March 31, 2009
Sometimes my wife tells me I put too much pressure on myself. With all the lesson preparations and other tasks that fill my "to do" list, I set daily and weekly deadlines in order to know whether or not I am on target. I do like to begin my day early because that is time that is not often interrupted. However, though I sometimes feel under pressure, the reality is God always seems to help me get it done. Therefore I do need to remind myself to relax and just take it all a task at a time. Even when unexpected things arise, God always seems to bring the lesson focuses together, even when all scheduled study time does not work out as planned.
Yesterday a statement on my calendar read: "Lord, teach me to be content with the work I accomplish today. Let me not begrudge interruptions, but rather welcome them as a time of communion with those around me. Amen."
As I meditated on that thought and recognized my own need for such a prayer, I thought of Jesus and what He came to accomplish in three short years of ministry. How often was His travel, teaching, or need for rest interrupted by others and the circumstances of their lives? How did He respond?
On an occasion when the disciples had returned after having been sent out to teach (Mark 6:7-12; 30), there was the need for some rest. We read. . .
"(31) And he said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going and THEY HAD NO LEISURE EVEN TO EAT. (32) And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (33) Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. (34) When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things." (Mark 6:31-34 ESV)
Earlier Mark recorded a similar situation in which a crowd gathered so that they could not even eat. (Mark 3:20) Jesus was moved by the coming. He HAD COMPASSION for people who were so much in need of the truth and some human kindness. Does that still not mark many in this world today? These interruptions were opportunities to touch others in God glorifying ways.
On days when my schedule is the most full, spending some earnest time in prayer as I begin my day does make a big difference. Though maybe it shouldn't, it does still amaze me how often God provides and brings it all together. I need those reminders that it is not all about me. So often I just need to remember to let go and let God do His Work in and through me.
I know we all have busy lives and it is important for us to properly prioritize what needs to be accomplished. Also though we may struggle with being frustrated by interruptions we must guard against allowing procrastination or laziness to add to the stress. Still, unplanned opportunities may be no coincidence at all, but rather God's timing for impacting the lives of others in ways greater than we might imagine. May our daily prayer be to MAINTAIN THE HEART OF JESUS as we go about accomplishing the tasks of the day.
Have a great day OPEN TO OCCASIONS TO MINISTER TO GOD'S GLORY!
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March 30, 2009
Where Do We Stand?
As Jesus' ministry began to unfold, His popularity continued to grow. After having fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish, the multitude was ready to take Him by force and make Him king. (John 6:15) Matthew recorded that Jesus sent the disciples away in the boat while He remained and dismissed the crowd. (Matthew 14:22) Perhaps, they could have easily gotten caught up in the excitement of the crowd. Though Jesus would be King, it would not be in this way. Then as the crowds continued to follow, Jesus tried to redirect their focus from physical things to the spiritual. (John 6:22-65) Some of this teaching was difficult for many to accept and therefore many turned away no longer walking with Him. (John 6:66)
For Jesus' closest disciples (the Twelve) to have witnessed such a following and then see so many walk away, had potential to impact their own view of what was to come. What were they to make of it all? Witnessing rejection can really take away the excitement when so much momentum seemed to have already been building.
We read. . .
"(66) After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (67) So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'DO YOU WANT TO GO AWAY AS WELL?'" (John 6:66-67 ESV)
In spite of others, where did they stand? Would they be discouraged enough to wonder whether or not it was worth hanging in there with Jesus? Where was the success in such a picture? Now, Jesus knew who would believe and who would not, as well as who of the Twelve would betray Him. (John 6:64) But did they themselves know where they stood?
For us to consider where we stand is important as well. To verbalize it helps strengthen the resolve in our own minds and solidify our stand. Though all others leave, would we remain?
Peter's response would have not only helped establish deeper roots to his resolve, but also encourage the others.
"(68) Simon Peter answered him, 'LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO? You have the words of eternal life, (69) and WE HAVE BELIEVED, and HAVE COME TO KNOW, that YOU ARE THE HOLY ONE OF GOD.'" (John 6:68-69 ESV)
For Peter there was NO OTHER OPTION! That is a great resolve for us to share as well. Let us not even leave the door open a crack for ANY OTHER OPTION. Having come to know that Jesus is "the Holy One of God" and remembering it is only He Who has "the words of eternal life" should keep us from turning away. May our following never end.
Have a great day CONTINUING TO STAND WITH JESUS!
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March 29, 2009
Some Good News!
When we pick up the newspaper or listen to the news on radio or television, often the first thing we hear is bad news. The economy is bad. Crime continues. People have been killed. Tornadoes flatten a town. Flooding destroys property. On and on and on it goes. Earlier this month, NBC's Brian Williams (NBC nightly television news) had requested for people to send in some "good news." In the midst of all the bad stuff going on he wanted to help people recognize there was a lot of good going on as well. He ended up receiving more good news than he was able to report.
There is news reported that is not always newsworthy. There is also much information spread that is not worth being PUBLISHED. Though some of it is not even worth the paper on which it is printed, people buy into it anyway. What is it we are seeking and seeking to help spread?
In Isaiah we read. . .
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings GOOD NEWS, who PUBLISHES PEACE, who brings GOOD NEWS OF HAPPINESS, who PUBLISHES SALVATION, who says to Zion, 'Your GOD REIGNS.'" (Isaiah 52:7 ESV)
Paul quoted from this passage in his letter to the church at Rome. (Romans 10:15) This was in relation to the "Good News" of Jesus that is still the "MOST GOODEST NEWS" (I know that's not good English, but it makes the point) to be PUBLISHED today. It relates to the GREATEST PEACE that can be PUBLISHED because in Christ we are delivered from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9) and can experience the peace of God that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7) even when there is conflict around us. In the "Good News" of Jesus is PUBLISHED SALVATION. That is "Good News" that relates to both life now and for eternity. And we can count on it remaining "Good News" because GOD STILL REIGNS!
The Good News of Jesus is most definitely worth more than the paper on which it has been PUBLISHED for our reading. Because it relates to the PEACE we have with God and the SALVATION of our souls it is actually of inestimable value! May we keep telling it again and again because it is "Good News" that will never become old news as each generation needs to hear.
Have a great day SPREADING HIS GOOD NEWS!
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March 28, 2009
"Good Walk Spoiled!"
A couple days ago -- as I was walking past our local golf course -- a golfer preparing to putt across the green toward that particular hole waved to me and asked how I was doing. During the course of our brief conversation, in view of my walking he made the comment regarding the game of golf: "Sometimes they call this a good walk spoiled." Certainly, out walking the fairways -- going up and down the hills of the golf course for nine or eighteen holes -- can be a wonderful walk. However, such can be spoiled in the mind of the golfer when he finds himself continually sending the golf ball into the rough, out among the trees, into the sand traps, or into the ponds of the course, thus changing a "relaxing" game of golf into something quite stressful. Perhaps too many such encounters have caused some to give up the game!
When we consider LIFE'S WALK, there may be a number of things that can ruin or spoil it. Just like the weather can put a damper on the pleasure of taking an afternoon stroll, the world's climate can impact our view of life as we journey on. If we are not careful, we can become anxious, depressed, and discouraged. Ultimately such a perspective can lead to giving up. May we have the courage to press on even through life's storms. Let us not allow the world to ruin or spoil our WALK WITH GOD.
However, it is not only elements around us that can ruin or spoil a good walk. The wrong focuses from within can impact us as well. As Moses was renewing the covenant of God with the nation of Israel at Moab, he urged toward continued faithfulness in the WALK WITH GOD.
We read . . .
"(18) Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, (19) one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I SHALL BE SAFE, THOUGH I WALK IN THE STUBBORNNESS OF MY HEART.' This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike." (Deuteronomy 29:18-19 ESV)
The New Living Translation reads, "(19) Let none of those who hear the warnings of this curse consider themselves immune, thinking, 'I AM SAFE, EVEN THOUGH I AM WALKING IN MY OWN STUBBORN WAY.' This would LEAD TO UTTER RUIN!" [NLT © 1997, Tyndale House]
This was a warning for the whole nation because the choices of a few could impact others. However, the warning to avoid stubbornly following our own way is one to still take very personally. If we are unyielding to WALKING IN THE WAY OF GOD, ultimately our life is going to come to ruin! We have deceived ourselves if we think we can do our own thing and still receive God's blessing.
Let us not allow our walk with God to become a "good walk spoiled." His Way is a "fair way" that will lead us safely through the "rough" spots of life and around the "traps" and on to a glorious eternal future with Him. May we remain faithful and submissive to His Will so that our WALK WITH GOD will remain a good one!
Have a great day WALKING IN THE WILL OF GOD!
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March 27, 2009
On a hot day -- when I begin to develop a real thirst -- not just anything will do. Though I enjoy drinking a cola from time to time, it is not something with carbonation that satisfies me when I am really thirsty. I also love drinking a robust flavored coffee, but again, that is not what satisfies me when the thirst is strong. I also enjoy relaxing with a cup of tea, but when hot, that is not what I go seeking to quench my thirst. What I want is some fresh cool water, or perhaps a large glass of cool OJ (orange juice). In fact, I can drink that until my stomach begins to slosh.
When JESUS met the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4), she had come out of Sychar (vs.5) to draw water. (vs.7) In the course of their conversation JESUS turned the focus from physical water to spiritual "living water." (vs.10)
We read. . .
"(13) Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, (14) but WHOEVER DRINKS OF THE WATER THAT I WILL GIVE HIM WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY AGAIN. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of WATER WELLING UP TO ETERNAL LIFE.'" (John 4:13-14 ESV)
Oh, she wanted that water. (vs.15) Who wouldn't? Especially in a region where water had to be gone out to and carried home! Perhaps we -- most of whom simply go and turn on a faucet to get our water -- don't share as deep an appreciation for such a thought. However, though she had come to draw water, she "left her water jar" behind and returned to Sychar to tell others what she had found. (vss.28-29) Finding what she truly needed, she left the other behind.
Jesus later said to a group who had been following Him that "whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35 ESV) Neither water nor OJ (orange juice), but O JESUS is the only source of true satisfaction for our soul. Only He can truly satisfy our deepest thirst and need. We have His invitation to come drink! (Revelation 22:17) Let us therefore leave the world's wells behind as we enjoy true satisfaction from Him for the present and the eternity to come.
Have a great day KNOWING THE TRUE THIRST QUENCHER!
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March 26, 2009
During the time of the judges, the nation of Israel went in and out of faithfulness to God. Each time the nation was brought under the oppressive power of others they would again cry to God for help and He would raise up a judge to deliver His people. However, soon after the death of the judge, they would again return to following the idolatrous ways of the peoples around them. (i.e. Judges 3:12; 4:1; etc.)
During the time of Deborah, she summoned Barak regarding his having been commanded by God to gather 10,000 from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun to go fight against Sisera (commander of the Canaanite army, Judges 4:2) with the assurance God would deliver that army into his hands. (Judges 4:6-7) Even with that assurance of victory, Barak was reluctant to go. He was not fully ready to go down that road. Though he did eventually go, he preferred his own route. What route did he choose?
We read. . .
"(8) Barak said to her, 'IF YOU WILL GO WITH ME, I WILL GO, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.' (9) And she said, 'I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, THE ROAD ON WHICH YOU ARE GOING WILL NOT LEAD TO YOUR GLORY, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.' Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh." (Judges 4:8-9 ESV)
Victory did come as God said it would. It was A ROAD TO GLORY, but with the glory not going to Barak. Neither was Deborah herself the woman to whom she said the glory would come. The glory for the death of Sisera went to a woman by the name of Jael, the wife of Heber. (Judges 4:21)
Sometimes we may choose a path that takes us in a completely opposite direction than God wants us to go. We cannot expect success when that is the choice we have made. However, there can be times when we might choose a somewhat different route than what God originally had in mind. In that choice we may still experience the victory He brings, but not receive the FULL GLORY He desires us to have received. That God can bring victory even in spite of our shortcomings is worthy of rejoicing, and to Him be the glory! Still, how much better for us to always seek to take THE ROAD GOD CHOOSES FOR US TO WALK!
Let us continue to "walk in a manner worthy of God" -- a manner that trustingly takes Him at His Word -- since He calls us "into HIS OWN KINGDOM AND GLORY." (1 Thessalonians 2:12) May we surrender our life completely to Him and graciously receive all He desires to bring.
Have a great day CHOOSING TO ACCEPT THE ROAD GOD LAYS BEFORE US!
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March 25, 2009
A Beauty To Behold!
Yesterday I spent some time marking bowings in my orchestra music. These were in accord with the bowings our Concert Master desires to be followed in the pieces we will perform. Though it is of paramount significance to accurately play in tune the notes written by the composer -- as well as pay attention to all crescendos, decrescendos, fortes, pianissimos, accents, etc. -- in order to make beautiful music, there is also a beauty in seeing the bows of the violin section all going the same direction. This provides the audience with both an audio and visual experience that is beautiful to behold.
How beautiful such UNITY can also be with the Lord's people.
David wrote. . .
"(1) Behold, HOW GOOD AND PLEASANT it is when BROTHERS DWELL IN UNITY!" (Psalm 133:1 ESV)
And Paul urged those at Philippi. . .
"(1) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, (2) complete my joy by being of the SAME MIND, having the SAME LOVE, being IN FULL ACCORD and OF ONE MIND." (Philippians 2:1-2 ESV)
As we focus together on the Scriptures, to know the truth and be able to recite it -- accurately sharing it with others as God has preserved it for our reading -- is of paramount significance. And to UNITEDLY live the truth out in our lives together in a Christ-like manner is a beautiful sight to God and can be to the world as well. Such an audio and visual experience can be a beauty to behold that can potentially draw others to Him. May our lives come together under God's direction for such a purpose.
Have a great day BEAUTIFULLY JOINED IN TRUTH AND ACTION DIRECTED BY GOD!
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March 24, 2009
The word "careful" means "filling with care" or "full of care." Being careful is a good thing. It is wise to be careful when crossing the street or driving a car because to do otherwise would put our life at risk. Being careful with sharp objects is good so as to not cause bodily injury. Being careful to follow instructions provides good results from our efforts. Being careful with what we say helps to keep us from putting our foot in our mouth and getting into trouble. Being "filled with care" regarding the manner in which we live our daily life is very wise on our part. Therefore we might hear frequently from our parents or loved ones as we head out the door, "Be careful." Are we continually paying attention to that exhortation?
As Joshua exhorted the nation of Israel prior to his death, among the statements he made was. . .
"(11) BE VERY CAREFUL, therefore, TO LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD." (Joshua 23:11 ESV)
LOVE FOR GOD is to be foundational for all of life. (Matthew 22:37-40) It is what keeps us on the right track. It is what keeps us in the Will of God as we seek to please Him above all else! Though we might at first be motivated by a fear of God's warnings, we are to grow from being obedient because of law to being obedient because of love. (Matthew 14:15)
Filling ourselves with care to fill our entire being with LOVE FOR GOD is the greatest safeguard for living properly before Him. With LOVING GOD as the foundational focus for our life, other things will fall into proper place as well. May the genuineness and steadfastness of that love continue to grow so as to become an unbreakable bond with Him.
Have a great day FILLED WITH LOVING ADORATION FOR GOD!
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March 23, 2009
Reacting Or Responding?
React is defined as "to respond by taking action." Respond is defined as "react; to act or do something in response to something else." In a thesaurus these two words are referred to as being synonymous. However, though these two are sometimes used interchangeably and the definitions are similar, is there a sense in which they might be different? Perhaps the difference is in THE ATTITUDE behind the reaction or response.
Consider an example drawn from Jesus and His disciples.
"(13) Then CHILDREN WERE BROUGHT TO HIM that he might lay his hands on them and pray. THE DISCIPLES REBUKED THE PEOPLE, (14) but JESUS SAID, 'LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME to me and DO NOT HINDER THEM, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (15) And he laid his hands on them and went away." (Matthew 19:13-15 ESV)
Jesus had been in the midst of some deep teaching. He had also dealt with some who merely wanted to trap Him with their questions. The disciples may have reacted to the situation in an attempted to protect the Lord Who had seemingly more important things to do. Jesus did have important things to do! However, He responded to the situation by taking a moment even for these children. Those to whom the disciples put up their hands to halt the coming, Jesus extended His hands for them to come.
When I consider "reacting" and "responding" in my own life, THE ATTITUDE first tends to appear in my posture. To react I may lean back or pull away as though it were a defensive move. To respond I tend to lean forward and am drawn toward the other individual (or situation) ready to offer some kind of assistance. THE ATTITUDE depends on where I allow my focus to rest! When I "react", my focus is most often on myself and I feel put out or inconvenienced by the situation. When I "respond", my focus is generally drawn to the other individual and what it is they are in need of at the moment.
James also provided an example of some we might say reacted, but really did not respond in the manner needed. (note James 2:15-16) We all have busy lives. However, when we get too self-absorbed we will tend to react rather than respond. There is a sense in which we must guard against being so caught up with the urgent that we forget the important. No question that Jesus came with an important and urgent mission to fulfill -- one in which we have been called to share in as we draw others to Him -- but He provided us with the example of how important ministering to the needs of others (physically, socially, and spiritually) is. May we strive to develop HIS HEART for others so that we too may respond in a Christ-like manner.
Have a great day DRAWN TOWARD SERVICE TO OTHERS!
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March 22, 2009
Consider the following:
A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out.
A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: "I feel for you down there."
An OBJECTIVE person came along and said: "It's logical that someone would fall down there."
A PHARISEE said: "Only bad people fall into a pit."
A MATHEMATICIAN calculated how he fell into the pit.
A NEWS REPORTER wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
A FUNDAMENTALIST said: "You deserve your pit."
An I.R.S. MAN asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
A SELF-PITYING person said: "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."
A HUMANIST said: "Just confess that you're not in a pit."
An OPTIMIST said: "Things could be worse."
A PESSIMIST said: "Things will get worse."
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT OF THE PIT.
[original source unknown]
What would we do if God only helped us out of the situations we got into by no fault of our own? To be honest with ourselves, most of the challenges we face are because of the choices we have made. Praise God He is willing to meet us where we are (regardless of how we got there) as we turn our hearts toward Him. God's helping hand is not extended because the help is deserved, but because it is needed and He is Willing and ABLE TO PROVIDE IT. What is our own focus when we are ABLE TO PROVIDE the help others need? Do we analyze the situation and excuse ourselves from acting because we determine they made their own bed so they can lie in it?
"(27) DO NOT WITHHOLD GOOD from those to whom it is due, WHEN IT IS IN YOUR POWER TO DO IT. (28) Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it" -- WHEN YOU HAVE IT WITH YOU. " (Proverbs 3:27-28 ESV)
James, as he was discussing the idea of faith and works going together, stated the following:
"(15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," WITHOUT GIVING THEM THE THINGS NEEDED for the body, WHAT GOOD IS THAT?" (James 2:15-16 ESV)
Prayer is an element which should never be left out of the picture. It is right to pray for others and good to have the prayers of others offered on our own behalf. However, there are situations which require our action as well. It is important to recognize times when we may be the instrument by which God brings an answer to those prayers regarding the needs and situations of others. Consider the number of times Jesus stretched out His hand toward those who needed help both physically and spiritually. As we recognize what we are ABLE TO PROVIDE in assisting others, let us continue to walk in His steps.
Have a great day WILLING TO EXTEND A NEEDED HELPING HAND!
[This focus was originally sent 03/18/2005 (edited some)]
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March 21, 2009
There are times when our eyes may fall on something that looks good while we don't readily see the dangers nearby. For example, an individual may be drawn to beautiful flowers growing along a bluff, not realizing the overhang that could give way under foot. There is a sense in which we need to guard against becoming so focused that we fail to notice what else may be around us.
When Abram (later called Abraham) and Lot were sojourning together, due to the size of their flocks, herds, and number of tents, the land could not support both of them dwelling so close together. This created strife between their herdsmen. (Genesis 13:6-7) Desiring to maintain peace between them, Abram urged separation -- as the whole land was before them -- and gave Lot first choice of which way to go. (Genesis 13:8-9)
We read. . .
"(10) And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was WELL WATERED EVERYWHERE LIKE THE GARDEN OF THE LORD, LIKE THE LAND OF EGYPT, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) (11) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. (12) Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and MOVED HIS TENT AS FAR AS SODOM." (Genesis 13:10-12 ESV)
Lot chose what looked good. It was a "well watered" place. It seems to have been viewed by him as a paradise since the comparison was made to even the "garden of the Lord." To Lot this must have appeared like the best place he could possibly be. However, with his focus centering on what looked good, was there danger he was overlooking?
The next verse reads. . .
"(13) Now the MEN OF SODOM WERE WICKED, GREAT SINNERS AGAINST THE LORD." (Genesis 13:13 ESV)
This is what Lot moved close to. Though the land looked good, THE REALITY was it was too close to sin. Lot even had to be rescued twice because of his choice to live there; once by Abram (Genesis 14) and once by messengers of God (Genesis 19).
It is far too easy to be drawn to that which looks good that we are also brought closer to what may not be good for us. The devil cunningly uses such to draw us away from God. Therefore, we must be careful of tunnel vision and SEEK A BROADER VIEW OF what may surround the PLACES WE GO and the ACTIVITIES of which WE CHOOSE to participate. What else are we being drawn close to? Could there be a hidden danger? Could we become so enthralled while admiring the flowers of the world's gardens that we get dangerously close to the edge of the bluff? What looks good may not always move us the best direction. Abraham's life was marked by a willingness to follow God wherever He led. May we therefore always seek God's guidance and wisdom in the choices we make.
Have a great day FOLLOWING GOD IN THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM!
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March 20, 2009
What's It All About?
Reading through the history of mankind -- even as it is revealed early on in the Scriptures -- again and again it appears to not take long for people to decide to do their own thing! It is far too easy to become self-absorbed and begin to lose sight of God and His Will. Have we not all experienced that struggle in our own life? Following the flood and the deliverance of Noah and his family (as well as the animals) on the ark, God gave the command to multiply and replenish the earth. (Genesis 9:7) This was the will of God. To do so would be to honor God and His Word. However, to remain in one place would not have fulfilled that desire nor served the purpose of God.
Soon after the flood we read. . .
"(1) Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. (2) And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. (3) And they said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. (4) Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and LET US MAKE A NAME FOR OURSELVES, LEST WE BE DISPERSED over the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:1-4 ESV)
Their desire was to "make a name" for whom? Themselves! It was all about them! But what about God's Will? How would GOD'S NAME be honored? When it came to living, they weren't "getting it together" in accordance with God's Will. They were trying to "stick together" according to their own! Life was about self rather than about the One Who had given and preserved life. Therefore, in spite of their attempts to exalt themselves, God humbled them by confounding (or confusing) their language and dispersing them in accordance with His original intent. (Genesis 11:7-9)
In making our life all about God and His Will, that is how we make a name for ourselves. That is how we become truly exalted, because it is God -- rather than self -- that does the exalting as we humbly seek to please Him and serve His purpose. (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6) So, how are we doing? How focused are we on honoring and glorifying the NAME OF GOD? Let us consider how Jesus set the example for us.
Prior to our Lord's arrest and crucifixion He prayed a prayer that revealed a struggle of the "wills". Fortunately -- for our salvation -- it was the "Father's Will" that was surrendered to and allowed to be accomplished. (Mark 14:36) Even prior to this moment in the garden, Jesus' willingness was expressed as He had been speaking regarding His coming death. (John 12:23-24)
We read. . .
"(27) "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. (28) FATHER, GLORIFY YOUR NAME." Then a voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'" (John 12:27-28)
According to the Will of the Father, Jesus surrendered to the plan, and the FATHER'S NAME was glorified! Even a centurion praised God at the sight of the Lord's death. (Luke 24:47) Ultimately JESUS' NAME was glorified as well. And so will we when our ultimate desire continues to be that of honoring and glorifying the NAME OF GOD through our own submission to His Will. May we be willing to walk in our Lord's steps to the glory of the NAME OF THE FATHER and so be blessed as He so desires. Since "God is for us" (Romans 8:31) why not let it be all about Him?
Have a great day LIVING NAMELY FOR GOD!
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March 19, 2009
Little Man, Big Difference!
The story of Zacchaeus is one I remember from a very early age. This is probably due to the children's song about his story of being "a wee little man" and climbing the sycamore tree to see Jesus over the heads of the crowd along that Jericho road. As I look back on singing that song with finger pointing at Zacchaeus in the tree, our voices sounded more like a scolding for him to come down rather than the invitation Jesus made to go to his house. However, the lesson drawn from the story of this "wee little man" is a large one for all of us.
We read. . .
"(1) He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. (2) And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was A CHIEF TAX COLLECTOR and WAS RICH. (3) And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he WAS SMALL OF STATURE. (4) So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way." (Luke 19:1-4 ESV)
When we think about Zacchaeus, there were a number of things stacked against him. First of all, he was noted as a "chief tax collector." (Luke 19:2) For the most part tax collectors were despised. Even the leadership of that day looked down upon such, classifying them along with other "sinners." (i.e. Luke 15:1-2 & 19:7)
Secondly, he was rich. (Luke 19:2) Wealth presents many challenges (1 Timothy 6:10), the worst of which is keeping some from accepting the truth of God's kingdom and thus the hope of the salvation He extends. (Luke 18:24) Possessions have a way of getting in the way of following the Lord as we ought. (note Luke 12:13-21 & 18:22-25)
Thirdly, Zacchaeus was vertically challenged. That is a nice way of saying he was short. He is described by Luke as being "small of stature." (Luke 19:3) Nevertheless, Zacchaeus was determined and gained a vantage point from the branches of a sycamore tree.
Though Zacchaeus "was small of stature", he was big on vision. The thing that made the difference for him is that with open eyes and heart "HE WAS SEEKING to see who Jesus was." (Luke 19:3) In spite of the odds that may have been against him, it was his SEEKING that brought Him to the Lord.
Let us remember that our Lord has promised. . .
"(9) And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; SEEK, AND YOU WILL FIND; knock, and it will be opened to you. (10 For everyone who asks receives, and THE ONE WHO SEEKS FINDS, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10 ESV)
Yes, we do need to be mindful with regard to what it is we are SEEKING. However, as we continue to SEEK Jesus, the truth relative to Him and our relationship with Him, and also the Will of God -- Jesus assured, "you will find." Zacchaeus did and it made all the difference in his life. For him it was a life-changing encounter. (note Luke 19:8-9) His own SEEKING brought him into direct contact with the One Who had come to "SEEK AND TO SAVE the lost" (Luke 19:10) and through that encounter we see Zacchaeus move from the smallness of a focus on self, to Jesus, and then to others. As we continue to SEEK Jesus and all the truth associated with Him, we also will find the transformation of our life becoming more and more what He desires it to be.
Have a great day WITH JESUS ENLARGING OUR LIFE!
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March 18, 2009
Opportunity Always There!
Opportunities do not always arise where we think they might. In fact, opportunities can come where we least expect them and because of that they are often missed. When our focus remains on ourselves it is far too easy to look at certain situations of life as limitations rather than opportunities. On the other hand, when we keep our focus on GLORIFYING GOD, opportunity is always there regardless of our circumstances! Is that not the attitude demonstrated by Job? (Job 1:20-21)
As Jesus encouraged the disciples while mentioning the persecution that was to come, we read. . .
"(12) But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. (13) THIS WILL BE YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO BEAR WITNESS." (Luke 21:12-13 ESV)
Rather than the persecution, imprisonment, and being brought before this world's rulers being the end of opportunity, these very circumstances would be an open door in and of themselves. As a specific example, Paul's imprisonment provided the opportunity to even reach some in Caesar's household. (Philippians 4:22)
When we learn to view our circumstances from the standpoint of how we can use them to GLORIFY GOD, an amazing thing happens to our overall outlook on life. With our focus always on GLORIFYING GOD, we will begin to think differently about our circumstances and the challenges we face in this life. In this way -- just like those listed in Hebrews chapter eleven -- we can also be heroes; heroes of a faith that GLORIFIES AND HONORS GOD! It is not when life is easy, but when it is the most challenging that we have the greatest and most dynamic opportunity to be a testimony to those around us regarding our view of God and the fact He is ultimately in control. Therefore, rather than moaning and whining about trying times, let us rejoice in the opportunity that is ours to GLORIFY GOD by drawing the worlds attention to Him as the One Who has provided us with a "living hope" and an assured eternal "inheritance" (1 Peter 1:3-4); a sustaining focus through life's varied circumstances. Life's challenges provide an open door to exemplify our faith and demonstrate the steadfast courage and peace that is ours with the door of eternity God has opened before us. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!
Have a great day USING THE OPEN DOOR THAT'S ALWAYS THERE!
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March 17, 2009
Looking Deep Enough!
Sometimes our PERCEPTION of things is just not right. We might think we are seeing clearly when in all actuality the converse is true! Such was the case with the church at Laodicea. They saw themselves as being rich, having prospered, and in need of nothing when in reality they were "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:17 ESV) The reality was the direct opposite of what they PERCEIVED of themselves. Seeing ourselves as we really are continues to be one of life's challenges.
Then there are times the PERCEPTION is right, but either does not go deep enough or is not allowed to impact in an beneficial manner. Such was the case with some of the leaders who heard the teaching of Jesus. After Jesus' authority was challenged (Luke 20:1-8) He then told the parable of the wicked tenants (Luke 20:9-18), which up to a point these leaders had a right PERCEPTION.
We read. . .
"(19) The SCRIBES and the CHIEF PRIESTS sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for THEY PERCEIVED THAT HE HAD TOLD THIS PARABLE AGAINST THEM, but they feared the people. (20) So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor." (Luke 20:19-20 ESV)
Jesus' parable actually represented some of Israel's history in how they had treated some of God's messengers -- the prophets -- on down to what would soon take place; the putting to death of the Son. They PERCEIVED CORRECTLY that Jesus was talking about them. However, that PERCEPTION needed to go deeper within themselves to see the problem was not with Him, but with their own attitudes! They refused to wear the shoe that fit and accept the changes that needed to take place in their own life.
We may encounter many who get mad at the truth when they ought to rejoice at the opportunity provided to see what needs to change with regard to their own PERCEPTION of their life. We too should rejoice in the truth that provides a mirror for our soul (note James 1:23-25) as we are blessed through allowing it to transform our thinking, PERCEPTION, and life actions to the glory of God. May we continually seek God's help in maintaining a PERCEPTION that goes deep enough into our life to make certain the image He created us to possess is being renewed.
Have a great day SEEING AS HE SEES!
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March 16, 2009
What's Being Suppressed?
One of the things humanity has developed an expertise toward is getting self into trouble. Thinking we are so smart that we can come up with life's needed solutions without consulting the wisdom of God has not made this world a better place! Such a focus has fed -- at least in this country -- a very self-centered approach to many facets of life.
In Paul's letter to the church at Rome, he stated. . .
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all UNGODLINESS and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS of men, who BY THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS SUPPRESS THE TRUTH." (Romans 1:18 ESV)
Paul went on to note how God has revealed Himself -- His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature -- in a clear enough manner through what He has made, that man is without excuse! (Romans 1:19-20) That means "I didn't know" is not going to work. The design and order of all creation points to the power and intelligence of God. However, Paul noted these of whom he had in mind as "claiming to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22) They did not recognize and acknowledge God as He truly is, but rather reduced Him to a level of man and beast. (Romans 1:23) Praise God He is God and we are not!
In relying on their own wisdom and own direction these of whom Paul wrote moved further and further into condemnation. Ultimately this leads to a very dangerous position. Though even in the midst of God's warnings He always holds out a glimmer of hope -- desiring an appropriate response from mankind -- there reaches a point when God turns His back (just scan some of Israel's history in the Old Testament) and lets people go the way they seem bent on going. That can be the most dangerous point for our life to be.
Paul expressed this action of God in the words "God gave them up". (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). Yes, it is expressed three times which means we dare not miss the point! What is it that such deserve? Death! (Romans 1:32) Not only had this become their practice of life, it was what they applauded (gave their approval of) in others. (Romans 1:32) All of this begins when it is the truth that begins to be suppressed!
It is not the truth that is to be suppressed, but rather OUR OWN WISDOM and OUR OWN DESIRES! That's where we get into trouble. That is what traps us. That is what enslaves us. It is the TRUTH that SETS US FREE! (John 8:32) Praise God for providing HIS TRUTH that leads to the godliness and righteousness He desires and provides.
Have a great day LETTING TRUTH REIGN IN OUR LIFE!
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March 15, 2009
Compared To What?
I think a good conversation starter would be to wear a button with the words "COMPARED TO WHAT?" in big bold letters. Such an expression could either lead to a negative or a positive conversation since it has to do with outlook. Someone could say, "This is great!" only to hear the response, "Ya? Compared to what?" Someone else might say "This is awful!" to which another could respond, "Compared to what? You don't know what awful is!" How we see something is often in relation to that to which it is compared. It seems, in just about any given situation, we can generally find something either worse or better to which to make the comparison. So what do WE choose? To what do WE make our comparisons? And what impact do those comparisons have on our life?
Paul had a marvelous way of bolstering his faith and joy in the way he chose to make such comparisons. His missionary journeys were far from being viewed as a "Carnival Cruise" in the Mediterranean. And as a guest speaker in various cities, the reception he received (even at times by those he had once taught) was not always very cordial. [Just take a look at 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 for a description of how Paul was sometimes treated.]
Note how Paul said, "COMPARED TO WHAT?"
"(18) For I CONSIDER that the SUFFERINGS OF THIS PRESENT TIME are NOT WORTH COMPARING WITH THE GLORY THAT IS TO BE REVEALED TO US." (Romans 8:18 ESV)
"(16) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (17) For THIS LIGHT MOMENTARY AFFLICTION IS PREPARING FOR US AN ETERNAL WEIGHT OF GLORY BEYOND ALL COMPARISON, (18) as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
Have a great day KNOWING WHAT WE GAIN IN CHRIST FAR OUTWEIGHS ALL ELSE!
[This focus was originally sent 03/10/1999 (edited some with passages changed to ESV)]
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March 14, 2009
Thinking About Nothing!
A mother suddenly realizes how quiet it is in the house. She calls out, "Johnny, what are you doing?" "Nothing, Mommy!" comes the reply and the mother knows she had better investigate.
Sometimes we are asked by another, "What are you thinking about?" How often is the answer, "Oh, nothing!"? Is the NOTHING really something? What is it to focus on NOTHING? Actually it's great!
I am thinking of NOTHING!
In fact, my mind dwells on NOTHING!
My faith is in NOTHING!
My life rests on NOTHING!
My hope has been placed in NOTHING!
NOTHING is good!
NOTHING is joyful!
NOTHING brings peace!
NOTHING brings stability to my life!
Sound depressing? NO! I am encouraged by NOTHING! I am greatly uplifted in focusing on NOTHING! If it weren't for NOTHING I don't know what I'd do!
Now you really think I've lost it! You may be wondering if my mind is good for NOTHING!
I shall continue to focus on NOTHING! I will know NOTHING! I will take hold of NOTHING! And I will press on because of NOTHING!
Will YOU join me? Now, before you say you're not going down this road with me for ANYTHING, let me share a passage to clarify my focus. Paul encouraged the church in Rome with these words:
"(35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' (37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am sure that NEITHER death NOR life, NOR angels NOR rulers, NOR things present NOR things to come, NOR powers, (39) NOR height NOR depth, NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)
NOTHING here -- NOT ONE of these things has the power to separate me from the love of God and my relationship with the Lord Jesus. God wants us to understand that about our relationship with Him. He has provided the means to make this all possible. What a wonderful NOTHING on which to mediate. What a powerful NOTHING to encourage and uplift! What a NOTHING to fill us with hope and courage to press on in this life!
Now if you read my above list again it will hopefully make more sense. And my prayer is that you will be able to say it with me.
Have a great day FOCUSED ON THIS NOTHING!
[This focus was originally sent 03/09/1999 (edited some with passage changed to ESV)]
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March 12, 2009
Why Did I Do That?
"Why did I do that?" Have you ever asked yourself that question? It is a question I ask frequently when I've been in a hurry to finish something on the computer, clicked on the wrong thing, and lost what I was working on. I ask this question when I have done something that didn't work out and knew if I had just thought about it, I would have known. And I also ask this question when I have tried to fix something with the wrong tool (because I didn't want to go to the garage to get the correct one) and then either messed up what I was attempting to fix or spliced my finger or knuckle instead. Now that you know more than you probably wanted to, you can see I am personally far too familiar with this question!
I regularly backup my computer files or print out hard copies of projects just in case I lose them so that if work is lost it is not lost completely. A band-aid also takes care of my finger or knuckle. However, there are areas in life where the blunders are of more consequence than just frustration or a little pain.
Many people in this world -- as they attempt to pursue whatever they desire -- reach a point when they realize it was no benefit to them. In fact, many choices people make take them further from the happiness they sought. Then, in shame, they look back at the choices they made and ask, "Why did I do that?"
"(20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (21) But WHAT FRUIT WERE YOU GETTING AT THAT TIME FROM THE THINGS OF WHICH YOU ARE NOW ASHAMED? For the END OF THOSE THINGS IS DEATH. (22) BUT NOW that you have been SET FREE FROM SIN and have BECOME SLAVES OF GOD, THE FRUIT YOU GET LEADS TO SANCTIFICATION AND ITS END, ETERNAL LIFE. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:20-23 ESV)
Why did I choose to accept Jesus as the Lord of my life? Why have I died to self to allow Him to have mastery over my life? Because in Him is found the benefit for now and eternity! In Him we gain a result that leaves no regret! In that relationship we are taken from shame to glory!
Have a great day KNOWING WHY LIFE WITH JESUS IS IT!
[This focus was originally sent 03/08/1999 (edited some with passage changed to ESV)]
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When someone begins feeling twinges of the heart (the physical blood pumping organ) -- especially when pain begins radiating down the arm -- generally medical help is sought out as quickly as possible. How many when the surgeon explains the seriousness of the heart condition would look at him and laugh? However, when there is a twinge of the spiritual heart how many are quick to deny there is any problem whatsoever. Just as the pains of the physical heart can indicate a danger that affects the entire body, so it is that the CONDITION OF THE SPIRITUAL HEART can impact our entire spiritual wellbeing.
Some people don't like preaching that hits too close to home. Generally such individuals see the preacher as having gone from preaching to meddling. Nevertheless, when there is a twinge in the heart in response to the message, perhaps we should not be too quick to dismiss it. Is our focus really where it ought to be? Could it be that there is a least an element of truth that needs to be held a little dearer?
After Jesus had shared the parable of the dishonest manager and his shrewdness (Luke 16:1-9), He went on to address faithfulness with what one has. His final point was on the fact one cannot serve both God and money. (Luke 16:13) This teaching was heard by some of the religious leaders of the day and it apparently hurt.
We read. . .
"(14) The PHARISEES, WHO WERE LOVERS OF MONEY, heard all these things, and they RIDICULED HIM. (15) And he said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, BUT GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:14-15 ESV)
How many Christians use their lips to honor God while using their wealth to live like the world? We might fool others, but God knows our TRUE HEART CONDITION. When we are willing to acknowledge changes that need to take place, our heart finds restoration and our spiritual activity can become more vibrant.
May we share the desire of the psalmist David when he said...
"CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART, O GOD, AND RENEW A RIGHT SPIRIT WITHIN ME." (Psalm 51:10 ESV)
Let us humbly recognize the symptoms as we seek the Will of God for the cure. The Creator of life is able to renew and sustain all aspects of it. May we seek to come to know our true condition so as to be kept on the road to the SPIRITUAL HEALTH that will enhance our usefulness to the glory and purposes of God.
Have a great day OPEN TO WHAT THE GREAT PHYSICIAN PRESCRIBES!
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March 11, 2009
Blessing In HIS Household!
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke we find three parables dealing with the rejoicing over finding that which was lost; the sheep, the coin, and the son. These three should provide encouragement in approaching God with a penitent spirit. Seeking and saving the lost was a purpose Jesus emphasized in connection with His coming to earth. (Luke 19:10) Heaven rejoices over each individual soul brought back into a right relationship with God.
Perhaps of these three parables, it is the one dealing with the lost son that provides the most number of lessons and especially a focus on varying attitudes. We can learn much from the choices of the lost son and his struggle in deciding to return home. We also gain some needed lessons when we note the attitude of the brother who never left. Then we are greatly encouraged by the eager longing of God for the return of His children as represented by the father in the parable.
Having studied and even preached a whole series of lessons from this one parable I thought I had been struck by all the lessons that could be drawn from it. However, yesterday as I was reading it again, I was struck by another powerfully encouraging thought. Toward the end of the parable is a wonderful statement that ought to encourage us to never desire to leave the presence of the Heavenly Father. As the father in the parable tried to encourage his son to rejoice with him over the return of his brother we read. . .
"(31) And he said to him, 'Son, YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME, and ALL THAT IS MINE IS YOURS. (32) It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" (Luke 15:31-32 ESV)
Yes, I had read the words of the father here many times before. However, as I read them this time I began to consider how in a very real sense GOD WANTS TO SHARE ALL HIS GOOD THINGS WITH US. He began by creating us in His Image. (Genesis 1:27) He wants us to share in His essence; to be holy as He is holy. (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15-16) It is He Who gives "Every good gift and every perfect gift ... from above." (James 1:17) He encourages us to ask so that we can receive (Luke 11:9) and to share with others so that we can receive even more abundance poured into our lap. (Luke 6:38) Why would we ever be tempted to look for blessings elsewhere?
"YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME, AND ALL THAT IS MINE IS YOURS!" Oh, what a Gracious Father and Awesome God we have! May we seek to remain faithful in our relationship with God as we join Him and the host of Heaven in rejoicing over each soul who returns home.
Have a great day APPRECIATING ALL THE GOOD THINGS GOD PROVIDES!
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March 10, 2009
A Key To Faith!
When we marvel at the faith of Abraham, David, Daniel, and others who were committed to following God -- even when the odds seemed against them -- we need to come to grips with the thing that really made the difference for them. It was not what they didn't know that was allowed to consume their focus, nor was it so much what they did know, though such knowledge is significant. Rather it was more WHOM THEY HAD COME TO KNOW! They KNEW GOD, and for us to develop the same caliber of faith, we too need to seek to KNOW GOD more! The more we KNOW GOD the easier it will become for us to let go of ourselves and our own perspectives and own desires and let Him do the work He wants to do in and through us!
Through the prophet Jeremiah God noted where the center of our focus needs to rest.
"(23) Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, (24) but let him who boasts BOAST IN THIS, that he UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME, THAT I AM THE LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.'" (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)
Our focus must move from self to Him. Doing so will have a dynamic impact on our faith and how that faith is made evident in daily living. Even when our perspective of things in this world makes it seem that victory will not happen, God can bring it about! To KNOW GOD is to accept His Will and His Way because it is so much higher and more righteous than our own. (i.e. Jeremiah 55:8-9) God has a much broader perspective on life than we do. It is therefore reasonable to trust Him.
The great men and women of faith the Hebrew writer noted (Hebrews 11) were looking beyond the things of this realm to greater glory to come. They were willing to follow in faith during their earthly pilgrimage because they knew the ultimate destiny to which God was leading. And it is to be the same for us as noted in Jesus' prayer the night He was to be arrested.
We read. . .
"And THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE, THAT THEY KNOW YOU THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3 ESV)
KNOWING GOD relates to much more than the things of this life. God's Works have our ultimate and eternal good in mind. That is made evident in the story of Creation from day one in preparing His Creation in which He placed man (the crowing point of His Creation, having been created in His image) to the sending of His Son for the cleansing of our sins to His going to prepare a place for us where He is in Heaven.
Paul encouraged. . .
"(31) What then shall we say to these things? IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US? (32) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)
Yes, His Works reveal how much He is for us! God is faithful and true to His promises. He is completely worthy of our trust! May we continually come to KNOW HIM more and more with each day we walk on with Him.
Have a great day MARKED BY FAITH TO FOLLOW!
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March 9, 2009
There were two boys riding a tandem bicycle (you know, one built for two) up a very steep hill. Both boys were putting forth their best and when they finally reached the top both were near exhaustion. The boy in front seemed the most worn out and as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead he said, "I didn't think we would ever make it!" To which the other boy responded, "We wouldn't have it I hadn't kept my foot on the brake to keep us from rolling back down the hill."
Perhaps that could also bring to mind the realization it is a good thing only the front handlebars are set up to do the steering. Can you imagine the problems from attempting to turn opposite directions? Such would most likely result with both bicyclists meeting the pavement.
The simple lesson here is the need for WORKING TOGETHER for the common good, rather than against one another. A lot of energy is wasted when we work against rather than for the benefit of each other. We need to keep the purpose of life in mind and then determine how we can best WORK TOGETHER to maximize the energy spent.
"(5) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (8) He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. (9) For WE ARE GOD'S FELLOW WORKERS. You are God's field, God's building." (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)
We need to keep God's purposes in mind. We would also do best if we allowed God to do the steering while we WORKED TOGETHER peddling. After all -- it is God's work and we are each to be His servants. May we press on in His work together, expending the energy required to work wherever He steers us.
Have a great day WORKING TOGETHER TO THE GLORY OF GOD!
[This focus was originally sent 12/14/1998 (edited some with passage changed to ESV)]
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March 8, 2009
Wrong Conclusion / Same Need!
It is far too easy to jump to the wrong conclusions as we look at our own situation and the situation of others. Like Job's friends we need to be careful of drawing the conclusion that only good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Perhaps the "why" of some circumstances may never be answered, but we must guard against drawing wrong conclusions while still recognizing an ongoing need.
As the time drew near for Israel to enter the promised land, they needed to be reminded they were not receiving such a gift because they were so good. (Deuteronomy 9:4-5) They were reminded how rebellious and stubborn they had been. (Deuteronomy 9:6-7) It was actually by God's graciousness they were receiving their inheritance. God was driving out the other nations "because of the wickedness of these nations". (Deuteronomy 9:5) The nation of Israel needed to continually bear in mind their need for REPENTANCE, while at the same time acknowledging the GRACE of God toward them.
Even the disciples jumped to the wrong conclusion when they observed a man who had been born blind. (John 9:1-2) They thought sin was the cause. However Jesus made it clear that was not the reason, but that "the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3)
On another occasion some people told Jesus about Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1) Jesus responded by steering away from drawing the wrong conclusion while pointing to the need that remains for us all.
We read. . .
"(2) And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? (3) No, I tell you; BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT, you will all likewise perish. (4) Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? (5) No, I tell you; BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT, you will all likewise perish.'" (Luke 13:2-5 ESV)
Simply because such things happen does not mean those to whom they happen are necessarily any worse than those (including ourselves) to whom they did not happen. However, the need for a PENITENT spirit remains the need. We are blessed not because of our own goodness, but because of the goodness of God to extend His GRACE. Praise God He does not treat us as our sins truly deserve. (note Psalm 103:10) We should be ever thankful for His great compassion and mercy toward us. Still, it is the PENITENT heart continually turning back toward Him and His Will that receives the GRACE needed by which our sins -- that would otherwise separate us from Him -- are forgiven. May we humbly acknowledge our short comings and repent of our sins as we praise God for His amazing GRACE!
Have a great day ACKNOWLEDGING ONLY BY GRACE ARE WE SO BLESSED!
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March 7, 2009
"FREE!" Is that not an enticing offer? To see "FREE!" on a sign usually draws attention and even a crowd. To get something "FREE" is often viewed as a blessing. A few years ago there was a television commercial offering something free with the reasoning that once the product was tried it would be purchased. One person on the commercial would say, "Free? It must be good!" However, is it always? That which is sometimes seen as a good offer or even a life solution can turn out to have some hidden costs associated with it. How many offers that sound good are followed by a lot of small print that might ultimately reveal the offer to not be quite as good as first thought? Therefore we should be cautious regarding what we are drawn toward as there are some things we ought to keep FREE FROM!
The Hebrew writer urged. . .
"KEEP YOUR LIFE FREE FROM LOVE OF MONEY, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.'" (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)
That love can be costly. It can lead away from a focus on God. (i.e. Luke 12:16-21) Such a love can also bring about much anxiety, temptation, and grief or sorrow. (1 Timothy 6:9-10) That is why it is important to KEEP OUR LIFE FREE FROM SUCH MISDIRECTED AFFECTION! The current economic situation in our country right now reflects how quickly worldly riches can be lost. Instead of trusting in money, the Hebrew writer urged toward TRUSTING IN GOD Who has promised to not desert us. Through learning contentment with our life in His hands we can BE FREE of some of the challenges wealth can bring. That is something money cannot buy.
Have a great day TRUSTING THE ONE WHO HAS FREELY PROVIDED LIFE'S BEST BLESSINGS!
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March 6, 2009
I often think about Moses and the weight of responsibility placed on him in leading God's people. This role was one he accepted very reluctantly. (Exodus 3:11; 4:1, 10, & 13) However, he fulfilled it very humbly. (i.e. Numbers 12:3) When seventy elders were appointed to aid Moses in dealing with the people, that must have been a great encouragement. In his humility he felt no threat to his position. (note Numbers 11:29) Even when the people of God did not make it easy on Moses, he still pled with God on their behalf as he encouraged them to remain faithful to Him.
On one occasion Moses was provided some special personal assistance by two individuals. When the Amalekites came out to fight against Israel, Joshua was sent to lead the fight while Moses went up to the top of a hill with Aaron and Hur. (Exodus 17:9-10) As long as Moses held up his hands holding the staff of God, Israel prevailed. However, when he lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. (Exodus 17:11)
How long would we be able to hold up our hands? Though it may not seem like much for a while, as time goes on it becomes more difficult. What did Moses need? He needed exactly the encouraging practical help he received.
We read. . .
"(12) But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while AARON AND HUR HELD UP HIS HANDS, ONE ON ONE SIDE, AND THE OTHER ON THE OTHER SIDE. So HIS HANDS WERE STEADY until the going down of the sun. (13) And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword." (Exodus 17:12-13 ESV)
Encouragers! We all need them. Hopefully we also are one. Since there are many aspects of life that can be burdensome, we need others who will be there for us and we need to be there for others as well. There are many things that can be handled fine by ourselves for a while. However, as time goes on, though the actual weight might not change, one can become wearier and wearier under it. Moses had the help of Aaron and Hur on each side of him to offer SUPPORT. Are we experiencing such SUPPORT beside us? Are we also providing it for others?
Paul exhorted. . .
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2 ESV)
Let us be mindful of being ones who would not add further burdens and discouragement. Rather than lifting our hands against, may we raise our hands to help uplift others.
Have a great day ENJOYING MUTUAL SUPPORT FOR GODLY LIVING!
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March 5, 2009
I never get tired of watching sunrises. It is amazing how quickly the darkness is chased away when the sun begins to rise. Quietly, yet powerfully, LIGHT just does the thing God created it to do.
In the beginning we read. . .
"(3) And God said, 'Let there BE LIGHT,' and there WAS LIGHT. (4) And God saw that THE LIGHT WAS GOOD. And God SEPARATED the LIGHT from the DARKNESS." (Genesis 1:3-4 ESV)
Did you notice that the "LIGHT WAS GOOD", but that was not said of the darkness? God made a separation between the LIGHT and the darkness. They don't mix. As soon as LIGHT is brought in, the darkness is dispelled. That is the power of LIGHT! It is more powerful than darkness. Such is characteristic of the LIGHT of truth as well. That ought to encourage us.
Paul asked, "What fellowship does light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV) It has none. As LIGHT and darkness do not co-exist, neither is good and evil to coexist in our life. LIGHT dispels darkness because LIGHT is more powerful than darkness. Such is also a powerful characteristic of God Who brought the LIGHT into existence, for John declared, ". . . that GOD IS LIGHT, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5 ESV) There cannot be. And that is to become the essence of our being as well. As LIGHT chases out the darkness, so "good" is to expel the evil from our life. May we experience how "truly good" the LIGHT is in all aspects of its connection with our life as we resolve to walk in the LIGHT of God.
Have a great day APPRECIATING THE SEPARATION GOD PROVIDES!
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March 4, 2009
Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker reading, "Question Authority!" I'm not sure what all is behind that or why those who have posted it on their vehicles have done so, but I noticed another apparent take off from that one recently. It read: "Question Reality!" Really?
Perhaps the "REALITY" of bumper stickers is that if someone prints it, someone will post it. Could it be that some of the slogans and statements are actually only intended to make people stop and think? Such is a good thing to do, as long as we come to the right conclusions.
As Moses was beginning to provide the nation of Israel with a second giving of the Law in preparation for that generation to cross over into the promised land, Moses reminded the people of the message God had given from the mountain and how they had responded to it. The people had been fearful of the sight on the mountain and trembled at the voice of God and were content to stay at a distance and let Moses receive the message.
We read. . .
"(24) And you said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. (25) Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. (26) For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? (27) Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and WE WILL HEAR AND DO IT.'" (Deuteronomy 5:24-27 ESV)
SAY IT and we will OBEY IT! That is an excellent resolve! God viewed what they said as the right thing to do. (Deuteronomy 5:28) However, God's desire was "that they had such a mind as this always"! (Deuteronomy 5:29) Is that not still the mind we ought to have always? If GOD has said it, should we not BELIEVE it? If GOD has SAID IT, should we not be willing to OBEY it? To do so says something about how we in "REALITY" view God! May His Word and Will make such an imprint on our life that God's Wisdom can be clearly read in our daily actions and choices. That "REALITY" will leave no question as to our commitment to Him as our manner of living is observed.
Have a great day BEING A LIVING MESSAGE OF GOD!
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March 3, 2009
Ahead Of Behind!
How often -- with all we have to do -- do we feel challenged by time or a seemingly lack thereof? Perhaps we are tempted to look for shortcuts. Maybe we frequently find ourselves reprioritizing and even deciding we can just let some things go. Have we ever experienced that "the hurrier" we go "the behinder" we get? It has been long said that "Haste makes waste." Perhaps we have all experienced trying to do something in such a hurry that we ended up having to do it all over again. At one worksite there arose the motto: "Never time to do it right. Always time to do it again."
Solomon advised. . .
"The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." (Proverbs 21:5 ESV)
The New Living Translation reads: "Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty." [NLT, © 1997, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House]
The Message translation reads: "Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." [© 2002, Navpress]
Here we have the contrast of diligent and CAREFUL PLANNING as opposed to careless and hasty actions. The first provides benefit, while the latter results in loss. Among other things, that loss can be in terms of wasted time, energy, and resources. Therefore we ought to GIVE SOME THOUGHT to the manner in which we undertake the varying tasks of life. Avoiding procrastination is one place to start because putting things off puts us behind before we have even begun! Once we get behind it takes even more determination and energy to get caught up because time does not stop and wait for us to catch up. We need to keep ahead of getting behind by being DILIGENT IN PLANNING and then carrying out the plan. Besides the gain that can be received in life, less anxiety will also be one of its rewards.
Have a great day BEING ATTENTIVE TO THE TASKS AT HAND!
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March 2, 2009
Why Do You Ask?
When being questioned or asked a question, a variety of feelings could be produced. We could feel angry or attacked and become defensive. We could feel dumb for not knowing the answer. Perhaps we could feel challenged and moved to deeper thinking. We might feel guilty. Or we could feel honored that someone was requesting our input.
There can also be variation in the reasons for asking questions. Among them could be: to find out how to do something, to get the input of others, find boundaries, because we're being nosey, to receive, or to even show genuine concern for others.
Sometimes questions are used to get information and sometimes they are used simply to see where someone stands. However, even when questions are used with the aim of gaining more knowledge, those questions themselves -- by the manner in which they are worded or asked -- can reveal the insight of the questioner. One might even hear, "That is a very good question."
When Jesus was at the age of twelve, His family went to Jerusalem as was done every year at the Feast of the Passover. (Luke 2:41-42) However, when it was time to return, Jesus was left behind. Realizing He was not among their relatives and acquaintances, His parents returned to Jerusalem to find Him. (Luke 2:43-45)
We then read. . .
"(46) After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, LISTENING to them AND ASKING them QUESTIONS. (47) And ALL WHO HEARD HIM WERE AMAZED AT HIS UNDERSTANDING AND HIS ANSWERS." (Luke 2:46-47 ESV)
This was about eighteen years before Jesus began His public ministry. (Luke 3:23) Now, it has been noted that the general teaching method of that day was for the rabbis to sit and respond to the questions brought to them. However, we see it going both ways between these teachers and Jesus. This was before any contention arose between Him and the teachers of that day. These teachers were genuinely impressed with the caliber of Jesus' questions, as well as His understanding and answers.
As Jesus' ministry began and progressed, He did a lot of questioning of the leaders, individuals, and the Twelve. It was not that Jesus needed to know anything He did not already know (i.e. Mark 9:33-34; Luke 9:46-47), but for those questioned to take A CLOSER LOOK AT THEMSELVES and their thinking and logically see where it fit in relation to the Will of God. His questions produced the opportunity for PERSONAL INTROSPECTION AND EXAMINATION.
When we question our understanding, we should do so in relation to God's Word. Reading through the Gospels -- when we come across the questions Jesus asked -- may we allow His Words to penetrate our own heart to REVEAL WHERE WE STAND. Those questions may give rise to a number of different feelings, but we can still REJOICE IN WHERE THE TRUTH LEADS US in bringing proper changes to our understanding and the manner in which we live.
Have a great day APPRECIATING THE "WHY" OF JESUS' QUESTIONS!
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March 1, 2009
Still In Training!
One of my favorite statements made by a fellow classmate when I was in college is: "You can no more say what you don't know than you can come back from where you ain't been." I can only teach what I know. I can only equip with what I myself have become equipped. I can do a fairly good job of helping others learn the knowledge and skills I possess, but there comes a point when I must turn them over to someone who has greater ability and understanding than I do. To just have them stop with where I am would minimize their potential for much greater things.
Jesus stated. . .
"A DISCIPLE IS NOT ABOVE HIS TEACHER. BUT EVERYONE WHEN HE IS FULLY TRAINED WILL BE LIKE HIS TEACHER." (Luke 6:40 ESV)
"WHEN FULLY TRAINED." I am STILL IN TRAINING to be more LIKE CHRIST. And it is TO CHRIST that I must continue to direct the view of others. I will never be above Him, but His desire is for me (and you) to be like Him. That requires attentiveness to His Ways and Will. It necessitates a willingness to call Him "Lord" and let Him truly be the Lord of my entire life; a genuine acknowledgment made evident by following through on what He has asked. (Luke 6:46-47) Therefore, HIS LIKENESS must remain the goal!
Also, Jesus was with the Father from the beginning (John 1:1-2; 17:5) and came to earth and was able to return from where He came. Having been to earth, He is also able to return to take the redeemed to be with Him forever in Heaven. He can get back to where He's been and all of that for our benefit and blessing. Jesus can get me (and you) to where I "ain't been" because He has!
Yes, truly, we can no more say what we don't know than we can come back from where we ain't been. However, Jesus knows what we need to learn and knowing Him we can also know the Way. (John 14:4-6) He has been there and here so that with Him we can get to where He is! We can therefore rejoice in knowing that our learning and our destiny are secure being linked to Him.
May we allow the process to continue as we trust fully in Him. As John encouraged. . .
"(2) Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, because we shall see him as he is. (3) And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3 ESV)
Have a great day SURRENDERED TO BEING HIS LIFELONG STUDENT!
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