Monday, September 14, 2015

Covenant

"But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Hebrews 8:10, NLT)

I heard a message regarding this passage in 1984. I was serving on a Baptist Student Union mission team in Detroit, Michigan. I can't tell you the name of the church, but I remember clearly my BSU Director, Scott Brewer, bringing this message.  I've preached it myself a few times over the years.  To have God's law in our minds means that we know what to do. To have God's law in our hearts means that we want to do it.  Scott called it, "The know-so and the want-to".  The Spirit of God will guide us to know what to do and better yet, will give us the desire to do it.  Over the years, I've found this to be true.  I've experienced it--though I've also, at times, rebelled against it.

Today, let's be open to the Spirit's directives.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Character

"Until the time came to fulfill his word, the Lord tested Joseph's character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. Joseph was put in charge of all the king's possessions." --Psalm 105:19-21)

I love this description of Joseph that we find tucked away in Psalm 105.  Here we find a revealing of purpose--the reason for Joseph's dry season.  Joseph had languished in prison, serving time for a crime that he did not commit.  Why would God allow such a thing?  Where is justice? 

Don't we ask the same questions when we suffer?  Why wasn't the heart attack diagnosed earlier? Why would God allow ten days of suffering? Why?  Psalm 105 answers with one clear word--CHARACTER!  It's of note that Tina's heart attack went undiagnosed for ten days. Ten is the number of testing.  I shared with the men that I meet with on Tuesday night that this experience has redirected my focus.  I'm much more attentive to Tina than I was before.  I'm committed to making sure that every day is special, a day of love and laughter and not taken for granted.

What about you?  How will your times of suffering grow your character?  As Tina is fond of saying, "God never wastes a hurt!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Patience

"Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised." (Hebrews 6:15)

The New Testament uses the word "patient" to carry the meaning of, "persevering patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles".  Like Abraham, we are to persevere difficult circumstances while awaiting God's promise.  It's usually not easy to patiently wait on God's deliverance but it's the preferred way.  Instead of stepping forward to solve a problem in your own strength, find out what God intends to do and wait for Him to do it.  How do you get a promise from God?  Read the Bible, asking God for insight into your situation.  Look for corrections that you need to make.  Look for revelations of God's character.  Finally, look for promises.  What does God say He will do? 

"The anchor of hope (Heb. 6:19) actually keep us afloat; the anchor of self-pity, self-righteousness, or self-anything, will drown us." --Scotty Smith

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Warn

"You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called 'today,' so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God." (Hebrews 3:13, NLT)

Sin is deceptive. The scriptures speak of it as a trap, a lure, and an enticement.  That's why we need to "warn" each other.  Otherwise, we may fall prey to the addictive nature of the desires of our flesh.

The word, "warn", in the text is the Greek word paracaleo.  the King James Version translates it "exhort".  The New American Standard Version translates it as "encourage".  The literal translation of paracaleo is, "to call to one's side".  Included in the meaning is the purpose of admonishing, begging, consoling, strengthening, comforting, and teaching.  The way we warn each other every day is by coming alongside each other and speaking truth and love. 

Let's think about it this way:

Today I will . . .

Walk with you. I will come alongside.
Affirm you. I will remind you of how God sees you.
Rescue you. Your problems are my problems.
Nag you. I will speak the truth in love over and over again.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Grace

"He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He ransoms me from death and surrounds me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things." (Psalm 103:3-5)

I like the verbs in these verses: forgives, heals, ransoms, surrounds, and fills.  It's almost like there is an outline of the progression of grace. 

He forgives sin.
He heals disease.
He ransoms from death.
He surrounds with love and mercy.
He fills with good things.

He moves us from our sin and it's consequence (disease and death) to what we don't deserve (love, mercy, and good things).  This is the Gospel and the unmerited favor that Jesus lavishes upon all who will call  upon His name. Sin deserves death but through God's great love and mercy, we receive "good things".  Praise The Lord!

Monday, August 31, 2015

No Fear!

"Because God's children are human beings--made of flesh and blood--Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form.  For only as a human being could he die, and only be dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death.  Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Did you know that we're not supposed to be afraid of dying?  Jesus' death and resurrection delivers us from the fear of dying.  Because Jesus rose again from the grave--we can have confidence that we too will rise again. 

For the past two weeks, Tina and I, have experienced a raging storm that has brought us face to face with the frailty of physical life.  Even now, back in the office, I find myself distracted by Tina's condition.  Is she alright?  Does she need me to come home?  [2 minute break while I call home . . . ok, she is fine]  Fear is the real enemy!  It will rob us of peace, contentment, and the miracle of living in the present.  For Tina and I, we're focusing on making today the best today that it can possibly be.  We're trying not to worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  We're living right now! 

Let me invite you to join us in practicing the Serenity Prayer, "Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time".  Let's get started!  Live!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mercy

"He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy." (Titus 3:5)

Praise God for His mercy!  The Greek Lexicon defines mercy as, "kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them".  God sees us in our misery and affliction and wants to help us.  That's Good News!  Even better than God wanting to help, is the fact that God is able to help.  That's Great News! 

Now today, as mercy recipients, let's show that very same mercy.  Look for the miserable and the afflicted and help them.  I'm sure we will all encounter at least one person today who needs a miracle.  Be the miracle!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Focus

"Whoever pursues godliness and unfailing love will find life, godliness, and honor." (Proverbs 21:21)

What are you pursuing today?  What is your day going to be about?  You don't have to be a victim to your circumstances.  You get to choose the focus of your day.  We often bounce around from moment to moment reacting to people and problems without taking the time to actually live.  It's as if someone else is living our life for us.  We're on autopilot and our thoughts and emotions come spilling out without much consideration. 

The Proverb today suggests an alternative to merely trudging through the day.  Live on purpose!  Pursue godliness and unfailing love!  Go deeper with God and make a difference in someone's life today.  Live! Laugh! Love!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Promises

"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to each us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Read back through the verse above and you will see a wonderful collection of benefits available to anyone willing to spend some time in God's Word.  We would all benefit from the any one item in the list and yet all are promised.  Don't miss out on God's wisdom! Don't try to live in your own understanding!  Get in the Word!

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” --John R. W. Stott

Friday, August 14, 2015

Patience

"Beg the Lord your God to show us what to do and where to go." (Jeremiah 42:3)

"Ten days later, the Lord gave his reply to Jeremiah." (Jeremiah 42:7).


The people asked the prophet Jeremiah to seek the Lord on their behalf that they might know what to do.  They had a grave situation in front of them and their lives hung in the balance.  "Beg the Lord your God to show us what to do and where to go."  What I find interesting is that the answer to their prayer did not arrive for ten days.  How often do we pray and then wait ten days (or however long is necessary) to get an answer from God?  I'm afraid that we give up long before we get a response.  We might not wait two days, much less 10, for a response before we guess and do what is best in our judgment.  I wonder how many mistakes I have made simply because I was not willing to patiently wait for God's answer to my prayer. 

Today if you need God's intervention or God's guidance, give Him time.  He is at work and His time is the right time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Make it Count

"Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

The verse literally says to let our days be counted.  It means that every day is a gift and every day matters.  The instruction is to make sure that we don't waste even one of these precious days that God has provided.  I suppose that is wisdom--to make each day count.

Several years ago I taped the Prayer for Serenity into the front cover of my preaching Bible.  I often read it before I step up to teach the Word.  It reminds me of God's activity and my need to simply submit to what He is already doing.  I'll share it with the hope that it might help you number your day.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Heritage of Faith

"You have the faith of your mother, Eunice, and your grandmother, Lois." (2 Timothy 1:5)

I have two thoughts when I read this verse. #1--Am I living out the faith of my parents and grandparents? #2--Am I passing along the faith that I've been given to my children?

I've been given a great faith. My dad was a pastor and if I'm not mistaken my dad's grandfather was a pastor.  My mom and dad invested many years in serving God through established churches as well as starting new missions. In addition I have a couple of books on my shelf that describe faith experiences of my ancestors.  Allow me to share from one of those books, One Corner of Heaven, which is a history of Floyd County, Texas.

"A few years after Carr's Chapel was built, the L.A. Williams family moved into our midst. True to custom, several families soon called on them and invited them to Sunday School and church. Though not affiliated with any denomination, they began church attendance. When the revival was held that summer, their third child, Aaron, about nine years old, surprised us on Sunday morning when he walked down the aisle alone and made his decision for Christ. Truly a little child led them, for his father soon followed, then his mother and the other children, Raymond, Lois, Larue, Chloma, and Aldine. It was a glorious sight as the entire family stood at the altar rail, accepting Christ and joining the church."

One of those children who accepted Christ that Sunday morning in 1909 happens to be my mom's father, and my grandfather (Raymond).  I've had the honor of standing at the altar rail of Carr's Chapel in the very place where my grandfather and great-grandfather found Jesus. I'm grateful for my heritage of faith and for a community of believers that cared enough to invite a new family to church. I'm here because of them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Giving

"Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them." (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer he called out,"Good morning! What are you doing?" The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean." "I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?" "The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die." "But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!" The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Messed Up Men of the Bible

I'm so excited to share the cover for the new book!

Money

"For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10)

Money is essential for living life as we know it and yet it can trip us up if we are not careful.  Notice that it's not money itself that is the problem but the "love of money".  I think that's why it's a good idea to hold financial resources loosely in our hands.  We are to be generous givers, allowing money to slip easily through our fingers.  The danger, of course, is that we will replace trust in God with trust in money.

Today, look for an opportunity to bless someone.  Perhaps we can sacrifice in order to be answered prayer in someone's life.

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.”  --Ronald Reagan

Friday, July 31, 2015

Love

"The purpose of my instruction is that all the Christians there would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5)

Today we get an inside look at Paul's intent as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write to Timothy.  Paul says his purpose was to fill Christians with love.  His purpose is not to fill us with knowledge. It's not to fill us with pride. He isn't trying to fill us with religion.  No, Paul is writing in order that we might be filled to overflowing with love.

That said, Paul suggests three sources for the love that is to fill us.

#1--a Pure Heart. A pure heart is a heart that is clean--one that has been purified by fire.

#2--a Clear Conscience. A clear conscience is one that is good--one that discerns that slightest error.

#3--a Sincere Faith. A literal translation of "sincere faith" would be "undisguised conviction". 

Love comes as we allow our heart, soul, and mind to be brought into complete submission to the work of the Holy Spirit.  As we allow the love of God to transform us, we will in fact become the love of God.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Power

"By my great power I have made the earth and all its people and every animal. I can give these things of mine to anyone I choose." (Jeremiah 27:5)

I think sometimes we forget how big God is in all of His greatness.  He owns it all!  And if He owns it all, then He can give it all!  Your need, whatever it might be, is a drop in God's heavenly bucket.  In an instant, God can reach into your world and solve all of your problems . . . in a single moment!  He is a big God!

So what is He doing and why hasn't He met your need?  That's simple.  God is solving a bigger problem.  He is teaching you how to trust Him, how to love Him, and how to come to Him.  You want your needs met and God wants to meet you.  You want to live a life of comfort and ease and God just wants you to begin to live.  He knows that what you see as the big problem is just a symptom. God wants to heal you through and through, completely. 

Let me encourage you to make God the focus of your day.  Meet Him later this morning for coffee.  Share your hopes and dreams with Him and listen to His ideas for your abundant life.  Don't get in a hurry, and don't watch the clock--just get lost in His presence.  Experience God today!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Valley of Weeping

"When they walk through the Vally of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains!" (Psalm 84:6)

Have you ever walked through the Valley of Weeping? I'm sure we all have experienced times of devastating grief when a loved one dies, a cancer grows, a job fails, or a relationship skips town. I often say that these difficult experiences either make us "bitter" or they make us "better". When the "better" happens, it's like pools of refreshing blessing to a thirsty soul. I've gone swimming in those pools, more than once. What I thought was going to be the death of me turns out to be my rebirth. Today, if you are wandering around lost in the Valley of Weeping, don't lose heart. God never wastes a hurt! He sees you and even now He is leading you to a refreshing spring. Keep going!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God's House

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord." (Psalm 84:1-2)

Today is a good day to head over to God's place and spend some time with Him.  The psalmist "faints with longing" to experience the house of the Lord.  When we understand the goodness of God and the gifts he gives, we too will long to enter His presence.  We bring our neediness and our brokenness and God restores us and provides for us.  He is a good God!

Let me encourage you to carve out some time today to hang out with God. Blessing awaits!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Think Clearly

"But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation." (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Today, let us live in the light of faith--trusting God to watch over us, protect us, and provide for us.

Today, let us live in the light of love--receiving God's love until our cup runs over spilling love into lives all around us.

Today, let us live in the light of salvation--confidently expressing our status as children of God.  There's no need to defend ourselves, argue, or try to justify.  All of us who have joined Jesus are declared righteous.

Faith! Love! Salvation!

Think clearly and Live clearly.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Squashed

"The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 'Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.' So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. Then the Lord gave me this message: 'O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand.'"  (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

Have you ever had to start over? There are times, I suppose, when we make such a mess of things that God chooses to start all over with us.  We become a squashed pot.  I've been there and perhaps you have as well.  The encouragement from the text is not that we're squashed, but rather that God begins anew.  We're not thrown away--we're reshaped, restored, reborn, renewed, and revived!  If you've been squashed, it's time to get up and start again.

“When you have nothing left but God,you have more than enough to start over again.”  --Mother Teresa

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ambition

"This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs". (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Are you ambitious?--What's your passion?--What is your life all about?  Regardless of your answers, Paul gives us a three-fold check on our ambitions. 

#1--We should desire to live a quiet life.  The idea is to avoid chaos--to experience peace and order.

#2--We should want to mind our own business. This means to focus on the work that God has called us to accomplish. Don't concern yourself with others and their work. Mind your business.

#3--We should strive to work with our hands. This is the opposite of idleness.  We are to be engaged in constructive work.

The best part of our passage today is the promises: #1--Respect, and #2--Financial Freedom.  If you desire either promise, you have three clear areas of your life to grow.  Today is great day to get started.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Word

"Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty." (Jeremiah 15:16)

I read and meditate on the scriptures almost every day.  It's been my practice for more than twenty years now.  There was a time, however, when I only opened the Bible at church or when I was preparing for a study of some kind.  I'll tell you what made the difference and what has driven me to the Word of God for these past two decades.  As a young youth pastor at First Baptist, Monterey, Tennessee, I was really struggling to reach my youth group.  I wasn't connecting with them and I was ready to quit.  In desperation, I started searching the scriptures every day to gain God's perspective.  Then it happened! One morning God spoke clearly and personally to me through His word.  He spoke to my circumstances in such a relevant way that I knew I had heard from God.  It was real, it was clear, it was emotional, and it was life-changing.  I've been hooked ever since.

If you haven't had an experience of hearing God speak through His Word, let me encourage to persevere.  Seek Him and he will be found.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Confession

"O Lord Almighty, you are just, and you examine the deepest thoughts of hearts and minds." (Jeremiah 11:20a)

We don't have any secrets as far as God is concerned. He knows it all--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  A realization that God knows our thoughts, our desires, and our deepest secrets, should drive us to our knees in broken contrition.  There's not much room for arrogance in our sin-sick souls.  There is room for confession, repentance, and restoration. 

We need to come before God on a regular basis (daily? or maybe hourly?) and agree with Him regarding our missteps and mistakes.  I find it helpful to close my eyes and to invite the Holy Spirit, (who convicts of sin and guides to truth), to walk with me through my previous days activities. As I think about my day, I'm alert to anything the Holy Spirit wants to discuss.  It usually doesn't take long before I become aware of bad attitudes, thoughtless words and actions, or other more blatant sins that offend the Holy Spirit. I simply agree with Him, ask forgiveness, and move forward. 

Give it a try today and see if God doesn't meet you at the altar of repentance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Correction

"I know, Lord, that a person's life is not his own. No one is able to plan his own course. So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die." (Jeremiah 10:23-24)

We all need a course correction to our life from time to time--perhaps from day to day.  I've experienced many of them throughout my life and, believe me, they can be quite painful.  Praise God that He deals with us gently.  It doesn't always feel like love but it is. The alternative would be for God to either leave us to our own devises or to simply destroy us.  God loves us enough to provide correction. 

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”  --Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Truth

"My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth." (Jeremiah 9:3)

"They all take advantage of one another and spread their slanderous lies. They all fool and defraud each other; no one tells the truth. With practiced tongues they tell lies." (Jeremiah 9:4-5)


If I'm remembering correctly, I recently wrote about truth-telling.  God has placed it before me again today and so let's take another look at it.  Truth appears to be one of God's highest virtues and thus receives a lot of attention in scripture.  At the same time, our enemy, Satan--the deceiver, is all about falsehood, deceit, and lies.  It seems pretty clear that God's children should be marked by truth vs lies.  Yet, our culture has come up with a thousand instances when it's better to bend the truth.  If we're not careful, we will adopt the world's practice instead Jesus' practice. 

Let's redouble our efforts today to tell the truth every time.  Let's tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth--even if it's painful!

Monday, July 13, 2015

More Than Enough

"So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)

As Christ-followers we are to kill the desires within us that are contrary to the desires of the Holy Spirit.  Lust has to be put to death whether it's sexual sin or the lust for more stuff.  Both are included in Colossians 3:5, likely because they have they same root cause--a discontent with what God has provided.  That's what idolatry really is--substituting something else for the sufficiency of God.   He declares that He is enough but something in our restless hearts wants more.

Today, should you find yourself wanting more, or maybe something different, say this, "Lord Jesus, You are more than enough!"  Say it often and say it by faith until you actually come to believe it.  It's a call to worship!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Liar! Liar!

"Lord, you are searching for honesty" (Jeremiah 5:3a)

Why do we have so much trouble telling the truth?  People lie all the time. People lie to get out of trouble. People lie to make themselves look better. Sometimes people lie to avoid conflict.  Other times people lie to incite conflict.  Human beings lie a lot.  An exaggeration is a lie just like minimizing is a lie.  A little white lie is still a lie.  We even lie to ourselves.

God, however, is truth, and He is searching for truthful people.  Today, let's focus on telling the truth, being the truth, and living the truth.

"Father in Heaven, give us truthful hearts and truthful lips. May the Holy Spirit guide us and convict us that we might live today as the honest ones your are seeking. Through Jesus, Amen!"

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Confession

"Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. Cleanse your minds and hearts before the Lord, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins." (Jeremiah 4:3b-4)

We should make it a regular practice to confess our sins to God.  Sin, all sin, is rebellion and should be dealt with on a regular basis.  Our backyard has a low spot where water gathers.  My dog, Gavin, loves to play in the puddle which quickly becomes a mud puddle.  It doesn't take long for him to cover himself in mud.  Of course, he has to be rinsed off before he can come in the house or even be petted.  I don't want to get dirty and so Gavin has to be cleaned up so that I can play with him.  In the same way, we have to bring our sin to God so that He can clean us up.

Today, take some time and review the past few days of your life. How have you failed to live up to God's standard?  How have you disobeyed Him?  How have you not obeyed Him?  Make a list as you invite the Holy Spirit to reveal His thoughts on the matter.  Confession is simply agreeing with God in regards to what offends Him.  Your confession prompts His forgiveness!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Kindness

"This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God's great kindness to sinners." (Colossians 1:6)

God loves you! He loves you so much that He accomplished the impossible to deliver you from your sins.  Jesus died, paying the steep price for your mistakes.  Jesus rose again, empowering you to life an abundant life through His life.  He is, in fact, kind to sinners like you and me. 

Today is my oldest son's 23rd birthday and I'm quite emotional over the fact that he is in Colorado while I am in Texas.  For most of the years of his life, Jaren and I would go to an amusement park to celebrate his birthday--Just him and me.  I am missing that experience today. I am missing him today.  In the same way, God longs to spend time with us today.  It's not that He needs us to do anything. It's not that He needs us at all.  He simply loves us--and thus He is kind!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Thoughts

"Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." (Philippians 4:8b)

You've heard, "You are what you eat."  Let me suggest, "You are what you think!"  All day long, we will each have opportunity to fill our hearts and minds with messages.  Choose wisely, my friends.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  --Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Jesus Paid It All

"We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us." (Philippians 3:3b)

We trust in Jesus alone for our salvation.  All our good works and all our spiritual exercises don't add one single thing to the work Jesus did on the cross.  It seems too good to be true.  That's why it's the "Good News". 

"What do you do when the pastor rambles on too long? Elvina Hall wrote a hymn. Seated in the choir loft at the Monument Street Methodist Church of Baltimore, she had no paper to write on--only the flyleaf of the hymnal. There she wrote these stanzas." (The One Year Book of Hymns, Tyndale House)

Jesus Paid It All

I hear the Savior say, "Thy strength indeed is small!

Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all."

Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain--He washed it white as snow.
Lord, now indeed I find Thy pow'r, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper's spots and melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim--
I'll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv'ry's Lamb.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
"Jesus died my soul to save," my lips shall still repeat.


Elvina Mabel Hall (1820-1889)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

No Fear

"Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny." (Psalm 73:23-24)

All of us have had times in our lives when perhaps our future seemed uncertain.  And yet the promise of God is that He is leading us forward to our destiny--a glorious destiny.  We are little children and He is our daddy in heaven holding our hands and leading us step by step.  There is no need to fear. There is no cause for anxiety.  God has this!  If you're willing, He has you.  Just place your hand in His and follow His lead.

"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." --Martin Luther

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

God-Centered

"In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you." (Philippians 2:14)
What would it look like if we actually went an entire day without complaining?  As I think about it, complaints usually come out of my mouth because someone or something doesn't live up to my expectation.  It's pretty arrogant of me to expect that the world is supposed to revolve around me and my wants and desires.  Only God gets to have that expectation.  Today, may we all move from a self-centered focus to a God-centered focus.

“True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered; I don’t let a man get close to me who hasn’t faced his wound. Think of the posers you know—are they the kind of man you would call at 2:00 A.M., when life is collapsing around you? Not me. I don’t want clich├ęs; I want deep, soulful truth, and that only comes when a man has walked the road I’ve been talking about.”  --John Eldredge

Monday, June 29, 2015

Light

"Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all the nations to see! For the glory of the Lord is shining upon you. Darkness as black as night will cover all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord will shine over you." (Isaiah 60:1-2)

The light of the gospel never shines as brilliantly as when it is placed on a backdrop of darkness.  Jesus' light has not dimmed since the day he triumphantly came out of the tomb.  Today, He shines as bright as ever!  You and I carry the light of the world into the world's darkness.  We're going to encounter lots of people today, people who need to know that there is a reason to live.  Shine your light!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Blessing of Honor

"'Honor your father and mother.' This is the first of the Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: If you honor your father and mother, 'you will live a long life, full of blessing.'" (Ephesians 6:2-3)
The word "honor" in this passage is sometimes translated "value" in other New Testament passages.  We are to value our parents--to honor them.  The command is not simply for little children, it is for all of us--of all ages, whether our parents are living or dead.  We are to value them.  The command does not exclude parents who may have done a poor job parenting.  It does not exclude parents who may have been absent.  All parents are to be honored.

If your parents are or were great parents, then you may have no issue with the command.  If your parents were not so great, then it's a bit more difficult.  Like all of our relationships, we are to learn to see people through the eyes of God--as He sees them--broken and flawed individuals created in the image of God.  Ask God to open your eyes to see what He sees--to know what He knows--and to value what He values.  Invite the Holy Spirit to do a transformational work in your heart.  Like everything else in the Christian life, we express value by faith and grace--faith that there is more there than our eyes can see, and grace--the unmerited favor that is given through an ocean of love.

Paul emphasizes that there is a reward for honoring parents.  We are promised a long life, full of blessing.  Do you need a blessing today?  God says, "Honor your father and mother."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Experiencing God

"Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:10); "Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do." (Ephesians 5:17)

There are about sixty of us at TBC that are working through Henry Blackaby's workbook, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.  The thing I like most about this resource is that it insists that we learn how to hear from God.  It's a primer on how to move away from a self-centered life (i.e. what I think is best) into a God-centered life.  I really do want to find out, "what is pleasing to the Lord".  I want to know, "what the Lord wants"

For those in the Tolar area, we will be meeting tonight at 7:00 to discuss what we're learning in Experiencing God.  It's not too late to get started. We would love to have you join us tonight.  For those outside the area, you can order a copy of the workbook on Amazon or some other online retailer.  It's a must read for anyone who wants to go deeper in their walk with Jesus.  It's in my list of essential books for every Christian to read.

"God did not create you for time; He created you for eternity." --Henry Blackaby

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Smell of Sacrifice

"Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Have you noticed how the attention in Charleston has shifted from the brutality of the killer to the gracious forgiveness of the family members?  It seems these family members are living out a life filled with love for others.  Their example of love is so much more powerful than the killer's example of hate.  The sin is being overcome by love. The world has stopped to notice the presence of Christ at Emanuel AME Church.  Nine men and women gave their lives as a dying sacrifice.  Nine families are now daily giving their lives as a living sacrifice.  It's a sweet perfume.  You can't help but stop and notice such a fragrant aroma.

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." --26 year old Tywanza Sander quoting Jackie Robinson. He stepped in front of his 87 year old aunt to try to save her life at Emanuel AME Church.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Does God Have a Tattoo?

"Yet Zion says, 'The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.' 'Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See I have written your name on my hand.'" (Isaiah 49:14-16)

Have you ever felt like God has deserted you?  Maybe right now you feel like He has left you alone with your problems.  Be encouraged by the Word of God this morning.  Regardless of how painful your situation may be, God has not  abandoned you.  In the same way that a loving mother cannot forget her child, your Father in heaven cannot forget you. 

What do you think about Isaiah 49:16, "See I have written your name on my hand"?  Does God have a tattoo?  I wouldn't defend the tattoo thought too strongly--but I know for a fact that Jesus has a piercing--in both hands.  They were put there by a roman guard when Jesus died on the cross.  He loves you!

If you're struggling today, let me suggest that you take a pen and write "Jesus" in the palm of your hand.  As often as you see it today, it will remind you that Jesus is thinking of you as well.  He has scars in His hands with your name on them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Carried

"Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms." (Psalm 68:19)

I love the picture that the psalmist paints for us--"He carries us in his arms".  When I was a little boy, I loved to be carried in the arms of my mom or my dad.  As I got older (and bigger), the blessing of being carried became infrequent.  Even then, I would climb up in the lap of my mom or dad as often as I could.  It just felt good to be carried and supported by a parent.

Rich Mullins was a brilliant song writer who penned great songs like, "Awesome God", and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord".  Not unlike most biblical characters, his usefulness to God harmonized a life-melody of brokenness and pain.  Listen as Rich reflects on the death of Moses.


“I am thinking now of old Moses sitting on a mountain - sitting with God - looking across the Jordan into the Promised Land. I am thinking of the lump in his throat, that weary ache in his heart, that nearly bitter longing sweetened by the company of God...

And then God - the great eternal God - takes Moses' thin-worn, thread-bare little body into His hands - hands into whose hollows you could pour the oceans of the world, hands whose breadth marked off the heavens - and with these enormous and enormously gentle hands, God folds Moses' pale lifeless arms across his chest for burial.

I don't know if God wept at Moses' funeral. I don't know if He cried when He killed the first of His creatures to take its skins to clothe this man's earliest ancestors. I don't know who will bury me -

...Of God, on whose breast old Moses lays his head like John the Beloved would lay his on the Christ's. And God sits there quietly with Moses - for Moses - and lets His little man cry out his last moments of life.

But I look back over the events of my life and see the hands that carried Moses to his grave lifting me out of mine. In remembering I go back to these places where God met me and I meet Him again and I lay my head on His breast, and He shows me the land beyond the Jordan and I suck into my lungs the fragrance of His breath, the power of His presence.”


Today, like Moses, and like Rich, I want to, "lay my head on His breast" and "suck into my lungs the fragrance of His breath, the power of His presence".  I'm so glad that God carries us in His arms.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The God of New

"For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

I've see a lot of God's brand-new things in my life.  There's been new places, new jobs, new relationships, new opportunities, and new works of the Spirit.  And each time He begins something new, I grow in new ways, with new experiences.

God is the God of "New".  He makes all things new (Rev. 21:5). He makes new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). He gives a new command (John 13:34).  He made a new covenant (Jer. 31:31).   He makes a new Heaven and a new Earth (Is 65:17). He gives us a new spirit (Ez 11:19).  He is the God of "New"!

If God is bringing new things into your life, don't fear--He is really good at new!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No Fear!

"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." (Isaiah 43:1-2)

Likely, at least one of us needs to hear these words from God today.  Here's another good verse of promise, "God is our refuge and strength, He is our very present help in times of trouble. (PS 46:1)  In all of my years of studying the Bible, I've discovered that the Bible is filled with such promises.  Our God is a good God who lavishes His love upon His children.  He can be trusted with lives--our hopes, our dreams, and even our failures.  God has ransomed us through the precious blood of Jesus and thus we are precious to Him.

Today, God says, "Don't be afraid, for I have ransomed you."

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Spiritual Treasure Hunt

"I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will guard and support you, for I have given you to my people as the personal confirmation of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide all nations to me. You will open the eyes of the blind and free the captives from prison. You will release those who sit in dark dungeons." (Isaiah 42:6-7)

From my quiet time this morning, I see six things that I am to be about today.  I share them with you in hopes that we can do them together.

#1--We are to demonstrate God's righteousness.  Bottom line, we are to show the world how to live correctly.
#2--We are to confirm God's covenant to the people.  We are to affirm in word and deed the Gospel of Grace.
#3--We are to guide the nations to God. Someone in our path today needs to know that God loves them.
#4--We are to open the eyes of the blind. The enemy has darkened minds. The Spirit enlightens.
#5--We are to free the captives. People all around us are held captive by hurts, habits, and hangups.
#6--We are to release those who sit in dark dungeons. We bring the tortured out of their prisons.

I'm looking for whomever God will place in my path today.  Join my in this treasure hunt and let's report back the precious souls that we discover.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Recovery

"Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back on the right path." (Galatians 6:1)
Too often, churches have given up on the black sheep.  People make mistakes and bring chaos into their lives.  We don't have the right to give up on them.  Our role is to help them back on the right path.  Without approving of their sin we want to always approve of the person.  I've often said, the only person we cannot help is the person who doesn't want help.  A person who doesn't want to change, who doesn't want to work on their issues, who rebelliously refuses counsel--that kind of person is hard to help. 

My greatest joy as a pastor is to meet regularly with people who want to work on their issues.  Over the years, I've seen a host of people find freedom from their hurts, habits, and hangups.  If you think you might want to start work on your issues, feel free to connect with me.  I'm safe and everything you share is confidential.

In addition, we're in the process of launching a couple of Celebrate Recovery small groups.  The first will be just for men and will meet on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 in the TBC fellowship hall.  Text me, call me, or email me if you want more details. Otherwise, just show up on Tuesday. 

“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it.” --M.H. McKee

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Forgiveness

"Though our hearts are filled with sins, you forgive them all." (Psalm 65:3)

What an amazing promise!  God forgives sinful hearts!  Do you have guilt and shame that you are hanging on to? There is no need to continue to relive the mistakes of the past.  There is no virtue in trying to pay penance for yesterday's failures.  Jesus died once and for all to pay the price for our sins.  We need only confess our sins and He will make us righteous through His own blood that was shed on the cross.  "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"  It's as simple as ABC.

A-cknowledge that you have sinned and come short of God's glorious standard.
B-elieve that God stepped into the world, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and rose victoriously on the 3rd day.
C-onfess Jesus as Lord of your life, both privately and publicly, for now and forever.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?"
She answers "No one, sir."
Then Jesus says, "I also don't judge you guilty. You may go now, but don't sin anymore."
If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall.Read them. Ponder them.Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul.
Or better still, take him with you to to your canyon of shame. Invite Christ to journey with you back to the Fremont Bridge of your world. Let Him stand beside you as you retell the events of the darkest nights of your soul.
And then listen. Listen carefully. He's speaking.
"I don't judge you guilty."
And watch. Watch carefully. He's writing. He's leaving a message. Not in the sand, but on a cross.
Not with his hand, but with his blood.
His message has two words: not guilty.”
    --Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Sticks & Stones

"A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends." (Proverbs 16:28)

Often, the scripture needs no amplification.  That is the case with our verse today.  It needs no commentary--just a commitment to practice its truth.

“What other people think about me is none of my business .” --Simon Cowell

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Call to Worship

"But the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them." (Isaiah 30:18)

How many times have we tried to solve our problems ourselves while all the while our Heavenly Father is waiting for us to ask for help.  And the problem is that when we solve a problem, we get what we can do in our power.  When we wait for God to solve a problem, we get what God can do in His power.  Would you prefer what God can provide or what you can provide? 

Today, should face a problem, let me suggest that you resist the urge to fix it.  Rather, close your eyes, and focus on God. Go to Him. Pray to Him. Rest in His love and compassion.  Let every problem you face become a call to worship!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dancin' Toward the Dawn

The following is from Dancin' Toward the Dawn by Tim Hansel:

To show the splendor of the newborn Savior in the church Christmas pageant, an electric light bulb was hidden in the manger. All the stage lights were to be turned off so only the brightness of the manger could be seen, but the boy who controlled the lights got confused, and suddenly all the lights went out. It was a fairly tense moment broken by a little shepherd's loud whisper, "Hey, you just switched off Jesus!"

I switch off Jesus much more than I am willing to admit. If you and I were to switch Jesus back on in our lives, what would He be saying to us? Prayer is listening to Him, not just telling Him what you need. In fact, it's finding out what He needs and wants from you, where He can use you to fill a need or create a bridge where there is a gap of loneliness.

But you say, "I'm lonely, too. Why doesn't someone come to me?" It is interesting that the passage in Isaiah doesn't say "Here I am, find me," nor does it say "fill my needs." The Scriptures are clear. The correct response is, "Here I am, send me" (Isaiah 6:8).

Take the next tiny step. Psalm 18:28 says, "The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness." As he does so, be willing to take the steps that He has prepared for you. Allow God to direct you and to be fully Himself in your life.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Peace!

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a wonderful promise of God--Focus on Him and you will have peace.  Notice that it's God who keeps us peaceful.  This isn't something we drum up or manufacture.  It's all God giving us Himself!  The Hebrew for peace in this verse is "shalom" which was and still is a common greeting, like saying, "Hello".  The word carries the idea of completeness, soundness, and welfare.  Shalom simply means that all is well. 

Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27)  Today, should you find yourself stressed and distressed--stop, close your eyes, and focus on Jesus.  Release your problems and your fears to Jesus. Trust Him!

Shalom!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Peter, John, & Ben Franklin

"Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

They recognized them as having been with Jesus.  No doubt about it--Jesus changes us!  He changes fear to faith! He turns persecution into power!  Jesus transforms weakness into wonder.  The key to this miraculous turn is, "having been with Jesus".

Have you been with Jesus this week? Or are you just getting by in your own power?  Your ordinary can become extraordinary in the hands of Jesus. 

"And to know that God governs in the affairs of men, that He hears and answers prayers, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, is, indeed, a powerful regulator of human conduct.”  --Benjamin Franklin

Monday, June 01, 2015

A Better Way . . .

"But all your feverish plans are to no avail because you never ask God for help." (Isaiah 22:11)

Isaiah observes the hurried activity of Jerusalem as they prepare for an attack against them.  His conclusion is that their plans are futile because they are ignoring God.  We often do the same thing don't we?  We find ourselves in a crisis and we get busy solving it.  We work when we should worship. We fix when we should fast.  We plan when we should pray.

“The more you pray, the less you'll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry." --Rick Warren

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Sin of Pleasing People

"Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10)

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a recovering "people-pleaser".  Somewhere early in my life, I adopted a great desire to be loved by people.  Now, I know that we all desire to be loved and accepted, but in my world it was necessary for EVERYONE to love me.  For much of my life, I have done whatever it takes to get as many people as possible to love me.  That, of course, meant that I had to compromise my life and my calling to conform to the expectations of others.  The prescription that I have followed over the past dozen years or so is to practice telling myself the biblical truth about who I am and how much God loves me.  The Bible is flooded with promises and reminders about the great love of God.  The more I have come to believe in the love of God, the less I have needed to try to earn the love of people.

So, to my fellow people-pleasers out there this morning, let me encourage you to rest in God's love and acceptance.  As you read the Bible, focus on the many ways that  God expresses His love.  And should you feel the sting of personal criticism or rejection today, rest in the fact that you are the delight of your Father in heaven.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Make a Good Decision Everytime

"We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer." (Proverbs 16:1-3)

This has been a tough couple of weeks for several friends of mine.  Tough decisions with seemingly no positive outcomes, have had to be made.  We've all been there.  We've all been required to make a decision when we were not prepared to do so.  After all, sometimes we make bad decisions.  Sometimes, our decisions reap unintended consequences.  Sometimes we have to make a decision without all of the facts.  It can be tough. 

In those times when we are gathering our thoughts, let us remember that the Lord always gives the right answer.  Prayer shouldn't be the last thing we do but, rather, the first thing.  An open Bible and open ears are all that's required to hear from God.  Sit down with pen and paper. Write out the question for which you need direction.  Then prayerfully listen as you read the Word, asking God for His insight.  Write down what you hear God saying from His word.  Write down the promises you see. Write down whom God reveals Himself to be. Write down what He tells you to start and what He tells you to stop. 

I've found that God often addresses character defects in my own heart on the path to wisdom.  Often I've found that there isn't a right decision to make until I've first submitted fully to God's total and complete Lordship.  It's funny how often God's correction of me causes a correction of my circumstances.  Finally, understand that God is not in a hurry.  He's got all of the time in the world.  God's right answer will certainly come in His timing--not yours.

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” --C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Red Hot Burning Coal

"Then I said, 'My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race.'" (Isaiah 6:5)

"Then one of the seraphim flew over to the altar, and he picked up a burning coal with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, 'See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.'" (Isaiah 6:6-7)
The cure for Isaiah's deserved destruction was a burning coal from the the altar of God.  God is like that! He fixes our failures.  He solves our sin-issue. He delivers us from destruction.  He forgives us with a burning coal.

"I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with the golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters" (Revelation 1:13-15)

John saw Jesus in a glorious vision on the Island of Patmos.  Note Jesus' flaming eyes and burning feet.  God loves us enough, that like He did for Isaiah, He sent a burning coal to deliver us from certain destruction.

Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Destruction

"Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter." (Isaiah 5:20)
We live in period of time where our culture is rapidly redefining truth.  It's happening at a staggering pace.  Life is being devalued, marriage is being redefined, virtue is vanishing, and sin is esteemed.  What is the logical outcome? The Bible insists it will be destruction! 

And we see destruction all around us.  We see destruction in Waco with 9 dead and hundreds arrested as bike gangs clash.  We see destruction in Baltimore as crowds riot and loot, burning cars and buildings.  We even see it in Granbury as an unsupervised 3 year old tragically drowns in the lake.  Yesterday, I was shocked to see on Facebook that a man I was acquainted with in Windsor, Colorado, had been shot while riding his bike.  It's just tragic.

"If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I think it's time to pray . . .

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thrive

"But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will wait for your mercies in the presence of your people." (Psalm 52:8-9)

Where does the Psalmist say that he is thriving?  Where is he waiting for God's mercies?  He is in the house of God among God's people.  We were not created to live our lives in isolation.  Rather, God has given us families of Christ-followers (churches) where we can do life together.  We can share our hurts, habits, and hangups.  We can also share our hopes and dreams.  Like the Psalmist, we can thrive together in the house God.  We can wait on His mercies together. 

“Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.”   --N.T. Wright

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Change the World

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you." (Psalm 51:10-13)

Our primary mission as a church is to reach people with the Gospel.  Like David's prayer in Psalm 51:13, we want to teach God's ways to sinners and see them turn to God.  Jesus commands us to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20) 
As I've prayed over Psalm 51 this morning, I'm wondering if God isn't giving us direction in terms of preparation we can make in our own lives in order to effectively teach sinners and see them return to God.

1. Create in me a clean heart.  We begin with confession. We will have a difficult time teaching people to confess their sins if we don't make it a regular practice.

2. Renew a right spirit within me.  There is nothing sadder than a Christian with a bad attitude.  Who wants to hang around a bunch of bitter people?

3. Do not banish me from your presence.  We are transformed in the presence of God.  Miracles happen in the presence of God.  How do we come into the presence of God? The Bible says, "God inhabits the praise of His people." (Psalm 22:3)

4. Don't take your Holy Spirit from me.  We effectively teach and reach only in the power of the Holy Spirit.

5. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and something the world is always looking to find.  Joy is a contentment not based on circumstance.

6. Make me willing to obey you.  How can we possibly teach others to obey God if we haven't learned how to obey God?

7. Then I will teach your ways to sinners.  How will they hear without a preacher?

8. They will return to you.  Here is a promise!  If we will practice the first 7, then we will experience the promise of #8.  There's no better time to get started than right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Repentance

"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2)

And so begins David's prayer of repentance after the prophet Nathan confronts him regarding his sins of adultery and murder.  Psalm 51 gives us a glimpse into the heart of a man who not only messed up in a big way, but also repented in a big way.  Today, let me suggest that we crack open our Bibles to Psalm 51 and pray David's prayer regarding our own sins.  David is called, "a man after God's own heart"--not because he was perfect, but rather because he knew how to repent. 

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thanks

"But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me." (Psalm 50:23)

That's a peculiar way to think of thanksgiving . . . a sacrifice.  A sacrifice is generally something that we give up--a treasure that we give away.  Perhaps giving thanks is a sacrifice of heart.  Instead of getting irritated with those who don't meet my expectations, I will give thanks to the God who created them.  Instead of fearing the future, I will thank God for it.  Instead of swimming in shame and regret, I will give thanks to the God of forgiveness and restoration.  What if I choose to begin every sentence today with, "Thank you God . . ."

“I pray for you, that all your misgivings will be melted to thanksgivings. Remember that the shadow a thing casts often far exceeds the size of the thing itself (especially if the light be low on the horizon) and though some future fear may strut brave darkness as you approach, the thing itself will be but a speck when seen from beyond. Oh that He would restore us often with that 'aspect from beyond,' to see a thing as He sees it, to remember that He dealeth with us as with sons.”   --Jim Elliot

Monday, May 11, 2015

I Choose Gentleness

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and is not something that you can force yourself to become.  You are either gentle or you are not.  We have a natural response when things don't go our way or when someone gets in our face--it's likely not a gentle answer.  "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Galatians 5:16-17) 

How do we begin to experience the Spirit's fruit?  We must submit to the Spirit's leadership by trusting and obeying.  The Spirit must increase and the flesh must decrease.  Whatever you decide to feed today is what will grow. Will you feed the flesh? Or will you feed the Spirit through time in the Word and prayer? 

I Choose Gentleness . . . Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.  --Max Lucado

Thursday, May 07, 2015

"Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!'" (Mark 3:11)

Jesus' authority was such that even the demons would acknowledge Him.  That had to be quite a sight--Jesus walking down the street and demon-possessed people falling down before Him.  That got me thinking this morning.  If the demons submitted to Jesus' power 2000 years ago, then of course they still do.  That means that the closer I am to Jesus--the less trouble the demons can cause.

I have been teaching for many years that the way to overcome addictive sin in our lives is by worshiping God.  When we focus on our sin and shortcomings and with hands clenched determine never to sin again--well, we tend to keep on sinning. The secret, it seems to me, is to focus on God--His power, His character, His holiness.  When we live in the presence of God through worship and prayer, the demons flee.

Let's walk close to Jesus today through prayer and worship and watch those demons fall down before Him.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Shhh...

"As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut! Don't be a fool who doesn't realize that mindless offerings to God are evil. And don't make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2)

Solomon, the wisest man on earth, says to listen more and talk less. It's been said that we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.  Notice that the context of listening has to do with the house of God.  I wonder if God ever shakes his head as we ramble on and on with all kinds of foolish words.  Let me suggest that the wisest prayer that we can ever offer is the prayer of listening.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” --Winston Churchill

Monday, May 04, 2015

Today!

"For God says, 'I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.' Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Today is the day of salvation!  Whatever your day has in store--God is already there and has already provided your rescue.  God is using everything (the good and the bad) for your benefit today as you release control to God's sovereign purpose.  I'm not saying that today won't hurt and that there won't be enemies taking shots at you.  I am saying that God is saving you.  He is saving you from your hurts, your habits, and your hangups.  He is using your pain for your gain.  He is delivering you from your past and from your regrets. Today is your day of salvation!

"One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed."  --Leonard Ravenhill

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Purpose of Pain

"For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Have you considered the purpose of your pain?  It's not for nothing!  This verse makes clear that our difficulties produce, "an immeasurable great glory that will last forever".  Imagine that!  The crisis that you've just come through, or perhaps that you are coming through, is producing glory that you will experience forever. 

James explains it this way, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)  God uses trials to perfect us.  I often say that our painful experiences either makes us better or bitter.  We get to choose how we react to problems.

Today, lets trust God with our issues.  Should you find yourself struggling, remember this verse, and instead of getting grumpy or depressed, begin to give God thanks for the good He is doing in your life.  Don't get bitter! Get better!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Taste Test

"Just as the mouth tastes good food, the ear tests the words it hears." (Job 34:3)

I have been sitting here the past few minutes trying to think of something that I don't eat because it tastes bad to me.  Funny thing is that I cannot think of anything.  There are a lot of things I don't eat because of color, texture, etc.  But taste?  Over the years, I've learned to eat just about anything that is put before me.  Foods that I thought I would not like based on color or texture sometimes turn out to taste pretty good.  I've also adopted the belief that everything tastes good if you put enough butter on it (or Tabasco). 

In the same way, I wonder if I've learned to accept words (and concepts) that I don't necessarily like.  We hear all kinds of things on tv, radio, and in conversation.  Our culture says a concept is good for us and we put a little Tabasco on it and swallow hard. 

Today, let's make an effort to taste the words we hear.  Let's discern what we're hearing and measure it by the Word of God.  Let's test what we hear!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stretch out!

"He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered." (Mark 3:1)  "He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Get up and come forward!'" (v3)  "He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored." (Mark v5)

In the first five verses of Mark, Jesus restores the withered and dried up hand of a certain man.  All of us, perhaps, have had "dried up" experiences when our lives have withered.  We have withered dreams, withered relationships, and maybe even like this man, withered health.

If you are in a dried up place today, let me suggest you follow Jesus' pattern.

#1--Get Up!  Refuse to stay down.  Start over!  Begin again!  You may have been knocked down but you don't have to stay down. 

#2--Come forward!  Don't stay where you are.  Take a step, no matter how small, in the right direction--the direction of your dreams--the direction that Jesus' leads.

#3--Stretch out your hand!  The man in our story had likely tried a million times to stretch out his hand.  Jesus asked him to do it one more time.  Your failure doesn't need to define you one day longer.  Get up and come forward!  Stretch out! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Prayer-Singing

"Sing to Him a new song." (Psalm 33:3)

I've found six references to singing a new song in Psalms and two references in Revelation.  That's a total of eight times that the Bible talks about singing a new song to God.  I guess it shouldn't surprise us that a creative God who created the universe with all of it's diversity and complexity would enjoy our creative worship.  I take these verses to mean that God really likes it when you and I start making up songs to sing.  I'm sure He likes the old songs too but there is something special about a unique and creative expression from our heart sung to God.

Let me suggest that you try it today.  While you are out and about, driving or walking, or wherever you may find yourself, sing a prayer to the Father.  It doesn't have to be in tune, or a melodic masterpiece.  Just sing from the heart, the louder the better.  Sing of your love for God.  Sing of His greatness.  Sing thanksgiving or sing the scriptures.  Maybe sing about your needs or sing about the desires of your heart.    Sing a new song--sing your new song!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Newness of Spirit

"But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:6)

God wishes to move us from the discipline of the rigid law to the freedom of the boundless Spirit.  This means we don't just worship on the Sabbath but on every day of the week as the Spirit leads.  We don't just give a tithe but we are quick to share all of our resources as God directs.  Our goal is not to just meet the minimum legal requirement but to graciously give our lives as a living sacrifice.  The disciplines of the faith must cease to be religious rituals and must become natural expressions of our living faith.  In the same way that we breathe without giving it a thought simply because our lungs demand oxygen, we also love, serve, worship, pray, etc. because of the hunger in our souls.  My motivation for eating is not just to nourish my body.  I eat because I get hungry and because I enjoy the taste of food.  In the same way our motivation for the spiritual must move from duty to delight.

My friends, you are released from the duty of religious ritual!  God has provided a new and better way for you to serve God.  Here is a good starting place, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8)  Today, let us love, even if we don't feel like it.  Soon, it will come as naturally as taking a deep breath.

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” --C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Kingdom of New

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-29)

The "Kingdom of God" is the "Kingdom of New".  The Bible contains a variety of references to how the kingdom is new.  We are new creations experiencing a new birth through newness of spirit.  We have a new song, a new teaching, a new covenant, a new command, and a new life.  We have a new self, a new attitude, and a new way.  The kingdom has a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, and a new day of worship right at the beginning of every new week. 

Today is a new day in which we will experience new adventures.  God has planned an amazing day for each of us.  Even now He is springing forth new things.  He is making new roads through your wilderness and new rivers through your desert.  Don't get too busy and miss the joy that today brings.  Live your life!  It's a gift.

“One of the tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”   --Dale Carnegie

Friday, April 10, 2015

NEW!

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

This has long been one of my favorite verses from the Bible.  I like it because it's a message of "new".  Christians are to be "new creatures" who are experiencing "new things".  I don't know about you but I'm encouraged by new--new opportunities, new experiences, new life, etc.  Today is a new day and in it each of us will experience God in new ways as He reveals Himself to us.  We will, perhaps, make new friends, develop new skills, and receive new gifts.  The day will absolutely be filled with new.  The only question is to whether we will open our hearts to receive all of the new that God has for us today. 

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” --C.S. Lewis, Mere Chrisitanity