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Showing posts from May, 2009

Tarnished Gold

I'm not naive enough to expect regenerate behaviour from the unregenerate, but those who call themselves "Christians?"

This post won't take long.

It will be a simple question for all of us who claim to have a personal relationship with Christ through faith, and who say that we are committed to following Him.

Matthew 7:12 says: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Everything.

Now the question: What do I need to do today to make Jesus' teaching a reality in my life?

What a different world it would be if believers, from whom regenerate behaviour IS expected, lived out this truth.

It's All About Context

What looks like one thing often turns out to be something different when seen in its context. That's true with this well-known verse of Scripture: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" —Matthew 7:7, 8.

And everyone rushes into God's presence with his wish list.

Since Jesus used an illustration about food to describe God's perfect responses to this prayer, we immediately think material things when we claim this verse.

But context is everything. In Luke's Gospel, these verses are summed up this way: "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (11:13).

Holy Spirit? What's He got to do with food, clothing, financial security, health, job opportunities—all the things on my wi…

My Fort Knox-Part 3

Up to this point in Jesus' famous sermon, the disciples probably figured that the theme didn't have much to do with them. The majority were fishermen. They had no "treasure" as far as material things were concerned, so focusing on the Kingdom was easy—well, until they thought about the cost of the commitment they had made to their Rabbi.

Just a little while earlier, Jesus had taught them His prayer. In that prayer appears the phrase: "Give us today our daily bread" —Matthew 6:11. I imagine that this immediately sparked some chaotic thoughts in the minds of the men who had left their livelihood behind them to follow Christ. In the euphoria of the moment, they might not have not thought about how their families were going to survive without that income. That phrase in the prayer was a reminder of who they were dependent upon to meet those needs.

But Jesus knew that His followers would have moments of anxious concern about the practical realities of life, so He …

My Fort Knox - Part 2

When does providing for your family turn into an obsession with more? When does making a living become living for the making of that living?

Jesus is almost brutal in this statement in Matthew: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" —Matthew 6:24.

We tend to focus on the word "money" in this verse, but perhaps we would have a better understanding of what Jesus is saying if we considered these words: "serve," "love," and "devoted."

Those words should only apply to our relationship with God. When they apply to our relationship with the world, then we are in big trouble. Then we have not only divided loyalties, but only one loyalty. And wherever those words apply is where our "treasure" is stored (See yesterday's post).

The Lord isn't saying that making a living and loving God, are mutually exc…

My Fort Knox - Part 1

If there ever was a question that requires constant self-examination, this one is it:

"What should be your priorities today, Lynda?"

I read Matthew 6:21 this morning, and while the context has to do with our attitude toward material things, the verse can be applied to everything else in life, everything and anything that might be "treasure."

Matthew writes: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).

What, or who, do I treasure most? What, or who, receives the majority of my attention and effort? What am I most anxious to obtain? Who am I most anxious to please?

The context of this verse carries a warning label. This passage is part of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells His listeners to examine the durability of their treasures and to make a priority of those things that have eternal value.

It's a good criteria by which to measure all the activities of today: "Does _____________ have eternal value?" And th…

The Golden Rule of God's Forgiveness

Most of the time we ignore this addition to The Lord's Prayer as we find it in Matthew. It's an uncomfortable codicil that we'd rather not deal with.

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, you heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sin, your Father will not forgive your sins." —Matthew 6:12-15 (Emphasis mine)

Masticating these verses would take much more space that this short blog post can give, but here's the gist. Placement is everything here; notice how the phrase about temptation and being delivered from Satan is tucked between the two statements on forgiveness, like peanut butter between two slices of bread. We ask God for forgiveness, but while we are unwilling to forgive whatever anyone else has done to us, the evil one rejoices—we have succumbed to the temptation to refuse to do fo…

Corporate Prayer, Closet Mentality

Jesus had some strong words for those whose prayers bounce right off of heaven to fall upon the admiring ears of a much more human audience. "And when you pray," He says in Matthew 6:5, 6, "do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

There is plenty of biblical basis for corporate prayer. The Lord's Prayer begins with "Our Father…" The church met to pray Peter out of prison. The Lord isn't saying that corporate prayer is to be avoided, but rather practiced with a closet mentality—as though no one else were present but God and I.

That's hard, even when we don't pray for the purpose of being admired for our eloquent prayers. We are only too co…

Eternity in View

It's like a splinter under a fingernail. Why does God bless those who curse Him, those who don't follow Him, those who deny Him? Especially annoying are those people who refuse Him and reject us. He should zap them, shouldn't He? Punish them in the here and now rather than waiting for the thereafter? Why does He bless them, especially when He doesn't always bless us?

Our minds are often stuck in the mud of earth, the grime that siphons compassion from our souls. God's view is loftier. He thinks in eternal terms, always working to encourage the wayward to find their way to Him. When we are tempted to lash out at those who defy God and hold us in contempt, it's a good thing to turn our eyes heavenward, think eternally as God does and ask ourselves what we can do to bless those who curse Him and us. What can we do to help them find their way to God?

"…I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in hea…

Awake and On Duty

It was a very short night last night. Abby and Lou Lou Belle are unforgiving when it comes to their schedule, so even though I didn't get to sleep until 2 a.m., they still were in my face looking for breakfast before 6 a.m.

I think I'll need a nap this afternoon.

Sleepless night are rare for me, and I am not sure how to explain why it was so hard to fall asleep last night. Perhaps it was the cell group meeting and the cleanup after everyone had left. Perhaps I didn't take sufficient time to "come down" after all the activity.

Whatever the cause, I am reminded that even when I do sleep, there is Someone who is awake and watching out for me. Psalm 121 is full of assurances that God stands guard over us 24/7. Listen to the words. I have taken the liberty of personalizing them, just as you can. "…he who watches over [me] will not slumber; indeed, he…will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over [me]—the Lord is [my] shade at [my] right hand; the sun will no…

Behold, She Stinketh

The latest pronouncement of the Venezuelan government boggles the mind. It will no longer be granting access to dollars for importers of deodorant. The logic behind this? Smelling bad for a nation of extremely clean people would be humiliating—and humiliation is just another means of subjugation.

My only consolation comes from my mother's experience. As she grew older, she stopped sweating. There was no longer any need for deodorant. I hit the big 60 this year. Do I dare hope that by the time I can't buy deodorant here, I will no longer have any need for it?

To every experience there seems to be a Biblical truth. My prayer is that no matter what the body exudes, my life will give off the sweet aroma of Christ. Paul writes: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To th…

What Would Happen If …

…I tithed not only my money, but my time and talents?

I have at my disposition, 168 hours a week. If I were to tithe my time and talents to the Lord, that would mean an investment of 16 hours and 48 minutes per week that would be exclusively dedicated to Him.

Now math has never been my strong point, but I think that works out to a little over two hours a day that we could give to Him.

Malachi 3:10 tells us: "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'"

What would happen to our spiritual lives, in our churches, to our mission as witnesses to a lost world, if we tested God in this?

God doesn't fail in fulfilling His promises. The possibilities boggle the mind.

Resignation Or Submission

The daughter of some friends is having her first baby. The doctors are concerned that the child will not make it to term because the heart is not developing as it should. If he should be born, the prognosis is grim.

As I prayed for the family this morning I got to thinking about the difference between resignation and submission. Resignation is quitting, giving up a position, accepting defeat because there is no other choice. On the other hand, submission is yielding to, accepting the will of a superior authority. One is defeatist, the other is not.

I often hear "resignation" in conversation. People are "resigned" to that which they feel helpless to change. Those who believe in an almighty and compassionate God, One who acts for His glory and for our benefit, need an attitude of submission rather than one of resignation.

The former is alive with faith, the latter empty of it. The former is depressing, the latter is liberating.

As I pray for a miracle, I pray not only f…

Imperfectly Patient

I'm a do-er, not a wait-er. I want things done yesterday. I want answers right now. Patience defies me, which is why God continually tests me in that area. I hope his efforts to make me a patient person aren't a lost cause. Intellectually, I know that they won't be, but every day I give thanks that He is perfectly patient with me, even when I am not perfectly patient with Him. Just when I think I might be making progress, I slip and fall again.

So this morning's reminder was an appropriate one. "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty." —Zechariah 4:6. It's not that "might" and "power" aren't good things—after all we have to make an effort. It's that, in the end, we have to understand that God is the One who puts all the pieces together according to a perfect timetable. It is the Lord who works according to a perfect schedule. It is the Almighty who makes everything happen as it should, when…

Spring Cleaning

Life gets so busy just being life. There are times when God has to call us to take a timeout to reorder our priorities. Like spring cleaning, we have to throw out the clutter in our spiritual lives and rid ourselves of things that keep us from God's best design for us.

That was the challenge that Haggai presented to the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem from their long captivity. They had gotten so involved with rebuilding their own lives, that they had neglected what God wanted them to concentrate on. And they wondered why rebuilding their own fortunes wasn't going so well. Haggai calls them to reorganize their priorities.

"Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it" (Haggai 1:5, 6).

It was time to clean away th…

Salvation Song

How would the Old Testament, written centuries before Christ was born, describe salvation?

Here's a hint from Zephaniah. "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (3:17 NIV).

Luke tells us that the angels of God rejoice in heaven over one sinner who repents (15:10). They aren't the only ones who sing with joy over me and you when we come to faith through Christ. Even God sings with joy for us.

That God is with me, that He is able to save me, are huge truths. But that He wraps His arms around me and tells me how precious I am to Him, that He stills my fears and anxieties about my unworthiness with His unlimited and unconditional love, that He sings for joy over me just as He finds me; those leave me disarmed before Him.

An Unlimited Supply

Over the last several years, shortages have become routine for us here in Venezuela. Flour, sugar, milk, grains, coffee, rice, chicken, and lately, margarine, are among the items that disappear out of the stores for long periods of time. They tell me car parts are scarce too, but since I don't drive, they are not high on my priority list.

So when I read this morning's verse, I had to laugh. It couldn't be more appropriate to our reality—materially, and oftentimes at the level of ministry as well.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" —Habakkuk 3:17, 18.

No matter what else might be scarce in our lives, the Lord is always generous with His presence, His mercy, His love, and His forgiveness. And that deserves joy, praise, and continual thanksgiv…

Mantra for the Soul

Last night I spoke on the phone with a friend. She is one of several people I know here in Venezuela who are seriously depressed. The situation in the country in not encouraging, and there is plenty to get depressed about. I prayed that God would give me a word of encouragement for her, and for others. And, ever faithful, He sent this along this morning:

"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him" —Nahum 1:7.

It's easy to become overwhelmed by circumstances and not so easy to give those circumstances to God and leave them for Him to work out according to His will. Our tendency is to snatch our concerns out of His hand and continue to worry over them. These are moments when Nahum's words need to become like a mantra, repeated over and over until their truth replaces the anxiety of our souls.

I pray that will be true for my friend, and for you, today.

Suffer? No Thanks

"It was fitting that God…should make the author of their salvation [Christ] perfect through suffering…Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" —Hebrews 2:10; Matthew 5:48 NIV

Sure, it would be nice to be perfect, but not through suffering. I'd rather just practice at it until I get it right, you know: "practice makes perfect"?

Too bad it doesn't work that way.

I am not a miner's daughter, even though I was born in a mining town. But I know a little about the mining process. Gold doesn't get purified unless it suffers a time in the fire.

There is no other way to get rid of all the impurities in my life, and yours, except by embracing the heavenly Refiner's fire.

The good news? There is pure gold at the end of the process.