Monday, January 26, 2009

Getting to Know You

There is an old broadway musical song that begins with the words: "getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, hoping that you like me…"

There is a reason why the phrase is "getting to know you" rather than "got to know you". It seems that knowing someone is more far more complicated that a first look, a few discussions, an appointment or two or even months or years of social interaction.

Many of you know the woman of my dreams and wife, Sheryl. This year we will celebrate our 35th anniversary of our marriage. One amazing thing about 35 years together is that we still draw apart when we have busy weeks and lack of time together. The advantage of 35 years is that we can more quickly diagnose our troubles and move to remove the gap.
You see, we are two very different people.

By nature or by nurture I have become a night person while she is a morning person. She is organized and efficient and I am casual and priority challenged. She is teamwork; I am independent. Thirty five years together hasn’t changed these differences. Instead of change we have adapted to each other.

This is far more information about us than I feel comfortable sharing but the point I wish to make is this: Our time together in terms of years means little when we have limited time together in terms of minutes and hours. It is only by staying in contact that we manage to stay on the same page and maintain the same priorities.

This brings me to today’s scriptural challenge:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it that it may bear more fruit…Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you"
John 15:1-2,4-7

That word, "abide" is a critical one isn’t it? Without "abiding" there is appears to be little hope for good. As a matter of fact, lack of "abiding" brings pretty dire consequences.

So many times we want to read the last part of that scripture that says, "ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you" and skip over the rest. But it is clear the last part is wholly dependent upon the first part; particularly this concept of "abiding".

We must understand that, as in the need that Sheryl and I have for time together to stay in touch, the differences between Jesus and us are so very great and those differences can only be overcome by time together. It is in "dwelling" with Jesus that we are changed, not in an instant (in these matters), but over a lifetime together
Purpose to dwell with Jesus and allow His word to dwell in you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Psalm 23

The LORD, the Psalmist's Shepherd.

A Psalm of David.

1The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Why is it that it seems that the only time we read or hear these incredible words is at a funeral? I would like to make the case that is, almost more than any other scripture, about life not death.

The Lord is my shepherd is a clear statement about the present need for direction, provision and for protection. Much like the sheep that the Shepherd watches over we tend to stray.

He makes me lie down in green pastures… There is something very important to notice here. The statement is not that He allows me to lie down, but that He makes me lie down in green pastures. Think about how He “makes” you lie down.

If we push ourselves too long or too hard we “break down”. Headaches, colds, flu’s, sleeplessness or other physical issues require that we break the cycle that has created the situation. It is often His mercy that requires that we rest and restore!

Yes, He restores my soul.

This next part it simply beyond understanding:

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake…

It is His name that is on the line. He has a vested interest in our righteousness. Our reputations are well known. Nevertheless, He puts His name on the line! Simply unbelievable but simply true!

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me

Read this part carefully, it is not indicating that some day one might have to walk through a terrible place. No, it is saying that “even though I (am walking) through the valley of the shadow of death… The world that we live in is what the psalmist is describing. Consider the world around you. Is there not death, both physical and spiritual, all around you? If you were to look at our situation from afar would it not look like a valley with shadows of death all around?

In spite of our predicament we can fear no evil; why you ask? because He is with us.

He is with us. When you get a few moments re-read the early chapters of Genesis. See how it has always been God’s plan to “be with us”. It only us who wish to go it alone!

His rod and His staff comfort me because they keep me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He guides and rescues with His rod and staff.

He has not only prepared a feasting table in the face of my enemies, He has anointed my head in preparation for the meal as well.

In contemplation of all that our God has done to guide, provide for and to protect; and understanding that the psalmist has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve any of God’s care, he realizes that he is abundantly blessed: My cup overflows!

Once one comes to grips with the truth of these wonderful words, one can only then be fully assured that: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life. There is nowhere within the valley of the shadow of death that I can go that He is not already there waiting for me to protect, guide and to provide for me for His names sake.

Clearly, we no longer live within the valley of the shadow of death; our address has changed. And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. There is a present as well as a continual sense of dwelling in the house of the Lord. It has begun and will continue forever.

We do such a disservice to the Church when we relegate this Psalm of life to the pages of remembrance at memorials and funerals. I hope that you will come back to this Psalm again and again and absorb the life that it presents. And I hope that you will never see it the same again.

Invest enough time within this Psalm to you cup also overflows!

Monday, January 12, 2009


This week’s message is centered around the Book of Colossians. I hope that this will, perhaps, inspire you to prayerfully invest some time grazing in the depth of this letter written to the Christians in the first century.

Let’s begin in chapter two

Paul begins by stating his deep desire for those who have not been able to meet him face to face. His desire is that these and all Christians will pursue the…

…attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There is a wealth that comes from knowing the deep, deep mystery of Jesus and all that He has done for us. The things hidden from the beginning of creation and continue hidden from the world and, unfortunately, many Christians are freely opened to those who seek the TRUE knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done.

I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

There are many who teach as well as many who yearn to teach that are deluded because they are empty of the mysteries and the true knowledge of Jesus.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Walking “in Jesus” is one of the profound mysteries that Jesus has invited us into. Paul says that walking in Jesus is exactly the same as how we received Jesus in the first place. It is by faith and only by faith that we receive Him and it is only by faith that we can “walk in Him”. There is so much more to day about this but, for now, we will go on.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

No one ever intends to substitute the traditions of men for the truth of God. It just creeps in unaware in most cases. It is the easiest course to follow because it is based upon our understanding and logic. The truth of God is foolishness to understanding and logic.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Let’s not skip by this one too fast. Read that part once again….

There is another of the mysteries of Jesus. We have (past tense here) been made COMPLETE!
If there should be any doubt arise concerning this mystery, see the rest of this statement that Jesus is “the head over all rule and authority”.

And that’s not all…

and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

We were dead; we have been made alive “together with Him through faith”.

When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

We can be “defrauded of our prize” of liberterating life by submitting ourselves to the “requirements” of religion. So many things that sound so right are the very things that rob us of our life. Reason, understanding and logic divert us from the truth that is offered within the realm of faith.

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Perhaps a simple summation of what this is saying is: “if you have died with Christ why do you insist on dragging that old dead body around with you?” The “appearance of wisdom” is a far, far distance from true wisdom. Once again that which makes sense really doesn’t make sense within the Kingdom of God.

We have been made complete in Jesus and mysteries have been opened up to us. We will not unfold these mysteries until we accept our true position in Jesus and begin to live “in Him”.

Monday, January 5, 2009


For several months I have been working on writing a book. As a new author, I have learned much about authorship that I hadn’t even considered before beginning this process. I know that there is yet much for me to learn before this process is complete.

This last week a thought occurred to me. More that a thought perhaps; more like a question:

Who is authoring your story?

A silly question? Perhaps it is for many because we have bought into the lies of the world around us. “Go to school, get a good job and live happily ever-after”.

Day after day we live the life that we have made for ourselves, often times living weekend to weekend or paycheck to paycheck.

As we begin a new year we hear much about, any perhaps many of us make, “new year’s resolutions”. Year after year we prove that the plans we make are of little long-term value.

The next question is a bit more harsh: “How is that working for you?”

If you were to honestly evaluate how you are doing and where you are going, how would you feel about your answers?

So let’s get back to the original question: Who is the author of your story?

From the book of Jeremiah God says:

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope'.

So, much like the author of a good book, God has a plan for your life. Much more than just a simple plan, however, in that His plan is for “welfare, future and hope”.

His plan continues: 'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
This is a vitally important point. We must get the order right or we simply fall back into our own efforts as a failed plan. God’s plan for us is to first, agree and accept that God has a plan of welfare, future and hope for us and second, knowing that, we will then call upon Him and He will answer.

To assure our understanding of this truth God addresses those of us who are likely to “dip our toe” into His plan.

'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'

So, allow me to change the question to one more important:

Who will be the author of your story from this point on?