Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stuck out of Balance

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"How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart,

that I might not sin against you.
I praise you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
I have recited aloud
all the regulations you have given us.
I have rejoiced in your laws
as much as in riches.
I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
I will delight in your decrees
and not forget your word."
(Psalm 119:9-16, New Living Translation)

I'm sharing a slightly longer passage than usual this morning because I noticed something interesting.

Notice that the Psalmist begins with what he has already done: "I have tried ... I have hidden ... I have recited ... I have rejoiced ..."

Then he shifts to what he will do: "I will study ... I will delight ... "

As we consider our lives in Christ, we need both perspectives. If we only have "I will's" without "I have's", then we need to consider what keeps us from acting on those intentions.

If we only have "I have's" without "I will's" then we need to consider why we have lost our vision.

Question: Are you stuck in the "I have's" or "I will's"?

Leave me a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Living in Determined Dependence

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"Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! ... I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!" (Psalm 119:5,8, New Living Translation)

There are two great risks involved for those who desire to follow Christ in obedience. The first is that we become over-confident in our own abilities and fail to live in total dependence on Him. The moment we think, "I've got this," we have positioned ourselves for a major failure.

The second risk is that we decide that obedience is so far out of reach that it is hopeless and we might as well give up. "It's impossible for ordinary people," we say, not realizing that this faux humility is just another kind of self-assured arrogance.

Listen to the desperation in the Psalmist's plea: "Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!" He recognizes that he is helpless within himself. But, he also recognizes that he is not without help: "I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!"

The posture we need is that of determined dependence. We are called into partnership with God. He does His part and gives us the grace necessary to do our part. We cannot access one without the other.

Question: Which of those risks is more likely for you?

Leave me a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How could we not praise Him?

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"So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding." (Ephesians 1:6-8, New Living Translation)

I am thinking this morning of the incredible grace and kindness of God. If you read yesterday's post, you know everything is not sunshine and daffodils in my world right now. Yet, I cannot escape the reality that I am a beneficiary of God's abundant grace and mercy. I am forgiven! I am free! I belong to Him! How could I not praise Him?

Your life may not be sunshine and daffodils right now either. Or maybe it is, but you know it will change. I once heard someone say that we have either just come out of a time of trial, are currently in one, or are about to enter another one.

None of those circumstances changes the character of God. His kindness and grace are the same. We either have the grace of deliverance or we have the grace of perseverance. And through it all, if we have trusted Christ for salvation, we never cease to belong to Him.

How could we not praise Him?

Question: what can you do today to focus on the kindness and grace of God in the middle of your circumstances?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Leaning confidently

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"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firmly fixed, trusting (leaning on and being confident) in the Lord." (Psalm 112:7, Amplified Bible)

I needed this verse this morning. It appears that my step-mother is headed for heaven in just a few days. I only use the term "step" to distinguish her from my mom. I could not love either of them any more than I already do. One is "Mom" and the other is "Thingy". There's plenty of love to go around.

God's purposes are not always clear. Mom is a 25 year cancer survivor. Thingy's cancer was diagnosed 7 months ago. Could God heal? Of course! Has He? Mom's temporary healing has lasted 25 years and continues. Thingy's permanent healing is just around the corner. That, my friends, is the reality of those whose hearts are firmly fixed.

Question: What keeps you from leaning confidently on the Lord?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Simplify ...

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"Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.' Jesus replied, 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!'" (John 14:8-9, New Living Translation)

As I was reading this morning in "My Utmost for His Highest", I was struck by these words:

“Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us—astounded at how “un-simple” we are. It is our own opinions that make us dense and slow to understand, but when we are simple we are never dense; we have discernment all the time. Philip expected the future revelation of a tremendous mystery, but not in Jesus, the Person he thought he already knew. The mystery of God is not in what is going to be—it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event.”

We really do tend to complicate things, don't we? We keep waiting for some big, significant, profound experience where God makes everything clear and everything falls into place. All the while, we are missing daily simple grace. We are oblivious to the presence of Jesus while we are waiting for Him to show off in some dramatic display.

Question: What could you do today to "simplify" and rest in the security of the presence of Jesus?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I am listening ...

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"O True God of my every praise, do not keep silent!" (Psalm 109:1, The Voice Bible)

I recently read two books that have caused me to be more intentional about listening for the voice of God: "Hearing God" (Dallas Willard) & "Enjoying the Presence of God" (Jan Johnson).

Our world is full of noise. It is also full of voices. Who's got your ear? When you pray, who does the talking? When you read Scripture, do you ask God to speak? Is your ear dialed in to the voice of God in the midst of the cacophony of our culture?

I want to make this verse my prayer as I go through the day. I want to hear God in the middle of my activity, not just while I am on the back porch with my Bible in my lap.

Question: How can we dial in our ears to better hear the voice of God?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Wondrous Love is This?

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But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14, New Living Translation)

There is an American folk song that says, "What wondrous love is this that caused The Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?"

Sometimes words fail. What wondrous, amazing love Jesus displayed for us in taking our sin, our curse, our shame on Himself on the cross.

Question: Would you be willing to pause for a few moments, stop everything you are doing, and just reflect on and rest in that love?

There are several amazing versions of this song on YouTube. Here's one. Enjoy.

Chelsea Moon w/ the Franz Brothers in a live performance of "What Wondrous Love Is This?"...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How can I get to God?

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"For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." (1 Peter 3:18, New American Standard Bible)

We are just a few days from Easter, to which we sometimes refer as Resurrection Sunday. It is a time when we celebrate the unique foundational message of the Christian faith: Jesus, God in the flesh, died to pay the penalty for the sins of the entire human race, and on the third day, conquered death through resurrection. Many have died for causes. Many have died for others. Only One has died for all and come back to life to prove that He was who He said He was.

I had an "Aha" this morning in reflecting on this passage and John 14:6: "Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

Did you notice that neither of these passages say that Jesus will take us to heaven? Look again: "so that He might bring us to God" ... "no one comes to the Father but through me". These verses say that Jesus will take us to God! Of course, heaven is a part of that, but it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is relationship and fellowship with God.

When we become Christ-followers through trusting Him, we begin eternal life. Right here. Right now.

Question: Have you trusted Christ and begun your eternal journey with God?

If you have not, I'd love to visit with you. Message me and let's talk.

If so, what specific things can you think of that you can do to share your journey in following Christ with those who have not yet begun theirs?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your ideas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Power of Praise

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"Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds." (Psalm 105:1-2, New Living Translation)

Two quotes are ringing in my ears this morning. One of them I read just a few moments ago. The great reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546) once said, "The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God." In Luther's day, church music was performed by professional musicians. That he encouraged congregational singing and wrote hymns to facilitate that radical concept was scandalous.

Yet the Psalmist writes, "Sing to him; yes, sing his praises." I believe it to be no coincidence that, in some of the darkest times of my life, when I could hardly even manage a prayer, it was a song of worship that came to mind and found its way to my lips.

The second quote I heard as I was driving and listening to a podcast yesterday. One of the podcasts in my regular playlist is "Let My People Think" by author and apologist Ravi Zacharias. His message was about apologetics, the act of giving a reasoned and thoughtful answer for the truths of the Christian faith. He said that those who seek to give that answer must have "an apologetic that is not merely heard, but seen" and "an apologetic that is not merely argued, but felt."

The Psalmist writes, "Let the whole world know what he has done ... Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds." The truth displayed and celebrated in our lives is powerful. The character of Christ demonstrated in our actions, attitudes, and words will accomplish much.

Questions: How has music brought you peace in times of struggle? What wonderful deed of God can you celebrate publicly today? What means can you use?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Which tasks are most important?

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"Man goes forth to his work and remains at his task until evening." (Psalm 104:23, Amplified Bible)

This little verse stuck out for me in my reading this morning. Seems like a good one to kick off a Monday.

Actually, I am starting something new with my Monday schedule and I am starting today. The fact that you are reading this means that, in some way, you know that a part of my ministry is writing. Beyond simply writing encouraging devotionals, I am moving more toward creating and developing resources for use in the churches I assist. Some of them have been "in process" for over two years and others are still at the idea stage. When I am working in my office, the pull of the urgent (phone calls, requests, general office things) tends to keep these on the back burner.

So, starting today, Mondays are going to be designated as "content creation and resource development days." I am working offsite, only taking calls from my administrative assistant, and focusing intently on projects that may not be urgent for today but are important in the long term.

My plan may be far removed from your context. You may not have the flexibility to do what I am doing. But you ARE faced with the challenge of balancing the "urgent" and the "important". If we are not intentional, the important will be swallowed up by the urgent every day. No matter what your job situation is, you have more control over that than you think you do.

Question: What deliberate choice will you make today to be sure that you spend time on things that are important?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your ideas.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The blessing is not just a mealtime prayer.

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"BLESS (AFFECTIONATELY, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name! Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits—" (Psalm 103:1-2, Amplified Bible)

I'm not sure when I first heard this joke made, but it has been a part of my life for many years. Whenever the time comes for the mealtime prayer and people have already started eating we pray, "Bless The Lord, O my soul and all that is WITHIN me." (Insert groans here)

Certainly this verse is not talking about the contents of my stomach; it is calling for praise that comes from the depths of my being. I am praising with all my heart and soul.

Then the second verse encourages me not to forget any of His benefits. Wow! Where do I begin? How can I possibly remember all the benefits of being a child of God?

Actually, the Psalmist helps us out by "priming the pump" in the next 3 verses:

"Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving- kindness and tender mercy; Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!" (Verses 3-5)

So, here's how the praising starts: I am forgiven. I am healed (temporarily now; ultimately in His presence in heaven). I am rescued. I am decorated with loving-kindness and mercy. My needs are met. I am strengthened to soar.

Pondering each of those realities opens up new awareness of further benefits and how I am called to pay those benefits forward for His kingdom purposes.

Question: How will you bless The Lord today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

God is bending down and leaning in.

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"Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you." (Psalm 102:1-2, New Living Translation)

At least 6 times in the Psalms, God is asked to "incline" His ear, or as this translation says, "bend down to listen."

I spent the past 5 days at a re:Focus retreat with friends who have been sharing a two year journey of discipleship. During one of our sessions, we focused on one of these Psalms. My friend, David Bowman, talked about how he envisioned God "leaning in" to listen to His children. I like that. A lot.

When we were small children, all grownups looked gigantic to us. I try to remember that now when I am around small children. Often, I will get down on one knee when I am talking with a small child. That way, I am able to be at the child's eye level and let him know he has my attention. (Of course, getting up is harder now, but there is also the added benefit that, with my diminished hearing capacity, I might actually understand what the child is saying. At that point, the whole "God bending down" analogy breaks down)

When you experience life's hurts, frustrations, and disappointments, can you envision God "bending down and leaning in" to hear your cries?

Question: What would it take for you to see God that way?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm just keeping it real ... simple

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"O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts." (Psalm 92:5, New Living Translation)

So often, when I'm writing or preparing to teach or preach, I am looking for ways to share profound truth in simple terms. I want the readers or hearers to have an "Aha" moment rather than "Huh" (too profound) or "Duh" (too simple).

I had one of those "Aha" moments when I read a Psalm 92 this morning. That statement in verse 5 is either profoundly simple or simply profound ... or both. Whatever it is, I experienced a strange sense of contentment in reading and resting in it.

Maybe the secret to successfully bringing profound truth in simple terms is it point to the One who IS truth. (See John 14:6). Probably every writer and speaker wants to be quoted. I'm no different. But, rather than someone saying, "I heard Gerry Lewis say this," how much better would it be for someone to say, "I can't remember where I heard this, but here's what God taught me."

You may not be a teacher or writer, but you are (whether you realize it or not) a person of influence. Someone is paying attention.

Question: How will you point to Jesus today?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

God's Positioning System

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"Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: 'Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go' whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left." (Isaiah 30:21, The Voice)

My phone has a built in GPS that knows where I am and can give me directions to where I want to go. "In 800 feet, turn left on ___________, " she says. I often think I know better so I go my own way.

We like our own way, don't we? Inspired by either the Elvis or Sinatra versions (or, in my age bracket, Fleetwood Mac), we proudly set out to prove that "we've got this".

Until we end up lost or at a dead end. Then we get mad at the GPS.

And when we go our own way and end up at a place in life we don't want to be, we ask God why He didn't guide us. I know this is obvious, but the problem is not God. We didn't listen.

If we think of "GPS" as "God's Positioning System" then how do we get to the point where we are hearing those directions clearly? Here's a profoundly simple truth: We can't get from here to there if we don't know where here is. Positioning begins with positioning ourselves to hear God.

I think many of us begin the day praying for God's guidance and direction as we navigate through the activities and challenges of our day. How might it look if we began by simply positioning ourselves to hear God?

Question: What are some ways you can think of that would help us to position ourselves so that we know where here is?

Please share your comments below.  Our online community would benefit from your insight.