Anger – Outrage – Destruction

outrageOutrage is the way we do our public dialogue these days. Right, Left, Conservative, Progressive … we are all shouting, offended, taking no prisoners!   The national election was a reaction of outrage.  The backlash to that primal scream is more outrage.  We all are being hurt because the moderate voices are drowned by the screams of those who want it all.  Every decision is painted as being ‘the end of the world.’ The cable news stations feed us a steady diet of people who talk over each other loudly and angrily. I confess that I think some of that ‘outrage’ is staged to make better entertainment.

Christian, this is a spiritual matter and we cannot be full of the Spirit, walking in the likeness of Jesus, while screaming about the things that offend us, that we see as sin!

Anger is like dynamite; a little accomplishes a lot! Given a leash that is a little too long, it will become a raging fire, the Bible calls that kind of anger ‘wrath,’ that burns up everything in its path! The Holy Spirit commands those who walk in the Spirit to self-control. Yes, the ability to regulate our emotions is evidence (fruit) of His Presence in us.  Paul warns us not to “sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT) The Proverbs remind us of this common sense wisdom:  “Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace.” (Proverbs 15:18, The Message)

Anger is a normal human emotion. Rage is a sinful use of that emotion.  An examination of the whole of Scripture will not cause us to discard anger, but it will lead us to taking control of it. A person who is incapable of anger will be run over, pushed aside, used, and manipulated. Not many injustices would be righted if people were unwilling to allow themselves feel deep and passionate desire for change. It took some angry people to confront 19th century America with the sinfulness of slavery. It took some angry people to force society to deal with child labor and abuse of women. Personally, many of us will not deal with sinful habits until we get angry enough at ourselves or our situation to go through the difficult experience of change!

Anger is voluntary!  To hear some speak you would think that anger blows over us like the wind, beyond our control. Truthfully, no one “makes me mad.” (Interesting, isn’t it, that we use a word about losing the rational mind to colloquially describe the state of anger.)  We choose to become angry. Situations and people irritate us, but we still have a choice in our response. A traffic jam, an irrational politician, a stubborn child, or a lazy retail clerk cannot be blamed for our choice to slip into outrage. “Anger management” is not just a phrase.  If we walk near to the heart of God, He will change our heart so that we weep for our broken world more readily than raging at it!

Anger is addictive. When we get angry, our bodies are designed to release a flood of chemicals that change our brains, our blood flow, and our muscles! It is called “fight or flight.”  There is a kind of natural high that accompanies rage.  We can become addicted to that rush of adrenaline, the sense of power.  That addiction requires more stimulation over time to bring on the same ‘rush’ and so our threshold for anger drops. Those things that once caused mild aggravation can then bring on a violent outburst of anger.  Christians who are filled with the Spirit can no more walk with Christ and glorify Him if they are addicted to anger than they can if they are enslaved by alcohol.

My appeal is not for apathy.  Passion is a good thing and we need convictions (yes, that is a whole subject on its own) that go deep, that motivate us to sacrifice for Christ and those things that are part of following Him. But, outrage is divisive- productive in the short-term perhaps, but ultimately destructive. We cannot demonize those who are different and then hope to create communities that enrich all of our lives.

Next time you’re angry – ask a couple questions:
Is this situation worth the cost of anger, worthy of allowing the dangerous emotion some release? What are we really angry about? What should we do about it?

Use your anger. Don’t let anger use you!

Our word from the Word is truth that transforms. “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.” (Proverbs 14:29, The Message)

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Doing the Impossible

jarsofclayLast night as they were leaving our Bible Study, a couple told me that they were responding to a call from a friend who just notified them of a death in family.  As they explained the need they were facing, I was glad that I could encourage them to go and be ‘Jesus’ to that friend, letting the Spirit do what He can do as they became useful to Him.  Pastor or carpenter, homemaker, lawyer, plumber, or teacher – we are all called to do spiritual work and gifted by the Spirit for that work!

It’s been my privilege to serve God in His Church for 4 decades.  After all this time and experience I still feel awed and joyful that God lets me participate in the process of shaping lives. I look in the mirror some mornings and wonder if I am up to the task of presenting the Scripture, of speaking to others in a way that turns their hearts to higher things.  And I remember it’s not “Jerry” but Jesus!  It isn’t my skills, personality, or programs I design that makes followers of our King. God, the Holy Spirit, works in me and, I pray, through me to do the impossible.

Paul was inspired to teach us about God’s amazing gifts. “What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. … God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. … Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” (1 Corinthians 12:1,4,7, The Message)

The only hope any one has in pleasing God is to become Spirit-led, people who accept His ability, respond to His guidance, and rely on Him implicitly. Jesus, speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper, said: “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, NIV) The Holy Spirit is now the active member of the Godhead in our lives. He is our “Comforter, Friend, Counselor, Advocate, and Helper.” The word Jesus used to name the Spirit – Parakletos – was one used to describe a person who came to your side to plead your case to another. A Paraclete was a friend, coach, and advocate!

What impossibility are you facing today?  Who is so broken that you have no words?  Who is mired deeply in sin and/or dysfunction so that you could conclude they are beyond redemption?  Remember, God, the Spirit, is our Source, our Wisdom, our Power.  He is ‘on call’ 24/7!  And, when we made alive in Christ, we also know that He, the Holy Spirit, is not just be with us; He lives in us! “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, NIV)

Are you attempting to live the Christian life only by your wits and wisdom, by grit and guts, by resolve and rationale?

It is important that we determine to serve God’s purposes, that we are courageous, that we take up the challenge of serving God with the best we can offer.  We must set goals and to align our lives to the principles of the Scripture.  However, if we are solely focused on our abilities and resources –  if we think we can do spiritual work with natural talents or abilities – we are destined to be ineffective, frustrated, and failing.

Today, invite God to take the lead, to show you just how He can take your unique experiences, your personality, your situation and make you an effective ambassador of His kingdom:  in your home, your school, your place of work, your extended family, and in your church.  Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, to renew you. You are a Gifted Child of God.

Here is a word from the Word. Let it challenge and enthuse you.  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT) “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, NIV)

________

Spirit Of God Descend Upon My Heart

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart.
Wean it from earth, thro’ all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

 Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love;
One holy passion filling all my frame.
The baptism of the heav’n descended Dove;
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame!

Frederick Cook Atkinson | George Croly © Words: Public Domain

I’ll do this (grimly) if it kills me!

wordswag_1490786133586A friend and I drove past the golf course where I ‘golfed’ a half of a lifetime ago!  He laughed out loud remembering my frustrations.  My golf game was often more about grim resolve than joy.  Not a natural athlete, I tended to be too much in my head, unable to find that balance between mind and body that some enjoy.  As a consequence, I tensed up and hooked too many shots from the tee.  On the green, my putter did not swing smoothly, but appeared to attack the golf ball.  More than once I was coached not to ‘overthink’ the game. I left golf behind years ago but that same kind of tension still shows up in my life on occasion. As challenges come my way, I double my efforts. But, there is a part of me that understands that not every situation can be met with steely resolve or rigid strategies.

In Sunday worship where I am charged to lead His congregation into the Presence of the Lord, I sometimes take on more than I should.  If I start to get tense, trying to make happen what only the Spirit can do, I hear those old words of my coach, “You’re trying too hard. Relax and accept my promise to be among my people.”  Take a moment to let the truth of this text settle into your mind. “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!” (Isaiah 30:15-16, NIV)

Are you fighting with something in life that defies you, that just won’t yield to your best efforts, that frustrates you?  Perhaps this questions seems obvious, but “have you presented it to the Lord and waited on Him for resources?”   God is perfectly capable of accomplishing His will in us.  A favorite passage in the Word reminds me of God’s desire to do “immeasurably more” in me and through me!  “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 3:20-21, NIV)

Could it be that we actually get in His way, that we make it so much about ourselves that we hinder the work of the Holy Spirit? Are we talking so much, thinking so hard, begging Him for an answer with such desperation that our hearts cannot hear His voice? Will we be quiet and listen for His lead?

I am not suggesting that we we retreat into resignation, thinking that God will do whatever He decides to do no matter what we do.  The amazing and humbling fact is this – the Lord of the Universe works in partnership with us.  Me, you, mere finite human beings are given the freedom to resist or cooperate with His purposes.  Only the foolish choose to sit like lumps waiting for God to do something.  Being lazy is unrelated to ‘waiting on the Lord.’    The Word urges us to engaged attention to the purpose of God, even as we remember that He is Lord and we are servants. “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.” (Psalm 123:1-2, NIV)

Let the Lord lead you, alert to His ways, attentive to His word.  There is real rest found in a quiet heart. Instead of trying to wrest a blessing from His hands, we need only to open ours to accept what He was ready to give. Are you trying too hard?

Pause, wait, reflect, listen, give thanks, receive!

Here’s a word from the Word.  May your soul sing with the Psalmist about the glorious works of our God.
“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

 Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.” (Psalm 65:5-9, NIV)

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Faithful You are faithful

Lord You have shown Yourself to be
Never changing always faithful
Lord You have shown Your heart for me
The loving touch of a caring Father

 In ev’ry day that passes
And all the world’s distractions
Through seasons and life’s changes
You always remain faithful
To me with Your

 Perfect love perfect love
Casts out all fear and shows me
That ev’ry word and promise to me
Will be fulfilled will be fulfilled

 Faithful You are faithful
Faithful faithful faithful

Eoghan Heaslip © 2000 Song Solutions Daybreak (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
CCLI License # 810055

Hey, Dad! I’m loved by You!

IMG_20170328_071713_576

Children who have a loving, involved Dad are miles ahead on the road of success!  I rejoice when I see a child who is secure in her parents’ love, who experiences affection, who knows the boundaries of life are set, who rests that her needs – emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical – are the concern of another. Being fatherless can make a child insecure and that insecurity can become a seed bed from which self-destructive behaviors grow. A friend of mine whose ministry brings him into constant interaction with young men who are in trouble finds one common issue among the majority – fatherlessness.

I have good news for us all! We are ‘fathered.’ “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8, NIV)  Christians who know that God is their good Father are ready to grow in grace, to trust Him, to find rest within His embrace. Many who worship the Lord call Him “Father” but they do not love Him as such. They fail to understand what it means to trust Him to care for them with a father’s love. Instead He is their Boss, or Judge, or Source. He is all of those things in a sense, but the primary way the Scripture reveals God to us is as our Father. The New Testament takes the concept a step beyond telling us that God is our ‘Abba.’ (A Biblical word for Daddy) Yes, we are not in error if we pray to our Heavenly “Dad” approaching Him as a beloved child would seek out her Daddy. “You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16, NLT)

Jesus explains this basic relationship with God as He teaches us to pray to “Our Father in heaven.”  He is a good Father! “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11, NLT)

Now here is the tough part of this truth.  The Word reminds us that like an earthly father who wants the best for his children, it is not all ‘bless you, wonderful child.’  When we need it, our Father disciplines us!  I cring as some memories of ‘discipline’ of my children because I realize that I sometimes acted out of fatigue or frustration, not to justly correct them.  But, our Abba never is just in a bad mood.  He will discipline us, sternly when needed, but always for our best.  The Word encourages us to “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” (Hebrews 12:7-9, NIV)

Are you living like an orphan, a survivor, self-protective, because you do not know the strong arms of a father? Are you always on guard, ready to protect yourself, unable to trust the care of One more powerful? Were you poorly or sinfully fathered so that it is hard for you to relate to God as “Abba?”

Go to the Scripture and read of the Father-heart of God. Ask the Spirit to reveal the depth of your Father’s love to you.  That is one of the most healing truths in all of the Word.  Know this – God is not the dreaded Authority Figure who is watching for your failure so He can punish you.  He is the Waiting Father, whose grace is amazing, whose mercy is deep and wide, and who acts always for your ultimate good. When that is settled into your heart and mind, you will pray with faith, live with peace, and find richer relationships in this world that rest in the security of your intimate love of the Father.

Our word from the Word is the prayer that Jesus taught us-
“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and
forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13, NLT)

__________________ 

Good, Good Father  (listen, learn, and worship at this link)

 I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

I’ve seen many searching for answers
Far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers
Only You provide
Because You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love

You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett © 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

Midnight words of hope for Monday morning!

promises

Weighed down with disappointment, I fretted my way into the night. “Why, Lord, does it have to be like this?” I whined over a situation that is much less than I hoped for.  10:30 became 11, then 11:30, and midnight came without sleep as I wrestled with finding a ‘solution’ that would work in my life.  You, too? Yes, we all have those nights when sleep is chased away by life’s troubles and needs. In the dark of the night, concern turned into frustration, frustration into complaint, and complaint began to become faithlessness.  I reached for the Scripture and rest soon came as the promises of God replaced the anxieties of the day. When what we planned goes out the window, when our best efforts are met with frustration, when people disappoint we can become cynical, a little bundle of ‘poor me.’  Or we can give our cares to the One who says, “I care for you.”

The Word that brought rest to my soul were the words of Isaiah, as he shared the revelation of the Lord with the people of Jerusalem. Their lives were broken, to all appearances their hopes gone.  But God reminds them of His plan to restore the city, her future secure in Him. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, (meaning Delightful) and your land Beulah; (meaning God’s Bride)  for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:2-5, NIV)

So how does an ancient word to a people of another era comfort us in our times of disappointment?

We learn that God is always at work to restore, renew, and work for His purposes. Our part is to trust and obey! No one in Jerusalem could even begin to imagine how God would bring back a conquered city, a destroyed Temple, and any resemblance of blessings, but He could and He did!  This is our assurance, too. Does this mean that everything will be rosy, all our stories wrapped up with neat conclusions by nightfall? Not at all.  God works outside of our timelines, before we are born and after we pass from this earth.

Jeremiah, another man who spoke to those people on God’s behalf, urged them to faith saying, “This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14, The Message)

He is the same God, in a different time. Will we hope in Him? Will we continue faithful when things are disappointing, when critics abound, when the future is murky?

Our calling in Him is not to slog on, grimly, dutifully merely surviving!  It is to hope in God and, in that hope, to find Joy for the journey.

Take this word from the Word for this day. “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:4-7, The Message)

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Mighty To Save

Ev’ryone needs compassion
Love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Ev’ryone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Saviour
The hope of nations

So take me as You find me
All my fears and failures
Fill my life again
I give my life to follow
Ev’rything I believe in
Now I surrender

Saviour He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Forever Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King
Jesus
Shine your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen King

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2006 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Are you saved?

 

wordswag_1490353702651I know some wonderfully “good” people whose lives make me exclaim, “Thank you, Lord” each time they come to mind.  They are not famous, have not written best-sellers, and are not making a big splash in the world. Solid people, they show up for life every day. They care for others with more than words, doing what they can to make the world of which they are a part a bit better.  Paul says that as they move through life spreading goodness they are the “fragrance of Jesus.”  You know you can count on that type of person, don’t you?  You never have to worry if they are ready to love you today and will forget your name tomorrow. They are good folk!

 In his letter to Titus, Paul urged him to teach the people under his spiritual care to connect their faith to life making sure that their behavior reflected what they claimed to believe. Key to the third chapter of that letter is a phrase urging people to ‘be good.’  Three times in 15 verses it shows up. “Remind the people … to be ready to do whatever is good … those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. … Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (Titus 3:14, NIV)  The goodness of this letter is not moral purity, though that is important.  The Word calls them (and us) to leave a positive impression, our hands and hearts engaged with others for real benefit.

A life of goodness is prime evidence of the reality of the truth of Jesus Christ. A person who can say all the right things about doctrine but who is without a good heart is, in James’ word, a cloud without water!  They blow over leaving nothing of value!  Paul makes it very clear that this kind of ‘goodness’ is not natural.  His view of human nature is dark. “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back.” (Titus 3:3, The Message)  Ouch! So what makes the difference?

We got saved!

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, NIV)   Much more than resolved to be marginally better, entirely different than attempting anger management, even beyond getting religion – we are saved; yes pulled out of the hopeless place of enslavement to Self so that we can serve the Living God.  We are reborn, as it were, passing through the waters of baptism and emerging to a whole new life, energized by the Spirit of God living in us.

I am somewhat nostalgic for the old days of the ‘altar’ in church.  Time was that people felt the stirring of the Spirit and often with tears made their way to the front of the church, falling on their knees, broken by the conviction of God and arising hopeful because they knew that Someone had lifted their burden, broke the power of their old ways, and given them a fresh start. Yes, they got ‘saved.’

Salvation is still God’s offer.  We do not find it through extensive counseling, through training in church doctrine or history, or by becoming better adjusted to life. We must encounter the Living God, humble ourselves before the Savior, and accept – by faith- the offer of being made right by the grace of God.

Paul warns Titus about people who mistakenly think that “religion” is the same as salvation. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, … But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9, NIV)

Are you saved? It will show – in a new life that is good!

Take this word from the Word to heart.  Invite Christ to take you captive, to save you from sin, to spread the goodness of God through you into this world. “But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NLT)

__________________

Build Your Kingdom Here

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your pow’r in us

 We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive this earth

 Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray

 Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

Rend Collective© 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

A Birthday celebrated in Heaven

bevbday6 years ago, I wrote this on Bev’s birthday. Pardon my sentimentality as I re-publish these words that help me to remember the kind of woman she was. That day it seemed that we had forever. But, the Lord chose a much shorter journey for her on this planet.  Were we perfect together? Ah, time has a way of airbrushing the flaws out of the picture and I know that.  What I can affirm is that we loved Him together, and His love kept us through the up’s and down’s that are a part of this human experience.  I am remembering her today,  her 63rd birthday.  May the life she lived inspire us to love better, serve faithfully, and be ready to enter the Joy of the Lord as she did on 12/29/2015.

_____________

Today is my wife’s birthday. Were you to guess which one after seeing her, you would probably miss it by at least a decade. God and DNA have been much kinder to Bev than me but I don’t mind, not even a little bit. She is a gift from the Lord to me, more treasured with each passing year, my complement in every sense of the word! I sang “Happy Birthday” softly to her in the darkness this morning and reminded her that we are a team, inseparable, stronger together by far than we could ever be apart. In that moment, all was right with my world: God in His Heaven, my love at my side.

To watch her in her work- be it teaching her first graders, leading a chapel worship session, or conducting a woman’s Bible class – is to see grace in action. Her diligence is phenomenal in every season, no matter what’s going on in her life. She loves me quietly with steady affection. She’s not one to hang all over me in a crowd, but she will rise to my defense like a lioness. She prays for her family and is my able advocate before the Lord. She offers counsel to me that comes from a place of reflection and submission to the Spirit. And, she’s beautiful.

The familiar passage in Proverbs describes her accurately. It says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” (Proverbs 31:25-32, NLT)

She’s tender, still given to tears when overwhelmed by life’s sorrows; and she’s tough, resilient in the face of critics and the stormy times that blow through every life. She’s sometimes thought to be fragile, but she’s actually quite strong like steel covered with velvet. She’s not perfect, but she knows her weaknesses and let’s God work in those very places. I am blessed and thankful that the Lord gave me this gift and today I say, “Happy Birthday. The world was blessed when you were born!”

This was our song …

I’ll always remember the song they were playing,
The first time we danced and I knew.
As we swayed to the music and held to each other,
I fell in love with you.

 Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?
Would you be my partner, every night?
When we’re together it feels so right,
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?  – Annie Murray

Standing in the Rain?

letitrainCall me silly, maybe even childish, but there is a simple pleasure in which I delight; standing in the rain!  Think summer day with gentle rain falling. Every now and then I just stand in the rain, letting it wet my face, feeling alive.  My adult side reminds me that my clothing is getting wet, that I’ll have to change when I get in the house; and yet, there I stand. Those rains refresh the earth, making the grass grow.  I enjoy the fury of a Summer thunderstorm, too; drenching the ground with a downpour, but I’m wise enough not to stand out in those storms.  Those arid deserts of the West are beautiful in their own way, but I much prefer the woodlands and the green beauty where I live!  As Spring arrives so will the rain and life will thrive.

Are you standing where the rains of Heaven can water your soul?

The Psalmist exults in His provision. “You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. There your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people.” (Psalm 68:9-10, NLT)  Rain, in those arid regions where the Scripture was written, was a symbol of blessings. When rain came, the crops grew and the people were fed. If rain did not fall, famine followed.  Joel urged the people to “Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with new wine and olive oil.” (Joel 2:23-24, NLT)

I am praying for rain; not the actual rains of Springtime, but the rain of the Spirit. God’s people need a renewal. When His gentle Spirit moves, will you stand in the rain, friend?  In all of the difficulties with which we deal, day in and day out, our souls can get dry, the fruit of the Spirit withered. Sighing overtakes laughter.  Enthusiasm for worship and service are lost to dutiful performance.  So, Lord, let it rain!  Give us childlike hearts so we will not run to hide, but turn our faces upwards and let the rain wash over us, making us alive again.

Isaiah spoke sharply to the sins of God’s people. He did not overlook their refusal to obey the Lord, but he also knew that the Father delights in blessing His people. The last chapters of his prophecies turn from the gloom of judgment to the promise of all things made new.

Read an excerpt in this word from the Word. Feel the warm rain of the Spirit bringing promise to your heart, your soul, your mind.
“Jerusalem, stand up! Shine! Your new day is dawning. The glory of the Lord shines brightly on you. The earth and its people are covered with darkness, but the glory of the Lord is shining upon you.  … Open your eyes! Look around! Crowds are coming. Your sons are on their way from distant lands; your daughters are being carried like little children. When you see this, your faces will glow; your hearts will pound and swell with pride. Treasures from across the sea and the wealth of nations will be brought to you.  … You were hated and deserted, rejected by everyone. But I will make you beautiful, a city to be proud of for all time to come. … Your sun will never set or your moon go down. I, the Lord, will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will come to an end.” (Isaiah 60:1-2, 4-5, 15, 20, CEV)

Are you ready for the rain?  Are you praying for revival? Are you looking for the Promises?
He is a Father who delights in restoration and renewal for His people. So, Lord, let it rain.

________________________

Let It Rain

We feel the rain of Your love
We feel the wind of Your Spirit
And now the heartbeat of Heaven let us hear
We feel the rain of Your love
We feel the wind of Your Spirit
And now the heartbeat of Heaven let us hear

 Let it rain let it rain
Would You open the floodgates of Heaven
Let it rain let it rain
Would You open the floodgates of Heaven (Lord)

 Let it rain let it rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven
Let it rain let it rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven
Let it rain let it rain
Open the floodgates of Heaven

 Let it rain
Lord let it rain Lord let it rain
Over us over us
Lord let it rain we’re asking Lord

 To let it rain let it rain
Would You open the floodgates of Heaven
Lord let it rain let it rain
Would You open the floodgates of Heaven
Let it rain

Michael Farren© 2001 This Is Your Time Music (Admin. by The Loving Company) (Admin. by The Loving Company)

CCLI License # 810055

 

Those Stormy Emotions

anchorLoss is a real thing to me in recent years.  My Dad and Mom died two years apart. Bev and I turned our lives upside down to care for my brothers, boys they had adopted, and that choice proved to be something less than a joyous experience, for the most part.  Then, of course, the biggest loss, her cancer journey and death just over a year ago.  I am a resilient person and, by God’s grace and with love of many dear friends,  I carried on with life thinking that I was dealing with it all, rebuilding life in a new way.  “He’s moved on,” some said.

Don’t fool yourself!  The wound is still there and it only takes a bump on the road to rip it open. That became so evident yesterday. My Irish Setter, Sam, who is almost 9, needed oral surgery so I dropped her at the vet’s in the morning, with the expectation that she would be coming home mid-afternoon. The procedure went well, he said, but give her a little extra time to recover from the anesthesia. 3 became 5, 5 became 6:30 and my emotions began to swirl – fear and anger and sorrow – in equal measures. With the tumult inside of me I realized anew just how fragile my heart remains. In the middle of it all, I fielded a couple of pastoral calls from people in pain, real and deep issues in their lives.

Not for a moment do I believe myself unique in all of this.  Pain is common. Disappointments are everywhere. All people endure seasons of intense suffering!

How can we cope with the inevitable losses that will come our way in this broken world?

First of all, we must anchor ourselves in the promise of God.
The prayer of the broken man written in the 73rd Psalm is often on my lips. “When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me. You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do!” (Psalm 73:20-28, The Message)  I love that passage for the brutal authenticity found there.  Who among us has not become a ‘dumb ox’ before God, emoting rage or bitterness as we are temporarily blinded by our tears? But He does not walk off in disgust. He tenderly loves us through our pain. And, when we settle and His Presence finds us, there is renewal of hope.

You are His beloved child. Why the pain? Why the disappointment?  We may never really know on this side of eternity, but He is unchanging, unfailing, and holds us secure in His grasp. Anchor to that, my friend!

We must stay self-aware and take charge of our hearts!
Yesterday in the tumble of emotions, I did some self-talk evaluating my situation, realizing that some of the things I felt were real in the moment, but not the truth of my life!  When the pressure comes, kneel!  Peter teaches us  that we should “humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:6-9, NLT)

We must learn to worship the One Who is greater and to give thanks.
The stories that the Bible records for us reveal that the men and women who stood tall were those who chose to worship in Spirit and truth. Job lost everything but his life. He raged against the unfairness of it all and asked God to show up and defend Himself! But, the Lord only revealed His majesty leaving Job’s questions shrouded in mystery. Job’s response? “I put my hand over my mouth.”  He chose humble worship. “Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:1-6, NLT)

Finding yourself with tumbling, swirling emotions today? Are fear, anger, doubt, and/or confusion trying to take over your mind?

Anchor in His promise.
Get aware and take charge of your heart.
Humbly worship.

Here is a word from the Word.  “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11, NLT)

(And, this morning, Sam, the setter, is doing fine. She is a little grumpy but recovering well.)

_________

Good, Good Father

I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

 You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

 I’ve seen many searching for answers
Far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers
Only You provide
Because You know just what we need
Before we say a word

 You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us 

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love

Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett
© 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

 

 

“You’re an idiot!” and other loving statements

wordswag_1490009103043I read yet another Facebook post with an alarming headline and asked, “Could it really true?” With some research I found that that the post, like so many these days, (from all parts of the political spectrum) chose to ignore the whole story and the context. As a result the report was alarming but untrue, more gossip than news, looking for to inflame emotion more than to inform.  I am refusing to play that game any longer. This has become an issue of Christian life for me.  We know how damaging a person can be who likes to ‘stir the pot’ in our workplace or family, don’t we? For reasons I find incomprehensible, some seem to enjoy keeping the drama going, telling half of the story so that people are divided and confused.

It is a wrong that we need to work to make right!  The book of Wisdom says this: “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3, NIV)  “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” (Proverbs 26:20-21, NLT)  Jesus taught us that when we create peace, we reveal the heart of our Father. There is a promise for those who build bridges instead of throwing bombs. “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NLT)

Repeatedly the Word urges followers of Christ to be people of self-control, who are temperate, who are sober-minded. That demands much of us – taking time to think – avoiding a reaction – listening even more than we speak. Easy? Not at all, especially about those things for which our convictions go deep. America needs a lot less incendiary opinions and a lot more thoughtful people who work to create cooperation. Like it or not, public policy that works never is a complete win for every side. Our nation works best when we are moderate, when we work toward goals even as we understand that many things take time, that problems created by decades of poor choices cannot be solved with some draconian law that rips up people’s lives. In our present time with so many challenges tearing us apart, when even national leaders appear to be intent on leveraging every issue for the gain of their party, we who are in Christ have an obligation to be truth-seekers.  I assure you that the truth is much more complex than most of our media reports indicate.

The same principle applies in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our churches.  Are we saying things that divide, that tear people apart, or are we using word that encourage, that draw people towards goals that are bigger than their own self-interest? Do we love drama or feel the need to inflame emotions because we think it is the best way to provoke change?

Paul wrote practical words to a couple of people he loved who were tearing up a church. ” Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” (Philippians 4:2, NLT)   In his letter to the church in Ephesus, he spoke to similar problem. “As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, CEV)  The Corinthian church was torn apart by factions each insisting that they had found the only way.  I can almost Paul weeping as he writes to them: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasa”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided?”  (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

I am guilty of allowing passionate conviction to obscure my love for others. God forgive me. And, if I have let my words be harsh, I ask your forgiveness. Let us, for the sake of Christ Jesus, commit ourselves to being those who seek peace. No, we do not have to do it at the expense of the truth and there will be times when conflict is sharp, but our aim is to bring light, to reason, to continue dialogue even with those who are opposed to us.

Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit help us to understand. “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12, NIV)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faithwhere there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

 O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

-St. Francis of Assisi