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!

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!

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!

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!"

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.

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!

Where Does My Help Come From?

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Psalm 121:1-2.   "I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and Earth."

Whenever any of us shares our testimony of how God became real in our lives, it is usually a story about when we really needed help! This is also true of me. Years ago in high school, some social difficulties I was experiencing made me desperate to escape my shame and find my identity and security . One night, alone in my room, God spoke to me and changed my life forever.

Ever since then I have grown in my prayers. I now offer prayers that include praise, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession. But underneath it all are our prayers of petition for God's help. It is either a call for help today or thanks for help yesterday.

Sometimes we think we need to outgrow the prayer that says Help Me! But actually it is nothing to be ashamed of. God doesn't mind. He is not bothered by our persistent requests. He wants us to be in perpetual dependence on him! After all, he says," Call on me and I will deliver you!"

How blessed we are to have the true and living God as our help in time of need!

The Lord Is My Chosen Portion

On these cold mornings in winter I wake up every morning and say an extra thank you to God for my warm house and warm bed! My mind begins to take in the countless blessings He has poured out in my life. I am so grateful for the beautiful relationships, experiences and possessions which I enjoy! And how can I ever thank him for health, family, faith, hope and love? I am even more blessed by knowing that death will not be the end, but only the beginning of even better and eternal inheritances!

Note that this song however says that the Lord Himself is our inheritance! This is similar to what he said to the Levites in the Old Testament. The rest of Israel inherited land. But the Lord Himself was the inheritance of the priests! The New Testament says we are a royal priesthood. Therefore truly our very best and most exceeding blessing is our relationship with the Lord Himself! The Apostle Paul said, I have thrown away everything else, and count it as rubbish, in order that I might know Christ! To know Christ is the greatest blessing. His constant presence by the Spirit, his daily illumination of his word to me, and the confidence I have to overcome every challenge, remind me that the Lord Himself is my richest and most beautiful inheritance!

Analyzing Feelings

Psalm 70:9. " Do not cast me off in time of old age." As I was driving home from a recent visit to my elderly parents I tried to analyze my feelings. I discerned both sweetness and sadness. Sweetness because they are so dear to me.. Sadness because I hate to see the decline of mind and body which usually accompanies old age. Not only do I grieve their loss, but my own. Because I understand that I am looking at my future. Yet even in this relentless march of time God brings us hope in three truths 1. God's grace is sufficient. He will never forsake us and will always provide his presence and help. 2. His power is perfected in our weakness. The more vulnerable we become, the brighter the light of the love & care of Christ shines through us! 3. Nothing done for Christ is in vain. This earthly life is not the end. Our resurrection and eternal reward as heirs of God lie before us! Therefore let us gracefully move down the path of our old age, fully confident of his care and reward!

Christ Will Meet ALL Our Needs

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"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Psalm 23. 1. The opening statement of this most beloved psalm reminds us that Christ is completely trustworthy to meet all our needs. If we all agree with this theology, why do we tend to live our lives in a constant state of anxiety? Why is a low grade fear-fever so often in us? We must realize that God has foreordained every day of our lives. The good and the bad are all part of God's recipe to sanctify us and bring us safely to our glorious home! There is a popular phrase these days which says "It's all good." For us, that is true, according to Romans 8. 28. So in those days which seem to go crazy, let us rest in confidence that even in this chaos we are satisfied and completely nourished by our Good Shepherd!

Humility

1 Peter 5:5. " Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another." Humility is such a wonderful attitude to cover ourselves with. It puts us in a right frame of mind toward God and others. Toward God, because humility is a position of faith. When we trust God we are humbly putting ourselves under his will and care. But humility is also appropriate toward others. Because it is an expression of love. Jesus commanded us to love one another. Love means to look out for others interests and to consider them more important than our own. I.e. humility! So, wherever we go let us enjoy the garment of humility!

A Reunion

Recently I attended a reunion of my father's side of the family. Though my father is still living he is way up in years and could not travel to the reunion this year. When the gathering was over, before driving home, I headed over to spend a few quiet moments at the old homestead. No one has lived in it for several years now. But it is being well kept. I strolled around the quiet yard, looking at the old house and a few small farm buildings nearby. All this time a movie was playing in my mind as I was imagining all the stories which dad told me playing out.

It is amazing how ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary lives years ago come to be large, significant and sacred to the descendants! It makes one wonder: are ordinary people and events truly ordinary but the next generation inflates them to be great? Or, are all so-called ordinary things actually inherently significant and sacred, and we only recognize them later, after the hubbub of daily living is past, and time has distilled them revealing their gold?

Probably the answer to this question depends on your life-view. Is God real and therefore everything has a purpose? Or is there no God, therefore nothing is meaningful? I believe that nature and scripture gives us the answer. God is real! So we are able to see everything in life, as full of meaning and purpose, significant and sacred. . So, "Give thanks in all things!" When you have God and hope, every story in life is an adventure and a romance within God's great purpose!

I Am Crucified with Christ

Galations 2: 20. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God....".  I have been enjoying the truth of this passage a lot lately. I am especially interested in the part which says Christ lives IN me. 

The passage starts out by saying I am crucified with Christ. Just like a father who cosigns a debt for his son, Jesus took on the debt of my sin. Of course, I had nothing to offer in the deal. Christ paid it all by his cross. Thus I have confidence with God.

Next, we are reminded that we now live by faith in him! This means to trust him for everything from small things to life and death challenges. When I am depending on someone for daily life, his reality will obviously fill me! Thus the apostle could say," I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.". I visualize a jewelry box someone recently gave me. It was dusty and old, and got passed down to me through an estate. Inside of it were all kinds of interesting but cheap tie clasps and cufflinks. Now suppose someone gave me a bar of pure gold to keep in the jewelry box. You can bet I would gladly dispose of the cheap trinkets in order to make room for that gold bar! I would open the box and gaze admiringly at that glittering bar of wealth every day! Any left over cheap jewelry in there would be nothing more than residue to me.

These days I look inside of myself whenever I face challenges, fears and shortages. Instead of the anxieties I used to experience when I looked within & saw only inadequate resources, now I see a giant gold bar of Jesus Christ inside of me! I know I can do all things through Him who strengthens me! Any remnants of the old me are simply residue.