Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Perfect Assurance of the Presence of God

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. -Jeremiah 1:9

We see in this passage of scripture that after the Lord told Jeremiah that he would go and proclaim a message to the people – people who would not be receptive to it, that the Lord reached out and touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said to him, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.”  The Lord reached out His hand and placed right in the prophet’s mouth what it was that He wanted him to say.  From then on Jeremiah had the assurance that the power of God was upon him.
The question for us today is, does God still place His Word in us today?  The answer is, absolutely.  The Lord is still placing His message in the hearts, minds, and mouths of His servants.  We have been called by the Lord, given a great commission, that we go therefore and teach all nations.  As we go the Lord will guide and direct us.  The message we share is not of human origin, but rather of divine origin.  We have the assurance from God that He is with us.  If God provides the assurance, then that is indeed perfect assurance.  There are few guarantees in the world.  We have no assurance that life will turn out the way we had hoped.  And we certainly have no assurance that life will be trouble free.  The Lord has made no such promise.  But we thank the Lord that He has promised to be with us and to comfort us every step of the way.  The assurance that the Lord offers is perfect because it will stand and is completely true.  Jesus promised His presence in our lives.  That is perfect assurance and the Spirit of the Lord will always be there to comfort and guide us through the dark times of life.

God is not in the business of discouraging people, but rather the Lord is all about encouraging people – that’s you and me. In our darkest hour and our times of discouragement we have the presence of God to help us.  There is plenty of darkness and discouragement in the world, but Christ brings light and encouragement – at all times and through all circumstances. The last place we want to find ourselves is wandering through the pain of discouragement.  Christ beings encouragement to us, for He knows us and He is with us.  Just as God promised Jeremiah that He had called him would be there, and would empower him, so will the Lord do all that and more for us.  Don’t allow yourself to be pulled down by the weight of discouragement – for the Lord is with us.  William Ward had this to say about discouragement:  

Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God.

God placed before Jeremiah a great and grand vision of what was going to be, and the Lord promised that it would all come to pass.  The Lord will hasten to do in our lives all that He has promised.  When is the time to start believing that wonderful truth?  

How about right now?  Trust the Lord, receive the salvation He offers, and claim the assurance of His presence.  Move forward, not in fear, but in faith.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Powerful Encouragement of our Relationship With God

"Ah, Sovereign Lord," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord." -Jeremiah 1:6-8

We see in this passage that like some others who God called into His service, Jeremiah expressed his unworthiness.  He told the Lord that he was like a child; incapable of speech and accomplishing what God had called him to do.  In other words, Jeremiah was saying that God would do just as well to call a little child to do the job.  What intrigues me about this is how like that we are when God calls us to accomplish something for His kingdom.  We say things like, “Lord, I am just not up to the task, I cannot speak in front of people, I am not a spiritual person, and I lack the skills needed to do what you’re calling me to do.”
 Let me ask a question in response to such an attitude: When we think that way, are we not questioning God’s power?  Are we not greatly underestimating God’s ability to work in us and through us?  Of course we are.  Since when is God not capable of doing what He has said He will do?  Since when is the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth, incapable of working His will in His followers?  That has never described the Lord.  He is able to do what He calls us to do – in us, through us, and despite our flaws and weaknesses.  We are simply instruments in the hands of the master.  We are called to place ourselves in His hands, be ready, be faithful, and let God work through us. 

Notice that God had a quick response for Jeremiah: Don’t say you are not able, for you will go to those to whom I am sending you, and you will say what I tell you to say.  When God gives us such a command we do well to heed and obey – without question and without hesitation.  God always encourages us to move forward in faith.  The Lord drove the point home in verse 8.  The KJV puts it like this: “Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee.”  I love this terminology which the Lord gives to the prophet Jeremiah.  Don’t be afraid of their faces.  You will recall the statement about how if looks could kill…I’d be dead on the floor, right?  Some people have the gift of giving a look that says clearly, “You don’t want to cross me, because I will verbally take you apart.  You may have grown up with a parent who could give that look as the need arose.  You may even be married to someone who can give that look.  For what it’s worth, I don’t have it.  I can never give that look.  It’s the same situation when I try to get angry and tell someone off.  My voice gets all high and whiny and sounds more like a comedy routine than a serious dressing down (Maybe that's not a bad thing).

God was reminding Jeremiah that the people he would be preaching to would not only give him that look, but they were prepared to take action to back it up.  The Lord reminded Jeremiah not to be afraid; of their looks or what they might do.  As the Lord encouraged and empower Jeremiah, so will the Lord help and guide us through any trial, situation and problem we will ever face.  Jesus calls us to reach out to a lost world with humility, grace, and compassion.  We need not fear those we are trying to reach for Christ because we have the Lord on our side. And if we have Him, then we everything – all we need.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Personal Nature of our Standing with God

The word of the Lord came to me: "What do you see, Jeremiah?" "I see the branch of an almond tree," I replied.  The Lord said to me, "You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled." -Jeremiah 1:11, 12

The Bible says in the 1st chapter of Jeremiah that the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.  That means that the Spirit of God placed a message in the prophet’s heart, and since it was from God it was intended to be told.  Understand that when God places something on our hearts that is meant to be shared with others, then we will know it.  This is where we find the prophet Jeremiah.  What the Lord told him in chapter 1:5 was this: Before I formed you I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart as a prophet to the people.  God called Jeremiah in a manner that was so deeply personal that before he was even born, God already had a plan for his life.  Long before Jeremiah stood before the people and proclaimed a message from the Lord, God had planned that this would be his calling.  Because Jeremiah had been faithful to that calling he could move forward in boldness and confidence of God’s love, power, and guidance.

Just as God called Jeremiah before he was born, God still does that today.  When each one of us was being formed within the wombs of our mothers God knew who we were and He had a plan for our lives.  Like the prophet Jeremiah, God set us apart for service in His kingdom.  This is why I believe that all life is sacred and that every child deserves a chance at life.  If we believe that God creates life, then it follows that what God creates is sacred. We as a society have missed the mark and are way out of touch with God if we stop believing that every little baby is sacred to God.  Any society that ceases to value and cherish human life, even before the child is born, is headed down a path to destruction.
-God reaches out to all people because He loves all people, and that loves begins before we ever step foot into this world. Such is the personal nature of our standing with God.  He loves us and He knows us in a manner that is deeply personal.  I believe that for the nine months that my dear mother carried me in her womb that God knew that my purpose in life was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Before you were born God knew what His plan for your life was and that you were to be a vital part of His kingdom.  Lets’ not forget that God has long desired that people come to faith in Him: II Peter 3:9 says:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God calls us personally, lovingly, and gently, because He cares for us.  And because He is with us, we need not live in fear, but rather we can walk by faith.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Call of God

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." -Jeremiah 1:4, 5

The book of Jeremiah ought to get us to thinking about what is known as “The call of God.”  Anyone who considers him or herself a follower of Christ must somehow come to terms with this issue regarding the call.  The Bible shows us that God has called us to be His followers, and He has also called us to specific tasks and responsibilities in His kingdom.  We mistakenly believe sometimes that the call of God is only for the prophets of old and the preachers of today.  The prophet of God was called and so is the one who preaches the gospel, but the call of God is for all believers.  God has called you and me into His service in order to fulfill a divine purpose.  You see, when we come to understand the call, we come to better realize our reason for being here in the world in the first place.  When a person ceases to believe that he has a good reason for being here, then that individual is heading for trouble – spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically.  The Lord has not called us to drift our way through life, but rather the Lord has called us to walk forward in the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus.

When we begin to comprehend the truth of God’s call, we start to overcome the fears that can so easily hinder us in the faith.  The Lord is with us, and therefore we should not be afraid.  As the Lord was with Jeremiah, so He is with us.  When we stop believing this vital truth we do so at our own peril.  In the call of God we find purpose and meaning in life.  Right in the midst of the struggles and trials of life we can stand firm, for we are firmly planted - not upon our own strength and abilities, but upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  

I have heard it said that everyone needs something to believe in.  We can find what we are looking for in a personal relationship with Christ.  No matter your age, where you have been, or what you have done, there is grace and healing in the Lord.  As the Bible says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).  Do not believe the devil's lie that it's too late.  As long as we live and breath there is hope in Christ.

The Lord is calling you into His kingdom and into His service.  Open your heart and respond to the call today.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of Memory

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.  -Genesis 8:1

 Have you ever stopped and considered the power of memory?  Our memories can be a real blessing, but memory can create problems for us as well.  I love to relive pleasant memories of enjoyable times and funny stories.  However, what causes us trouble us when we recall painful events that we would rather not ever think about.  Perhaps you have found that at times one of those memories just sort of pops into your head without even trying and you find yourself maybe getting sad or upset all over again.  This is where we trust God with not only our hearts, but also our minds.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we allow the Lord to direct our thoughts to those which are useful, beneficial, and will enhance our walk with the Lord.  Recall what Romans 12:2 says about not being conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds:  The Word of God renews our minds in such a way that we can put from us negative and harmful thoughts and memories, while at the same time embracing those that are helpful and worth reliving.

God has shown us that He too recalls what needs to be remembered and He does to our benefit.  Recall Genesis 8:1: The Bible says that after the flood that God remembered Noah.  God had not forgotten the promise He had made to Noah that if he was faithful then he would be blessed, and because of his faithfulness God protected Noah and his family while the entire world perished.  Like Noah, God will not forget us.  He remembers us during our time of need and during those times when we are down and discouraged.  God will not forget us.

God’s memory is also ongoing to our benefit.  Genesis 9:15 says that God told Noah that He would remember the covenant that He made and that He would not again destroy the world by water.  When God makes a promise He is going to keep it.  He will not forget and He will not renege on the promise.  Something that I find as I study the scriptures is that God does not recall to us our past mistakes and failures.  Instead, He recalls the good He has promised.  Isn’t that a powerful example for us?  If we will take this to heart we will find a great blessing in the way we look at life and the way we treat one another.  One of the most destructive things we can do to one another in the church, in our families, between friends, or in a marriage is to bring up past mistakes and failures and use them as weapons.  The reason that is unfair is because none of are perfect and we have all made mistakes and have failed at one time or another.  We do one another great harm to drag those events up and use them against one another.  God does not and will not do that to us.  Rather, He demonstrates to us His grace which is ongoing and always merciful.  

As we have been shown grace and mercy, we are then called to go forth and show grace and mercy to others (See Matthew 18:21-ff).  Now, is any of this easy?  The answer is of course not.  Human nature leads us to do that which goes against the grace and mercy of God.  It is by faith that God moves, works, and acts in our lives to our benefit and His glory.  And we must respond in faith and a Christ-like spirit to reap the blessings of that grace. We see in scripture that when the wrath of God comes, what follows is His mercy and grace.  God will remember what He has promised and He will recall the covenant He has made with us.  Time and time again we find where God remembers His servants and He does so in a positive way.  He doesn’t shake His head and say, “Oh my, what a bunch of losers,” but rather God recalls us with love.  

God is perfectly willing to show us mercy when we trust in Him and put our faith in Him.  We know that according to the Word of God that even the vilest sinner can be saved who is willing to trust in the Lord.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Grace and Power of God in Troubled Times

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.  Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. -Acts 16:23-25

Historians and scholars, even secular ones, will agree that no one has ever spread the gospel of Christ with more zeal and determination than Paul the Apostle.  To say that he was a tireless worker is indeed an understatement.  Paul was a man who never stopped; he worked for the gospel of Christ constantly.  A year or two ago I read a wonderful book by John Maxwell entitled “Today Matters.”  I recall John Maxwell saying in his book that he could spend a day with someone and afterward tell if the person was using his or her time wisely and accomplishing God's will and purposes.  When I first read that I confess that I was intimidated at the prospect of John Maxwell, a man I have admired from a distance for many years, spending a day with me and just observing me.  Do you know something?  I no longer feel that way.  Brother Maxwell is welcome to come and spend a day with me any time he wants, and I am no longer intimidated by that prospect.  But here’s something else; how would I have felt about Paul the Apostle spending some time with me?  While that would be great, I am indeed a little intimidated by that thought.  Paul was a man who I am thinking only slept when he had to because the rest of the time he was doing the work of the gospel.

Acts 16 describes how that Paul and Silas were conducting missions work in the city of Philippi.  While there they saw a true movement of the Holy Spirit.  On one occasion Paul drove a demon from a servant girl thus rendering her useless to her owners for the purpose of fortune telling.  The men were arrested, brutally whipped, and cast into the city prison, which would have been little more than a dungeon.  Go to and search for Philippi.  You will find some wonderful pictures of the ancient city as well as a picture of what may have been the ruins of the actual jail where this event happened.  I looked at those pictures and I shuddered at the thought of being chained in that dark underground dungeon.  Try to imagine the scene: Paul and Silas were probably still bleeding from their wounds, they were in chains, and they began to sing hymns of praise to God (v 25).  This is faith that is truly living, active, and real.  They had made up their minds to trust in the Lord regardless of the circumstances.  I wonder if I could be that upbeat in the midst of such circumstances.  Could any of us?  I believe that the answer is yes, because the same faith Paul and Silas possessed is available to you and me through faith in the Lord Jesus.  

Whatever circumstances you are facing today, trust the Lord, look to Him, and hold fast to the Lord's stong and mighty hand.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Avoiding Foolish Arguments and Remaining Focused on Christ

Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.-II Timothy 2:23, 24

The question has been posed that if I was arrested on charges of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?  Would there not only be evidence in my house, but evidence in my life?  Would witnesses come forward and testify against me that I have indeed been living the Christian life?  Or would prosecutors have to drop the charges for lack of evidence?  The goal of the Christian life is to have overwhelming evidence in our lives that we are absolutely committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible instructs us to avoid, have nothing to do with, foolish arguments and controversies.  Oh that more people would take this to heart.  I have found that many couples have their worst conflicts over disagreements that in the broad scheme of things don’t amount to much.  Believers sometimes face the same situations.  The body of Christ has suffered great harm over foolish arguments that in the broad scheme of things really do not amount to anything.  Some situations we have to take a stand upon.  If something clearly goes against scripture we have to reject it.  But if it’s one of those non-essentials we should look hard at it before we allow ourselves to become divided over it.  A relative of mine told me about how that she served once as team mom on a youth sports league.  Part of her responsibilities involved taking a turn in the concession stand. While trying to help out she found herself embroiled in a conflict between some of the moms.  The conflict centered around the kind of hot-dogs they would use.  And apparently the situation become heated and downright ugly.  If we aren’t careful the same thing can happen within the body of Christ.

The Word tells us not to quarrel, but rather to be kind to everyone.  If someone comes against us and is unkind toward us, then seek an opportunity to instruct that person on how to grow in the faith.  And do so gently, the Bible teaches that meekness and humility are attributes to be desired by the believer.  Humility is not a sign of weakness, but rather spiritual strength.  When we become arrogant and proud we open ourselves up to the snares of the devil.  Humility keeps us in check; we become aware of the temptationa that are around us, and we realize that we had better keep our wits about us and be self-controlled and alert.  Pride and arrogance takes the attitude that such a thing would never happen to me, and we then make ourselves a target for the devil.
We can easily think back to those who have been brought down by the problem of pride and arrogance.  They believed themselves invincible to the attacks of the evil one, and as a result they became targets. 
The Bible calls us to stand firmly against the ways of the world and the wiles of Satan.  We grow stronger one day at a time and one step at a time, knowing that the Lord blesses a humble heart and spirit.

The Lord is faithful and He will never let us down.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Growing in Faith and Righteousness

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  
-II Timothy 2:22

The Word of God shows us that we are called to always be growing in the Lord.  The follower of Christ is not to remain where we are in terms of our faith, but rather we are called to be growing.  The Bible says in II Tim. 2 that one of the first steps toward spiritual growth is to flee from the evil desires of our youth.  The idea is that when we were younger we lacked the restraint, self-control, and discipline we are now capable of possessing.  When we find a young person who is self-controlled and disciplined, that is indeed a person of rare quality.  The temptations we were apt to surrender to when we were younger we leave behind for a more mature outlook on life.
Now, having left behind the spiritually immature ways of our youth, what direction are we to go?  The Bible says to pursue righteousness.  Seek the Lord in such a way that all aspects of our lives are characterized by godly and righteous living.  Paul the Apostle said in I Corinthians 13:11 that when he was a child he spoke, thought, and reasoned like a child.  But what happened when he became a man?  He put childish ways behind him.  People often have trouble putting away from them the childish ways of their youth.  The time for behaving as we did when we were children is now behind us.  When I was a little boy I had a collection of GI Joes.  Remember those?  If I had that collection in good condition today I would think those might be worth something to a collector.  As a small boy I spent countless hours playing with those things.  But I would look odd playing with GI Joes today, wouldn’t I?  That’s not something a 48 year old man does.

As we follow and pursue righteousness we leave behind the immature ways of our youth.  From there we seek to grow in faith, love, and peace.  Notice that none of those attributes are immediate in our lives.  They must be developed over time.  And here’s something else to consider: To grow in these qualities requires effort and discipline.  We come to faith in Christ, and then we begin a life-long journey of growing in Him. That’s a journey that doesn’t end as long as we live.  We are called to keep on growing, thriving, and learning in the Word of God.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Moving Mountains

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." -Matthew 17:20

I think that all of us have something that fascinates us, and I have long been fascinated with the subject of mountain climbing.  Specifically, climbing Mt. Everest.  Now, I have no plans to try and climb Mt. Everest (or any mountain, for that matter), but I am intrigued with why people attempt it in the first place.  I watch every documentary I can find on the subject, and I never tire of reading about it.  Here is what I have learned: 

  • The elevation is 29,035.  The mountain was named after Sir George Everest in 1865, the British surveyor-general of India. It was once known as Peak 15.  
  • The First Ascent: May 29,1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary, NZ and Tenzing Norgay, NP.  
  • Youngest person to make the climb: Temba Tsheri (NP) 15 on May 22, 2001.  
  • Oldest Person to make the climb: Sherman Bull May,25,2001 -64 years.  
  • First Legally Blind Person to make the climb: Erik Weihenmeyer May 25, 2001.  
  • Most dangerous area on mountain: Khumbu Ice Fall-19 deaths.  
  • Corpses remaining on Everest: about 120.  

Here were people who were utterly committed to climbing that mountain, but what I want you to think about today isn’t mountain climbing, but mountain moving.  Consider what Jesus said about moving the mountains that get in our way.  What are some truths we learn from this?  If you have faith that size of a mustard seed you can do what looks to be impossible.   One thing I know for certain is this: never trying or giving up guarantees that what I desire to accomplish will not happen.  I often believe that in order to accomplish God’s will in my life that I have to possess faith the size of the mountain itself.  Jesus said nothing of the sort.  The Lord said that even if we possess only a small amount of faith that we can do God’s will in ways that will exceed anything we would have believed possible.  This is the nature of faith: Great faith is always desirable, but God can and will work with the faith do possess, even if it's only a small amount, or the size of a mustard seed.  

We must begin somewhere, and if we only have a small amount of faith we can still accomplish what God would have us to do.  The argument of, “Well, I just don’t have enough faith,” is not valid for the believer.  What does the Bible say about the belief that we don’t have enough faith?  We can ask for more.  James 1:6 says: 

"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

The Word of God is clear that if we lack faith, then the course we can take is to ask God for more, and then believe that we will receive it.  We ask in faith and we receive in faith.  And we leave the results with God.

The mountains we face can be moved from out of our way.  By the power of God and through faith, we can have the victory in Christ.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Providing Life Lessons to Those who are Seeking

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.  -Proverbs 1:5

The Bible says that if a person is wise that he will listen and will add to his learning.  So much of what we teach those around us is through example.  I have found myself out in public before and realized that someone is watching me.  I was being watched because I was on camera.  I have read that these days just about everywhere we go there are cameras watching and recording our every move.  No doubt you have seen on the news, as I have also, the actions of people who were unaware that they were being filmed, and their behavior was shocking and embarrassing.  This makes me think about something: When I find myself in a situation where I have the opportunity to do the right thing or conduct myself in Christ-like manner, I picture myself being filmed.  I then imagine my behavior being replayed for everyone to see.  Would I be pleased with how the situation went, or would I be mortified?  My hope is that the world would see in me a positive witness for the Lord, and that others could use that as a lesson in the faith.  

These opportunities will come our way every day that we are out in the world.  The Bible teaches that we are in the world, but we are not of the world.  We have weapons and we fight battles, but they are not the same weapons and not the same battles as the world fights.  We are to handle life and its challenges differently from those who do not have the Lord in their lives.  What about this concept of providing examples for others – for younger believers?  Don’t we have a God-given responsibility to demonstrate for younger believers what mature faith looks like?  Indeed we do.
Last week I went with Andrea to a doctor appointment, and they were running way behind.  We sat there a good while before we were finally informed that our wait would be even longer.  I had not eaten, was getting tired, and becoming more irritable by the minute.  I thought to myself that maybe I would just go to that window and give those folks a piece of my mind; just really tell them off.  I was pacing around in the hallway outside the office and growing angrier by the minute, and I felt the Lord communicating something to me. Here is what I felt the Lord was telling me: “If you want to go in there and tell someone off, bawl someone out, raise your voice and have a fit, you go right ahead.  But understand this: If you do that, you will be completely on your own; I will have no part of it.”  I stood there a while and soon recalled a wonderful verse: I Peter 5:5 which says, 

“But God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  

As I thought about that verse, the Lord moved in my heart and I knew that if took that attitude, that the Lord would be with me all of the way.  When I chose to take the humble and Christ-like approach, I found a peace in the midst of my frustration - a wonderfully calming peace.  The Lord saved me from making a scene and being a terrible example of the faith.  That would not have been a good witness for me at all.  These kind of life lessons are always before us.  We have an opportunity to show the world what a sincere and honest follower of Christ looks like. And we can let others see Jesus in us.

As growing and maturing followers of Christ, we are called to take the lead and set an example of the faith as we are commanded in scripture.  Take on the mind of Christ.  When faced with a challenge or when our patience and faith are tested, resolve to be like Jesus in every way.  The peace of the Lord will then settle upon us and we will have the victory - and we will be strengthened along the way.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Setting an Example that Others can Follow

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  -I Peter 5:1-3

The scripture shows us that there is a right way and a wrong way to grow older.  A wrong way is to surrender to bitterness and regret, and to stop being productive in our service to the Lord.  A right way can be found in I Peter 5.  Peter identifies himself as one who is going along on the same road as those to whom he is writing.  He too was growing older, heading toward the final glory, and he wanted to make sure that those latter years were as productive as possible.  He stated that the elders of the church needed to be about the work of feeding the flock.  How does that apply to us?  As we grow older we are to be setting an example that the younger members of the church can follow.  We do well to take seriously the gravity of this responsibility.

Feeding the flock involves loving one another and setting an example that others can follow.  The Bible says in verse 2 of the above passage that we do this not because we have to, but because Christ has called us to – and because it’s the proper response to the call of God in our lives.  We don’t serve out of greed or for the love of money, but rather we serve the Lord because He has called us into His service.  Therefore, we seek to feed the flock of the Lord: spiritually, emotionally, lovingly, gently, and with sound faith and doctrine. When we set an example for others to follow, we are taking to heart a stance also taken by Paul the Apostle when he challenged others to follow his lead, for he was following Christ. I Thessalonians 1:6 says, 

“You became imitators of us and the Lord; in spite of severe suffering.”  

Setting an example for others will involve so solid a witness that we do not mind at all, in fact we welcome, someone watching us as an example of the faith.  We don’t lord it over one another, but rather we look to Jesus and the ultimate reward of the faith which is heaven one sweet day.  Do not forget that the world is watching to see if we are sincere in out faith.  Younger and less mature believers are looking for examples of how mature Christians live and conduct themselves.  Will we take on this responsibility?  Will we so place Christ first in our lives that we are willing to be examples of the faith?  As we seek to grow in the faith, do not forget those who need encouraged along the way.  Reach out, pull them up, come alongside them with a reminder of God's grace and patience, and be a living and breathing example of what genuine faith in the Lord looks like.

In a sin-darkened and troubled world, followers of Jesus have the opportunity to demonstrate that there is a better way - the way of the cross.  Resolve to take up the cross daily and walk with the Lord.  Become the example which Christ has called us to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Springtime is Just Around the Corner!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  –Romans 8:18 

About this time of year I begin to long for spring.  I start looking forward to warmer weather, clear skies, green grass, and the return of the hummingbirds.  What a blessed thought that is as I sit here typing with the howling wind outside, plunging the temperature into the single digits.  During the winter I also miss being able to sit outside on the carport, enjoying some coffee and having my morning prayer time.  During some of these freezing, cloudy, and gloomy days I think that is one of my motivations for looking ahead: The knowledge that a brighter day is coming.

Paul the Apostle did some looking ahead as well.  As he toiled onward, preaching the gospel and suffering intense persecution, he continued looking forward to a brighter day which he knew was coming.  Paul was a man familiar with hard times.  He had been beaten, harassed, imprisoned, mocked, threatened, and on one occasion stoned and left for dead.  Through it all, however, he kept moving forward, looking toward a bright and blessed time when his troubles would be over.  Paul stated that when that time finally arrived, all of the sufferings that he had endured would be overshadowed by the wondrous glory of heaven.  So wonderful will that time be, Paul concluded, that he would not just tolerate life, but rather thrive while here and work as hard as he possibly could.

As I look forward to springtime, I could say that being able to experience the beauty of spring helps me to tolerate the discomfort of winter.  But that’s actually a negative attitude, isn’t it?  A better perspective would be to say that springtime is so glorious, that the knowledge of what’s waiting ahead motivates me to work that much harder in anticipation of it.  For the believer, the knowledge that heaven is waiting for us at the end of life can have a similar effect.  Rather than sit back and bide our time, we are instead motivated to work all that much harder – not just surviving, but living life to it’s fullest.  I desire to not just get through the winter, but rather to be as pro-active and productive as possible as I wait for that glorious springtime.
Yes, the days are cold and dreary, but a brighter day is coming.  Indeed, sometimes life can be hard, but take heart: A bright and blessed day is ahead.  Resolve to give God our best every day.  Don’t settle for surviving the winter, but rather live each day to the fullest in service to Christ.  Springtime is just around the corner!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Singled out for God’s Love

But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, "You are my servant"; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  -Isaiah 41:8, 9

Here the Lord is reminding the people of the history of Israel and how that God went about calling certain people to accomplish His will and purpose.  Just as God called Abraham and Isaac, so He also called Jacob – later to be called Israel.  That divine calling was then extended to all of Jacob’s descendants, and the call of God is now extended to the entire world – to all who will put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christianity is not a club with limited membership.  Rather, it is intended to be shared with all people; everyone is compelled to come in, and all people are invited to put their faith in Christ.
In the midst of this comes that individual calling: God reaching out to you and me on an individual basis.  Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”  The Lord has always been about singling people out for coming into His kingdom, and the Lord has always been endeavoring to call people into service in His kingdom.  Christ is still calling people to come and follow.  Just as He called the first disciples, so He calls us today.  Resist the temptation to be alike a lot of people who think they can just try Christianity on for size, and if they don’t like it, they can just walk away.  The call of God doesn’t work like that at all.  Jesus made it clear that we are either in or out; on His side or on the other side; for Him or against Him.  When it comes to service in Christ’s kingdom we are called to be wholly and totally committed.  There can be no sitting the fence in the Lord’s kingdom.  He has called us; singled us out for His service, and we are challenged to follow Him.  Our lives will never be the same when we take that step of faith and begin to follow the Lord Jesus.  As Jesus’ followers we will suffer persecution, the world will hate us, we may be mocked and ridiculed, and we may even be martyred for our faith.  But in the end we gain eternal life, and while we are here we have the peace of God in our hearts.
Jesus posed the question about what it profits a man if he gains the entire world but forfeits his soul (Mark 8:36).  We might gain the world and all it has to offer, but if we forfeit our eternal souls we have lost everything.  Following Jesus is not something we put on then take off.  We are called to put on Christ, take up His cross daily, and follow Him.  Have you ever owned an article of clothing, a shirt perhaps, and one day you were out and you saw someone else wearing the same shirt?  And you didn’t like what you saw, so you no longer wanted to wear the shirt?  God forbid that we treat Christianity that way.  There are people in the world who are not doing a good job of representing Christ to the world, but we cannot allow that to discourage us.  We are called to take the faith with the utmost seriousness, and we are called to be the light of Jesus in a sin-darkened world.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No Greater Love

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. -John 15:13

There are a number of traditions associated with Valentine's Day, and getting to the actual facts of the observance can be a challenge.  Some sources say that the day was set aside in 469 A.D., by Pope Gelasius to honor Saint Valentine.  However, the exact identity of the saint is less certain.  One tradition holds that a Roman emperor banned soldiers from marrying, and that Saint Valentine took issue with this decree.  He then became an advocate of the soldiers and was eventually executed due to his outspokenness.  Another tradition holds that Saint Valentine was arrested for his faith in Christ and sentenced to death.  Before his execution he sent a note to a loved one and signed it, "From your Valentine."  Of the two possibilities we would probably hold to the latter one with greater devotion, for it moves our hearts to think of someone courageous enough to consider another as the hour of his own death approached.

For followers of Christ, we do well to consider that kind of sacrificial attitude.  Jesus said that there is love, but there is a greater love - the kind that is willing to sacrifice one's very life for another.  Would we be able, were some set of circumstances warrant it, to lay down our lives for someone else?  I have no doubt that I would willingly do that for my wife, my sons, my little grandson, my brother, sister, or my parents, as well as some dear friends.  Jesus said that this is indeed the greatest and most powerful expression of love.  But what about those with whom I have no emotional connection?  What about an enemy?  Would I die for such a person?  The Lord Jesus did just that.  He laid down His life for the world - any and all who are willing to put their faith in Him.  That sacrifice remains in effect.  The Lord still holds open the door to any and all people who will by faith receive Him as Savior and Lord - and that irregardless of whether or not they were once His enemy or His friend.  Such love defies human reason and contradicts the world's ideas about who is worthy of receiving such a supreme sacrifice.

Remember also that sacrificial love is applied to our lives on a day-to-day basis.  The Bible speaks in Romans 12:1 of Jesus' followers living each day as "living sacrifices."  The idea is that every day we go forth in the world having died to the old way we used to live with all our self-centeredness, selfishness, and bitterness.  We have sacrificed our will in favor of God's will, and as a result we have become new creations in Christ Jesus.  No longer are we burdened by the hatred, sin, and evil that once kept us enslaved.  The chains of those dark forces fell powerless behind us by the overwhelming love of Christ.  Having been rid of such a burden, we are now free to walk forward in the abundant life to which the Lord has called us.

People everywhere today are sending out Valentines.  Have you bought one for your spouse or significant other?  Time may be running out, but if you hurry you may find a few left at the store.  In the meantime, send out a message everywhere that Christ is love and that there is salvation and hope in Him.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Step into the Water

Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river. -Joshua 3:8

I love this verse because of its wonderful power and simplicity.  The order was for the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the water of the Jordan and stand there.  Nothing was going to happen until they first stepped into the water.  Do you know why a lot of Christians are not experiencing the fullness of God’s grace and power?  They have never stepped into the water – spiritually speaking.  The Lord invites us to wade out into the water of a relationship with Him.  And after we have stood there in that blessed relationship we are then invited to move out into deeper water.  Someone will say, “Well, I don’t know if I can do that or not; I get really nervous at the thought of wading deeper into my relationship with God.  I may get knocked down by the current.” My response is, you have nothing to fear.  The Lord won’t let you get swept away in the current.  In fact, He will stop the water altogether – just like He did here in this situation.  The latter part of Joshua 3 says that when the priests stepped into the water that the flow of water upstream stopped, which allowed the people to cross over toward the Promised Land (See vv 16, 17). 

If we want to experience the fullness of God’s blessings then we must step forward in faith.  We must be willing to get our feet wet in the water of God’s mercy and faithfulness.  Understand that no one can do that for me but me, and no one can do that for you except you.  By faith we move forward into the will of God.  There is no other way to reach the Promised Land apart from moving forward in faith.  Had the priests been unwilling to move forward I have no doubt that God would have found some others who were willing to go.  But that wasn’t God’s plan; He had called them to step out on faith and to stand in the waters of the Jordan River

God has called you and me to be faithful and to move forward into deeper blessings in Him.  Anyone can just mosey around on the east side of the Jordan River.  Doing that wouldn’t require any faith at all.  But it takes faith, commitment, dedication, and yes, courage, to advance forward into the rushing waters of the river of life.  When we feel that water rushing around our feet it’s easy to get a little panicky.  But God has the power to calm our fears, dry up the water, and allow us to cross over into His will.  None of it will happen, however, unless we take that first step of faith. 

Let us not forget that God is able and He can still do the impossible – in us, through us, and all around us.  People get all hung up on trying to figure out who they are.  First, remember whose we are.  Do that, take that first step of faith, and the rest will begin to fall into place.  If we are in Christ then we belong to Him.  He will empower us to go forward into heights of faith and depths of grace we would not have imagined possible. 

Seek the Lord today, trust in Him, remember that we are His and He is with us all of the time.  Step out into the waters of faith and God will help us to move forward.

Friday, February 12, 2010

God’s Spirit in the Hearts of the Faithful

And the Lord said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses." -Joshua 3:7

The Lord was telling Joshua that He was about to do something truly special for him.  God told Joshua that He was going to so work in his life that the people would know beyond any doubt that Joshua was a trusted leader.  I am trying to get my mind around the magnitude of such a blessing.  God was going to so move and work in Joshua’s life that the people would have no reservations about looking to him for leadership. Understand that the only way God will entrust us with such a divine calling is if we are faithful.  Had Joshua not been 100% committed to God, and then he would not have had this special blessing.  Being a spiritual leader is a sacred challenge and a divine calling.  It’s something that those in church leadership do well to take seriously.

But listen: God wasn’t doing this work in Joshua’s life in order to glorify Joshua.  Rather, God was working in Joshua’s life that the people might glorify God.  The Spirit of the Lord always moves and works in the hearts of the faithful.  When we are faithful, we can expect a movement of God’s Spirit.  Countless people miss out on God’s blessings because they don’t ever expect the Lord to do anything in their lives.  Doesn’t the scripture have something to say about praying, asking, believing, and receiving?  The answer is an emphatic yes.  When we stop expecting to receive a blessing from the Lord, then can you imagine what happens?  There’s a good chance we will miss out on the blessings the Lord wants to bestow upon us. 

Fortunately for us, the Lord moves, works, and blesses despite ourselves.  I cannot count the times when the Lord has done some amazing works and miracles in my life – and I was so spiritually blind that I nearly missed it.  All I had to do was open my arms and the Lord dropped these blessing upon me – showered me with them! Jesus said that these blessings and spiritual power would work in our lives even if we had faith the size of a mustard seed.  How much more when we have great faith – the kind that just gets warmed up by moving mountains?  Joshua strikes me as a man who wouldn’t be contented with anything less than great faith – the kind that not only moves mountains, but also confronts anything that stands in the way of God’s will.

For me, that is the kind of faith I desire.  It’s the kind of faith that does not cower in fear, but rather boldly confronts the enemy.  That’s the kind of faith that faces down a king and says, “Let my people go.”  It’s the sort of faith that blows trumpets and walls come tumbling down.  That is faith that advances towards a mighty host of the enemy with a handful of men while shouting, “The sword of the Lord and the sword of Gideon,” and the enemy runs away in confusion.  That is faith that empowers a teenage shepherd to confront a giant with a sling and a stone and by the power of God be victorious.
Are you getting a picture here?  That is the same kind of faith available to you and me.  We claim it through faith that does not waver and believes God – no matter what.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

God is With us all of the Time

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  -Joshua 1:9

As followers of Christ we have the assurance and the certainty that we are never alone, for the Lord is with us.  And the Lord is not only with us, but He goes before us preparing the way.  For Noah, God made a way through the flood.  For the Israelites God made a way through the wilderness.  For three Hebrew boys thrown into a fiery furnace, God made a way of deliverance for them.  For Daniel, a man of integrity who would not bow down under an order that he cease from praying and seeking God, the Lord made a way out of the lion’s den.  As God made a way for the saints of old, so He will also make a way for us.  The Lord does that because He loves us.  The Lord knows that we often struggle through the trials and difficulties of life.  God knows that we are fragile and weak human beings who sometimes get discouraged when we face what seem to be impossible odds.  But God will make a way for us – because He is with us all of the time.  Whatever I may face, and whatever you may face, as long as we have the Lord in our lives we can face it with the full confidence of His presence, grace, and power.  Don’t ever start thinking that we are alone; we aren’t.  Don’t start believing that God has abandoned us; He hasn’t.  Never start believing that the situation is hopeless; in God it isn’t.  There is always hope in the Lord.  God is indeed with us all of the time – that is a promise we can keep with us at all times and through all the trials of life.  

The Lord is ever reminding us of His presence in our lives. We have God’s Word, we have the wonder of creation, we have the evidence of the Lord working in the lives of those around us, and we have the Holy Spirit who daily reminds us of this truth: God is with us all of the time.  We stop believing that at our own peril.  Consider what Joshua told the people in Joshua 3:5: “Tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”  Joshua reminded the people that they needed to get ready, for the Lord was about to something great; something that would exceed their greatest expectations.  Doesn’t that sound like a look toward a vision from the Lord?  It does to me.  Look forward, not backward, because the Lord is about to work some miracles in your lives.  Once we take hold of that attitude of faith and expectation, then we begin to move forward in the fullness of God’s power, grace, and blessing.

When we live in the expectation that the Lord is going to inspire, empower, and guide our lives we will not be disappointed.  Never forget that the Lord is with us - all of the time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wholesome and Spiritual Thinking

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.  -II Peter 3:1, 2 (NKJV)

I Peter 3:1 reminds us that we are to be engaged in wholesome thinking.  Our minds are to be pure in thought and not given to fables, fairy tales, and predictions based upon pagan prophecy.  The opposite of pure thinking is impure thinking.  For the believer, impure thinking runs contrary to what Christ has called us to.  He has called us not to a reprobate mind, but to a mind that is guided by the Holy Spirit.  The scripture says that the carnal mind is death, but the spiritual mind is life and peace (Romans 8:6).  This is the attitude to which we are called in Christ Jesus.  All of this fear the can cloud our minds is the result of impure and unwholesome thinking, and that is not God’s will or plan for us.  Now more than ever the follower of Christ must walk a straight and narrow road which the Lord instructed us to walk.  The temptations are more prevalent than ever before.  There has always been temptation; it has just become more readily available in the present age.
This is why we would call to mind the words of the prophets of long ago.  The prophets of old all had a common message: Look not to the things of the world, but rather look to God.  Do not trust in self, nor bow down to idols, but look to God.  When we do that we will be given the power to stand firm during the troubled times of life.  We will have peace in the midst of the storms of life.  Furthermore, we will be freed from the fear about all these horrible events that may or may not ever come to pass. We look not to the ways of the world, but rather we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Is there anything wrong with laying up a supply of canned goods and maybe some fresh water and a generator in the event of some kind of extended power outage that came as the result of some catastrophe?  My answer is no; that could be a valuable practice.  But let’s not get carried away with that.  I saw recently a program on TV about a man who purchased from the government a de-commissioned missile silo which he is turning into underground luxury survival apartments, so people can be ready for 2012.  They start at around a million dollars.  That eliminates me right now.  I can just see the look on the loan officer’s face at the bank when I explain why I want to borrow a million or so dollars – it’s for my luxury survival bunker.  Here’s what’s interesting; the man has already sold several of his underground apartments, and I predict will sell most of them before 2012.  I don’t mean to sound glib, but no underground bunker is going to protect or hide anyone once the horsemen of the apocalypse take to the saddle.  When the events of the book of Revelation truly begin, people will have one choice; take the mark or take Jesus.  The latter, according to Revelation, will be killed.  I don’t think that we should get worried about all of that because we will have already met Christ in the air.

Do not give into fear, but rather look to Christ in sure and certain hope that as the Lord has promised, so will He remember us through the dark times of life as well as the end of time.  Our home in heaven is secure, our Savior is always near, and the Holy Spirit is here to guide us.  Trust in the Lord and rejoice in Him. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Trusting God During Troubled Times

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  -II Peter 3:3-5

All we need to do is look around us and we see that we are living in troubled times.  Jesus warned us about such trials as wars and rumors of wars, and we see that in the present age now more than ever.  But we also hear discussion about such catastrophes as a meteor or comet striking the earth and the damage that would inflict.  And lately I keep hearing that Yellowstone National Park is going to explode any minute now and pretty much wipe out life as we know it.  There’s also the possibility that a solar flare from the sun might shoot toward us with such force that the ozone layer of the earth is ripped open thus letting in all the ultra-violet rays of the sun.  If that happened scientists say we’d last a very short time.  And to top all of that, people have become fixated in the year 2012.  Some are saying that there’s going to be horrible cataclysms starting then and that the world is going to pretty much explode.  This last one tries my patience more than any other due to the origins of the fear – which by the way is causing people to act even stranger than they did the year before the calendar turned 2000.  That was supposed to be a global meltdown as well.  The 2012 scare comes from the ancient Mayan calendar which ends at 2012.  The ancient Mayans supposedly predicted that in 2012 great and terrible catastrophes would come upon the earth.  Even some believers appear to be buying into this foolishness.  Since when are we planning our future upon the predictions of the Mayans?  The Mayans were a pagan civilization who worshiped the sun, moon, and stars.  Not only that they weren’t smart enough to make a calendar that went past 2012! 

As followers of Christ we look not to the Mayan calendar, but to the Word of God.  Jesus said that no man knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man.  One day the world as we know it is going to end , but only God knows when that’s going to happen.  So, we move ahead, trust God, serve Him, and put our faith in Him at all times.

Do not give in to fear.  Trust the Lord, move forward in faith, and rejoice that we are in God's hands.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Radical Transformation

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  -Matthew 18:3

The Sunday school class was interrupted by the man who arrived late.  The teacher had just welcomed everyone and was going over some announcements when the door opened and John (not his real name) entered the room.  I had been inviting John to church for a number of weeks, but he had not shown up until that morning.  To say that John’s life was a mess is a gross understatement.  His life was an utter shambles.  John was an addict, an alcoholic, had been arrested, and had for a time been prostituting himself in exchange for drugs.  He had been fired from a number of jobs as a result of his addiction and during a recent conversation he confided in me that he was seriously considering suicide.  I implored John not to give up, to seek out professional help, and by all means put his faith in God.  When he walked into the Sunday school class that morning my spirits rose as did my hopes.  John just might make it after all.

John stood in stark contrast to the other adults gathered for Bible study that morning.  John wore faded blue jeans and a ragged shirt which looked slept in the previous night.  His eyes were bloodshot; his unshaven face pale, and his long hair was going all directions.  The time came for prayer requests.  John sat quietly and listened to the needs being shared around him.  He then raised his hand and indicated he would like to share a request.  He confessed that he had a drug problem and that he was going to try, with God’s help, to be delivered from his addiction.  John began to roll up his sleeves as he spoke.  He then held his arms out for the class to see.  From his wrists to his upper biceps were needle tracks from extended heroin use.   John stated that in the previous hours he had thrown away his needles resolving to never use them again.  “As long as I am a drug addict I can’t be right with God,” he said.  “I have to change.”  

John was right; absolutely and unequivocally correct.  He would never reach his full potential or experience the happiness that could be his until he made the radical change of abandoning the drugs that enslaved him.   Despite the efforts of numerous people who tried to help John overcome his addiction, he eventually left the area and was not heard from again.  But I will never forget his comment regarding the need for radical change in his life.  Unfortunately, John is representative of countless people who are in a similar condition.  Ultimately the only solution is radical change brought about through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus was clear on the point that entering into the kingdom of God requires that a change take place. Following Christ involves a transformation.  The mindset of being a follower of Christ, yet staying just as before, is contrary to the call that Jesus extends.  Transformation connotes a change so radical that the person is rendered nearly unrecognizable to his or her former self.  All aspects of life are affected.  Nothing is spared.  Undesirable habits are discarded, outlook becomes forward focused, attitude is improved, communication becomes positive, compassion is developed and demonstrated, and love for God and others becomes preeminent.   

The problems and circumstances you are facing may not be as dramatic as John's, but no doubt there are issues in your life that only faith in God can resolve.  The gospel call of Jesus Christ is to come to Him and be changed - for the better.  Be transformed into a new creation in the Lord.  The call goes out to all people from all walks of life: To the alcoholic, the drug addict, the thief, the adulterer, and to the one who has been dealt terrible blows by the trials of life.  The call comes to you and me.

Respond to the call of God and find new life in Jesus Christ.  Do not give up.  There is still hope in the Lord.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Self-Controlled and Alert

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  -I Thessalonians 5:5, 6 

I have it in my head that I have to be in control all of the time.  Mainly, I feel that way about my emotions.  I am always left feeling at a disadvantage if I lose my temper, become upset, or worse, begin to weep.  Maybe this latter one troubles me so much because long ago I somehow came to believe that real men don’t cry, or it’s somehow not manly to shed tears.  I devoted a lot of energy in my early adult life to not allowing myself to weep under any circumstances.  My, am I paying for that now. 
I find that these days I will become emotional over situations that years ago would not have affected me that way.  I get teary-eyed when I hold my little grandson, I will get weepy when I think about what fine young men my sons are growing into, and when I begin to consider the amazing grace of God – who has poured out His blessings on a sinner like me, then I truly feel some powerful emotions.  I would love to be in control of my emotions all of the time, but sometimes some tears can be healthy.  Whoever said that men should never cry honestly didn’t understand the depths of human emotion.

Of course, the Word of God speaks of another kind of self-control that is centered on personal conduct and thought processes.  We are admonished in scripture to keep our minds alert to anything that might pull us off track and derail our walk with Christ.  We are called to walk daily in the light of the Lord Jesus.  His light is to radiate from us as a witness of His grace in our lives.  As we walk in the light of Christ we give light to a world that for too long has been shrouded by the darkness of sin and evil.  Someone has said that rather than curse the darkness we can light a candle.  If the light the scripture speaks of is the love of Christ in us, then why not fan that flame into a roaring blaze?  And while we’re at it, why not let that blaze catch into all aspects of our lives?  The darkness that is all around us is not only pierced, but overcome by that light.

We take the light of the Lord with us as we walk through daily life; self-controlled and ready to do the will of God.  Do not be discouraged, and do not be afraid.  The Lord is more powerful than evil.  Jesus is greater than any problem, trial, or crisis we will ever face.  Trust in Him, seek Him, and move forward, ever growing in His blessed light. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Growing Deep Roots

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  –Ephesians 3:16-18 

There are a great many trees that line the woods behind the church parsonage where we have called home for the last 14 years.  A few of these massive trees have given way to high winds and one was struck by lightening, but in each case they fell away from the house – fortunately for us!  One tree, however, a 30 feet or so tall pine, has leaned threateningly toward the backyard for several years.  After the last big snow I noticed that the branches of the old pine leaned heavily toward the ground.  The tree appeared to be groaning under the weight of that new fallen snow.  I had a feeling that it wouldn’t last much longer. 

A day or two later I returned home one afternoon to discover that a large portion of the tree had given way and had fallen from the weight of the snow.  It landed on the back fence, but amazingly did not do any serious damage.  And fortunately, the doghouse and the carport were spared as well.  The problem was too much weight, too much pressure, and not enough support for the old tree to remain standing.  As I pondered that, however, I can’t help but think that perhaps the cause was a problem no one could see.  There are trees all across the woods behind the house which bore equal and greater amounts of weight, but they remained firmly planted.  I think that the old pine just didn’t have a strong enough root structure to withstand the pressure.  As a result she came crashing down. 
The Word of God admonishes us as followers of Christ to be rooted and established in love: The love of Christ, love for one another, and love for everyone around us.  From this love we grow roots that reach deep, thus empowering us to stand firmly in Christ when the storms and trials of life begin to weigh us down.  Perhaps you have felt yourself leaning under the weight of discouragement, fear, doubt, and problems.  In Christ you have been rooted and established.  The root system becomes stronger as we grow in the love of the Lord.  The most powerful aspect of who we are in Christ is that root system no one ever sees – just like those trees that are still standing through all those fierce winter storms.
Trust in the Lord, no matter what.  Love the Lord and let His love empower us to grow stronger in the faith.  Through Christ we reach deeper into our relationship with Him.  By His grace and power we will stand. 
Come what may, we will stand when we are rooted in the love of Christ.