but rather to parse and twist them to fit everyone but ourselves. Yet, they stand! They can guide us to faithful reliance on our Savior who makes us holy starting in our heart, or they will stand as a witness against us when we are summonsed to the Throne to face the Judgment! Which will it be for you? Reading that ancient code I found myself challenged anew by the holy expectation of my Father. I am a free man in Christ Jesus, not bound by the Law of Moses, but it does inform me about the quality of the love that God seeks in me for Himself and for those who live alongside of me.

Read the “Big Ten” with new appreciation today. Join the Psalmist who says:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9, NIV)
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NIV)
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.” (Psalm 119:14, NIV)
“I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119:16, NIV)

The Law cannot save us, nor can scrupulous obedience ever meet the standard of a holy God. Only Christ Jesus can forgive, cleanse, and fill us with the Spirit. However, those rules will show us the way to live acceptably, pleasing our Father.

___________

Purify my heart,

Let me be as gold

And precious silver.

Purify my heart

Let me be as gold,

Pure gold.

 

Refiner’s fire;

My heart’s one desire

Is to be holy,

Set apart for You, Lord!

I choose to be holy,

Set apart for You, my Master,

Ready to do Your will.

 

Purify my heart,

Cleanse me from within,

And make me holy.

Purify my heart,

Cleanse me from my sin,

Deep within.

Refiner’s Fire

Brian Doerksen

© 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Vineyard Music USA)

When to Hold’em and when to fold’em

abideKenny Rogers made a classic out of a song about an old gambling man who passed along this advice: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”  I am not a gambler but in my life one of the big challenges is dealing with change. What should be left behind, discarded? What should be preserved? When is the right time to shift priorities? What must be protected at all costs?

Change is constant and its pace is blinding in 2014. Skills must be refined all the time. The world that I live in today operates very differently from the one I knew in 1980!  A cellphone in my pocket keeps me in contact all the time, every day.  The computer on which I am typing these words allows me to take my office with me wherever I go- which is both a blessing and a curse.  If I am not diligent to guard my time, I can be ‘at work’ all the time.  Social media keeps us connected with friends, near and far.  It also can divert us from deep relationships in the real world!

Three centuries ago a little sect of Christians decided to reject all change. Now, we go as tourists to look on the quaint lifestyle of the Amish. Their motives may be good, but if we all adopted their methods, would the world actually be a better place – without modern medical practices, without scientific discovery?  Some Christians today are similar to the Amish. They want to return to some idealized era in a vain attempt to reclaim the supposed glories of that time.

Others are committed to revolution. They believe the answer to a vital Christian experience is to throw away all the present forms of spiritual life.  Church, who needs it? World missions, a relic of a by-gone era? Ministries that focus on children, youth, or other special groups, discard them?

Individual Christians take similar paths in their spiritual lives.  Some settle and reject innovation and as result grow stale, often losing the radiant faith they once knew. Others chase all things new, endlessly restless, moving from church to church, from pastor to teacher – trying to find the next new wave, living on the excitement.

Jesus urges us to keep a tight grip on the Gospel. Our salvation from sin, God’s gift given to us freely through the Son, is a treasure that we must never discard. “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:3, NIV)  “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11, NIV)  We must return, again and again, to the Cross where our sins were removed.  The Lord Himself told us to gather at His Table, celebrating with Cup and Bread.  “On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)

We must treasure His Word. Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NIV)  The truth of God’s revelation never becomes out-dated.  “Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89, NIV)  “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”(Isaiah 40:8, NIV)

The Holy Spirit who lives in us will guide us, keep us, and give us insight to know how to live today. Relevance is not our primary goal.  If we desire to be relevant, we will almost certainly throw away precious gifts of God, valuing the approval of people over His will.  Truth is what we love.  In the same breath, we remind ourselves that while tradition is valued, it is not the same as God’s Truth!

God, give us the true wisdom to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em!

________

Holy words, long preserved,

For our walk in this world.

They resound with God’s own heart,

O let the ancient words impart.

 

Words of life, words of hope,

Give us strength, help us cope.

In this world, where’er we roam,

Ancient words will guide us home.

 

Ancient words – ever true –

Changing me, changing you.

We have come, with open hearts,

O let the ancient words impart.

 

Holy words of our faith,

Handed down to this age,

Came to us through sacrifice,

O heed the faithful words of Christ.

 

We have come with open hearts,

O let the ancient words impart.

Ancient Words

Lynn DeShazo

© 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))

CCLI License # 810055

The Universal Temptation

pridedefeaetThe old king, Nebuchadnezzar, deeply impressed with his accomplishments, boasted “Look at this, Babylon the great! And I built it all by myself, a royal palace adequate to display my honor and glory!” (Daniel 4:30, The Message)  The pride that oozes from him hides the terrible cost of his empire in stolen treasure, violence, and human suffering.  God heard him and just as He had told the king a year earlier, allowed His judgment to settle on him.  For the next 7 years the king was insane, living like an ox, eating grass, apart from human civilization.  Talk about humiliation!

Pride isn’t just for kings and queens. It is a test for every Christian. Henri Nouwen, in his book In the Name of Jesus, reminds us that we are tempted by pride that dresses up in disguise.  We are desire to be relevant, accepted and understood by our world. We are drawn by the temptation to be powerful, to control our situations.  We are tested by the temptation to be spectacular.  These subtle forms of pride are so woven into our cultural values we don’t even view them as leading us to sin. Even Christians admire those who are praised for their relevance, followed because they are powerful, and lifted up in their attractiveness.

Paul tells us that we are to seek the same attitude as Jesus in His humanity. Did He come to this Earth to accept a  place of admiration and power? No, He “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:7, NIV)  A pointed question comes to mind.  Am I content to serve or will I become a servant? What’s the difference?  Many choose to serve, here and there, as they like but they hang onto control. They choose who they will serve, where they will serve, the limits of their service.  A servant is without rights, doing what another wishes.

We are to be servants of God and man, like Jesus!  Ah, that kind of serving runs headlong into pride that insists “But, I must protect myself, my rights, my life,” doesn’t it? Our model is Jesus.  He gave Himself away completely to the will of God. This kind of selflessness is rooted in a faith in God’s ability to control and direct all parts of our lives.  In Daniel 4, the proud king we met a moment ago, was reminded three times that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” (Daniel 4:32, NIV)  Is your life shaped by faith in the rule of God?

I confess that there are many times when it is hard for me to see that He is in charge. When sufferings overtakes His children, it tests my faith. When cruel despots inflict suffering on nations, my trust in His control of history is stretched.  But, the baseline truth that allows us to give ourselves away, to become servants in the model of Jesus, is the assurance that God is in charge and is bringing about His purposes.  The defeat of pride is not accomplished by beating ourselves down or trying to convince ourselves that we are worthless.  Our Father in Heaven has no interest in making us like an abused dog with a broken spirit.  True humility is born out of the deep conviction that we are of ultimate worth to Him, that He loves us completely, and that He will – in His time and in His way  – usher us into the reward that is prepared for all those who serve God and man without reservation.

Nebuchadnezzar experienced that restoration when he came to see the folly of trying to care for himself. “At the end of the seven years, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked to heaven. I was given my mind back and I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever: “His sovereign rule lasts and lasts, his kingdom never declines and falls. Life on this earth doesn’t add up to much, but God’s heavenly army keeps everything going. No one can interrupt his work, no one can call his rule into question. “ (Daniel 4:34-35, The Message)  “And that’s why I’m singing—I, Nebuchadnezzar—singing and praising the King of Heaven: “Everything he does is right, and he does it the right way. He knows how to turn a proud person into a humble man or woman.” (Daniel 4:37, The Message)

Here is the word from the Word. Though familiar may the Spirit call us to humility, break pride, and use us as servants.“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.” (Philippians 2:5, The Message) “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever.” (Philippians 2:7-9, The Message)

“What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. … Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.” (Philippians 2:12, The Message)

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You are God Alone (worship with the video at this link- click here)

 You are not a god created

By human hands.

You are not a god dependent

On any mortal man.

You are not a god in need of

Anything we can give.

By Your plan

That’s just the way it is.

 

You are God alone from before time began!

You were on Your throne; You are God alone!

And right now, in the good times and bad,

You are on Your throne; You are God alone!

 

You’re unchangeable. You’re unshakable.

You’re unstoppable; that’s what You are.

You’re unchangeable. You’re unshakable.

You’re unstoppable; that’s what You are.

 

You’re the only God whose power

None can contend.

You’re the only God whose name and

Praise will never end.

You’re the only God who’s worthy

Of ev’rything we can give.

You are God;

That’s just the way it is.

 

And right now, in the good times and bad,

You are on Your throne, You are God alone!

You Are God Alone (Not A God)

Billy J. Foote | Cindy Foote

© 2004 Billy Foote Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))

Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))

CCLI License # 810055

The Baptism of the Spirit

Six of us sat around the dining table in my house last night talking about church membership at Faith Discovery Church.  As we reviewed our statement of faith we came to the part that defines us as a Pentecostal church, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. What a privilege it was to talk about God’s promise of the Spirit, an experience that allows us to commune with Him – spirit to Spirit, to know His Presence.

JWeb SiteAfter the Resurrection, Jesus directed His followers to wait! “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5, NLT)  They gathered to pray, not knowing exactly what He meant, but in obedience expecting that God would do as He said.  On the day of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (50 days after Passover),  the Spirit fell! “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-5, NIV)  The age of the Spirit dawned.  Filled with His powerful Presence, those ordinary men and women took the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth.

Their experience of the Spirit’s fullness was repeated as others were baptized in the Spirit. The book of the Acts tells of several occasions when the Spirit came on those seeking God. Paul told the Corinthians that he ‘spoke in tongues’ as the Spirit touched his life. He instructed them not to make the experience into a sideshow, but rather to enter into the intimacy with God that the Spirit’s baptism allowed.

The prayer language of the Spirit (nicknamed speaking in tongues) is a normal part of the Christian life today.  God’s gift has been misunderstood, misrepresented, and abused over the years.  Some have made the experience into a mark of super-spirituality. It is not! Others have made it an experience only for insiders. God promised His Spirit to all who ‘hunger and thirst.’ Many confuse the gift of tongues in a public worship service which must always be accompanied by the gift of interpretation so all can benefit with the private blessing of tongues, a prayer language, that needs no interpretation.  (1 Corinthians 14:26-28)

Those first generation Christians accepted God’s gift of the Spirit and allowed Him to overflow. Enveloped in His Presence, they worshipped and prayed, often in tongues of men and angels. And, so can we.  We pray with words we know and we pray with expressions that flow from our spirit.  As part of his instructions for proper use of that prayer language in church gatherings, Paul teaches “Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind.” (1 Corinthians 14:12-15, The Message)

Want to know a more intimate prayer life? Do you hunger for a holiness of heart, to be empowered for service to God and others that flows out a life given to Him?  Invite the Lord to baptize you in His Spirit.  Yes, of course, if you are a Christian, the Spirit lives in you. That is the essence of the Christian life.  Being baptized in the Spirit is about God owning us – soul, mind, and spirit – so that we can live near to His heart.  Let Him fill you to overflowing.

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25, The Message)

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 Lord, send the old time pow’r,
The Pentecostal pow’r.
Thy floodgates of blessing,
On us throw open wide.
Lord send the old time pow’r,
The Pentecostal pow’r,
That sinners be converted
And Thy name glorified!

Charlotte G. Homer

Public Domain

“I’m done. It’s over. Take me home.”

listenHave you ever poured yourself into some great effort?  For months you planned and prepared.  You stayed up late, ignored other responsibilities, focused on the one challenge. And then, the day came and now it’s over.  In those moments we are vulnerable to feeling a huge let-down, even if our efforts met success.  We can even slip into depression!  There’s a story in the Scripture that teaches us about meeting that discouragement.  Let it touch you today.

Elijah, God’s faithful man in Israel, stood up to the evil couple that ruled, Ahab and Jezebel. They hated him for his righteousness and tried to kill him! God gave Elijah the dubious honor of announcing that Israel was facing a long drought. Thousands of people would die. Naturally, the people hated Elijah. They focused their anger on him, not on the wickedness that brought the judgment of the Lord.  But the prophet remained faithful.  After three years of suffering, the Lord called a summit and the challenge was thrown down.   “Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” (1 Kings 18:20-24, NIV)

God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from heaven. A spiritual renewal followed.  Rain came and the drought – in the land and spiritually in Israel – was lifted.  End of story, right?

Read on! After years of maximum effort and great faithfulness, Elijah’s emotions collapsed.  He ran off and, alone under a tree in the wilderness, he sighed, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life.” (1 Kings 19.4)  We catch a glimpse of the depth of his discouragement in his prayerful lament: “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (1 Kings 19:10)

Can you identify with his heart?  God didn’t kick him while he was down. God didn’t say, “Well, what a weakling my prophet turned out to be. I’ll just let him die and find someone else to do my work.” The Lord showed up to restore Elijah. It’s a dramatic scene! The mountain where Elijah was holed up was torn by a powerful wind, then shaken by an earthquake. After that, a blaze of fire swept the face of the mountain. The prophet discerned that God’s Presence was not in the BIG, NOISY, and IMPRESSIVE displays! Then came a gentle whisper- God’s revelation of Himself.  The Spirit reminded Elijah that he was not alone. “There are 7000 in Israel who have not joined the idol worshippers!”  God sent him to find Elisha and start to mentor him.

The Spirit whispers this Word to us: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)  We must not trust our intelligence, plans, or preparations alone. We use those gifts, but our ultimate hope is in God. As people under the command of Another, we must be faithful and entrust the results to our Lord, who by the Spirit and truth of His eternal Word, will bring about His plans in His time.

Have you given your best and came up ‘way short of what you hoped for in terms of results? Does it seem that God has ‘failed’ you?  There is no sin in feeling disappointment or even in asking questions. But, if you do, make sure you listen for the answer. Likely God’s answer to you will come in a quiet whisper that calls for you to wait out His purposes and to remember that you are NOT alone! Stay involved with those who love you and share your love of God.

And hear this Word that assures us that HE knows what’s up, even when we do not. . . “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (Romans 8:25-26 — The Message)

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Hide Thou Me

Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my life in vain.
I’m tempted then to murmur,
And of my lot complain.

But when I think of Jesus,
And all He’s done for me,
Then I cry, O Rock of Ages,
Hide Thou me.

O Rock of Ages, hide Thou me.
No other refuge have I but Thee.
When life’s dark vale I wander,
Far, far from Thee.
Then I cry, O Rock of Ages,
Hide Thou me.

Hide Thou Me
Thoro Harris © 1926. Renewed 1953 Singspiration Music (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc., 741 Coolsprings Blvd., Franklin TN 37067)CCLI License No. 810055

Going to bed at 8:30

livingforTom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. In an interview, he spoke of his focus. “I do go to bed very early because I’m up very early. I think that the decisions that I make always center around performance enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that’s what I eat or what decisions I make or whether I drink or don’t drink, it’s always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day. … I love the game and I want to do it for a long time. …I have to take a different approach. Strength training and conditioning and how I really treat my body is important to me, because there’s really nothing else that I enjoy like playing football. I want to do it as long as I can.”
http://www.businessinsider.com/tom-brady-sleep-2014-11#ixzz3JKQJCmjI

Football-centric is Brady’s life and it shows in how he plays the game.

A passion for ONE thing, a single-minded focus on ONE goal, a vision that is shaped by ONE aim – these are powerful things in life.  You can see the results in Brady’s career. If you read stories of men and women with amazing accomplishments you almost always find the same kind of determination.

Lives shaped around building a great gadget, a great football team, a great family, a great church, or a great company may catch our attention, but they are focused short of the best and highest aim. Someone will come along who will do it better.  Tom Brady will eventually find his body just cannot meet the challenges of the field.

Do you want to live today in a way that leads you to a forever joy, to a place where no one can take away your rewards?  Check out this man’s mission statement! “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 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 3:6-14, NIV)

Paul’s life was Christ-centric! Go back and re-read that declaration. It is magnificent!  Knowing Christ eclipsed all other things in his life.  By comparison everything else was rubbish (Literally the Greek text says ‘skabalon,’ meaning excrement).

Jesus invites us to a life of great purpose and promise.  This life is not available to dabblers and wanna-be’s.  It for the company of the committed, those who shape all of life – marriage, family, career, financial decisions, pleasure – around Him.  Here’s the word from the Word. Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” … Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”

Peter tried another angle: “We left everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose outThey’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.”  (Mark 10:22-31, The Message)

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One Pure And Holy Passion

Give me one pure and holy passion,

Give me one magnificent obsession,

Jesus give me one glorious ambition for my life,

To know and follow hard after You.

 

To know and follow hard after You,

To grow as Your disciple in the truth,

This world is empty pale and poor,

Compared to knowing You, my Lord.

Lead me on and I will run after You!

Mark Altrogge

© 1988 Dayspring Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

Sovereign Grace Praise (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Networking

Networks!

networkI remember building my first computer network back in the early 1990’s. Tim brought the hardware and we spent the day in the little church office area – connecting my computer, the secretary’s computer, and a laser printer. Sending a job ‘across the network’ to print was amazing to me. It was actually primitive. My office computer is now networked to millions of computers on the Internet. With little effort I connect with thousands of people.

Networking is for more than computers. Last night, I sat with our local church leadership team and we networked; exchanging ideas, offering solutions. We all went home enriched in our thoughts!  Are you networking? Solomon did not use the word, but he knew the concept. He says that “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 4:12, NLT) A web of friends and partners does not just create itself. We have to work to form and maintain connections with others. The return makes the time invested well spent.

Some of us are not naturally given to building networks. We are focused on the outcome or reluctant to grant access to our thoughts to other people. Or, maybe we are too proud to share our accomplishments?  God knows we need each other!  He created us to network!  Why not just do it alone? Because we can never reach the same level of productivity alone that we can discover when we are networked.  When people network, when they are involved meaningfully in sharing life, the end result will be richer in creativity, will enjoy greater longevity, and will make a bigger impact on the world. That is true no matter what social structure we are thinking of – family, neighborhood, church, corporation, or government.

Paul does not call it networking in the Church. He calls it being ‘in the Body.’ He compares our connectedness to the way the eye, the head, and the hand work together to allow us to live. Then he says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, NIV)

Why don’t some people network?

Networks limit our autonomy! When we become part of a network, we give up some of our rights to just be ourselves. We have to start to think ‘we’ as a higher value than ‘me.’  Selfishness is sin as old as Eden. The devil’s lie is – “ Do your own thing. It’s the only way to be happy.” God’s truth is – “Give yourself away. Serve and love, and you will discover joy!”

Networks increase risk! Every computer owner knows the risk of being hacked or getting a virus. If you connect, no matter how protected you are, there is always some level of risk. For me the reward far outweighs the risk. When you connect with others, you can get hurt, or used, or misunderstood. Human relationships are never perfect. Some of the worst pain in our lives come as a result of opening our heart to someone who turns against us or takes advantage of us. But, the rewards of loving relationships far outweigh those risks!

Here’s a word from the Word about becoming part of the Spirit’s network. “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:4-10, NLT)

Now, that’s REAL networking.

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The Church’s One Foundation (Aurelia)

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth.
Her charter of salvation-
One Lord! One faith! One birth!
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

Samuel John Stone | Samuel Sebastian Wesley
© Words: Public Domain