Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's all about today

I'm sure you have seen them.  Photos of families, portraits to remember the lives of the family.  There are some fascinating photos from decades past and many of them hanging in restaurants as decoration.

Who were these people?  Where did they live?  What did they do? What was their story?  All of those answers are lost in time.  Somewhere in years past a family member had to clear out a house of a parent and found these of people they didn't know.  And so they were sold, they were forgotten, even their names lost.

We try so hard in our day to leave a legacy and yet none of us will leave more than what we do today.  In these moments of time as we encounter others, we leave behind us legacy moments.  No one but God and the person you touched will remember them, but they make a difference in eternity.

Here, in this place, we are so quickly forgotten, but today, in this moment of time, you and I get to encourage, smile, love, listen to, care about, hug and help others.  That will last and be remembered when the old photos turn to dust.

Because you see, it's all about today.  Today, this moment and the next one and the one after that is all we have and in those moments our lives touch others.  That's the only thing that matters.

I'm thinking about it because in the men's group I lead on Thursday morning we were talking about Peter as he wraps up his life and thoughts in 2 Peter 3.  He was aware that his life was over soon and these were his closing words.  

I asked the guys if they had only 6 months to live what would they say to family and friends, what would they do?  

One man replied, "What you have already done says it all. How you have lived up to this 6 month deadline is more important than what you do in the 6 months left."  And he's right!  (Thanks Joe).

We are memorizing a verse in that group.  It's hard for us old men to memorize, so we have been working on it for about 2 months.  It sums up all of this...all the photos, all the memories, all the desire for significance and covers all of it as Jesus tells his disciples,

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  Matthew 5:16

For you's all about today.  Use it well!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Personal note

Ok, ok....I've been writing a bit on theology stuff and not personal devotional stuff....tomorrow that ends.  Tomorrow I go back to devotional thoughts, personal thoughts on my own walk.  It helps to change directions at times, but I need to get back to my own path and what God is doing with me....tomorrow we begin.

Unforgivable sin or Best choice?

Everything is confusing now.  With pluralism running rampant it seems that confusion abounds about God and what to do about him.

Some simply deny he exists. Case closed. Eat, drink and party for tomorrow we die!  THE END!

Others make up their own God.  They may call themselves "Christian" or "Muslim" but their God is not anything like the one taught in the books of either faith.  

Personal idol carving is the craze of our day.

But there are conflicts in the different faiths.  Big ones!

In Islam it is an unforgivable sin to make anyone equal with Allah. In that faith system a guy like me is damned to hell fire for all eternity!

But in the Christian faith making Jesus equal with the Father, believing in the trinity and what Christ did on the cross is the only means of forgiveness, the only way to heaven!

In one I'm damned, in the other I'm saved!

Confusing, isn't it?  

Since every faith is exclusive and not inclusive (as some claim) we have to take this stuff seriously.  If there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun then we have to find out the truth, the real path to God.  

Some will tell you every path up the mountain ultimately leads to God, but what kind of God would that be if these irreconcilable differences brought us all to the same place?  He would be the ultimate schizophrenic!  And for sure not a God I would want to worship.

In one faith the choice to believe that Jesus is God brings damnation, in the other it brings salvation.  Sure not the same, are they?  It demands I find out....if eternity exists, if there is a heaven and hell, if God has made a way....I need to find out what it is.

Life is short, eternity is long.  This stuff is too important to not know for sure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The King has taken the throne

Now that good Friday and Easter are over 
what did it all mean?

Paul, the apostle, describes it this way,

"I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. 

This is the same mighty power 
that raised Christ from the dead 
and seated him in the place of honor 
at God’s right hand 
in the heavenly realms. 

Now he is far above
 any ruler 
or authority 
or power 
or leader 
or anything else—
not only in this world 
but also in the world to come...forever! 

God has put all things 
under the authority of Christ 
and has made him head 
over all things..."  
-Ephesians 1

Do you realize what this passage means?  It means that Christ is king of EVERYTHING!  Right now, at this very moment, he's fully in charge of everything!! 

You don't have to worry about the next president, about terrorists, the economy or anything else.  

All that's important for us is that we acknowledge the king.  When we do that, really do that, we lay our fears, our worries, our pains and so much more at his feet and surrender to his rule over everything, even his rule over US!

Paul describes a day in Philippians when everyone, literally everyone who has ever lived, will acknowledge Christ as fact, here's a few who will bow before him-  Hitler, Stalin, Caesar, Washington, Putin, Mohammad, ISIS soldiers, Hindu worshippers, atheists, agnostics, Mormons, 
literally everyone!  

 Paul describes it in this way,

"God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus 
every knee should bow,
  in heaven 
and on earth 
and under the earth,

and every tongue declare 
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father."
-Philippians 2

We just celebrated good Friday and Easter, the empty cross and the empty tomb.  

The apparent defeat of Christ on the cross, and the ultimate victory of Christ from the tomb, 

but these verses tell us more about what happened when Jesus ascended to his Father...

they tell us, after paying for sin on planet earth, 

he became King of everything.  

And today, at this very moment, he's still king...even if you don't like it, he's still king.

And one day, we each will bow before him and acknowledge he is the king!

The entire gospel is about this one thing- 

the kingdom has come 
and God is inviting men and women 
to come and be part of it.  

The king has taken the throne!  

Jesus Christ is that king,
the king of everything!

Is he your king?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Eternity has begun

 He is risen! 
That's the great declaration of the church.

In the reality of that event 
eternity has begun for billions.

An eternity rich with promise  
And so much more.

A new kind of eternity has begun
 because Christ has risen!

How glorious, how wonderful.   
Are you part of it?
Have you trusted him?

He, this Jesus, is Lord of heaven and earth
And the soon coming King!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The death of hope

It was Sabbath.  The disciples were in shock.  All they had lived for, all they expected was over.  Jesus was dead.  

There's nothing written about this day in the Bible, but we can imagine that the day was full of grief, loss and fear.  They were experiencing the death of hope.  The death of all they dreamed.

Between loss and the work of God is always a sense of hopelessness.  Between death and what God will do next he left them with a day of nothing.  I imagine they were silent, unable to verbalize their feeling or disbelief.

There were tears.  Shock. Mental paralysis...what do we do now?

Between the death of hope and the resurrection of God's new work we each experience a time of grief, a time when hope dies...but wait, just wait.

Soon, in the midst of loss, you will see the resurrection of your hope in what God is doing.  And it will be more glorious than you imagined.

On this day they couldn't imagine what the next day would bring and in that resurrection all death of hope vaporized and a joy unimagined came.  

Like Job this day was sackcloth and ashes for the disciples, but just 24 hours they will forget all of this and be amazed at the work of their wonderful God.

And so will you.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday, Awesome God

He didn't have to do it
He could have avoided the pain
He could have given up on us

He didn't have to do it
But he chose to die
He chose to obey the Father
He willingly gave his life

He didn't have to do it
But he did!

What made this decision 
to do such a hard thing so easy?


For God, the awesome and amazing God,
loved us so much
that he gave his only Son
to die on a cruel cross
for a fallen race, enemies of God at best,
so that he might buy us back from
the devil
and sin

Love was at work
when all we see on Good Friday
and death

It was the love
of God
that made this day

What's so good about Good Friday?

In this terrible day
we see the extent of God's love
that he would give his one and only Son
to redeem us.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Looking for God

I go to church to worship the living God 

with other saints and sinners seeking him too. 

I don't go to be entertained 

I go to meet God

to bow before him 

to be still in his presence 

to hear his word 

to say "YES!" to his commands. 

It's not a consumer issue for me 

I'm not looking for the best preacher 

or the best music. 

I'm looking for God!

Monday, March 21, 2016

My God, My God....

It's Easter week.  Good Friday is near.  At this time of year in the Christian calendar we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ.  But I fear we misunderstand one of the most important truths of the cross.

As Jesus neared the end of his sacrifice on the cross he cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  Many in the Christian church have taught that in that moment God turned his back on Jesus and in his agony Jesus is verbalizing that sense of total abandonment and rejection,  but that can't be true! 

At that moment God the father was more pleased with his son than we could possibly imagine.  In that  moment Jesus had fully obeyed the father and accomplished redemption. In that moment I'm sure the father is smiling at the son, not turning away.

But why did Jesus cry out these words?  Why did he declare an apparent sense of forsakenness?  It's because we don't understand what Jesus was doing.  He didn't say these words in despair or agony, he said them as a sign post pointing us to Psalm 22! He's telling his disciples and us, "look at Psalm 22, you will see all this prophesied by David hundreds of years ago."  This is something rabbis often did to point their disciples to a certain passage of scripture.

In the moment of the father's greatest approval of the son we see rejection, but we miss the point of what the Savior was doing.  He was showing us he fulfilled all that the father had given him to do.  He had fully obeyed, fully pleased his father.  How can we see the great work of redemption as displeasing to God?  How have we gotten this so wrong?

In the moment of greatest defeat in the world's eyes God accomplishes his greatest victory!  How wonderful God loved us so much that he gave his son for the salvation of the world!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Quote of the day

"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.
And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.
By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.
And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion.
Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

-Mother Teresa, 1994

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dealing with ME


My biggest problem is not my work, other people around me or even the struggles I face. My biggest problem is ME! I live in a world of people all struggling, for the most part, with themselves. It’s all these struggling people clashing together that creates the problems we see around us.
Unless I can deal with the me I see in the mirror I can never work through my issues with you. Paul the apostle knew this struggle himself, we all understand the struggle, but he actually articulated his own battle. Here are a few of his thoughts,
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
My biggest problem is ME! I hate that. I want to please God, I want to be who he designed me to be. I want to live as he designed me, but something keeps pulling me down to the base person I was when I first met him. That “me” that causes all my problems, all my anger, my sinful thoughts, my frustrations, irritations, my resentments. All the things that come from that “me”… not the me God wants me to be. He has created in me a new man, and yet I so easily fall back to that old man. It’s so frustrating. I hate it! I so understand Paul’s words and struggles. So do you, don’t you? We all live with this tug of sin pulling at our hearts, minds and affections, but it’s not the end of the story. There is a solution that Paul mentions at the end of his thoughts in this passage. Here’s his conclusion,
“Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
The truth is that my sinful nature will never improve. I have to deal with that and “walk in the Spirit,” the new man God created when I trusted him. My old man, the old me, always wants its way…that won’t change…it’s my reality. It’s yours too. My challenge is to choose to walk in his Spirit and not as the “me” who wants his way. Today I’m struggling with me. Frustrated by the man in my mirror, but I know God has provided a better way.
My next step today is to walk in that new way and thank God for his forgiveness and grace.
This struggle will be ours until we finish this life. It’s part of the curse, but the hope we have is the Spirit of God in us that gives us the opportunity to live in a new “me” that pleases God. I remember the story of a young man asking his grandfather when the passions of life ebb. The old saint paused for a moment and then, with 85 years of wisdom, responded, “I don’t know, but if they ever do I’ll let you know.”
Dealing with “me” is my struggle for the day. Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The smell of smoke

Have you ever sat by a campfire and found, that even hours later, the smell of smoke had permeated your clothes?  It lingers, it clings and others can smell it too.

Often, as I live in a world that reminds me of Sodom and Gomorrah, I'm aware that the smell of the culture has clung to me, that I've sat by their campfires too long.

I know, having experienced it, that by simply walking by a campfire the smoke of it easily and quickly permeates your clothing and the smell goes with you.  Some of that is unavoidable as we live in a world walking away from God, but it's not the aroma I want others to smell in my life.

Paul writes of another aroma, another smell that permeates a Christian, that's what I long to smell like,

 "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,  to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life." 2 Corinthians 2 

I live in a world that smells of smoke, the smoke of rebellion against God, but in the midst of that aroma God has given us a new fragrance, the smell of Christ, the aroma of life.

Lord, help me to live in the world, but not smell like it.  Let me smell like you, having walked by the fires of your Spirit burning in the lives of others, and may that aroma linger with me, the smell of Christ, and might it be a sweet aroma that draws men to you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The ugly twins

The man who doesn't fear the Lord will fear everything else. 

We have come to a day when we live in the midst of ugly twins, twins that always walk together.  It happens when men turn away from God, when they reject him and want their own way.

These twins come, like the horses of the apocalypse, when we abandon God and no longer live in fear of him.

Solomon wrote, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."  But when we no longer fear God it doesn't mean fear is no longer part of our lives.  In fact just the opposite happens...fear of everything else grows!

And when fear permeates a culture it's ugly twin shows up- anger.  When all of life is up to me, when I no longer trust in a sovereign, a king to help me, then fear invades my life.  When life seems out of control anger rises. Anger erupts as I respond to the fear that overwhelms me.

I've wondered how long it would take for the ugly twin, anger, to show up and now he has come to join his brother, fear.  

Once more, Solomon comes to the rescue as he wrote, "The fear of the Lord leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil."  But in the absence of a healthy fear of God comes another kind of fear.

"The fear of man brings a snare." Prov. 29:25. 

In the absence of a fear of God the flesh responds to the fears around us and strikes's the ugly twin we are seeing today...anger.  And when anger is given full vent it looks like this,

"...outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these."  Gal. 5

When the ugly twins show up their cousin, anarchy, follows close behind.

All of this is being lived out in the evening news as we watch the twins acting out around us.  

So how do we respond?  How do we deal with the temptation to invite fear to dinner?  

The only response for a believer it to trust God.  It's a Godly fear that will vanquish the twins and give us peace.  We dare not enable the twins to act out in our lives.  Our only response can be the one the apostle Paul invites us to,

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, 
let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 
2 Corinthians 7:1