Friday December 4, 2020 – Importance of ‘paradigm shifts’

Hebrews 12:5-6  5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Continued from yesterday:

I would like you to consider some things that have resulted in ‘paradigm shifts’.  The introduction of these things was so profound that they radically changed our thinking and behavior: automobiles, airplanes, television, computers, internet, cell phones, ipods…  The list could go on.  Many of us have had most of these things all our lives.  Some of us are old enough to remember their initial impact.  Regardless, it is easy to see how society was radically changed by each of these inventions.

Paradigm shifts often come into play with our beliefs.  Think of an atheist having an encounter with God.  His whole world is turned right side up.  Years ago we had a pastor friend who didn’t believe that miracles could happen today – until one of his church members was miraculously healed.  He had to come to grips with the fact that his view of Scripture and God needed to be adjusted.

Today’s verses use such words as ‘disciplines’, ‘rebukes’ and ‘punishes’.  While we recognize that God disciplines, we appear to have an aversion to recognizing that these other two words are biblical and apply to us.  We have a paradigm view of God that carves these realities out.  Do we believe that ‘rebuke’ and ‘punish’ are incompatible with a loving God?

If this is our view – our paradigm – it must change because it is as wrong as viewing the world as flat. God’s discipline, rebukes and punishment are all reflective of His love for us.  Read this verse in the Amplified version to get better insight how all of these things are saturated with God’s love for us:

5My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him;  6For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.” (Amplified)

This is a process to recognize and embrace.  Once we see and understand, we experience a paradigm shift – we respond with gratitude instead of resistance or resentment.  We recognize this as evidence of our Lord welcoming us to His heart.

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Thursday December 3, 2020 – An essential reality in our lives

Revelation 3:19  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

Do you remember times when you were growing up when you wanted to do something and were told “No” by your parents?  Did you receive it well or did you respond somewhat negatively – like “You don’t love me!”?  If a child is caught doing something wrong and is disciplined for it, there is a natural tendency to respond negatively unless s/he is trained not to.

How well do we respond in adulthood to such input from our spouse, employer, boss, mentor, neighbor, friend, etc…?  When our two oldest sons were little (about 4 and 5) we were visiting dear friends who were like parents to Donna and me.  After being with them for a couple days, they sat us down and asked us, “Do you realize your sons argue with you every time you tell them to do or not to do something?”

While it wasn’t pleasant to hear, we received their counsel because 1) it was true, 2) they loved us, 3) we wanted to be godly parents, and 4) we wanted to “train our children up in the way they should go”.  The couple went on to instruct us how to change and bring about the changes in the boys.  We had an opportunity to repent and become better parents.  We embraced the process.

When I look at today’s verse, I see three ‘pieces’.  We all have a tendency to respond or react to the second and third ‘pieces’ of it, glossing over the first:

  1. Those whom I love
  2. Rebuke and discipline
  3. Be earnest and repent

We don’t like to be rebuked, disciplined, corrected or confronted – whether directly or subtly.  We also have a tendency to see repentance as more of a ‘big ticket item’ rather than as an essential reality in our daily lives. But let’s focus on the first piece of this.  Notice how the Amplified version expands the context of this verse in terms of God’s love for us and our approach to repentance:

“Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].”  (Amplified) 

This isn’t something dry and cold – it’s a love gift from the One who loves us so very much.  He tells us where we need to change, how to change and He enables us to change.  The entire process is the way of life that is absolutely essential to our growth and godliness.  Without it we would never be transformed into the image of Jesus.  We embrace our God when we embrace it.

To be continued…

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Wednesday December 2, 2020 – What do our responses say about us?

Job 1:22  In all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.                                Job 2:10b  In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

It’s difficult to imagine the impact of all the disasters that happened to Job in chapter one.  Scripture describes him as being blameless and upright; one who feared God and shunned evil.  But through no fault of his own, loss, destruction and death were involved in each of the 4 messages brought to him, one after another.

Two of the messages described raiding bands of Sabeans and Chaldeans who stole his animals and killed his servants.  The last message brought word of the death of his seven sons and three daughters by a mighty wind causing the house they were feasting in to collapse on them. Yet his response to all of this was to fall to the ground in worship.

Seldom will we or anyone we know experience loss of the magnitude that Job did.  But we do experience loss, pain and tragedy in many forms.  In such times, how wonderful it would be for our immediate response to be one of worshipping the Lord as Job did.  Unfortunately many if not most of us would find it difficult to worship freely in such a time of agony.  But that is where the verses today are so critically important.  How we respond speaks to the Lord AND to those around us.

Job didn’t charge God with wrong doing.  He didn’t say, “God how could you….”  He didn’t lash out at the Lord or blame Him in any way.  It’s so important that we understand that such responses are sin. Let’s say that again but more pointedly: ‘Charging God with wrongdoing is sin.’  The importance of all this is further emphasized in Job 2:10b where we learn, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

It’s not that God won’t forgive such responses, but it’s what they reveal about us.  They reflect an inadequate and inaccurate understanding of who God is and of our relationship with Him.  To respond negatively towards God shows us we are weak where we should be strong.  When we find ourselves in such difficult situations, think of the difference between these responses: 1) “God how could you…” and 2) Oh Lord, I’m so glad that I have you in the midst of this…”

There are times when we are experiencing difficult and painful things that our hearts are not in the place to worship.  But hopefully, they are also not in the place to charge our Lord with wrongdoing.  In such times let us take the faith position of thanking the Lord for keeping us from sinning and asking Him to work the change in us so that our heart-response is to worship Him in the midst of it all.

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Tuesday December 1, 2020 – Never did I dream…

1 John 3:1a  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

A few weeks ago I had my 52nd birthday in Jesus.  In this Thanksgiving / Christmas season, I am so mindful of the wonder of what He did in my life.  It was the day my world was forever changed.  Prior to that day, it never entered my mind that anyone could have a tangible, loving relationship with God; a relationship that went both ways.  He loves to express His love to us and we get to express our love to Him.

A relationship with Jesus is not just a theological reality – it is a whole new world.  Being born-again means we become His son or daughter but there is so much more to it than that.  It means that we become restored to a place where we can live our lives with Him and for Him.  It becomes our starting place.

Think of it!  We get to walk with Him.  We get to love Him.  We get to please Him.  We get to experience His affection.  Likewise each day He is with us.  He loves us.  He blesses us.  He guides us.  He disciplines us as sons and daughters.  We are His!

Our relationship with God is so incredibly practical.  He deals with who we are and where we are – transforming us into the image of Jesus.  He gives us the desire and helps us learn the things we need to learn – the doing part.  The more we become like Him, the better able we are to glorify Him in our daily lives.  A man or woman with a life characterized by the love of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit is in a much better place to become a Godly husband or wife; a father or mother; friend; neighbor; son or daughter….

As I write this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  It is like an artesian spring within me.  It just never ends.  No matter how difficult things might become from time to time, it is there.  What a treasure He gives us.  When I met Him, 52 years ago, – when my Matterhorn of doubt was leveled – I wondered how such an incredible experience could last a lifetime.  I never dreamed that it could or would get even better!

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Monday November 30, 2020 – What does the ‘Cross’ represent to you?

Romans 6:6  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—

Recently we enjoyed the beauty of a full moon.  I never cease to enjoy seeing one particularly when it first comes up over the horizon.  But the full moon never fails to tap into a much richer vein of thought within me.  For years when I’ve seen it, I’ve thought of my son John and his wife Fabi and their family in Brazil and the work they were doing.  Even though they are now here, I still think of them.

One of the most common symbols of Christianity is the cross.  Does seeing one make you think of church like golden arches makes one think of McDonald’s?  Have you given thought to what exactly the cross represents?  Or just what do you think of when you see one?    Is it merely a symbol that over time has come to represent Christianity?

A rainbow is God’s sign to Noah – and to us – that He will never flood the earth again.  It is a symbol representing a promise.  But the cross represents so much more.  A vital key to understanding this is the difference between ‘sins’ and ‘sin’.  God made provision for the forgiveness of sins in both the Old and New Testaments.  Forgiveness always involved the shedding of blood.  In the Old Testament there was the blood of lambs and goats that had to be redone every year.  In the New Testament we have the shed blood of Jesus once and for all to provide for the forgiveness of sins.

But the power of sin was and is another thing entirely.  Prior to Jesus, the sins of God’s people could be forgiven but there was still the power of sin working in them.  God’s plan in Jesus was to deal with this wretched power of sin that was the result of Adams’ fall.  The cross represents His love gift through Jesus by which the power of sin was broken.

Through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection we are able to be born-again – to become new creatures in Christ Jesus – freed from the old sin nature – no longer slaves to sin – able to become children of God!  This is what faith in Jesus brings us – a life that is radically changed!  May we rejoice in this whenever we see a cross.

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Sunday November 29, 2020 – We ‘get to’…not ‘have to’!

Ephesians 5:1-2   Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I woke up this morning with thoughts of how we, through necessity or preference, engage others to address certain things we have to deal with.   Think of repairing your car, changing the oil or tires, repairing appliances in your home, having someone take care of your lawn, paint or repair your house, take care of pets, plow your driveway in the winter.  We simply have to recognize that an issue or problem exists and contact the appropriate person to address it.

So many products come with service contracts where we can purchase ‘insurance’ that will deal with any problems we encounter with the product.  All we have to do is pick up the phone and call the repairman.  It is then ‘out of our hands’ so to speak.  We also have the option of ignoring such things – particularly if it is inconvenient to deal with them in terms of priorities of finances, i.e., the warning light on the dash is white not red.

Today’s verse engages us in a very different way.  It calls upon us to imitate God and to live a life of love.  What does it mean to imitate God?  What exactly does living a life of love look like?  If we think we know, how do we know that our understanding is correct?  We are the ones who have to live the life of love.  It is not something we can delegate to someone else or ignore.  But if we think of it as a ‘have to do it’ we’ve really missed the boat.  We get to do it.  We must want to do it.

Think of it this way.  If you are a husband or wife, you don’t delegate someone else to love your spouse – you get to do it.  You want to do it – and if we’re wise, we are always looking for ways to do it better.  This means we are also noting the behaviors and attitudes in our lives that are inconsistent with love.  There is no higher priority for Christians than living a life of love.  Our Lord loves us and we get to love Him and others in return – what incredible privileges!

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Saturday November 28, 2020 – Our loving Father

Isaiah 41:13  For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

When we’re frightened and concerned it’s a wonderful blessing to be comforted.  Sometimes we are the comforter – and sometimes the comforted.  And sometimes we are both at the same time.  I’m laughing as I think of that scene in the movie While You Were Sleeping where Lucy and the brother are trying to walk across the icy sidewalk.  They are hanging onto one another for dear life.

I think of children who are frightened and the amazing comfort they can derive from holding a parent’s hand.  The power is far beyond holding a hand – it is rooted in relationship with who the hand belongs to.  It communicates that I am with someone I love and trust.  I am not alone.  It also communicates that someone is there to help.

There are times when we receive frightening news and we squeeze the hand of the one we are with.  It is a way of releasing the anxiety of the moment and receiving strength from the one with us. The fact that we are adults doesn’t diminish the power of the peace and encouragement that can be communicated through the touch – the hand that is held.

Our God is our Father who loves us.  When Jesus taught the disciples to pray he began, “Our Father…”.  Think of the Prodigal’s father and the joy he had in the return of his son.  Our Father is not a distant, aloof, icy individual.  He is One who cares deeply for us.  He enables us to experience the reality of His loving presence with us.

In Romans 8:15 Paul makes it clearer in case we are lacking in our grasp of who our God is to us, “15For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption [the Spirit producing sonship] in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father!” (Amplified)

I know that my wife Donna had a less than positive relationship with her dad.  But years ago at a conference, she had an encounter with the Lord where He communicated His Father love to her.  He redefined her entire understanding of what a father’s love was about.  He will do the same for us if we seek Him.  Remember that our loving Father is with us – and in times of need, He holds our hand and says, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

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Friday November 27, 2020 – How do we do in life’s ‘taste test’?

Ephesians 4:1  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

What constitutes a life worthy of our calling as a Christian?  What does such a life look like?  Is it a given that when we accept Jesus as our Lord we will live such a life?  Or, following being born again, are we required to play a vital role in its development?  Further, is the life to be lived a progressive thing – that it becomes more consistent with Scripture with the passing of time?

There are sinful behaviors we are set free from the moment we are born again.  Other things He deals with over time.  I’m reminded of stories of the coal miners in the great Welsh revival a century ago.  These men and women had their lives radically transformed. Drunkenness, stealing, cursing and other offences grew less.  It is told that the miner’s pit ponies became a problem.  The ponies were so used to being cursed and sworn at that they just didn’t understand when orders were given in kind, clean words!

The question then becomes what happens in our lives as the months and years and decades roll by?  Although the transformation in the miners’ lives was miraculous, it was akin to the Israelites leaving Egypt.  They were set free in order to become the people God wanted them to become.

Living a life worthy of our calling involves who we are and what we do.  It involves having a heart desire to love and please God which flows out of our rich awareness of His love for us and our gratitude for His love.  It entails being vigilant regarding our character, our thoughts, our intentions, motivations, attitudes and how we communicate with others.  These are the things that the Holy Spirit will continually address, help us maintain and transform over our lifetime.  They profoundly impact the quality of what we do and why we do it.

That desired quality is well illustrated by the experience of looking for good fruit in a market where the vendor will allow you to sample the fruit.  There is appearance, ripeness, texture and flavor.  It’s not a matter of the fruit just looking good and feeling right to the touch.  It must pass the taste test.  What a joy it is to bite into eye-appealing fruit that is ripe and sweet to the taste.  It’s like ‘a party in your mouth’ – to quote a dear friend of ours.  That is the experience we and others around us will have as we walk worthy of our Lord and His calling upon our lives.

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Thursday November 26, 2020 – The TRUE history of Thanksgiving!

Psalm 107:1  Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever.

A Politically Incorrect History of Thanksgiving

Posted: November 17, 2007
By Jonathan Falwell
© 2011

It was a bitter two-month sea journey the Pilgrims endured on their passage from England to Plymouth Rock. Upon landing, they gathered for a prayer service before setting out to build shelter. They were severely unprepared for the harsh New England winter that was approaching.

After that winter of 1620 killed almost half of their population, the Pilgrims were befriended by members of the Wampanoag Tribe. The Indians taught the naive colonists about fishing, planting and hunting, thereby ensuring their survival. When the fall of 1621 began to set in, they had reaped a bountiful harvest and preserved enough food to allow them to survive the coming winter, thanks to their Indian neighbors.

As an expression of their thanks to God, the colonists hosted a three-day feast to celebrate the harvest and the transformation of their fortunes from the previous winter. This meal today is thought of as the first Thanksgiving.

In the years to come during the fall, the governor of each New England colony would declare a day of Thanksgiving so that the people could prayerfully thank God for supplying their needs.

In 1777, the Continental Congress decreed that all 13 colonies were to jointly celebrate victory over the British.

Twelve years later, the first national Thanksgiving occurred. In the Congressional Record for Sept. 25, 1789, Elias Boudinot issued a resolution stating: “Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the president of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. …”

The resolution was delivered to President George Washington who wholly concurred with the request, declaring: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor … Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.”

Days of Thanksgiving were celebrated on varying dates throughout the nation for the next several years. It was not until 1863, following the 30-year effort of Godey’s Lady’s Book editor Sarah Joseph Hale, that a National Day of Thanksgiving was declared.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in hopes of bringing healing to a land that had suffered greatly in Civil War.

He set aside the last Thursday in November, declaring: “We often forget the Source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come. … No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God. … I therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States… to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

In 1941, Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to understand the Judeo-Christian history of our nation. Our forefathers were not uneasy about openly thanking God for His blessings or beseeching Him in times of trouble. Our nation is deeply rooted in Christianity and candid expressions of faith.

I urge readers across the nation to ensure that their children and grandchildren understand the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation. There are many who wish to ignore and/or rewrite our history as our nation further embraces secularism.

I am thankful for this nation and for the God of the Bible who shed His grace on us, beginning with the landing of the colonists at Plymouth Rock.

Jonathan Falwell is the pastor of the historic Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., the church his father started in 1956

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Wednesday November 25, 2020 – True good and evil are not culturally determined

Hebrews 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In Colorado Springs it sure is easy to know which way is west – and from that all the other directions are clear.  This is because the Front Range and Pike’s Peak are directly to the west of the city.  When facing the mountains, north is to the right, south is to the left and east is behind you.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that easy to tell good from evil – or right from wrong?

How do we know what is good and what is evil?  What is our basis for identifying such things?  Years ago I remember reading about an art forger who commented that one of the highlights of his ‘career’ was having art critics in Europe declare his forgery the original, and the original work of art the forgery.  Apparently, his forgeries were common enough that the critics got used to them.

We have this problem that the world has its own idea about what is good and evil.  Sometimes it seems that the biggest evil to the world is Christians making any kind of judgment that something is evil or wrong.  Isaiah addressed this problem – that we must contend with daily – when he wrote:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

Some things are so blatantly evil that they are like a Pike’s Peak– so big you can’t miss them.  But that isn’t the general way the enemy of our soul attacks us.  He tries to blur the lines and induce Christians to walk in pathways that lead to temptation – that present unrighteousness in attractive packaging.  We become familiar with pathways that have his ‘forgeries’ presented as the norms of ‘good’ behavior.  His goal is to have us reach a point where we affirm the forgeries and reject the ‘original’.  God forbid that we should call his redefined ‘acceptable’ behavior sin!

If we insist on accurately identifying evil as evil and good as good, the enemy of our souls will try to move us to becoming overtly judgmental of others.  That can produce a prideful blindness that is repugnant to God.  Remember the Pharisees were so concerned with sin they missed Jesus.  When we speak the truth, love must characterize our responses – always.

God’s word, the Bible, is our standard.  It identifies that ‘good and evil’ applies to behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, actions – every area of our lives.  God wants us to walk in righteousness and it is imperative that we learn to do it – and do it in the loving fullness that it entails.  This means we have to learn what His word says.

Satan has the world running rampant declaring evil good and wanting to condemn those who disagree.  We are surrounded by ‘forgeries’ and His word is the standard that identifies them and enables us to choose wisely.  This doesn’t happen by accident.  We must recognize that walking in righteousness requires focus, intentionality and training to do it His way.

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