Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Of Celery, Microwaves and Serving God

"Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;" Matthew 9.37

I was in the grocery store today in the produce section. I passed by a counter and saw this small bag of cut up celery. I glanced at the price tag. $1.99 it read. Celery was selling today at 59 cents a pound in the stalk. This little bag had less than a half pound and was selling for three times more. And in spite of this I was tempted to buy this little bag of cut up celery. Why? Well, it would save me time making dinner. I wouldn't have to cut the celery myself. In short, I wouldn't have to work as hard.

We live in a fast paced, busy world. We are on the go constantly. Even our children have appointment calendars these days. I don't think we are as much lazy people as we are busy ones and we take short cuts to get by. This is no big deal with celery or microwave dinners, but many of us also have been taking short cuts with our service to the Lord.

Many people are perfectly willing to pay their tithe to a local church, but will make all sorts of excuses when someone expects them to teach a Sunday school class, come out to a work day, bake a cake for the bake sale, or even just show up on Sunday night or midweek service. And the reasons we give are that we are just too busy and too tired.

But this does not change the fact that the fields are white unto harvest, that the laborers are few and that the night is coming. Too often we simply expect someone else to take care of the work of our Christianity. We hire our pastors and expect them to take care of everything. After all that's what they get paid for and, well, the rest of us are just too busy. But I don't see that the Great Commission said, "Go into all the world and teach all nations, except of course unless you are too busy to do so."

Very often, the reasons I am too busy are my own fault. I take on extra duties at work which I really didn't need to take on. I buy tickets to secular entertainment activities. I have dinner parties with my friends. I take the boss out to dinner. None of these things are wrong or bad, but when they take me away from serving God, then there is a problem. If I'm too busy to make it to church on Wednesday night, I should be too busy to make it to the ballet that night or the premier of that new film.

I was reminded today, that I have been short-cutting a lot in my life, and I was warned to not do so with my service to the Lord. So, I'm going to leave the shortcuts to my cooking, but I'm going to serve God with a full heart.

Lord, restore to me the fervor for your service. Amen

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Would See Jesus

"Sirs we would see Jesus" John 12

The story is told of a woman who was at a crafts fair who came upon the booth of a silversmith. She grew fascinated as she watched the man work on a silver ladle. He put the ladle into the fire. Then he polished it with a rag. Then he would look intently at the bowl of the ladle. Then back into the fire it went. Eventually, the woman spoke to the craftsman.

"Sir, that ladle looks fine to me. Why don't you put it out for sale and start work on another.?"
Photo Jeff Kubina

"No, ma'am," he answered, "This ladle is far from finished. It still has impurities in it. I will know when it is done."

Her curiosity piqued she asked, "But, sir, how will you know when it is finished." "Ma'am, I will know it is finished when I can see my own reflection clearly in the ladle."

Several years ago, Evie Tournquist sang a song which had the line, "Until you find him in the mirror, you've got a long way to go." Not only does Jesus want to see his reflection in our lives, the world is also looking for it.

As our scripture says, "Sirs we would see Jesus." You and I are the only Jesus the world will ever see. He's been polishing us for years. Have we resisted the fire and the polish or have we submitted to the master's hand. The world is searching for Jesus. They are looking for him in us. I want them to find him in me.

I know, mine is still an imperfect reflection, but the silversmith is still polishing. Day by day the reflection is getting clearer and closer to the master's. One day I hope that people will be able to say, "You really look
like your Father"!

Lord, create in me your image and your likeness. Let people see your compassion in my eyes and hear your gentleness in my voice. Amen

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Lesson from a Kitten

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
(Isa 40:31)

  I've talked before about my cat named Patches.  When she was just a kitten she would follow right at my heels.   But sometimes she got impatient with my slower pace and she'd see I'm headed in a certain direction and run ahead of me into the room she thought I'd enter.  Sometimes she was right.  Most of the time, though, she gets it wrong.  She stood in the room expecting me to show up, looking around and wondering where I was.  Then she'd me walking by the door and rush to catch up with me.

 I understand this behavior, because I do the same thing with God.  I want to go where He is going, but I get
Patches taking a rest
impatient with the pace he  set for me.  So, instead of following him, I try to figure out where he is headed and rush ahead of him expecting him to keep pace with me.  And, of course, most of the time I'm wrong.  He isn't headed there at all.  I'm waiting for Him to arrive and bless my work and he just walks on by and I rush again to catch up with him. 

 Like Patches, I want God to do things on MY schedule rather than HIS.  So, I rush ahead and usually get it wrong.  I don't understand the subtlety of God.  I may see him going in a straight line, when he suddenly turns to the left or the right and I've going the wrong direction.

 It's a sad thing when you realize you're no smarter than a kitten, but I guess what makes me different from the kitten is that God gave me to ability to know this.  So, what can I do?  Well, as our scripture says, I must WAIT. We often see this as a passive thing like waiting in line.  And particularly those of us who happen to be Americans hate lines or as our friends in the UK call them Queues.  

But perhaps a better analogy would be a military one.  Before being deployed, the troops will be called to a staging area and they have to wait there to receive their marching orders.  They are waiting on their orders from their superiors.  When we WAIT upon the Lord, we are not dozing, or letting our minds wander.  We are listening closely to hear him say, "Move Out" and let him tell us where.

 Lord, Today remind me to let you set the pace in my life. Amen

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Work of the Husbandman

"I am the true vine and my father is the husbandman." John 15.1

I've been doing a lot of reading this week about ancient farming practices. I've been especially interested in the ancient art of vinedressing. The vinedresser (also known as the husbandman) was the vineyard equivalent of the shepherd. It is hard for the twentieth century urban mind to understand the pride and concern that the vinedresser had for his vineyard. The vines were his charge. The fruit of those vines were his pride and joy. His life was consumed with first planting, then later tending that vineyard.

First, the vineyard had to be planted. In first century Israel, this was no easy task. First, the ground had to be cleared. There wasn't much vegetation to worry about, but there were rocks. There were lots of rocks. They were on top of the ground, sticking up through the ground, and just below the surface of the ground. These had to be removed to make way for the seed to be planted. Remember, before you were saved, God cleared out the "rocks"
which would have prevented you from receiving the Gospel. He was preparing the soil for planting.

After removing the rocks, the ground had to be plowed and the seed or seedlings planted. These young seedlings were vulnerable to the elements, to trampling by livestock, to being eaten by other animals. The vinedresser would guard the seedlings and protect them. He took those rocks that had been thrown out of the vineyard and used them to build a wall around it to keep out animals or even human enemies desirous of destroying the crop. He would build a tower out of the stone where he could see the approach of any threat to the vines. He kept watch during the day and slept in the tower at night ready to protect his vines.

As the vines grew, he would divert water from the Jordan or other rivers into irrigation ditches. This water needed to soak the roots of the vines to make the fruit sweet and juicy. How like our great husbandman who sends us the refreshing waters of the Holy Spirit to produce sweet fruit in our lives. 

As the vines aged, the dead branches needed to be cut away, as did certain wild offshoots. These dead or useless branches would take nourishment away from the productive branches and dilute the potency of the fruit. Have you ever felt the pruner's saw cutting away at branches in your life? Sometimes, the vinedresser would take a branch from one vine and graft it into another to create a new type of fruit. Sometimes the Great Husbandman grafts us together with significant others in our lives so that together we might produce a special fruit that will nourish others. 

Finally, at the end of the season, the vinedresser returns to harvest the fruit and carry it away to the great storehouse of the vineyard owner. There the fruit will fulfill its purpose in feeding others. Then, the vinedresser trims the branches, waters the vines, and waits for a new crop to emerge. I want my vine to produce much fruit for the husbandman who cares so much about his vineyard.

Lord, Thank you for all the work you  have put into me.  May my fruit be pleassing to you. Amen

Living in the Presence of God

We hear the words so often that we don’t really hear them.  “Let’s all enter into the presence of the Lord,” the worship leader or pastor says.  Yet, do we really appreciate what that means?  What a glorious thing to be able to stand in the presence of the Almighty Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  We are invited as welcome guests, nay more than guests, beloved children into the very throne room of God to enjoy fellowship with him. 

    It is a glorious thing, indeed, Sunday after Sunday to enter the presence of God surrounded by our sisters and brothers. But what about Monday through Saturday?  What happens in the intervening six days that we have to be coaxed back into the presence of God?  Has God somehow deserted us in that time?  Has He withdrawn His presence from us?  If not, then why do we need to be invited back into the presence of the Lord? 

    God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere.  David wrote, “Where shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven thou art t here: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139.7-10.

    So, if God has been there with me all week long, why do I need to be called back into His presence on Sunday.  Perhaps its because I’ve been living as if he was not there. His presence has been there, but I have not been experiencing it.

    Think about it this way.  Have you ever been working intently on something or absorbed in a book or TV show and someone walked into the room without you noticing?  They stand there quietly for several seconds or minutes before you notice them in the room. 

    It’s called selective perception.  We don’t perceive everything possible to be perceived in any setting.  We perceive what our minds are focused on. So, even though God is standing right beside me while I’m teaching my classes at school, I might not notice that because I’m not thinking about it.  I am focusing on the job and not on the one who sustains me on my job.

    Now, I’m not saying that one should float through life in a trance-like state absorbed with “spiritual” meditations all day long.  We certainly do need to focus at times on the things of life.  We have all known those folk who are “so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good.”   But even in those times when my attention is turned toward this life, his image should still be shining in my peripheral vision.  And when this life begins to overwhelm me, then instead of letting the darkness descend around me, I need to heighten my awareness of his presence. 

    Experiencing the presence of Good should not be a sporadic thing.  It should be a constant experience in the life of a believer.  Sometimes it will be in the foreground like in moments of private devotion and public worship.  The rest of the time it will be the pervasive ambiance of daily living.  It needs to be the backdrop against which the grand drama of life unfolds.  It should take no more than an instant for the believer to shift focus and find His presence sustaining, comforting, encouraging and directing one’s life.

Lord, today, let me be no more than a thought away from your presence. Amen

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What to do When the Lion Roars

"Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."I Peter 5.8 

Our pastor asked an interesting question one Sunday in church. He asked, "What do you do when you hear the lion roar?" It's one of those questions which  stuck with me all day long.

When Satan begins to roar in your life, you should recognize it as him. The attacks may come through finances, health, family, employers, even, at times, church members. But you still recognize the sound of the enemy of your
Photo by Tambako
soul behind them. Usually, facing Satan produces some anxiety, otherwise known as fear.

Now, fear isn't all bad. It heightens our awareness of danger so that we can be on our guard or "vigilant" as Peter says here. However, our response to fear can be devastating. Cognitive psychologists say there are four possible responses to fear. The four-F's of fear I call them.

The first is Flee. We flee the dangerous situation. Obviously, if I'm crossing the street and an 18-wheeler is barreling down on me, I'm going to flee. But in the spiritual realm this is not the best choice. To many of us have been running from Satan. And when he knows he's got you on the run, he'll keep hounding you until he neutralizes your work for God.

The Second is Freeze. They say that if you face a dangerous animal staying very still is your best chance for survival. However, in facing the evil forces of this world system, it is not. Some Christians face trouble in their lives and their ministry comes to a dead halt. No, they aren't falling away, but they aren't marching onward either. They are simply paralyzed with fear.

The Third is Faint. Just pass out and hope for the best. Some Christians have fainted in their spiritual battles. They have fallen asleep. They are insensible to the glories of God or his requirements.They have lost spiritual consciousness.

The final response is the one we need to adopt when facing a threat from the enemy. Its FIGHT! If Satan has been chasing you, maybe it's time to turn around and start chasing him. If your car breaks down and you can't get to church, don't pout about it. Put some praise music on the stereo, get on your knees and pray through the time of the church service for souls to be saved. If you loose your job, while you're looking for a new one, volunteer your time to work around the church. In other words, when Satan throws something at you to keep you from advancing the kingdom, redouble your efforts for Christ.

I can't say I've always turned and wrestled with the lion when he has roared, but as each year goes by, this old warrior has begun to run to the battle more often, because only those on the front lines see the victory first.

Lord, fill me anew with your boldness as I face my adversary. Give me courage and strength and determination to win the battle. Amen 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Judging without Evidence

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Mat 7:1 KJV)

When you enter a courtroom, there is one thing and one thing only that counts in judging a defendant - evidence. You have to have all the relevant facts to make a decision about the case. If you don't have all the facts then under our system of juris prudence you have to acquit because you cannot be sure the person is guilty.

It's too bad people didn't apply the same logic to their judgments outside the courtroom. We jump right in judging other Christians behavior. Yet, do we really have all the evidence? No we don't. We simply don't know enough to judge someone else. For instance, we don't know where people came from. We don't know what they've gone through. We don't know what they are struggling with. I remember one young Christian saying to me once, "You know people criticize me because I still smoke. But less than a year ago, I was mainlining heroin. God delivered me from that. He'll deliver me from nicotine too. It just takes time." 

To judge someone's walk we have to know from where they started. If they haven't caught up with you yet, it could be they started further down the road.

Perhaps most importantly, we don't know the heart of the person. We only see how they dress, what they say, how they act. We can tell much from that but not all. God though doesn't judge based on outward appearance, but rather he "looks on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7) Until I can look at a person's heart, understand his motives, know why he is the way he is, I cannot judge his actions. Besides, I don't have time to judge anyone else's faults. I have a full time job dealing with my own.

Lord, help me remember who is best at judging the hearts of men and keep me focused on my own walk and not on the walks of others except to be a good companion on the journey. Amen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Forgiveness Solution

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father will forgive you. Matthew 6.14

If someone came up and hit you in the face, would you invite him or her back to do the same thing again and again several times a day? Well, when you hold onto resentment over past wrongs, you do just that. You let that person hurt you over and over again. The cure for the pain of being wronged is simple, but hard: Forgiveness. Some people say, I just can’t forgive so-and-so for what she did to me. Sadly, if you can’t let go of the pain it will outlast the harm. So, you those people incapable of forgiveness might as well make a daily appointment with their persecutors to come by and repeat the offense over and over
again. You will only be free of the pain of an offense when you let it go.

Forgiveness does you as much good as it does your persecutor. Maybe, even more good. Frequently, those who treat us poorly don’t even understand the harm they’ve done. They often derive neither satisfaction nor remorse from the actions, and probably don’t even remember what they’ve done. 

Now, forgiveness does not mean excusing the offender. When God forgave you of your sin he didn’t say the sin was all right. He said he would not require us to pay the penalty for the sin and that he would put it out of his mind and not hold us to account for it. In other words, He let go of the offense as if it never happened. Okay, we are human and we might not be able to choose to forget as God does, but we can still, with his help, let go of the pain of the offense and begin to see the offender through God’s eyes as someone who has strayed and needs to be brought home.

So, then, we’ve decided to forgive. The big question is How? Forgiveness, no matter how beneficial, is hard work.

1. Keep a sense of perspective. Many of the "wrongs" which we perceive as being against us just aren't that important. I remember one woman saying that she was having a hard time "forgiving" her roommate for folding the dishtowels the "wrong" way. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what way of folding the dishtowels resulted in this moral breach of conduct. Are dishtowels really worth hurting another person's feelings? I doubt it.

2. When you want to get even, don't. It's natural to want to get back at someone who has harmed you. It's natural, but it's wrong. Scripture makes it plain over and over again that the job of "payback" belongs to the Lord. I can hear you saying, "But you don't know what he/she did to me." No, I don't. I know what people have done to me. I know what it means to want revenge. But I also know what they did to Jesus, who with his last breath prayed forgiveness on those who were killing him.

3. Ask yourself, "Have I ever done something like this?". Ouch! Sometimes the things that bug us the most are the failings we see in ourselves. Are you unforgiving of people who lie against you, because you recognize dishonesty in yourself? Do you find arrogance irritating because you have problems with pride? When we accept that we are all sinners saved by grace and that we all struggle with sin daily, then it is easier to extend mercy to others.

4. Remember that you are also forgiven. You know we love to talk about the forgiveness that God has extended toward us, but did you ever consider the obligation that forgiveness places upon the people of God. Jesus told the story of a man who owed the equivalent of over a million dollars to his lord. He couldn’t pay the debt and the creditor being a generous man forgave the debt. But in the next scene we see this forgiven man choking the life out of a man who owed him just a few dollars and taking him to court. The message is very clear those who have been forgiven, must share that gift of forgiveness with others. It’s the healthy thing to do. It’s the practical thing to do. And it’s the God Thing to Do.

Lord, today help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Amen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Question of Position

"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Mat 6:10 KJV)

 A few years ago I taught a series on the Life of Christ. We have spent the last month just going through the sermon on the mount. One week we were looking at the Lord's Prayer. As the discussion proceeded I began to see that the key to understanding the Lord's prayer, and  thus prayer in general is not one of words or phrases, but one of attitude and right position.

 Now, when I say right position, I don't mean whether you kneel or stand or, like myself, lie flat on my back on the living room couch when I pray. What I mean is that we recognize our relative position in relationship to God. Notice what we are told right at the first: God is our father. He  is in heaven (above our circumstances). He is holy. He has plans for a kingdom. He has a will which needs to be accomplished right here on earth. And implied in all this is that we have a part to play in accomplishing that will and creating that kingdom.

 Only three short verses in the prayer deal with our personal needs. We pray for our daily needs. That is a humbling experience in and of itself. For in so doing, we recognize that we are not the
 source. We recognize that anything we have comes from the hand of the father. The other recognizes that we are spiritually bankrupt and in need of forgiveness, and in need of a forgiving spirit. Finally, we are prone to temptation and need to be delivered from the hand of the evil one.

 The prayer ends by once again reminding us of God's kingdom, power, and glory. Reading this prayer is a humbling experience and an ennobling one. It is humbling in that we learn that we are children in comparison with God, that our plans and our will are subordinate to God's plans and  God's will, that we depend on him for everything, that we owe him a debt we cannot pay, and that we are weak in dealing with temptation.

 But the prayer is also ennobling because it tells us that we are His children. It also tells us that our greatest achievement is helping bring about his kingdom through our lives and our prayers here on
 earth. How do we do this? We do this by aligning our will with the will of the father. You see we get it all mixed up about prayer. We think that prayer is about bending God's will to ours. That's not prayer, that's an attempt at magic. Rather, this prayer says that the opposite is true. Effective prayer is not bending God's will to mine, but by surrendering my will to God. And in so doing, I become his instrument in creating his kingdom in my world.

 Lord, today bend me to your will and give me an opportunity to build your kingdom in my world. Amen

Don't Throw Out the Manual Or and Inspiration from Dr. Who

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  (2Ti 3:16)

 Someone posted this short exchange from the Doctor Who, television series on Facebook today:

The Doctor: This is bad, I don't like this. [kicks console and yells in pain] Never use force, you just
embarrass yourself. Unless you're cross, in which case, always use force!
Amy: Shall I run and get the manual?
The Doctor: I threw it in a supernova.
Amy: You threw the manual in a supernova? Why?
The Doctor: Because I disagreed with it...

Does this sound familiar? 

How often do we disregard the Word of God because we don't like what it has to say. Maybe that is why we don't read it as much as we should.

Someone has done something to me and I want to get even, but then I open up "The Manual" and I see, "Do not recompense evil for evil" (I Peter 3:9) or to "turn the other cheek" (Matt. 5:39). I don't like that advice. My fallen nature wants to get back at that person. I even convince myself that it is the most practical thing to do. That somehow the Lord of the Universe got it wrong. Jesus just didn't understand the way things really work. 

So, I get my revenge. Then the other person feels offended, and they respond in kind. Then I respond to that offense, and they respond to my response, and what could have stopped with a single offense becomes an interpersonal version of total warfare. And I find myself trying to fix this complicated machine called Life after I chucked the manual into the supernova because I disagreed with it.

Think about the arrogance that comes from disagreeing with God. When I say that I don't want to follow the clear direction of scripture, it is saying that my fallen, limited and flawed intellect is somehow superior to the pure, perfect and unlimited wisdom of almighty God. It's pretty stupid when you think about it.

Fortunately, you can find the manual anytime you want. Just pick up that Bible gathering dust on the shelf and begin reading. You will find it is much easier to perform repairs and preventative maintenance when you have the manual handy.

Lord, today, let me not forget that you are the creator, and you have given us, your creation, the guide to our own well being. Amen

Monday, April 14, 2014

On God-Sized Assignments and Faith

 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil 4:13 KJV)

I have been reading an excellent book called Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby. There was a little marginal note which was so powerful when I read it that I kept going back to it as I continued to read the book. It read: "When we think that God can do nothing significant through us that says more about our belief in God than about ourselves."

I know I have been guilty of this unbelief. I have seen God leading me into a ministry area and seeing my own inadequacy, I denied that God could do anything through me. How foolish when I think about it now. Here I am telling the God of the Universe. The being who set the stars in their courses, the architect of the galaxies, that he is too weak to give me the resources to do his will. Blackaby also says in his book that God will never give you a "God-sized assignment" without giving you "God-sized tools" to carry it out.

In fact, when I am the weakest, that's when God is at his best in putting me to work. That is the point at which I have to depend totally on him for my ability. That is when the accomplishment of the task is the greatest miracle.

So, if you think God isn't able to do anything through you, think again. He is a big God. After all, if he could do any type of work through me, he must be big.

Lord, let me never shrink from any task you set before me, but give me the understanding that your voice will never lead me where your power will not sustain me. Amen

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too Much about Love?

"This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you." John

In these inspirations I write a lot about Love. The Love of God for us and our command to love one another. Several months ago, I received an e-mail message from one of our subscribers complaining that I was writing too much about love and not enough about righteousness and holiness. It seemed a strange criticism to me, because I can't really see how we can truly walk in righteousness and holiness without having a foundation in Love.

Jesus put it best when responding to the lawyer who asked which was the greatest commandment. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to "Love the Lord your God" and the second was to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Then he adds these remarkable words, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Mat 22:40 KJV) Think about it for a moment and you can see it is true. Following the 10 Commandments becomes a no-brainer if you have a deep abiding love for Christ and a deep abiding love for your fellow man. The problem is no so much a failure of resolve as it is a failure of love.

So, after laying the foundation of faith, we must begin our walk with love. First, we must love God "with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Mat 22:37 KJV). What does it mean to love God this way? It means that we put God's wishes above our own. It means that we take joy in doing his will. It means that we have a passionate desire to draw closer and closer to him everyday. Most of all it means remembering just what all he has done for us. We did not love God first. He loved us. He reached out to us in our sin, in our distress, in our sickness and he saved, he delivered and he healed. My Father says "If God never did anything other than save your soul, you should love him forever." And, yet, everyone reading this can probably tell of many, many things God has done for us above and beyond salvation. Just thinking of those things now causes love to bubble up inside of me so much that it hurts that I cannot express it as much as I wish. If I could maintain that love, doing his will would be a snap. But to maintain that love, I have to maintain my focus on him and I become easily distracted. And my distraction is Satan's opportunity to lead me astray. So, like Peter I must keep my eyes on the savior or I will begin to sink.

Secondly, we must love each other. It is easy to say that we love God, but do we love the ones that he loves? I heard a Catholic priest say once: "To live with the saints in heaven, Oh that will be glory. To live with the saints on earth, now, that's another story." Frequently, it's easier to proclaim a love of God than it is to act out our love to each other. But the Apostle John made it quite clear that we can't have it both ways saying we love God, but not loving others: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20 KJV) 

Those are pretty bold words especially coming from someone who once asked Christ to bring down fire from heaven on a town that rejected their ministry. But God gave John a ministry of love so great that it is said in his declining years when he would preach, he would be carried in on a stretcher and he would lean up on one elbow and simply say "Beloved, love one another" and be carried out again. It was as if those were the only instructions needed.

And so they were. Once we really and truly love God and love one another many of the great mysteries of theology and ethics disappear. Formal religion then becomes swallowed up in personal relationship: first our relationship with God, and second our relationship with each other. And why not, Christianity is founded on the solid rock of God's love revealed in Christ's death on the Cross and His subsequent resurrection providing us the greatest gift of all eternal life. "God so loved......." 

So, if I have written overmuch about love, it is God's fault. He simply loved me so much that it is hard to think about him without also thinking about love.

Lord, let me learn your great path to righteous living by loving you and by loving others more. Amen

Is it time to move?

"And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?" I Kings 7.3

Have you ever been watching a TV show or movie when half way through the show you discovered you really didn't like it, but you kept watching anyway? Many people treat their lives that way. They start out on a path. It may have looked good at the start, but it was the wrong path to take. It wasn't long before they realize this, but now they are walking down that path simply because it's there rather than 
because it is right.

But like the men in our scripture verse, we sometimes need to take account of where we are at in our spritual and secular walks with the Lord. Are we sitting in a place which will eventually destroy us spiritually, emotionally, physically, occupationally? Change can be hard. No doubt about that. It can be frightening. It can even be painful. Those four lepers would have found it difficult to go anywhere considering their physical conditions. But the alternative was more unpleasant.

Very often, change does not occur in our lives until we reach a point of desperation, until we reach that point at which the pain of change is seen as being less than the pain of staying the same. Chemical dependency counselors call this hitting bottom. Sometimes God will allow trouble to come into our lives to force us out of our comfort zone so that we can remain vital in him. Like the eagle who "stirs up
the nest" slowly removing the feather lining until the eaglets are left sitting on hard jagged stones so they have an incentive to get out of the nest and learn to fly. The eaglets undoubtably feel the mother is cruel, but the mother simply wants the eaglets to be come the mighty eagles she knows they can be.

So it is with the Lord, he wants us to soar as eagles, but he knows we will never do that as long as we sit in our nest. So, if the nest you are sitting in is becoming uncomfortable or unbearable, maybe it's time to do some praying. God may be trying to get your attention. He may be telling you it's time to move on and make some changes in your life. In order to soar with the eagles, you have to get out of your comfortable nest. But the view is much better up there.

Lord, stir up my nest today so that I won't become comfortable in places I no longer belong. Give me the courage and strength to make those changes you would have me make in my life today. Amen.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What's Sinking Your Boat?

"And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship" Acts 27.19

Paul really had his troubles. He is being taken to Rome for trial and execution. And what happens? A storm comes up at sea and it is so bad that they have to take down the sails and throw everything overboard just to keep afloat.

But there is a great lesson in this story for us. The lesson is simple, when you're in the storm, you'd better throw overboard everything which might sink your ship.

Sometimes we are facing trials in our lives. These trials have the potential for "sinking our ships." Well, instead of moaning about the strength of the winds or the height of the waves. The stormy weather might
be a good time to do some house cleaning. What is there in our lives that we really don't need? What are the things which could take us to the bottom? 

Some of us are like the man whose pockets were filled with gold coins. He fell overboard and drowned because he wouldn't remove his coat and let the coins go to the bottom of the sea. We want to hang onto our most precious sins even when we are being pulled down to the bottom of the sea. I don't want to give up my lies, my greed, my pride, my lust, my unethical business practices, my abuse of drugs or alcohol. Oh, I'm swimming hard. My hands and feet are pulling and kicking powerful strokes, but there's just too much weight.

I need to strip myself of "every weight and sin which doeth so easily besets us." Of what use are my lies in the kingdom? How will I use the money that I am hording in heaven. My business will eventually be consumed by fire. So, seeing that all this is temporary and not eternal, why not give it up. And when I lighten the ship, I will be much better able to ride out the storms.

Like the song says, "It's no great price to give what I cannot keep, to gain what I cannot lose."

Lord, strip me today of those sins which I cling to so that I may not go under when I have sailed so far already. Ame