A Loose Grip

Golf experts write a lot about how to grip a golf club. The tighter you grip the club the more likely you will hit a bad shot.

My brothers have ski boats that create huge wakes. We use a small surf board to actually surf on those wakes. The more relaxed you can stay the more likely you will be able to surf successfully.

The more you try to squeeze, hold, and demand the love of your grandchild, the more likely they are to push away. There is a delicate balance of letting go with love in order to receive the returned affection we grandparents crave so much!

The abundant life we all want comes much the same way. We attempt to buy it, build it, store it, accumulate it, get healthy enough to have it, work out enough to get it, yet abundant living alludes us.

This morning Paul’s words struck me to the core. Paul held a loose grip on life. He relaxed on the surf board God had given him. He didn’t seek to squeeze, hold, and demand that life serve him.  The apostle Paul said:

But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

What a powerful statement! Notice how he summed up what he valued more than his life on this earth. He loosened his grip on life to:

  1. Do God’s will: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” and
  2. Tell the Good News: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Jesus said:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  Luke 17:33 ESV

Our Father, we hold on so tightly to this world and the things in it. Help us today to lose our lives for You and the gospel. Forgive us for holding on to the things that will pass away while ignoring the things that will last forever. Help us to let go of life so we may do Your will, share the good news of Jesus, and find Your abundant life.

 

You Have an Appointment

“Honey, I made my favorite thing for dinner tonight!”

“Oh really,” he replied quizzically, “what’s that?”

She replies, “Reservations!”

Last week my parents asked me to go with them to his appointment at the U.A.M.S. Reynolds Institute on Aging. Memory loss issues runs in the family as they near their 80s. My Dad is no exception. I went with my Mom and Dad to help negotiate the morning traffic, construction, and the U.A.M.S. complex of buildings.

Every fall I get a physical. Every six months I get my teeth cleaned and checked.

Appointments, we look forward to some and others we don’t.

But there’s one appointment everyone has and no one will miss it. It is an appointment made by God himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

Our Father and Creator has provided everything we need so we can be ready for this appointment. We celebrate the first coming of Christ at Christmas. Christ will come a second time for those who are eagerly waiting for this appointment to arrive.

The first time Christ came he dealt with sin once for all. He is the total and complete sacrifice needed for sin. The Old Testament sacrificial system required sacrifices to be done over and over and over again.

It sounds gruesome to some, but I’m actually looking forward to dying. No, I’m not in a hurry to leave this earth. But as the writer of Hebrews says it, I am “eagerly waiting for him.”

That’s an appointment I look forward to keeping. I rejoice that my name is written in heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

At the same time we wait with tears. We all have those we love and know who ignore the fact that they even have an appointment with God.

Reality check: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

EVERYONE will keep this appointment!

Pray urgently this Christmas for those who need to know Jesus as their Savior. Witness as the opportunities arise. Pray for our International Missionaries, over 4,000 of them scattered around this globe, that their sharing of the gospel will be successful!

Give a generous, sacrificial amount to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year. My challenge is to think in terms of giving your largest Christmas gift to this offering. How much did  you spend on your most expensive gift this year? Give at least one dollar more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions!

Our Father, thank-you for sending Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Thank-you for the salvation that will be fully revealed on that day we stand before you. We urgently request that our friends, grandchildren, children, neighbors, and acquaintances come under the deep conviction of your Holy Spirit of their urgent need for a Savior. 

 

Don’t Give Up!

What if God gave us the desires of our heart? Could we define what our heart’s desires are?

The list would likely become very long.

  • Stop the tide of militant Islam in our world.
  • Heal a disease or injury.
  • Give a few more months of life to the dying.
  • Free the captive and persecuted Christians enduring severe persecution.
  • Bring my neighbor, grandchild, or friend to salvation.
  • Save my child’s marriage.
  • Ignite a wave of revival and spiritual awakening.
  • Heal the consequences of my sin or my loved one’s sin.
  • Stop the evildoers from robbing our freedoms.
  • May our nation be obsessed with repentance and revival instead of sexual expression in all kinds of perverted ways.
  • Make me happy.
  • Grow our church.
  • Bring thousands more to saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Psalm 37 gives hope! Meditate on these verses for a few minutes:

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will act.

God wins! Keep doing the little things you can do here and now. Fret not. Don’t worry. Don’t envy the seemingly successful evildoers. They will wither away soon. Trust in the Lord. Be faithful. DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD! Commit your way to Him. God will act!

Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Share the transforming power of Jesus Christ in spite of the growing antagonism in our secularized society. Jesus changes lives!

Our Father, forgive us for fretting. We commit ourselves to DELIGHT in You! We pray for spiritual awakening and revival in our nation and in our world. You are our only hope and salvation. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Look Out the Window

Take-off was a rush! I never dreamed that the initial thrust would set me back into my seat the way it did. In no time we were off the ground quickly gaining altitude.

As an adult I experienced my first ride on a commercial passenger plane. I felt like a kid. The thrill of take-off put butterflies in my stomach.

Then came the view! I couldn’t stop looking out the window at the patchwork below me. Seeing things from thousands of feet above the earth gives a whole new perspective!

I thought to myself, “God sees the world like this all the time, yet he knows me personally!”

Our Father always has the big picture perspective for our lives, disasters, sins, set-backs, diseases, and celebrations.

Jeremiah told his countrymen who had just been carried off to captivity to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says he LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

We often see this verse on plaques . It is certainly an encouraging verse. It is one I meditate on when I get discouraged.

But the context is a horrible situation of defeat and exile! Jeremiah tells them in chapter 29 in a letter to settle in, build homes, have lots of children and grandchildren, and make the city prosperous and peaceful, because you will be there a long time, seventy years!

Are you going through a disaster or an exile now? Perhaps your disaster has already lasted a long time. Or maybe it is just beginning.

Remember God has the 35,000 feet view even though you can’t seem to see 3 feet in front of you. God’s really does have the big picture.

Honor and love your Father in Heaven in the middle of your chaos. He indeed knows the plans He has for you! He wants your good, not disaster.  So whether He delivers next week, years down the road, or in heaven, He will come through! The LORD is still your hope!

Look out the window.

Our Father, thank-you for the hope, assurance, and confidence that you never lose control of this universe, this world, and the circumstances of our lives. Fill us with hope in the midst of our exiles. Help us to live faithful lives honoring You inside our disasters.

T – R – O – U – B – L – E

Billie Sue’s grandfather, Lex Smith, loved to do word puzzles in his retirement years. He would sit for hours filling in the squares with letters.

In the those last days, he would spell the same word out loud over and over again. I can still hear him saying the letters again and again.

“T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”  “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.” “T – R – O – U – B – L – E.”

I’m not sure why he got stuck on that one word. But he did.

Jesus talked about “trouble” too.

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 HCSB

We can get stuck on tomorrow’s trouble too.  Jesus knows our tendencies. How easy it is for us to get focused on something that might or might not happen tomorrow. In doing so, we miss living today to the fullest!

Yes, tomorrow will come with its trouble, but why live it today in our minds before it actually happens? Plus, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We could end up worrying about things that will never happen anyway!

I’m just as guilty as the rest of you. Worry sneaks into my thoughts when I don’t stay focused on the truth of God’s Word and His Son Jesus.

So, how do we do that?!

Remember the verse just before verse 34? Verse 34 begins with “Therefore.” So what is it “there for”? The solution and a very familiar verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33 HCSB

All those “things” we worry about God provides for us if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first.  First? Yes, instead of first worrying about things, we seek God’s kingship and righteousness first.

Someone observed, “Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday.”

Worry is all about putting “things” first instead of God’s will. Remember Jesus’ instructions on how to pray:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 HCSB

How do we “seek first the kingdom of God?” We seek to do His will on earth today! That’s an all-encompassing focus that takes up all our attention today. When we focus on doing His kingdom work today, we are not focused on the “things” that will “trouble” us tomorrow.

Jesus is in the life-changing business!

Our Father, we confess our sins of worry and ask your forgiveness. Thank-you that we don’t need to worry. The “things” of this world are temporary.  Your word and kingdom will last forever! We ask for your ever-present Spirit to teach to live by faith, not by worry.

We Agreed

“We agreed” carried us through the difficult challenges! “We agreed” became an anchor point for everything we did after that.

The decision to move to Hot Springs Village and accept the pastorate at Balboa Baptist Church created a transition in our lives with some painful steps. Transition always produces stress.  Stressful times always stress relationships. The marriage of a “preacher” and his wife are no exception!

But, we agreed this was the wise thing to do.  We agreed this was in the center of God’s will for us. We agreed “finishing well” in life meant moving to the Village.

But then came the ripping and the tearing of buying, selling, and moving . Loss produces grief. A sense of loss came over both of us as we purged. We had to let go of some “stuff.” We sized down. We know now many of you have experienced the same purging, moving, and transitioning!

But we agreed it was only “stuff.” We agreed that none of this “stuff” will matter a hundred years from now anyway!

Agreement solves a lot of issues! Our marriage didn’t survive this little bump in the road, it thrived!

The word “confess” means to agree. Do you “agree” with God about who Jesus is?  It solves a lot of eternal issues. It requires some purging and letting go of some “stuff.”

Our agreement as a married couple to move solved a lot of other issues. But the most crucial “agreement” is between you and God about who Jesus is.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15 ESV

God lives in you and you live in God when you agree with God about Jesus. Do you agree Jesus is His perfect Son risen from the dead? What a thought! What a reality! We are indwelled and surrounded by the God of the universe in personal relationship if we agree with God about Jesus!

Do you agree? This is the most important agreement you will or will not make. It impacts how you live now. It impacts how you spend eternity!

Our Father, we praise you for being a loving Creator. We rebelled against you in our sin. Thank-you for offering to each of us the greatest gift possible: salvation, forgiveness, relationship, redemption, and your presence in us and around us! Father, WE AGREE! Jesus is Your Son, risen from the dead, alive and well, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and now our personal Savior! Thank-you!

Chirping

That cricket on my back porch is chirping loudly and persistently. He doesn’t let up. This has been something I’ve loved about moving to the Village. I can hear the sounds of nature instead of traffic!

Now, back to that cricket. Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup, Chir-rup … The joker’s chirpper just keeps on a-chirping!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

I was meditating on that verse when I noticed the little chirpper chirping. What an insight! Our believing, trusting, rejoicing, hanging tough, and praying ought to be persistent just like that chirpper!

Rejoice in hope.

Hope is the confident assurance of our salvation and destiny of heaven! Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, Re-joice, …!

Be patient in tribulation.

Patience is being able to see the big picture and hanging tough till the prize at the end is revealed in spite of the troubles along the way. Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, Pa-tient, …! (Thanks Polly for the “Hang Tough” Sunday School lesson this past Sunday!)

Be constant in prayer.

Prayer is communication and communion with the Father in such a way He can tell us at any moment what to do and we do it. We mistake prayer often as only trying to get God to do what we want him to do. Pra-y, Pra-y, Pra-y, O-bey, O-bey, Pra-y, O-bey, …!

So, do some spiritual chirping today!

Our Father, we rejoice constantly that you have provided complete hope and confidence in our salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ! We hang tough with patience in the troubled times of life because we know how it all comes out in the end! We commune with you all day ready to obey at a moment’s notice.

Take an Umbrella when it Rains

If you want to build rapport with others and win their trust, do not make them the butt of your jokes, make fun of yourself.

Don’t ever take yourself seriously, but always take God seriously.

Do not expect to get stuff from others because of your position or relationship with them, but always expect to give.

Take an umbrella when it rains.

These are some great words of advice I have received over the years. These tidbits are golden when I listen and take them to heart! I benefited from these encounters when my heart was soft, my ears were open, and I acted upon them.

I thank God for strategically placing in my life at just the right decision-making corners, the right person with the right word of advice.

The book of Proverbs is a book of God’s advice to us.

Here’s some advice: read a chapter of Proverbs each day.  With thirty-one chapters, we could read through Proverbs each month.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction,

that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,

but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 19:20-21 (ESV)

1. We have to listen to the advice God gives us through Scripture or through people in our lives.

2. We must accept the instruction for it to benefit us.

3. Often the wisdom is for a future event and not for the moment, so patiently hold on to it.

4. We devise many plans in our heads but we must discover God’s purpose for our lives.

5. In a hundred years, only what’s done in God’s purpose will still be left standing.

Thank-you Father for bringing wise people and wise proverbs into our lives just when we need them. Please give us discernment to know when and how to use this counsel. Your Word is a light to our path and a lamp for our feet. May your Word shine brightly so that we may live in the center of Your purpose.

 

Where’s My Pants?

We’re moved!  We are now living IN the Village. What a mess! Boxes, boxes, boxes.  Where’s my pants?  Where’s my shoes?

Its overwhelming at times.  Starting a new job and moving to a new home are two of the biggest stressors in life. When we get both of them at the same time, well, you know how that feels. Most of you have been through the same thing when you moved. Many of you have moved more times that we have!

Seeing everything into which we have invested so much time and money reduced to cardboard boxes is a gut-check.  Its all just stuff. In a hundred years from now, none of it will matter.  It will all be burned up. Only eternal things will last.

Yes, we still feel a little bit like that squirrel on an interstate. Closing on a house required us to attend to multiple details. Purging many, many things in order to fit into a smaller house is daunting. Overseeing three days of packing, loading, and unloading is exhausting. Church calendaring, staff meetings, hospital visits, sermon preparation, and budgeting are always before us.

Zoom, zoom go those cars on the interstate.  I’m their leader!  Which way did they go, George?

So I find great comfort and confidence in this verse:

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

1. We are refocused on eternal results when Isaiah says “God is my salvation.” Salvation is eternal life forever and abundant life now. In all the “stuff,” this must remain our focus.

2. We are refocused on internal attitudes when we read, “I will trust, and will not be afraid.” Attitude, not aptitude, determines one’s altitude. John tells us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  So I chose today to trust the God who perfectly loves me instead of trusting myself which always produces fear.

3. We are focused on our immediate future, our next steps, the living of today when God’s word says, “for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” So I go through the day humming a chorus of confidence in God or whistling a tune of rejoicing because God is in full control of it all.

We will always have enough time in the day to do what God wants us to do. So if we can’t get it all done, then we are doing things He does not want us to do or we are doing them in the wrong way.  We need not to be anxious for anything.

Our Father, You are our source of eternal security, inner peace, and abundant life. Thank-you that you have it all under Your control. Now please help me find my belt.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

Oh, What a Day that Will Be!

Oh, what a day that will be! 

Imagine it.  Well, it’s hard to imagine. Every human speaking the name of JESUS in holy reverence. Those who cursed him, those who killed His followers, and those who swore He was just another shyster, will declare Him LORD!

Oh, what a day that will be!

In light of the great false religion of Islam, in light of their violent murders of Christians today, in light of the great deception of Satan in millions of people’s lives, all will declare with reverence the most holy name of JESUS as Lord.

Oh, what a day that will be!

All the wrongs of this world, every misunderstanding, each frayed emotion, all maimed bodies, every broken relationship, will be resolved in a moment when in unison JESUS is declared Lord of the universe.

Oh, what a day that will be! 

It will wash over us in sobering reality when some will instructed to stand to His right and some to His left. The separation will be for an eternity.  Some will hear, “Depart from me for I never knew you.”  Others will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter your Master’s happiness.”

Oh, what a day that will be! 

A day of rejoicing beyond imagination for His followers. A day of unbridled worship like we have never known on this sin-sick earth.  A day of total reconciliation of all things.

Oh, what a day that will be!

As the great hymn says, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” Click here for Hymn

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11 ESV