Thursday September 9, 2021 – Loving Jesus attracts trouble

2 Timothy 3:12 Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it.  The Message

Today’s verse is of the prosperity likely to come to those who want to live all out for Jesus – although it’s not the kind of thing we typically think of when the subject of prosperity comes up.  This talks about trouble, and lots of it.  Why on earth would godly, Christ-like people attract trouble?

We’re not talking about being obnoxious with our faith, or pushy or reflecting unrighteous behavior of any kind.  This is talking about doing it right!  To put it in terms we all can relate to, we are surrounded by people who will have an allergic reaction to our loving Jesus.  It’s not due to us doing anything wrong.

Jesus spoke to the disciples about this very point:

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.”  John 15:9 The Message

Live on the world’s terms and it will love you.  Live on God’s terms and the world will hate you!

Think about how easy it can be to get upset with those who treat Christians as though they had the plague.  Of all the ills in this world, in their minds Christianity is a curse.  (It’s like Jesus is getting a little too close to them.)  Yet these attitudes and these people are to be expected – and the Lord has shown us what He expects of us, both in how we view these situations and how we are to respond:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

When we live our lives sold out to Jesus, He prepares us for whatever we encounter.  May our responses always glorify Him.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wednesday September 8, 2021 – How are we to respond in the midst of…

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Question:  Are we focusing more intently upon our Lord as we see the rampant lawlessness, anger and venom that are being exhibited throughout our society?  We must not develop a “hold the fort” mentality in the midst of this – (“Lock the doors and hang on until Jesus comes!”)  As the darkness grows, the light of Christ Jesus within us must shine brighter.  We are His – and are here for such a time as this!

Given Jesus’ warnings about the condition of the world – particularly as we approach the end times, we shouldn’t be surprised to see such behaviors becoming more and more abundant.  And woe to us if these behaviors are found in our lives.  Here is the root of the problem as identified in Galatians 5:19-21a.  These are the actions of the sinful nature:

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

That is what we as followers of Jesus have been freed from.  We have a new nature and the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives that produce righteousness.  Here are the “fruit of the Spirit” that must characterize our lives as described in The Message version of today’s verses:

5:22-23a But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

No matter what happens, we have the opportunity and privilege to have our life characterized by the fruit of His Spirit.  We also have the responsibility to live such lives.  Lord Jesus – help us to recognize that this isn’t optional for those following you!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday September 7, 2021 – The precious gift of testing!

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

Where are we?  Where are we going?  And, how do we get there?  Isn’t God good to use testing to show us!  Has the thought crossed your mind that testing is vital to our destiny and is a priceless blessing?  It’s a good thing that it is, because there’s a limitless supply of testing for each of us!

No matter what situations we find ourselves in, God is in the midst of them working in our lives; revealing who we are and where we are in our walk with Him.  Testing highlights our strengths and weaknesses; it shows how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.  It’s like a spiritual GPS – it lets us know where we are.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, are the components that give understanding to the ‘where we are’ piece, but more importantly they are also the components that let us know where we are supposed to be going and how to get there.

Think about that.  This process applies to every area and aspect of our lives: our thoughts, habits, idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, attitudes, interactions, etc…  God wants to transform every area of our lives to be like Jesus.  This applies to absolutely everything about us – without any exemptions.  And God uses all circumstances for testing, not just the difficult times.

How do we respond when things are going well?  How do we respond to praise and success?  Do we have a tendency to become less dependent upon the Lord in such times?  Do we walk in humility and grace; or do we become proud of what ‘we’ have accomplished?

When things become difficult, do we blame or question God?  Do we become anxious and stressed out?  Do our lives demonstrate that we are genuinely trusting God?  Are we kind and considerate no matter what happens?

Fortunately, God works with us in everything.  No matter where we find ourselves with regard to any aspect of our lives, He has a redemptive path for us.  Do we need to repent – or are we affirmed because we responded righteously to the situation?  If we responded well, could we have done better?  Do we then glorify Him by properly responding to what the ‘testing’ has shown us about ourselves?

It’s so important that we remember that we are not our own.  We belong to Him and He wants us to be demonstrations of His love and grace.  Just as the crucible and furnace are used to purify silver and gold, God uses the testing to purity us – so that we might glorify Him.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monday September 6, 2021 – “Requirements” a part of grace and mercy

What is this blog really about?

Suppose we had eyes to see that some important things in our lives weren’t what they seemed to be.  Things that we thought were fine and good turn out to be not so good – incompatible with whom we want to be.  Some areas of life are much more obvious when it comes to telling the difference – while others much more difficult.

Think about the word “requirement”.  It’s a word that appropriately applies to many aspects of our lives.  What is required to be a student; an employee; a husband; a wife; an employer?  Different things have different requirements – that’s a normal part of life.

But what happens if we misperceive what the requirements truly are of something important in our lives?  We form an understanding of what “normal” is; but that understanding in reality is really sub-normal or contrary to what it should be.

In such situations, what does it take to make us aware that something is amiss in our understanding?  Often it is through encountering information involving that subject that provokes a re-evaluation of our understanding and behavior.  Insights are persuasively presented that often highlight the differences between what our understanding is and what it should be.

Getting back to that word “requirements”, we often don’t associate it with our Christian faith.  We tend to focus more on grace and mercy – particularly with the passing of time.  We often fail to recognize that our salvation experience was just the beginning of God’s work in us, not the “we have arrived” moment.

We’re not talking about earning salvation; nor are we talking about legalism.  We are talking about loving God and all that implies – and the implications are enormously wonderful.  The net results are not culturally acceptable living patterns.

My goal isn’t to hit readers in the side of the head with a 2 x 4 to get them to change.   My goal is to present the glorious truth of the Gospel in such a way that readers hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them and encouraging them to respond to Him.  Consider Paul’s powerful instructions in Romans 12:1-2 (MSG),

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday September 5, 2021 – Face to face with Satan!

Scripture at the end.

Our son Andrew is a wonderful actor.  He’s also a very busy businessman.  Some years ago he played the role of Satan in The Thorn, a marvelous Easter production in Colorado similar to the Passion of the Christ.  In costume, makeup and mask, he was hideous.  The mask had been made by professional artists and made him appear so very real!

Given his athleticism and gymnastics background, his movements made your skin crawl.  He was able to give the appearance of evil incarnate.  Satan’s greatest moments were those from Jesus’ arrest to his death on the cross.  As Jesus and the cross made their way through the audience to the crucifixion site, Satan was behind him slinking, gloating and celebrating.

Andrew had prayed that the Lord would use him in this vile role of Satan however He would.  Later Andrew discovered just how profoundly the Lord did use him in one young man’s life.  There was a high school student, who was sitting in the front row of an aisle that the procession went through.

This young man had a teacher who happened to be a Christian.  A few days earlier she became aware that he was getting involved in drugs and warned him of the evil he was getting involved with – and he dismissed it.  She then told him that he needed to come “face to face with Satan” in order to recognize the reality of what he was messing with.

It was this same young man, sitting in the front row, watching as Jesus, the soldiers and the cross went by.  Then as Satan and the demons started to go by him, the Lord moved on Andrew to go nose-to-nose with this particular young man!  So Andrew – as Satan – immediately spun, faced him nose-to-nose; and inches apart, let loose a hideous, blood-curdling scream – and then moved on. It was over in an instant, but the young man had come “face to face with Satan”.  This directly resulted in his repentance and salvation!!!

Many of us share a similar type of problem with that young man.  We are dabbling in things we shouldn’t – and we don’t recognize who or what we are messing with, or the consequences of our behavior.  We think we love Jesus – but we live lives that are entwined with the world and its ways.  We too, need to recognize the true reality of our lives.  The Apostle John puts it this way,

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. 

(1 John 2:15-17 The Message)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturday September 4, 2021 – Enter in to Jesus’ love

Ephesians 3:17-18  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

The Lord of the Rings is a marvelous trilogy.  In the 1st book, The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a scene where the group encounters the stone entry doors into the ancient land of Moria.  They must enter and get through this vast dwelling place of the dwarves under the Misty Mountains in order to continue their journey.  But in order to get the stone doors to open, they have to figure out a subtle riddle that is inscribed on the doors,  “The doors of Durin, Lord of Moria, speak friend and enter.”

Gandalf spends quite a bit of time speaking every password that he can think of.  Finally, Frodo comes up with the answer:  Mellon, the elvish word for ‘friend’.  It was there right in
front of them.  Gandalf speaks “Mellon” and the stone doors open in the nick of time and they enter this underground world.  Their reality was that they couldn’t enter in until they came up with the key to open the door.

This morning I woke up thinking about Jesus.  I was aware of how everything that we do is about Him.  But more than that is the awareness of His love and sacrifice for me.  Earlier I have written about Donna’s experience when God gave her a vision of Jesus on the cross:

“As she looked on, she noticed blood dripping from His hands.  Suddenly it was personally real to her that Jesus had died for her! She began to weep and couldn’t stop as she realized that Jesus had loved her enough to die for her, not just “the world” but her, personally.”

Jesus is right in front of us.  He is the way we enter in, when we through faith allow Him to enter into us.  How often are we like Gandalf, trying to think of some way in – when the answer is right before us?  When we embrace Jesus, we enter and experience first hand His incredible love for us.

One of my favorite stories is told of Dr. Karl Barth.  He was considered by many scholars to be one of the most brilliant theologians of the 20th Century.  Once when he was lecturing at Princeton Theological Seminary, a student asked him what was the greatest truth he had ever learned. Dr. Barth thought for a moment and then said: “The greatest truth that I have ever learned was at my mother’s knee, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

It sounds so simple yet it unlocks the most incredible door to love vast as the ocean.  Such is the love of Christ!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday September 3, 2021 – The “gift” of food appreciation

Matthew 28:19a  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….  Acts 11:26b  The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

I wonder if among God’s gifts, is one of food appreciation.  If there is, I think I have it.  Good food, prepared well is such a joy to eat.  Each bite is a pleasure in itself.  Have you noticed how we especially anticipate a meal where a favorite dish is being served?  Then, when we take the first taste, we evaluate everything about it to see if it measures up.  That might take all of a split second if it is done right.  A friend of ours describes his response to one of Donna’s desserts as a ‘party in his mouth’!

But what if that first taste generates a ‘something is amiss’ response?  Maybe it’s something simple like salt or pepper which can be remedied right there at the table.  But what if it’s overcooked or undercooked; too dry or watered down; or somehow significantly different?  What if it’s not at all the dish we were led to believe was going to be served because the recipe has been changed – it is new and improved!  Unfortunately, it sure isn’t the dish we love.

Three things are at work here: 1) Recognizing that specific dishes are called for, 2) Making those dishes correctly and 3) Being able to recognize the correct dishes when tasted.  A dish might qualify as food, but if it isn’t a required dish or made according to the correct recipe, it’s not acceptable – no matter how well meaning or sincere the cooks are.

You might be asking yourself, where is all this going?  Christians are disciples of Christ.  As Christians we are to be disciples – and are to make disciples.  In today’s illustration, disciples are made according to very specific recipes found in God’s cookbook (Bible). Disciples are NOT simply things that fall into the general category of food.  Contrary to our culture, the term Christian is only correctly applied when it refers to disciples (‘dishes’) made by truly Biblical recipes.

The term ‘Christian’ is being used less and less by many because it has become far too general.  In our food illustration it now refers to anything edible – rather than the specific dishes the Bible requires.  The descriptive terms ‘Christ follower’ and ‘follower of Jesus’ are attempts to bring the focus once again upon the required characteristics of such a life.  God requires us to not only be such people, but to work with Him to produce such people.   He has the recipes and they must be followed in order to be a disciple of Christ or to make them.  His recipes are the only ones that count.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday September 2, 2021 – The impact we can have

Colossians 4:5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

This morning I’ve been thinking about the amazement I still have over my experience of becoming a child of God 53 years ago.  The encounter I had on that day where Jesus became my Lord and Savior was so beyond imagining – so radically life changing, that I am still in awe of it.

The thing about it that struck me this morning is that I didn’t see it coming.  I wasn’t aware that I was seeking God or that I was ‘lost’.  The only reason I went to the retreat was to honor my parents.  There was nothing going on at school (Western Michigan), the camp was nearby and I knew it was important to them for me to go.

The message of the evangelist was unlike anything I had ever heard.  I had never heard anyone talk about Jesus like they had met and knew Him.  As I listened, I was struck by the thought that he described Jesus in a way that, if He were real, it was what He would be like.  I had no idea that I was about to meet Him too!  It’s like I was a ripe fruit ready to pick and just didn’t know it.

The question this morning is how many people that we interact with are in a place similar to where I was?  They are going to having a life-changing experience with the Lord but might not even have an idea that they are searching?  God is simply working in their lives to prepare them for that moment.  We need to understand the impact our lives have in that process.  If our lives are Christ-centered it will be positive; if not, we have missed an opportunity – or worse, created an obstacle to be overcome.

Jesus said we are salt and light.  Our very lives are to reveal Him and His love to others.  All of our encounters and interactions in life are opportunities.  When we live our lives wisely we are going to be a significant influence for Christ in the lives of people around us.  God will use His richness in our lives to draw others to Himself – and sometimes we get to be there when it happens!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wednesday September 1, 2021 – Discovering the way of love

1 Corinthians 14:1a  Follow the way of love

What is the way of love?  If the Lord spoke these words to you, what would your response be?  “How do I find it?”  “Where is it?” or “What is it?”  Following the way of love is different than following a trail that simply leads somewhere.  Instead of trying to find something, this is a course of action wherein we become something.

Remember the wonderful story of the man born blind who was healed by Jesus.  The disciples had asked who had sinned, this man or his parents for him to be born blind.  Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Jesus then spit on the ground and having made some mud with the saliva He put it the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam.  The man did and was healed!  Needless to say this caused quite a commotion with his family, neighbors and those who had seen him begging for years.  Some of the Pharisees had a fit that this miracle was done on the Sabbath.  Others of them wondered how a sinner could do such a miracle.

After the uproar and the man was thrown out by the Pharisees he had a most wonderful encounter with Jesus described in John 9:35-38,

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”  37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”        38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Ponder a moment about the spirit that characterized this man as he responded to Jesus.  He not only believed – he worshipped Him.  We need to realize that he was an adult who spent his entire life up to that point blind (and begging) so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  May our lifelong response to our Lord be the same as his described here.

It is in that spirit that we are instructed to follow the way of love – so that the work of God would be displayed in our lives.  The way of love is where our lives become more and more a living display of the love of God – of the grace and goodness of our Lord.  It leads to where everything we do is done in love.  That is how the world knows we are truly His.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tuesday August 31, 2021 – A very important learned skill

Proverbs 3:5, 6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;  6 think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

Have you ever considered the idea that ‘trusting the Lord’ is a learned skill?  The more we do it, the better we can become at it.  Trusting the Lord comes through making daily choices as to where will we place our confidence.  It frequently involves outward decision making, such as tithing or giving when finances are tight.  We might be faced with situations that appear to require a ‘small’ inappropriate compromise in order to prevent a larger negative – like loss of a job, or a sale or a relationship.

Doing the right thing is important, but trusting in the Lord offers so much more.  Think of the verse where we are commanded not to be anxious over anything (Phil 4:6).  We can do the right thing while being beside ourselves with anxiety and concern.  The children of Israel could have chosen to enter the land in spite of the giants and the negative report of the 10 spies.  They were frightened but they could have still obeyed the Lord.

A most vital component in this process is the relationship we have with the Lord.  The closer our walk is with Him, the greater is our freedom from anxiety and worry in difficult situations.  Consider the following situations and what you are likely to experience internally in each of them:

  1. You are lost, driving in a city you’ve never been in; you are in an unsavory area and your cell phone is not working; you have an important appointment to keep – if only you can find it.
  2. Same as #1 but your cell phone begins working; so you call your friend you’re meeting with – and get his voice mail.
  3. Same as # 1 but you ask someone for directions and they sound a bit confused as they give them to you.
  4. Same as #1 but you remember you have a GPS.  You plug it in; enter the address of the appointment; push the go button and you immediately know how to get there and how long it will take.

The point isn’t to go out and buy a GPS – but to recognize how different our state of being can be in different situations.  The more we learn to trust in the Lord, the more we are able to have the peaceful heart response of situation #4 while in situations like #1.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment