A ‘strange’ life?

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My friend, Tony, who works with men who are behind bars and with those who getting out, (http://www.carmenministries.org) has a phrase for those who are partying, drinking, and avoiding responsibility.  He says, ‘they are working on their testimony.’  It’s an off-hand way to express hope that when they finally turn and become followers of the Lord Jesus and they talk about those wasted years, those scrapes with the law, those drunken nights; they will be able to thank God that things are different now. “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

God does make broken people whole, doesn’t He? I have heard the stories of my own grandfather’s conversion. He was a Danish immigrant who had little time for God and church, who liked his cards and alcohol. He was ‘working on his testimony.’  A young woman evangelist preached fearlessly from her pulpit under a tent in a little town in Northwest Iowa sometime in the 1930’s. She declared that God loved him, that he could become a new man.  Walter Scott was transformed.  I only knew a man who occupied the 2nd row of a little church in Truesdale, Iowa whenever the doors were open, who prayed earnestly, who gave generously to support missions.

Are you convinced and converted?
Has Christ entered your life and changed you, inside out?

Not everybody is going to love the new you. Some will be aggravated that you are no longer joining the party. Others will think you a fool for leaving old ways behind for this strange new life directed by an invisible God. Some will be intrigued by the difference, ready to hear about the love of Jesus.  One thing is clear – a true encounter with Jesus will change the course of your life!

Peter wrote to the church reminding them that there were some choices to be made by those who laid claim to Jesus and a heavenly home.  His language is clear and direct.  “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans (godless) choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” (1 Peter 4:1-4, NIV)  What words.  Who cannot love Peter’s estimate of a godless life as a ‘flood of dissipation?’   Another way to say it is that life lived for sin and Self is a waterfall of wasted opportunities.

We are told to think like Jesus. (Arm yourself with the same attitude as Jesus!) He knew what God wanted and answered the call of heaven. He was not concerned with finding the easy pathway where He could live as He desired! So must we!  Even if our choice to pursue God’s will means suffering, rejection, or wrestling to conquer temptation we do it because we know where true and eternal life is found.

None of us can even imagine the ripple effect of our decisions.  Whose destiny will be changed? Who will leave a wasted life to find a purposeful one, pleasing to God, enriched by the assurance of Heaven?

The word from the Word reflects on our baptism, the moment that our faith was announced to the world, and calls us to holy living. “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Romans 6:1-4, NLT)

Make it a good day and let the Light shine brightly through you!

___________


Build My Life

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

CCLI Song # 7070345
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)
Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Said And Done Music (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)

Bethel Music Publishing
CCLI License # 810055

 

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Muscular Christianity

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Life is made a day at a time day. We love the grand moments and celebrate the special days but the daily choices make us who we are and what counts most are those ordinary decisions about daily life. If I desire to be physically fit will a visit to the gym every Monday make it happen? No, it just doesn’t work that way.  If I want to be thought of as a kind, generous man can I just give to a charity once in a while? Certainly not.  To borrow Jesus’ words, it is the cup of water offered to the thirsty at each opportunity that makes the difference.

Christianity is a ‘daily’ way of life. If we hope to find and live the ‘abundant life’ that Jesus offers, we must do more than sit in a church on Sunday. The disciplines of the Spirit (Meditation, Prayer, Forgiveness, Simplicity, Shared worship, Purity, Study, Managing our resources) will be a part of today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our life.  If that sounds like a commitment, you are understanding the point. It is!  If that all sounds like a joyless exercise of duty, you need to adjust your vision to see farther down the road, to anticipate the reward of harvest that follows planting and cultivation.

Faith is not for the faint of heart. Paul explains that commitment this way to us. “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (2 Timothy 2:3-7, NIV)

There is a mistaken idea that our faith life should only be comforting, that if it is hard then we must be doing something wrong.  Many believe that God exists just to provide us with ‘showers of blessings.’  He calls you and me to Himself, loves us through Christ, and makes us part of His ‘divine conspiracy’ to defeat evil and extend His influence in the world. There is an active resistance- both personal and systemic- that pushes back. We feel it in our own sinful nature. What happens when we have a wonderful experience of the Presence of God? Often the next day, we experience some of the worst inner conflict of desires.  We see it in the world. Good work that promotes the purposes of God is established and the forces of evil try to break it down!

How do we overcome this? We make a daily choice to walk with God, to do God’s will, to open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit, even as we trust in the grace of Jesus Christ to save and keep us. Key word there is DAILY.

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. ” (Galatians 6:9-10, The Message)

Today, right where you are, choose for good, for God.  Love, serve, forgive, bless, trust patiently.  The word from the Word comes from Peter, a man of many failures, who got up each time to move ahead, and whose life made a difference.  So,  “Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, NIV)

____________

Giving All To You

What kind of love could this be that I’ve found
That could turn the life of a broken man around
Everything You touch oh so much is made new
Makes me want to dedicate my life to You 

I give You all my days
Help me to know Your ways
I have made up my mind
You can have all my heart soul
My hopes dreams my time

 What kind of love is this flooding my soul
That is changing how I feel and what I know
Where could I turn now I’ve learned Your love for me
There is nowhere else that I would rather be

 When giving all to You
The beauty is it’s never gone
It’s so much more than I’d have on my own (REPEAT)

 I give every morning to You
I want to live every moment for You\
Every morning
Every moment

Joey Nicholson © 2017 EveryShore Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

 

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Making this week good from the get-go

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It’s Monday morning, for most of us a new work week. We are going to stand next to a few that are lazy, some that are mean, some that make life miserable, and many who are just like us – trying to make life work one day at a time.  Here is the question. What will you bring? Are you going to be a force for good, a true example of Christ?  Let’s not get the wrong idea about that. Leave your sermons home, put your big black Bible back on the table!  Christ does not need you or me to the scold, the nag, or the one who has a Bible quote for every situation.  He wants us to be “light,” bringing clarity with true character; to be “salt,” flavoring with good, positive words and preserving by example; to live selflessly and with integrity.

You’re smiling at my earnest but unrealistic assumptions? “Come on, Jerry. We don’t all work in churches.” I know that and still we are all called to represent Jesus and His kingdom, everywhere and all of the time. Saturday, I realized that anew.  At the grocery store the woman at the register said something about a lack of trust. Off-handedly I told her I did not worry too much about that, confident and secure. She said, “Of course, you’re a man of God.”  I don’t know how she knew that. I was not wearing my cross, had an old T-shirt and cap on, did not look like a ‘preacher.’  But, she did and I was thankful that, even in a casual way, Christ was represented well in that short exchange.

When you are open about your faith (and I hope you are) others will have expectations about how you live. They will not always be realistic. Some may even decide they do not like you just because you are a disciple of Jesus. You may be ignored by a few, rejected by some, and even thought to be a fool. What then?  Here is what Peter says.  “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23, NIV)

I find an important principle for living for Christ in the last line of that passage. “He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”  God knows the state of our heart, our motive in every situation. He always gets it right, never forgets the good done that no one else notices.  Remember that familiar phrase about ‘the Audience of One?’

On the stage of life the only evaluation that matters in the end belongs to Jesus Christ.  If we are living to please Him,  we live the best life possible for us.  It is not always the one that produces the quickest reward. It does not always give us the satisfaction that can be found in chasing our own desires. But, when we are in the hands of God, secured by His love and acceptance, we can let go of resentment, quit complaining, love the miserable, and do our best without regard for pay or prize!

Make it a great week from the first. Pray about living in Christ, held secure in faith in the One who always get it right! Ignore the insults. Forget ‘playing the games’ that aim at gaining your own best interest. Be His – in thought, in word, in action.  Nice guys sometimes do finish last – in this world – but those are right with God will find a sure reward!

Here is a word from the Word – Paul’s instructions to his friend Timothy who was living in a tough situation, and wisdom for us. Keep in mind he wrote them from a jail cell!  “I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end. So,  keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ.” (2 Timothy 1:12-13, The Message)

______

Abba, as I start a new week,
one already full of challenges,
I ask for a real sense of Your Presence in my life.
Teach me to let go of my Self, my needs,
to take on Your call.
May love guide my responses,
generosity be a first impulse,
a desire to know Your approval stronger than any desire for the commendation of others.

I ask for Your blessings on my endeavors,
Your love in my heart,
Your peace for my life.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen
____________

Build My Life

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

CCLI Song # 7070345
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)
Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Said And Done Music (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)

Bethel Music Publishing
For use solely with the SongSelect. Terms of Use. All rights reserved. http://www.ccli.com
CCLI License # 810055

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How to beat the “Jonah attitude”

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Yesterday was one of those days for me; when I could not see beyond the trials. I was tired and feeling a lot of the ‘Jonah’ attitude. (In case you don’t know what that means. Jonah ran the opposite direction from God’s call and sailed on a ship going far away!)  In 21st century fashion I fantasized about getting on a jet and flying away!  I got stuck in a loop of futility – “Who cares? Why try? What does it matter?”

When I took a break from work for lunch, I drove up the mountain to Bev’s grave where I sat for a few moments looking at that slab of granite where her name is etched. In that place, surrounded by markers of death, I often get my heart right again. Yesterday was no different. As I thought and prayed, a song from the past found its way into my mind that began to turn my mood.

You have turned my mourning Into dancing, Lord.
Now my feet are filled with Your praise.
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy,
You have cast my sorrow away.  (John G. Elliott, 1986)

Those lyrics are drawn out of a promise to the people of God written by the weeping preacher, Jeremiah. “The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” (Jeremiah 31:13, NLT)  The recurrent theme of those prophets is restoration; the reminder that now is not all there is, that God does not give up on us.

Those ancient Jews heard the promise that their ruined nation and Temple would be restored by the Lord; and it was!  There is a deeper promise woven into those sermons about hope. God reminds us, over and over again, that eternity waits, that life today really only makes sense when viewed with Heaven waiting. My text for the sermon this Sunday is drawn out of Isaiah 11 where the same story gets told in his richly poetic style.

We need Heaven’s hope!

And, it is not an empty promise, no mere wish projection.  Jesus told us: “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19, NIV)  Then, He died and rose again to prove it. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul calls Him the ‘first fruit’ of eternal life. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21, NIV)

Remember my whine of futility?
“Who cares?”  Many do and God always will.
“Why try?” God rewards those efforts that we make, seeing our faithfulness, our love, our service.
“What does it matter?”  It matters because we live for Him, our lives one in a long chain of those who make His kingdom know, who love Him, who leave a legacy and receive His commendation.

So here is a word from the Word to tuck into your memory for those days. “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, NLT)

I close with this immortal line from Tony Campolo, one he borrowed from the African American preacher in his church.  “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”

_____________

When We All Get To Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt | Eugene Thomas © Words: Public Domain

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This World’s Not My Home

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My uncle once said something to me that makes me smile when I remember it. He was talking about the way we value things we own. “Nobody washes a rented car.”  Makes sense, right?  I take care of my car, regularly changing the oil, checking tire pressure, making sure the various fluids are at proper levels, vacuuming the interior.  I’ve never even raised the hood of a rental car when I travel.  There is no obligation of ownership.

How about the way we live in this world as Christians?
We know we’re not ‘’at home” yet. What does that mean for our daily lives?

Peter tells us to live lightly, to understand that we are just temporary residents of this present world. At the same time he urges us to live responsibly. We are not to ‘trash’ this world, even though it is not our final home.

Here is the full passage. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:11-17, NIV)

Some of those Christians to whom he was writing had concluded that since the body was part of a perishing world, their choices made little difference. The Spirit clearly reminds them and us that the choices we make about how we act; our sexuality, our appetites, our words, do matter for two important reasons.
First of all, he teaches us that when we indulge ‘sinful desires’ there is an effect on the well being our soul. Our body and spirit are, until death, inseparable and the health of one is connected to the other.
Second, there is the issue of Christ’s honor!  When we are authentically good, people will see the invisible Christ in us and recognize the work of the Holy Spirit.

In a word that is so applicable to our time, Peter says that even though Christians are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God, they are not to live lawlessly! Even though they were temporary residents, they were not to discard the order of the world in which they lived. Nor should we. Are you a good citizen, respecting the authority of your government?  You might object that it is corrupt, or that you do not see those in office as worthy of honor.  Think of the people who first read these divinely inspired words!  They lived under Roman tyranny, with little or no protection of their individual rights. The governmental authority often worked against the Church, trying to suppress her.  And still Peter (and Paul, by the way) taught them to live lawfully, to respect the government, to honor the king.

Did they do so out of obligation? Not at all. They were ‘free’ citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom.  But, they lived honorably and respectfully for Christ’s sake!

To be sure, there are nuances of reasoning that involve the limits of human authority when it transgresses on God’s higher law.  I do not read the whole of Scripture to forbid civil disobedience, but the Word is clear that even when we feel we must resist the government because of the demands of Christ, we do so respectfully and prepared to endure the punishment that follows, even while we trust ourselves to the care of the Lord.

Are you trashing your world?
Are you a lousy employee because you think ‘it’s just a job,’ and unimportant to God?
Are you living with poor ethics because you mistakenly think it just doesn’t matter in the eternal scheme of things?
Are you leaving bills unpaid, obligations ignored, commitments unkept because you think being a Christian gives you license?

Think again! Here are Peter’s words, inspired by the Spirit, from the Message. May this word from the Word make our lives a shining example of holy, pure Christian living – all with the desire to honor our King. “Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.” (1 Peter 2:13-17, The Message)

____________

This World Is Not My Home

(a Merle Haggard edition of this old Gospel song)

This world is not my home
I’m only passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore

O Lord You know
I have no friend like You
If heaven’s not my home
O Lord what will I do
The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore

Albert Brumley Public Domain

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Let me see your ID!

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My name is Jerry Scott. I am a Christ-follower, a Dad, a pastor of a local church, an American … all descriptors of something called “identity.”  Those things, and so many more, shape the person I am, making me a unique individual.  Knowing ourselves, having an honest estimate our identity, is a very important part of living well. It is not just about your name, it’s about who you think you are.  Most of the choices we make are based on what we think about ourselves. When choices and identity are aligned, we know peace. If we are forcing ourselves to do things that are not in harmony with our sense of identity, there will be inner conflict. The larger the gap between what we believe about our identity and the way we live, the greater our turmoil.

Here is how Peter describes the identity of those who are Christian: “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NLT)

My prayer is that as we come to Christ in faith the Spirit will reshape us around these amazing ideas of identity!

Chosen people! We did not stumble into this by some stroke of ‘good luck.’ God made a plan to save us, in His will that is beyond our human comprehension, He extended love to us and invited us to receive it.

Royal priests!  We are invested with the responsibility to represent Him to our world, to become bridges that close the chasm between those who are estranged from the Father because of sin. What a privilege we have to be agents of peace.

Holy nation!   No, this has nothing to do with any king or country.  God’s Church is a company, a gathering, a congregation that exists for His purposes. Our highest goal is not our personal agenda, but His!

God’s possession!  Older translations call us, a ‘peculiar people.’  The word has come to mean odd or weird, but used to mean different in a treasured sort of way.  And, we are treasured by God, those in whom He delights.

We make a terrible mistake if we use those descriptors to become prideful, exclusive, and self-interested. He gave us this amazing identity so that we can display His goodness, so that our lives will be an invitation for those outside of faith to know Him.  Is your definition of your Christian identity accurate to what God says?  Are you thoughts, words, and actions aligned with that identity?   Remember, we are ‘born again’ of the Spirit, by faith in Jesus Christ. There is to be a marked transformation that grows out of what He says about us, what He does in us.

What do you believe about your identity?
Who is telling you who you are?
Why not take the word of your Creator?

Here is a word from the Word.  I pray it will come as a revelation – soul deep, mind changing, and life transforming – to each one of us.  I pray “that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, The Message)

___________

No Longer Slaves
(listen and worship)

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my Mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

Brian Johnson | Joel Case | Jonathan David Helser
© 2014 Bethel Music Publishing CCLI License # 810055

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting It Right. How?

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I really want to ‘get it right’ in life, don’t you?  To come to the end of a week or month and realize time’s been wasted, that a poor choice has led down a wrong road, is regrettable, but can be corrected. To be near the end of one’s life, coming to the realization that the wrong measures of success shaped our choices is tragic! How can we know? Which voice do we follow?  There are hundreds competing for our attention.

Peter quotes preacher Isaiah, who was inspired with this divine declaration:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6, NIV)  In our time a cornerstone is ceremonial, often set in place at the dedication of a building.  This passage references an earlier time when the ‘cornerstone’ was carefully chosen and set in place with great care because it was the reference point from which the rest of the structure was built.  For our lives there is a Cornerstone that God has put in place. His wisdom shapes our personal morality, our life’s hope, our goals, and defines ‘success.’

Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy, wrote these insightful words. “In our culture, and among Christians as well, Jesus Christ is automatically disassociated from brilliance or intellectual capacity. Not one in a thousand will spontaneously think of him in conjunction with words such as ‘well-informed,’ ‘brilliant,’ or ‘smart.’ ”   Jesus is, for many of us, nice and good. He died for our forgiveness and rose to assure us of heaven. That much we believe, but His words about loving are made sentimental. His teaching about forgiveness is made an ideal that lies outside of ‘real’ life practice. His teaching about non-retaliation is made into a maxim for the playground disputes of children but they are tossed aside by adults when they come into conflict.  Really! Think about it.

Do you make Jesus’ words your guide for living because you trust His wisdom above all else?

Willard writes “The early Christians, who took the power of God’s life in Jesus to all quarters of the earth, thought of Jesus as one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3 NAS) They thought of him as master of every domain of life.”  He was, for them the Cornerstone!

With the start of this new week, let’s pray for new appreciation for the wisdom of Jesus and make Him our practical reference point. Start simply by trusting His directive to radically love, thinking through the implications of a bold, engaged, costly love of the kind He showed.  Begin to treasure what He makes valuable.  Ask Him to teach you an eternal perspective that shapes your choices beyond gaining some advantage for this day. The promise is that a life formed by the amazing wisdom of Jesus, one that is measured through Him and by Him will not come to regret!

Here is a word from the Word. “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31, NLT)

Cornerstone
(listen and worship)

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name

Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

He is Lord Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless stand before the throne

Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury © 2011 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Pastor Jerry Scott
FAITH DISCOVERY CHURCH
www.FaithDiscovery.com

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I am part of His cathedral!

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I drove by site of construction of a stone wall in front of a residence. After a few days I could see this guy was no mason. The wall was crooked and there were large gaps between poorly placed stones. About a week later, I saw a truck parked that bore the lettering of a professional mason. The work that had been done was torn down.  The man who knew what he was doing started over and a couple of weeks later a straight, nicely laid wall was in place. I still notice it when I drive by, the stonework beautifully setting off the old home.

God, the master builder, invites us to become part of His amazing and beautiful work in this world.  Peter writes “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5, NIV)  Reading that, my mind goes to the cathedrals built from limestone, blocks of rock that are carved and shaped to become part of something wonderful. Ordinary blocks of stone, pulled from the quarry, of little worthy or beauty individually, are formed into an awe-inspiring place where God is worshipped.

Are you willing to ‘fit in’ with God’s design and rest in His plan?  Yes, friend, God calls us into the Body of Christ where we are His Temple, a place of spiritual sacrifices that please Him. Peter, who is nicknamed ‘the rock,’ by Jesus, points to Jesus, the Cornerstone, the secure foundation on which we, the ‘living stones’ rest. “Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him. … As the Scriptures express it, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed.”  (1 Peter 2:3-6, NLT)

Our ideals are often about wanting to make our mark, to be ‘known,’ to stand out.  We work at differentiating ourselves from the crowd, don’t we?  We use dress, style, accomplishments, and so much more to make a statement – “I exist! I am me!”  Part of maturity as a Christian is coming to realization that we are at our best when we are melding into God’s Church, shaped and formed by the Spirit for a place of service that magnifies the Living Stone!  The paradox of faith is that our individual beauty and worth increases when we let go of ‘me’ and enter joyfully into His plan to be a part of His cathedral!

Meditate today on the solidness of God’s work in you and through you. Praise Him for working to cause you to ‘fit in,’ and rejoice in the opportunity to be part of a great Temple where His Presence lives and is shown in beauty to the world.

Here is a word from the Word.  “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22, NLT)

Lord, make us secure in Your design, for Your Glory. Amen

________________

Cornerstone

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name

Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

He is Lord Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless stand before the throne

Christ alone cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm He is Lord
Lord of all

Edward Mote | Eric Liljero | Jonas Myrin | Reuben Morgan | William Batchelder Bradbury © 2011 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

 

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He knows . . . it all!

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Clear lines of cause and effect are comforting to me.  I like to think that if I do this, I can expect that result; if I put in the time and effort, I will find the results I desire.  Mostly that is true, but then it happens.  In spite of doing good, pain comes.  Four and half years ago, my dear wife, a godly and good woman who took care of her health, who had loved God and others for her entire life, was diagnosed with a cancer that eventually ended her earthly journey after a long slog through suffering.  It still feels unfair to me!  “Why her?” I ask. “She did not deserve this.” A hundred people have offered me ‘explanations.’ I know the philosophical arguments for God’s goodness and human free will – and that helps, a little, but still there are moments when I wonder if He is, in fact, a “good, good Father.”  (That is one of the hardest songs for me to sing to this day.)

Bitterness is not part of my life because I match my doubts with declarations that do not explain my pain, but which offset the anger I might otherwise experience.

One of those facts that I learn from the Scripture is that the whole script is not written on this side of eternity. God asks me to trust Him with the parts hidden in that realm that exists as surely as this present world. That does not release me from responsibility for making the best choices possible, for realizing that there actions taken by others that are affecting my life of which I am completely unaware.  My greatest comfort and strongest faith grows out of the heart-deep conviction that ‘He knows … it all!”   “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV)

That is no threat to me. How about you?  I am glad He knows … it all! I am comforted that He does not evaluate me based solely on the last 24 hours of my life, that He sees the totality of my life and the context of my choices; good and bad.  Best of all, I rest in the declaration that He knows me as a son, beloved, and dressed in righteousness through the grace-gift of Christ Jesus.  Am I deluded about the sins and failures of my life? I surely hope not. I fail Him and others. I grow impatient, I am not loving.   However, faith closes that gap between my profession of faith and the actions of a still as yet imperfect man.  God be praised.

The rest of the story is told by Peter – Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (1 Peter 1:17, NIV)  Precisely because God knows … it all –  there are no excuses for our failure to take the grace and power for godly living that that will hold water.  God looks at us completely impartially. We are loathe to attach the word “fear” to our Father but if we make Him too small in our mind, we risk living carelessly, thinking that He can be swayed like an old, gentle grandpa.

Today may the fact that He knows … it all both comfort and challenge us.  When life is hard, when sorrows come, when temptation appears to be overwhelming make the faith statement that He knows and has not forgotten. And, as you feel His gaze, reject disobedience as you choose holiness.

Here is a word from the Word – “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7, NLT) “Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5, NLT)

____________

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace comfort for family
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand
To ease our suffering
And all the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things 

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

 We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness
We doubt Your love
As if ev’ry promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desp’rate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

 When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not this is not our home
It’s not our home

 ‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is a revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy

And what if trials of this life
The rain the storms the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

 Laura Story © 2011 Laura Stories (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

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Saved by grace? Act like it!

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There’s a saying in Texas: “All hat, no cattle.”  It’s a shorthand way to describe a person who is all talk, pretentious, who lacks substance. A guy might drive a King Ranch™ Ford pickup, wear Tony Lama™ boots and a Stetson hat;  he might even own a horse-  but all that does not make him a rancher.  A common human temptation is to pretend to be someone we are not because we want to ‘fit in’ so desperately.  Sometimes this is harmless, but when a person confuses fantasy with reality too long, there are serious consequences. In the long run, being phony destroys the very relationships that person is trying so hard to gain.  Authenticity lays a foundation for a deep, lasting relationship.

Peter, writing to us, spoke of the amazing gift of God’s grace. We are given ‘new birth’ and an inheritance of a Heavenly home. All of this was no spur of the moment decision by God. He planned from ages past, told the prophets about it, and then sent Jesus to reveal our salvation.  “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16, NIV)

Since you are saved by grace,” Peter says, act like it!”  Where we read, “prepare your mind for action,” in the original text there is a much more colorful and compelling metaphor.  In some older translations the idiom was translated literally – “Gird up the loins of your mind.”  In order to get ready to work, men gathered their long robes at the waist and secured them with a belt so they could move freely.  There are choices we must make as a Christian that involve real, sustained effort; more than Sunday singing and church pew warming.

Take control of your passions,” Peter says.  Are you ruled by impulses, pulled this way and that by appetites for food, sex, pleasure, ease?  Are you temperamental, quick to quit, unwilling to take on service that has no glamour or immediate reward?  Grow up in Christ.

Look forward to the eternal promise.”  One of the marks of maturity is appreciation of delayed gratification, the grasp that what I do today can pay rich dividends farther down the road. Christians who are living maturely in Christ need to understand this, to live in faith.  Sometimes doing what is right is costly in the present. Who enjoys saying “no” to themselves?  We will do it more readily IF we have our hope resting on God’s promise, not just our desires.

“Don’t be stupidly sinful.”  There is a time when we are forgiven the things we do ‘in ignorance.’ We simply do not know any better, but the Word and Spirit bring correction and instruction. The conviction of the Spirit speaks to us and says, “Stop it.”  Or, “Forgive him.” Or, “Give generously.” Or, “Love that person beyond your words.” Will we respond maturely and with the help of God, the Holy Spirit, become mature?

Grow to be more like Me,”  the Father directs. “Be holy!”

Let me clear up one misconception.  This is a work in progress for each one of us. We will have bad days when we fall flat on our face. Fatigue, frustration, and plain old foolishness will trip us up from time to time, but there is grace to recover. God does not practice ‘three strikes and you’re out.’  He works patiently, persistently, to bring us to beautiful maturity.  So, let’s get on with it.  Since you’re saved by grace, act like it.

The word from the Word comes from Paul, who also reminds us to be authentic Christians, who grow in grace. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT)

_________________

No Longer Slaves

(listen and worship)

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my Mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family\
Your blood flows through my veins

You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

Brian Johnson | Joel Case | Jonathan David Helser © 2014 Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

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