Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22, 2018

“I cry to you, LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalms 142:5

It amazes me how many Christians are looking for the fast, flashy, quick-fix, five-step formula to spiritual maturity. If there is something that looks like a sure short-cut, they are on it.

Before I get off this topic of commitment I want to assure you that there is no short-cut or superhighway to becoming a spiritual giant.

Don’t get caught up in these shallow stupid fantasies of the flesh. The only way to spiritual maturity is the way David did it – commitment. Commitment was the one constant of his life. It didn’t matter if he was caring for sheep, confronting a giant, cowering in a cave, conquering enemies, or wearing a crown he was fully committed to His God.

You will have to be committed in the mundane tedious tasks that meet the needs of others when God calls you to that. There will be some giant risks you will be called to confront and some giant-sized spiritual enemies you will have to defeat. There will be lonely difficult times when you will feel like you are trapped in a cave and no one cares – even God. Every one of those challenges will require a commitment to keep chasing and embracing God. David had his cave and Jesus had His cross and so will you!

But, the fact is you will be committed to something. Everyone is! And whatever you commit to will cost you – ultimately it could cost you your soul.

Do you need to renew your commitment to obey and follow God? 

Have you been thinking about bailing on your commitment? 

Where is your commitment being tested? 

Usually when it feels like you want to get out it is time to get back in.

Jesus proved God’s commitment to you. David showed us what it looks like. 

It’s your move!




Friday, July 20, 2018

July 21, 2018

A few insights regarding the nature of commitment from Psalm 142.

The Psalmist found himself trapped in a cave primarily because of his commitment to God. Sometimes commitment seems like a trap because when you commit you eliminate every other option. Jesus' commitment led Him to a cross. If you are a committed Christian there is a cave or a cross in your future.

Also, his commitment was tested the longer he remained into the cave. He cried out and complained to God but never caved in on his commitment.

Because he endured the pain and loneliness of being trapped in a cave his commitment became stronger and he found a measure of contentment. Here is how the Psalmist found some contentment in the cave:

He Clarified – Where is my focus?

I think the key to contentment is focusing on what you love rather than on what you lack. If you obsess over what you do not or cannot have you will naturally stir up discontentment. Rather, concentrate on what you DO have in the One you love - God. The fact is that when you have God and His love you have all you need!


He Confessed - "I cry to you, LORD; I say, 'You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.'"


Anytime you may feel your commitment wavering and you are tempted to doubt, confess your faith and confidence in the Lord! It will always work! There is tremendous strength in positive confession.

He Committed


Another good practice when it comes to keeping commitments is this - when you feel like getting out of your commitment - recommit! When loneliness and discouragement and the pain of being trapped in your cave weakens you so you are tempted to quit, renew your commitment! Tell God, "I will love you in the cave!"

Learn from David and also from Jesus. Consider this - "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:3

When Jesus' commitment led Him to the cross He stayed focused on the One He loved and the joy of pleasing Him! That's how you find contentment in the cave!




Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Is Your "OQ"?

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." James 3:1



Jesus told a story one day about two men. One of those men He referred to as "foolish" and the other he called "wise". Other than the fact that Jesus said it (and if Jesus calls you a "fool" you are one) what separates a wise man from a foolish man?

In Jesus' little story it was the men themselves who differentiated themselves by their actions. The "foolish" man built a house on a foundation of sand. While it was cheaper and easier to build on sand it was also short-sighted. When the first big thunderstorm of the season blew through with its torrential rains and winds the house crumbled as its foundation washed away. The "wise" man build his house on a solid foundation of rock. It is more difficult to chisel through the rock and anchor a foundation there. But the painstaking effort and expense paid off when that storm blew in and washed his neighbor away while his house stood strong.

According to Jesus, wisdom is not a matter of what you know but what you show! God is not interested in theories, He wants transformed lives. He wants obedience. He wants you to build your life on the foundation of a personal relationship with Him.

As the brother of Jesus, James echoes the same truth in his writings. He says, "You can't claim to be wise and act like a fool!" If you act foolish you will be judged as a fool. It is that simple.

Do you want to be wise? Build on a proper foundation. This verse tells you that you need understanding. You must understand truth from error. You must understand the importance of obeying God and living according to His revealed truth in the Word. The foundation of your life must be built on His truth and His commands and His will. You must know it and then show it.

If understanding is a key to wisdom, and it is, then humility is evidence of a wise heart. Humility is the by-product of obedience. You cannot be proud and obedient at the same time. Likewise, you cannot be wise and proud.

Intelligence can be measured by an IQ test. Can wisdom be measured?

James would say, "Absolutely!" In this third chapter he lays out an "OQ" test -an obedient quotient. The wise man passed his "OQ" test, the foolish man failed his.

How is your "OQ"?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 19, 2018

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23

Here is the testimony of one satisfied sheep! The source of his satisfaction? A very good shepherd!

When was the last time you felt satisfied? What would it take to satisfy you? What would have to happen? What would it take? Do you even know?

How did it happen for this sheep? How did he become so satisfied?

The Present Care of His Shepherd

This satisfied sheep had a shepherd who cared for his every need. The shepherd provided for his physical sustenance by leading him to lush green pastures where he can graze to the full. The shepherd provided for his emotional security. Sheep are not built for swimming. They are terrified of rapidly moving water. Should a sheep fall into the water and his wool become saturated, he become seriously top-heavy and sink beneath the currents. But the good shepherd knows that and intentionally leads the sheep away from the swift streams to the quiet waters.

And, the good shepherd protects the safety of his sheep. He guards them with his rod and his staff. The rod is the weapon used against would be predators and the staff is used to steer a wandering sheep back to the safety of the flock.

If you are not sure what it would take to satisfy you, think about these three things: having a shepherd who provides for your sustenance, your security and your safety. That worked for this shepherd, what would that do for you?

The Promised Care of the Shepherd

The satisfaction this sheep is experiencing is attributable to the care he is presently receiving from his good shepherd. His physical needs, His emotional needs and his spiritual needs are all being met. That's helpful today, but what about tomorrow? Can I continue to count on my shepherd?

The fact is, when the Lord is your Shepherd, the future is your friend! He promises to care for you in the future just as He currently cares for you!

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

This satisfied sheep shows you that if you can find contentment in your Shepherd with His current care, you can have confidence in His continued care in days to come.

Want some satisfaction? Follow the Good Shepherd!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My Light and My Salvation

"The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1a



Thank God for His light!

Thank God for being the Light!


As John wrote, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." I John 1:5-7

Thank God for enabling us to walk in His light!

Living in the Light gives security and safety. Praise God for that.

But notice the Psalmist doesn't stop there. The Lord is not just our Light but He is our Salvation!

In this context, He saves us with His light!

As much as we fear the outer darkness and the dangers it conceals, but there is an inner darkness that is equally frightening. That darkness is sinfulness. That sinfulness separates from God. Once separated from God, there is no light and the darkness returns. When the darkness returns so does the fear.

So, the Lord really IS our Light and Salvation. By His power and presence He can protect us from the outer darkeness that causes you to fear. And by His shed blood and His Spirit He can deliver us from the inner darkness that causes fear about eternity.

Are you trapped in fear?

Are you fearful over the darkness in your heart?

Are fearful about your eternal future?

Have you received His salvation?

Are you walking in His light?

Monday, July 16, 2018

July 17, 2018

"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. " Acts 20:7-12

This morning I read in the Psalms and continued reading in Acts. Of course, I found a number of inspiring verses. But, this amazing incident caught my attention for two reasons: because it IS amazing how Paul raised this young man from the dead, but also, I found it encouraging that as great as Paul was, someone actually fell asleep on him when he was speaking. Maybe you have to be a preacher to appreciate that!

Pardon me for indulging myself in this moment, but there is a much greater point to be made in all of this. God's power is made perfect in the weaknesses of our humanity. Maybe Paul had this incident in mind when he wrote:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." II Cor. 4:7

Paul was in the midst of a grueling travel schedule and the hour was late. He had been teaching intensely for hours. No one can be at their best under those conditions. Our bodies and minds get tired. And Eutychus had been sitting and listening for hours, now the hour was late. He dozed off. It is not a good idea to doze off when you are sitting in a third-story window. So, when he fell asleep he FELL - ASLEEP. The fall killed him.

Needless to say, that killed the meeting. When Paul received word of what had happened, he switched from preaching the Word to practicing it. Undeterred by the gravity of the situation, Paul simply called on God to revive this young man. God did!

Wow! It is one thing to put people asleep when you preach - it is quite another to raise them from the dead afterward!

Here's the big message in the midst of these ramblings, GOD'S STRENGTH AND POWER ARE GREATER THAN YOUR WEAKNESSES! When you are doing your best to serve Him, He will be His best for you. Don't hide your weakness. Don't apologize for it. Praise God for revealing Himself through your limitations.

Have you surrender to God - weaknesses and all?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 16, 2018

"The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?" Psalm 27:1a

One of the first things I remember being afraid of was the dark. Maybe you were too.

My mind could conjure up all sorts of frightening creature lurking in the darkness. It was comforting to have even the small amount of light that a night light could emit. That always seemed to be enough to keep the monsters and ghouls at bay.

In the ancient days of the Psalmist, darkness WAS fearful. Robbers, murderers, and thugs lurked along dark roadways, alleys and corners. Respectable people avoided the dark as much as possible.

In addition to the human miscreants there were demons that haunted the night. Night time held great terror for people of those days. Rightly so!

Here in this favorite Psalm, we are reminded that we have a light to help us not fear the darkness. That is good news since we live in a very dark world!

What IS this light that we enjoy from our Lord?

It is the light of His presence. He IS the Light of the world! "God is light and in His is no darkness at all!"

And, it is the light of His Word. The Word gives light from His knowledge that can guide our steps.

His salvation removes the spiritual darkness from our hearts and opens our spiritual eyes.

Then, there is the light of fellowship with other Christians. His followers are people of the Light so gathering with them helps remove the fear of the darkness! I John 1:7 urges, If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin!"

Believe the Psalmist when he assures you that you need not fear the darkness when God is your Light! Walk in the joy and freedom of His light today!














July 15, 2018

As you know, Psalm 51 is one of the most honest, intense and heart-felt chapters any where in the Bible. It is also a text book example of how repentance should happen. 

Meditating on this Scripture this week I wondered while I read and re-read his confession it occurred to me, "Why didn't he think about these things BEFORE he did the awful deeds? If he had bothered to think with his head instead of his lustful heart, this Psalm would have been unnecessary."

 

That is when I came up with the phrase "pre-pentance" - or confessing the moment the sinful thoughts took shape in his mind. Had he taken each of those THOUGHTS captive by confessing them to God it would have kept him from committing those sins that ruined his life and ended Uriah's.


You and I can certainly learn from David's failure and make a promise to God and ourselves that we will defend against destructive sin in our lives by learning "pre-pentance".

 

Here's what I mean:

 

The story begins in 2 Samuel 11:1-4


Let's break it down!

1"Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem."

MISTAKE #1 – Wrong Place!   

Pre-Pentance – Go To Right Place


2 "Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance."

MISTAKE #2 – Another Wrong Place!   

Pre-Pentance – Repent of Lustful Look and Thought

"So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said,“Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

MISTAKE #3 – First Look Was Free – Second One Was Sin.

Pre-Pentance – Repent of Lustful Action and STOP NOW!

4 "David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house."

MISTAKE #4 – Totally Out of Control Now – Abused His Power To Use This Woman AND Betray Her Husband, Who Was One of His Loyal Soldiers. 

Pre–Pentance – TOO LATE NOW!

Repentance is the only way to be freed from the guilt and bondage of your sin. True repentance to God allows Him to come in mercy and power to cleanse your sin and restore your spirit.

But you could render repentance a rarity in your life if you would train yourself to "pre-pent".

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 14, 2018

".....and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Houdini, the magician, walked across a tight wire high above Niagara Falls. The high wire is stretched tight high above Niagara Falls, and Houdini asks the audience watching from the bleachers whether or not he can walk across that falls high on that high wire. Houdini calls to the people in the bleachers, “Do you believe that I can walk on the high wire across the falls.” The crowd chants back, “Yes, you can do it.” Houdini then loads a wheel barrow onto that high wire and calls to the crowds, “Do you believe that I can take that wheel barrow on the high wire across Niagara Falls?” “Yes,” they shout. “You can do it.” Then Houdini takes a wheel barrow and fills that wheel barrow with a sack of sand, weighing a hundred and fifty pounds.” Houdini calls to the crowds, “Can I take the wheel barrow with the 150 pounds of sand across the high wire?” The crowd thunders at the top of their voices, “Yes, you can do it.” Then Houdini pauses and quietly asks for a volunteer to get into the wheel barrow and Houdini will take them on the high wire across Niagara Falls. No one volunteers. "No, no, no. We don't want to do that."

It is one thing to believe that the high wire walker could move 150 pounds across the wire, but it quite another thing to believe in him, to put your life in his hands, to get into the wheelbarrow and have him ferry you across to the other side of the falls. You have to REALLY believe IN him to do that. To trust your life fully in his hands.

Have you discovered that one of the things that makes it tough to fully trust God is trusting what He can go in you?

It is hard to fully "lean into" Him when you are doubting His ability to use you. Doubting what God can do in you is in fact, doubting Him.

I know I struggled four years with surrendering to His calling on my life. My problem was that I have serious doubts whether I could do the job He was calling me to do. I told myself that I trusted Him I just didn't trust myself. I was leaning to my own understanding of what I though I was able to do.
My Youth Pastor set me straight when he challenged me with this admonition, "God's call is your enablement. Are you telling me that you can trust God to call you to ministry but you can't trust Him to enable you to accomplish the task?"

As I thought about it I had to admit that was EXACTLY what I was saying. Once I admitted it I had to confess it for the sin it was. Though I said I trusted Him I was unwilling to get into His wheelborrow.

Confessing the sinful way I had been thinking, I began "leaning fully into Him" and "leaned away from my own understanding."

Now, more than 45 years later I can clearly see how His calling really has been my enablement!

Have you been "leaning into your own understanding" rather than trusting Him?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Someone Who Is Worthy Of Our Trust

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8



The great Mark Twain once said, “If a cat sets on a hot stove he will never set on a hot stove again. Of course, he’ll never set on a cold one either.”

That profoundly simple observation illustrates how difficult it is to trust again once you have been burned. And who among us has not been burned?
So trusting again is much harder than trusting initially. We have to make sure the next person we trust is trustworthy, like this kid in this story:

A young lady was sunbathing on the beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?"

She was surprised by the question but she replied, "Why, yes, I do." 

Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?"  Again, her answer was "Yes!"


He then asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray every day?"
Again she said, "Yes!" By now her curiosity was very much aroused.

The little lad sighed with relief and said, "Will you hold my money while I go swimming?"

What a relief to find someone who is worthy of our trust!

Someone as trustworthy as Isaiah vouches for God:
You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? 14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? 19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. 20 A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple.21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. 25 “To whom will you  created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. 27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:9-31

He sounds like Some One I could trust and “lean into” with all my heart.
He sounds like Some One I could trust and “lean into” with all my heart even if I have been burned before.

He sounds like Some One I could trust and “lean into” with all my heart ESPECIALLY if I been burned before.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

July 12, 2018

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

Wise people trust God. The wisest people trust Him completely.

The word for trust means to “lean into”. When you trust God you “lean into Him” with all your weight.

Heed the wise instruction given in these verses, “You don’t have to fully understand God in order to fully trust Him.”

Often, one of the biggest obstacles to trusting God is the notion that we have to understand Him in order to trust Him.

As Solomon reminds us in this Proverb, not only is that untrue it is absurd!

I put my trust in a lot of things I don’t understand. I have rested all my weight in a jetliner and flown 35,000 feet across the Atlantic Ocean with little understanding of that aircraft.

I have a very limited understanding of how my Toyota Camry works but I trust it to carry me wherever I need to go.

I lean heavily on this laptop for my writing and sermon preparation and research and emails every day of every week. I don’t really understand how it works.

Here’s some wisdom to help you trust Him.

Wise people trust God by leaning completely into His trustworthiness and leaning away from their understanding of Him.

Is your need to understanding Him making it difficult to trust Him?

Wise up!

Lean away from your need to understand Him and lean fully into what you DO understand about Him – HE IS TRUSTWORTHY!

By the way, an amazing thing happens as you lean fully into His trustworthiness – you gain a better understanding of Him as well!

How are you leaning today?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What does it really mean to trust God?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8



What does it really mean to trust God?

Or, you could ask the same question this way, “What does it mean to really trust God?”

That is THE big question, isn’t it? It is important enough to address it with a Proverb from the wisest man who ever lived.

To begin answering the question, consider this simple story:

I heard a story of a missionary in Africa who received a knock on the door of his hut one afternoon. Answering, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here. I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the boy. "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now."

Like this young boy shows us, trust is giving God your first, your best, and your all!

Like this young boy shows us, trust believes God for the rest!

Like this young boy shows us, trust is giving with zest!

Like this young boy shows us, trust believes that God will bless!

Does your trust in God pass this test?