Monday, September 29, 2008

A Safeguard

Years of sacrificial servant-hood ministry had brought successes and disappointments. Now he found himself in an all too familiar place. Paul writes: I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus, for it is only right for me to think this way about you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of grace with me… Philippians 1:6-7

Paul a “partaker of grace” was sitting inside of a prison cell with an unknown future. Let us not pass by this point too quickly, the cells of that day were quite different from our cells of today. The cells were often in the worst parts of the town and were rat and disease infested dark and damp, filthy places. There was no provision for the prisoners except that which was provided from the outside by family or friends. Yet in this state Paul proclaims that his heart resides with his friends in Phillippi.

One of the underlying purposes for his letter was to thank his friends for providing not only the resources to see him through the ordeal but individuals to minister to him as well. To this point Paul says: For I have no one else (other than Timothy) of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. Philippians 2:20

The picture would look bleak to most ordinary people. Here he sat, after years of effective and sacrificial ministry, locked in ugliness with only one person he could trust and depend upon and the only news heard is the squabbling and the self interest within the church.

Yet his thoughts were elsewhere: I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to me; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you heard that he was sick. V.25&26

How is it that one in such a desperate position has only the concern for the welfare of others who appear to be less desperate?

Paul reveals to us the key to the kingdom of peace and joy: Finally, brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same thing again is no trouble to me and is a safeguard to you. 3:1

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! v.4

Is the point made yet? Over and over again it is worth proclaiming. Rejoicing is the pathway out of our troubles.

Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men; the Lord is near!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be know by God.

Prayer + supplication + thanksgiving = and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!

The conclusion: Finally, brethren, whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVLY, whatever is of GOOD REPUTE, if there is anything WORTH OF PRAISE, let you mind dwell on these things. V.8

Is it time we reconsidered some of the things that we allow to be put before our eyes and minds? Not everything that is harmful to our spiritual health is evil or even just bad. Some things are acceptable for most people but work against our spirits.

Consider the doors that you open to your mind!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things that Delight

Have you ever felt diminished by hearing the stories about the wealthy in our society contributing to a cause or to a university or to a hospital; how about those who sacrificed time and money to help the people in Louisiana and Mississippi? Then there are the many who man the homeless shelters or roam the streets looking for the homeless on the coldest nights.

All wonderful acts, but how does our God see them?

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight
. Proverbs 15:8

Have you ever considered that your prayers are a delight to Jesus?


There is absolutely nothing that speaks God’s language of faith more that prayer!

Hebrews 11:6 makes the bold statement: Without faith it is impossible to please God.

He is always waiting to hear from you! Don’t make Him wait!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who is King of Your Mountain?

Elections always seem to bring out the worst of people. In addition, court decision after decision seems to frustrate those who stand for integrity and justice. So many times we get our focus off of where it should be. Psalm 2 brings it all back into proper perspective.

Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His anointed

Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!

He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.
He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury!

But as for me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain!

“Install THE KING” upon your mountain! There is no mountain that He cannot “laugh at”. Too often we stand a fret at the foothills of the mountain in front of us rather than delivering it to the King!

Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” John 14:27

Whatever has been worth your worry; whatever has been worth trading your peace for; that is worthy of surrender to the King of the Mountain!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good is the Enemy of the Best

It happens every year yet it seems to sneak up on us so subtly.

Busyness; get ready, here it comes!

To already too busy lives we will add, over the days ahead, myriad events, programs, parties, shopping trips and decorating tasks bringing us to the inevitable. There is a cost to busyness. Actually, the costs to busyness are many. The difficulty is that we are so accustomed to being busy that we can ramp-up to new levels with seemingly little effect. The costs of busyness deal with depth and faith and peace. These are the things that are sacrificed at the altar of busyness.

… the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. James 3:17

Wisdom and busyness are enemies. One simply cannot have both.

Unlike many of our friends and neighbors, we have bee give a choice; we have options. If we fail to choose, we will default to the natural and the natural will always choose to be busy.

Consider choosing wisdom!

Come to Me, Jesus said, …and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The only chance we have to make a wise choice for wisdom is to center in His rest.

Jesus and His followers were traveling one day. As the day drew to an end they entered the city where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived. Having a long-standing friendship with the family, He was invited to their home.

Unexpectedly, the demands of the household changed instantly. There were people to care for, things to do, and task after task to be completed.

Scripture makes the following statement: But Martha was distracted with all of her preparations.

“Distracted?” many of us say! There were guests to be cared for, food to be prepared, places to sleep to be found, water to be brought; too much to do!

To Martha’s plea for her sister’s help with the burden, Jesus replied, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part…

There it is but it is very hard to hear! There is really only one thing that makes a difference; all the rest are the details.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say that the things of concern for Martha were “bad” things. He simply stated the truth that there are good things and there are better things! He encourages each of us to choose the better things.

We will all have many good things presented to us over the days ahead. Jesus invites us to choose to include the better things. By choosing the better things, the remainder of the good things will take on their proper importance and urgency.

Choose the better things!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wild but True

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night do not cease to say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne saying, “ Worthy are You, our Lord, and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You did create all things and because of Your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 4:8-11

The thought occurred to me this week that if the Almighty God of the universe simply turned His back on man after the first sin and never considered man again, yet, He would still be worthy of our praise, adoration and wonder! This led me to the above scripture in which created beings that have been no where but in heaven before God’s throne, worship Him “day and night”.

If God had done nothing for us, yet He would be worthy of praise! He is worthy in who He is; outside of what He has done!

Worthy of worship and devotion beyond what he Has done:

Redeemed me through Jesus
Given me a loving, mostly healthy family
Surrounded me with friends
Provided a church family second to none
Given our family a home; a warm home.
Protected me for endless troubles
Given me work and income
Sheltered our “things” from theft and from deterioration
Provided us with transportation
Speaks to even me!
On and on the list goes.

Yes, even if, on that day in the Garden of Eden instead of asking. “Adam where are you?” Instead, He would have said, “Adam, I know here you are!” And then He turned and walked away forever. Yet, He would still be worthy of all praise and honor.

The story goes on:

As Jesus was dying on the cross, He exclaimed: “My God My God why have you forsaken me?”

Almighty God did not turn His back on Adam. He turned His back on Jesus so that He could turn His face toward me.

Habakkuk understands the deeper truth:

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines,
though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce not food,
though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord is my strength and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet
-and makes me walk on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

In the midst of one of the most tragic events of any single life, Gods’ servant Job, made the following statement:

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him! Job 13:15

Perhaps we have too much? Perhaps our expectations have been stretched beyond all reasonableness?

Is it possible for us to return to the bare truth of the worthiness of the Living God to receive our adoration and worship?

Come before Him and see His glory!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It is Free but It Isn't Natural

SHOUT joyfully to the Lord all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who made us and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100

Joy and gladness is a BIG thing to our God! It is a sincere expression of faith and faith is music to God’s ear.

As a matter of fact joy and gladness insulate us from some pretty ugly things.

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies…Deuteronomy 28:47&48

The Book of Philippians is an amazing book. The Apostle Paul is sitting in a prison cell and writing a letter of thanksgiving to the church in Philippi. To understand this situation it is important that we understand the setting. The prisons of that era were not like our prisons of today or even recent history. No these were typically dungeons of filth and disease. Absolutely on care was provided to prisoners. The only food or clothing that they had was that which cam from the outside world. This where the church at Philippi comes into the picture. They sent not only food and clothing but attendants as well.

There were no laws regarding false imprisonment, unfair terms of imprisonment or even the condition of the imprisonment. Paul had no idea when, if ever, he would get out!

This same Paul had left his entire family, his vaulted position and his society. He had traveled the known world to spread the good news of Jesus. He had been shipwrecked, stoned, whipped, stranded and alone and run out of town.

His recent life had been totally dedicated to the service of his God. Now we find him in the dregs of a filthy jail cell.

Paul, in writing his personal note of thanks to the Philippians makes this statement: …I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly so that I may also be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. Philippians 2:19&20

I’m not certain how I would react to this situation if I were up to my knees in filth, death and waste and I looked around and could find no one other than one single person that we trustworthy. Years of ministry, years of service, years of self-sacrifice had brought him to this.

His response?

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write these things again is no trouble to me and it is a safeguard to you.” (3:1)


Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (4:4&5)

There is his secret. It didn’t make any difference to Paul where he was; the Lord was always there with him. So, whether imprisoned or whether free, he was with his Lord.

The importance of rejoicing is that it keeps us in the presence of the Lord. He may be with us; it is rejoicing that places us with Him.

It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, choose to rejoice and be glad. Stand back and see how God will respond!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Big Enough For Your Needs?

How big is your God?

The quick answer is generally not the real answer. Think about your concept of how big you God is truthfully.

We all tend, over time, to form God in our image. As we whittle Him down to the size of our image, so goes our faith, diminishing to barely a faint whisper. As our faith fades so does our prayer life.

The bottom line then is: the answer to the first question is the temperature of your prayer life.

It is worthless to determine to pray more or to read the Bible more. Our determinations fade quickly. The only change that can really make any difference is for us to begin to comprehend how big our God is!

O Lord, You have searched me and known me, You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my paths and my lying down and are intimately aquatinted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.

You have enclosed me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me, such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your right hand will lay hold of me.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I am awake, I am still with You.

Psalm 139:1-10, 17-18

This same God, whom the psalmist describes as intimately desirous of relationship with us, knows us best yet loves us the most.

Let’s take a peek at one display of God’s bigness:

The book of Genesis informs us that God simply spoke into existence everything that we see and everything that we fail to see.

Steve Green, in his book entitled “Hymns: A portrait of Christ”[1], writes:

Looking at the universe gives us a sense of perspective. The nearest star, our sun is 93 million miles from earth. If the sun were hollow, it could contain 1-½ million spheres the size of earth.

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, and the nearest star beyond the sun is 4 ½ light years away. There are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and with the most powerful telescope on earth scientists have discovered some 200 million other galaxies…

Sir James Jeans, the British astronomer, stated that there are probably as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on every beach in the world.

I can almost hear David whispering in awe, “Great it the Lord and most worth of praise; His greatness no on can fathom.” Psalm 145:3

Jesus invites you to consider His bigness. Your mind wasn’t created to handle this; your heart is the place of discovery for God’s bigness!

It won’t come to you quickly, but it will come to you if you seek Him. He enjoys sharing Himself with you!

[1] Hymns, A portrait of Christ, Sparrow Press, How Great Thou Art

Friday, September 5, 2008

Over Promised; Under Delivered!

You have heard the phase many times. Just this week, once again I heard the time weary phrase, "our thoughts and prayers are with" you. The concept is not the issue; there are a couple of related issues strike me as disingenuous.

The first issue is the apparent equating of one’s thoughts with one’s prayers. Would it not be enough to simply say "my prayers are with you"? What difference does it make in the current situation where or not someone it "thinking" about me and my situation? The trouble with our "political correctness" speech is that it is totally useless. When I hear these words I quickly know that the speaker will do neither thinking nor praying.

The second issue is that this phrase reveals the struggle of attempting to keep God out of our society. When unimaginable, unspeakable tragedies or horrors happen, mankind is at a loss. There is nothing that can be said that can help people understand the evil or to put the events in some type of context. It is only in the context of an unchangeable, benevolent, gracious, all-powerful, never-ending God that evil finds its limitations. Nothing else will do at times like that!

All of this has me contemplating the Christian society’s substitution for this phrase. Sure, it sounds a little better. We don’t need to water the phrase down with the "my thoughts" part, we easily rattle off our own canned phrase "I will pray for you". In my own life there is a great gap between the statement and the action. How easy it is to glibly say, "I will pray for you" or "I will pray about that" and go on my way.

As I read the gospels I cannot find a single instance where Jesus told someone "I will pray for you".

As the disciples were walking toward the temple, one day, they were spoken to by a crippled man. How easy it would have been to simply look at him and deliver the phrase and go on with their plans.

I believe that it is time for us to return to the reality of prayer. If some person or some situation is brought to our attention it is for the purpose of us, as people who pray, to pray; not to simply dismiss it and move on.

Challenge yourself, in faith, to offer immediate prayer for these situations. You will be enormously surprised at the response and at the blessing of these appointments.

Please believe me, that the risk you feel you will be taking will be rewarded many, many times and ways.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Who's the Boss?

I'm sure that you have experienced a like situation. I came across a very familiar scripture and, for some reason, saw it from a slightly different angle.

This is the familiar scripture: II Chronicles 7:14

...and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Like you, I have heard and read this scripture many times. This time my attention was brought to one piece of the statement. "humble themselves and pray"!

Leaping into my mind was the thought, "does it really require humility to pray?" Of course it doesn't! We can pray any number of prayers without the slightest bit of humility. "Now I lay me down to sleep", "God is great, God is good, thank you God...." , "Bless dad and mom and all the missionaries of the world".

You know, come to think of it, most of my prayers don't require humility. Is something wrong with the way I am reading scripture, or, is there perhaps something wrong about how I see prayer?

I remember an account of two men the Jesus told his disciples about one day. The first carried an air of superiority claiming his appreciation to God for not being made like other people; the second standing some distance away (wonder why?) simply beat his chest and pleaded with God to be merciful to him, a sinner. Can you feel the difference here?

Humility is not a state of feeling that you are less than you think you are; humility is understanding exactly who you are. It is the stark reality of who we really are that drives us to the point of desperate need that brings us to prayer that is "heard in heaven."

Consider with me what it means to "humble yourself and pray".

Monday, September 1, 2008

Long Distance or a Short Line?

You have probably heard it, perhaps you have even said it, "I feel my prayers just hit the ceiling"
Do we pray to a God Who is far off? To a God Who sits high upon His throne?

Paul sought to disabuse us of our misconceptions with his letter to the Ephesians.

He first established in the readers minds the position of Jesus:

He raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…" Ephesians 1:20

He then makes the following statement:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He love us…made us alive together with Jesus…and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places…" Ephesians 2:4-6

Our prayers have no ceiling between us and God. We just simply must turn our face toward Him and ask.