Press on!

What a blessed day it was for me yesterday when I closed my pastoral service at FDC. I was privileged to hear so many kind words, so much appreciation.  I woke up this morning pondering the question – ‘what’s next?’   I started to do what I have done for many years, planning and scheduling, except that I am now officially retired and this week is mostly a blank sheet of paper with a couple of volunteer activities penciled in. It’s a strange sensation after living a busy life for so long! 

As I prayed, the Spirit directed my thoughts to this passage. It was written in the context of promise to the people of God.  They were in a crisis, an awful time for the nation. They reached back to remember the miracles of the past, seeming to conclude that all the best things were only found in their history. But God says to them, You are precious and honored in my sight … I love you …  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)  The directive to ‘forget’ did not mean that they were to erase the past, but rather to be willing to leave behind to gain the new future He was preparing for them.

What a word for me. 45 years of serving people in the local church with pastoral care and teaching has provided so many great memories that dance through my mind. There are highlights plenty recalled with joy and a some regrets too that bring tears. But … God is doing a new thing!

Are you a captive of the past? 
Are you living like that guy who still wears his high school jacket and dreams of his glory days on the football field, a study in arrested development? 

Each day brings new opportunities, God preparing us to accomplish His will for each season of life.

Do you want to live with hope, be a positive influence for the Kingdom, and know the joy of faithfulness?  There are real choices to be made.

1. Celebrate the victories and then put the trophies on the shelf.

The Scripture has plenty of examples of memorializing God’s work.  Remembering what He has done strengthens the foundations for our faith. Central to our Christian worship is the practice of Holy Communion in which we ‘proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.’   We do need to remember! However, we cannot try to relive those victories. They were for the moment.

2. Confess your sins and failures and then leave them in God’s grace.

If you have lived for more than a week, you have some moments that are regrettable. That’s life in this world where we deal with sin and the sinful nature.  But in Christ’s grace there is forgiveness and release from guilt. Yes, it is good to make things right where we can. An apology for wrongs is powerful for both parties!  Restitution is a principle woven into God’s ideas about justice. And when we have owned our wrong (confessed), when we have done what is possible to make it right, then we can learn from the lesson and grow in grace. For “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NLT)

3. Pray for courage to step up to today with faith.

We face forward! If we refuse to grow, we begin to die.  This is true emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.  God wants us to remember that we are ‘becomers.’  Until we step into eternity or are transformed at the Second Coming Christ with His Kingdom, we are people who live in time and who must, if we would please Him, take up the challenges of the day. Will you?

The word from the Word is Paul’s familiar word to the Philippians.  After he remembered the good things of his past, he turns to God’s future. His aspiration is noble: “ I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings,” however he knows he is a work in progress.  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV)

Celebrate what He has done right.

Confess the things you have done wrong.

Courageously choose to live today.

_________________

10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

Bless the Lord O my soul O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name


The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes


You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

Worship Your holy name
Lord I’ll worship Your holy name

Sing like never before O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
Worship Your holy name
Worship Your holy name

Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman

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So you want to quit?

“I cannot do this even one more day!”  Ever said that or at least felt like that? Most of us do.  Working at a job that is terrible? Living in a marriage is hard? Or, you could be fighting inside, trying to overcome a habit that makes you feel helpless.  It might even be your faith walk, a real struggle between Self and the Spirit that makes you want to just walk away!

Christian there is a way ahead, a victory in the making, IF we will trust God.

His colleagues mocked him, accusing him of losing his common sense to religious fervor. The business elites warned him that his idealism would destroy the economy.  Stress took a toll on his health and he aged far beyond his years. At first a public majority believed his activism was a fool’s crusade. But, William Wilberforce would not quit! For 26 long years he brought up the same subject in the Parliament every time he could.  Using wit and wisdom, he turned the issue of slavery and the immoral trade of human beings into the talk of England. Finally in 1807, this great Christian succeeded in getting the House of Commons to vote to end slave trade.  The Crown agreed and a vile practice came to an end.  This wealthy man, first elected to Parliament at age 21, nearly left politics to become a pastor but, urged by his friends, he did not quit the fight and his persistence changed history!

Have you experienced some period in your life when the effort was all consuming, when the hardships were overwhelming?
Did it seem that the only option was to just quit?
When we’re opposed by most, rejected by some, or resisting the majority, we be tempted to think that the right thing to do is to call it quits. 
“How much more can I take before I break?” we think to ourselves. 

I wonder if Joseph wondered if he would break under pressure anytime along his long, circuitous route to fulfillment of his dreams? He endured 20 years of one injustice and hardship after another. His brothers sold him into slavery, motivated less by greed than hatred.  The wife of his household owner, Potiphar, tried to seduce him and when he resisted her, she accused him of rape, leading to a long prison sentence! A man he befriended and helped in prison, forgot all about him when released. But, he kept his dreams and his faith in God.

Joseph kept on doing the right things, trusting God, and refusing to become a bitter cynic. Finally God brought him into serving as Prime Minister of Egypt. He guided the nation through a terrible crisis of famine.  When given the ‘perfect’ opportunity to settle the score with his cruel brothers he chose instead to forgive them.  He saw God’s promises fulfilled as he provided safety for his people. The story takes us a few minutes to read and sounds so inspiring. Joseph had to live it – one day after another!  That’s faith, friend.

The Bible urges disciples to keep their faith“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36, NLT)  There are many seasons in life- preparation, building, working, investing, before we see the realization of God’s purposes in us. Failure is inevitable IF we quit too soon.  Perhaps that sounds like a strange piece of advice coming from a man just days away from retiring from 45 years of pastoral service.  I may be stepping down from leading a congregation but I pray for opportunities to continue to do the work of God until the day He calls me home.

Those who would do the will of God must make a priority choice to focus and then stick with their convictions.  Our example is none other than Jesus! The Word says “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)

By the way, don’t confuse persistence with stubbornness! A stubborn person keeps on doing the same thing, refusing to adapt and learn, thinking himself above advice.  He perpetuates his failure!  A persistent one studies his plans, prays fervently, listens well – and keeps trying, and trying, and trying – until he finds a way to do what he was born to do.

Our word from the Word encourages a renewed hope:
“But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58, NIV)

Now, what did He say to YOU? Are you ready to live the promise?

______________

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

(You are) 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

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Who needs Heaven?

Heaven! Home!  As I do often, I stood in a cemetery to minister to a grieving family on Monday. The grave in front of us defied hope, daring us to believe that there is ‘more beyond.’  A little stone on a grave close to the one where we would lay Ellen’s body to rest carries this bleak epitaph after the name – “Game Over.”  The funeral director pointed it out with a wry smile.

In a sense, a grave is irrefutable evidence that the game is over for the present here on earth.  However, the heart of our Christian faith rests on a resurrected Lord who said he “who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:25)

Isaiah caught a glimpse of Heaven and it changed his life. Seeing the wonderful worship of the angels in the Throne Room of God he was overcome by a realization of his sinfulness, his inability to gain a home with God by his own efforts. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5, NIV)

Paul tells of being lifted up to Heaven, seeing visions that were too holy to describe. Those visions sustained his faith through a life of unbelievable difficulties in his ministry and near the end of his earthly journey allowed him to face his death with assurance: “now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.” (2 Timothy 4:8, NLT)

John, in The Revelation, tries to describe other worldly visions that had no earthly equivalent. His attempts have given us the words that forms the idea of Heaven in most of our minds, including streets of gold, gates of pearl, and streams of pure water.  “So he took me in spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It was filled with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper.” (Revelation 21:10-11, NLT)  “The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.” (Revelation 21:21, NLT)  John uses metaphors to describe the indescribable!

When I think of Heaven the best part is this promise: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV) Oh, what joy!

The Lord I love now only in part, I will then love completely.
The hand of Jesus will dry my tears and I’ll never cry again, ever.
There will be no regret, no pain, no disappointment, no longing for what cannot be, no loneliness because where God, in all His Fullness, is, we are made whole.  He will draw us into His Beautiful Presence and there no sin can exist. It is this that John celebrates when he writes- “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” (Revelation 19:1, NIV)

Heaven is not irrelevant to real life as some suggest. It is not a trick to allow us to escape the grim reality of mortality. At one time in my life, I thought that way. Oh yes, I believed in Heaven and Christ’s promise to take me to that place prepared for me, but I seldom thought about it. I dismissed talk of older Christians about Heaven thinking that there is just too much living right here and right now to ‘waste’ time thinking about Eternity. What a foolish boy I was.

With your heart aimed at Heaven and home, invest yourself in God’s work here and now. We are, in word and deed, “laying up treasure” that is beyond the reach of decay, rust, or thieves!  Heaven is for now. A Christian who does not have Heaven in view on the horizon of life will wander, become distracted by earth’s pleasures, and even lose heart when the questions outrun his answers. A firm grasp on the promise of Heaven and the disciple’s assurance of eternal life is what keeps him on track, holy and wholly committed to a godly life.

In the word from the Word for today, we find out just how important Jesus felt about having Heaven in our hearts. He says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)

We’re going Home! “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

_________________

When We All Get To Heaven

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory

While we walk the pilgrim pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky
But when travelling days are over
Not a shadow not a sigh

Let us then be true and faithful
Trusting serving every day
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay

Onward to the prize before us
Soon His beauty we’ll behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We shall tread the streets of gold

Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt © Words: Public Domain

Oh, Jesus

An old Gospel song drifted through my thoughts in the early hours of the morning: “I have no song to sing, but that of Christ my King; to Him my praise I’ll bring forevermore.”  In that line there is a summation of my experience and my aspirations.  Christ has been my life and I pray that the rest of my life will honor Him.  

I understand the world through the lens of my faith. I do not simply ‘exist’ as a random speck of carbon atoms, though some might try to tell me that I do. My best life is not defined by the things I own or the pleasure that I can experience. Made by God, I am owned by Him, though naturally I was separated from Him.  “In Christ” I am restored to my place as His child, my destiny to serve Him until He calls me to my eternal home!  Those are the simple facts that define Jerry.

I have little patience for those who complicate the Christian experience by adding long lists of religious duties or by insisting on seeking mystical revelations.  I love the Church, but find the complex ritualism that creeps into ‘worship’ a distraction from the heart of the faith- Jesus Christ alone. 

I live to love –

Jesus, God come in Flesh.
Jesus, Who died on the Cross to save us.
Jesus, Who rose from the dead to assure us of life eternal.

The Scripture speaks to the corruption of the faith by human additions. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” (Colossians 2:13-19, NIV)

Do not be taken in by those Christians who love to argue about doctrine, who love their systematic theology books more than their Bible.  Ignore those teachers who talk more about the “End Times,” with their conspiracy theories and timelines, than they do about Jesus. Those who try to make you a captive of their particular religious practice, trying to convince you that in order to know Jesus as Savior you have to be … baptized a certain way, avoid specific foods, worship in a prescribed manner on a special day, join their denomination, espouse their political persuasion, or whatever their pet idea – have ‘lost connection with the Head’  Who is Christ Jesus!

You want to rediscover Jesus?  Pick up your Bible again and read the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Meditate on the stories of Jesus found there. Let the Holy Spirit show you His face again. When the disciples asked how they could know the way to God “Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:9-10, NIV)  Jesus reveals the love of God to us and makes us His children.  Ah, yes, we need to know Jesus Christ.

Do you know Him or just about Him?
Have you opened your mind and heart to Him in faith, inviting the Spirit to make you alive in and through Christ Jesus?

He, friend, not the rituals, nor the doctrines, nor the fanciful mystical ideas make us truly Christian.

The word from the Word is my aspiration. I hope you share it. “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:8-11, NLT)

___________

Good God Almighty


I can’t count the times
I’ve called Your name some broken night
And You showed up and patched me up
Like You do every time
I get amnesia I forget that You keep coming around
Yeah ain’t no way You’ll ever let me down

Good God Almighty
I hope You’ll find me
Praising Your Name no matter what comes
‘Cause I know where I’d be
Without Your mercy
So I keep praising Your name at the top of my lungs

Tell me is He good (He’s good)
Tell me is He God (He’s God)
He is Good God Almighty

You say Your love goes on forever
That Your mercy never stops
So why would I assume
You’d be somebody that You’re not
Like sun in the morning
I know You’re gonna be there every day
So what on earth could make me be afraid

Praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the noon time
Praise Him when the sun goes down
Love Him in the morning
Love Him in the noon time
Love Him when the sun goes down

Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down
Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down


Ben Glover | David Crowder | Jeff Sojka© 2021 9t
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The Dark, the Doubts

How is your ‘hope’ today?  Yesterday word came that a friend who has given his life to ministry is critically ill, weeks from death apart from a miracle.  My heart was moved by the news, my mind resisting it. “Lord, why this, for him, of all people?”  Yes, I know that prayer is irrational. My friend lives in a world where there is death, disease, cancer, and corruption, as do I. Intellectually I understand that my God still rules.  My theology is sound and there is the assurance that “His ways are higher than our ways” but sometimes “knowing” the words is just not enough. I do not want someone to ‘explain’ life to me, I just want to be held in God’s embrace.

Ever been there, Christian? 

St. John of the Cross spoke of living through the “dark night of the soul.”  When pain, sorrow, death, or disappointment are my companions in life, the Tempter accuses – “You caused this. You failed. You are being judged. Your fault … “  Most days I am able to ignore the growl, but there are moments in the dark when I waver.   But, God …  yes, God is greater!  

Shall I, on dark days, after preaching God’s love and grace, turn to the emptiness of religiosity, believing in my own ‘righteousness?’ If I do, I will add guilt to sorrow. Sometimes boldly, sometimes pitifully, I turn my heart to God, no matter how distant He may seem to be, and pray.  It’s not eloquence that wins me a hearing in Heaven, it is confidence in the One who has made me whole and holy inviting me to come into God’s Presence with confidence.

This Monday morning, in a world that is too often full of troubles, let’s make faith choices that honor the Lord. What are they? 

First-  We continue in what He has said to us in the past and in His Word.

If God is silent today, we cannot forget His Word. “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”” (Romans 3:3-4, NIV)

Second- We look up, remembering that we are more than flesh and bone.   

We are eternal beings, citizens of the heavenly kingdom, aliens in this present world on our way home. In the dark, we may be tempted to seek solace through food, sex, materialism, or other entertaining diversions. Should I look to the things of this earth to heal what can only be healed by His touch?  Many is the person who has gone onto the rocks and wrecked their life when they sought some temporary comfort for the distress of their soul. 

Third-  We commit ourselves, in the company of others, to go “Steady on!” 

This is the directive of the Word for such times.  “Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:13, NLT)

Fourth-  We choose to govern our emotions.

When the heart is broken it is good to weep. Sorrow is just as real as joy, as surely as there are both day and night. But, to hand ourselves over to the rule of our heart is a tragic mistake. In the depth of our sorrow we may question God and His ways wondering why we are not able to hear His voice or sense the comfort of the Spirit. But, if we rage against Him, if we accuse Him of being uncaring, unloving, or unjust we will become blind to the Truth. There will may slip into bitterness. The Word warns that “from that root of bitterness comes great and troubling discontent!” 

Lastly-  We lean hard on the Lord, praying that He will keep us faithful!  

“Lord, am I weak, wavering, unable to see the way ahead, but You are the Eternal God, the Faithful One.” Paul, who knew both great triumph and terrible rejection, reminds those who are broken by life that our weakness creates a place for His strength to shine through. Here is his testimony –  “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  (Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my doubt!) So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT)

Here is a song of the Psalms, our word from the Word.

Make this your prayer, dear friend, as I have this morning.

“Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:4-12, NIV)

___________________

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

(What a beautiful affirmation of the goodness of God!)

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning, New mercies I see
All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan © Words: Public Domain

Renewed In His Love

Driving home at dusk yesterday, I noted the splash of colors surrounding me and pulled off the road to drink it in.  As I released the tensions of the day, I breathed a prayer of praise, thanking God for the beauty and for a moment’s respite from it all.  Lyrics of an old Louis Armstrong song played through my mind- “I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed days, the dark sacred nights; and I think to myself: What a wonderful world!”  Thanks, Lord, I needed that. It’s been a turbulent week – a death of a friend, the final days of my pastoral service, the tragic news from Afghanistan and Haiti.

Those kinds of weeks show up in our lives, from time to time, when life gets heavy.  Death, hate, war, and destruction are signals to those of us in Christ we are pilgrims in this world, citizens of an eternal Kingdom, not home just yet. Still, there is beauty to be found, joy to be discovered, beauty and brightness in the middle of the mess.  

Joining David’s song, we can reset, renew, and refresh our souls.   
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars
,
which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and
crowned him with glory and honor.
” (Psalm 8:1-5, NIV)

Have you found yourself tired out, or filled with dread, or just overwhelmed by the sadness brought to life by sin and suffering?

Did you awaken this morning and wish that you could just pull down the shades and hide out from life for the day?

I understand that impulse, and I also know that joy comes with the morning, if we look up and take in His goodness and mercy. Find reasons to rejoice today. Open your heart to God’s Presence. Pray earnestly and expectantly for those situations that are beyond your control. “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.” (Psalm 9:8-11, NIV)  Make those words your prayer, personalizing the hope found in them.  The Lord – my refuge! The Lord – who never forsakes me!  Become God aware in a new way today.

Here is a word from the Word.  It is one of the songs of ascent, songs for the road as pilgrims went ‘up’ to Jerusalem for holy festivals. 

Read it aloud, and go ‘up’ to the Presence of God. He will answer with His tender mercies bringing a new dawn.

“A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”

(Psalm 130, NIV)

I pray you are renewed in His love today.

_______________

Mercies (New Every Morning)

In brokenness and wandering
Through all my fear and unbelief
Your faithfulness appears to me again
Through mountain top and valley low
In ev’ry season this I know
Your goodness like the dawn will break again

All Your mercies rising
In this heart again
And my soul begins to sing

They are new ev’ry morning
New ev’ry morning
Great is Your faithfulness
Your mercies are new ev’ry morning
New ev’ry morning
Great is Your faithfulness

Ev’ry good and perfect gift
In Your endless grace You give
Flowing from the Father’s heart to mine
Beams of Heaven as I go
Through this wilderness below
The fullness of Your love for all of time

All Your mercies rising in this heart again
All Your mercies rising in this heart again
All Your mercies rising
Forever shining in this grateful heart again

Great is Your faithfulness
Great is Your faithfulness

Colby Taylor | Daniel Kim | Edith McNeil | Matt Redman | May Angeles

© 2019 Tent Peg Music (div. of New Nation Music [Admin. by Music Services, Inc.])

Colby Taylor Designee (Admin. by Integrity Music)

CCLI License # 810055

Standing on the Promises of God

Many Sunday evening services included a song that proclaimed our faith – loudly and joyfully. We declared that we were ‘standing on the promises of God.’  I am choosing to do that this morning!  My prayers were weighty this morning – a friend with lung cancer for whom treatment is not working, a family grieving the death of their Mom and wife, the plight of the nation of Afghanistan under a cruel regime that especially hates Christians, the new pastor’s arrival at the church from which I am retiring next week, friends traveling to Tanzania – on top of the list already in place!

Praying, I brought to mind the promise of our Lord Jesus – “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20).  Promises are dependent on the one who makes them. Who has not relied on someone full of words of promise only to discover that their words aren’t worth anything. Our God is trustworthy.  We are, indeed, ‘standing on the promises of God.’

Some Christians tell me about their disappointment with God claiming that He has failed them.  We need to be cautious about ‘proof-text’ faith, basing some major idea about the will of God or a promise of the Spirit on a single verse taken from the Bible without context or study.  When we make our own agenda primary and then insist that God blesses our plan: “You promised!” – our faith can take a hard blow when we find a reality other than the one we desired. I have known some who have walked away from the Lord bitterly disillusioned, insisting that God failed. Could it be, I wonder, that they have confused what they wanted with what God promised?  

Admittedly, the ways of God can be mysterious to those of us with limited vision.  When He allows death to take someone we love too soon in our estimation, we wrestle with His trustworthiness, don’t we? When a son that we have loved and prayed for resists Him and plunges into a life of self-destruction,  we wonder why He does not intervene.  When hate appears to have won the day, as it appears in Afghanistan, we are tempted to ask why and how this could happen.

I love Jeremiah’s prayer found in his Lamentations. His beloved nation was devastated, the Temple torn apart, the future dark. But, he professed faith in the promises of God.  I love the authenticity of his words.  “So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:18, NIV)  Ever felt that way?  Then, he looks to the heart of the Father.  “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:21-22, NIV)

True faith is humble, submitted to the loving wisdom of God. This I believe – When we live in full faith we will not demand anything from God even as we rely on Him for everything!  We will not argue for an easier call, beg for a different way, or doubt when things go wrong.  Instead, we will deepen our faith – asking only to be led by His hand. And, He is faithful.  If we need a course correction, He will lead us.  If we are to walk through the valley, He will be there with us.  

Job, that godly man whose struggles were unbelievably difficult, worked through his disappointment, faced the grim reality of life, endured criticism and false judgment, and chose to wait on God.  “The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5, NIV)  Now, that is REAL faith.

Stand on the promises of God!  Lean on Who He is even more than demanding Him to act in some way you think best. Let the promise of His unfailing love, of His gracious gift of life, bring such a radical assurance that faith will be rock solid, unwavering, leading to a joyful obedience to Him.

Here’s a word of promise from our Savior. Note the interplay of promise and obedience.  When we trust Him enough to obey without question, our will aligns with His in such a way that we are empowered in wonderful ways.  Meditate on this and live it. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:7-10, NIV)

___________

Standing On The Promises

Standing on the promises of Christ my King
Through eternal ages let His praises ring
Glory in the highest I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God

Standing standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing standing
I’m standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail
By the living Word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect present cleansing in the blood for me
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free
Standing on the promises of God


Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s Sword
Standing on the promises of God

Standing on the promises I cannot fall
List’ning ev’ry moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my All in All
Standing on the promises of God

Russell Kelso Carter

© Words: Public Domain

Make it count!

Opening scene “Saving Private Ryan” 1998


“Saving Private Ryan” a movie released in 1998, opens as we watch an old man walk slowly across a field of white crosses in Normandy. He is searching for the grave marker of a Captain Miller who, along with a squad of Army Rangers, had been sent by the President to take Pvt. Ryan out of the battle theatre and return him to his family after his brothers were all killed in the war.  In a desperate firefight, the squad comes under heavy fire and Miller is mortally wounded. As he is dying, he tells young Ryan: “James. Earn this . . . earn it.”  

At the grave the old man murmurs “I’ve tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope it was enough.”  It is a powerful moment!   I have thought of that scene several times in recent days as I draw my time in pastoral ministry to a close. I remember those who invested in me, trusted me, loved me.  And, I wonder if I have given my best in return?

Whether we come to the end of life with regret or fulfillment depends on how we live today. Today matters! The old saying may be a cliché but it is true: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’

One of my favorite quotes in the Scripture teaches me to “Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:16-17, NLT)  Living in the will of God, to please Him, is about more than some BIG moment or grand gesture. Our commitment to Christ is largely lived in the ordinary.

God’s work is done as we listen compassionately to a grieving friend, when we take time to care for someone who is invisible to others, when we love our children when they are acting terribly, when we suspend judgment of a sinning friend and seek to understand, when we pray for a broken world with groans and tears, when we sit in a worship service and focus on Him, when we teach a Sunday School class with joyful enthusiasm, when we do the dishes without complaint, etc.  As Tish Harrison Warren wrote – there is a Liturgy in the Ordinary!  

Most mornings as I make my way into consciousness, I speak a simple prayer. “Lord, this is Your day and I am at Your service. Help me to recognize the opportunities You bring my way.”  I am not a fatalist nor do I believe that we just somehow fall into the perfect plan of God. We must live humbly, willing to give up our comfort and to resist the impulse to sloth in order to walk with the Spirit in the lead.  In the same breath, I hasten to say that there is no need to be stressed over knowing and doing the will of God.  He guides us as we become like a little child, trusting, serving, loving Him in the situations in which we find ourselves. 

Christian friend, let’s pray that our lives will make a difference for Christ and His kingdom; not tomorrow, but rather beginning today. With the counsel of the Spirit and the Scripture, choose the path of the righteous, and then walk it – consistently, day after day. I can make this guarantee – you’ll never live to regret it!

Here’s a word from the Word. I pray that when my race is nearly over, when the finish line is in sight, that I will be able to say what Paul said just days before he died. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NLT)

So, what is on our agenda today, Lord?

______________

Faithful Men

Come and join the reapers
All the kingdom seekers
Laying down your life to
Find it in the end


Come and share the harvest
Help to light the darkness
For the Lord is calling faithful men

Twila Paris

© 1985 Jubilee Communications Inc. (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Mountain Spring Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Invite Him In!

The images out of Afghanistan yesterday pressed heavily on me. Politics and blame for the debacle aside, I just could not shake the compassion and concern for those who will now suffer under the regime of the Taliban. Christians, who are a tiny minority of around 1% in the nation, are prepared for hardship and martyrdom. Last week a missions team there to serve were killed. Reports have come of Christian men killed and their wives taken.  One Christian texted a friend out of the country – “We are preparing to meet Jesus face to face in a few days.” 

How would I feel if I knew that life was about to become very hard or worse, that death was likely because of my faith in Jesus? What would I do? Those thoughts circled in my mind as I prayed for my brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

From my perspective in the American church, it appears that much of what we do is done ‘because that is what we have always done’ or ‘we have to keep up appearances.’  That kind of ‘faith’ if we can call it that, one that is without passion and conviction, does not stand under fire. Worse, it is an offense to the Living God.  Ancient Israel had fallen into ‘religion’ that looked good, but lacked connection to the Lord. 

Preacher Amos watched, prayed, and heard the Spirit’s words. They were not comforting! “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is.” (Amos 5:21-23, NLT)  God says that He despises heartless religion.

Christian, if we just go through the motions of worship, if we sing without thought, pray only rote prayers, and ignore the Spirit’s voice – I believe that God says, “Just stop it. It’s not even funny. It offends Me.”  

We do not have to become crazily emotional fanatics to please Him.  He desires that we bring our faith and devotion to the ordinary, that our worship is as evident on Monday morning as it seems to be in the sanctuary on Sunday. He told Israel,  ” I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.” (Amos 5:24, NLT)  God saw the injustice in Israel, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, the oppression of the powerless by the privileged.  He called on them to use their times of prayer to reflect on the way they were living; and to change. 

Amos was not a crank, a unique voice. Isaiah observed the same lack of integrated faith in the lives of the people.  He heard the Spirit say “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  (29:13)  Jesus warned about “babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”  (Matthew 6:7)  His prescription for the sickness of heartless religion is still offered. “Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NLT)

The plight of the Afghan Christians made me think about the way I love God. I hope it will be a catalyst for some soul-searching in all of our lives.  Let’s ask God to keep us from singing songs we don’t really mean. Let’s go beyond sending a check to church, and go to serve in His Name. Let’s engage our minds in the study of the Word, accepting it as God’s Word to us, not just some devotional reading to start the day. May our prayers flow from the depths of our heart, including real confession, faith-filled petition, and humble contemplation of His majesty.

May God keep us from a few days of just trying harder!  If we have a moment of crisis or self-examination most of think just that- “I’ll just have to double down and work at it.”  That doesn’t work because the focus is on you, and we are prone to failure, easily distracted, ready to justify ourselves. Fall on Him! Give Him complete access to your life, laying it all out before Him. Jesus offers Himself to us.  IF we start to fall into a heartless religion, He says – “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20, NIV)

He does not love us less when we are nakedly honest.
If you’re sick of ‘church’ tell Him.
If you are not at peace, but a simmering pot of resentment towards the world, tell Him.

If you really have little desire for godly things, if you find more in fishing than serving Him, tell Him.

If Heaven seems far away and life’s pleasures are immediate and alluring, tell Him. 

I have written the next words many times – He knows the real you better than you do. And, the One who knows you best, loves you most! 

If we own our reality, if we will live confessionally instead of covering our sin, our fear, our doubts, our failures-  with religious noise we will find Him present to comfort, faithful to forgive, and changing us from the inside out.  Loving Jesus is not a matter of doing religion better; it’s about loving Jesus, focusing on Him.

Meditate on His words, our word from the Word today. “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NLT)  “I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” (Revelation 3:19-20, NLT)

He’s waiting, knocking on door.  Will you invite Him in?
______________

My Heart Your Home

Come and make my heart Your home
Come and be ev’rything I am
And all I know
Search me through and through
‘Til my heart becomes
A home for You

A home for You Lord
A home for You Lord
Let ev’rything I do
Open up a door
For You to come through
And that my heart would be
A place where You want to be

You are my portion
Filling up ev’rything
You are the fortune
That’s causing my heart to sing
That it’s amazing
That You could make Yourself at home
With me with me Lord

Christy Nockels | Nathan Nockels

© 1997 Rocketown Music, LLC. (Admin. by CURB | Word Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

I love me?

Ever met a narcissist, a person in love with himself, who is so self-important he does not understand the needs, emotions, or desires of those who surround him?  The narcissist makes himself the center of his world, though he quite unaware of that fact because he thinks of himself with such exaggerated self-esteem such selfishness seems completely acceptable.

The disorder of excessive self-importance is named for Narcissus, a figure in Greek mythology, who was unbelievably handsome. He saw a reflection of himself in a pool and became fixated on the image to such an extent that he was unwilling to do anything else and died.  People who are narcissistic lack empathy, lie to protect their image, fail at genuine conversations, and feel completely entitled.  As in the myth, it is a tragic way of life!

We are made by God to love and be loved which demands selflessness. Scripture says this of about real love:
“Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
Love does not demand its own way.
Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.
It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance
.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT)

That sets the bar quite high, doesn’t it? 
If you have been loved in that way, you are blessed. If you love like that, you are an amazing person!

So, how does such love become our way of life?
Is it just a characteristic of a few well-adjusted, secure individuals who won the emotional lottery of life?  

We cannot conclude that for Jesus says that love is the basis ‘rule’ for a godly life:  loving God and loving others.  All of God’s commands for us will fall into place if we love Him.  

John teaches us this truth, for which I am grateful. It is a long text, the wisdom of God. Read it prayerfully and carefully.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:7-16, NIV)

Note the interplay of the Spirit’s work in us and our willingness to be changed. God loves us; deeply, sacrificially, persistently, redemptively!  His love changes us from the inside out, making it possible for us to learn to love others which becomes the irrefutable evidence of our relationship with Him.  If we are self-absorbed, hate-filled people we simply cannot say that we know and love God.  But, where Self dies and love flourishes, God’s life is evident.

Our culture is one that encourages some level of narcissism, in my opinion. We are trained to seek our own way, to make our own plans, to discard difficult relationships. We are told that we are deserving.  Healthy self-esteem is a good thing. If we are full of self-loathing, loving others becomes near to impossible.  Christians are loved to life by a God who gives us life, who reminds us that we belong to Him, His ‘beloved children.’

Today, in this world of cut-throat competition where ‘my rights’ is a phrase heard too often, may God make us people of love who care deeply for the least, the lost, the loveless, the unlovely.

Our word from the Word are from Jesus, who sets a standard that is impossible unless we have experienced the profoundly wonderful love of God, our Father.  Begin there. Let God love YOU.

Then, you will be given the grace to live these words.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
(Luke 6:27-37, NIV)

_______________

Stand In Your Love

When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow comes to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken


My fear doesn’t stand a chance
When I stand in Your love
(REPEAT)

Shame no longer has a place to hide
I am not a captive to the lies
I’m not afraid to leave my past behind
I won’t be shaken I won’t be shaken

There’s power that can break off every chain
There’s power that can empty out a grave
There’s resurrection power that can save
There’s power in Your name power in Your name

Standing in Your love

Ethan Hulse | Josh Baldwin | Mark Harris | Rita Springer

© 2018 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055