Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Day is near


"The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."  Romans 13

The day is near.  

It's been dark for a long time!  The darkness of night has become our norm, but there is a glimmer of light on the horizon, a bit of light we have not seen before.  The day is near!  The sun will soon rise and change everything.  It's coming.  It's as sure as the turning of the earth and the approach of the new day.  

The day Paul is talking about is the day of the Lord, the appearing of the Son.  The light of life eternally present.  It's near and it's time for us to wake up!  Time to get dressed for the day.  Time to put on Christ Jesus and stop sinning.  The groom is at the door, the wedding is about to begin.

Are you ready?


Thursday, June 14, 2018

The day ahead

Today I face a difficult task.  One I wish I could avoid.  My mind and heart recoil at the thoughts of what awaits me.  I dread it!

Today I will speak at the memorial service for a young lady I knew well who took her own life.  Days like this I wish I could just run away and hide from the world and all we do to ourselves and each other.  This is such a cruel place to live.

But in the midst of it all there is the love of God sprinkled here and there that makes all the difference.  Without God's work in this world we would already know what hell is like for we would be living in it. But in the midst of all the grief and sorrow God whispers.

So today I face a family I love, to grieve with them over a bad choice by a sweet young lady.  As one friend told me in tears years ago, "I HATE sin!"  Today I agree with my friend for I see what it can do in our lives once more.

My prayer today is that those attending will hear whispers of the love of God in the midst of a world where chaos rules.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Hopeless


It's early Monday morning.  I woke hours before dawn and knew it was time to get up...to read, to listen, to be quiet before the day and week began. I needed this time. I am facing a very difficult week.  There are events I must be part of this week that I dread, but cannot avoid.  This week I will speak at the funeral of a young lady I knew well who took her own life.  Her family is heartbroken and the weight of their grief and mine is overwhelming.  What do you say at times like this? How do you comfort?  I don't know that comfort is possible, but trust is.  Trust in God when we have lost all hope, when our hearts break and we have no words...in moments like that all we can do is trust in a loving God.  But the skeptic would reply, "If he's so loving why didn't he stop her suicide?"  And I sigh.  How do you talk to someone who has no heart?  You can't.  So this week we will grieve.  I will offer no answers, but will try to turn the grieving families eyes to a loving God who cries with them.  I'm sure this young lady felt quite hopeless as she made the choice to end her life.  I know we all feel hopeless at times.  It's part of our frailty, but in that moment of hopelessness God invites us to look to him, the only hope we have.  And so, like David, I will reply,


Ps 43:5, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”


Monday, June 04, 2018

A handful of quietness


"Better is a handful of quietness 
than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind."  
Eccl. 4:6

A handful of quietness.  As I read that this morning it made m pause to visualize what that would look like.  The images of the contrast are pretty clear.  To have a little quietness is better than a bunch of stuff to do that accomplishes nothing.

A handful of quietness.

I'm not sure what to do with that exactly, but I will be thinking about it and looking for ways to get my handful of quietness.

I have no brilliant thoughts for this verse...just a thoughtful pause.  

Lord, help me to find just one handful of quietness rather than two hands full of busy.  It seems to be a better choice.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sunrise


This morning I'm sitting on the patio as the sun rises.  Birds singing, breeze swirling around me, beautiful clouds reflecting the rising sun, trees swaying with the breeze.....all celebrating a King.

The sun has just crested the trees and will cross the sky until evening.  Then, once more, evening comes and another sunrise tomorrow.  Each day gives me opportunity to be, to do, to make choices but I only get this day once and what I do with it will eternally be resolved as each second passes.

My part in this great play of humanity is to love and serve my King and the people he puts in my path.  Each person I meet is someone he made to worship him.  I can help them do that and find him more easily or make it harder.  I can leave a sweet taste on their lips for the experience or sow a bit of resentment and anger in their lives.

At the beginning of a new day I have just 24 hours but hundreds of choices and each choice will glorify my King or make it harder for others to see him.  

Humanity around me is stirring.  Life for this new day is beginning.  My part in it is to serve my King well and help others find this amazing life he has given to me.

Lord, today in this 24 hours, may my life make you most glorious and winsome to those who encounter me.  May they see YOU in me.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The real problem

There is a lot of debate about why violence has increased in our country, why school shootings are now so common.  The debate on one side blames guns and on the other it blames a culture awash with violence.

But there is a clear cause that most do not want to acknowledge and a real reason for the increased violence.

This insight into the real cause is sprinkled throughout the Bible and clearly spoken of in numerous places, but our culture never bothers to consult the owners manual to find out what is really happening.  If they did they would deny the solution God gives.

So, as a result, this kind of violence will continue and increase.  Whether guns or knives, bats or rocks it will go on because we refuse to acknowledge and address the real cause.

Here it is. Hidden in plain site.




“There is no faithfulness, no love,

    no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
 Because of this the land dries up,
    and all who live in it waste away…”

Hosea 4

Because we have turned our backs on God this is our outcome, this is our result.  This is what life looks like without God.  No matter what solutions we legislate the problems will only get worse.

It will not stop until we turn once more and bow to the God who made us.  

What we are seeing now is a culture without God.  

That's the real problem.



Thursday, May 17, 2018

Whose are you?


On his way to Rome in a ship doomed to destruction Paul spoke to the crew and passengers these words, "For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me."

His words spoke to me and I read them again and again, "the God to whom I belong and whom I serve...."  This is a profound insight that each of us needs.  It answers the question's, Whose are you?  Who rules you? 

Actions spring from an understanding of who is in charge.  If I'm my own boss I can do as I please.  As many in the pro-choice movement declare, "it's my body, I can do as I choose."  And as one heavily tattooed man declared, "it's my house, I can decorate it as I please."

But....if I am not my own, if I belong to someone else then I have an obligation to respond to his instructions, his rule.  That is the defining question of eternity-  Whose are you?

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul wrote these words to his readers, "You have been bought with a price, you are not your own, therefore glorify God in your body." 1 Cor. 6:19-20  

With these profound words Paul gives direction to every Christian, every Christ follower that we have a sovereign and he is Lord of our lives, our decisions, our actions.  That truth is the one thing that separates a Christian from the world around them. We have a master who rules us, we are not the masters of our lives.

Years ago William Ernest Henley wrote these words, they describe the soul of the man without God, but they also describe the soul doomed to crash on the rocks.  Here are his insightful words,


Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

Whose are you?  Who's the master of your soul? That answer determines much about your life and end of your journey.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mine


One truth most are unwilling to deal with is this-

God has written on every soul this word, "mine."

He has claimed each of us as his own.  

He made us, 

he saved us, 

and he claims us. 

We are his.

That claim of ownership by the creator is the battlefield we fight upon.

In that battle is a war with eternal outcomes where we each, in response to God's claim,  declare of our souls "mine!" or bow in response and worship.

The great battle of eternity is one of ownership.  And with that battle are eternal outcomes.  

Ownership has outcomes.  When I steal from God what is rightly his by claiming in response, "I am owned by no one. I am my own!"  we steal from God not only his property, but declare void the price he paid for ownership.

God made us.  After our first rebellion his response was redemption.  He gave the highest price to purchase back the creation he had made.  When that creation claims to owe him nothing and steals his property how can we think there is no outcome for those actions?

Who do you acknowledge as the one who owns you?  

God has claimed you twice.  Will you declare his claim void or bow in worship?  

That is the battlefield we each will fight upon. We will either bow in worship or steal what rightly belongs to God and that second choice cannot end well.  Worship or rebellion.  What will you choose?


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Abide in Him


"And now, little children, abide in him...."  1John 2.  Jesus and John both invite us to 'abide in him.'  What does that mean in your life?  How do you do that?  What should it look like to 'abide in him?'  This is an invitation to a discussion on the most important relationship you will ever have...how do you have that relationship, how do you abide in him in the day ahead?

This invitation into an abiding life, a dwelling in him life is an invitation to enjoy and rest in the very life of God.  How do we do that?  How should we do that?  What do you do to abide in him?

Those are the questions we must answer if we are to even begin to abide.  'Abide in me' were words of invitation from God himself.....how do we begin?

That is the greatest invitation in the history of man, an invitation to abide in, dwell in, rest in God himself.  The invitation has been extended.  I wonder how many will respond, or will we be too busy?


Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Reflections


"I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread."
Psalm 37

As I read this morning I thought back on my life.  Now, like David, I can look back over many decades and reflect on God's provision and care for me and my family.  Like David I can say, with amazement at how God works, that he has taken care of us even when we didn't now we were in danger.

It's funny how we rarely see God's provision in real time, but as we reflect we find he has walked with us every step of our lives.  He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is, indeed, a good and kind Father caring for his children.

I was young, now I'm old, and yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
The great and wonderful God of eternity has cared for us every breath of our lives

And so, this morning, I breathe out these words, "thank you, Lord, you are much too kind.  Thank you."

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Escape

Two days ago the rapture was supposed to happen....at least that's what some suggested.  It's so funny that these predictions never happen and yet men continue to set dates ignoring what scripture says about it.

I don't want to talk about the rapture as much as discuss this idea imbedded in the Christian mindset of escape...escape from the world.  But the world is what we were sent to redeem!  Why are we so anxious to get out of the very place God put us to serve him?

Are we trying to escape the pain? the problems?  Whatever the reason, and I'm sure there are many, have we forgotten we were put here to serve God and tell the world what Christ has done for them?  Have we forgotten that job isn't done yet?  Why do we want to avoid the very thing God asked us to do?

I'm not so sure God is pleased with this mindset.  We are called to love, share Christ, help the widow, visit the prisoner and yes, suffer for Christ.  Let's not look for an easy escape until we have done our job.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Are you not?

One of my favorite stories of the Old Testament comes from 2 Chronicles 20.  In that chapter king Jehoshaphat is faced with news of a coming army and in response he gathers all Israel at the temple to pray.  His prayer is brilliant, if not given in a bit of panic.  The prayer has 3 questions in it that frame a wonderful model for prayer.  Here they are-  1. Are you not? 2. Did you not? and 3. Will you not?

Are you not?

The king begins with the most important thing- who are we praying to.  If we start with a God big enough to help our prayers become bigger and bolder.  That's what he does.  He begins with the character of God, 'are you not?'  And as he prays about who he is talking to you can see his faith growing.

Then he moves to his second question- 

Did you not?  

In this question he reflects on what God has done in the past, how he has cared for and provided for Israel.  Remembering and reflecting on God's great works in the past is always faith affirming.

And finally, he moves to what is important to them, the request-

Will you not?

In this third question he makes his request.  When you remember who God is and what he has already done it makes your prayers for today bold and vibrant, alive with the reality of a big, active and loving Father.

So, try it.  Outline your prayers as this godly king did with three questions-

Are you not?
Did you not?
Will you not?

Perhaps, for you, as it has done for me, there will come a new excitement and growing faith as you approach the wonderful throne of grace.  He is a wonderful and loving Father and waiting for us to call.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The basics

A few thoughts on scripture and the world:

1. Don't try to change the world until you change yourself.

2. Good deeds are only defined by a good God.  Get to know him so you know what those deeds look like.

3. Never let angry words cross your lips.  They will always be words you regret.

4. Love others.  That means spending time with them, helping them, seeing them...really seeing them, listening to them, caring about their heart.  Love means giving your time and attention to the heart and life of another.

5. Clean something.  Take out the trash, do the dishes, pick up that piece of paper.  You are a steward.  Steward the world around you well.

6. Smile at other people.  There aren't enough smiles.  People are struggling and a smile will distract them from their worries.

7. There are rude and cruel people in this world.  Don't let their abuse affect you.  It speaks more about them than it does about you.  Only small people would be cruel to another.  Ignore it, pray for them.  They are hurting more than  you know.

8. Greet everyone you meet.  You never know the appointments God has in place for you.  You might just run into someone who really needs you today.

9. Find a way to serve someone every day.  A good deed, a card, a text a kind word. Serve others and let them know you care.  There is far too little of this happening in our world today.

10.  Once each month read these two passages:  John 13:34-35  and  Luke 6:27-38.  These two passages will give you a wonderful plumb line for your encounters each day.

Those are the basics.  Simple, aren't they?


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Thoughts today

Hopefully this will not be profound or amazing.  I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts as the day  moves quickly ahead.  Lately I have been thinking about my place in the kingdom.  God as placed me in this body, in this place, in this time and given me gifts and passions to use for him.  I know I will never be famous or applauded. I'm really good with that.  The applause of men has never excited me.  And, to be honest, I will find I have lived a life insignificant to most in the world, but so do most of us...in fact I would guess this is the fate of 99% of us who live our lives here.  Being seen and known isn't really that important.  Besides, it only lasts for a moment.  What does the media say?  15 minutes of fame?  That's about all we get for all our efforts.  We have to constantly revisit our purpose and reasons for living.  If we live for the applause of men we most likely will be disappointed, but if we simply live for the smile of God we will find rich and wonderful joy.  I am a watcher of people.  I watch how they interact, how they dress, how they present themselves, how they hope I will see them and realize I do that too!  I'm constantly reminded of the power of pride and my offended ego when others don't "see" me.  My pride is my great enemy.  How wonderful it would be to be free of it's power.  I recently read a book (for the third time) titled "Embracing Obscurity."  It's a wonderful book dealing with these issues.  I guess I need to read it again.  Today I'm dealing with people again, both good and frustrating encounters.  I find that most of us are just children in adult bodies.  In the last few days I have talked to several who are in the last third of their lives, but still acting like children in their emotions, still pouting when offended.  I'm not shocked or surprised because I know my own heart, but I wonder...is there anyone who has really grown up, really become mature or are we all just children trying to find Father?

Monday, April 09, 2018

Me and Hitler

Strange title, isn't it?

I agree, but I wanted to use the one name we use in villainy more than any other (and it's not mine!).  But it could be.  The name "Hitler" has become a synonym for evil.  As I thought about my own thought life and the natural way I could and would go if it weren't for God's grace I realize I could be just as bad.

You want details, don't you? But it's the same with you.  We are each messed up, desperately wicked and able to live out the worse fears of anyone we know.

And yet, God changed all of that through a terrible cross...the very thing we would do to each other if we could get away with it in our most terrible moments.

When we claim we have lived good lives and deserve to go to heaven we ignore the reality of what we would have done if no one was watching....what we really wanted to do but were too afraid of punishment.  And with that all our claims of a good life turn to vapor and disappear.

As I reflect on my heart and the way I would live without God I am more thankful for his grace than I can even describe.  If God can change a heart like mine he can change any heart.