Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Amazing Love

Due to some serious technical difficulties...no blogs have been posted for, well, like eons...

What a privilege to love and be loved. The thing about love is that while it gives rise to the highest joys you will ever know, it also can deliver the deepest sorrows you will ever face. Life makes it clear that it is impossible to love without pain. And while there is pain involved in love on earth - there will be no more pain in heaven. There love will reign for all eternity.

When pain results from love, I am reminded of the pain I cause my Savior. He, in total and absolute love, paid the ultimate price for me by dying in my place for my sins so I could escape for free what I deserve in hell. "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross and despised the shame" (Heb 12:2). He became sin on my behalf, though He knew no sin so I could become the righteousness of God in Christ (II Cor 5:21).

What amazing love. To think for 1/2 a second that I am worthy of God's love is to be deceived. He loves because of who and what He is - He is love (1 John 4:8). He loves mankind because all men were created in His image. Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

His love has nothing to do with who I am in myself or who you are in yourself. What we deserve from God is His punishment for violating His moral standard. His love was so deep, that it could not have been demonstrated in a more needful way. Christ's love met mankind's deepest need - the need to be saved from an eternity separated from His love in the lake of fire.

Now what is truly amazing about this love is that the same love which Christ demonstrated by dying for me (and all) on the cross can be displayed through the child of God to others who do not deserve it -- like me---. How? Because God put His love in the heart of His child. Romans 5:5 "...the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Because this love has been freely and completely given to the believer in Christ, he or she can then love the unlovely and the undeserving just like Christ loved them. We live in a world in which love is given on an "if you perform" or a "when you perform" basis. "What's in it for me?" is too often the bottom line. And if the world feels that you are not worthy, well then....too bad. The world says that love must be earned in some way shape or form. Not so with Christ. He loved the ungodly. He loved us when we were yet sinners.

This means it is the believer's privilege, as empowered by God's Spirit, to love the one who by nature may likely be despised. Let's get personal -- It is your privilege to love --- as Christ loved you-- the one who has hurt you deeply - the one who disappointed you above measure. The one who has done unthinkable things to you or to someone you love. Are you willing to be a vessel of His love for His glory? This cannot be done to the glory of Christ apart from His Spirit for Christ aptly said "without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5) Peter put it this way: "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."" (1 Peter 4:8). Cool.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your Life as a Vapor - Make it Count!

Many of you are familiar with James 4:13-15, which reads "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

James cites at least two people who have made some serious plans about getting some serious monetary or material gain. This is nothing new - there are countless people who may or may not be saved thinking similar thoughts every day. That in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem. The problem James cites here is HOW they went about their planning - They left God out of the mix. They were the center of their own universe and were seeking to live life on their terms. They were boastful in themselves and in essence were practical atheists.

The problem was not the planning, but rather the planning that was based on man's ideas and for temporal purposes alone. Planning is a good thing. We all plan to some degree. However, the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to plan with much more than the temporal and earthly in mind. We are to plan with eternity in view. Christ said in Luke 16:8-9, "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. This is an exhortation to use the resources that God has provided for us in grace to invest in eternity- to plan, yet with an on the future with a desire for eternal riches. Christ also said in Luke 18:29-30 "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 "who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life." Christ is encouraging planning that may be costly to you materially in time that will be more that worth it in eternity.

In James 4 we find people making plans based on their own self-confidence and self objectives with the assumption that the future was entirely in their control. It is worldly planning that we see here with an obvious desire for earthly riches. The problem was that these people presumed that they were in control of their own lives, and that they could control the outcome of events while ignoring God and His Word.

The question is, are we doing the same thing?

We may be involved in things that are not really bad in and of themselves, but because they are done with the wrong attitude and function as the end all, it is all vain and they become sin to us

Many of us and our children are involved in many things that are not bad and even good in and of themselves – they can become idolatry when those things take precedence in our thinking and are elevated to a level of importance that in essence places your relationship with the Lord and the things of Christ to that back burner – when what is driving us is some aspect of self satisfaction on a temporal scale and not the glory of God in what we do – we are guilty of idolatry and what James is driving at right here – there is nothing wrong with money or sports or any other activity you may be involved in – but how do you look at it?

Do you see it as a chance to become involved in the lives of other people, seeking the objective that an impact for Christ can be made in their lives and do you see it as an opportunity to reach the lost and demonstrate God’s grace in your life through success and failure.

Or is it just about filling the void and partaking in activities just to have fun or to excel in and accomplish something that ultimately doesn’t matter? That is vanity.

When we plan, we must not make the same mistake that these people did. And part of not duplicating this mistake is understanding the true nature of this life on this earth.
In v. 14 James explains exactly what the true nature of this life is. He makes two points that cannot be denied.

1) We don’t know what will happen tomorrow – there is a dose of reality. We do not even have any guarantees that we will make it to tomorrow. But most of us really don't take that too seriously – and yet it is entirely possible that a tragedy could strike or something else that you wake up in heaven sometime tonight.

2) Your life is a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. Impressive, isn't it. Vapor is just not that impressive and in the context of history and eternity our lives are nothing more than the steam rising from a whistling tea kettle. How impressive is that?

While you are on this earth you are as fragile as a vapor, and you are only here for a little while. Your time on this earth is short, and you must keep this in mind as you live your life. If what James says here is true (and it is,) does it matter if the disciples Christ challenged in Luke 18 lost their homes? What mattered was that they were planning and preparing to redeem the time for when this vapor of a life is over.

And so James writes, “you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills…’”. your life is a vapor and what will count for all eternity is "did you do the will of God?" If our lives and our activities will only ultimately count in God’s will, should we not have the mindset that the Lord is in control and that we exist for Him ---not He exists for us? The posture James is after here is one of humility that recognizes that it is in Christ we live and move and have our being – and the only reasonable thing to do is to live for Him who died for us. period.

The proper attitude is to be one of presenting yourself to God for His purposes and seeking first His kingdom and His plan for His glory.

Otherwise it is likely that you will merely seek God, if at all, to bless your plan because you are going to do what you want anyway and If it works out great – if not I’ll just do something else – oh I’ll nod to God and give Him some cursory respect – but I am not looking to Him to direct my steps because it is all about me and my plans.

I have found that it is easy to fall into the routine or the approach to life that we let life direct our decisions and our planning and so we react to what is before us. Instead, we should be taking steps to actively, before the Lord, seek personally to allow Him through His Word to direct our steps.

The goal should be that Biblical priorities and principles dictate our planning -

As you ponder the new year, would you consider orienting your thinking so that part of your planning includes perhaps meeting the needs of others. Would you consider specifically praying how you can be used in greater capacity than you were used this past year. Perhaps you would consider praying for and actively pursuing someone the Lord has put in your path to witness to. Perhaps you can plan to have the attitude of the apostle Paul toward the unthankful Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.

I have found that if there is not an overall goal of consciously honoring the Lord in all that you do, you will simply allow what life throws at you coupled with temporal objectives that are not wrong at all in and of themselves --- but in many cases add up to vanity ---to run your life to drive your bus. The result will be your decisions will be wrapped up in what is before you instead of seeing the bigger picture of honoring the Lord and doing His will

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

Not many believers consider this to be a “claim it” verse that is placed on the fridge. But perhaps it should be.

Are we so in love with your life or so deeply immersed in our pleasures or agenda that we cannot bare to be reminded that one day it will all disappear like a breath on a cold day?

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (however you define it) and wastes his life?

And always remember, “It’s only a minute, but eternity’s in it.” Make your vapor count! Take time to think and to meditate on the Lord and allow Him and His word to direct your steps so that you make your vapor count.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Choosing by Faith based on Value

All right, it has been a while. I have gotten the business from a few folks and so I thought I would get in the blogging game once again. We began a series in the life of Moses here recently and I could not help but be impressed with what decisions He made at a critical time in his life. Many of you are familiar with those mentioned the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11. Moses made the list. We read in Hebrews 11:24-27 these words "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible."

When one ponders in the circumstances that this decision was made in and the consequences associated with the decision, one cannot help but conclude that his faith was truly remarkable.

Moses recognized something that we as God's redeemed children must recognize in order to make similar decisions with respect to the will of God. The reproach of Christ is greater riches than any temporal pleasure the world system offers. Do you believe that? It is not likely that you can relate fully to what he gave up and how he suffered for Christ. It is difficult to think in these terms because our objectives tend to revolve around what is before us in time and does not take into account the eternal.

His decisions, like ours, were and are the result of what he and we esteem has value. To him there was no comparison. The reproach of Christ trumped all other temporal pleasures and riches. He is in the hall of fame of faith for reason. He had his eye on the prize. He knew what really had value and pursued it by faith, regardless of personal sacrifice. The world system does not nor could it value such a pursuit.

What is directing your choices? The answer is your value system. We always make time and choose according to what we feel is important in both the short and in the long term. (not what we SAY is important). So, how does your values system fair when compared to Moses and what the Word of God says has true value? Do you have your eyes on the prize. This is no different than the other saints that has been used by God. This is merely following the mindset of our Savior "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2. The time is short. Only one life will soon be past -only what is done for Christ shall last. Let me encourage you to walk by faith as Moses did and choose to do God's will for God's glory.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Use it or Lose it

It seems that everybody who has lived for more than 30 years can validate the familiar adage "if you don't use it you lose it". For those of you, like me, who have not attended college for more than 25 years, the mere thought of doing differential equations again makes the reality of this well known axiom painfully obvious. The principle rings true not only in the class room, but also on the golf course, in the exercise room, in the sewing room and in the spiritual realm. There are countless examples that one could cite to drive home the point that one must use learned information in a practical way in order to retain it and benefit from it.

This principle can be seen in several places in the New Testament. I will cite two. In the span of 4 verses in the first chapter of Peter's second epistle, knowing that he would soon depart this world, frankly told them 3 times that he was reminding them of truths that they had already learned (1:12-15). He was distressingly aware of the potential for believers in Christ to neglect and forget crucial information that would affect their spiritual condition in Christ. Peter knew the principle: “If you don’t use it, you lose it”

The writer of the book of Hebrews offers a rebuke to these believers with these words:
Hebrews 5:11-14 Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

These believers' unwillingness to "use" the word of God indicated that they were "dull of hearing". Their sluggish response to the Word of God is where their spiritual slide began. Had they been "using" the Word of God, they would have been able to teach others by this time, but instead they were spiritual babes in need of being taught the basics of the Christian faith once again. Since they “did not use it, they lost it”.

The consequence was spiritually devastating: Their ability to discern good from evil waned and their service to Christ faltered. They were not going on to maturity and not redeeming the time for their Savior

"Using" the word God is essential to spiritual growth and success. It requires diligence to learn, understand and apply. God gave specific instructions to Joshua when he took the reins of leadership from Moses:

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

In other words, “use it and be successful, lose it and fail.” Spiritual success for you and me is no different than it was for Joshua. It requires reception, meditation and application of God’s Word by faith.

So, dear believer, with respect to the Word of God, are you using it or losing it? Are you "meditating" on it or have you become "dull of hearing"? Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of the Savior or are you retrogressing to spiritual babyhood? Is your spiritual discernment increasing or decreasing?

I leave you with the words of the Savior communicated with His disciples that provide the means of “using it and not losing it”:

John 15:4-5 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sufficient for the day is its own trouble

Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. These words, spoken by the Savior (Matthew 6:34), clearly indicate that He was well aware of the trials and issues of life that plague believer and unbeliever alike. There is no limit to the burdens that accompany a life lived in a sin cursed world. A pain free, hassle free, problem free life is impossible at this point in history. And it is these things coupled with the many uncertainties in life that can cause great anxiety.

But Christ wants to communicate some things to encourage the hearts of those whom He has saved by His grace. In this passage, beginning in verse 25, we are commanded not to worry three times.

Since "do not worry" is a command, what this means is that it is not in the will of God for you. We could even say that worry is a sin. There is a tendency to view worry or anxiety as allowable and yet, would we consider another sin, such as murder allowable?

Christ not only commanded His child not to worry, but gave some reasons why it is not necessary. He mentions that it doesn't help or fix anything (v 27). - and while we all will vouch for that on paper, rarely are we impacted by this truth. Paul was pretty emphatic with the Philippians: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (4:6-7).

Another reason we are not to worry is because of WHO is taking care of us. Our Savior referred to the all knowing, all powerful God of the universe as our "Heavenly Father" (v 32). There is not a more loving and caring Father in the universe than ours. Christ told us plainly that He KNOWS what we need (v 32). If our Heavenly Father is taking care of little sparrows that in the eyes of man have very little value, Can we not rest in the reality that "we are of much greater value than they". If He is in such control and cares when even a little bird falls to the ground, why would you even begin to doubt His care for you?

The cure for worry is given in verse 33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Are you casting your burden upon the Lord for you know He cares for you? Are you seeking His face by faith and waiting patiently for Him? He will never leave us nor forsake us, His grace is sufficient for the trouble we will face today. So rest in Him.

Monday, April 20, 2009

This is Monday and Mondays certainly mean different things to different people. Some love Mondays as it gets them back into a routine in life that they appreciate and enjoy - but it seems that the prevailing view is the Mondays are unwelcomed, at least to some degree. Mondays indicate the start of a new work week or a new week of school or a new week of the same old - same old. Some know, to a degree, what is coming and have certian expectations, others do not know what to anticipate.

What I have found is that every Monday for me is different. Since I do not have a crystal ball, I do not give a tremendous thought to what "might" be. But I do recognize that every Monday begins a week in which my Heavenly Father has a number of things in store for me that are designed to remind me of His grace, His mercy, and His love as He seeks to work in and through me to accomplish His will for my life.

It is comforting to know that "my times are in His hands" (Psalm 31:15) and that "His compassions are new every morning, Great is His faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23). I know that what ever is in store, there are opportunities to see that "I am not sufficient of myself to think anything as of myself and that His grace is sufficient" (2 Cor 3:5-6, 12:9-10). I know that "all things are working together for good" and therefore can "rejoice evermore" (1 Thessalonians 5:6). This forms a backdrop for me to "strive according to His working" (Colossians 1:28-29), knowing that the believer's "labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Dear believer in Christ, My you be resting in His all sufficient grace as you labor in love for Him this week.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You cannot see me but I have a large grin on my face. Forgive my child like glee, but this is the first blog I have ever fiddled with. At times technology excites me and at times it scares me. The one thing that reassures me regardless of my emotional condition and current circumstance in life is the unfailing promises available to me in the Word of God that I can take comfort in because of my salvation in Christ. When I placed my complete trust in the finished work of Christ, who purchased my salvation with His once-and-for-all sacrifice for my sins, I received, along with eternal life, a position in Christ in which I received all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Now personal comfort is mine for the taking by faith as I entrust my life moment by moment to my Savior's care. I wonder at times how many are longing for internal peace and yet will not come to the Prince of Peace to who said in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." The Lord Jesus Christ will give His perfect peace abundantly to those whose mind is stayed upon Him (Isaiah 26:3). I sincerely hope that all who happen to read this post will know the truth of Philippians 4:6-7 which states "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Not only does God offer a full and free salvation to any and all who simply receive it by faith, He offers His perfect peace on the same basis - simple trust in Who He is and What He has accomplished for us on the cross in dying for all of our sins.