Weights & Measures

I almost fell down. That’s when I knew. It was one of those moments when you realize something’s got to done about it.

It is one of those keys to life, sports, marriage, and just about anything else. But when you almost fall down, you know you need it.

After I hit that little white ball sitting on a peg, watching it fly in the wrong direction, and then stumbling to stay standing, it became obvious.

I didn’t have balance!

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Ephesians 4:1

Other writings wordsmith the word “worthy” in referring to the balancing of scales. Dishonest vendors in an open marketplace would sometimes use inaccurate weights with their scales so the sales of their product would be to their financial advantage. The crooked businessman used a method that is not “worthy” or was “out of balance.”

An inspector made surprise, random visits to my Dad’s meat market. He chose a few packages of meat in the counter. He set up his scales and checked each package for accuracy. My Dad insisted on exacting detail when we weighed the packages! We even had to subtract the weight of the packaging, which was sometimes only 3/8’s of an ounce to make sure the customer was not paying $1.99 per pound for a piece of Styrofoam and plastic wrap!

So what is spiritual balance? Here’s a hint. Look back at that verse closely. If the word “worthy” represents scales, then look on each side of the word to see what needs to be in balance.  What do you see?

Answer: “walk in a manner” is on one side. On the other side of the scales is “of the calling to which you have been called.”  

Application: every day is to be lived is such a way that it balances with what God has called you to do.

Every believer in Jesus who seeks to follow him is “called.” God calls you and me to use our gifts, passions, skills, relationships, and experiences to point people to Jesus.

Are you “balanced” at the end of each swing? What will the weights and measures guy find when he checks out your work?

Our Father, thank-you for your calling to give cups of cold water away in Jesus’ name. We commit today to bring Jesus into our conversations with those we meet.

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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Two-a-Days

Two-a-day’s. Boy, do I have vivid memories of two-a-day’s! In grades 8-12 I played football.  Every August we had an early morning practice and a late afternoon practice for two weeks.  We called those grueling, exhausting, get into shape, felt like we were going to die, football practices two-a-days.

Many times I wanted to quit! But the old football coach’s slogan would ring in my head, Quitters never win! Winners never quit!

How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t give up!”  How many times have you have said it yourself?

How many times have each of us thought about giving up or wanted to give up?

The apostle Paul certainly had many reasons to give up in his life.  He was run out-of-town, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake bit, flogged, imprisoned, rejected, chained, starved … well, you get the picture.

Yet in the letter to the Philippians, while he is in prison, he gives one of the greatest pep talks in Scripture!

And then in the letter to the Galatians he tells them, “Don’t give up!”

So, let’s not get tired  of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 NLT

Monday, I was on the receiving end of those who didn’t give up. The Disaster Relief Team showed up at my house to cut, haul, trim, and clean up … for four hours!  Thanks Gary Moore, Bill Gibbons, Harry Partlow, Jay Dirksen, Glen Barr, Dave Finton, and David Merkle!

I was humbled to be served by a group of Christian brothers who expected nothing in return.

So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. Give God the glory in it. God will see to the harvest of the work, so trust Him. Now, don’t give up! I know you will feel like giving-up sometimes, but take each opportunity God puts into your day today, and do something good to someone. Especially do good stuff for your fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ!

Our Father, thank-you for doing good for us by sending Your Son Jesus to die for us and give us grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Help us today to do good stuff just because we should and expect nothing in return. Thank-you for the promised harvest You will give in Your perfect timing.

She Jumped!

A rock wall cliff jutted out and stood 155 feet tall. The little Junior High girl easily climbed to the top with a couple of High School boys following her. She had been there before many times. This was the first time for the two boys.

Looking up 60 feet doesn’t look that tall.  But when you look down, well, it looks more like the Empire State Building!

The three reached the top and looked over the edge. I could see the blood run out of the two boys faces and their knees get weak.

The little blond-headed cheerleader stepped up to the edge, stepped off, gravity took over, she pointed her toes down, made her body rigid, held her arms closely to her sides, and entered the lake like a pin-prick.

The two boys swallowed their pride, climbed down to a lower level before jumping.

The little girl is my sister, Jill.  The place is Lake Greeson, near Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

My dad and I sat in the ski boat below.  We retrieved my sister.  We chuckled at the boys’ sudden change in courage and getting showed-up by a little Junior High girl!

To jump from Chimney Rock had been a family tradition for many summers.  (See photo)  The photo has the namesake rock, shaped like a chimney, but in the background is the big cliff.  (Of course it is illegal to climb on it today.)

That big rock is still there today and looks the same as it did 50 years ago. It still calls, “Climb me and jump!” Its a universal cry, whether you would even think of doing it or not!

I can still remember …

  • climbing the side of the rock with excitement and anticipation.
  • looking over the side from the top and that excitement turning to fear.
  • pushing that fear aside and jumping.
  • the rush of adrenaline as I hurled quickly to the lake below knowing the depth was over 100 feet.
  • the sting of hitting the water.
  • returning to the surface of the water and inhaling a breath of fresh air!

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4 ESV

God is completely trustworthy! He is like the stability and consistency of a rock! He also calls us take steps of faith and trust Him! What is The Rock calling you to do to obey Him today? Will you jump?

Our Father, we praise you because you are our Rock. We place our trust in You today knowing that it is a trust that will endure forever and forever, because you are our God forever and forever! Help us to obey you today in the little daily things of life. Help us make those little “jumps” of serving someone today that can make an eternal difference in their eternity. Thank-you for the breath of fresh air of faith each time we resurface from an obedient act.

 

Praying Scripture

Have you heard of the concept of “praying Scripture?” We know God inspired His word and it is holy. By praying what the Scripture says, we can know we are praying in the will of God.

I like to write my prayers, because when I write my prayers, my mind tends not to wander to the dozens of other things that can get my attention.  Writing prayers keeps me focused.

Here’s an example. Take a passage of Scripture and try it yourself!

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thes.3.5

Our Father, please lead us,

  • from deep within our hearts,
  • from the stirring of our souls,
  • from the use of each moment of time in our lives,
  • from our toenails to the tips of the hair on our heads …

into

  • a full-blown understanding,
  • a totally encompassing comprehension,
  • a moment-by-moment living-it-out today …

of

  • Your love for us,
  • Your love expressed through us to others,
  • Your love revealed in the sacrifices of time & money,
  • Your love flowing through us because You are in us …

And give us

  • Christ’s attitude of patient endurance for serving You,
  • Christ’s perspective on anxiety and worry,
  • Christ’s reaction to difficult circumstances,
  • Christ’s power to not just wait, but have His mind while we wait,
  • Christ’s tangible presence made known to us in real ways many times today.

Father, please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your love.  Please lead us into a full understanding and expression of Your Son’s patient endurance. Genuine love comes from You, Father, so we seek You today.  Patient endurance comes from the continual presence of  Your Son, Jesus Christ, living in us, so we depend on Him today.

The Lord is far from the wicked, but hears the prayers of the righteous. Prov. 15:29

 

 

What If?

  • What if you knew you could make a difference, would you do it?
  • If you could be certain a particular act of ministry or kindness would be effective, would you act?
  • Would you work differently for the Lord if you were assured God would use it to make an impact in someone’s life?

“Of course I would!” you might say, “but I don’t know what to do.”

Did God create you? “Of course,” you respond.

Did He put IN you a unique set of gifts, likes, abilities, personality, and experiences? “Well, yes He did,” you conclude.

THEN TAKE WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO AND DO IT! Its really that simple. God has already qualified you to work in His kingdom for a specialized task that you can do as well or better than anyone else.

A principle which has permeated by soul is the “cup of cold water in Jesus’s name” principle. It only has two simple parts:

  • Whatever it is I’m capable of doing can be used by God, even if its handing someone a cup of water.
  • Whatever I do, do it in “Jesus’ name,” do for Him and literally SPEAK his name in the process of doing it.

For God loves a griping giver, right? Nope! God loves a CHEERFUL giver. So as you give yourself away in Jesus’ name in cups of kindness and service, ATTITUDE makes all the difference in the world.  Be enthusiastic!

Well, brother Paul said it better than I did anyway. Read this verse and see if you get the same thing I did!

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Cor. 15:58 NLT

Our Father, we praise you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You created each of us with a unique set of capabilities. Thank-you for the opportunities you put right in front of us each day to serve you by serving people. Thank-you for the assurance that what we do for the “least of these” we do for your Son Jesus. What a joy to serve you with assurance that nothing we do for You is ever useless!

How May I Help You?

  • Relationships based on lust, infatuation, and a what-can-you-do-for-me mindset.
  • Lifestyles that love evil, rejoice in sexual perversion, and a don’t-judge-me-I’m-free-to-do-what-I-want attitude.
  • Daily letting go of good and decent things in order to grasp and hold fast to temporary things.
  • Continually holding grudges, unforgiveness, and treating others as objects instead of fellow humans.
  • Always trying to outdo one another is getting recognition and climbing to the top of the heap.

What have I just attempted to describe? I’m sure a lot of things came to your mind! 

I have just stated the opposite of Romans 12:9-10 (ESV) in which Paul, directed by the Holy Spirit, pens five brief commands that are to be obeyed in someone who is transformed (click Romans 12:1-2) Jesus Christ:

Let love be genuine.

Abhor what is evil;

Hold fast to what is good.

Love one another with brotherly affection.

Outdo one another in showing honor.

These actions do not happen naturally.  They happen supernaturally.  They can only be sustained in a living, breathing, walking, talking fellowship with Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus Changes Lives! And that change … must happen everyday in an overflow of HIM living in and through us.

  • Jesus is genuine in His love.
  • Jesus abhors what is evil.
  • Jesus holds fast to what is good.
  • Jesus loves us as a brother.
  • Jesus honors the lowliest. 

Want a simple way to do all five of these at once?! Your assignment today, if you choose to accept it, is to ask at least one person today, “How can I help you?”

Our Father, flow through us today through your Son, Jesus.  Overflow your love, your view of evil, your grip on good, your love for others, and your ability to honor those around us.  Thank-you that you asked us, “How can I help you?” and in our inability to even answer that question, you answered it for us with Jesus!  Thank-you!

Confess to each other our sins? Really?

James 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.

The word for “sins” in this verse is often used in the context of being offended by someone or when one of us offends another person.  It literally means “to fall beside.”

This verse bothered me for a long time!  It seemed very unhealthy for people to stand up and confess whatever sins they have been committing.  This could lead to a lot of hurt, confusion, misunderstanding, and mistrust.  My thoughts often wander all over the place.  If I’m confessing publicly every wrong thought, then what a mess I’d make!

But there is clear teaching in Scripture when one of us offends another person.  As soon as we know we have offended another person, we are to go make it right.  Ask forgiveness for the offense.  Humble ourselves.  Seek to reconcile with that person.

I’m not a psychologist, but it is obvious that holding in bitterness and unforgiveness is unhealthy physically, emotionally and especially spiritually for the persons involved, both the offended and the offender.

Oh Father, make me a forgiving person.  Father, You have forgiven me of millions of offenses by your extravagant grace through the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus.  Help me to forgive just one offense against me.  Help me to humble myself when I offend someone else and seek to make it right with them.

I Don’t Do Drugs

I have never experimented with illegal drugs.  Of course I take the occasional over-the-counter stuff when needed and my doctor’s prescriptions.  But I have not experienced the drug-induced high of marijuana, cocaine, and the like which sadly, addict many people.

But yesterday, I was on a high.  But what a good one!  Six people, precious in God’s sight, came forward at invitation time. Three of them seeking baptism!  I shared the gospel with two of them yesterday afternoon.  They prayed, believing the Gospel wholeheartedly, and received Christ as Lord & Savior!

Dozens of people encouraged me that the messages are hitting home.  Even in the 2.5 hour Personnel Committee meeting, God gave me a sense that these people are passionate for excellence in serving God in and through this congregation called Balboa Baptist Church!  That’s really amazing, huh!?

Forty years of experience in local church ministry has drilled into me another reality.  Enjoy the emotional high of days like yesterday, but emotions DO subside.  A coming-down always follows.

Jesus led Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop. An amazing meeting with God, Moses, & Elijah unfolds.  The divine Jesus glowed brightly with the shekinah glory of God.  I would have done the same thing as these three disciples wanted to do!  They wanted to build a house and STAY there!

But Jesus immediately took them back down to the valley of reality.  They encounter a demon-possessed man. Jesus healed him.  Jesus confronts the disciples with their small faith.  Wow, what a spiritual gut-check. (Click here to see Mark 9)

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am still rejoicing in the victories!  I am praising the Lord at 4:00 a.m.!  Praise the Lord!  The spiritual high is still real! God is SO good. God’s mercies endure forever.

I believe God took pleasure in His people yesterday.  Many of you invested in these six persons’ lives through Sunday School, ministry, friendship, and love.  You have been doing this for months or years before I ever came on the scene.  I praise the Lord I got to see the fruit of your labor!  You planted, watered, cultivated, and weeded.  Fruit!  Excuse my grammar but, “You done good!” God gave the increase and honored your labor of love.

I believe God adorned your humble acts of kindness with the results of salvation. Committees sort out the nitty-gritty details of church life behind the scenes. But keeping our eyes on THIS prize is why we do it all!  This is the big WHY!  This is the GOAL!  This is the BIG PICTURE that keeps pulling us into the future with faith.  We are to make disciples.  Jesus said He would build His church.

Let’s marinate in what God has done!  And then let’s get back to work.

“For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalm 149:4

Who Does God See & Hear?

“… the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request.” 1 Peter 3.11

Who are the “righteous” that the Lord sees them and opens His ears to their requests? Because I want US to be those people!

God has placed His Righteousness in us at salvation (Romans 1:17). So what is the evidence that we are living-out that righteousness within the body of Christ, our congregation? Who are these people?

In 1 Peter 3.8-11 the answer is:
1. “Like-minded” people — united in spirit & purpose, of the same disposition. I see our uniting purpose as “leading people to life-changing encounters with Jesus.”
2. “Sympathetic” people — sharing each others emotions, grieving together and rejoicing together. When someone prospers or succeeds, do you get jealous? Or rejoice with them?
3. Those who “love believers” — same word as “Philadelphia” or brotherly love.
4. “Compassionate” people — feel genuine pity and tenderness toward each other.
5. “Humble” people — are friendly, kind, courteous, and consider others before self.
6. People “not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult” — not retaliatory, “insult” is literally “spearing.”
7. People “giving a blessing, since you were called for this” — they encourage each other.
8.”Keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit” kind of people — no fraud, exaggeration, gossip, dishonesty, or guile.
9. People who “turn away from evil and do what is good”
10. People who “seek peace and pursue it” — they are peacemakers and unifiers.

And the result for the congregation that lives out these “righteous” ways will be:
1. “You can inherit a blessing” (v.9)
2. You will “love life and see good days” (v.10)
3. AND BACK WHERE WE STARTED! “… the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request.” 1 Peter 3.11

Oh! How I want the Lord’s eyes upon us and His ears open to us!

Perhaps you have seen this quote floating around the Internet or have heard it said,

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, points out that the tell-tale sign that God’s righteousness is obviously present or absent is in HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS!

The most important command is to “Love God.” OK, that’s easy, He’s perfect and its easy to love a perfect, flawless person.

The second most important command is to “Love your neighbor.” OK, that’s not easy, neighbors are imperfect, dysfunctional, have problems, hang-on to their hang-ups, and are even sinners. But guess what?! It is in those relationships with those all around us, who have “battles” we know nothing about, that we are to demonstrate “righteousness.”

Oh our Father, everyone we meet today is fighting a battle about which we may or may not know. We earnestly desire for Your eyes to be upon us and Your ears open to us. Fill us with Your compassion to overflowing. May the overflow spill over into the lives of those we encounter today.