Fence Straddling

Gunsmoke & James Arnes. The Lone Ranger & Tonto. Paladin & Have Gun will Travel. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans & Happy Trails to You. Rawhide & Head’m Up, Move’m Out. The Virginian.

I suspect the old west barely resembled the lifestyle portrayed in these old shows I grew up watching.

But one thing for sure, cattle-rustlin’ and horse-stealin’ brought the ire of the hard-working farmers, ranchers and law enforcement. These no-goods met harsh punishments. Most of us understand what “get-a-rope” means.

Evidently, there were sheep-rustlers in Jesus’ day too. Some no-goods sometimes broke through the sheep pen wall or climbed over it to rustle sheep!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The evil one has quiet a team of rustlers. On the spiritual side are the thieves of out-right false religions and Christian sects with false doctrine. Then there are the body and mind destroyers of drugs, alcohol, and gluttony. And don’t forget the relationship murderers of lust, adultery, and sexual perversion.

Jesus said in John 10 (read it here) that anyone who does not enter through the gate is a sheep-rustler. And then He said that He is The Gate. We must enter the sheep pen through Him and only Him.

He is The Shepherd who protects the lives of the sheep and gives them all they need for abundant life.

Jesus’ analogy divided His listeners. Some said He had a demon. Others argued a demon-possessed man could not open a blind man’s eyes.

Jesus still creates a sharp divide today. Either we are for Him or against Him. Either we are hot or cold, or worse lukewarm.

Lukewarm means one is trying to “straddle the fence!” If you’re “on the fence,” guess who comes in that way? Rustlers! Jesus is “The Gate.” Get off the fence! Go 100% with Jesus!

Our Father, thank-you for sending Your Son that we may have real life and have it more abundantly! We commit today to get off the fence and go 100% for our Lord.

Wrap Your Mind Around That

Oh, there’s about 90,000 miles of nerve fibers, around a 100 billion neurons, and some .15 quadrillion synapses. Is it amazing that the brain of brilliant doctors can study the brain to understand how we understand and think about how we think?

God created a super-computer small enough to hold in one hand and He put it between our ears. Our mind processes a whole array of thoughts, decisions, emotions, relationships, memories, calculations, jokes, images, and much more.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

If we use our sense and reason without the Holy Spirit’s direction, then we get all the miseries that arise from sin.

If we use our sense and reason with the help and filling of the Holy Spirit, then we get all the benefits of abundant life, eternal life, and a peace that passes understanding.

Now, see if you can get your mind around that today.

Our Father, thank-you for indwelling us with your Holy Spirit when you saved us. Lead us to obey the command to be filled with Your Spirit over and over today. Your promise of life and peace thrills us and motivates us to set our minds on the Your Holy Spirit!

Smoke & Mirrors

Maybe if I sacrifice some time and go to church this weekend, it will “make-up” for being dishonest with the grocery store clerk.

Perhaps I can sacrifice some TV time and pray an extra five minutes and read a whole chapter in the Bible instead of asking forgiveness from my relative for how I offended her.

I think I’ll sacrifice and give a little extra cash in the offering plate this Sunday to compensate for not following through on that commitment I made to help.

One of the first verses I memorized as a child was Exodus 20:12,

“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD they God giveth thee.” 

Jesus dealt with some religious people of his day who “dedicated” their money to God as a religious “sacrifice” to justify not having to use it to care for their parents (click here to see Matthew 15). These very religious people justified breaking the command, “Honor your father and your mother” with a religious act of “sacrifice.”

It was religious “smoke and mirrors.” And Jesus saw right through it!

The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer Him sacrifices. Proverbs 21:3

God would rather we do what is just and right instead of trying to substitute some religious act or “sacrifice.”

A religious act is something we can do without dying to self. It is our tendency to avoid being crucified with Christ.  Galatians 2:20 says:

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

But to do the right and just thing requires us to die to self. It is precisely at the point of dying to self that Christ can live in and through us. Paradoxically the more we try to gain life the more we lose it.  The more we lose our lives for Christ’s sake, the more we gain real life.

Losing our lives for Christ will always interrupt and inconvenience our controlled religious life.

Do you remember those old TV announcements, “We interrupt regular programing to bring you this important announcement?”

Christ cannot live through us if we keep getting in the way. We must allow him to interrupt our regular, religious programming in order for him to do the right and just thing through us. For the resurrected Christ to live in and through us we must get on the cross and die to self.

Our Father, forgive us for substituting religious things for the resurrected life. Come and live through us as we die to ourselves.

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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.

 

A New Whiz-bang-whatchamadoodle!

“Look what I got for Christmas!” she exclaimed. “See my new smart phone.  See my new coat.  See my new whiz-bang-whatchamadoddle!”

The new gizmo excited her so she wanted to tell her friends. Or was she bragging because her stuff cost more than their stuff?

Does receiving a gift give us the right to brag? After all, these are gifts. Gifts are given whether you deserve them or not. Right?

Or does the receiving of the gift depend on whether you’ve been “naughty or nice” as the famous song goes. The implication is that if you are nice, then you get gifts, but if you are naughty, you don’t get gifts.

Our Christmas traditions of Santa Claus are fun with our kids and grandkids, but really work just the opposite of the gospel.

The gospel says we’ve all been naughty, no one is nice. We are so naughty we deserve the worst of punishments. We have all disobeyed with a rebellious heart the loving Creator and holy God of the universe!

So the true Christmas meaning is that the Son of God was born to become God’s GIFT of salvation and forgiveness.

We are totally undeserving. There’s nothing we can do to earn this gift. We don’t get it by being nice.

It is a gift in the truest sense of the word. Only by a pure act of God’s grace do we receive this gift of salvation.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Our Father, our appreciation for sending your Son Jesus on that first Christmas cannot be expressed fully by our words. So look into our hearts and see the humble gratitude for the greatest gift of all. We praise you and you alone for providing what we did not deserve and could not provide for ourselves.

 

Panic Attacks

His panic attacks came from two sources.

First, taunts and scoffs hit him like a punch to the gut. Those throwing these verbal missiles did not believe in the Creator God, his Father God, and especially rejected his faith the Messiah. The blasts from unbelievers’ mouths are real and hurtful. “Where is your God?” “Human life is not sacred, it is ok to kill an unborn baby!”

Second, a claustrophobic discouragement and sadness pressed upon him from within. He felt like it would crush him. The onset of loneliness from these internal attacks overwhelmed his faith. “Why has God forgotten me?!” “Oh, why can’t it be like it used to be?”

Who is this guy? Boy he needs help! Sometimes its me.  Sometimes its you. In this case it is the Psalmist in Psalm 42.

He struggles in these eleven verses between putting his trust in God and the discouragement of the spiritual battle going on. Read it. Feel the tug of war! The hurt is real! The pain is palpable.

In verses 1 and 2 he compares his desire for God to a deer parched with thirst looking for a cool stream of water.

In verses 3 and 4 he remembers a better day of believers worshipping together compared to his current situation of  unbelievers taunting him. Today’s media packed with unbelievers taunt our faith in God. They label holding high standards of morality and ethics as hatred.

In verses 5 and 6 he reminds himself to put his hope in God. He’s encouraged that God is like a mountain from which a river flows.

In verses 7, 8, and 9 he puts his trust in God. The crashing waves of the seashore remind him that God’s unfailing love is constant like those waves. He sings and prays to the one who gives him life. God is his rock.

Yet in verse 9b and 10, he once more reflects on the taunts of the enemy. The attacks are real and discouraging.

But his conclusion is worth the battle! In verse 11 he says:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:11 ESV

Why should I stay in such a state of being down and out? Well I don’t have to! Hope in God! Praise Him again and again. He is my salvation. He is my God!

Hope in God. How do I do that? See yourself as a thread used in sewing. See God as a massive rope used to ties ships to a dock. Hoping in God is the act of binding that weak thread into that massive rope. HIS STRENGTH BECOMES YOUR STRENGTH. Weave yourself into God. Hope in Him!

Our Father, thank-you in the midst of spiritual battles we can bind ourselves into You receiving real hope. We are like a weak thread, but You are an unbreakable rope. Today we choose to bind ourselves into You.

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.

Oh, To Be Young Again!

“If I could go back and live my life all over again, I would ________________.”

“What do I regret?” was one of my first thoughts. If I could re-live my life, what would I change so that I don’t live with regrets today?

The writer of Ecclesiastes had a long life, experienced all of life’s advantages, and God gave him great wisdom.

Now that the results of aging overtook his body and he reflected on his life, what’s his conclusion?

In Ecclesiastes 12:1, he describes the aging process. In verse one he tells those who are still young,

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

The aging process is further described in verses 2-8: eyesight dims, legs and shoulders get weak, the hearing starts to go, fears grow, and friends’ funerals are attended.

But at the end of a life lived weighing many proverbs, reading numerous books, and trying many forms of pleasure, what’s his conclusion? Life is meaningless, all is vanity, EXCEPT for two things!

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

An ATTITUDE, “fear God” and an ACTION, “obey God” sum up the only things that truly make life meaningful.

Jesus said it just as succinctly,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

If a young man or woman is reading this now, you will avoid a thousand regrets if you commit your life to this attitude and action.

First, have an awesome respect, a healthy fear, for your Almighty God and Creator and love His Son Jesus Christ with every fiber of your being.

Second, do what God tells you to do. The Bible, His written, inspired Word reveals His will. Take it seriously and do it.

Our Father, thank-you for the wisdom of your Word that shows us the real meaning of life. Thank-you for Your Son Jesus whom we love with all our being. By the power of your Spirit living in us we commit our lives to translating that love into obedience. Thank-you for your constant presence with us to give us courage and strength.

 

 

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.

Read the Directions!

“If all else fails, read the directions.” How many times that has been my modus operandi!

Well to be honest, I had to look that up modus operandi . I just used that phrase to impress you. I’ve heard others use it. I thought I knew what it meant in practice but couldn’t give you a definition!

So, what in the world is a modus operandi? It is Latin for ‘way of operating.’ It means: a particular way or method of doing something, especially one that is characteristic or well-established. I Googled it!

Anyway, so much for my Latin lesson for the day. Back to what I was saying.

I bought one of those gadgets recently that finds studs in the wall of your home so I could know where to drive a nail to hang a heavy mirror. I opened the package and removed the gadget.  I removed the screw on the back to insert the batteries. Uh-oh! The gadget’s insides spilled out!

If I had read the instructions, I would have known that there’s a little slide-out on the back that makes it very easy to insert batteries. Yes, I did get the gadget put back together and re-inserted the screw.  Lesson learned! Well for a little while, until the next time I do something without reading the directions.

Ignoring instructions and despising reproof can have much greater consequences! In fact, it can mean life or death! I prefer life. I prefer wisdom. I value myself pretty highly and would rather not despise myself.

So here’s some really wise words from the writer of Proverbs:

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself. Proverbs 15:31-32 ESV

Our Father, thank-you for the life-giving reproof of your Holy Bible and your Holy Spirit. Make us sensitive today to accept your reproof and to pay close attention to your instruction to be wise.