The truth, you say?

One of the real complications in dealing with the COVID pandemic is knowing who and what to believe about it.  With confidence in government at a low point, early on many Americans rejected guidelines. Even the simple choice about wearing masks has turned, for millions, into a way to make a statement about their politics.  In restricting association and commerce in an effort to limit the spread of the contagion, the government ran head-long into an American ideal of freedom.

Because the ‘truth’ was suspect, millions of Americans refused compliance with recommendations while others chose to do costly and largely unnecessary things. Our inability to agree about what is true meant that thousands died who might have lived and our economy has suffered a heavy blow.  A year into this mess and many of us are still trying to figure out what is true!

Truth is freedom. Knowing what is true – that can be the hard part, right?  Remember Pilate’s famed question of Jesus as He stood before that governor? When asked Who He was and what His mission was, Jesus told him that He was sent into the world to “testify to the truth.” Pilate cynically asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:37)

Some Christians choose to deal with the vagaries of life by adopting a kind of faith that stakes out an accepted position on all things. “We have a rule for that,” they insist. Often a proof text or two from the Bible is sufficient for to establish the ‘truth.’  Their world is a place of right and wrong, black and white, period; end of discussion.

While there is some comfort found in assuming ‘we know the truth, the whole truth,’ eventually life will bring some experience, some encounter that does not fit neatly into the boxes. What then?   Too often instead of a gentle and gracious conversation that allows understanding to ripen, those who claim to know the truth lecture the questioning person to “just trust God!”  That line, I learned a long time ago, often means ‘we don’t know how to answer that and stick with our system of truth so we don’t talk about it.’

Christians can be people, indeed they should be, of strong convictions. I am totally committed to the reality of a personal God, Who made Himself known in Jesus Christ. I am thoroughly convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world, the ‘Way, the Truth, and the Life.’  I believe that the Holy Spirit is alive in me and all Christians, leading us to know and do the will of God.  I do not waver in my conviction that life is a sacred gift, that love is our highest calling, that eternity awaits me when this sojourn on the planet comes to an end. Jesus Christ is the true North of my life.

And then there are those ‘other questions.’  Yes, there are plenty things that I will readily admit that I do not completely understand. I am not a blank slate without opinions but I am prepared to have a conversation that is honest and aimed at increasing knowledge, not winning an argument!  One of the most liberating things I have discovered in dealing with Truth is that being a ‘good Christian’ does not require me to have an answer for all questions.  It is perfectly acceptable to say –  “I do not know.”  Great faith includes living with mystery. 

A God that I can squeeze into all of my preconceptions is too small, too tame for the real world. Paul declares – “Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34, NLT)

That admission of my insufficiency is not an excuse for apathy, laziness, or avoidance of hard truth. God invites to know, equipped with the ability to reason and think.  Both science and theology should exist to pursue the same thing:  the Truth!  Both are hindered in the effort when we bring an agenda to our study, having already reached a conclusion and now looking for support for our thoughts.  The discovery of the truth – be it about physical laws of the universe or spiritual laws about pleasing God – brings great benefit to those who align themselves with it. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV)

Christian, let’s renew our commitment to be a student of the Scripture, a person who loves God enough to seek to know Him, to know His ways, to live in the truth. Beware of the deception that grows out of a mind nearly closed because of fear or being tradition bound! Jesus’ most ardent enemies were leaders of the people who thought of themselves as protectors of the faith. But their ability to know the truth was corrupted by insistence on maintaining their accepted traditions, which led to their refusal to know the Spirit’s moving.  

One of those leaders did come to Jesus seeking to know God and His ways. I love how Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, NIV) He cautioned that learned man about concluding that all of God’s ways in the human heart could be reduced to formulas!

Are you pursuing God, letting Him lead where He will? Is your mind and your heart open to Him, loving Him with deep faith?  Here’s Truth to live by today. Meditate on it and take the deep assurance offered by the Word with you into a world full of uncertainty. “When he (the Counselor, the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment . . . he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:8,13-14, NIV)

_______________

Be Thou My Vision

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

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

Eleanor Henrietta Hull | Mary Elizabeth Byrne

© Words: Public Domain

Do you know how to fight?

They were two tough men – one who served in the Marines who was still in excellent physical condition at mid-life – the other a guy in his 20’s who worked hard every day with a frame that was solid muscle. They started with arm wrestling at a church picnic. The ‘contest’ became serious when they stood up. Moments later these two men were on the ground fighting. It went on for a few minutes until they got up, shook hands, and laughed in spite of dirt on their clothes, scrapes on their arms, and blood on their faces. They were just ‘having fun.’ I don’t care for that kind of fighting, never have!  If you want to mix it up with me in verbal jousting; I’m good for that. I’ll ‘fight’ with you in the realms of ideas and enjoy the encounter.

The idea of fighting and following Jesus strikes most of us as being incompatible. Christians are to be peaceful people, right? Yes, we are. It is a mistake to think that we have to take on every person or institution with whom we disagree, struggling for power, waging a war of destruction.  We are, however, living at cross purposes with the world in which we live.  Christians are at war, though not with other people. The real enemy is the Evil that is real, that is persistent, that threatens what is of God and good. So, how do we fight that evil?

The Scripture teaches this about the nature of the battle. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV) We do not need to buy guns and bullets to fight for the right! We do not need to build political parties or create bigger blocks of voters to force change in public policy that align with Christian values.

Our fight is for Truth, our weapons are spiritual. With the Truth about life, about God, about ourselves;  we encounter the ‘father of lies’ and his power is neutralized. The transformation starts personally, in me, in you, then moves from us to our sphere of influence. Jesus says this – “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NLT)  

The war that is waged against God and those who love Him centers on selling big lies. Apart from the Spirit’s revealing the truth we believe the ‘natural fact’ that life is about ME, that happiness is found in unrestricted Self-expression, that real wealth is about having more things, that pleasure is largely sensual … and more. In the Creation story, when the devil approached Eve, he offered her an alternative to God’s truth. She believed it as did Adam and you know the rest of the story. He still uses this strategy. Jesus rips away his mask telling us that –  he” has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NLT)

Love, self-sacrificial serving, grace, peace – these are the powerful weapons that defeat evil. If we are not ‘in Christ,’ if we have not been made alive by the Holy Spirit, the idea that evil in all it’s terrible power can be defeated with love seems to be quite stupid!  But, it is actually the wisdom of God.  IF you do not ‘get it,’  then go to the Lord in humble prayer and ask Him to give you the mind of Christ.  It is not arrogance nor exclusivity to which I speak. It is receiving, by God’s grace, a new set of eyes that see past the natural world. 

That is why Paul was inspired with these words – “People who aren’t Christians can’t understand these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can’t understand us at all. How could they? For, “Who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who can give him counsel?” But we can understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16, NLT)

Jesus powerfully reveals the path of resistance to evil for each of us. “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:38-42, NLT)  

That’s God’s wisdom!  Christians do not fight with ever escalating armed encounters. We live in the Truth, secure in the love of God, convinced of eternity, and lead others to the Light. It sounds simple but I assure you it is not. The love is costly. It took Jesus to the Cross!

Feeling like you are under siege in our world? Me, too.  Sin abounds. Evil seems to be winning. But, I have read the whole Book and I know the end of the story. God wins and Heaven awaits the faithful.

Here is a word from the Word. John, in the Revelation, heard Jesus say, “Do not seal up the prophetic words you have written, for the time is near. Let the one who is doing wrong continue to do wrong; the one who is vile, continue to be vile; the one who is good, continue to do good; and the one who is holy, continue in holiness.”

“See, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay all according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.” (Revelation 22:10-15, NLT)

Steady on, in faith, hope, and love – ‘and the greatest of these is love.’

____________

In Christ Alone

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

In Christ alone who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

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

New wine, new wineskins

The speaker in the video was addressing change in the Church, speaking about leadership somewhat critically. About 10 minutes in I turned the presentation off, surprised at my reaction. I felt defensive, even angry.  The why of that response would not leave my thoughts for the rest of the evening. In my reflection I began to understand that part of what was going in somewhere deep inside of me was a resistance to changes in the world that were beyond my control.

Keeping up with change is hard for many people and perhaps even more difficult for those of us who are in the last quarter of life! Intellectually I know that everything must change or die, that each generation questions the previous generation, sorting through values, methods, ideas – discarding some, building on others, cherishing a few! 

So what does that have to do with our walk with Jesus?  Much in every way, my friend.

Jesus faced intense opposition when He spoke of His Kingdom to come! The Jews cherished their traditions and knew that His message would bring an end to the world they knew. They went beyond rejecting His message. They hated Him, seeking His death. He explained His work with this parable. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17, NIV)  What did it mean?

Over several centuries Judaism had built an elaborate ritual structure, a way of life that was defined by 613 rules that interpreted the Law of Moses for the Jewish people with the aim of making them acceptable to God.  Jesus declared that He had come to fulfill that aim of making a holy people, but in a new way, built on the old patterns of holy lives but in a new structure. The ‘new wine’ of the Gospel and Spirit would not fit inside the rules, nor even within the Jewish people. God’s invitation was to be offered to the whole world. It was a radical message!

God would build the Church to declare His praise and to be the messenger of His desire to reconcile humanity to Himself. The moment of change was decisive; at the crucifixion when the Temple veil ripped in two; sealed by the Resurrected Lord’s appearance on that first Easter morning! But, conflict dogged the church for nearly a century when the ritual laws of the Jews were replaced with the glorious Gospel of the Crucified Lamb of God, Savior of the World.

I am praying for the renewal of God’s Church. Question is, am I ready to follow the Spirit’s lead into the future? It is a question for each one of who seriously wants to know the Lord. Will we allow God to pour out His Spirit into our hearts made new, or will we try to force Him to use old ways and forms with which we are comfortable? Will we adapt gladly and readily to new methods, allowing structures and forms created over many years to be changed?

The Gospel does not change. Christ’s gift of salvation is fixed in His gift of grace purchased at the expense of His death. The hope of eternal life has been, is, and will always be guaranteed by the Resurrection. But, how we know Jesus, the ways in which we worship and serve Him will surely change, again, as they have through the centuries since He walked on this earth.

Each of us will grow, adapt, and learn to love and follow Him in different ways throughout our lives. We must let go of the past that holds us captive to regret, celebrate former glories without trying to recapture them, and anticipate, with great faith, that our eternal God will refresh our relationship with Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV)

Here is a word from the Word. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)  O Lord, settle our hearts in You, lead us by Your Spirit to make Your Name glorious.
_______________

Glorious Day

I was buried beneath my shame
Who could carry that kind of weight
It was my tomb ’til I met You

I was breathing but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb ’til I met You

You called my name (and)
I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness into Your glorious day
(repeat)

Now Your mercy has saved my soul
Now Your freedom is all that I know
The old made new
Jesus when I met You

You called my name (and)
I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness into Your glorious day
(repeat)

I needed rescue my sin was heavy
But chains break at the weight of Your glory
I needed shelter I was an orphan
Now You call me a citizen of Heaven
When I was broken You were my healing
Now Your love is the air that I’m breathing
I have a future my eyes are open

Jason Ingram | Jonathan Smith | Kristian Stanfill | Sean Curran

© 2017 Kristian Stanfill Publishing Designee (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Given up on God?

Are you trusting God, praying in hope, expecting that He will be your Peace and Provider today?  Our faith can get battered by life. We can become pressed by problems, disillusioned in disappointment. There is no sin in admitting that the flame of faith has become just a glowing ember in your heart.

Many Christians are struggling to make sense of life. The world has gone sideways. Much of what we thought unshakeable has been revealed to be without substance.  Death has touched too many families; a half million lost to COVID according to government statistics. Regardless of our brave words, many wonder if the virus will find a way to come their way.

So, let me ask again, In these challenging times, is faith alive in you?
I remind you today that faith is NOT passive. Yes, it is a gift of God.
Our faith is also a choice.
Our daily decisions play a part in keeping our faith healthy.

What should we do?

God invites us to worship Him daily.  We turn our thoughts, our heart, our full attention to Him. This simple act can be incredibly difficult in the middle of phone notifications, kid’s problems, work pressure, and multiple distractions that are so much of life.  Making an appointment with God that is a first-line priority, a time in which we close out the rest of the world, even if to sit in silence, is an act of declaring His worth.

God gives us His Word. IF we will open the Scripture, feeding our souls on the Truth there, faith grows. Many tell me that understanding the Bible is difficult. It can be, but there are plenty of passages in the Psalms, the Gospels, the letters of Paul that are quite accessible to any one with an open heart. And there are a hundred ‘helps’ that will bring make the holy Word meaningful. The foundation of faith is the truth of the Word.  

God gives us the Church, the gathering of Believers, to nurture our faith.  When we find a local congregation that reverences His Presence, that loves His Word, faith is fed by the fellowship. Do find solid encouragement among Believers?  It is part of keeping faith strong.

God asks us personally to walk it out, to choose to trust when life is dark. Psalm 37 is one of my favorite ‘songs.’  The leading words are active ones that ask a response in me. “Trust, delight, commit, be still, wait patiently.”  That is sometimes difficult when we want to scream, “Enough, already, Lord!”  Will we keep on, steady in those choices? “The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.” (Psalm 37:39, NIV)

My reading today took me to a story from a time of hardship in Israel. Assyrian invaders had surrounded the city, cutting off food, causing extreme famine. The story includes awful atrocities. God’s man, that preacher Elisha, full of the Holy Spirit, told the king’s messengers of pending relief.  “Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a (quart) of flour will sell for a shekel and two (quarts) of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!” (2 Kings 7:1-3, NIV)  In the skepticism of that officer, I see a failure of faith that is all too common today.

Many Christians only see what is ‘obvious,’ a world in flames. God speaks, declaring His purposes, with promise of His Presence. Will our faith receive His Word or will we join the ranks of skeptics, convinced that even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens no revival is possible for us, for this world.  God asks us to live in hope.  Will we?  Will we worship, feed our mind with His Truth, gather with others of faith, and choose to trust?

The word from the Word comes from Matthew 21, one of Jesus’ kingdom principles. May we receive it with the open heart of faith, prepared to see the acts of God.  “But Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don’t doubt God, you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you’ll tell, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God.”” (Matthew 21:21-22, The Message)  Amen.

________________

Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah

Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more

Open Thou the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through
Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer
Be Thou still my strength and shield
Be Thou still my strength and shield

When I tread the verge of Jordan
Bid my anxious fears subside
Death of death and hell’s destruction
Land me safe on Canaan’s side
Songs of praises songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee

John Hughes | Peter Williams | William Williams © Words: Public Domain

A cheap knockoff?

Many years ago, on a whim, I bought a gold ring that was inset with diamonds for just $19!  “Jerry, I’m shocked that you would trade in stolen goods.”  No, I didn’t.  It was cheap knock-off, obviously not real gold, the ‘diamonds’ were probably chips of glass. From 6 feet away, who could tell? Up close, you didn’t have to be a jeweler to tell it was something less than a quality piece. I wore that ring for while as a daily lesson in spiritual growth, a reminder to be REAL! There are plenty of  imitations in our world. A knockoff is a cheaply made copy of the original. What kind of person are you?

Real people are like authentic gems;  precious. You might be wondering, “Real people? What other kind are there? Fake people?”  In fact, there are plenty of people who live as empty shells, images without substance, hiding the truth about themselves behind titles, tales, suits, and surgeries.  To one degree or another, every one of us deals with the temptation to play a role, to be who we think someone else wants us to be. Alas, there are some who spend an inordinate amount of time and energy working hard to be somebody they are not, in a vain attempt to win the affection of people they don’t even like.

Authenticity is a quality of character that every disciple of Jesus should desire.  We love Him best and find His love richest when we are humble, able to be no more, nor less than the person He created us to be.  Don’t confuse ‘real’ with crude or rude. Some people are obnoxious, saying whatever comes to mind, refusing social grace, and claiming – “I just being real.”  What a mistaken notion of authenticity. Real people love, cry, find joy where they are, admit their mistakes, and love to learn every day.

Jesus reserved his most harsh criticism for some religious people of His time who tried very hard to ‘look better’ than they actually were. He called them out as hypocrites. When He interacted with the Pharisees,  who were experts in looking good while doing bad, He did not spare their feelings“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” (Matthew 23:23-4, NLT)  “You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (Matthew 23:26-27, NLT)  Just reading those words we can miss the tone in which He spoke them. He was outraged that they would devalue the things of His Father with a show of piety unmatched by true devotion. We need to make that personal, asking ourselves if we have allowed ourselves to be ‘fake’- better at pretending than being.

Hey, we all are tempted to think something like this, some of the time. ‘If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.’  Honestly, that is true sometimes. In our ‘cancel culture’ there will be those who decide your friendship is unwanted if you do not say the words they think you ought to say. There are some who like to focus on the failures of others, regardless of repentance, consigning those mortals to the trash heap of life. Real people, those who are humble and authentic, acknowledge this – “But for the grace of God, there go I!”  They, like their Father, believe in redemption.

Refuse to believe that your  personal worth comes from being some ideal shape, having a pretty face, a sweet place, or a big brain. Nobody is too fat, too thin, too dumb, too ugly, too shy, too tall, too short, too poor, too damaged – to be a precious child of God.  When we accept that, by faith, something happens on the inside that lets us be at home in his own skin. It’s great to be around that kind of authenticity.

Have you convinced yourself that you need to be ‘just like _____________’ (you fill the name of someone you admire) in order to be valuable to God. Wrong. The Bible is clear that you are a person God made to fill a specific place in this world. Nobody can be you and you cannot successfully become somebody else! If we refuse His gifts and callings, and choose to pretend, to fake it; we sin against Him.  When we deal with the hurt, pain, failure, and disobedience not by covering it up, but rather by owning it and taking it to the Cross, the Christ who forgives also restores hope, and gives healing. There is no greater source of security than knowing we are God’s beloved, with a divine purpose to fulfill right where we are!

On this Monday morning, let God love you to reality. He knows the ‘real’ you.
Got some sins dogging you? Confess them without excuse. He always forgives.
Have some area of deep insecurity about yourself? Pray about it, and talk it over with a trusted friend. You will gain freedom. 
Hiding your light, insisting that your ‘gifts’ are something less than those of another? Stop that and thank God for giving you the opportunities that come your way today.

Here is a word from the Word. “But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-24, NLT)

Real is a beautiful thing – truly!

_______________

Who You Say I Am

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last
He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am

(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Like a piece of burnt toast?

It is as subtle as a developing cancer and every bit as deadly if left untreated. It grows in the soul, feeding on good intentions and high goals that are misfocused. I am talking about ‘burn out.’ Is your life about as appealing as a piece of burnt toast?  If you hate life, feel exhausted, don’t want to get out bed, are slipping in your performance at work, have trouble sleeping, are finding yourself in more arguments, and are not focused;  you may want to have a conversation with someone about making some changes in the way you live. Burnout generally results from stress and stress levels are way up since the pandemic started. Burnt out people have allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities.

Burnout is not indicated when we have a few bad days in a row. Everybody has those times when it feels like nothing is working, when life’s demands overload the schedule, when they arrive at the end of day exhausted. Burnout is different!  A person who is suffering this way starts the day exhausted, week after week. She may drive herself to work, but productivity is diminished.  A burnt out person has no motivation to excellence, has lost any joy in life to duty.

So, if you’re saying, “Jerry, that’s me! Want can I do?” 
First of all, don’t quit your job. That might sound like a fix, and it might even feel good to hand in your keys … for a few days, but burn out is more about HOW we react to life than it is about life itself.  We can work at high levels of productivity without burning out.

1. As a Christian, we must accept the Word’s principle of breaking up our work schedule with times of rest. In the Old Testament, the people of God were instructed to observe the 7th day of the week as one of rest. The law of the Sabbath was important. It followed the Creation story of God’s own ‘rest.’  Genesis says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 1:31 -2:3, NIV) 

We must discipline ourselves to set aside the constant clamor of responsibility at least one day out of the week.  Many of us are ruled by the notifications on our smartphones, by laptop computers that let us bring ‘the office’ into our living room, by work expectations that we will be ‘available’ at any hour of the day.  It can be difficult to remind ourselves that the world will not stop if we turn off the work email at 6 pm! We might even be passed over for a promotion if we insist on honoring God with a true priority of rest. But … we will be emotionally and spiritually healthier.

2. Christians who adopt a standard of ‘perfection’ put themselves at a much higher risk of burnout.  The call of Christ to a holy life of devotion is a worthy one and in the memorable words of Oswald Chamber’s devotional book, requires ‘my utmost for His highest.’   IF we turn knowing and serving Jesus into keeping measure of hours spent in prayer, chapters read in our Bible, Sundays spent in church, or time invested in ministry work any ‘joy of the Lord’ that could renew us will be lost in the statistics.  The sweet relationship of a loving God will be replaced with the rigorous religion that exhausts us.  Who intends to become one of those drudges who occupy church pews, joyless, hanging on to God knows what, to stay out of Hell? 

Of course Christians will be diligent in the spiritual disciplines, but for the purpose of knowing God, not gaining approval of others or even to try to find some inner sense of worth. They are a means not an end. Jesus wants us to know Him even as we serve Him.

3. God calls us out of isolation and into His Church, into loving relationships. If you ‘don’t have time’ for relationships, something is wrong with the way you understand life itself.  Having even 2 or 3 real friends with whom we can be ourselves, who have permission to ‘call us out’ when needed, who we know we can call at 2 am if needed, are a primary defense against burnout! When you invest a couple of hours at a table with people who know you, who listen to your stories, who make you laugh, and you will feel renewed. Share a passion for some project with 3 or 4 other like-minded Christians and you will multiply your effectiveness and find joy in the journey!  Solomon should have taken his own advice when he wrote: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)

Let’s learn how to pursue our God with real love, with a diligent desire for excellence, observing days of rest, receiving His grace for our imperfections, and reflecting on the journey in the company of friends.  Let’s not miss out on Jesus’ promise that through Him we can know ‘life to the full,’ because we are living in a pressure filled environment that controls us. 

Meditate on this word from the Word and see what the Spirit is saying to you today.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV) 

Eugene Peterson offers this commentary on that passage – “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Now that sounds like a life I want to live.
How about you?

_________________

Goodness Of God

(CeCe Winans reminds us of His love)

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson
© 2018 Alletrop Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
SHOUT! Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Fellow Ships Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Revive those dry bones!

Over lunch yesterday, a much younger pastor and I talked about our calling, about the future of the Church.  I’m getting ready to take a seat on the sidelines; he’s coming into his prime years of productivity but both of us have questions about how Christianity will be lived in the coming years. 

How will the Church look coming out of the pandemic years?
Will people return to the congregation or ‘privatize’ their faith? 
How will the message of Christ find a way into the hearts and minds of the younger generation of which about 4 in 10 are stated, “nones,” meaning that they self-identify as having no spiritual preference? 

Much more personally, I ask myself, “Jerry, what will your faith life look like as you move into your retirement years, away from leadership in the local church? Will you stay vital and strong in the Lord, your commitment to Him the core of your life?”

We are all in constant need of revival, an infusion of the Life of the Spirit that keeps our faith from turning into a relic, focused on some memory of yesteryear. Some of us will see that word, ‘Revival’ and it will bring to mind a week of church meetings conducted by a fiery preacher who stirs up a surge of emotional enthusiasm. That could be a partial idea but spiritual revival is more. For others a ‘revival’ is seen in the launch of a moral cause, the birth of a new church program, or the construction of a house of worship. Not really, though those things can bring a temporary renewal. Revival certainly is not rolling back time to recapture some moment of spiritual ecstasy.

Ezekiel’s famous vision, that weird one in chapter 37, defines revival for me! The preacher saw a valley full of old, dry bones. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3, NIV)

At the Lord’s command, he preached the Word of the Lord to those bones. Before his eyes they rattled, arranged into skeletons, took on flesh; and the wind of the Spirit blew over them restoring life. What a vision.  God said, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37:4, NLT)  Ezekiel’s responses –“So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet-a great army.” (Ezekiel 37:10, NLT)

The breath of the Spirit can and will bring life to people and places that resemble a valley of dry bones!  If your soul is dry, your heart without a love for Jesus, if your eyes have lost a vision of the Most Holy One – the answer is a revival, a renewal of life.

God can make the dead live again!

“Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6, NLT)

“O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years.” (Habakkuk 3:2, KJV)

“For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy:

“I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15, NIV)

“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:1-2, NLT)

It is a real mistake to think that we can manufacture a revival – in our own heart or in our church – with more meetings, more hype, or pumped up emotions. Those ‘revivals’ are more like a circus that comes through town, creates a little excitement and then moves on.  Genuine revival starts in our heart, work of the Spirit of God that is deep, personal, and persistent. While we cannot make it happen, we can prepare for revival, hunger for renewal, and wait on the Lord.

First, we pray. In our prayers we confess our desire and ask the Lord to send the Word anew that makes us live!

Second, we humble ourselves, acknowledging Who He is – Majesty enthroned – and we are – His children in need.

Third, we turn to Him; “here I am, Lord; all that I am, all that I am not. It is You I desire more than anything or anyone.”

I am praying for revival, knowing full well that when the Holy Spirit shows up, He comes as a disrupter, asking for change.
Will I let Him own my life, change my heart, fill my mind? This is the heart of spiritual revival.

Here’s the word from the Word.  It is more of Ezekiel’s strange vision. My prayer is that it becomes a template of renewal for 2021.

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God:Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.  I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’ “ (Ezekiel 37:11-14, NKJV)

_____________________

RAIN DOWN

(a song from Delirious, a rewind to 2004!)

Looks like tonight the sky is heavy
Feels like the winds are gonna change
Beneath my feet the earth is ready
I know it’s time for heaven’s rain
It’s gonna rain

‘Cause it’s living water we desire ’cause
To flood our hearts with holy fire
Rain down all around the world we’re singing
Rain down can you hear the earth is singing
Rain down my heart is dry but still I’m singing
Rain down rain it down

Back to the start my heart is heavy
Feels like it’s time to dream again
I see the clouds and yes I’m ready
To dance upon this barren land
Hope in my hands

Do not shut do not shut
Do not shut the heavens
But open up open up
Open up our hearts

Rain down all around the world
We’re singing rain down

Give me strength to cross the water
Keep my heart upon Your altar
Give me strength to cross this water
Keep my feet don’t let me falter

Rain Down © 2004 Curious Music UK (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Martin Smith | Stuart Garrard

CCLI License No. 810055

Giving up your M+M™ candy?

When I was in the third grade our family moved from rural Iowa to Staten Island, NY into an Italian neighborhood where most everybody was Roman Catholic.  I heard my new friends talking about what they were going to ‘give up’ for Lent.  It was a puzzle to me because my Pentecostal church did not observe seasons of Advent or Lent. Even as a child I realized that most of what they were ‘fasting’ for Lent was symbolic, as in giving up chocolate cake.  Will you be observing a Lenten fast?

Today is the beginning of the season of Lent, 40 days that lead up to the celebration of the Resurrection. The word has roots in Anglo-Saxon language, sounding like their word for Spring.  Traditionally, Lent was marked by fasting, abstaining from certain foods for the purpose of spiritual focus. It was set at 40 days (excluding Sundays) because the number, 40, is a recurrent one throughout the Bible that is often associated with preparation for God’s work of renewal. The rain fell for 40 days in Noah’s flood. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  Moses spent 40 days on the mountain receiving the Law.  Israel’s spies explored Canaan for 40 days. Jesus spent 40 days alone, fasting, and during that time experienced the temptation.

I believe that the Christian church desperately needs a renewal in our time.
Would you join me in prayer, asking God to prepare our hearts for the move of the Spirit? “Lord, start with me,” I pray!

Though we do not practice the discipline of fasting very much these days, it is useful as a discipline to remind ourselves that we are more than our physical appetites.  A meaningful fast is an offering to God as well as a discipline of the body. Fasting, coupled with prayer, can help us to grow in Christ. Paul knew the importance of a fast. “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NLT)

Saying ‘no’ to our personal comfort is not a choice readily made. Living in our climate-controlled homes, with abundance of food, we respond like servants to our body’s signals for warmth, food, or drink.  Don’t misunderstand me. I am grateful for a secure home, a warm bed, and a full belly! But, things are out of balance.  If we are incapable of refusing the cravings of our body, we will be easy targets for the Tempter.

Paul puts it in stark terms of slavery. “Before, you let yourselves be slaves of impurity and lawlessness. Now you must choose to be slaves of righteousness so that you will become holy. In those days, when you were slaves of sin, you weren’t concerned with doing what was right. And what was the result? It was not good, since now you are ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” (Romans 6:19-22, NLT)

During the season of Lent, I am suggesting that we engage with a meaningful kind of ‘fasting.’  Instead of symbolically giving up M+M™ candy, how about taking on your appetites with the help of the Spirit?

Are you consumed by anxiety in these uncertain days? Take up a fast.
Is there an ‘addiction’ in your life, something that owns you instead of you owning it? Take up a fast.
Complaining too often or too much about discomforts or inconveniences? Take up a fast.

Give God your lunch hour one day a week and make the time one of prayerful reflection. Or, set aside one evening each week to sit in silence instead of watching  YouTube.™ 

Whatever you do remember, it’s not a ‘hunger strike’ to get God’s attention!
Fasting is for the purpose of discipline and preparation.

Match your fast with meditation on the meaning of our Christianity.  In Christ, we go from death to life, from facing an eternity apart from God to having a home promised for eternity in His Presence. Lenten fasts end before Easter so that Christians can feast with joy.  That feast anticipates the promise of life beyond death, of hope that survives the body’s demise

Spirit-filled Christians must have a vision that reaches over time’s horizon.  The reason we say no to the craving of ‘the flesh,’ (the sinful nature) is because we know that there is a greater promise of Glory. That is why Paul starkly tells us to mortify the flesh, that is, to put it to death. “We are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14, NKJV)  Fasting is one way to say, “Die, old sinful nature!”

Let’s use this season to grow toward the eternal hope that we read about in the word from the Word. 

“It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—…  our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “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.

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:2, 53-58, NLT)  Amen!

Now, what about those M+M’s?

_______________

I Will Offer Up My Life

I will offer up my life
In spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love
As my worship to You.

In surrender I must give
My ev’ry part;
Lord, receive the sacrifice
Of a broken heart.

Jesus, what can I give,
What can I bring
To so faithful a friend,
To so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said,
What can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done?

Oh, my words could not tell,
Not even in part,
Of the debt of love
That is owed by this
Thankful heart.

You deserve my every breath
For You’ve paid the great cost.
Giving up Your life to death,
Even death on a cross.

You took all my shame away,
There defeated my sin,
Opened up the gates of heaven,
And have beckoned me in.

Matt Redman © 1994 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License No. 810055

O Love that will not let me go

It was confirmed again yesterday – Jerry is aging. The eye exam yesterday that while I am a long way from losing my sight (hopefully!) I do need stronger lens. And yes, I struggle to hear speech clearly. My friends see the blank look on my face when I ‘hear’ the noise but do not get the words.  I am irritated by the need to say, “would you mind repeating that for me?” But these things are part of the expected march of time, reminders of mortality that come to us all.  My faith is not challenged by the fact of an aging body. 

What does challenge me is that unexpected hardship, that development for which no preparation is made.  We are living in such a time. The world I knew even a year ago seems no longer to exist. The values I cherish are increasingly rejected by others. The future is murky – for me personally, for the world in which I live.  Yes, friend, it is time to ‘walk by faith.’

In the little book of Ruth, which  is a story of faith in the middle of the unexpected, we meet Naomi. She was a Jew who moved to Moab with her husband and two young sons to escape a famine in Israel.  Life was finally coming together, when suddenly her husband, Elimelech, died. Naomi, picked up the pieces of her life and went on.  Her two sons married. A decade passed in which life was good, then… unexpectedly both sons died! Naomi’s life was shattered again.

When life falls apart, as her’s did, there are seldom ‘explanations’ that are adequate. Yes, it is important to understand what we can, to adjust course as we are able, to know where we have failed, but often life, to our view, just seems random:  one life shatters, another flourishes.

Christian, you can be a person of faith and still think that our God can be infuriatingly unpredictable. I have cried myself to sleep more than one night, wondering “God, why is one dream realized and another shattered?” Yet, my faith holds.

While there are not enough answers this side of Heaven to satisfy every question, there are enough testimonies of grace to help us to trust Him even when we cannot understand His ways. When the mystery overwhelms us, we can borrow the prayer of a desperate father who brought his son for healing to Jesus. “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!” (Mark 9.24)

IF we will trust Him, He is able to lead us into a new life, a new kind of JOY!  Too often what we insist is that God give back our old life. That is not the best or wisest prayer. Better to invite Him to lead us into the future, shaping us around His plans.  

Let’s go back to the story of Naomi. This woman decided to return to Israel.  One of her daughters in law, Ruth, for whom the story is named, decided to accompany her. Her love and loyalty were bright lights in Naomi’s life. Once there we learn that they were very poor. Ruth went to pick up the leftovers in the fields of Naomi’s kinsfolk after harvest.  While there she caught the eye of Boaz.  

Spoiler alert!  “Boaz married Ruth. She became his wife. Boaz slept with her. By God’s gracious gift she conceived and had a son. The town women said to Naomi, “Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life. May this baby grow up to be famous in Israel! He’ll make you young again! He’ll take care of you in old age. And this daughter-in-law who has brought him into the world and loves you so much, why, she’s worth more to you than seven sons!” Naomi took the baby and held him in her arms, cuddling him, cooing over him, waiting on him hand and foot.” (Ruth 4:13-16, The Message) That baby became the grandfather of Israel’s great king, David! An alien woman, Ruth, was brought to Israel and included in the line of David and the line of the Messiah, Jesus.

It would be silly to conclude that the joy in those verses somehow erased the sorrow of three deaths.  They are different events and cannot be compared!  We make a grave mistake to think that somehow life is about living in a perfectly balanced state where the pain is always offset by the blessings, where the hard times are offset by the good times. Life is about living in full faith.  When we are willing to keep walking with God, He seldom chooses to give us back our ‘old life’ but He does lead us into NEW joy and fruitfulness in this season and situation.

Are you struggling with life?

Maybe it is the expected stuff of aging, which became a little more real to me yesterday.  Maybe it is a maelstrom of disaster, an unexpected collapse of your dreams. God is present. Be like Naomi and choose to live.  Strengthen the ties to those who love you, those who will weep with you. There will be days (how I know!) when your faith will waver and you will need to borrow the strength of another to stand. Wait for faith to become strong enough for you to touch the heart of God again.

A hundred people will offer ‘explanations.’  Love them anyway. 
More will hand you some clichés and their simplistic answers. Smile with grace.
Links to podcasts and offers of books will be loving given to you in your pain. See the love behind the efforts to make you better. 

Above all, do not reject God. Ask Him for courage to weep yet keep hope and faith intact as you pray — “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!”

Our word from the Word today is a call to the choice of faith.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
(Psalm 73:23-26, NIV)
________________

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
(You cannot listen to this without being stirred in heart and faith!)

O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow,
May richer fuller be.

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Love that will not let me go
Oh Cross that liftest up my head
I dare not ask to fly from Thee
I lay in dust life’s glory dead
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go – George Matteson © Public Domain

Running Out the Clock?

There is a strategy often used in football by a winning team who takes possession of the ball with 2 minutes or less on the game clock. They ‘run out the clock.’  The quarterback lets the maximum time pass, takes the snap, and quickly kneels to end the play. That is repeated several times until the game is over.  The ball is not advanced, no play is attempted. Why? Because by kneeling on the ball there is no risk of losing the ball to the other team recovering a fumble. The team in the lead has no imperative to attempt a long pass down the field. I understand the strategy but it makes for a boring game conclusion.

Are you living your life in that manner, just burning through day after day, running out the clock?
Have you determined, for your own reasons, to take no risks in life, to just play it safe protecting yourself, your time, your ‘lead’ so to speak? I know the temptation!

At the conclusion of yesterday’s ministry, while reflecting on the efforts made, I wondered aloud if I was just running out the clock?  The past year has been one of the most challenging years of ministry in my entire lifetime.  (Yes, I know it has been difficult for MOST of us.)  In December, 2019, months before the pandemic arrived, I informed the church board that my plan was step down from the leadership of the church at the end of 2021. At that time I hoped for a good final year, a strong finish.  But, life happened, the church closed for months and when we re-opened it was to limited attendance and ministry. Many weeks end with my sense that there was no advance of His work. The frustrations that are common to us all in these times may well tempt us to kneel on the ball, so to speak, running out the clock.

When Christians choose to be pre-occupied with secondary issues, to waste endless hours ‘studying’ the issues, to refuse to engage their minds with the hard things, to ignore the questions that are begging for real answers, to pray sleepy prayers that lack any real passion, they are not really ‘in the game.’ 

Paul was inspired by the Spirit to address us this way.  Yes, it is the old English version of the Scripture which I use because I want one line to stick with you today – “Redeeming the time.”  “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17, KJV)  The passage is a series of directives that build one on the other.

WAKE UP, rise from the dead.  

Christians can slip into a kind of zombie state, walking through the motions, going to church, singing the songs without life, without an awareness of the Holy Spirit. Wake up! Shake off the lethargy.

LOOK AROUND.  

There are people who are existing without God and hope, their lives confused. Are we aware of their need?  Do we even seen our own need, or are we staring at the ground in front of us, blind to life’s reality that is swirling at the periphery of our vision?

REDEEM the time.  

The word Paul uses that we translate “redeem,” is powerful in imagery. It was used of paying a ransom for someone who needed rescue, about buying freedom for someone held in debtor’s prison, or about paying the price of freedom for a slave! When a person was ‘redeemed,’ he was able to return to life, to be useful once again.  If we are running out the clock in life, we have sold ourselves to a kind of slavery, becoming unproductive, useless to the Kingdom of God. So, we are told to pay the price of sacrifice to own our time once again, to make life count for something.

UNDERSTAND the will of God.  

Yes, Christian, this is a critical factor.  The Word reminds us that “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you  (Redeemed!) with a high price. So you must honor God.” (1 Corinthians 6.20)  God has freed us from hopelessness, from slavery to Self, so that we might serve Him. Will we? Only if we know what He wants from us which is not hard to discern. He desires that we become ‘holy,’ devoted to His ways. He desires that we live in love – for Him, for our neighbor. He desires that we pursue Him in worship that is deep, real, and heart-felt.  

This Monday morning, I want each of us to ask ourselves if we are, in fact, ‘running out the clock’ on life.  If we discern, with the help of God, that we have settled for a risk-free life, that we are content to let day after day pass without any real or meaningful spiritual service, let’s take the wisdom of this word. Wake up. Look around. Redeem the time. Understand God’s will.

Here is that passage again, our word from the Word. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17, NIV)

____________

See A Victory

The weapon may be formed but it won’t prosper
When the darkness falls it won’t prevail
‘Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph
My God will never fail
My God will never fail

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord
I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to You Lord

There’s power in the mighty Name of Jesus
Every war He wages He will win
I’m not backing down from any giant
I know how this story ends
I know how this story ends

You take what the enemy meant for evil
And You turn it for good
You turn it for good

Ben Fielding | Chris Brown | Jason Ingram | Steven Furtick
© 2019 SHOUT! Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Fellow Ships Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055