Grip on Reality?

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My late wife, Bev, had an irrational fear of flying. When she was a young woman, she felt near panic as time for boarding neared. Was there a miniscule chance the plane would go down? Yes, but the real danger was near non-existent. She would talk herself around her irrational fears, refusing to let them control her.

Many people believe that the world in which they live is much more dangerous than it actually is and that the future is surely one of pending disaster. Let’s talk about tornadoes. Are they terrible and destructive? Yes! But, less than 50 people are killed on average by them in the US annually, while thousands die from asthma related issues. So why aren’t there more stories about asthma? Tornadoes make great news stories with graphic pictures of the damage they do. And then there are sharks. According to Wikepedia, there are only an average of 16 shark attacks per year and 1 death every two years here in the US, yet people are very afraid of sharks. Why?  There was Jaws!  And, there is Shark Week. We are strangely captivated by an irrational fear that is almost non-existent.

We have a bias towards the negative.  We report the few things that go wrong instead of the many that go right! We talk about the one divorce among our friends, not the dozens of happy marriages that surround us. We talk about the one traffic accident not the thousands of people who drove safely to their destination.

There is a secondary issue involved in our sense of personal well-being. We often confuse ‘what is comfortable for me’ with ‘what is right for the world.’  That is one reason that as people age they tend to become critics of younger people.  Each generation brings about change. The very fact of change often feels ‘threatening’ and provokes both fear and anger as a response in many.

Am I suggesting that problems do not exist or that we should ignore them? No, I am not. To hide from reality is a silly, immature choice. My appeal is that we make sure to widen the lens to take in the whole picture. If we want to be healthy spiritually and emotionally, we need a context for our concern that makes our responses appropriate and proportionate.

Christian, make ‘thanksgiving’ lists right alongside of your ‘prayer’ lists. Remember to thank God for the gifts, the blessings, the good people, the kindnesses, the days that come and go without incident even as you also petition Him on behalf of those who are suffering and in trouble. The act of giving thanks will actually increase your faith!  Genuine praise, not the forced or fake words, flows from the Christian who takes time to ‘see’ the good, to recognize the hand of God, to really appreciate the beauty that is woven into life. If you think I’m naïve, I urge you to work at overcoming your negativity bias.

I leave you today with this song of David as our word from the Word. Soak your mind in the truth! Take a cue from the words and let your heart be overcome with wonder. You will meet the real challenges of life with deeper faith.

“O Lord, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and nursing infants to give you praise.
They silence your enemies who were seeking revenge.

 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers
— the moon and the stars you have set in place—
what are mortals that you should think of us,
mere humans that you should care for us?

 For you made us only a little lower than God,
and you crowned us with glory and honor.
You put us in charge of everything you made,
giving us authority over all things
— the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!” (Psalm 8, NLT)
_____

10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

(Matt Redman builds our faith with this song of praise)

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

Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2011 Atlas Mountain Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Ask Hard Questions

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I know who God wants me to be. It’s called ‘vision.’  Prayerfully, I evaluate progress or lack thereof, with the goal of growing in grace. Then, too, every now and then someone lovingly reminds me of some place where I am inconsistent in my profession of faith and my practice of it. This morning I want to encourage you to become purposeful in spiritual growth.

Progress comes, not by drifting day to day, but by asking hard questions that allow us to evaluate. Physically, I need to keep track of my weight, my blood pressure, my heart rate – all indicators of health. Financially, I must balance the checkbook and determine if I am keeping spending in line with income.  Relationally, I must be aware if I am regularly loving people, careful not to take them for granted. Ignorance is not bliss for those who desire God’s best.

Clear vision and hard questions are important. Take a lesson from the directions give to us for approaching the Lord’s Table. God desires honest reflection. “You should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29, NLT)

  • What kind of person do I want to be  . . .  does God want me to be?
  • Am I living a Christ-centered, loving, encouraging, hopeful, joyful life that glorifies Him and extends His love to others?
  • Am I content to be self-absorbed, pleasure-obsessed, critical, and mean – a parasite who drains life from others?

Hard questions, aren’t they? Most of us are somewhere between those extremes. We have days when the sinful nature takes over and we are full of darkness and we have days when the Spirit is invited to fill us.  But, we are always moving towards light if we are keeping step with the Holy Spirit.

Stable, joyful, holy Christians live in faith that is practically applied and expressed in regular engagement with the spiritual disciplines. The change produced by daily prayer and meditation, by actively expressing worship, by confession of failure and acceptance of forgiveness, by entering into silence to listen to the Spirit, by giving even when we do not wish to do so, by choosing anonymous service in big and small ways, by learning and applying Scriptural principles;  is sure and certain – yet, incremental!

Ah, remember this – the goal of the disciplines is not to save ourselves. God does that, perfectly! They are the means by which we enter into His grace so that we grow into healthy, mature, effective disciples.

I want to be the person the Lord designed me to be.  So, I will live as this word from the Word teaches.  “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:10-14, The Message)

Gain God’s vision for you. Ask hard questions. And then, together, let’s get on with it, encouraging one another, becoming all that Christ desires us to be.

The word from the Word today assures us that we can become all that God wants us to be. “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, NLT)

__________

We Fall Down

(meditate for a moment with the song by Chris Tomlin)

We fall down
We lay our crowns
At the feet of Jesus
The greatness of mercy and love
At the feet of Jesus

 And we cry holy holy holy
And we cry holy holy holy
And we cry holy holy holy is the Lamb

Chris Tomlin © 1998 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

 

You’re In Good Hands

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One of the largest insurance companies in the United States assures us that “You are in good hands with Allstate™.”  That line has been part of the company’s ads since 1950!  I am certain you couldn’t name the man who is the voice of their commercials, but Dennis Dexter Haysbert’s rich baritone voice is familiar to us all. At the end of their ‘Mayhem’ commercials, he asks, “Are you in good hands?”

Because we know that accidents happen, storms come, and property gets damaged, we buy a policy that will help us to get things fixed, rebuild what’s broken. And, we want to know that the company that issues that policy isn’t operating out of somebody’s garage with limited resources. There is a kind of security in knowing that if an accident should happen that we are in good hands!

This Monday morning, I want to remind you that you’re in good hands!  At the close of our worship service at Faith Discovery yesterday, I offered this familiar and rich benediction from the Scripture.  “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 24-25, NIV)  It’s not just an advertising slogan, it is the Truth of God, words to live by.

We are going to encounter things, this week, this month, that will turn our lives upside down. No matter how well we think that we have prepared for life, there will be those unanticipated moments: crises brought on by accident, temptation, storm, unpredictable people. Anxiety is the ‘common cold’ of mental health in our time with about 1 in 5 Americans experiencing it at a high enough level that it effects their everyday lives!  No, it’s not just worry.

Anxiety is that persistent static in the mind that keeps us on edge, unable to enjoy other people, awake in the night, and at high enough levels even leading to depression. The response to danger that serves us well when we are truly threatened by sharpening our senses and enabling a quick flight or decision can become a crippling thing when it gets stuck in the ‘on’ position!

Christian, God offers us the promise of His peace. He says to us “I am able to keep you!” We should know that we are in good hands, the hands of the eternal Father who will, from His rich resources, give us eternal life, keeping us secure in His grace. Will you make the choice to trust Him today? Paul, a man who knew more than his share of difficulties, teaches how to find the peace of God.  He says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)

“Tell God … “  Your prayers do not have to be shaped with the precision of a legal document, with the eloquence of a polished speech, or like a poem. Just talk with God. Share your heart. Present yourself, your concerns, your needs – to Him, with a thankful heart. Remind yourself of Who He is, what He has done, and of His promises.  You are in good hands!

The word from the Word is another familiar benediction, a passage from my favorite book of the Bible. These are words to live by. Own them today and be at peace.  “Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NLT)

_________

Thrive

(Casting Crowns reminds us that God has good things prepared for us!)

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We will never run dry

 So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire

 Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

 Into Your Word we’re digging deep
To know our Father’s heart
Into the world we’re reaching out
To show them who You are 

Joy unspeakable
Faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable
Anything is possible
We were made to thrive

Mark Hall | Matthew West © 2014 Atlas Holdings (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing)

Highly Combustible Music (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing) House of Story Music Publishing (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

Planted

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My understanding of the world I live in is shaped by the Bible. I exist as an eternal being, made by God. What tells me that?  His Word. My highest purpose is to know and love God. How do I know? Again, the Word. I see the events of life and the world around me through the lens of the Word.  Before you stop reading, convinced that I’m one of those who hauls out a big, black Bible as a weapon to meet a fearful world, know this – that the Word is wisdom and Truth not a weapon in my hands.

Life is very complex. Truth is not simple, answers are not always easy to find.  Finding the eternal wisdom of God is an act of faith and requires discipline of mind and spirit.  Yet, I am comforted, corrected, and guided by the wisdom of the Word, which the Spirit brings to my consciousness again and again.

Jesus says that it is like seed planted in in us“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”  (Matthew 13:3-9, The Message)   His friends came to Him later on and asked Him, “Why do you tell these stories?  What does a story about a farmer planting seeds have to do with us?”

And He explained,  “Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. “The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. “The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it. “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”  (Matthew 13:18-23, The Message)

Will you open your heart and mind to the Word Seed? When we plant a seed we expect a harvest, don’t we? When we plant the truth in our hearts about life’s purpose, about God, about who we are, about eternity … we gain a heart of wisdom. That is why, if we would be godly, we will give ourselves to diligent study.  From that study, we will find that “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, The Message)

Be like Jeremiah who exclaimed:  “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.” (Jeremiah 15:16, NIV)

Be careful, my Christian friend, that you are not captivated by “Christian celebrities” who substitute human interest stories for the Word. A great story may inspire but it is not substitute for knowing what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

As much as we might enjoy our Christian music, make sure that your theology is not shaped by your favorite worship leader alone. The sentiment of an appealing song cannot replace the solid foundation of the Scripture’s truth.

Make sure that the Pastor who teaches you loves the Scripture, with a heart and mind that is humble before the revealed Truth. Find a group of people with whom you can open and process the Scripture.

Read the Bible for yourself every day. Your life will be changed, for the better, by the Word.

Here is a word from the Word. May it be a seed that grows to a harvest of wisdom.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a workman who does not need to be ashamed and
who correctly handles the word of truth.
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it
will become more and more ungodly.” (2 Timothy 2:15-16, NIV)

_______

Ancient Words
(Micheal W. Smith’s rendition of this great song)

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart
O let the ancient words impart

Words of life words of hope
Give us strength help us cope
In this world where’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us home

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
O heed the faithful words of Christ

Martyr’s blood stains each page
They have died for this faith
Hear them cry through the years
Heed these words and hold them dear

We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart
O let the ancient words impart

Lynn DeShazo © 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))

CCLI License # 810055

Steady faith

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Marty Sampson wrote songs of worship with the Hillsong Worship ministry that were sung around the world. Earlier this week, he announced that he was leaving Christianity behind. He explained that he was not angry at anyone, nor was there any scandal. He said that he did not believe anymore, that he had found, in science and technology, better answers for life, and that he did not see any evidence of God at work. How tragically misguided he is. Life has disappointments for all of us. The ways of the Lord are not easy for us to understand, but I think he has allowed himself to be deceived, his sight set too low.

What a contrast can be found in the ancient words of Habakkuk (strange name, isn’t it?) Do you know about him?  Eugene Peterson introduces him to us. “Living by faith is a bewildering venture. We rarely know what’s coming next, and not many things turn out the way we anticipate. It is natural to assume that since I am God’s chosen and beloved, I will get favorable treatment from the God who favors me so extravagantly. It is not unreasonable to expect that from the time that I become his follower, I will be exempt from dead ends, muddy detours, and cruel treatment from the travelers I meet daily who are walking the other direction. That God-followers don’t get preferential treatment in life always comes as a surprise. But it’s also a surprise to find that there are a few men and women within the Bible who show up alongside us at such moments.”  Habakkuk is one of those people.

He saw a terrible calamity that was about to befall God’s people.  The Babylonians were growing strong and, at the very same time, his nation was abandoning God, Who was their only strength and defense against that enemy.   With terrible sorrow, he knew the end would be awful suffering, death, and destruction.  “Why are you allowing this to happen, Lord?” is his cry.  The Spirit made these ancient laments a comfort to me.  “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? . . .the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4, NIV)  Could we not cry for the world we live in, too?  Our land is full of violence. Our churches are largely empty. So many hearts of Christians are filled with things other than devotion. What is the answer?

Habakkuk did not get the answer to prayer he desired.  He wanted a spiritual revival and the salvation of his people Instead the Lord told him “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own. …they all come bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.” (Habakkuk 1:9, NIV)

Knowing this meant terrible suffering and destruction, the preacher prays a remarkable prayer, full of sorrow and questions – ” God, you’re from eternity, aren’t you? Holy God, we aren’t going to die, are we? God, you chose Babylonians for your judgment work? Rock-Solid God, you gave them the job of discipline? But you can’t be serious! You can’t condone evil! So why don’t you do something about this? Why are you silent now?” (Habakkuk 1:12-13, The Message)

Sometimes we don’t get the ‘happily ever after’ answer from Heaven we want!
Sometimes when we pray for spiritual renewal, people’s hearts only grow more cold to the things of the Lord, the onslaught evil increases like a tidal surge!

What then?

There is a choice.  We can curse God, doubt that He cares, or even conclude He does not exist.  OR, we can be faithful.  In that moment, Habakkuk received a revelation that endures for us 3000 years later as we read his little book.  He declared the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, NIV)   Wait for the purposes of the Lord.  God said, “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting— it will happen! “ (Habakkuk 2:3, CEV)
Don’t you hate the wait?  I do!  But, I will wait!  I’ll declare my faith, raising my eyes higher than the problems of this day, than the disappointments of this moment.

The word from the Word will inspire you to wait on the Lord; steadily,faithfully, until His purpose is fulfilled.  “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:16-19, NIV)

___________

So Will I (100 Billion X)

God of creation
There at the start before the beginning of time
With no point of ref’rence
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You’ve made
Ev’ry burning star a signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain no syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You say
Ev’ry painted sky a canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
So will I

So will I ooh ooh

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in rev’rence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if ev’rything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created the light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in ev’rything You’ve done
Ev’ry part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart eight billion diff’rent ways
Ev’ry precious one a child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

Benjamin Hastings | Joel Houston | Michael Fatkin © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

Reading a script?

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A few weeks ago I re-discovered The West Wing, an award-winning drama first aired in 1999, that is now showing on Netflix. It is about the fictional Presidency of Jed Bartlett and his senior staff. The production is amazing; the actors are skilled. After all these years it’s still jarring to see Allison Janey in other roles. She became completely identified with “C.J. Cregg,” the Press Secretary in Bartlett’s administration, in my mind.  The thing with actors is that they take on a temporary identity, playing a role.  A person can become a “President” without the rigors of an election, a “doctor” without going to medical school, by learning the lines and using their acting craft and we believe the story.

My question for us this morning is a pointed one.
How are we living this Christian life?  Are we really disciples of Christ Jesus or are we just playing a role?

The core of Christian faith is that we are being changed from the inside out by the Spirit, ‘born again’ as God’s child. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT) We do not merely try to ‘act like’ a Christian, we are Christian.

 Jesus reserved His most scathing criticism, not for prostitutes or thieves, but for religious leaders that He called ‘hypocrites.’  The Pharisees were great actors, Jesus said. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7, NIV) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13, NIV)

Hypocrite is an interesting word in that context. It is a direct translation of the New Testament word ‘hupokrites’ which described actors who ‘lived behind a mask.’

Let’s not allow ourselves to put on a mask, to adopt a role, to just learn songs, prayers, and Scripture quotes that allow us to look like a Christian. It can be tempting! Authentic Christians  know the struggle of the school of discipleship. They engage in the spiritual disciplines that lead to transformation of character. It is not at all hypocritical to admit that there is a gap between the ideal to which Christ calls us and our present experience! The ugly side of hypocrisy is the refusal to acknowledge our sin, to cover up those places where we are inconsistent or where our actions contradict what we say we believe. If a Christian does not understand that becoming ‘holy’ is a process, that there are daily choices that allow the Spirit to do His work, that person will become just an actor – inauthentic and an imposter.

We overcome hypocrisy by fully trusting in Jesus Christ, who is our Savior. We cannot perfect ourselves. Oh yes, we have choices to make, but ultimately, we are saved by grace, through faith. Are you committed to knowing Him? Like Paul will you say, “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 3:9-11, NLT) ?

There is great freedom in becoming authentic, not reveling in sin, but acknowledging what is real and true, so that we can grow into the beauty of the Spirit’s life.

Here is a word from the Word. Believe it and live.  “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2:3-8, NIV)
____

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

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

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

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

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

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

CCLI License # 810055

Find contentment on Monday

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As this day dawned, I found myself wanting a little more sleep! Friday, our church finally closed on the sale of our former school property which was a very emotional experience; a sorrowful ending and a foundation for new things to come. Saturday, I enjoyed celebrating a wedding for a positively joy-filled couple! Sunday was a full day including worship service, preaching,  and leading a funeral. So, as the sun announced a new day, I did not jump up.

Which more describes you today – “Oh, Lord, it’s morning.” said with a groan,  or; “Good morning, Lord!” spoken with expectation?  Whatever your circumstances today, you are blessed with the ability to choose your response to those circumstances. Faith, a foundation that rests on the unchanging love of God, allows us to enter our day with a positive attitude. Yes, you can. Will you accept the day and the gifts of God for it, or will you complain and live miserably?

A persistent illusion invites us to think that those who are most joyful are those who we might call ‘lucky,’ who enjoy good fortune. I do not believe in luck. I serve a purposeful God and everything that enters my life, whether as a result of my choices, the choices of others, or because of reasons beyond my comprehension, passes through His hands.  Not everything that happens to me is His direct will because of sin in this world, but nothing is outside of His awareness, and so I pray for the faith needed to let Him lead, to wisely choose for the future, and to trust Him even on the darkest days.

Deep faith allows us to find contentment. Reverence for the Almighty God dethrones the ego. In submission that results there is serenity.  The wisdom of the Word leads me. “The fear of the LORD leads to life: then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Proverbs 19:23, NIV) Paul, who knew all manner of hardships, said that he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NIV)  He repeats it twice, impressing the importance of this choice.

Contentment is neither passivity nor apathy.  It is a choice to REST in God, to receive each day (even Monday!) from Him, confessing that He has every resource for us that we need to meet the day’s challenges. It is found in faith.  “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:1-6, NLT)

However you started this new week, I encourage you to pause and recommit yourself, your life, your job, your family, your LIFE to Him. Here is a word from the Word – a promise for Monday morning. “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? … I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:38-39, The Message)

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Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

(He is there in the mysteries.)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

 And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sov’reign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

 I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm © 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

Look UP!

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I drove into the cemetery around 7 last night as one of those Summer rain showers was just ending. I stood at Bev’s grave, remembering, feeling the weight of loss.  Moments later,  on the drive down the mountain towards home, I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow arched across the sky, a visual reminder of the greatness of God, the enduring life He gives. The sad reality of death met the promise of God and I found another day’s encouragement in faith.

My experience is a parable for the best way to live our Christian life. Those who are the most faithful disciples, who are ‘about the Father’s business,’ will keep an eye on the horizon, an awareness that what we know in this present existence is not the totality of our experience.

Paul, inspired by the Spirit, says “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (Philippians 3:20-4:1, NIV)

If we ‘forget’ that our passport is issued by the Kingdom of Heaven, we will forget who we really are. Wrong priorities will take over. Living for Christ won’t make much sense, to be honest, without eternity in view.  I am not writing about trying to escape reality by endlessly talking about heaven to come. That what the old phrase “so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good” is talking about. If we sit around dreaming about heaven while the world goes to hell around us we are making a grave mistake.

Heaven is our home and that hope anchors us as we commit ourselves to the work of the Lord.

Have you lost sight of eternity, my Christian friend?
Have the cares and worries of life overtaken you and stolen your joy?

Or, are you so taken with trying to create a little heaven on earth that your desire for God and home are obscured?

Look up! Our word from the Word comes from Peter’s letter. It’s brief. May it restore perspective, bring joy, and cause you to ‘stand firm.’
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.”
(1 Peter 2:11, The Message)

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Here As In Heaven

The atmosphere is changing now
For the Spirit of the Lord is here
The evidence is all around
That the Spirit of the Lord is here

Overflow in this place
Fill our hearts with your love
Your love surrounds us
You’re the reason we came to encounter your love
Your love surrounds us

Spirit of God fall fresh on us
We need your presence
Your kingdom come your will be done
Here as in heaven

A miracle can happen now
For the Spirit of the Lord is here
The evidence is all around
That the Spirit of the Lord is here

Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Matthew Ntlele | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye

© 2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

Just show up!

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You know who I really admire?  People who show up! Those people who actually practice their principles, who give their time and money, who keep their commitments day after day; they are my heroes.

A young guy in my church, Brian, leads our outreach to teens in our town.  It’s not an easy thing to do. The Vault meets at an inconvenient time of day, often serves teens who are difficult to say the least, but he keeps showing up, and loving those kids. He does what needs to be done (with too few volunteers).

Tony left the corporate world years ago to start a ministry to men coming out of prison.  They don’t all make the transition successfully, which has to be disappointing, but he does not quit. He is always underfunded; but he keeps going with little fanfare. There are dozens more with whom I share the work of God in the local church I pastor, people young and old, who know the call of God and show up – to teach, to love, to give, to worship, to pray, to mow lawns, to prepare bags of groceries … all of them making a difference.

Many people talk about building communities. Lots of people claim to be ‘influencers’ (I really despise that word) in their world. There are Christians who go on at length about the brokenness of our nation and how the church needs to ‘step up’ but they never really show up. Often these people who do so little say so much, criticizing those who are actually at work. I am reminded of myself during football season. I love to watch the game, but I’ve never played a single minute. When somebody makes a mistake on the field, I shout at the television, as if I really understood the pressure of an NFL game! In reality, I look silly.

Most of us would agree that the world we live in is in desperate need spiritually. People are afraid, alone, often without hope. Children are growing up with no real knowledge of the love of God, without any sense that He made them for a purpose.  Fear stalks many. Despair is an epidemic. Lives that are empty of meaning are too common.

It’s time for Christians to show up. There are hundreds of ways to make a difference, starting in your own home.

  • If you are a parent, be present. Lead your children in meaningful prayer, teach them godly principles by word and example.
  • In your work, do your best, without complaining, and encourage those around you – for Christ’s sake, literally.
  • Get involved with a church. Yes, the Church is God’s plan for change and if you really want to do His work, it will involve being part of His Body! Show up … when it’s boring and when it’s not; when you agree and when you don’t; when you feel like it and when you’re tired.
  • Pray, not just on Sunday, but everyday.
  • Give, not just when your bank account has a surplus, but as a priority.
  • Seek a place to serve, and keep showing up not just when it’s convenient, or sexy, or fun, but because you’re are called and committed.
  • And, do your best, honing the gift of the Spirit God has invested in you.

Jesus says that those who are His followers are to be ‘salt and light’ meaning that we are people that preserve the world from rot and dispel the darkness of evil. It’s a high and holy calling, that comes with a promise of rich reward. It’s not just the work of a few. It is an opportunity for all – who will show up.

Here is a word from the Word. May the Spirit renew our passion and make us faithful.
“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink?” “And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’” (Matthew 25:38-39, The Message)

“Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40, The Message)

Let’s show up and make a difference, starting today.

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A Charge To Keep I Have

A charge to keep I have
A God to glorify
A never dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky

 To serve the present age
My calling to fulfill
O may it all my powr’s engage
To do my Master’s will

 Arm me with jealous care
As in Thy sight to live
And O Thy servant Lord prepare
A strict account to give

 Help me to watch and pray
And on Thyself rely
Assured if I my trust betray
I shall forever die

Charles Wesley

Public Domain

Smaller lives or greater resources?

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David arrived at the battlefield to bring supplies to his brothers who were with the Israelite army. The teenager heard a giant of man bellowing on the other side of the valley, challenging anyone who would to come and fight. Goliath’s roar made a thousand men quake. It made David angry enough to want to go and take him on. You know that familiar story.

After Saul’s attempt to armor him, the teenage shepherd went to engage the champion armed only with his slingshot and faith! David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45, NIV)

When you come up against challenges, trials, and temptation what is your first inclination?
Do you run from them?
Are you overwhelmed by them?
Or, do you face them with courage and determination, “in the Name of the Lord?”?

Some live small lives because they refuse to venture out where there is risk. The boundaries of their lives are formed what they believe they can accomplish given existing resources. There is another way where with bold faith we pray “Lord, increase my faith!” Knowing that He is a God who can do ‘immeasurably more,’ we do not beg for smaller challenges. Rather, we pray faithfully for greater resources.  Whatever may be coming your way today, present it to the Lord.

Even if you’re afraid, stand still.
Even if you want to refuse to take the assignment, listen carefully.
Even as your soul is tossed by inner storms, look beyond the moment to eternity.

God can and will increase your resources, not always as you think He should, but to accomplish His purposes in you and through you, as you learn greater faith that trusts Him!

Here is a word from the Word.  Memorize it and live it, letting faith arise.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)

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Press On
(Selah sings of greater faith)

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on