Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May the presence of the Lord Jesus fill your Christmas.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) Matthew 1:23.
 — with Charlyn Thomasson.

Monday, December 16, 2013

SEASONAL LIVING

In many ways life is a series of seasons strung together.  You find yourself in one season and then it comes to an end, and then you find yourself in another.  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Last Monday I had my annual checkup with my oncologist.  The report on my health was good.  And I’m certainly thankful to the Lord for His grace and mercy.  But something else happened which affected me emotionally.  My oncologist told me he was going to retire and this was the last time I would see him.  My first response was “No, you can’t do that.”  Though I said it half-jokingly that’s how I really felt.  And in the short time that we had left after he told me, I couldn’t get all the words together to express my gratefulness to him.  Time was up.  I’m planning on writing a letter to him to express my heartfelt thanks.  But at the end of my appointment with Dr. Marks last Monday, our season together ended.

It has been a twenty-seven year association as doctor and patient.  Ultimately God is the One Who extended my life and I give Him all the glory.  But I also acknowledge that He worked through my doctor to give me life.  On the medical end of it Dr. Marks saved my life.  I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease stage three out of four.  I was given a fifty percent chance of living.  My life had just been flipped over into rough seas in a horrific storm and I didn’t know if I would survive.  A tremendous strain was suddenly placed on my wife.  The upheaval in our way of living threw a “normal” home life of raising two children, a two year old and a three month old, into an upsetting routine of every two weeks Mommy and Daddy taking them to a baby sitter to spend a couple of days so Daddy could go to the doctor and then come home sick (my chemo nurse in good humor would say she had to make me sick to make me well). 

After seven surgeries/procedures, a year of chemo therapy, chest x-rays, CAT scans, PET scans, and numerous visits with Dr. Marks for twenty-seven years, last Monday he said, “Good bye and stay well.”  To be open with you I feel a sense of loss.  The connection was severed.  The season ended.  And though it ended with a victory, I still feel some grief.  I will miss him.  And though at times he was very clinical and straightforward with me, I am very thankful for him and his care.  So I feel a sense of grief, but I also feel a sense of joy.  I have much to be thankful for and I rejoice in what God has done and what He has done through my oncologist.  I have learned much.  I’ve been able to share my belief in Christ with him.  I’ve learned to trust God more.

Such are the seasons of life.  They come and they go.  And many times grief and loss are associated with the going of them and sometimes with the coming of them. 

But a season is more than just a span of time.  It carries with it “opportunity”.  Opportunity is the intrinsic value of a season.   Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God (Ephesians 5:15-17 Ph.).

Even in your difficult seasons, opportunity is waiting.  Dig it out and use, and use it wisely according to God’s purpose.  This is your chance.  The season will pass and with it the opportunity.  Don’t waste it.  Because God is all-wise and all-knowing and ultimately in control of all, meaning and purpose can be found in even the difficult seasons of life, and that gives rise to wise use of the opportunities which come with them.

Monday, December 2, 2013

THE MOUNTAIN TOPS OF CHRISTMAS

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7).

What great news for all believers in Christ!  A Light has dawned.  The darkness is pushed back.  Salvation has come.  There is a glorious future.  Isaiah’s prophecy tells us of the birth of Christ and His everlasting government of peace.  It would seem that these events are closely joined in time.

I went to college in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  I recall many times standing at an overlook and gazing at the mountain tops which appeared in rows, one behind the other.  I didn’t see the valleys or the space between them.  All I saw were the mountain tops that appeared to be close to one another.

This is how the Old Testament prophets saw many of their prophecies.  They saw the mountain top events all at once but not the space between them.  That’s why Isaiah said that Jesus was born and in the same sentence that He would be the ruler.  At first glance it would appear that the Child would grow up and as an adult set up His unending government and He would be called the Mighty God – all in a matter of a few years.  But those are just the mountain tops.  Space and time exist between them. 

One mountain top event has occurred – the birth of Jesus, God in the flesh.  And we celebrate His first appearance on earth with Christmas.  He has since given His life as a sacrifice for our sins, physically risen from the dead in a glorified body, and ascended back to Heaven with the promise of His return.

Another mountain top is looming – Jesus’ return.  Only His next appearance will not be as a child, but as the Righteous Ruler of all, Who will settle the score and set up His government forever. 

Christmas reminds us of the past and the future – the past when Jesus came the first time and the future when He comes again.  We live between those two mountain top events.  And we’re on our way to the second.  Your journey in the valley between will determine how prepared you are when one day you find yourself face to face with that second mountain top event. 

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:8-10).

Live daily in the joyful light of Christ’s salvation knowing that you have an eternal salvation on that next mountain top.

Monday, November 25, 2013

THANKSGIVING – A RESPONSE TO GOD’S GRACE

      Thanksgiving is our response to God’s grace.  Through the prophet Hosea in the Old Testament God reminds the people of Israel of His grace to them:  “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.  They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.  It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.  To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:1-4).
      The application to all believers in the Lord God is that He loves His people as His children.  He calls them, even though they tend to be disobedient and go the other way away from Him.  He teaches them.  He carries them.  He heals them.  He leads them with bonds of love.  He bends down to feed them.
      Take the time this Thanksgiving to respond to His grace to you. Thank Him for loving you as His child.  Thank Him for calling you to a purpose in life.  Thank Him for what He’s teaching you.  Thank Him for carrying you.  Thank Him for healing you.  Thank Him for leading you.  Thank Him for feeding you.
      With an attitude of thanksgiving listen to His calling and go in His direction.  Learn from what He teaches you.  Rest in His embrace.  As God matures and heals you, live it.  Stay enthralled with His love for you and follow His lead.  With humility and thankfulness be fed from God’s gracious hand.  Let His Word nourish you and satisfy you.  This is how we respond to God’s grace with thanksgiving.

Monday, November 11, 2013

SELFLESS SERVING

This being Veteran’s Day, what comes to my mind is selfless serving and the sacrifice many have made for our country and its freedoms that we still enjoy.  I thank God for our veterans and their families who have sacrificed much.

Jesus certainly made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.  By His sacrifice we have the opportunity to be free from eternal punishment for our wrongs, to be freed from the pain of our emotional wounds, and to be free to obey and trust Him with our lives.

The Apostle Paul highlights the significance of selfless serving.  In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul points out how others are promoting themselves as great apostles of God.  They come across with a superior attitude, as if they are closer to God, have more to offer than Paul, and claim their God-ordained status is the same as Paul’s.  Paul reveals their motives, that they are really all about serving themselves, not God.

Paul says, “I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things.   I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way” (2 Corinthians 11:5-6 NLT).  Paul explains that his motive is all about serving the Lord.  Instead of elevating himself he elevates Christ.  Instead of advancing himself he advances Christ.  And he does it all without feeling inferior to those who get all the notoriety for their super status.

Our society pushes us to try to become superstars.  But we must question our motives.  Why do we do what we do?  Why do we pursue what we pursue?  God wants us to promote the cross of Christ, not ourselves, and without feeling inferior to what we see and hear others doing.  Don’t buy in to what the world says is superior and what’s inferior.  They’ve got it backwards.  Instead buy in to what God says is superior and what’s inferior.  He says what’s superior is to serve sacrificially.  God will reward your serving.  And God’s rewards and compensation are far better than the world’s. 

Jesus said,  “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant … the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26, 28).

Monday, November 4, 2013

OUR CULTURE’S CREED


The following poem by Steve Turner captures the perspective of our culture today.

Creed

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before during
and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy's OK
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything's getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated.
You can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there's something in horoscopes,
UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha
Mohammed and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher although we think
his good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same,
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.

We believe that after death comes The Nothing
because when you ask the dead what happens
they say Nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

We believe in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between
warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth
that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds. 

By Steve Turner

My thoughts:
The secularist view of the world is a world without God.  On the one hand we have the secularist  view, the world’s perspective of life, and on the other hand we have God’s view of life.  The two views are separate and cannot be combined because they oppose one another. 

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him (John 1:9-10).

We are enlightened, not by the world, for the world doesn’t give us true light.  We are enlightened by Christ Who came from outside the world into our world.  He enlightens us to the truth. 

This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure (John 3:19-20 Mes).

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).

The secularist’s view of the world is a world without God.  God’s view of the world is a world without truth.  God’s view of the world is a world that is in the dark, without light.  But God loved the world so much that He has sent Truth and Light into it in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.  If we are to know reality we must know Jesus.  If we are to be enlightened we must believe in Him.  If we are to know truth we must believe what He says.

The tragedy of the world’s view is described by Jesus in Matthew 6:23:  “If the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is”! (Matthew 6:23 NLT).

The joy of God’s view is in Who Jesus is.  He said in John 14:6:  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The world’s view of life and God’s view of life are in direct contradiction to one another.  Never confuse the two.

Monday, October 28, 2013

YOUR SERVING MATTERS

Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant.  But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12 NLT).  My thanks to all who served at Clay Community Church’s Fall Festival this past Saturday.  Excellently done!  Jesus says you’re great! 

Everyone who humbly serves for His Kingdom’s sake – Jesus says is great.  He says you will be rewarded and receive great honor.  Count on it.  God keeps His Word.  Though in the “here and now” you know something of His reward for serving, in the future there will be a big “pay day” for you.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:9-10).

Monday, October 21, 2013

KEEP YOUR FAITH ALIVE

James says, “Faith that does nothing is dead” (James 2:26 NCV).  Keep your faith living by doing.  Maybe your faith has waned in the last few months.  We all go through times of distress and questioning.  But it’s not the end.  Actually it’s the beginning.  It’s the beginning of another opportunity to believe God and to revive your faith in Him and in what He says.  As we move forward to obey and trust God, He will give us the will to keep going.

“Get the word out. Teach all these things... Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation” (1 Timothy 4:11, 15-16 Mes).

We must pay close attention to ourselves, our everyday living, and what we say and do which teaches and influences those around us.  Persevere in the right things.  Get the word out about the good news of Christ.

It takes decisiveness to mature in our faith and grow in the character of Christ.  Your spiritual/emotional maturity is realized as you give relentless resolve to the teaching of God’s Word.  We’re in it for the salvation we have and the salvation others can have.  We’re into the last quarter of the year.  Finish the year strong for the cause of Christ with a living faith.

Monday, October 14, 2013

HUMBLE FAITH = CONFIDENT LIVING

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.  The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me (Psa. 116:5-6 NAS).  Often it’s in those times we are “low” and humbled that we see life in its simplest form.  And we realize that we’re responsible for some of its complications and some of our problems.  But it may be then that we are ready and willing to receive the Lord’s grace and compassion.  It’s when we’re low on answers, low on solutions, low on encouragement, low on strength – that we will look to the Lord to save us.  And He does.  Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you (Psa. 116:7 NAS).

I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”  I said in my alarm, “All men are liars” (Psa. 116:10-11 NAS).  Choosing to believe God through the good times and the bad is the issue.  Our troubles and pain do not define our faith.  They refine it.  The palmist is saying that he still believed God when he was “greatly afflicted.”  He still believed God though he felt alarmed at the lack of integrity of people.  Dishonest people don’t make God a liar.  And our emotional response to trouble and dishonest people doesn’t define our faith in God. 

What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.  I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people (Psa. 116:12-14 NLT).  How can we thank the Lord for His goodness and salvation?  The psalmist mentions three things we can do:

1) Offer the cup of salvation to others.  Invite others to take the salvation Jesus offers.  Hand the cup to someone you know.

2) Praise the Lord.  Give credit to Him.  Worship Him in your daily living.  Call upon Him for continued strength from Him.

3) Keep our commitments to the Lord.  We choose to be faithful to God.  We choose to keep the commitments we’ve made to obey, to serve, to give.  Yes God expects us to make commitments.  It’s called trust.  God expects us to be responsible with what He entrusts to us, and for us to be responsible we must commit ourselves to it.  

And we are to be responsible with our commitment to the Lord “in the presence of all His people.”  We need one another in order to stay responsible and strong in our commitments.  Accountability and grace and truth, shared with one another, strengthen our resolve.  As we trust God by keeping the commitments we’ve made, we say “thank You” to Him.

Monday, October 7, 2013

NOT GETTING EVERYTHING – BUT HAVING MORE

We’re not going to get everything we want or dream of.  But we can have what matters, and even more than we dreamed of. 

God tells us if we’ll live according to His instructions, He’ll produce through us a “good life.”  In Deuteronomy 5:33 the Scripture says, “Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” 

The principle for us is that our opportunities for the “good life”, which is a life of trusting God, will extend beyond what they would ordinarily.  We don’t know how long the “ordinarily” would be except that it would be shorter.  God wants us to use the opportunities he has entrusted to us in this life for His purpose and direction.  When we steer our lives to His way of living, He responds to us by giving us what really matters.

Jesus said, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. My Father will love those who love me; I too will love them and reveal myself to them” (John 14:21 GNT). 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Monday, September 30, 2013

YOUR OPPORTUNITY

2 Corinthians 6:4-10  As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses … in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God … through glory and dishonor … known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich …

       Serving God’s grace to others can take us though some difficulties.  To get the message of God’s grace, love, and salvation across to others involves sacrificial living on our part.  But when we think about what our salvation and eternal life cost it’s the opportunity we have to give back to God.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

FIGHT, NOT FLIGHT

Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles.  Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (NLT)

Paul gave instructions to Timothy for healthy and victorious Christian living.  Raising the awareness of spiritual war in which we’re all involved, Paul tells Timothy to fight well. 

Instead of using our energy to fight among ourselves, God wants us to put our energy into the fight for the gospel, making more devoted followers of Christ.  Paul tells Timothy to “cling to his faith in Christ.”  Sometimes we need to go back to our spiritual roots, our calling from God to be re-energized.  We need to refresh our hearts and minds with the life purpose God has entrusted to us. We need to remind ourselves of Whose we are and who we are in our relationship with Christ.  We need to read often in the Scriptures of how much God loves us and how great His grace is to us, greater than our sin and our flaws.  A clear conscience is essential for our victory in the battle.  If our conscience, our inner hearts are polluted with impurities and unconfessed sin, then we are vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.

Stay fit for the fight.
Suit up in the spiritual armor of God each day (Eph. 5:10-18).
Take the time to recapture your calling God has given you.
Take steps of faith forward.
Keep your conscience cleansed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

RECEIVING WHAT GOD PROMISES

“These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live.  If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life.  Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you” (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 NLT).

God gave a reason for Israel to obey His commands and follow His instructions.  They were to revere the Lord and obey Him.  Then they would possess the land, enjoy life, it would go well with them, they would increase in number, and they would enjoy God’s provision.  This is what the Lord promised.

What we can take from this is the spiritual principle of meeting the conditions God gives in order to receive what He promises.  In other words as we live in obedience according to God’s Word we will possess the promises according to His Word.  When we work at putting into practice what we find in the Scriptures, God will deliver on the promises He makes to us in the Scriptures.  And that’s when we enjoy real living – living the “new life” in Christ, fullness of life.  That’s when all will go well with your soul, with your inner person, your heart, and you’ll know the peace of Christ within.  And that’s when your life has an impact on others and your influence for Christ multiplies.  And the Lord will meet all your needs. 
  •  Express reverence to the Lord God.
  •  Listen to His instructions.
  • Take the time and trouble to put God’s Word into your life.


Monday, September 2, 2013

HABITS

We can override a habit by willpower for a moment or two.  Over the long run, our habits will always defeat our willpower.  Our only hope is not a stronger will; but rather a new set of habits. 

 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:12-13

What’s the solution for living according to righteous habits?  It’s found in the previous verse:  See yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive with God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11 NCV).

We must die to “self” but not to our “God-given self”.  We die to the “sinful self”.  But we die in hope.  And that is what leads to life with a new set of good habits.

Monday, August 26, 2013

CONFESSORS & DENIERS

We can’t live with blades buried in our bodies… or in our souls. 

The following two Scriptures speak loudly about grace and confession:  Where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20).  If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right.  He will cleanse us (1 John 1:9 NAS).

Confession is a die-hard reliance on God’s grace.  It’s a declaration of our trust in God’s goodness.  If our understanding of God’s grace is small, then our confession will be small and our trust in God will be small. 

But great grace generates complete honesty and loving trust.  It comes down to a matter of the heart.  We can pray as David did in Psalm 139:23-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (NAS).

Sometimes we may ask ourselves, “Was my confession to God sincere enough?  Was it sufficient?”  The answer is “yes.”  Who among us really knows all our transgressions?  Who has honestly felt sufficient remorse?  If the cleansing of confession depends on the confessor, we are all doomed, because none of us has confessed accurately or adequately.  The good news is that the power of confession is not with the person who makes it but the God who hears it. 

Count on the certainty of those words, “He will cleanse us.”  He will, not He might or could or has been known to.  He will cleanse you.  And He will heal those inner wounds and mend your heart.  That’s the power of God and His grace when we are completely honest with Him from the heart.

Monday, August 19, 2013

RISKS THAT MATTER

Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola says, “An essential element of art is risk.  If you don’t take risks, how are you going to make something really beautiful that hasn’t been seen before? ... I always had a good philosophy of risks.  The only risk is to waste your life, so that when you die, you say, ‘Oh, I wish I had done this.’”

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of those who’ve taken risks to live their faith:  I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephtah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; … There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:32-38).

Taking the risks to live by faith in God is the only way to live according to God: Those who are right with God will live by faith (Romans 1:17 NCV). 

The faith we have must be a faith that risks for the cause of Christ.  What “risks of faith” will you take this week for the Kingdom of God?

Monday, August 12, 2013

MONEY TALKS ABOUT US

John D. Rockefeller, one of the world’s richest men in years past, was asked, “How much money is enough?”  He said, “Just a little bit more.”  Our culture and economy are based on the principle that you need more than you’ve got.  Earn more.  Spend more in order to accumulate more and better things.

Currently however our economy has become complicated and problematic.  In light of our present economy or any economy, whatever the status may be, the Bible addresses a significant connection between the financial and the spiritual. 

One the one hand God tells us to be prudent.  The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down (Proverbs 21:20).  God wants us to make decisions based on long-term consequences.  That’s the wise thing to do.

On the other hand God tells us to exercise faith and live carefree.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … you of little faith … 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” (Matthew 6:25-33).  God wants us to learn to trust Him.

Both financial prudence and being faithfully carefree are values God wants us to have.  Jesus said more about money than about His Second Coming.  The reason is because how we handle money is a measure of our spirituality.  It reveals the quality of our relationship with God as well as to one another.

A.W. Tozer wrote: “The whole question of the believer and his money is so involved and so intimate that one hesitates to approach a consideration of it.  Yet, it is of such great importance that one who desires to qualify as a good servant of Christ dare not avoid it, lest they be found wanting in the day of reckoning.” 

“Faith, hope, and love will never be displaced as the core of Christian teaching.  And money will never be displaced as a means of measuring our souls to see if those forces are really at work.” – Marshall Shelley, Editor of Leadership Journal.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A SAFE SEAT

In Matthew 22:8-10 when Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven He speaks of the importance of inviting people in:  “And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready… Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’  So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests” (NLT). 

We cannot let ourselves become satisfied with making passengers more comfortable on the Titanic.  Meeting needs, serving people, and showing them God’s love are all important, but we also must offer to them a seat on the only lifeboat that can ultimately save them.

Monday, July 22, 2013

THE JOY OF GOD’S PRESENCE

The presence of God is not something to fear.  Rather it’s something to enjoy.  He made us with a capacity to enjoy Him.  It’s in the joy of the Lord that we discover the power and purpose of living.  In Psalm 16:11 (Amp) David said, You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy

Jesus tells us what we are to do in order to “experience” God’s presence first hand.  He says, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them” (John 14:21 NLT).  As you grow your love for Jesus by choosing to obey what He says, He will reveal His presence to you.  He will make Himself clear to you.  He will make Himself very real to you.  And the greater your awareness of His reality, the greater your joy. 

Jesus says, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.  I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature” (John 15:10-11 Mes).  Following His commands and being at home in His love will increase your joy to overflowing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

THE EXCELLENCE OF LOVE

God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).  The knowledge of God’s love has been poured into the heart of every believer in Christ. 

Three significant observations can be made from this verse:

1. The word for “poured out” points to a large quantity. 
It means an inundation.  God’s love has “flooded” our hearts.

2. The verb tense is “completed action.” 
The love of God having flooded our hearts fills our hearts now.  The comparison can be made to a valley once it is flooded remains full of water.  We should be living in a strong and abiding sense of God’s love for us.  I think the issue for many is that of growing to realize His great love for us.

3. The instilling of the knowledge of God’s love for us is part of the “regular ministry of the Holy Spirit.” 
Therefore since this is a part of the Holy Spirit’s constant ministry and work within us, we should give great attention to it.  Many have become preoccupied today with the extraordinary, sporadic, non-universal ministries of the Spirit to the neglect of the ordinary, constant, general ones.  More interest is shown for exciting expressions than for the Holy Spirit’s ordinary work of giving peace, joy, hope, and love through the “inundation” in our hearts of the knowledge of God’s love for us. 

Yet the Spirit’s constant, ordinary work of love in our hearts is much more important than the extraordinary.  The Apostle Paul insists that without God’s love it’s all worth nothing:  If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Ph).

We must come to a fuller understanding of God’s love for us.  It benefits us to get more in touch with God’s love for us.  His love is with us.  We need to know it more.

Monday, July 8, 2013

BOATING

We can learn to trust and follow God as a sailboat is dependent on the wind and sail great distances with God, or we can choose to trust in our own strength as a motorboat is dependent on its engine and only venture so far until we run out of fuel.

Sir Francis Drake prayed:  “Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves; when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little; when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 

“Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life. 

“Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly; to venture on wider seas where storms will show Your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.”

As you grow in your spiritual life, are you willing to look past the small body of water you know well and see the vastness of the sea?  Will you decide not to be confined by your self-generated power and instead decide to really believe what God says and trust His power?

I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)

Monday, July 1, 2013

THE TENACITY OF TRUST

Sometimes it seems the Lord is taking a long time to answer our prayers.  It “seems” that way from our point of view.  David expressed his need to hear from God when he prayed, “O Lord, hear my plea for justice.  Listen to my cry for help.  Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from honest lips.  …You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.  I am determined not to sin in what I say.  I have followed your commands … My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.  I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.  Bend down and listen as I pray” (Psalm 17:1-6 NLT).

You can do everything you know to do that is right.  You can serve God faithfully.  But answers to your prayers may seem a long time in coming.  God has His perfect timing, and He will answer in due time.  In the meantime our energy is to be given to serving Him and trusting expectantly in His promises.

Like Job, serve God because of Who He is, not for what you can get from Him.   Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).  He knew God rewards righteousness and faith in Him. 

Keep trusting and hoping and anticipating in the Lord, even if you feel the answers to your prayers are delayed.  Remember God rewards faithfulness and He will show mercy and grace.

Monday, June 24, 2013

WE DO THIS TOGETHER

They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. Acts 1:14 (NLT)

The believers in the early church were united in purpose and prayer. Literally the word “united” means they were “all of one mind”.  They were all in agreement.  The word “united” actually has a deeper meaning. It means not just of “one mind.”  The deeper meaning is to be “joined by a bond stronger than death.” 

That’s the way I see the fellowship of a church.  We are joined by a purpose stronger than death.  We push forward with the purpose God has given us.  We move in the same direction, with the same purpose of connecting people with God, growing spiritually, and serving people, united in what God has called us to do such that only death will separate us from one another. 


I’m all in.  I hope you are.  We do this “together.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

HAVE A HEART

God says, “If only they would always honor me and obey all my commands, so that everything would go well with them and their descendants forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29 GNT).

The Apostle John said, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands” (1 John 2:3), and “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6 NLT).

God wants us to revere and respect Him.  He wants us to obey Him.  When we don’t we hurt ourselves.  Run a red light and you’ll get a ticket, or worse have an accident and be physically hurt. 

God’s rules and commands are for our benefit.  They’re for our good, to prevent us from hurting ourselves or penalizing ourselves.  When God tells us to obey His commands, He doesn’t mean that we must perform for Him with a 4.0 grade average to be loved by Him.  He’s saying that we must learn to be obedient to His commands.  Go all out in doing what He says, but realize that your salvation is not based on your performance.  Obeying God is loving Him.  Obeying God is trusting Him.

The Amplified translation of Deuteronomy 5:29 puts it this way: “Oh, that they had such a [mind and] heart in them …”  Cultivate a heart that reveres and respects God and what He says.  Have a heart for His ways and His instruction.

Influence your mind to influence your feelings to influence your will to influence your actions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

GIVING YOURSELF, GAINING HAPPINESS

David said, “Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you” (Psalm 86:4 NLT).
In this psalm as David prays to God he expresses steadfast truths about God’s faithfulness, truth, love, and personal involvement in our lives.  God responds to our trust in Him, and giving ourselves to Him is what trust is all about.  It’s about being “all in” for God and what He says.

To give yourself to God give Him:

1.  YOUR ATTENTION
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.  You are my God. v. 2 (NLT)

2.  YOUR TRUST
I put my trust in you. v. 4

3.  PRAISE
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you… you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. vs. 5, 10

4.  YOUR MIND
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! v. 11a

5.  YOUR WILL
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. v. 11b

6.  YOUR EMOTIONS
With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. v. 12a (NLT)

7.  YOUR ACTIONS
I will glorify your name forever. v. 12b

8.  CONTROL
Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you… v. 16

Give yourself to the Lord and He will be gracious to you and fulfill His promises in your life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

YOUR VINEYARDS OF OPPORTUNITY

In Matthew 21, Jesus tells a couple of parables to teach the importance of using the opportunities God gives us to obey Him and express our faith in Him.  He says our opportunities are like “vineyards” that are to be worked and harvested.  God has prepared opportunities – vineyards – for us and expects us to use them productively.    Here’s how:

1. Go to the opportunity and work it.
“There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’” Matt. 21:28.  Take initiative.  The opportunities are presented to us.  Now we must go to them and make them productive. 

2. You are saved to serve.
“A certain landowner planted a vineyard… Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers … At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop”. Matt. 21:33-34 (NLT).  You have a vineyard to work and make productive for the Kingdom of God.  You’re on assignment.

3. Look, listen, and choose the right way.
“For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins”. Matt. 21:32 (NLT).  There is a right way to handle situations.  Learn God’s ways of living.  Put into practice God’s righteous ways of dealing with people and circumstances.

4. Count on your calling.
“… ‘go and work today in the vineyard…he sent his servants…he sent other servants… he sent his son’…” Matt. 21:28, 34, 36, 37.  Know that you’re sent on a mission.  Let it motivate you wherever you are.

5. Be productive for God’s Kingdom.
“… the kingdom of God will be … given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Matt. 21:43.  Your job, your school, your family, your neighbors, your friends, your recreation – all provide opportunities to be productive for God’s Kingdom.


Work productively in the vineyards God as entrusted to you.  Work towards the harvest of more believers in Christ and transformed lives.

Monday, May 20, 2013

BLESS THE LORD


You who revere the Lord, bless the Lord. Psalm 135:20b (NAS)

What does it mean to “bless the Lord?”  We seem to have an easier time defining “praise the Lord”, or “thank the Lord.”  But how is “bless the Lord” defined?  When we apply the definitions of the word “bless” we get to the heart of it.  It means to please God, to honor Him.  Do what brings Him delight.  Delight His heart. 

We choose to delight His heart:
- in what we say and do,
- with a whole heart, all in for Him,
- with joy and gladness,
- with a giving attitude, and
- by obeying immediately.

Jesus sums it up for us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Monday, May 13, 2013

ID’ING A MATURE CHRISTIAN


In our modern world we have become very attentive to identity.  Whether it’s choosing an identity, assigning someone an identity, showing evidence of our identity, being ID’ed, digging through evidence in order to identify someone, protecting our identity, assuming an identity, or denying an identity – we can say this much:  we love to identify. 

But there is one identity that many seem to be fuzzy about.  What’s the difference between a Christian and a mature Christian?  How do you identify a spiritually mature Christian?  What does a devoted follower of Jesus look like?  What we strive to do as a church is to see people transformed from a broken and selfish life to a whole and useful life in the kingdom of God. 

Paul states our objective in this way:   Him (Christ) we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God, that we may present every person mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28 Amp).  Paul also put it this way:   My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19). 

Maturity means life-change.  It means life transformation.  Becoming mature in Christ and that Christ is formed in you are the same thing.  So what does Christ-like maturity look like?  It’s when your life takes on the characteristics of Jesus.  It’s when your life shows the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life which is described in Galatians 5:22-23:  The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (NLT). 

These are character traits of Jesus.  And they are produced in our lives as we learn to live with Jesus everyday as our Savior and God, submit to His leadership through His Spirit and His Word, rest in His perfect and intense love for us, and choose to discipline our lives in such a way to obey Him.

There are Christians and then there are mature Christians.  When you look closely at Christians, you see among them some mature and transformed “all in” devoted followers of Jesus because you see Jesus in them.

Monday, May 6, 2013

DYING TO LIVE


God transforms our lives as believers in Christ.  But we have a responsibility in it too.  Paul reminds us, “Put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.  Don’t be greedy … You used to do these things ...  But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.” Colossians 3:5-8 (NLT)

Transformation happens when these things become an on-going pattern.  We’re to “put to death” the sinful ways of the flesh, the old ways of living for self, the old habits.  In order to live the “new resurrected life”, death must occur.  Death is the prerequisite to resurrection.

“Normally, burying something in the ground is a way to get rid of it.  But if you do it with a seed, something happens.  The seed becomes something it was not.  It becomes a plant or a tree, and it produces fruit.  Now it isn’t just getting life; it’s actually giving life.  But it could never have happened if the seed hadn’t died first.” – Ian Pitt-Watson, former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain of wheat; but if it does, it brings a good harvest.” John 12:24 (Ph)

Monday, April 29, 2013

THE GREATNESS OF SERVING


Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to John Paul Jones, wrote, “Hereafter, if you should observe an occasion to give your officers and friends a little more praise than is their due, and confess more fault than you can justly be charged with, you will only become the sooner for it, a great captain.  Criticizing and censuring almost everyone you have to do with, will diminish friends, increase enemies, and thereby hurt your affairs.”

Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle (Romans 12:10 Mes).  

Monday, April 22, 2013

CATS & HOT STOVE TOPS


Many truths in the Scriptures refer to God’s personal involvement in your life.  God never wastes a hurt.  He never wastes a circumstance in your life.  Romans 8:28 is just one of many assurances God gives us:  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Rom. 8:28 NLT). 

Every minute He gives us is an opportunity to love Him, to rest in His love for us, to trust His purpose for our lives, and to learn and grow. 

“We should be careful to get out of an experience all the wisdom that is in it – not like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid.  She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again – and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.” – Mark Twain.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

Give value to what you experience by learning from it and letting it equip you for the next experience you go through.

Monday, April 8, 2013

THE PERSPIRATION OF PREPARATION


Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Luke 14:27-30).

Jesus says to know what you’re getting yourself into when you choose to follow Him.  Look ahead.  Get ready.  It’s going to cost you.  So prepare yourself.  And in the end you will be glad you did.

God says “Prepare plans by consultation,…” (Proverbs 20:18 NAS).  Preparation can take a lot of time and extended commitment.  However, we live in a world where we expect instant results.  We want to get to the top of the tower without all the time and foundational work it takes to build it.  So we rush ahead and eventually become burned out and empty, or frustrated and disappointed, or we become top heavy like an upside down triangle – full of energy and a lot of activity but the foundation is too small to hold us up and we topple over.  In any case we walk away discouraged, defeated, and resentful.  And the goal is not reached. 

Pay the cost to set yourself up for success.  Preparation costs but the payoff later is rewarding.  It’s good to give time and energy to prepare for the future goal.  It’s good to use insight and wisdom to set ourselves up for a future reward.  And though it may be long in coming, it will be worth it.

“The will to win is worthless if you do not have the will to prepare.” – Thane Yost

Monday, April 1, 2013

HARNESSED FLEAS


I read in the Florida Times Union that an entire troupe of performing fleas froze to death in Germany.  No lie.  The circus director Robert Birk said he was shocked to find all three hundred of his fleas dead in their transport box.  He said it was the first time he had lost all his fleas to the cold all at one time. 

I’ve never seen a flea circus, so I did a little a research.  According to Wikipedia flea performances were first advertised as early as 1833 in England, and were a major carnival attraction until 1930.  The only known genuine flea circus that still performs is the one in Germany.  Fleas typically live only for a few months and are not trained.  Fleas are observed to see if they have a predisposition for jumping or walking.  Once sorted, they are harnessed by carefully wrapping a thin gold wire around the neck of the flea.  Once in the harness the fleas usually stay in it for life. The harnesses are attached to the props and the strong legs of the flea allow them to move objects significantly larger than themselves. Jumping fleas are used for kicking small lightweight balls. They are carefully given a ball; when they try to jump away (which is not possible because of the harness) they shoot the ball instead. Running fleas are used to pull small carts and vehicles or to rotate a Ferris wheel.  There are historical reports of fleas glued to the base of the flea circus enclosure.  Instruments were then glued to the flea performers and the enclosure was heated.  The fleas fought to escape, giving the impression of fleas playing musical instruments. 

At the risk of sounding uncompassionate I’ll be honest and admit that I laughed my way through Wikipedia’s description.  I never knew.  So flea circuses really did/do exist. 

On a less comical note, I wonder about the various times in our lives when we’ve been like “circus fleas” harnessed to a habit or pain or fear.  And we’ve kicked and tried to run and tried to escape or cope in our own ways and strength.  Instead of getting free we stayed “harnessed” to our destructive or self-centered patterns which I believe give Satan a sense of gratification.  Instead of kicking or running or using our own power to change our lives, we must let Christ free us and transform us.  The flea may think:  My own behavior baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe, (Romans 7:15 Ph).  But the Christian has the truth:  In my mind I am God’s willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord, (Romans 7:22-25 Ph).  

Monday, March 25, 2013

THE INVITE


Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40-42

Next Sunday is Easter.  Of all the Sundays in the entire year, that’s the Sunday to invite someone to church.  The first thing Andrew did after he had decided to follow Jesus was to find his brother Simon Peter and bring him to Jesus.  For those of us who are convinced that Jesus is our Salvation, the obvious thing to do this week is to invite someone to come to church with us on Easter Sunday.  Bring them to Jesus.

Monday, March 18, 2013

TO BE GREAT


Jesus defines “greatness” differently than the world.  Jesus says “stardom” is really just the opposite of what the ways of the world would lead us to believe.  The disciples were jockeying for positions of greatness in God’s Kingdom, arguing about who would be “stars” with Jesus.  Who would be the ones to be noticed with the King?  Who would be out front and in charge with Jesus? 

Then, Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

Jesus said the real stars are the servants and the sacrificial.  They are the great ones.  They are the heroes in God’s eyes.  The Apostle Paul said, Our decision all along has been to put up with anything rather than to get in the way or detract from the Message of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12 Mes).  We must constantly examine our motives and actions.  The message we communicate, the vibe we send, the feeling that is expressed is to be the “message of Christ”, never the “message of me”.  Be great by being a servant who sacrifices as a way of life in order to bring people to salvation in Christ.

Monday, February 25, 2013

LIVING JOYFULLY

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.  Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (Ph)

To rejoice is a choice.  The focus of joy and the source of joy are in your relationship with the Lord God.  It’s in your time spent with Him.  When you’re getting your joy from the Lord you can show forbearance with people.  When you choose to share with the Lord all of your heart and all of your needs, thanking Him for what He’s done in your life, and you choose not to be consumed with worry, then God will give you peace of mind.  He will guard your heart and mind with His peace.

Practically speaking:

1.      Take time with the Lord to experience joy with Him.
2.      Take that joy with you throughout the day.
3.      Then you can be forbearing with others.  Why? Because your inner joy and peace is not based on how people act or react to you, but on your relationship with the Lord.
4.      Take the emotional hits and burdens back to the Lord and talk to Him about all of them.  Leave your anxiety with Him.  And then His peace will guard your feelings and our thoughts.

Three things about God’s relationship with the committed believer in Christ will never change:

1. You will always be together.  Rest in His security.
I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence! Psalm 139:7 (NLT)

2. He will work everything out for your good.  Rest in His goodness.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (NLT)

3. He wants you to know how deeply He loves you.  Rest in His love for you.
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it, … There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. 1 John 3:1; 4:18 (Mes)

Monday, February 18, 2013

JUDGING VS. JUDGMENTAL


Jesus didn’t say not to “judge”.  For example He said, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:57), and “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24 NLT).  Yes, we should judge between right and wrong, and stand for what’s right and stand against what’s wrong, because there is a right and a wrong.  There is good and there is evil.  There is the Lord God’s way that leads to life and there is every other way that leads to death.

Jesus didn’t say don't judge; He said don’t be “judgmental.”  We must keep ourselves in check that we don’t take the place of God in judging others.  We’re all ultimately accountable to Him.  He will have the last word.  We all will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5 NLT). 

What’s the difference between a “nonjudgmental person” and a “judgmental person”?  Nonjudgmental people are aware of their own flaws and potential for failure.  They are therefore cautious about criticizing others.  Judgmental people classify wrongdoing into acceptable and unacceptable categories.  For example they decide it’s unacceptable to steal from others, but acceptable to tolerate sexual lust as long as it’s not acted out.  “Acceptable” and “unacceptable” are decided according to what the judge tolerates in his or her own personal life.  Jesus said, “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.  And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matthew 7:1-3 NLT).

Monday, February 11, 2013

THE LONG TERM


     You were making splendid progress; who put you off the course you had set for the truth? Galatians 5:7 (Ph)
      Most boards and CEO’s want to hire people who have shown measurable results.  But when they overvalue the short term results that are more easily measured, they reward those who produce immediate advances over long term significance. 
     Something similar can happen in the church.  We can place too much emphasis on the short term immediate visible results, and when they don’t materialize as soon as we want, we’re tempted to move on to something else or somewhere else, or just give up.  And our spiritual growth is stunted. 
      Though it may be challenging to value the long term results over the short term results, it’s that “stick to it” kind of attitude that is rewarded more.  With a long term view of results, godly values are absorbed deeply and take root in our lives.  We are transformed over the long term.  The kind of results looked for – Christ-like character, love, joy, peace, authentic vulnerable community, a strong motivation for connecting people to God and growing spiritually and serving people – materialize over time.  Transformed lives, Christ-like character, and spiritual/emotional maturity can only be produced over the long term.   The final results will be measured in eternity one day.  So stay the course.  Stick to it.  Look for long term results in the future for yourself and for others, because those are lasting results – lives truly transformed and matured.  So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective, Colossians 3:1-2 (Mes).

Monday, February 4, 2013

FINDING YOUR WAY


For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor. 5:14-15

The love of Christ is that which not only compels us, drives us, urges us on, but it also defines our life purpose.  His love “closes us in.”  The King James Version says it this way:  For the love of Christ constrains us.  The meaning of His love which gets hold of us and pushes us forward also means His love “constrains” us.  It’s the idea of being confined between two walls to one purpose.

God’s love for you sharpens the focus of your life.  It gives direction to your life.  It’s in His love for you that your purpose is defined.  It’s by His love for you, His love for human beings, and your love for Him that you’re able to narrow down your life purpose.  The love of Christ puts you in a hallway, so to speak, and the direction of your life becomes clear and focused.

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!  Just look at it—we’re called children of God!  That’s who we really are. 1 John 1:3 (Mes)

Just look at God’s love for you.  Take the time regularly to pause and… just look at God’s love.   Gaze on it.  Stare at it.  Take it in.  Soak it up.  Delight in it.  Marvel at it.  Wonder at it.  Let His love for you dear child of His go all the way through you.  And… your life will transform.  And… your life purpose will form in a direction for you.