I’m gonna kill somebody!

This week I watched parts of a Congressional hearing. Words fail me in an attempt to explain my response as I observed people with power over my life showing such explosive anger. Was I sad, mad, dismayed, contemptuous, scathing, angry, fearful… yes, all of the above and more. The rage in that room overwhelmed the issues that were supposedly under investigation. I thought, “These people make the laws and policies that govern my life. How can it be?”  It brought back memories of another hearing, when Justice Kavanaugh was before the Senate Judiciary committee accused of sexual assault when he was a student. Then, too, whatever your political convictions, it was impossible to miss the fury that turned leaders into people who appeared on the edge of madness.

Pity the person who is incapable of anger. Where there is injustice, oppression, bigotry, hypocrisy, or a refusal of God’s direction – we need the depth of passion that allows us to feel anger that presses us into action. We need to know, at the same moment, that anger is an extremely dangerous emotion! Anger can fuel us with boldness, can move us to sacrifice, cause us to serve without thought of personal cost. 

Remember the story of young David? He showed up at the encampment of Israel’s army to hear the Philistine champion, Goliath, mock the Israelites and the Name of God. The teenager’s response was anger: Who will “remove this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised (godless pagan) Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  (I Samuel 17) David went onto the battlefield armed only with faith, a slingshot, and five small stones – and he took down the giant of a man that day. Yes, anger served a purpose.

Anger, like fire, must be kept only where it belongs. When either are out of control, they cease to serve us and begin to destroy us.   The anger that we feel in these times should drive us to our knees in fervent prayer for the defeat of evil, for guidance as the people of God. Anger that makes us reactionary turns us into fools, or worse!

Yes, to use an old illustration, Jesus, our Example, did release His anger when He observed profit-making in the Temple that was a barrier raised before people who wanted to pray and worship. He turned over tables, drove the profiteers out, and shouted about making the Temple into a ‘den of thieves.’ Christian, we cannot use what Jesus did that day to rationalize our rage over personal insult or perceived slights. Jesus’ anger was centered, like David’s in my previous example, around the honor of God.

Christians, filled with the Spirit of God, will generally set aside anger and pursue peace.  Knowing we are held in God’s hand, kept by His promises, and assured of eternal life – we can put away anger and meet those around us with an open heart. 

Jesus said that ‘peacemakers’ will be called “children of God.’  God reminds us, “Live in harmony with each other. … And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:16-20, NLT)

Not much of the anger that boils around us has much to do with God’s honor. Mostly it comes from fear and a desire to be ‘first.’  Those of us who follow Christ need to put ‘protecting my rights’ as a reason for anger far, far down the list.

A passage to memorize, one to which we can return frequently is this – “For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.” That is why we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, NLT)  Here is another one: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4, NIV)

When we choose to live in the serenity that comes from deep faith, that peace becomes a source of life for our family, friends, and the whole world in which we live. Let’s spit out the poison of rage and choose to drink deeply of Living Water that satisfies the soul.

Ah, friend, Jesus says “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38, NIV) Make it your passion (Lord, help me!) to overflow with the Spirit, renewing and refreshing those who live in a parched land.

Are you angry today? Are you frustrated? Before you blow up, kneel down!  You can attempt to vindicate yourself and punish the offender. If you do, everybody loses.  Or you walk with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with transforming grace. When He lives in us, love wins although sometimes at great cost!

Here’s a word from the Word. Let’s live it. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. ” (Proverbs 16:32, NKJV)  So, “Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.” (Colossians 3:13-15, The Message)

_________

Abba, hold me close. Speak peace to my mind and heart.
These troubled times bring fear and
I am tempted to slip into a defensive, angry posture.
Help me to trust You, to seek the best, the highest, in faith.

Give me a vision that sees beyond protecting
what I perceive to be my rights,
that pursues Your kingdom aims for others.

Keep me from hiding in apathy, too.
Make me passionate for You and
the things of God even as I seek to
reconcile people to You and one another.

I thank You for loving me even when I ignored You,

for that triad of Your gifts – Grace, Mercy, and Peace.
Oh, Lord, I praise You for Your kindness to me.
Lead me, keep me from the Evil One.
This I pray in Jesus’ holy Name.  Amen

Perspective and Life

In my prayerful reflection this morning, I found myself so very sad. The infighting that is America these days weighs on me. Americans cannot find common agreement about anything – race, economics, politics, the pandemic, faith. The civil society that makes life possible is disintegrating before our eyes. Perhaps you do not agree with that assessment. Information, which is so important to critical thinking, is hard to come by. There are OPINIONS by the million, people EMOTING even in our news media by the thousand, but truth is scarce. If a ‘fact’ does not align with a political position, it is censored, never reported, or discredited by other ‘experts.’  This leaves people like us feeling the stress of uncertainty.

Yesterday I talked about the importance of who you know in managing the stresses of life. Our relationships, with God, with others, are deep wells of renewal in times like these. There is another factor in dealing with stress that is critically important: gaining the right perspective. Perspective, once exclusively used of art, means to ‘look through.’  It came to refer to our attitudes, the way we think about life, our point of view. IF our perspective is flawed our grasp of reality will be skewed and therefore our response will be faulty.

What can be done to gain and keep a right perspective?

First, we believe that God is the Creator and Source of Life!

Nothing can replace that basic fact of human existence. When we discard God in formation of our understanding of the world chaos will follow. The Scripture makes this statement. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:20-22, NIV)  An arrogance has gripped humanity that has ripped God from His rightful place.  Humble acknowledgement of this fact – there is a God and I am not Him – is the cornerstone of wisdom.

Second, we believe that God can be KNOWN, that He wills a purpose for us!

The Word starkly reveals what happens if a person believes in God but refuses to know Him. “For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. That is why they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen.” (Proverbs 1:29-31, NLT)  The best life is found in the pursuit of the Holy One, in a life-long commitment to discovering His plans for us.

Third, we believe that God has COME TO US, in the Person of Jesus!

The incarnation (literally – God in flesh) is a beautiful mystery of our faith. How could our God Who is eternal, majestic, all powerful, and all knowing become a Man?  This we believe – that Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11, NIV) He become a part of His Creation so that we could know Him, love Him, and find ourselves at peace with Him. This statement of faith has real consequence for how we live here and now.

Fourth, we believe that Jesus INVITES US TO LIFE ETERNAL, through FAITH IN HIM!

Naturally we live alienated from God, not just unwilling, but incapable of doing His will. The Scripture’s description of the plight of humanity is stark – Dead in your sins. Oh how those who insist on human potential, who love their own wisdom, hate that statement. But I read it and look upward in faith to know that “to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.” (John 1:12-13, NLT) In that rebirth of the spirit, when I am made alive to God, a whole new reality emerges, changing my perspective on life.

Lastly, we believe that because Jesus was RAISED FROM THE DEAD we too WILL LIVE IN GOD’S HOME FOREVER!

With that hope what in all this world can rob us of peace?  Death itself, the last enemy, is ultimately defeated. When that is part of my perspective, I become immoveable, unshakeable, anchored on the Rock. Of this Scripture says, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me—that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NLT)  
“When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58, NLT)

This is the Gospel – the Good News. Want to know peace in the uncertainties of life? Want to find meaning for your existence beyond the food you eat, the clothing you wear, the sensual pleasures you experience?

God exists. He can be known. Jesus shows us the Way to life. That life extends beyond the grave. That makes life worth living.

_____________

In Christ Alone

(Celtic worship does this song beautifully!)

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the power of Christ I stand

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Keith Getty | Stuart Townend © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Meeting Stress – God’s way

We all deal with stress that comes from a thousand different directions.
What does my boss want from me?
Could anything else possibly go wrong ?
Will I ever feel whole and healthy again?
Is it even possible to overcome that addiction?
What is happening to the world I live in?  

These are familiar questions that come to people of all ages. We respond to the stress they bring in very different ways depending on our understanding, our personality, how we were taught to see life, our experience, and our faith.  Some people can’t deal with a bad haircut. It ruins their attitude for days. Others appear to sail serenely through a cancer diagnosis, full of hope. There is one key factor for managing stress in God’s way.

God’s wisdom for bearing up under life’s stresses teaches us to create and maintain strong relationships.The inspired Word says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-13, NIV)  Studies reveal that adding a close friend to a stressful situation will reduce the stress response in a person by half.  Yes, it true! Just having a trusted friend present lowers stress significantly.

Good spiritual and emotional health includes having genuine friendships. Stress that pushes us into isolation, that makes us feel all alone, creates a fertile field for the growth of addictions, compulsions, self-defeating thoughts, and sin.

Remember the story of Elijah after his greatest victory? He saw God’s power revealed before the nation, the destruction of the idol worship in Israel, and the miraculous rain that broke a famine in the land. But, when threatened by Queen Jezebel, he ran off by himself, hid out in the desert, and eventually asked God to just let him die!  Exhausted, he made a critical mistake. He left friend and support behind, trying to go it alone.

Have you made building solid friendships and close relationships a priority in life?  We need more than those people that we go out to dinner with occasionally to share a few laughs. We need more than those people who sit in the same church only known by name. We need people who know us, inside out, who will encourage us with the truth, who will go the distance with us, who won’t walk out on us.  

Maybe you are reading that and thinking how few, if any, people like that you have in your life. Lacking solid, life-long friends is not uncommon today in our nation. Our American ideal of privacy, our loss of community and neighborhood, and our churches which turned into gathering places for one hour every other week have left us impoverished when it comes to forming those close relationships that keep us when we are stressed by life.

Making and keeping friends is something of a lost art for many of us.  How do we do it? That could take a book to answer but here are a few thoughts.

  1. See friendship as a true value worthy of investment of your time.
  2. Be the friend you want. One-sided, needy relationships are toxic.
  3. Forgive. Nobody’s friends are flawless.
  4. Adjust to changes in situations. Friendship that survive are not static.
  5. Realize that social media cannot replace ‘in person’ contact for true friends.
  6. Keep Christ at the center. A shared walk with the Lord is a powerful bond.
  7. Invest time. Not every encounter will sparkle with excitement.
  8. Stay committed.

In my worst crisis of life, when I knew that Bev, my late wife, was terminally ill with cancer, it was not just faith that kept me whole. My kids, who made loving their parents a priority in spite of busy lives and living far away, and my friends who hung in through up’s and down’s, who shared tears, sent notes, prayed with me and for me became my shelter in the storm. It is beyond my imagination to think of going through those 20 months of the awfulness of cancer’s slow death without all those people who were willing to walk the road with me.

Storms will come to us all, more than the gusts of inconvenience, but real hurricanes that threaten to destroy the life we cherish! Even now so many of us are stressed by a world in chaos, by the threat of pandemic illness, by multiple unknowns in our future. Let’s be the Body of Christ. Let’s learn to love beyond words and in this to reveal the goodness of the Lord to the world in which we live.

Here is the word from the Word. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NIV)  Be a friend. Find a friend. Keep those friends close.

_______

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

(not the hymn you expect 😊 )

Everybody has trials and temptations
Everybody knows heart break isolation
But we can lay our burdens down
Lay our burdens down

What a friend we have in Jesus
East to west my sins are gone
I see grace on every horizon
And forever and ever His heart is my home

Everybody has fears everybody got worries
Everybody knows sorrow devastation
But we can lay our burdens down
Lay our burdens down

No more betrayal for He is faithful
He fills me up and my cup runneth over
No more betrayal for He is faithful
How He has proven it over and over (over and oh)

Abbie Parker | Adam Palmer | Matt Maher | Matthew Hein
© All Essential Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
I Am “They” Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
I Am A Pilgrim Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
IAMTHEYSONGS (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

Ready to QUIT?

A wide and deep streak of frustration runs through our lives these days. I had an appointment with a physician yesterday. His disposition is usually sunny, his outlook positive. Not this time. His words were cynical, his comments revealing a man whose basic foundations of life are shaken. Dr. Smith (not his name) is not at all unique, is he? 

Now, mid-Summer, parents are wondering about schooling for their children – “Should I send them back? Home school? Is it safe? How will I go back to work if they are home? Which ‘expert’ do I believe?”  Business owners are struggling, too, as resources disappear and no full return is in sight. Individuals who live paycheck to paycheck are facing tough times – particularly in the area of housing if they cannot pay the rent.

There are spiritual issues at stake, too. Too many Christians are responding to the chaotic state of the world, not with faith, not with courage, but by turning inward and neglecting their spiritual health. Research shows that over the last three months, young families have disengaged from their church and personal spiritual disciplines at alarming rates. 

Between 35 and 50% of families with children chose not to return to church when it opened and stopped connecting with online services. I know that I am ‘preaching to the choir’ here. If you’re connecting with this daily blog, you are most likely not in that statistical group but I want to raise the issue with us all. We need to PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER and encourage each other LIKE NEVER BEFORE.

Yes, we are tired. Many of us are discouraged, even overwhelmed.  We are tempted to turn it all off, numbing our minds with Netflix, buying things, escaping into diversions. I know, I really do understand. Would you believe me if I told you that sometimes we just do the right thing because it is the right thing, regardless of our feelings?  Serving the Lord, maintaining our spiritual health, is a lot like a long-term investment.  One of the worst financial strategies is one that chases quick returns. Wise investors think long-term. If the portfolio is diverse and includes solid companies, an investor must be willing to stick with market cycles, watching as their account goes through the up’s and down’s.

The Bible uses a farmer’s life as the model – there is time to plant, there is time to wait, there is time to harvest! Here is a passage of principle. This truth must be kept in the forefront of our thinking as we make our daily choices. “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (Galatians 6:8-9, NLT)

We cannot fervently worship for a month and ask, “Ok, Lord, where is my blessing?” There is always a time that passes between planting and harvesting. In the intervening months, there is CULTIVATION, pulling the weeds, watering the ground, keeping away things that destroy the plants.  When we regularly worship (personally and corporately), regularly take in Scripture, meditate and listen for the Spirit, confess our sins, practice generosity of wallet and attitude, renew our eternal perspective – we give the Spirit the opportunity to develop and mature our faith.

There are real consequences in our choices. Initially, stepping away from discipleship might feel good, a kind of relief from something that feels like another obligation.  Over time, however, that decision to ignore the soul’s needs, that choice to neglect the things of God, will create spiritual decay effecting each of us, our families, our churches.

If we prioritize godly things, Jesus points out that  “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:23-25, NIV)  Those who stay faithfully close to the Lord through it all are blessed with a security that reaches into eternity.

Disciple, love Jesus! Don’t fixate on the up’s and down’s of life.  Only God knows why the trials and joys of each day are allowed to come our way. Invest in Him for the long-term.

Here’s a word from the Word. a repeat of the passage quoted above but this time from a modern paraphrase. May it be both a caution and encouragement for you today.
Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest.
The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!— harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.

Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”
(Galatians 6:7-10, The Message)

Are you investing your life wisely, building true wealth that will survive life’s fires and find Heaven’s approval when you arrive finally at home?

_________

Build My Life (A great song that points us to real faith in the Builder)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You

Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett © 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited) Kaple Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Livin’ the dream?

When we hear someone respond to a question about how life is going by saying, “I’m livin’ the dream,”  the tone is usually sarcasm. The meaning is exactly the opposite of the statement. That person is plowing through day after day in a life that is hard or disappointing.  I’d like to shift the meaning today, by taking away irony to point to the power of your dreams to a thing better referred to as a ‘vision.’  

I recently talked with a younger man who has drifted with the current for years. He has been through multiple jobs, has struggled with relationships, and is frustrated with the state of his life. He had no vision, no compelling idea about his future that allowed him to make tough, self-denying choices today in pursuit of a better tomorrow.

“What’s your vision?”  Answering that can be much harder than you think.  Gaining a vision, seeing beyond the present, letting God plant a vision that we water with prayer, devotion, training, and work – creates a life of beauty and wholeness. I value steadiness, desire to be a man who sticks with things even when the going gets tough, and I am not suggesting that anyone allow themselves to get lost in fantastic dreams far distant from reality.

HOWEVER, I am also dreamer. My life is shaped by a set of values, a desire to please God and love others, that is more powerful than my own desires. (Honestly, I fail in that department sometimes. I am glad for His grace and mercy.)

In my teenage years, God set a vision in me.  I am compelled to share hope with those who want a changed life. I pray for things that do not exist yet, for people who are broken to find wholeness, for those who are ‘dead’ to God to come to life. This is what I dream. Like anyone with a dream I must deal with human sin, the Devil’s opposition, and systems that are godless. These all conspire to keep my God-given dreams from taking shape.

God-given dreams (vision) demands God’s resources. When I get wrapped up in my own agenda, when I get focused on ‘making things happen’ instead of working with the Lord, fatigue and frustration result. When I remain faithful to Him, He leads, empowers, and makes dreams become reality. And I am, indeed, ‘livin’ the dream!’  (no irony or sarcasm intended)

Do you dream? Do you know that God has real purpose for you, dreams that He wants to pour into your life? In Ephesians 1, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exults: “God thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, … It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” (The Message)

Hebrews says that through Christ, it is God’s plan to bring many sons to glory!” His plans for us include making us whole, mature, people who live with meaning and purpose. No, He is not concerned with making us rich or famous. If that is the heart of your dream, you’re not hearing from the Spirit.  Many Christians confuse ‘soulish’ desires, dreams that are born of their reaction to life or their own longings, with Spirit-inspired vision! 

In your times of prayer and meditation, invite the Lord to inspire (the word literally means ‘breathe into’) you with vision! Pray that He will allow you to dream. People of the Spirit need two sets of eyes: one they are born with that sees the world as it is and another that are God-given that lets them see the world as God wants it to be. That, Believer, is vision! The prophet Joel spoke of the Lord’s work in our lives with these wonderful words of promise. “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters. Your old men will dream, your young men will see visions. I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants, men and women both.” (Joel 2:28-29, The Message)

In his book, Visioneering, Andy Stanley offers this insight about the development of vision:

1. Define the Problem.
2. Outline a Solution
3. Determine the Reason something must be done.
4. Decide to do something now! 

In 2020, America is being torn apart. Competing visions are bidding for our souls.
Will we ‘see’ at God sees, made insightful by His wisdom, led by His Spirit to life eternal and filled with peace? 
OR, will we adopt the one of the philosophies of the age and be deluded by a dream that leads only to destruction?

Our Father in Heaven asks us to look higher, too. If we can catch glimpses of the glory He’s planned for us, we will more readily say “yes, Lord” to the rigorous discipline that brings us to share in His purposes. Living to our full potential, becoming a child of glory, is not inevitable but, we can ‘live the dream’ if we will walk in faith, turn from evil, and open up to the Spirit of the Lord.

The word from the Word is full of promise. Oh may the Spirit let us hear His voice and led us to higher things, for God’s sake. Read this prayerfully. BELIEVE! RECEIVE! And, gain new vision. “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21, NLT)

________

Be Enthroned

(worship lifts our sights from earth to Heaven where vision is born)

We’ve come to join the song
Sung long before our lives
To raise our voice along
Heaven and earth alike
We’ve seen Your faithful hand
our mercy without end
The King who bled and died
A God who sacrificed

Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy Lord of all
And unto You the slain and risen King
We lift our voice with heaven
Singing worthy Lord of all
(Lord of all)

All through this life we lead
And on to eternity
Our endless praise we cry
Jesus be glorified
(Jesus be glorified)

Highest praises Lord of all
(REPEAT)

Brian Johnson | Hunter Thompson | Jeremy Riddle | Kalley Heiligenthal © 2015 Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Just not “good enough”

Bill and Sue (pseudonyms) are good people. They are well-educated, productive, moral persons. They have well-developed social consciences, are sensitive to the issues of the day and are engaged with the world in which they live. They are a pleasant, engaging couple that I would welcome to be my next-door neighbors. I’ll throw this in – they are good-looking, too. Their lives would be the envy of many.  And, they are without any apparent relationship with God. Bill is an agnostic, Sue has no professed faith.

In days past, when Christians thought about sharing the Gospel of Christ with people like Bill and Sue, the approach immediately went to eternal destiny! 50 years ago, I was trained to find a way to put the question into the conversation – “If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?” I did not like it then and I dislike even more now. Trying to frighten people to know God by talking about death, doom, and Hell’s destruction does not really work. The question is brushed off by most today as irrelevant anyway. The idea of living forever is not at the forefront of the minds of people who have learned to ignore and sanitize death.  The Good News of Jesus is much more than a ‘get of Hell’ card so why make it about that?

Another approach is to try to get Bill and Sue to ‘go to church.’  “You’ll love the people.”  “It’s a great community.” “We have a great kid’s ministry.” “Our pastor is really caring and gives good sermons.” Hopefully all that is true, but we all know that the Church is not a perfect place. Flawed people go there, too. Like every other institution, the Church has been plagued with scandal for the last 40 years, too.  Getting Bill and Sue to church will be difficult and isn’t the answer. Millions of people sit in church buildings every Sunday but they are unchanged and untouched by the life of the Spirit. There must be more than ‘going to a church’ that bears a holy Name.

The Gospel of Christ Jesus speaks to our deepest human needs. Those needs are not more things, bigger bank accounts, or even a safer world. When we are alone with our thoughts, when we have reached the limits of satisfaction that can be found in another ‘thing,’ an experience that gives us pleasure, or even the love of another person – we long for more. Those questions that we manage to ignore in our youth surface more often as mid-life approaches. “Why do I exist?”  “Am I just a conglomerate of carbon-based atoms that is deteriorating slowly?”

The Good News of Jesus speaks directly to those questions. Hopefully, those of us who claim to be His followers demonstrate the reality of the faith by living differently as a result of knowing Him. If we are not authentic about who we are and who He is in us, if we are merely religious without a meaningful sense of worshipful relationship, whatever words we attempt to share with Bill and Sue will be, to use the Bible’s language, “meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Christ addresses the needs that are part of everyone’s life – even those who are affluent, who are living well, who enjoy health, wealth, and security. What are those needs?

Know God.

God placed eternity in the hearts of mankind. When we pause to think, when we shut off the noisy world,  we know that there is ‘more there.’ The cry of a baby, the majesty of the mountain, the roar of the ocean, the whisper of a summer breeze, the beauty of a flower, the exquisite joy of love, are all declarations that we are more than just a highly evolved natural organism.  Though Bill and Sue may not use the word, they seek to worship;  be it admiration of beauty or devotion to some cause. Christ satisfies that longing by opening the way to know God.

Find Freedom.

Nobody wants to feel that they are out of control, that something owns them.  But, we know innately that we are not completely free. We sense that forces bigger than ourselves hold sway over us. Christ Jesus offers freedom – the freedom of truth, freedom from habits that control, freedom from shame and guilt. The Christian community should be the most liberating place on earth, a people of God who are free to live ‘life to the full,’ as Jesus promised.

Discover Purpose.

Human beings want to live ‘on purpose.’  Christ teaches us that we are made to know, to love, and to serve God. When our efforts are formed by the desire to know Him and to make Him known, we become better people, better in our work, better in our love, better parents, spouses, citizens. As Christians let’s not allow our amazing purpose “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”  {Westminster Confession) to be turned into lesser things – like being political activists, or trying to advance the agenda of some party, or to elect a President. We have a high, holy calling to bring God’s Presence into the visible world with bold love. How that calling finds expression is amazingly different as the Spirit leads us and equips us to do the will of God.

Make a Difference.

People want more than a legacy, more than to be remembered as a ‘good person.’ And, through Christ, as He is invited to live in us, to change us into eternal beings of beauty and wonder, we find those opportunities. The awful tragedy of so much of our modern Christianity is that it is made into something far too small.  We settle for symbolism and tokenism, unwilling to make the personal sacrifice that allows God to use us to really make a difference in this world. But, where we abandon our love of Self to embrace Christ’s call we become people whose lives “spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.”  (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Baseline, we can never, on our own, be good enough for God’s approval.
But, we can know the One who makes us whole, Who leads us to life – now and forever. His Name? Jesus.

Here is the word from the Word. IF you are a Bill or Sue (and you’re still reading, thank you) consider the offer made by God through His Son. If you are Christian (and you’re still reading, thank you!) do not live a lesser life than is offered us in Him.  These are wonderful words of life. 

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you.”  (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)

__________

Reckless Love

(worship with this song about His love)

Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me

You have been so so good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me

You have been so so kind to me

O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God
O it chases me down fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it I don’t deserve
Still You give Yourself away
O the overwhelming never-ending reckless
Love of God

When I was Your foe still Your love fought for me
You have been so so good to me
When I felt no worth You paid it all for me
You have been so so kind to me

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Caleb Culver | Cory Asbury | Ran Jackson
© Watershed Publishing Group (Admin. by Watershed Music Group)
Bethel Music Publishing
Richmond Park Publishing
CCLI License # 810055

A Christ-less “Christianity?”

Yesterday I wandered around the big, beautiful sanctuary that houses our congregation. It’s a place I love, where we ‘worship’ with joy and practice parts of our faith. I felt such a sorrow, such a sense of loss as I stood hearing echoes of ministry past. But, the church is not the Church, the building just a house, not the core. Christianity is not the songs, the sermons, the sanctuaries in which we gather.

Christianity is Christ JESUS in me, in you. Events of the last few months have stripped away so many of the functions of our faith, hasn’t it?  Restrictions on gathering, fear that prevent practice of our shared rituals, and  diminished numbers in a buildings – these are sad developments and will certainly have a long-term effect on church life. Yet, my prayer is that this time will restore Christ to the heart of our faith where He belongs.

These inspired words speak deeply to me. “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.” (Philippians 3:8-11, NIV)  In that opening line, when Paul refers to ‘everything’ he is speaking of his religious past. It was one full of beautiful ritual, the law of Moses, Temple meetings, and study of the prophets’ words. It was a religion that demanded much, that provided an identity to Paul, that was comforting in its familiarity. Yet, he says that all that is ’rubbish’ compared to knowing JESUS!

Friend, let me ask you a question that I have been asking myself.  

Which do you love more – Jesus Christ or the “Christian life?”
With weekly gatherings limited, children’s programs curtailed, the energy of a full church not available, are you feeling lost, dislocated, adrift?

I confess that I miss those things and more very much, but my hope in the Lord remains unshaken.

Christ is very much available to us, even in these chaotic times. Nothing can cut us off from knowing Him, from the practices of contemplative prayer, personal worship, and receiving the Scripture’s wisdom.  The heart of the Christian life is Christ, Who we know by the work of the Holy Spirit. He is not resident only in building, known only in our congregational gathering. Oh yes, there is no devaluing of ‘church’ in these words. Christians are to gather as the Body of Christ, the mystery of His Presence among them a powerful shared experience.  The gifts of the Spirit are given to the Church and when we do what He equips us to do – the whole Body is built up. But, there are times, like now, when we are pressed to know Christ personally, through faith, in the quiet corridors of our own heart.

Do you know Him as the anchor of your soul?
Or, is your faith and hope centered on Him or on a church, a pastor, a fellowship of Believers?

In my sanctuary wandering yesterday, He reminded me that He is still Lord of all, that His kingdom cannot fail, that my destiny is secured in Him, not my religion.

Today I return again to a passage I quoted a couple of days ago. This powerful word from the Word  comes from the final letter of Paul. He was cut off from fellowship, unable to join the worshiping Church, in a cell alone. No, he really wasn’t, because Christ Jesus was there with him, as He is with us. Here is his declaration which I pray is ours, too. 

God “has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am.

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:9-14, NIV)

Re-center your faith in Christ. Reclaim the faith that saves. Be born anew in the power of the Spirit. And, in God’s time, the Church will emerge again; alive, the beautiful bride of Christ, made up of those who know Him, love Him, and hold onto faith.

_______

Only Jesus
(a song that reminds us of Christ, the center)

Make it count leave a mark
build a name for yourself

Dream your dreams
chase your heart above all else

Make a name the world remembers
But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams
I got lost in the light when it was up to me
To make a name the world remembers
But Jesus is the only name to remember

And I I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus

And I I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
Only Jesus

All the kingdoms built all the trophies won
Will crumble into dust when it’s said and done
‘Cause all that really matters
Did I live the truth to the ones I love
Was my life the proof that there is only One
Whose name will last forever

Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name
Jesus is the only name to remember

I I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
Only Jesus

Bernie Herms | Mark Hall | Matthew West © My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

Highly Combustible Music (Admin. by One77 Songs c/o Kobalt Songs Music Publishing (ASCAP))

CCLI License # 810055

Helping God out?


My grandson, who will be 6 years of age next month, is visiting this week. Yesterday when I was mowing the lawn he approached me. “Pop, I want to help you.” He joined me on the riding mower and then asked, “Can I drive it?”  I gave him the steering wheel but kept one hand on the lower portion. He felt in control, but in reality, Pop was still guiding.

With his ‘help’ the work took longer to complete, but the company was sweet! He loves to work, to contribute to an effort, but he had no skills that were of much assistance to me yesterday. Did I mind? Not at all. It was a deep Grandfatherly joy that filled me up while we ‘worked’ together.

In my morning prayer for the ‘work’ of the church where I serve, the Spirit whispered a quietly assuring word to me, using my lawn work as a parable of His provision. He has things under control, His Hand is on the steering wheel, and while I may feel as though I must ‘do something,’ in reality, He is at work.

Are you trying to ‘help God out’ in some situation? Are you stressing or frustrated that your plans are just not forming the way you believe they should?  I know the feeling; ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt,’ as they say.

Solomon left us a short Psalm, one that is included with the ‘songs of ascent’ which were sung by pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem for holy festivals.
“A song for the ascent to Jerusalem. A psalm of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is useless.
Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
” (Psalm 127:1-2, NLT)

Abraham, the father of the faithful, decided that the Lord was taking too long to fulfill the promise of an heir. As old age crept up on Sarah and himself, he took her servant, an Egyptian woman named Hagar, as a surrogate mother, fathering Ishmael. In trying to help God, he created family strife and great difficulties for the son of promise, Isaac, who was born miraculously in God’s time more than a decade later. Abraham’s intent was not evil, but it revealed a gap in his faith.

Saul’s story is less known but even more instructive for us. He was an inexperienced, young king going out to war. The man of God, Samuel, told him that he would come and offer sacrifices and prayer for the army. Seven days went by, the men of Israel growing restless, fearful; some even deserting their posts. Finally Saul decided he needed to help God and ordered preparations for the sacrifice to be made. He offering the sacrifice before the army, doing what he was not authorized to do. Just as he was finishing the rituals, Samuel showed up.

What resulted from Saul’s ‘efficiency?’ “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14, NIV)  Saul revealed that his heart was not fully aligned with the will of God and his fatal flaws of character, his pride and insecurity, that would be his undoing.

Jesus’ words invite us to trust, rest, and let God lead. “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message)  They are great words, inspiring words, AND quite difficult to truly live, at least for me.  The conceit of self-sufficiency insists that something must be done now, that God is late to the party.

Let’s rest on God’s promise, willing to wait on Him. That does not mean we are passive or apathetic. We are ready to move at His direction, humble enough to wait for His time, to live in His plan.

Here is a word from the Word for this day. Oh Lord, teach us to wait on You.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the Lord and turn your back on evil.

Then you will gain renewed health and vitality.” (Proverbs 3:5-8, NLT)

___________

This song is a source of great assurance in these chaotic times.
Spend a few moments focused on the One who is the Way Maker, our Promise Keeper!

Way Maker

You are here moving in our midst
I worship You I worship You
You are here working in this place
I worship You I worship You

Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper,
Light in the darkness, my God that is who You are
You are here touching ev’ry heart
I worship You I worship You

You are here healing ev’ry heart
I worship You I worship You
You are here turning lives around
I worship You I worship You

You are here mending ev’ry heart
I worship You yeah I worship You Lord
That is who You are
That is who You are
That is who You are

That is who You are
Even when I don’t see it You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it You’re working
You never stop You never stop working
You never stop You never stop working

Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu

© 2016 Integrity Music Europe (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook])

CCLI License # 810055

Do you see Jesus?

Last week I was waiting for my deli order at Shoprite™, wearing my mandated mask.  A person I did not recognize engaged me in conversation about the length of time he had already waited. I jokingly suggested that he just take another’s order and go on his way. From behind his mask he said, “Pastor, I didn’t expect you to say that. I know who you are. I see your ministry online.” The exchange, though light-hearted, was a reminder to me that I represent the Lord with my words and actions. It was and is sobering to realize once again that my life is watched and that people are looking to see and know Jesus through my life.

Edgar Guest, a journalist and poet, wrote this about a century ago and it remains true.
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

Christian friend, I am not unique in that privilege of bearing the Name of Jesus. All of those who are ‘in Christ’ share a high and holy calling to be His ambassadors in this world. Think about what that means.
Does the thought make you what to keep quiet about your faith?
Are you fearful of how you will represent Him? 

Paul, who worked to bring God’s message to his world, asks “Who is equal to such a task?”  (2 Corinthians 2.16) In our own strength, by our own resolve, we are not competent to make the wonderful Good News about Jesus known. But, we are not on our own!  

Timothy, struggling to do ministry in Crete, received these inspired instructions, which speak to us still. “Fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So you must never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for Christ. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the proclamation of the Good News. It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began—to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:6-9, NLT)

We lean into Christ Jesus. We give ourselves to the Spirit with humility and obedience. God did not save us, bring us into His family, and send us into life with a cheery, “Well now, go do your best.”  He is present, living in us, the Spirit actively leading us, working in the ‘circumstances’ we may perceive as random, to accomplish HIS purposes for us and through us.  (read that again!)  Today, He is with me, with you. What assurance I find in knowing that He orders my days but I often let that thought slip from my mind. When I do, I get stressed, frustrated, trying too hard to take control of that which is beyond my control.

MY responsibility is to let Him lead, to commit my day, my thoughts, my words, my actions – to HIM, trusting “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)  He is quite able to lead us through the stress of pandemic, to keep us in the middle of social unrest, to keep us spiritually healthy when trials come from every side. Confess that prayerfully, right now. “God, there is nothing that will happen to me today that will surprise You. There is no situation that will arise in my life that are beyond Your resources. There is no power in this world that can tear me from Your grasp.”  He is present, able, and willing to keep us. Knowing that in faith allows us to say to others what Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  It is not arrogant or boastful when we are walking with integrity, in the light of the Spirit.

Here is a word from the Word. I pray that the Spirit will make it a living Word for you and me so that we will represent Him well.
He “has saved us and called us to a holy life—
not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. …  
I know whom I have believed,
and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day
.
” (2 Timothy 1:9-12, NIV)

Take the privilege, know the peace. Live your high calling. Soli Deo Gloria

_________________

I Am Not Alone

(Kari Jobe sings of our strength for these times)

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear
I am not alone
I am not alone

You will go before me
You will never leave me
In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through

The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord You fight my ev’ry battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me redeem me
You call me as Your own
You amaze me redeem me
You call me as Your own
You’re my strength You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul

Austin Davis | Ben Davis | Dustin Sauder | Grant Pittman | Kari Jobe | Marty Sampson | Mia Fieldes

© Kari Jobe Carnes Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Worship Together Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

The 18″ Gap

That 18 inches that separates my head from my heart is sometimes a great chasm! You know what I mean? We ‘know’ and understand a truth but we may not love that truth. That chasm is a place of inner conflict. We may know that God holds our life securely in His hands and yet experience times when we are anxious. We may know that life’s greatest treasure is Christ, our Lord, but still covet lesser things.  We may know it is the will of God that we love and struggle to love the unlovely.

Paul, that man of God who walked in the Spirit, knew the inner conflict. He wrote (from the paraphrase The Message) “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.”  (Romans 7:19-23)  This revelation is shared with us so that we can excuse ourselves from holy living, so that we can grow comfortable with our failures.  We learn this so that our faith will grow and our focus shift from SELF to SPIRIT.

If we live ‘religiously’ keeping a constant score of good and bad, measuring ourselves in comparison to other Believers, or using punishment alone to try to bring ourselves into conformity with Christ’s desire for our lives, the cycle of despair will only deepen. Why? Because just when we think that something is overcome and banished, something will trigger us and failure will find us again.  The only One who can close the gap between our head and our heart is Jesus Christ, with a supernatural work. Here is how Paul says it: “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:24-25, NLT)

The heart of Christianity is not religious works we do. Our hope is centered on a profound faith in Christ Jesus Who entered the Creation, walked alongside of us, and defeated sin’s Curse on our behalf.  The frustration of fruitlessness that sin brought into the world is replaced by the fulfillment of fruitfulness found in the Spirit’s life in us. So many Believers make a common mistake. After finding hope in Jesus at some desperately low point in life, coming to Him with open heart, falling into His love like a child, when life starts to come together, they revert to religion, subtly convinced of their own goodness. Though they find restoration with God in faith, they attempt to live the Christian life by their own wisdom and will. And, the inner conflict rages!

The first Christians in Galatia followed that pattern and Paul angrily challenges them. “Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? You have suffered so much for the Good News. Surely it was not in vain, was it? Are you now going to just throw it all away? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. In the same way, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him righteous because of his faith.” (Galatians 3:3-6, NLT)

Many Christians are struggling in this season when church, Bible studies, and small groups are not as available. They are slipping, failing to do the things that they know are part of discipleship. You may be one of those people, your head and heart in different places, torn between two worlds. Focus on Christ! Do not hide the failures or attempt to cover them up with ‘good’ deeds or lofty prayers. Admit, to God, to yourself, to a faithful Christian friend, that you are struggling and trust the grace of God that is ‘greater than all our sin.’  (By the way, we can and we must learn new ways to share our Christlife, to encourage one another. COVID cannot be allowed to steal the fellowship from us.)

The amazing fact is that Christ’s strength on our behalf operates in the very place of our weakness. Why?  “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV)  He makes us His masterpieces, showing off His mercy and grace in us, once wrecks, now trophies. Truth, my friend!

So, here is a word from the Word about how we can live when we remain ‘in Christ,’ trusting His grace, inviting the Spirit to be at work. It is not misery. The battle is over as far as Heaven is concerned. “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, The Message)  May this truth travel that long road from your head to your heart, transforming you in the process.

_______________

Be Thou My Vision (Slane)

(worship with this great hymn)

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, Save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee, and Thou with me Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Riches I heed not, Nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, Now and always
Thou and Thou only , first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art

High King of heaven, when vict’ry is won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all

Eleanor Henrietta Hull © Words: Public Domain