Friday, January 26, 2018

Starting Over

"The steadfast love of the Lord never cease, his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

It's that time again.  New year, new goals, new outlook, and if you know Jesus--new mercies.  Aren't you glad that God invented starting over?  It was His idea.  That's why Jesus came.  He came to live a sinless life and suffer and die on that cross so that we could start over--every single day!

There is no other person, group or institution I know of that allows you to start over again...and again...and again. Why would they?  I mean let's think about it.  If you need to keep starting over it's because you keep messing up.  Keeping someone around who continues failing isn't very practical, or easy or cost effective.  In fact, it's down right stressful!  Honestly, how many times can one person say "I'm sorry" and turn right around and stumble and fall down again? What would make anyone tolerate that kind of behavior let alone be patient and long-suffering with someone like that?  

In Romans 8:38-39 the Apostle Paul gets ahold of the wonderful truth that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God:

        "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither
         the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
         else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ
         Jesus our Lord."

Thank you, Lord for your unwavering love for me and for always receiving me with open arms when I'm ready to start over....

Monday, July 31, 2017

Standing For Whose Rights?

"I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flash I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 ESV

Ever found yourself shouting in a moment of defensive passion, "I'm standing for my rights.  I want justice!"?  Click on an online news site or open the pages of your local newspaper and chances are it won't take you long to find someone doing just that.  It's kind of in us as westerners (and especially Americans) to stand up for ourselves and assert our rights as citizens, isn't it?  

That's not necessarily a bad thing.  Even the Apostle Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen when he was being mistreated in Acts 16.  But when it came to his rights as a christian, a believer, a servant of Jesus Christ, he willingly surrendered any real or perceived rights.  He reminds the believers in Corinthians that they are not their own:

"Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself for God bought you with a huge price.  So you must honor God with your body."  1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT

I often wonder if our independent spirit, stand up for yourself attitude, many times actually puts us at odds with our Redeemer.  How often do I stand up for me and totally forget to stand up for Him?  Is pushing my agenda overriding the passion and compassion that should cause me to want to surrender to His agenda?

I am struck by the stark visual that is reflected in Exodus 21:6 in the description of a servant willingly surrendering to his master for life.  Traditionally in this period, a slave was given his freedom after 7 years.  However, if the slave declares his love for his master (and his family) and does not want to go free, then his master must present him before God and the following had to take place:

"Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl.  After that, the slave will serve his master for life." NLT

What a humbling expression of a servant's love for his master.  No rights exerted or demanded there.  All authority surrendered.  No turning back.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Do The Math

"Do not be deceived.  God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
                                                                                                                             Galatians 6:7

Some things need little explanation.  Some spiritual truths need none.  They just say it.  There.  The words from Galatians 6:7 fit into that category.  No explanation necessary.

In my limited attempts at planting a vegetable garden I found an amazing truth that never changed--what I planted was ALWAYS what came up.  Imagine that!  I never had to wonder.   When I planted peas, I got peas.  When I planted pumpkins, pumpkins I got.  When I planted tomatoes--you guessed it!  I got tomatoes.  Never failed.  What went into the ground is what came back up in a few weeks 100% of the time.

We are accustomed to hearing this truth paired with financial blessings and there is certainly plenty of evidence and encouragement in the Word of God to firm that up.  But there is much more to receive from this chapter and the preceding one in Galatians.

Paul is reminding the Galatian church (and the contemporary church as well) that if we sow to our flesh (our sinful nature, selfish desires, judgmental attitude, unforgiveness, bitterness, etc...) then that is exactly what we will reap.  Why is it so hard for us to show grace to others when grace is what we need for ourselves?  Can we not see it?  Why is patience with our neighbor such a difficult thing to have when we need and receive patience in daily quantities from the Lord?  Why must we hold onto the offenses from the past when Jesus daily marks paid on our sin ledger?

Maybe self is the real issue here.  Whenever I spend way too much time thinking about me I always end up in a place that doesn't work.  I don't belong there because I have grieved the Holy Spirit that lives in me.  He thrives in the areas that I surrender completely to Him.  Just because I don't "feel" like surrendering doesn't mean I shouldn't.  My feelings so often lie.

Lord, please continue to remind me that when I sow to the Spirit I will receive the fruit that the Spirit offers...."love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control".  

It works every time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

God Is Not Your Life Coach

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."  Romans 12:1

I am often bewildered and confounded by the pictures and perceptions we as believers are offered of our Holy God by a host of popular leaders in our "relevant" and "cool" christian circles.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm all for being culturally current and authentic in our conversations with each other and especially to those without Christ.  If we come across as stale and backward we are going to defeat our purpose of reflecting Jesus for who He really is.  However, understanding that Jesus is the "God-Man" (all God and all man) shouldn't we take extra care not to diminish His holiness by trying to make Him who we'd like Him to be rather than who He really is?

For certain, in John 15:15 Jesus said "...I have called you friends."  But He didn't say "I have called you buddies".  Get what I mean?  Can we become too familiar in the way we look at and even address the Lover of our Souls?  More importantly, can we get the misguided idea that He is somehow here to help us reach our goals?  I think we can.

In the last decade or so, the term "Life Coach" has become quite popular.  Sadly, this term fits very well in describing how we operate in many of our churches and small and large gatherings.   From my understanding, a Life Coach's sole purpose in a nutshell is to help you choose a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.  Hmm.  Quite a few you's in there if you ask me.  I don't know about you but the last time I checked I was still a "Jar of clay" (2 Cor 4:7).  As far as I am aware, the potter always gets to choose what the clay will become.  See Romans 9:20-21 for a pretty good explanation of how this all works.

No thanks.  I don't need a Life Coach.  I need a life.  Thanks to Jesus Christ, I now have one.  I am continually aware of the need to ask Him to correct and redirect my wandering heart.  I am to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Correct Me If I'm Wrong

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and now my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. " Psalm 139:23

"Correct me if I'm wrong...."  Ever started a sentence with that phrase?  Usually we say that believing full well that what we are about to say is right.  Even committed christians aren't really anxious to be corrected and we have a hard time admitting that we might be wrong.

King David learned the hard way that avoiding correction is a dangerous plan.  He learned that pride, self sufficiency and stubbornness kept him far from the one who loved him most.  Ultimately, he let his past mistakes drive him into the arms of his Redeemer.  

Proverbs 29:1 says, "Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy."

I don't want to be stiff-necked.  I don't want to be deaf to His correction.  I can't afford that!

Perhaps one of the best prayers we can pray is simply "Lord correct me".  I'm not sure of very many things but one thing I do know without a doubt is that I am wrong--often.  I don't know everything.  I don't see everything I should.  Many times I am talking when I should be listening.   I need help - His help.

Lord correct me - today.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Martha Should Have Ordered "Take Out"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things..."  Luke 10:41     

"Worried and upset about many things..."  Poor Martha.  Poor Me.  I AM MARTHA!!!  How often I let the cares of this world and things that are really so small and insignificant in the scope of time and eternity steal my peace and my joy.

Martha was a woman after my own heart.  She was probably an event planner on the side.  She liked to get things done - Pronto.  You know the old saying, "Plan your work and work your plan."  She liked it when the plan came together and everyone did their job.  She wanted everything to go smoothly and look nice. That's not bad, is it?  No, but it's not always good either.  Why not?

Sometimes we get so busy working our plan that we lose sight of who we're working for.  The deadline becomes more important than the bottom line.  The side things begin to overshadow the main thing.  The presentation takes precedence over the purpose and we lose sight of why we're really working and why we're really here.

Notice earlier in this passage the scripture tells us that Martha was "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" and later that she asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!".  Have you noticed that when you become distracted by the preparations you soon slip into the "don't you care" mode?  It always goes downhill from there.  Self pity is an ugly thing isn't it?  It doesn't look good on you or on me.

Mary had the right idea.  She chose to be focused on the most important thing in the room.  The Lord Jesus took priority over everything else - as He should!  We know that in our heads but why do we often struggle to make that choice?  Maybe because "we" are so often at the center instead of "He".  Maybe the preparations too often define us and that's why they have to be "just right".  

Maybe things don't have to be "just right" after all.  Maybe Martha should have ordered "Take Out".  You think???

Monday, November 16, 2015

Found Faithful

"Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful."               
                                                                                1 Corinthians 4:2

We often hear the encouragement that God doesn't want us to be successful, he wants us to be faithful.  In one sense that is certainly true.  However, I think that we can look at it as either or when success and faithfulness in God's dictionary are really one in the same.  As believers we don't have to choose success or faithfulness because with the Lord faithfulness is success!

The scripture reminds us in Isaiah  55:8-9 that God's perspective is so different from ours, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, " says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And my thoughts than your thoughts."

The world's definition of success is wealth, position, power, influence.  In the kingdom of God, success is found in faithfulness - faithfulness in being generous, compassionate, loving, hardworking, honest, loyal and the list goes on.  If we get off on the world's definition we will always be lacking in genuine purpose therefore we will never feel we have succeeded.  If we stay faithful to God's desires and His direction for our lives, we will embrace such a sense of fulfillment and purpose that even in the hard times we will know that we know that He is accomplishing His greater plan for us. 

 Some of the most honored and beloved believers who have gone before us and blazed mighty trails for the gospel were not successful in the eyes of the world.  They were often lacking in material possessions and of little power or influence.  Yet we still read about their lives today because they were faithful.

Faithfulness equals success in the kingdom of God.