Misers are miserable!

wordswag_1511958798925T’is the season for giving. It can be fun. And, then too, some giving is tangled up with other things and loses the sparkle of joy. When we try to impress someone or when we feel we must prove our love by buying a gift that leaves us in debt, that is not fun, at all. Generosity, a way of life that feels no need to hold onto time, money, or things tightly, is liberating.

  • One of the most joyous choices in my life is giving the resources God has put in my hands to supports ministries and missions.
  • I miss bringing a rose home to my wife, seeing her delight in being remembered in such a small way.
  • Yesterday, I stepped away from my desk and drove to see a lady from the church who has been confined to a hospital room for a week. I was richer for the gift of time!
  • There’s a man in our church who has given thousands of dollars to projects and people during the years that I have known him. He does so without recognition. And, he is joyful in his giving.

It’s not just about money! Being generous in spirit by refusing offense, by withholding critical comments, shown in notes and words of encouragement, reveals that a heart is formed by love.   We are to be like our Father and He is generous. He “loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out. This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:7-11)

Generosity is more than an impulse. It is sustained by what the late Stephen Covey calls an “abundance mentality.” He says that it is a way of thinking that believes there are enough resources to share with others. Generosity multiplies our resources rather than diminishing them. Jesus Christ said it first – “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:38, The Message)

I am encouraged in my own giving – of time, of love, of money, of life – by this promise: “For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” (Hebrews 6:10, NLT) The gifts we give are memorialized by our Lord and will find a rich reward.

Here’s a word from the Word. Let it speak to every part of your life. “Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. … For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:7,9, NIV)

This Christmas Season, find multiple ways to be generous. Don’t feel compelled to go into financial debt. Instead, pray for a spirit of generosity that causes people who pass through your life to be touched by joy, enriched by your spirit as you overflow with the Spirit’s graces. All this will prove to be for the glory of the One who first loved us! Amen.

___________
Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

 John Wyeth | Robert Robinson

  • © Words: Public Domain

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Cool Christians!

wordswag_1511873538766Are you a ‘cool’ Christian? That question was put to me by a speaker on the Abide (https://abide.is/) app that I am currently using for my nightly meditations. “Cool” is one of those words that is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. The person who is ‘cool’ is self-possessed, aware of her influence, who seeks approval but in a way that is detached so as not to be seen as ‘needy.’  The point made in that meditation remains with me this morning.  To the extent that a Christian pursues being ‘cool’ he is not walking humbly before God! Think about that.

The centrality of humility in our relationship with the Lord is made clear by the frequency that Scripture speaks to it.

  • Jesus spoke to the need with this paradoxical statement – “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4, NIV)
  • Paul urges us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV)
  • James does not qualify the command – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10, NIV)
  • Peter, likewise, directs us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6, NIV)

Dig deeper and you will come to this conclusion:
Humility is an indispensable trait in the character of the godly. That is a theme that appears from Genesis to Revelation.  Humility is presented as an irreplaceable quality that allows us to enjoy lives that are marked by peace with others. It dissipates anger. It facilitates forgiveness. It raises up the wounded and broken, viewing people as being worthy of respect.  Humility allows us to strengthen our relationship with God because it removes our need to ‘have our own way,’ and brings us to bended knee and open heart before Him.

Some confuse humility with a lack of healthy self-esteem. But, in fact, those who have learned to be humble are those who best show their love for all persons, including themselves, in the best ways.  Humility relieves us of anxiety because the humble has no need to pursue the ‘success’ image that is entrenched in American lore and society. The humble person is set free from the slavery that comes from trying to find worth and acceptance by pleasing others; in other words, trying to be ‘cool.’

Isaiah reminds us that “The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).” (Isaiah 2:11-12, NIV)  One of John’s themes in the Revelation is the judgment that will come to the prideful of the world when the Lord calls them to account.

Like all evidences of the Spirit’s life, humility is both a gift of God and something we must cultivate.  Do you want to be relieved of ‘cool’ and become humble?

First step is to acknowledge Christ as Lord:  not just once, but daily. Make a confession of His lordship, His rule, His ownership of your life part of your morning prayer. Almost everyday, among the first thoughts in mind is a prayer – “Lord, this is your day, I am your servant. May You be honored by my thought, word, and action.”  (Sin being what it is, I fall short of that aspiration too frequently!)

Second step is honest confession of need, of sin, of reliance on His grace and goodness.  I am a Christian for over a half-century, have preached the Word for 4 decades, but I am still a child before my Father; absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit moment by moment. That is not weakness, that is humility.  Without the life of the Spirit actively working in me as I yield myself to Him, I cannot please God. Nor, my friend, can you.

Paul’s familiar word reminds us of this. Given great gifts and deep revelations of spiritual truth, Paul was apparently tempted to go it on his own. “So to keep me from becoming proud, 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.” 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)

If you think you are capable of living for Christ Jesus without daily dependence, without real prayer, without learning the Truth of the Word, without remaining in close fellowship with other Christians – you are deceived by pride, likely attempting ‘cool’ Christianity, an impossibility.  If you pray for humility to be created in your life, prepare for struggle! And then, bow your head, open your heart, and learn to lean, like a child, on the complete sufficiency of the Father.

Here is a word from the Word. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT)  Do you believe that? Now, humbly live it.

__________________

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

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Are you anchored in His Promise?

wordswag_1511795426190.pngFew things matter more in human relationships than confidence that another will keep his word. Lies, even those that seem inconsequential, are so destructive. A person who exaggerates discounts his words. Those who mislead others find themselves without friends.  Those who chose who live inauthentically, trying to be someone they are not, refusing to face the truth, eventually are exposed as frauds, often tragically.

But, oh what a joy to know someone who takes Jesus’ words to heart – “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37, NIV)  In other words, they live without shadows, truthful, with integrity. I trust that kind of person with my life!

God’s faithfulness to keep His promise is the foundation of our Christian hope.  The writer of Hebrews compared the Law’s sacrifices, which had to be renewed year after year for the sins of the people with the once for all time sacrifice of Jesus. His offering of Himself opened the Way to Life. “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. … (so) let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:14,22, NIV)  That offering is a promise – of forgiveness, of being made whole, and of eternal life!

Do you trust Him?

The Evil One tries to get us to focus on those things that disappoint us, things for which we have no explanation, in order to erode our faith in God’s promises.  Eve, in the Garden, heard his whisper about her Creator that held the suggestion that God was not good, that He was withholding good from her, and she sinned. He will attempt the same with you, with me.  When we are living in sunshine and enjoying blessings, it is easy to join this song that David sang “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.” (2 Samuel 22:31) But, when we struggle with death, sickness, or temptation – God’s promises can seem to be made only for others.  We may even be tempted to question Him, to wonder like David in another of his songs, “How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?”  (Psalm 35:17)

As we come to the Season of Advent, remember the fulfilled prophecies of the Coming of the Lord. For centuries the Jews looked for their Deliverer. They hoped and prayed, endured, and waited. Over time, the word of the Lord was encrusted with their pre-suppositions, obscured by their assumptions. And, when Jesus came, they missed the Promise!  “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11, NIV)  What a tragic word, but we are equally prone to miss out if  we insist that God come to us as we desire, in the way that we think He must, doing the things on which we insist.

This Monday morning, whether you are singing a victory song or a cry for renewal – look to the One who promises.  His promises are Yes and Amen.  Nothing and no one can steal His love from us. Confess that and defeat your doubts.  Hope that is fixed on the unchanging promise of our Father is our anchor.

Here is a word from the Word – “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT)

Abba, You love me.
Sing over me, help me to know that truth
deep in my soul, beyond mere words,
in a way that leads to conviction and commitment.

As I begin to enter this Season when we celebrate
The coming of Your Son, the arrival of our Salvation,
Make the promises new to me each day.

Then, I will serve You, love You, and walk with You
In a way that honors Your Name.
Amen.
_____________

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That is what you were

wordswag_1511355039275Humans do some awful things, don’t they? A story on 60 Minutes about the impoverished nation of Yemen was heartbreaking.  War has brought starvation to thousands. A UN official said that unless there is a break in the fighting a whole generation will die from starvation and childhood diseases for which there is no medicine available.  Cruel men trick young women into sex slavery where they are used to serve the pleasures of those who are rich. Recent headlines about powerful men exploiting women to satisfy their lust disgust me.  Hate, cruelty, selfishness – yes, I recognize the reality of sin’s dark impulses that tempt me, too.  I want to be different… and I am!

This Thanksgiving, I rejoice in a glorious truth – that I am free from the sins that once were my master!  Are you liberated? The Word catalogs sin and declares of those in Christ – ‘that is what you were.’  Those who are alive in the Spirit through faith in Christ Jesus can speak of depravity in the past tense. Paul urged the Corinthian Christian who were refusing to grow in holiness to take their birthright.   “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, The Message)

Yes, we rejoice that because our Liberator has come, we now can choose to live nobly, to serve God, and to defeat dark depravity.  “Jerry, I am tempted and I fail,” you may be objecting. Yes, we do, but not because we are without choice!  The struggle remains but unlike those B.C. days, we are now free to choose the right, the good, the holy.

The Word’s Truth says  “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. … But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. … we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:9-17, NIV)

Grasp this. You and I, in Christ, are now servants of God, with an obligation to live by the power of the Spirit. What a difference that will make! All the church work and religious liturgy in the world cannot replace the amazing joy of sharing in God’s glory, released from shame and guilt to live freely.

In the century that followed Jesus’ time here on the earth, Christians traveled to the far corners of the depraved, cruel, ugly world that was the Roman Empire. They met prostitution, slavery, injustice, and poverty with acts of love. They served the least, the lost, the broken, the powerless.  The Spirit working through them brought light and life, hope and joy, to millions.  They were known for their compassion.  Were they applauded and admired? Not by those in power!  The sinful recognized the threat of the Gospel of Christ and killed Christians by the thousands in a vain attempt to put out the Light. But, history testifies to the power of the Jesus message.  Christians who were free to serve changed the world.

Christian, our world waits for the beautiful message of freedom from sin.
Let’s not just tell, let’s show the way to be free to love, free to serve, free from slavery to sin, Self, and Satan.

Will you reach out to our Abba, take your freedom, and then pray for the power to live in a way that you bring liberty and life to others?

Like Jesus you will encounter evil and those enslaved will hate you just as they hated Him.  But remember, “if we share in His suffering… we will also share in His glory.”   Let’s go change the world, one life at a time.

Here is a word from the Word …  “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Galatians 5:1, NLT)  “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13, NLT)  “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 5:16, NLT)  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

Oh, the glorious freedom of the children of God.

_________________

 I’m Free

So long I had searched for life’s meaning
Enslaved by the world and my greed
Then the door of my prison was opened by love
For the ransom was paid I was freed

 I’m free from the guilt that I carried
From the dull empty life I’m set free
For when I met Jesus He made me complete
He forgot the foolish man I used to be

 I’m free from the fear of tomorrow
I’m free from the guilt of the past
For I’ve traded my shackles
For a glorious song
I’m free praise the Lord free at last

Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither © 1968 William J. Gaither, Inc. (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management) CCLI License # 810055

CoffeeBreak will be back online on Monday, 11/27.
Happy Thanksgiving.
If you are local to Washington, NJ  you are invited to Faith Discovery Church for Thanksgiving Eve celebration.

FaithDiscovery.com

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A sure way to be unhappy

wordswag_1511268433803I enjoy Facebook – probably too much. The social media site keeps me connected with friends and family, lets me enjoy photos and stories from people I have known through the years. I see some who are apparently enjoying an amazing life – trips to far-flung places with the love of their life, bodies that are fit and beautiful, smiles all around.  I am ashamed to admit that occasionally, I find myself slipping into envy wondering why I do not have their experience. Then, I remember that Facebook allows people to craft an image, to show only the good stuff. I also choose to be thankful for them and for my life which allows me to reset to a place of contentment.

Envy is a common sin, so prevalent that God chose to include a prohibition of it in the Decalogue:  “You must not covet … “   Wanting our neighbor’s life is a sure way to be unhappy and robs us of God’s peace!

Think about this-
Do you desire the Lord’s approval above all else?
Will you let His path for you today be a source of praise and delight, or will you ‘dance for the applause of the crowd?’

Paul knew the pressure of social approval. There were other preachers around him who were gaining crowds, taking the more difficult parts of the Message out of their sermons to please people. They boasted of their spiritual visions, speaking with eloquence.  And, people ate it up.  Paul’s message was one that called for commitment to a path of discipleship, leaving no room for ‘self.’  His reason for his single-minded devotion comes through these words. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, NIV)

Comparing ourselves to others has another downside, too. It makes us into judges. Jesus forbade that. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NLT)  Let’s say you have been disciplined and lost a lot of weight. You may be tempted to look around and see others who are overweight and who are dealing with health problems. If you are given to comparison, you are going to judge them.  “Why don’t they stop eating all that junk? Why don’t they take charge of their life? They’re so weak.”   And in that judgment, you turn into a mean person and happiness is stolen from you.

The way to joy is found in pleasing God;  looking up, not around. Comparison is not even reasonable. None of us has exactly the same experiences, backgrounds, or advantages. We cannot hope to replicate the life of anyone else nor should we expect anyone to replicate ours. The Bible is abundantly clear that God knows and loves each one of us as unique persons.  God’s grace finds us in our sin and is sufficient to lead us to a place where we can be who He wants us to be.  You are not valuable because your body is some ‘ideal’ size, because you drive a certain car, or because live in a home straight out of Good Housekeeping.  God does not love you more if your job enjoys social prestige.

Are  you comparing?
Are you trying hard to achieve some ideal based on another’s life?
Are you craving the approval and applause of friends?

You will be unhappy! Thankfulness will elude you because those goals are a mirage, always out there on the horizon: shimmering, beautiful, and elusive.

Here is wisdom from the Word, a sure way to be joyful thankful.  Read it, believe it, and – by God’s grace – live it.  “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse … I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (Philippians 4:8,12-13, The Message)

Choose to be thankful.
Change your life to meet God’s call.
Be thankful.
Contentment will be your blessing.

____________

Give Thanks

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ His Son

 And now let the weak say I am strong
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us

Give thanks

Henry Smith
© 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook])) CCLI License # 810055

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Look beyond life’s scorecard

wordswag_1511186017159My eyes closed to rest last night and as is my custom I reviewed the day prayerfully – the wins, the losses, the encounters, my response to the Spirit. Thanks came easily as I remembered ministry, worship, joys of shared prayers and songs of another Lord’s Day. Though I have a life that is full of good, I confess that not every evening prayer is like that. There are nights when that phrase, sacrifice of praise, comes into focus as I struggle to let go of those areas where I feel lack, where it feels like I have lost. Oh, yes, sometimes my inclination is to beg and complain more than to offer thanks for the day.

Ann Voskamp wrote a book on gratitude, One Thousand Gifts. She takes an old message and makes it fresh urging a new awareness of a life of thanks. Ann is not just asking us to be polite, to ‘mind our manners’ so to speak. She tells us that gratitude is at the heart of a life that honors and enjoys the richest gifts of God. Ann does not write out of life that has been perfectly whole, that has known smooth sailing from the beginning. She has lived with brokenness, struggling with experiences that could have left her embittered. But, in response to God’s call, she chose to offer one thousand gifts! She writes “Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle.” “…life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.” I love her focus, not just on thanks for good outcomes and sunny days, but on the very Person of God.

This Thanksgiving week, some of us will look back over a year when we got that job we wanted, when our kids made the Dean’s list, when our marriage sparkled with romance and intimacy and words of gratefulness will spring quickly from our lips, as they should! Some of us will remember a year of disappointment, our best efforts met with apparent failure, our walk with Christ less a thing of joy than a hard choice of obedience.  But, will we look past our experience to give thanks to Him for Who He is?

Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth encouraging them to a generous life, reminding them of the importance of planting seeds, of taking a view that sees beyond the moment to anticipate a ‘harvest of righteousness.’ He speaks of the grace of God that has changed their lives and says this:   “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

As we begin this Thanksgiving week, will you actually give thanks: authentic, heart-felt, God-honoring thanks?

Pause to look deeper than the ‘score card’ of your life – the wins and the losses – to the Person of God. Perhaps your praise will be offered with tears or maybe it may be full of laughter.  Both are common to our human experience, but God is worthy of our thanks regardless. He is not just a good God when life is good.  Ann offers this encouragement to thankfulness. “How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.”

Tell your Father of your thanks –

for His love shown in Christ,
for His patience in times of apathy or disobedience,
for His infusion of the Spirit’s’ life in a culture of death,
for the eternal Unchanging Nature that is not affected by the fads and fashions.

And as you focus on HIM, my prayer is that thanks will overflow.  Here is the word from the Word. “But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! ” (Ephesians 1:17-19, The Message)

__________

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!

 

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Hey! Look at me!

wordswag_1510919068665There is a hunger inside of each of us to matter, to be loved, to feel that what we do is worth something to someone. In thousands of ways, people make the statement – “Hey! Look at me!”  Some chase meaning in their work. Others try to pile up wealth. Some go counter cultural, with outlandish hair or clothing that makes them distinct from the crowd.  The impulse is the same – to avoid being invisible.

Is your life grey and blah leaving you with the feeling that if you disappeared few, if any, would take much note? There is Someone who knows you, who gives you purpose, and in Whom you can discover the fullest life possible – now and forever!

In Genesis, we find a story of human struggle, a desire to ‘make a mark’ that met with God’s displeasure. “As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.” (Genesis 11:2-6, NLT) God saw their conceit and He confused their language and drove them apart. Their folly was forever known as the Tower of Babel. The desire was not wrong, but the way they answered it was focused on Self.

The desire for purpose and meaning is planted in you by your Creator who made us in His image to be creative, to love, to have a reason to exist. Genesis says that He breathed life into us, that being a statement that we are not just mammals driven by an evolutionary need to propagate our DNA! Eternity is written into our hearts. We sense time’s passing. We become aware that this window of time is short, and, by the Spirit, we learn that there is a home for us in His Presence, if we will trust Him and let Christ Jesus bring us to peace with our Father.

In all of that, there is just one choice allows us to live contentedly: serving God’s purpose! The godly can find great contentment in Him, regardless of their place in this world. We can give ourselves to Christ Jesus and in Him our lives are given meaning beyond any we might find in achievement of recognition by other people or accomplishment.

The conceit of humanity is a game for fools. King Solomon played it like a pro. He gained admiration from far and wide, built amazing public works, enjoyed sensual pleasures on scale we cannot even imagine. In the wisdom of advanced years, he looked back. His words, written as he neared the end of this life, is a wretched cry of regret for a wasted life. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, NIV) “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14, NIV)

These are the thoughts of a man who came too late to understanding of life’s true purpose. His wisdom is shared to spare us the sorrow that will inevitably come to us IF we spend our days chasing the ephemeral rewards of riches, pleasure, or human accolades.

So, how does Solomon tell us to live?  “Remember God… remember… “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NIV)  Jesus similarly points us beyond the horizon of time to find our true North. “Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”  (Matthew 6:20-21, The Message) How will you spend your time and treasure? Pray for clear vision that reaches all the way to Heaven. Don’t waste your life trying to build a tower of Babel! The lie that we can make ourselves matter is persistent and powerful.

Here is wisdom that sets us right. It is our word from the Word – “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NLT)

Your REAL LIFE is hidden with Christ, in God!

_______

King Of My Heart

(worship at this link)

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh He is my song

 You are good good oh
You are good good oh
You are good good oh
You are good good oh

 Let the King of my heart
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days
Oh He is my song

 You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down

 When the night is holding on to me
God is holding on
When the night is holding on to me
God is holding on

John Mark McMillan | Sarah McMillan
© Meaux Jeaux Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055

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The Sky Is Falling!

wordswag_1510833387747.png“What am I ever going to do?” I fretted through the day. My thoughts bounced from the reasonable to the silly.  Do I have a reason for concern? I sure do. Is worry going to solve the problem? It will not. So, what should I do?

Are you worried, too?  There are so many things ‘out there’ that will keep us in a full state of anxiety if we focus on them.  North Korea is developing nukes. Some say our economy is overheated and the bubble is about to burst, taking the value of the dollar on a tumble.  The earth is warming and our coastal cities are going to be underwater in 25 years. In my world, there are real issues with the Christian church and questions about her survival (at least in the form we know).

What’s keeping you up at night? Health concerns, teenagers, marriage troubles, self-doubt?

Anxious care is an epidemic for so many people. It is not the things I mentioned above are without merit. But, our news sources keep us tuned in by stoking our fears with whirling graphics and ominous music.  All of the noise and fury of our media culture keeps most of us from realizing that on the whole we live amazingly good lives in a very wonderful society.  It’s not Heaven, but most of our fears are tremendously overblown and exaggerated.  (Read about The “Fear Industrial Complex” )

I need to be reminded repeatedly that my worry and fear is not from God. It is fed by prayerlessness, thanklessness, and self-focus! The first step to defeat my fears is to confess my lack of faith and immediately follow that with renewed understanding of the majesty of the Lord Almighty!

For the those times and situations in our lives that really do bring us anxiety, the Bible gives each of us a tremendously wonderful invitation.  These words of Jesus are familiar so you might be tempted to skim through them. Don’t!

“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34, NIV)

When we choose to live as an obedient subject of the Eternal King we find security in His provisions for each day. When we keep on worrying, fretting, and complaining we dishonor and displease our Heavenly Father. I cannot control the arrival of thoughts that tempt to me to be afraid and/or to worry, but I have a choice about what to do with those thoughts. I can persist in worry or I can prayerfully present those threats and needs to my Father.

Paul, a man who had plenty of real concerns and needs, was inspired to write this to us. Take this word from the Word to heart today. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT)

What a promise! He has a gift for us – ‘peace which transcends human understanding.’

Will you worry or will you pray?  Will you praise God that He is bigger than any trouble that could come into your life or will you try to be your own god and ‘manage the risks’ as you grow increasingly anxious?

_____________________________

Wonderful Peace

Coming to Jesus my Savior I found
Wonderful peace wonderful peace
Storms in their fury may rage all around
I have peace sweet peace

 Peace peace wonderful peace
Peace peace glorious peace
Since my redeemer has ransomed my soul
I have peace sweet peace

 Peace like a river so deep and so broad
Wonderful peace wonderful peace
Resting my soul on the bosom of God
I have peace sweet peace

Haldor Lillenas

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Joining the exiles in despair?

wordswag_1510747705582Are you disappointed? Perhaps you are frustrated or confused? Woke up to find yourself in a situation you do not like, that you cannot change?  So did some people in ancient Babylon! The Assyrians arrived to besiege Jerusalem. When the city fell, thousands were marched over hundreds of miles and resettled to become servants of Nebuchadnezzar. There were men who claimed divine inspiration telling those exiles not to put down roots. Others were advising them to resist the empire’s orders. Some were just in despair pronouncing woe and the ‘end of the world.’

Jeremiah, who remained in the ruined city of Jerusalem, heard from the Lord and sent a letter to the Jews in Babylon. One of lines in that letter captivates us still and it is a wonderfully encouraging truth. Most likely you are familiar with it – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) It is a much misunderstood passage that some use like a magic chant, falsely assuring themselves that everything will work out in just the way they desire.  The context is important to give us a true understanding that will sustain us in tough time.

He widened the lens of their understanding with a reminder that God’s plans and purposes reached far beyond what they wanted.  First he told them that God wanted them to settle down and make a life right where they were.  “Build houses and make yourselves at home. “Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. “Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.” (Jeremiah 29:5-6, The Message)

It was not what most of them wanted to hear.  Their hope was a quick return to Jerusalem to reclaim their old way of life.  He went on to assure them that their children’s children would be restored to their land, but only after 70 years of time.  It was a hard word that meant those reading them for the first time would die far from home!

  • Jeremiah then repeats what he had heard from the Spirit.
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Your Father in Heaven has plans for you! His plans may be much different from our dreams.  He does not promise to give us everything we desire in this moment. He does that His purposes will ultimately prevail if we walk humbly and obediently with Him. The sins of others may cause us to experience difficulties or sorrows or even disaster in the short term. He invites us to take the longer view, to catch sight of the promise of our eternal home, and to be about the business of building His kingdom, where we are, in the situations in which we find ourselves.

I do not believe that everything that happens to me, in this moment, is the perfect will of God. He has given humanity the gift of choice and many use their will to resist Him, to rebel against Him, to act selfishly. I have done that and so have you. Remember that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

Yet, I am assured by a truth that God ultimately reigns over all, that He will accomplish His purposes, and best of all – that He has secured my eternal salvation with a covenant that was written in Heaven, by Christ at the cost of His life on the Cross. His Resurrection is the guarantee that I will make my home with Him for eternity!

Are you ‘in exile’ this morning? Are you feeling frustrated, confused, hopeless? “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Here is a word from the Word. Write it on your heart and go on, steady in hope of His purposes that will prevail over the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
(Romans 8:35-38, NLT)

___________

I Surrender All   (worship with this link)

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me Jesus take me now

All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly Thine
Let me feel the Holy Spirit
Truly know that Thou art mine

All to Jesus I surrender
Lord I give myself to Thee
Fill me with Thy love and power
Let Thy blessing fall on me

Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter | Winfield Scott Weeden
© Words: Public Domain

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So, you’re just going to eat that cookie?

wordswag_1510664258922“Nothing in the world is certain but death and taxes,” Ben Franklin said.  I would edit that by adding temptation to the list. It is no joke! Sometimes we experience temptation in ways that are inconsequential like that extra cookie for dessert. And then there are those moments when our whole being is seemingly obsessed with food, drink, sex, ease, comfort, or stuff. (Each of us could add to that list.)  It is a struggle.

When temptation comes we just know that we want what we want now. Take it from a man whose heard a lot of confessions in my lifetime – you are not unique in your struggle. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to people,” Paul teaches. You might feel like you are the first and only person to ever feel the desire in the way you do, but you are not.

The first mistake about temptation is to conclude that failure is inevitable! No, it is not. God gave us two amazing gifts.  When we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior we are given His transforming Spirit Who lives in us- counseling, convicting, and empowering. He also gave us the power of choice.  You and I have the power to choose our response to life today. “So, choose life!” the Word counsels us. When we fill our minds with truth, when we put ourselves in the company of those who share our desire for the things of God, when we choose the disciplines of prayer, serving, forgiveness and such things – the glitter of temptation dims and the grip of the Tempter loosens.

The second mistake is to focus on the issue of our temptation. Whatever the fight, acknowledge it to yourself and God (Be honest about it, no excuses.) and then change the channel.  Call a friend. Go somewhere different. Pray, not just about how much you want whatever is tempting you, but also thanking God for Who He is and what He’s done.  If we simply sit and obsess over our desire, it will overwhelm us.

Make a positive decision today to build spiritual strength and reserves before the temptation arrives.  Let me illustrate from health practices. Too much of our current healthcare happens only after disease is diagnosed. We spend billions of dollars on pills and potions to cure our ills. We are beginning to understand that preventative care needs to be emphasized.  Controlling weight, getting up and moving, and eating better food does not eliminate every possibility of disease, but it strengthens our body’s natural systems of health.

  • Christian, there are choices for spiritual health that we can make today.
  • 15 minutes of real prayer and meditation each day is a choice will open pathways for the Spirit’s entry.
  • Practicing active forgiveness, refusing to take offense, is a powerful choice we make over the little things first!
  • Staying involved with regular worship with other Christians and creating strong, intimate connections to the Church has a value beyond calculating.
  • Reading the Scripture, with the help of a daily guide, gets God’s Truth into us.
  • Consistently serving in a way that dethrones Self and that is done for Jesus is a choice for health.

The Word reminds us that though our sinful nature continues to whine and look for our attention, Someone greater lives in us. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” (Romans 8:11-13, NLT)  The struggle is real but our victory is assured!

Here is a word from the Word. Take time to let your mind and heart absorb this passage. Learn it, live it, and be an overcomer!

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
(James 1:12-14, NIV)
_________

King Of My Heart

(worship at this link)

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh He is my song

 You are good good oh
You are good good oh 

Let the King of my heart
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days
Oh He is my song

 You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down

 When the night is holding on to me
God is holding on
When the night is holding on to me
God is holding on

John Mark McMillan | Sarah McMillan
© Meaux Jeaux Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Raucous Ruckus Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
McMillan, Sarah (Admin. by Moniker Music Group)

CCLI License # 810055

 

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