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