God's Works

"May the Lord be glad in his works!"

Psalm 104:31

I feel closer to God when I am outside. There I can always get an eyeful of evidence of God's power, wisdom and love.

The sky is amazing, and the sight to see it multiplies the miraculous nature of it all! When we step outside we remove a man-made layer of insulation between us and God. I can see the very works of His hands!

Many years ago I was recovering from a nervous illness. I found two things that would immediately make me feel better. One was creativity. The other was to take a walk outside.

And I think it is doubly wonderful that God's word reveals that he also rejoices in his works! Thank you God for this daily sermon without words, your Creation!

Make A Joyful Noise!

Make a joyful noise into the Lord all ye lands. Psalm 100:1

It is a noisy world! Noisy with a lot of arguing, condemning, fretting, weeping, boasting, carousing, etc.

But another kind of noise should be rising from God's people: JOY! This is because His Spirit has opened our eyes to the great works of God! He is our marvelous Creator! He also is our faithful Provider, in this world and for eternity!

Let us sing when we are happy. And let us praise Him even when we don't feel like it, because we are reminding ourselves that His goodness will soon manifest itself to us again!

Let's make it a habit to be emitting some level of "joyful noise", almost every minute.

Years ago a seminary student had a part time job sweeping the halls of  his school. He regularly refreshed his own soul by singing praise to God during that boring task. He later found out that lots of other people got a spiritual lift whenever they passed by!

I hope that my friends will always hear me coming, even before they see me, through my own grateful noise!

Are You Busy?

2 Samuel 11. 1

      " In the spring, when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab ... but David stayed in Jerusalem."

     Most of us have heard the familiar story of how David fell into adultery with Bathsheba. Notice that his sinful action sprung from his impure thoughts. And those thoughts took shape when he was relaxing at home instead of busy doing kings' work!

    We all know that there are times when it is necessary to rest. But we were also made to do productive work.

     Once in awhile I get grumpy when I feel I have too much to do! But a little voice speaks to me saying, " You're probably better off busy than idle."

      Most of us sometimes feel too busy! But as we seek to find God's balance for our lives, let us always be thankful for plenty to do. It is probably safer!

Principles & Practicals

Colossians 3:1,2

Have you ever noticed that when you look back on life you rarely remember the mundane details of the days but instead it is the relationships and big experiences that come to mind?

This causes me to recognize that there are always two levels to life. The low level entails the routine practices of the day including appointments, chores and problem solving. But the upper level includes the beliefs and purposes that over-arch all that we do. The practical level is short-term. The principle level lasts forever.

An illustration of this might be a cruise ship. On the lower decks are crew and staff moving back and forth to keep the ship successfully running each day. But on the upper decks are the vacationers who are focusing on the beautiful things such as food, sites and relationships. The activities of the lower level are necessary. But that's not why people sign up for a cruise. They are looking for memories that will be a blessing forever.

So as we move through each hour of the day let us not only pay attention to our errands & lists, but let us be constantly looking up to the Big Story which God is working out through us!

I Will Laugh At Your Disaster

Proverbs 1: 24-33

God has the right to say,"I told you so". I believe that this happens when people who defy God in their lives finally reap the foolishness that they have been sowing.

Christians encounter suffering from three sources: 1. Common problems that afflict all people who live in this fallen world. 2. Persecution that comes because we bear the Cross of Christ. 3. Reaping the consequences of our own disobedience. I think that these verses in Proverbs 1 clearly refer to the third type of suffering.

Of all the challenges we have in life, Christians should not be suffering the additional burdens of sinful self-inflicted wounds! I myself have sometimes shed tears of regret for ignoring this principle. God will not be mocked.

Let us repent of any lingering bad habitsbefore our self-set trap snaps closed!

Who Serves Who?

John 12:24-25

"Who Serves Who?"

Most people walk around with an upside down attitude. They assume that their life is the most important thing and that this world, other people and even God are there to enhance their life. Thus when their life is threatened or their body become sick they hit the panic button. This is why the medical industry makes so much money. People will pay any price to save their skin!

But the word of God says that as Christians our life is here to serve Christ! My life and body are his. As the Apostle Paul said, our goal is to glorify Christ in our bodies. And we have no desire to cling to this world other than to serve him. This attitude of taking up our cross and serving him actually pays off! For we will live with him and enjoy him forever!

Room

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7, ESV)

During Advent I choose a Christmas carol or Advent hymn. Then I endeavor to sing, recite, and meditate on it daily. This year I chose “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne.”

1 Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

I love this hymn because of an encounter with Christ I had as a young Christian while singing it. I was attending a Christmas concert at Riverside Church in New York City. The music was not to my liking because it was unfamiliar and “highbrow.” I was expecting something entirely different. Then we all were invited to sing “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” which I had never heard before. My negativity zoomed. “Why can’t they at least choose a Christmas carol that everybody knows?”

As I was haltingly and half-heartedly singing and sulking the words of the refrain broke through to me, “O come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.”  As I sang them I began to pray them, and as I prayed them I began to mean them, and as I meant them I began to long for them … for Him.

Something happened in me. The Lord answered. My negativity and critical spirit melted away to be replaced by thanks and praise accompanied by silent tears. That service became filled with the glory and presence of God.

I still need that transformation from negativity and a critical spirit. One of my constant prayers is, “Lord keep me from becoming a grumpy old man.” And this Advent I am reminded daily of the way God graciously answers that prayer – with the gift of Himself.

May you have a blessed Christmas, filled with the joy of the presence of Emmanuel, God with us – the best gift of all.

The Way

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way … ‘” John 14:6

I was walking and praying in a labyrinth cut in low grass. In order to stay on the path I had to focus my attention on my steps, otherwise I’d drift off into the grass.  I knew that, unlike a maze, the labyrinth had no dead ends, no backtracking would be necessary. All I had to do was stay on the path and I would reach my goal, the Center, and then out again.

What I was praying about was goals. But I had to focus on means – one step at a time. And then Jesus’ words came to me, “I am the Way.” I received it as a “rhema” – an utterance by the Lord to me. My high calling is to stay close to Jesus who is the Way. Goals, outcomes, results, are important – but so often beyond my ability to achieve or produce. What I can do is stay in close connection to my Lord trusting that each step of the Way He will lead to the best outcome I can imagine and even beyond all I can ask or think.

The song I sang with such enthusiasm with children throughout my ministry says it so well:

“One step at a time, one step at a time,

That is how the Lord will lead you, one step at a time.

Take that one step carefully, walk that one step prayerfully,

This is the way to VICTORY! One step at a time.”

The Flower Fades, But....

Isaiah 40:8

I was recently visiting my elderly parents who live several states away from me. It is always sweet to see them and I am glad I still have them. But when I see them only now and then the effects of time are obvious.

In this world everything changes and dies. This makes us often sad but actually is very good for us to consider. God's word says that all flesh is as grass. It fades and passes away. Most of us live to about 80 years old. But this knowledge of a finite life should bring to us wisdom of the heart.

1 Peter 1. 25 reminds us that a life which receives Christ who is the word of God will also last forever. This enables us to bear the infirmities of age and sickness with the sweet and strengthening grace of God each day. And those around us will see his power at work through our weakness as we daily lean on him!

Toxic Hurry

Be still and know that I am God …”  (Psalm 46:10)

“You must radically eliminate hurry from your life.”  (Dallas Willard)

I’ve been thinking much of that quote by Dallas Willard ever since a missionary shared it with me several weeks ago. 

For too many years I tried to stuff as much as possible into my schedule – usually resulting in hurry, loss of enjoyment and near exhaustion. It wasn’t until, on the verge of burn-out, I took a three month Sabbatical from pastoring that I learned the importance of doing less to be better able to live and minister.

It’s a lesson I keep needing to remember even in my active retirement. I must radically eliminate hurry from my life.

But there’s another kind of “hurry.” It is a hurry of the soul rather than of the schedule. A hurry characterized by worry, anxious thoughts, or … (fill in your favorite soul saturating ways). That “hurry” is toxic because it robs us of God’s Presence. The time, attention and focus that we need to enjoy fellowship with God in Christ, to have our soul restored, to drink of the life giving stream of the Holy Spirit, is diverted.

I’m the only one who can do something about the toxic hurry of soul and schedule. But I cannot do it alone. I need the Comforter to come alongside me. I need the fellowship of believers who are committed to the same style of living. I need the discipline to focus on God in ways that draw me away from my self-centered world and bring me back to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me.

How about you?

Fear God. Honor the King

I Peter 2:17

The Bible tells us that Israel came to a point where they no longer wanted God to be their King. They preferred to have a human king like the other nations.

Having a human king or government is both a good and bad thing. It is bad because it is proof that most people have rejected God. But it is good because God ordains it to maintain peace and order in a fallen world.

But let us never make a human institution a substitute for God. Candidates regularly over promise what they can do and over condemn their opponents. There may be many leaders in the land but there must only be one God. Therefore don't let government dictate behaviour which is contrary to God's commands. And never look to government to be a savior to do what we should already be doing for the Lord.

Here is a paraphrase of something Thomas Jefferson once said: " When it comes to style, go with the flow. But when it comes to principles, stand like a rock!"

Now Let This Day Begin

Now let this day begin

Look upward not backward

Move outward not in

The Lord will grant the desire of my heart

As my heart desires Him

            — Psalm 34: 3-6      Proverbs 3: 5-6 —

I will bless the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

The Creator of the seas, rivers, skies and forests.

All the complexity, rhythm and wisdom of movement that is this marvelous realm, comes from the mind of the LORD.  And for all of its far reaching splendor, its only purpose is to glorify God and to become the earthly womb from which the redeemed are born.

The Word became flesh and now rules this entire realm ___ coming soon in final glory to establish the Bride of Christ, and to display in her, the mercy and astounding grace of the Lord God Almighty forever and ever! Amen.

In spite of this truth, my weakened, self-sick perspective can, at times, be ever so gray. So I will paint my thoughts with the colors of revelation, and sing with the commanding tones of faith … if only to my own soul.

 

Desires

Psalm 103:5.

     One of the priceless benefits of a relationship with God is that He satisfies our desires with good things, thus renewing our youth like the eagle.
     There is a word in verse 5 which is a little bit challenging to translate. Some translations say "desires". Others say "years". But the most literal translation for the word is "jewelry or ornaments". I believe the idea is that God answers our yearnings. Notice that it does not say he gives us everything we want. But he supplies our yearnings with GOOD things! As the Good Shepherd He will only guide us toward what is good for us. He even works good in all things for us. This brings deep satisfaction to our hearts. The Bible says godliness brings the fruit of peace. And this satisfaction from the good gifts of God also brings about another, and perhaps surprising affect!
      It rejuvenates us! In other words it makes us young at heart again. It makes us youthful in a good, not a foolish way. A relationship with God pumps hope, zest and idealism into our lives! Kind of like when we were eighteen years old! This counteracts the growing crustiness of skepticism and pessimism which creeps over most godless people as the years go by. It renews our strength so that we can soar above the world once again. See Isaiah 40. 29-31.

Supernatural Healing

Psalm 103:3,4.

" He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit. He crowns you with love and compassion."
     Throughout my many years of walking with the Lord the subject of supernatural healing has been fascinating to me! Therefore I love the bold statement of Psalm 103 which comes right out and says He heals all your diseases!
     Of course we all know plenty of examples where it seems that godly people get sick or die early from disease, despite many prayers. So thoughI do not know everything about the subject, I would like to share a few insights.
     Facts that support the assertion that God heals our diseases include, 1. God has designed our bodies to fight off infections and to renew themselves daily for an average of 80 years upon the Earth. In a sense, therefore, he is healing us of countless diseases for years and years and years. 2. People of faith generally live more healthy lives. If the spirit and mind are focused on peace with God, the body will certainly derive positive effects. 3. It has been documented many times that praying with faith will cause more people to be healed than those who do not. 4. It is certainly true that in the long run flesh and blood cannot inherit eternal life. Our mortal bodies will die. But will be raised as spiritual bodies. Thus will healing be eternal. I believe this is what verse four of our text refers to.
     Even though godly people sometimes endure long illnesses or even death from disease , nevertheless the Bible encourages us to pray with confidence for healing.(James 5:13-18). We will usually receive it. But if not, he will give us a pathway to endure it and bring him glory. (1Cor. 10:13).

God's Personality

Psalm 103:2,3.

One of the greatest benefits that God gives to those who look to Him is the forgiveness of our sins. Notice it says ALL of our sins.
     This tells me a lot about God's personality. He is very gracious and loving. Not only that, look at the extent to which he displayed his love by sacrificing his Son to die for us. Christ paid a real price because our guilt wasreal. Now we can approach our Heavenly Father safely and boldly because we are his cleansed and forgiven children. We know that when we have strayed we need not try to hide. Instead we turn to him for forgiveness, guidance and strength.
     Forgiveness is one of God's Great benefits because , whether they realize it or not, most people continue to suffer the effects of their unresolved guilt for sins. They spend a lot of energy now trying to create a self image as a good person, not knowing how to process the hidden regrets of sins past and present.
     It is not very unusual to find even professing Christians who don't really believe or haen't received personal forgiveness from God. Such people find it terrifying or impossible to be real , vulnerable or to apologize. They tend to be over-sensitive , overreacting , do not listen well and go on the attack even when you try to make constructive suggestions.
     How liberating to acknowledge my sin to my loving God and Savior. His forgiveness is joy and freedom indeed!

Bless The Lord

At this time the Summer Olympics are taking place in Brazil. I watched the American girls compete in gymnastics. I took notice of the moments of concentration which were evident in their eyes before they began their routines. No doubt they were having intentionally positive conversations with themselves. Athletes from the past have explained how they tell themselves they are going to do well.
     Immature people let their minds simply drift here and there. They live reacting to their various whims & emotions. But anyone who has ever achieved worthwhile things has learned that they must guide their thoughts , much as a rider guides a horse or the driver grips a steering wheel.
     Once when David was a young leader the enemy came and stole the wives, children and belongings of David's men. Everyone wept including David. But while his men grew more despairing and desperate, David began to strengthen himself in God. Then the Lord showed him what to do. So also it is right for us to tell ourselves often that God is certainly holy. That is, he is perfect in power, wisdom and love. And He is interested in me! He has benefits to bestow upon me! This lifts my mind and gives me new hope and courage.
     So don't just lay in a mental rut. Grab yourself by the collar, pull your soul close to your lips and proclaim,"Bless the Lord!"

Faith That Conquers The World

"....And this is the victory that has overcome the world: Our Faith." I John 5:4.    The Bible also tells us that our faith is more precious than gold.

Natural thinking focuses on short-term outcomes. For example, medical test results, enough money to pay this month's bills , resolution of a fight. When we apply Faith through prayer we are often simply asking for short-term outcomes.

But godly faith achieves more than out comes. It is actually a new mindset. It climbs up into God's Strong Tower and abides there each day. This achieves three things. 1. Faith enables us to view God's big, long term picture through the promises of his word. 2. It quells the panic which results from facing trials alone. This enables us to find peace one day at a time. 3. Faith also does change outcomes. Some things we will never have unless we ask God for them. And He usually grants our requests.

Let us enter the daily Fortress of Faith!

Two Big Strong Arms!

" May Grace and Peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. " II Peter: 1-2.

Everyday we look ahead to chores , meetings or obligations which do not seemed to be pleasant. This can cast a gray attitude over our hearts and minds.

But notice the two specific blessings which God commands over us each day: namely, Grace and Peace. Not only that, but that they are multiplied and abundant each moment as we know and love God and Christ! They are like two angels which God commands to surround us. Or God's embracing us with his two strong and protective arms.

Now when I anticipate going into an unpleasant place or situation I intentionally and prayerfully create anticipation that when I get there I will recognize these two Divine Messengers which God has sent to meet me there. They could appear in the form of friendly faces that I encounter there, good news, or surprising peace and power that passes all understanding.

So look forward to spying out these two good Messengers, no matter what your human mind first anticipated!

It's The Tough Times...

   … It’s the tough times that show who you’re really made of

                                                                                    Galatians 2:20   John 14:23

 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    Galatians 2:20

 

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will make our home with him. John 14:23

 

       “I pray O Lord, in this way prove me true, as I set my heart and my eyes on You... Amen” 

Fullness

Fullness

Like crystal clear water that fills a pool

Like colors, in between the lines of a coloring book

Like the words of a poet that fill the page, so are we your fullness O Lord!

We are your body Lord Jesus, your beloved church …

            “The fullness of him who fills every thing in every way.”

                                                                                    And I worship You