February 28, 2009
Responding To Ingratitude!
"They just don't appreciate what I do for them." Perhaps we are intensely struck by the ingratitude of others when it is seen. Do we allow that attitude of ingratitude to halt the flow of our KINDNESS toward such individuals? I must confess the temptation to do so arises far too easily than I might like to admit. Certainly, knowing what we do for others is appreciated encourages us toward even more willingness to share. However, have we ever forgotten to express our own gratitude to God for what He has continually provided? What would we do if He stopped the flow of His blessings?
Jesus exhorted us toward a higher standard than that of the world when He taught. . .
"(35) But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of THE MOST HIGH, for HE IS KIND TO THE UNGRATEFUL AND THE EVIL. (36) BE MERCIFUL, EVEN AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL." (Luke 6:35-36 ESV)
The grateful and the ungrateful, the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, the righteous and the unrighteous -- we all breathe the same air, benefit from the same rains, and enjoy the same shining sun. (note also Matthew 5:45) It is the goodness and KINDNESS of God that are marks of His greatest glory. That was the glory God revealed to Moses when he asked to see it. (Exodus 33:18-23) Sharing this likeness of God will glorify Him and also be to our glory. Being KIND to even the ungrateful has the potential to eventually produce gratitude. Therefore, may we remember the KINDNESS we ourselves have received from God as we graciously extend it to those around us, not necessarily because it is deserved, but because of who and Whose we are!
Have a great day EXPERIENCING THE GLORY OF GODLY GOODNESS!
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February 27, 2009
When the fishing is not good, perhaps that's a good time to do something else such as cleanup and repair the gear. This keeps a fisherman prepared for when the fish are biting. Today, fishermen using a "fish finder" are not likely to stay fishing where the fish are not. They will either move to another area or quit for the day. Though being with other fishermen and being out in nature may be pleasurable in and of themselves, is not the ultimate desire to catch fish?
At the time Jesus began to call specific disciples to follow Him, due to the pressing in of a large crowd listening to His teaching, Jesus got into Simon Peter's boat and taught from there. After the lesson the following exchange took place between the Lord and Peter.
We read. . .
"(4) And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' (5) And Simon answered, 'Master, we TOILED ALL NIGHT and TOOK NOTHING! BUT AT YOUR WORD I WILL LET DOWN THE NETS.'" (Luke 5:4-5 ESV)
Peter knew fishing. It had been the livelihood he had been sharing with his brother Andrew along with their partners James and John (Luke 5:10) for probably quite some time. Perhaps these four would have been considered expert fishermen. However, there was a Real Expert in their midst. Peter did not allow his own perception on this occasion to cause him to refuse to do what Jesus told him. He didn't say, "We tried all night and it is no use. Let's just go back to shore." Neither did Peter respond, "What do you know about fishing? Stick to your ministry." I love the expression of Peter in saying, "BUT AT YOUR WORD I will let down the nets."
Reading on we find there was an amazing catch made that day; one so large it filled both boats almost to the point of sinking them. (Luke 5:6-7) However, this was transition time for these fishermen as they would leave that occupation and follow the Expert on all of life -- being the Creator and Sustainer of it (Colossians 1:15-17) -- to become fishers of men. (Luke 5:10) And even in the face of the stormy seas of opposition, they would WILLINGLY accept and begin their mission with a catch numbering "about 3000 souls." (Acts 2:41)
We may sometimes wonder about our own efforts. However, we too must remember the mission of the Lord in seeking and saving the lost. In spite of our own perception of our efforts, let us WILLINGLY KEEP FISHING because that is WHAT THE LORD HAS ASKED of us. Doing what He has asked is what will ultimately prove fruitful. Therefore, like Peter, let us ACCEPT HIS WORD AND DO SO. We too may be amazed at when and where the catch is profitable to His glory and praise.
Have a great day TRUSTING HIS WILL TO WORK!
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February 26, 2009
It has been said "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." The two in the bush may potentially be caught, but the one in the hand has already been gained. However, WHAT we are holding, HOW we are holding it, and WHERE it is being held is also important to consider. This is no more true than with regard to God's Word. Having many Bibles sitting on the shelves of our homes or even resting on a desk or coffee table may be considered a grand thing. After all, there are people in places around the world who would love to have just one copy of the Scriptures. Still, is that mere presence enough? We may be seen holding the Bible in our hands and thus be viewed as believing it, but simply holding the book and carrying it around is not where the true significance rests. Where the contents of that book are being held is of utmost importance!
To some who claimed to hold to the Scriptures, but would not accept Jesus, He said. . .
"(37) And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, (38) and YOU DO NOT HAVE HIS WORD ABIDING IN YOU, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. (39) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (40) yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." (John 5:37-40 ESV)
Later on Jesus would also say regarding His own teaching. . .
"I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because MY WORD FINDS NO PLACE IN YOU." (John 8:37 ESV)
There is the need not to simply own a copy or even hold it in our hands, but to HOLD IT WITHIN. There is the need to INTERNALIZE the message. It is through taking the message WITHIN that our entire life can be impacted by it.
Remember the words of the psalmist when he stated. . .
"(10) WITH MY WHOLE HEART I SEEK YOU; let me not wander from your commandments! (11) I have STORED UP YOUR WORD IN MY HEART, THAT I MIGHT NOT SIN AGAINST YOU." (Psalm 119:10-11 ESV)
Allowing the Word of God to have its RIGHTFUL PLACE WITHIN us -- a treasure continually drawn from and stored up IN THE HEART -- is the key to its greatest influence in our life.
Have a great day EMPOWERED FOR LIVING BY GOD'S ABIDING WORD!
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February 25, 2009
Who's Walking Who?
People talk about going and taking their dog for a walk. However, is that what always takes place? To watch the walking we might conclude the dog is actually walking them. Though on a leash, it is often the dog that seems to be determining the speed and the direction of travel as varying scents catch their attention.
Turning that around a little -- and what I mean is moving from a focus on a "dog" to read the letters backwards and instead focus on "GOD" -- what does the walking in our life reveal? WHO IS WALKING WHO? Some seem to want to put God on a leash and take Him for a walk in the sense of desiring God to place His stamp of approval on the manner in which they have chosen to walk, pulling Him the direction they want to go. In all actuality we need to ALLOW GOD TO LEAD us on life's walk. There are times with the "leash" in His hands that we may rightly need for Him to rein us back in or hold us back from moving toward that from which we should stay far away. Have we begun to realize more fully how much greater our life is blessed when we are willing to completely SURRENDER TO GOD'S GUIDANCE?
Let us remember the words spoken through the prophet Micah that we would still do well to heed today. We read. . .
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD?" (Micah 6:8 ESV)
HUMBLY WALKING WITH OUR GOD! That is what needs to mark our walking in life. Allowing Him to decide on the direction, letting Him be the one to determine the pace, having Him regain our attention when we become distracted by the "scents" of this world and begin to wander -- that's what will bring us the greatest blessing. Though it might at times appear the world is going to the "dogs" may we continue to humbly accept the opportunity to daily WALK WITH GOD as He so directs.
Have a great day WALKING WITH GOD TAKING THE LEAD!
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February 24, 2009
Not Always First!
This coming Saturday is our community orchestra's Winter concert. During our last concert I had the privilege of playing in the first violin section sharing the stand with our concert master. For this Saturday's concert I have the privilege of playing in the second violin section. Over the last several years I have enjoyed going back and forth between both sections, especially when we were playing something we had performed before, thus providing me the opportunity for a different perspective of the piece. Above all I'm just happy for the opportunity to play and be a part of the orchestra and its performances.
Someone has said, "A good violinist is one with ability to play first fiddle and a willingness to play second." [source: list of sentence sermons] What would it be like to go to a symphony, only to hear everyone playing the same part? Where would be the harmony? Where would be the fullness? Where would be the richness the composer intended? Though several sections of the orchestra may be given the opportunity to carry the themes of the piece at various times, there is the need for others to take their turn in providing the foundation on which the theme rests and the harmony that brings fullness to the masterpiece. Seconds are needed (as well as the other sections of the orchestra) because everyone cannot be in the first section.
Is this not the same with life? There are times when we may be given the opportunity to be first. However, to insist on having it that way all the time is arrogant and un-thoughtful with regard to other people. Others deserve our consideration as well.
As Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he stated. . .
"Love one another with brotherly affection. OUTDO ONE ANOTHER IN SHOWING HONOR." (Romans 12:10 ESV)
The New King James Version reads: "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor GIVING PREFERENCE TO ONE ANOTHER;"
Though I personally do not always care for the wording of "The Message" translation, I do like the idea expressed for this verse. We read, "Be good friends who love deeply; PRACTICE PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE." [© 2002, NavPress]
A part to be played and the PRIVILEGE OF PLAYING IT! Is that our attitude as we go about day-to-day living? Or are we like some who insist on being first (i.e. Diotrephes in 3 John 9) with little regard for others? The Great Composer of life has provided many parts for us to play and we ought to be willing to PLAY THE PART GIVEN. As we think of ourselves taking part in life -- being involved in people's lives in service of various kinds -- are we JOYFULLY PLAYING THE PART GOD IS PROVIDING? May we rejoice having a part to play as we HUMBLY PLAY THE PART we're given. To God such an attitude of service will prove to be very sweet music indeed.
Have a great day LIVING A SWEET SONG OF SERVICE TO OTHERS!
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February 23, 2009
Comfort And Success!
Views of what brings comfort and signifies success are not always the same. The world often defines success as being comfortable with what they presently have. The one who has much and is living comfortably is the one who is often labeled successful. Perhaps that was how the neighbors of the rich farmer of Jesus' parable could have viewed him. His need to tear down his barns to build bigger barns for storing his bounty (Luke 12:16-18) could have been the thing his fellow-farmers wanted to imitate. There is no sign of accusation of him having gained his wealth by dishonest or oppressive means. Therefore the secret to his success could have been something for others to seek out. Perhaps others could have been eagerly awaiting the publication of his book "Ten Steps To Successful Barn Filling" so they could build their own fortune and share the experience of his comfortable lifestyle of being able to "relax, eat, drink, be merry" (Luke 12:19) with all that was laid up for many years. How readily some could have declared, "Now, that's the life!" However, that is not what Jesus said. Prior to Jesus telling this parable He gave the clear reason for it.
We read. . .
"And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for ONE'S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS.'" (Luke 12:15 ESV)
Where do we find comfort? Is it in the amount of "stuff" we possess? Is that how we have defined life and what marks success in it? It is possible to find a comfort here in this realm that may keep us from the eternal comfort yet to come. (note Jesus' statement in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:25) Is real comfort not found in being RIGHT WITH GOD? Do we not have a great sense of comfort knowing our SINS ARE COMPLETELY FORGIVEN. Can we find immense comfort in the view that even in the midst of life's challenges and unknowns we know AN ETERNAL INHERITANCE HAS BEEN RESERVED for us? Such an attitude can be the sign we are truly "RICH TOWARD GOD." (Luke 12:21)
Let us be careful so as to not get sidetracked by a worldly view of comfort and success. When our life is required of us (Luke 12:20) what will we have to show for it? Will it merely be marked by worldly wealth or that of being "RICH IN GOOD WORKS" (1 Timothy 6:18) and a life that is "RICH TOWARD GOD"? If we are defining success God's Way we will find the true and lasting comfort He desires us to experience. May that be the life of which we are seeking to take hold.
Have a great day FOLLOWING GOD'S STEPS TO LIFE FULFILLING!
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February 22, 2009
"Time" can be a strange thing. It appears to go fast when we want it to go slow and seems to go slow when we want it to go fast. Though time is nothing to God (i.e. 2 Peter 3:8) -- He being eternal -- our lives seem to be so connected with it. That is why we wear watches, glance at clocks throughout the day, and mark our calendars with appointments and dates we must remember. Solomon noted there is a time for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) and we struggle with making time for all the things we believe we need to get done or in which we choose to be involved.
My wife gives me a hard time for how often I express frustration regarding things that do nothing but "waste my time." I live with a pretty full schedule and my days generally start early in order to complete the things on my daily lists. There are weeks I wonder if I will get it all done, but God always seems to make it happen. And I thank Him for it. Yes, I do. Often even out loud, because I know I have not brought it all together by myself.
"Time"! Sometimes we need to just give time, time. Time just does its thing. Though we should take responsibility for how we choose to use time, time just keeps on moving along at the steady rate set by God Who has brought us into existence for this point in time. In time God will bring to fulfillment all His great purposes. In time God will deal with the things we cannot change; all of which we must simply leave to Him. When it comes to time we need to TRUST THE ONE WHO IS NOT LIMITED BY IT!
Paul stated. . .
"For while we were still weak, AT THE RIGHT TIME Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)
Just as God brought this blessing to fulfillment at just "the right time", so it is in life we need to TRUST HIS TIMING. Though I have often found God's timing to be quite different than my own, I have seen His to work best. Now, there is a time coming when we too will be free from "earth-time" and be able to enjoy God's "eternal-time" with our Lord. The time we presently have is the time for making certain we are living prepared for it.
With this in mind, note Paul's urging where he wrote. . .
"(1) Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. (2) For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV)
May our time on earth be devoted to the Lord and His Will so that in GOD'S GOOD TIME we will be ready to enjoy the eternity being prepared for us. That may call for some patient endurance, but in time we will come to understand how right we were to TRUST HIS TIMING.
Have a great day TRUSTING LIFE LIVED BY GOD'S CLOCK!
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February 21, 2009
"Because!" Sometimes in response to the "why" of certain actions, someone might respond, "Just because." But "because of what?" Our English word "because" stems from 14th century "by cause". As I look at the word I am struck by the compound of "be" and "cause" [be-cause] which makes me wonder about what it is that "causes" me to "be" the way I am. Am I the way I am "because" of external motivators (rules, threats, etc.) or "because" of something more internal (personal desires, character, accepted values, personal connection with certain individuals, etc.)?
On an occasion when Jesus was questioned regarding the most important commandment of all, He referred to the foundation on which the Jewish law rested; a singleness of devotion to God, a LOVE FOR GOD that included the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and the love one was to have for others. (Mark 12:29-31) Even as we look at the listing of the Ten Commandments given at Sinai, the first four relate to mankind's RELATIONSHIP with God and the other six address mankind's RELATIONSHIP with one another.
The Scribe who had questioned Jesus appears to have understood the Lord's focus and agreed, for we read. . .
"(32) And the scribe said to him, 'You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. (33) And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, IS MUCH MORE THAN ALL WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES.' (34) And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'YOU ARE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD.' And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions." (Mark 12:32-34 ESV)
Jesus acknowledged this one was getting it. This scribe understood the difference between having a "LAW" RELATIONSHIP with God and a "LOVE" RELATIONSHIP! Some placed so much emphasis on "law" that they forgot about RELATIONSHIP. Does that mean obedience to God's commands is not important? Not at all!
Remember when King Saul came back from a battle where all was to be devoted to destruction (1 Samuel 15:3), but instead plunder was brought back. (1 Samuel 15:9) Saul tried to rationalize the disobedience by saying it was being brought back to offer as sacrifice to God. (1 Samuel 15:15) However, we read. . .
"(22) And Samuel said, 'Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE, AND TO LISTEN THAN THE FAT OF RAMS. (23) For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.'" (1 Samuel 15:22-23 ESV)
Jesus also exhorted. . .
"(15) If you LOVE ME, you will KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS." (John 14:15 ESV)
An expectation of obedience is still in the equation. However, the aim of such ought to be "because" of the LOVE RELATIONSHIP we have with God and with our Lord. Though obedience to God's Will has been His expectation even going back as far as the Garden of Eden, it is such prompted by a properly maintained RELATIONSHIP with Him that He seeks. Rather than obedience being compelled by the strong arm of law, what God seems to desire most is that which is prompted by the genuineness of a LOVE RELATIONSHIP with Him. Though God's Authority is the Authority to always be acknowledged, it is a LOVE RELATIONSHIP with Him that will have the greatest power in "causing" us to "be" the kind of people we ought to be. May our entire being be drawn in genuine love toward Him as we seek to please Him in all things.
Have a great day COMPELLED TO LIVE AND LOVE BECAUSE WE BE HIS!
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February 20, 2009
Perhaps you are familiar with a list of instructions presented merely for the purpose of seeing how well instructions are followed. The first on the list is the instruction: "Read all instructions before doing anything." Number two is: "Write name at the top of the paper." About halfway down the list is found the instruction: "Whistle if you are the first to reach this point." The person who whistles will certainly gain some attention. However, the very last instruction on the list reads: "Do not do anything on this list except number two." The person who ultimately follows the instructions will simply write their name at the top of the paper.
Being careful to following instructions is important. In a list of instructions it is possible to follow all but one, only to find out it was the one instruction that would have made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! How embarrassing for the one who whistled or did anything else on the list that immediately drew attention to themselves and ultimately revealed they had quickly disregarded instruction number one telling them to read everything before doing anything.
When Moses sent the twelve spies into the land of Canaan, they were given several specific instructions. (Numbers 13:17-20)
2. See what the land is.
3. See if the people are strong or weak.
4. See if the people are few or many.
5. See if the land is good or bad
6. See if the cities are camps or strongholds.
7. See if the land is rich or poor.
8. See if there are trees or not.
9. Be of good courage.
10. Bring some of the fruit of the land.
In the verses following we read they did go (vs.21) and did bring back some of the fruit of the land (vs.23-24). They also reported how good the land was (vs.27) and that the cities were large and fortified. (vs.28) "However"! That is how verse 28 begins in the ESV which ultimately leads us to the following that separated the focus of ten of the spies from the perspective of Caleb and Joshua.
We read. . .
"(31) Then the men who had gone up with him said, 'WE ARE NOT ABLE TO GO UP AGAINST THE PEOPLE, FOR THEY ARE STRONGER THAN WE ARE.' (32) So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, 'The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and ALL THE PEOPLE that we saw in it ARE OF GREAT HEIGHT. (33) And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and WE SEEMED TO OURSELVES LIKE GRASSHOPPERS, AND SO WE SEEMED TO THEM.'" (Numbers 13:31-33 ESV)
What instruction had they forgotten that MADE A DIFFERENCE for Caleb and Joshua and would have for them as well? Number nine: "Be of good courage." That was the one instruction they forgot and therefore discouraged the people, leading to another forty years -- one year for each day the spies had been in the land (Numbers 14:34) -- of wandering in the wilderness.
The ten spies who disregarded instruction number nine viewed those in the land in comparison with themselves and lost courage. Caleb and Joshua viewed those in the land in comparison with God (Numbers 14:9) and took courage. When listening to God's instructions, we too should "be of good courage" as we remember He is able to make His Will work out for us. Such a focus will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in how we go about our day-to-day lives and thus open the door for entrance into the blessings God ultimately desires to bring.
Have a great day ACCEPTING THE ENCOURAGEMENT GOD PROVIDES!
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February 19, 2009
Though it has been said that opportunity only knocks once, that is not always true. Sometimes an opportunity will knock more than once. However, there are times when it is best to take advantage of the first opportunity. Putting things off is not always wise and sometimes our excuses for doing so are pretty lame. However, thank God that out of necessity second opportunities are sometimes provided, especially when they are significant activities.
For the Jews, the Passover was a significant reminder of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. This remembrance was to be observed annually on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year (Numbers 9:1-3) according to their sacred calendar (which was different than the civil calendar). In the second year after leaving Egypt (Numbers 9:1), as the nation prepared to observe the Passover in the wilderness, there were some individuals who had become unclean through touching a dead body. They were dismayed that they could be kept from "bringing the LORD'S offering at its APPOINTED TIME" and so Moses inquired of God on behalf of their situation. (Numbers 9:6-8) God authorized the provision of a second opportunity taking place on the same day of the second month for any who -- during the first month -- were either unclean or happened to be on a long journey. (Numbers 9:10-11) During this second opportunity the manner of observance was to be carried out the same as was prescribed for the first month. (Numbers 9:11-12) However, this was not an open ended opportunity for everyone.
We read. . .
"(13) But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the LORD'S offering at ITS APPOINTED TIME; that man shall bear his sin." (Numbers 9:13 ESV)
They couldn't just wait for the second month to observe the Passover simply because they chose to. It was only if they had truly been unable -- due to uncleanness or being on a long journey -- to observe it during the first month.
We may offer many excuses for why we need a second opportunity for something when we really could have taken advantage of the first. God knows and we know when we have procrastinated, when we have simply not planned very well, or when we have chosen our own way for the moment feeling we will have another opportunity later. Do we really have that assurance regarding tomorrow?
I want to be careful with my parallel here, but what is the bottom line regarding our ATTITUDE toward our regularly assembling together today? "Oh, I can sleep in this week and go next week." "Oh, I'll sleep in and get there in time for the worship assembly." Perhaps one might be thinking, "That is different. To have missed the Passover would have meant waiting a whole other year without a special provision. To apply this to the context of a weekly assembly is different because we would only have to wait a week." Certainly the time period is different, but is the ATTITUDE not the same? What is it that is keeping us from assembling? Is not our assembly together and remembering our Lord as we partake of the Lord's Supper significant enough to us that we should desire to always be there? It is true that missing a week here and there may not constitute "forsaking" or having given up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but it can be where such a habit begins. God knows and we know what it is that keeps us away whether it be legitimate or not!
May we take a close look at our ATTITUDE AND PRIORITIES in relation to the choices we make. The best opportunities are those that we have at the moment. We can't always count on second opportunities. What do the APPOINTMENTS WE KEEP say about what is significant to us? What do those APPOINTMENTS say about our view of God? What do those APPOINTMENTS reveal regarding our life PRIORITIES? It is possible for the present opportunity to be the last of its kind! Let us wisely use the time God so graciously provides to His glory and praise.
Have a great day MEETING LIFE'S MOMENTS IN A GODLY MANNER!
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February 18, 2009
It has been noted that there is a big difference between having an open mind and a hole in the head. A hole in the head might let anything drop in, while a mind open to what is being shared listens patiently and considers the advice being given.
Solomon stated. . .
"By insolence comes nothing but strife, but WITH THOSE WHO TAKE ADVICE IS WISDOM." (Proverbs 13:10 ESV)
"Insolent" is defined as "disrespectful: showing an aggressive lack of respect in speech or behavior." [source: Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation] The Hebrew word translated such in this verse [according to Strong's Lexicon] is defined as "pride", "insolence", "presumptuousness", and "arrogance". It is translated "pride" in a number of translations of this verse. [i.e. KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NLT]
Perhaps there is nothing more annoying to a "know-it-all" than to come face-to-face with someone who does. Such an inflated view of one's own wisdom usually creates quarrelling and certainly brings no benefit to self since a sense of such pride can render one unteachable! It is pride that closes the mind. It is pride that makes one rely on self. It is pride that causes one to think they have all the answers in and of themselves. It is pride that causes one to jump to the conclusion -- before fully listening -- that what is being shared is not needed.
Solomon also warned. . .
"If one gives an ANSWER BEFORE HE HEARS, it is his folly and shame." (Proverbs 18:13 ESV)
It is the wise person who in humility will take the time to LISTEN and accept what may need to be learned. It is the wise who will humbly ask for, consider, and take advice. Though we should always be cautious regarding what advice we accept, LISTENING to what others have to say we could learn something. Imagine that! This is especially so when we surround ourselves with godly people who like us are seeking the wisdom from God.
Have a great day MAINTAINING A TEACHABLE SPIRIT!
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February 17, 2009
Stand Like A Nut!
It has been stated, "The mighty oak was once a little nut that stood its ground." Wow! A mighty oak! So big! So strong! Yet, at one time was just a little nut. That means there is hope for me!
"A little nut that stood its ground"! Sometimes the world looks at those who STAND THEIR GROUND -- those who will not sway from their convictions based on truth and those who will not go along with the flow of the crowd -- as "nuts." Paul was even accused of having gone out his mind by his much learning. (Acts 26:24) However, regardless of what we might be called, we must CONTINUE TO STAND. To do so there is the need to DEVELOP STRONG ROOTS.
How well are we ROOTED? Solomon wrote. . .
"No one is established by wickedness, but THE ROOT OF THE RIGHTEOUS WILL NEVER BE MOVED." (Proverbs 12:3 ESV)
And Paul wrote. . .
"(6) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, (7) ROOTED AND BUILT UP IN HIM and ESTABLISHED IN THE FAITH, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)
Through keeping our ROOTS PLANTED IN CHRIST AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, as well as through continuing to stand firm, we shall continue to strengthen and grow. And, yes, there's hope for even a "nut"!
Have a great day STANDING YOUR GROUND LIKE A NUT!
[This focus was originally sent 12/07/1998 (edited some with passages changed to ESV)]
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February 16, 2009
My feet are smaller than the feet of some people. Then again, my feet are bigger than the feet of others. When I buy shoes I need to try them on and walk in them a little bit to make sure they feel right; are comfortable, don't slip so as to cause blisters, and provide good support. This is especially important when I consider the shoes in which I will do my distance walking. If they are not right, not only will my feet be affected, but also my legs. Though some clothing may be labeled "One Size Fits All" -- or as I have seen more recently, "One Size Fits Most" -- I have not seen shoes marketed in such a manner.
This past week there was a program on television that interviewed a woman who provides a service offering "cheap" weddings at her little chapel. She made it clear she has done and is willing to do weddings for people of all faiths and then she made a statement that really caught my attention. She said, "Religion is like a pair of shoes. If it fits, wear it."
Accepting religion like buying shoes? "My foot!" What that concept does is relegates "religion" to personal preference rather than to truth. It is the philosophy that says, "If it makes me comfortable, it's for me. If it makes me uncomfortable, forget it!" Now, that may be a fine philosophy for shoes, but how does it compare with the expectation of God?
Paul urged Timothy to remain ready to "preach the word" because. . .
"(3) For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will ACCUMULATE FOR THEMSELVES TEACHERS TO SUIT THEIR OWN PASSIONS, (4) and WILL TURN AWAY FROM LISTENING TO THE TRUTH and wander off into myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
The New Living Translation read, "They will follow their own desires and WILL LOOK FOR TEACHERS WHO WILL TELL THEM WHATEVER THEY WANT TO HEAR." [NLT © 1997, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House]
That warning was no more needed then than it is now. There remains the same tendency today. Though the TRUTH may at times make us uncomfortable, that is a good thing. It is a sign we still possess a heart that is touchable by the TRUTH and are able to recognize what needs to change with us. TRUTH is TRUTH! One size does fit all! God's Word is for everyone because He holds out His promises to everyone who will accept His Will and receive. (i.e. John 1:12) Since all of humanity -- when it comes to sin and the need for a means to adequately deal with it -- is in the same boat (note Romans 3:9-12), Jesus remains the same means "by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12) and by Whom we have access to the Father. (John 14:6) May we remain mindful of walking in the TRUTH. It does fit the life God purposed to be lived.
Have a great day WITH EARS AIMED FOR THE FEET TO KEEP WALKING TOWARD GOD!
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February 15, 2009
There are relationships that are cherished and treasured. They have a specialness that just doesn't seem to fade. Such is evident in the twinkle of the eyes as those in such a relationship gaze at each other. It is also revealed in the actions directed toward each other. In these relationships effort is made to ward off any cause of separation; viewing such as an awful possibility. Though at this point in life you may either be looking forward to a time when such a special relationship will be yours or are enjoying such with the love of your life now, is not this what should mark our relationship with God?
After God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and began leading them toward the promised land, He related the following to Moses on Mount Sinai for him to deliver to the nation. We read. . .
"(5) Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, YOU SHALL BE MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; (6) and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel." (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV)
How could God's people ever wander from such a special relationship as that? However, how focused are we on maintaining our own proper relationship with God and His Will for our lives? Is this still not the same desire of God for us today? Is He not continuing to reach out with the invitation, "Be Mine"?
Peter echoed God's desire for us as Christians when he wrote. . .
"(9) But you are A CHOSEN RACE, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, A PEOPLE FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
"Be Mine!" God's "TREASURED POSSESSION"! God's "CHOSEN RACE"! "A PEOPLE FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION"! That is what God desires! That is what has been made possible in Christ! May our eyes remain fixed on Him and His Will while the actions of our life proclaim His excellence. May we also acknowledge the awfulness of ever being separated from Him as we seek to daily live to please Him above all else!
Have a great day BEING A POSSESSION TREASURED GOD!
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February 14, 2009
Gotta Have It!
Today is marked on the calendar as "Valentine's Day"; a day that focuses on love and special relationships. Someone has said, "Love may not make the world go around, but it sure makes the trip worthwhile." [original source unknown] What a sad life it would be to not be able to experience and express LOVE. Even when all things may not be going well, to know we are LOVED can empower us to keep moving on. God LOVED us enough to send His Son to provide us with eternal hope. (John 3:16) The LOVE of God and that of our Lord was also demonstrated in Jesus' willingness to give Himself on our behalf even while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) Oh, how thankful we should be that He did not wait for us to either deserve that love or get our act together before giving Himself for our sins. And because we are LOVED so much, we also are expected to LOVE. (1 John 4:19-21)
Paul noted love's significance in our Christian walk when he stated. . .
"(1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I am a NOISY gong or a CLANGING cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I am NOTHING. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I gain NOTHING." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)
Without LOVE great abilities may merely be "noise". Without LOVE, even with seeming spiritual stature, one is "nothing." Even sacrificial giving without LOVE gains nothing. Is that not what Paul appeared to be declaring? That means LOVE IS NOT AN OPTIONAL ATTRIBUTE in our life!
Paul went on to define the characteristics of this godly LOVE that ought to be developing in our life as we mature more and more as Christians. When we consider the fact it is God Who got the ball rolling by first loving us (1 John 4:19), then I would say it is LOVE that makes the world go round. It is He Who LOVINGLY created this realm in which we live and continues to sustain our life today. May our life be responsive to His great LOVE by exemplifying it in our interaction with others. After all, to LOVE even the undeserving is a mark of being His children. (Matthew 5:44-45) May such selfless godly LOVE be evident in our daily lives.
Have a great day ALLOWING GODLY LOVE TO REVOLVE AROUND OUR LIFE!
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February 13, 2009
Need To Know!
Some information is provided on a "need-to-know" basis. There are spheres in life where it is possible to be active and productive without knowing all details. However, the MORE WE KNOW about something, the more likely we will be properly associated with it.
As Paul walked around Athens, he was struck by a distressing sight. He noticed "that the city was full of idols." (Acts 17:16) Was this a smorgasbord (pick what you want) situation or was there an attempt to simply cover the bases by worshipping them all? Was it a sign of superstition and just as baseless as being fearful of a Friday the thirteenth? To note the residents here as a worshipful people would be right for even Paul referred to them as such when he stated, "I perceive that in every way you are very religious." (Acts 17:22 ESV) Let us be warned that it is possible to be "very religious" without necessarily being right!
Paul went on to state. . .
"(23) For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you." (Acts 17:23 ESV)
"TO THE UNKNOWN GOD"! Now, that definitely strikes me as an attempt to cover all bases! However, how could they worship what they did not know? How would they know what kind of worship would please this "unknown god"? To worship implies worth (worth-ship) being acknowledged, devoted to, and reverenced. Would worshipping the unknown be like having a devotion to ignorance since nothing was known about this god? Paul went on to share the truth about THE GOD Who was the Creator of all life, not some image forged or created by man.
In Paul's letter to Titus he referred to those who professed to KNOW GOD, but whose actions told a different story. (Titus 1:16) John noted that to KNOW GOD is to love. (1 John 4:8) Therefore, both Paul and John agreed that to KNOW GOD produces changes in life that are compatible with His Will. Ignorance cannot produce such change.
How is our KNOWING GOD changing our lives? Do our actions reflect we truly do KNOW HIM? To truly KNOW GOD will continue to draw us closer to Him and His Will. It will also draw us into the devotion of worship He is due as our life's Creator and Sustainer. May we find great comfort in KNOWING THE ONE Who knows us even better than we know ourselves as we learn to appreciate it is "IN HIM we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28 ESV) Let us live that others will be able to see there is no other beside Him.
Have a great day BEING TRANSFORMED BY THE ONE WHO KNOWS US BEST!
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February 12, 2009
I love bread and a variety of types. Bread has been referred to as the "staff of life." Though it may come in different shapes and be the product of varying recipes, bread is significant as a basic food in many countries around the world. However, Jesus stated "man shall not live by bread alone," as there is also the need to feeding on God's Word. (Matthew 4:4; cited from Deuteronomy 8:3) Though physical life has its legitimate needs, the spiritual needs are of even greater significance. What impacts the spiritual life can be of eternal consequence.
There was a time when Jesus' disciples thought He was talking about bread, when it was actually a caution regarding what was mixed into the teachings of some of the Jewish leaders of that day. (Matthew 16:8-12) The reason for at first misunderstanding was the disciples had forgotten bread. (Matthew 16:5 & 7) Jesus' exhortation was. . .
"Jesus said to them, 'Watch and BEWARE OF THE LEAVEN of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'" (Matthew 16:6 ESV)
Leaven has potential power to INFLUENCE THE WHOLE LOAF. (Matthew 13:33; Galatians 5:9) This power can be either a positive or negative thing depending on what the leaven is. Mark's account also refers to the leaven of Herod [or the Herodians] (Mark 8:15) which placed the potential influence addressed by Jesus as not only being "religious", but also political or of a worldly nature. The ingredients of any ideology has the potential to permeate one's thinking and INFLUENCE THE WHOLE LIFE. False or misleading teachings can be cunningly slipped in along with enough truth to be accepted when those ideas really ought to be rejected. As the Pharisees and Sadducees taught the Law, they added the teaching of their own traditions and gave an interpretation with their own twist. Therefore the teaching became corrupt.
Some have become creative experts at dishing out fine sounding arguments (i.e. Colossians 2:4) that actually have potential to influence away from the truth of God's Will. Whose bread (whose leaven) are we eating? There is still the need today to exercise caution regarding what the "religious" or the world's "experts" mix into life's recipe. Though some of the ideas may at first sound good, are they truly good for us? Are they fully in line with God's Word on which we ought to be regularly feeding? We need to safeguard what we allow to get inside us because of how it can INFLUENCE THE WHOLE LIFE! Since God's Will will always be good for us let it be the leavening power to work through every aspect of our being!
Have a great day WITH GOD'S WORD THE RISING INFLUENCE IN OUR LIFE!
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February 11, 2009
Crowd It Out!
Sometimes the best way to not leave room for certain things is to crowd them out; just don't leave any space for them. Where does clutter usually begin to collect? Is It not generally where we have left space for it that has not been put to better use? Not only can this be true within our homes, but also within our lives. Crowding more of the good stuff in will help crowd out the bad. Filling our minds with proper focuses will aid in pushing out the improper ones. This will also impact the output of our lives.
Paul urged. . .
"Let there be NO FILTHINESS nor FOOLISH TALK nor CRUDE JOKING, which are out of place, but INSTEAD LET THERE BE THANKSGIVING." (Ephesians 5:4 ESV)
There is that which should be easily recognized as being "out of place" in our lives as Christians. If we replace those with thoughts and words of THANKS for all God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives, that can be a tremendous aid in crowding out that which is inappropriate. WORDS OF THANKS are gracious and sweet and tend to instill the reminders and the words in others as well. May a SPIRIT OF THANKS to God so fill us that there is just no room for improper thought and speech. Let it be a mark of the dialect of our daily life!
Have a great day SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF THANKSGIVING!
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February 10, 2009
To Be Kept On!
For some their faith, love for others, reverence for God, submission to His Will, etc., are as if they were attached to an on/off switch or a dimmer switch. Though in reality it may be a continuing challenge for all of us to maintain consistent steadfastness in these areas, for some the truth is the desire is not always there. Thus their life is marked by a going in and out of a proper relationship with God. Such inconsistency creates room for a wide variation in life choices and direction. It also causes the world to question what Christianity is all about. Neither our relationship with God nor our religion are to be turned on and off. To do this "cuts off" or diminishes the power God desires to provide for energizing our life as we go through our day-to-day activities. The desire for such to be properly maintained is to be continually left on!
Solomon exhorted. . .
"Blessed is the one who FEARS THE LORD ALWAYS, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity." (Proverbs 28:14 ESV)
"ALWAYS!" Not just an hour or two or three each week. Not just one day a week! Not just when it is convenient! Not just when there isn't something else we'd rather do! Not just when we are seeking God to provide some specific blessing. The true blessing comes to those who seek to ALWAYS have due reverence for His Sovereign Authority. Such consistency will maintain the relationship that provides the greatest life blessings we could imagine.
Also in Proverbs we read. . .
"(17) Let not your heart envy sinners, but CONTINUE IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD ALL THE DAY. (18) Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off." (Proverbs 23:17-18 ESV)
Maintaining the relationship assures the glorious future God has in mind for us. The hope He extends is a steadfast hope. We can count on the fulfillment of His promises. Keeping a proper connection with Him keeps the hope from being "cut off."
Even Paul addressed consistency of focus to those at Galatia when he wrote. . .
"It is ALWAYS GOOD TO BE MADE MUCH OF FOR A GOOD PURPOSE, and not only when I am present with you," (Galatians 4:18 ESV)
The New King James Version reads: "But it is good to be ZEALOUS IN A GOOD THING ALWAYS, and not only when I am present with you."
A steadfast focus on our faith, love for others, reverence for God, submission to His Will, etc., is most definitely a "good thing" and will make a tremendous difference in our life. May we ALWAYS seek to maintain a zealousness for a right relationship with God and a desire to live in accordance with His Will on a daily basis. Leaving it on will help us to keep on keeping on even in the midst of life's challenges.
Have a great day CONTINUALLY CONNECTED WITH AND EMPOWERED BY GOD!
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February 9, 2009
It has been said that "CONFESSION is good for the soul." Acknowledging something and getting it off our chest can provide some relief. To know we don't have to worry about being found out -- because we have disclosed it ourselves -- can take a huge weight off of us. Some place a lot of attention on CONFESSION. Humbly and honestly admitting wrong in our life is a good thing. However, CONFESSION alone can still leave us far short of where we need to be. CONFESSION may be a good beginning point, but it is not the end of the matter. What is it that needs to follow?
Solomon stated. . .
"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who CONFESSES AND FORSAKES THEM will obtain mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 ESV)
There is the need for FORSAKING -- turning away, repenting, completely renouncing -- ours sins and transgressions against God's Will. Accompanying the "admission" there needs to cease the "commission" of that which is wrong. Along with the acknowledgment there needs to be a willingness to ABANDON the ways contrary to the Will of God. May we always remember how these two -- CONFESSION AND FORSAKING -- go together as we maintain a PENITENT spirit that keeps us turning and walking toward God. With His help we can go the distance needed.
Have a great day ACKNOWLEDGING CHANGE NEEDED AND FOLLOWING THROUGH WITH IT!
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February 8, 2009
When we are seeking to learn something, it is good to make certain we are attending the right school or listening to the right teacher. In this world there are and have been many varying schools of thought on a variety of subjects.
When Jesus stated, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall LOVE your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" (Matthew 5:43), He was referring to something being learned from the wrong school. Jesus went on to correct the focus, broadening its scope in view of relating to others. Just as the world has its own "love curriculum" that is out of sync with what God has in mind, so did some of the Jewish teachers of that day.
Note the compliment Paul paid to the church at Thessalonica.
"(9) Now CONCERNING BROTHERLY LOVE you have no need for anyone to write to you, for YOU YOURSELVES HAVE BEEN TAUGHT BY GOD TO LOVE one another, (10) for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more," (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 ESV)
Though they were urged to continue growing in their love for one another, they appeared to have been getting that LOVE right. Should it be any surprise since Paul said they had "been taught by God"? What better "love curriculum" could we find than that which God has taught! God demonstrated what LOVE is by sending His very best on our behalf. (John 3:16) That LOVE was also expressed on our behalf in Christ dying for us even "while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:8), revealing the greatness of God's LOVE even in face of the reality we did not deserve it. When we know we have been LOVED in such a way, should we not be more ready to LOVE others in the same manner?
John stated. . .
"WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US." (1 John 4:19 ESV)
Our love for others is actually one of our responses to the LOVE God has for us. Are we continuing to learn from His "love curriculum". If we are looking to the world to learn what LOVE is we will still find many varied ideas today and will fall short of passing God's test of what LOVE is truly all about. May it be from God -- Who "IS LOVE" (1 John 4:8) -- that we learn what it truly means to genuinely LOVE not only Him, but others as well. He wrote the book on it!
Have a great day LEARNING FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL OF GOD!
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February 7, 2009
Hold On With Both Hands!
Remember the thought we began with yesterday: "Look Ma, no hands!", excitedly shouted by the child who had mastered his bicycle to the point of balancing without holding on to the handle bars. Even holding on with one hand would make a difference, but holding on with both hands adds the GREATEST STABILITY for the toughest bumps and dips.
It has been stated, "It takes two hands to take hold of eternal life. You'll have to let go of everything else." [original source unknown]
There are many things we may hold on to in this life, but under certain conditions we begin to see what is of MOST IMPORTANCE. Imagine hanging on to a rope dangling over a high cliff. Someone drops your wallet to you which you catch with one hand. But then you realize you can't hold on to the rope with just one hand, so you drop the wallet to again grip the rope tightly with both hands. Picture this scene with other items you consider precious to you. What good is it to hold on to those things if you eventually lose your grip on the rope?
Jesus put it this way:
"(36) For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (37) For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37 ESV)
And Paul admonished. . .
"(17) As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (19) They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, (19) thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may TAKE HOLD OF THAT WHICH IS TRULY LIFE." (1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)
Get a grip. Hold on with both hands. May we not allow anything else to cause us to lose our hold on the eternal salvation the Lord has made possible for us.
Have a great day HOLDING ON WITH BOTH HANDS!
[This focus was originally sent 12/21/1998 (edited some with passages changed to ESV)]
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February 6, 2009
"Look Ma, no hands!" shouts the child excitedly as he has mastered his bicycle to the point of balancing without holding on to the handle bars. That is fine until a rock or pothole is hit. It's not so exciting (except for the mother who runs to the aid of her child) when body meets with pavement or gravel. (Voice of experience here. How about you?)
Life is that way. We think we are moving along smoothly -- think we have it made -- then we hit the bumps and dips and find we should have been holding on with a FIRMER GRIP TO THE RIGHT THINGS.
Paul seems to have had a good hold on life. He had a remarkable faith as well as a strong zeal for his ministry. Oh, to be like Paul. What spiritual stature he seems to have possessed. But he still knew he needed to grow. He realized he had not yet "arrived" spiritually. Therefore he wrote. . .
"(12) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I PRESS ON TO MAKE IT MY OWN, because CHRIST JESUS HAS MADE ME HIS OWN. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14 ESV)
The New King James Version reads. . . " I press on, that I MAY LAY HOLD OF THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST JESUS HAS ALSO LAID HOLD OF ME."
What a great picture to think of taking hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us. This ought to be our goal. If we are gripping what our Lord is gripping, what greater encouragement of strength and progress can we have, especially through life's rough spots? As Christians, Jesus has taken hold of us for our salvation and we are to remain holding on too. Holding on with Christ, we will continue to be drawn onward and upward in spirituality.
Have a great day HOLDING ON WITH JESUS!
[This focus was originally sent 12/20/1998 (edited some with passage changed to ESV)]
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February 5, 2009
Who To Please!
When God gave Moses the instructions relating to the tabernacle, He stated. . .
"(9) EXACTLY AS I SHOW YOU concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, SO YOU SHALL MAKE IT." (Exodus 25:9 ESV)
God was quite specific with those instructions and gave the skills to those who would be in charge and would do the work. (Exodus 31:1-6) When we read of the work being done we read those same specifics again. Fourteen times in the ESV we have the expression "as the LORD had commanded Moses" (i.e. Exodus 39:1) -- six of which are in the final chapter of Exodus -- providing the clear record that what God commanded was followed until the work was finished. Including these references we have the expression "as the LORD had commanded" (i.e. Exodus 39:43) sixteen times, plus four more times the reference was simply "the LORD had commanded". This is besides the number of references to doing the work all in accordance to what God commanded, "they shall do." (i.e. Exodus 31:11 ESV) Then the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34) This was because everything was done GOD'S WAY! Reading through all of this it is abundantly clear what God's expectation was and how He was pleased with the follow through in doing it according to the pattern God had given Moses on the mountain.
Remember, while Moses was first being given these instructions, the people decided to do worship their own way (Exodus 32) and received punishment for it. God alone was to be worshipped and that worship was to be in accordance with HIS WAY.
Though our worship under the New Testament is not as elaborate (thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf), is it not reasonable to understand we must be careful of making additions and alterations to the things associated with our worship today? If the glory of the LORD is going to be connected with our worship today, the expectation is that we would do it GOD'S WAY! The things that some may not think make much difference apparently matter to God. That is why in connection with the planning, the arrangement, and the manner in which all the offerings and sacrifices were approached in connection with the tabernacle were specifically prescribed by God. We would be wise to follow the pattern as we find it in the New Testament.
Remember, Jesus Himself said. . .
"(23) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the TRUE WORSHIPERS WILL WORSHIP THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (24) God is spirit, and those who worship him MUST WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH." (John 4:23 ESV)
"SPIRIT AND TRUTH"! Spirit is no substitute for neglecting the truth of worship and truth is no substitute for the proper spirit either. The two are to go together. Our responsibility is not to please ourselves, but to discern or find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10) May we truly continue to worship in both SPIRIT AND TRUTH so that we remain the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Have a great day OFFERING GOD THE WORSHIP HE IS DUE!
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February 4, 2009
As Jesus began calling disciples to FOLLOW HIM, those who accepted the invitation came from various walks of life. Other than them not being among the prestigious of the day, we don't know a whole lot about their former life, but what we do know is significant. For example, when we read of the calling of the first four we should note the following about them.
With regard to the brothers Simon (Peter) and Andrew we read. . .
"And immediately THEY LEFT THEIR NETS AND FOLLOWED HIM." (Mark 1:18 ESV)
With regard to the brothers James and John, as they were mending their nets, we read. . .
"And immediately he called them, and THEY LEFT THEIR FATHER Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants AND FOLLOWED HIM." (Mark 1:20 ESV)
To follow Jesus, there was something they LEFT BEHIND. Following Jesus became the most significant focus to them. Did they ever fish again? Yes! (i.e. John 21:3-8; Mathew 17:27) However, that was no longer the center of their life. Jesus became the center of their life focus.
Now, not everyone who followed Jesus was told to leave their occupation. However, is there anything we have LEFT BEHIND to follow Him? If we are trying to drag all of the old life behind us, we will have difficulty following Jesus and fulfilling the work He desires us to do.
Remember Jesus' exhortation regarding being His disciples when He said. . .
"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME." (Mark 8:34 ESV)
When we recognize that which hinders our following Jesus, may we be as eager and quick as the disciples were when Jesus invited them to follow. With such an attitude we will find freedom to serve His purposes as His Work is done in and through our life. Above all, may we keep our own interests out of the way. In this way we will find our best interests cared for by Him.
Have a great day KEEPING SELF OUT OF THE WAY AS WE WALK IN HIS WAY!
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February 3, 2009
Perhaps we would consider "significant service" as that which is able to make the biggest difference in the lives of others. However, Jesus even noted the significance of giving a cup of cold water as having its reward. (Matthew 10:42) Though we might consider that a small thing, it is significant to the thirsty on a hot day. Have we not thanked another who offered us something to drink on a hot day and genuinely appreciated it?
Then on the other hand, maybe we would consider "significant service" as that which is offered to someone of great significance. Martha's focus on preparing a meal when Jesus was a guest in her home appears to have been something very significant; so much so that she felt her sister Mary should have been helping. (Luke 10:38-40) Would we not have been thrilled to have been extending such hospitality to Jesus?
In one of Jesus' parables focusing on final judgment -- where He noted the separation of the sheep and the goats -- our Lord's focus was on the significance of practical service. In that parable He addressed those who did offer it (Matthew 25:34-40) and those who did not. (Matthew 25:41-46) Following the listing of being hungry, thirsty, being a stranger, in need of clothing, being sick, and being in prison and then noting those needs being met (or not met as the case might be) Jesus stated. . .
"(40) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BROTHERS, you did it to me.'" (Matthew 25:40 ESV)
And . . .
"(45) 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE, you did not do it to me.'" (Matthew 25:45 ESV)
Jesus did not refer to any of it as having been done for a "prestigious" brother. Nor did He refer to it being done for a "deserving" brother. Neither did He refer to it being done for one who was most Christ-like themselves. Rather "as you did it to ONE OF THE LEAST of these my brothers", Jesus said it is as done to Him. That means whoever is EVEN THE LEAST (and I would caution us regarding the making of such judgment) is significant to be served and that service is significant when it is done as if we were SERVING CHRIST HIMSELF.
Wow! That ought to empower the manner in which we serve! Could it be that the importance is not so much on what kind of service is being offered or who the recipient is, but instead based on the ATTITUDE AND WILLINGNESS with which we serve as the opportunities arise regardless of who it might be? As we strive to grow spiritually let us not forget the significance of practical service. Religion is not merely ritual, but practical in how it is to be lived out. In this sense we will also become more Christ-like ourselves.
Have a great day BEING A SERVING SHEEP!
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February 2, 2009
Some people tend to put things down of which others see great value and then there are those who greatly overvalue that of which there may actually be little value. The problem is that value is not always correctly perceived. Sometimes individual value systems are off base. As we read through the Gospels it is good for us to observe that of which Jesus noted value.
Matthew records an occasion when Jesus and His disciples were in the home of "Simon the leper". While they were reclining at the table a woman came in with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and poured in on Jesus' head. (Matthew 26:6-7) Certainly such action would not go unnoticed. However, the perception of this woman's actions revealed varied value systems in the response to what was witnessed.
We read. . .
"(8) And when THE DISCIPLES SAW IT, they WERE INDIGNANT, saying, 'WHY THIS WASTE? (9) For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.' (10) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For SHE HAS DONE A BEAUTIFUL THING to me. (11) For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. (12) In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.'" (Matthew 26:8-12 ESV)
The disciples focused on the monetary value of the ointment. I believe there was no question as to its value. However, in the disciples' view of its use they saw it as a waste. In their estimation of things it would have been better to have been sold and the money given to the poor. Now, we might rightly agree that would be a good thing. Still, were they not in a sense devaluing the woman as well as what she had done?
What was the Lord's perception? JESUS SAW LOVE behind the action. This woman -- in her own view of Jesus -- was ready to spare no expense. Jesus acknowledged her action as not being wasteful. In fact, He acknowledged it as a "BEAUTIFUL THING". Also, as the disciples were viewing the present (i.e. benefiting the poor), Jesus looked to the future in reference to her actions being preparatory for His burial. Jesus therefore valued the gift and the woman's use of it.
Perhaps we would agree that what is done FOR JESUS is not a waste! Like this woman, if we VALUE JESUS in the way she did, our own actions will be viewed by Him as a "BEAUTIFUL THING", even when it is service on behalf of others. After all, Jesus noted actions to be done that are to be so as unto Him. (Matthew 25:40) What a difference that attitude can make not only in what actions we value, but also in the quality of the service we extend! May the BEAUTY be seen.
Have a great day VALUING LIVING THAT REFLECTS LOVE FOR THE LORD!
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February 1, 2009
Truly The Master!
When Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples after preparations had been made for them to eat the Passover together, Jesus clearly acknowledged that one of them was going to betray Him. (Matthew 26:21) One of the twelve -- having followed Jesus, listened to His teachings, and observed His miraculous power -- would sell Him out. What an awful possibility! It was a possibility that appears to have really struck the disciples.
Their immediate response was . . .
"(22) And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, 'IS IT I, LORD?'" (Matthew 26:22 ESV)
Rather than looking at each other and asking "who is it" the disciples immediately did a little personal soul searching wondering if they could be capable of doing such a thing. They viewed JESUS AS LORD. How could they betray Him for Whom they had left everything to follow? (Matthew 19:27)
After noting that though this would all take place according to what had been written about Him, Jesus stated it would have been better for that individual if they had not been born. It was then that Judas responded.
We read. . .
"(25) Judas, who would betray him, answered, 'IS IT I, RABBI?' He said to him, 'You have said so.'" (Matthew 26:25 ESV)
Judas called Jesus "Rabbi" (teacher). Though Judas was very sorrowful later (Matthew 27:3-4), perhaps if he had genuinely acknowledged JESUS AS LORD as the others did, he would not have been so willing to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15) Instead of Jesus having become the LORD OF HIS LIFE, money appears to have been more his master. This was something Judas had not left behind. Having carried the money bag, he had even been guilty of helping himself to some of it. (John 12:6)
Today there are still many who will acknowledge Jesus as a great teacher, but not AS LORD. Until the LORDSHIP OF JESUS is acknowledged, He cannot make the life difference He came to make possible! That leaves the door wide open to the possibilities of doing the unthinkable.
To accept HIS LORDSHIP is to walk in Him. (Colossians 2:6) May we continue to genuinely acknowledge JESUS AS LORD so as to not fall under any other power. Only in Him can the riches of true life be found for now and eternity.
Have a great day WHOLE HEARTEDLY FOLLOWING JESUS!
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