|Posted on September 20, 2020 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
What’s the difference between mercy, grace and forgiveness? We have those concepts all knotted together in our minds as we think about our salvation. We pretty much understand that we’re not deserving of any of the three – after all, no one knows our hearts, minds and actions better than us, but we can’t help but wonder if we deserve all the pain of this world either.
I think part of our inability to grasp the greatness of grace, mercy or forgiveness is the fact that we’re incapable of granting it as unfailingly as God does. We are wonderful “excuse makers.” We have the unique ability to find someone (or something) else to blame for every problem in our lives. When all else fails, we can always point the finger at Adam and Eve. After all, this whole mess started with them, right?
So back to the difference between the three life-changing words? Grace is really defined as “goodwill or credit,” but the Latin origin of the word is gratia – meaning pleasing, thankful or grateful. So grace is God giving us an unlimited line of credit against all the mess we are going to create in our lives (yes – He knew that we’d mess up again, even after sending His only Son to be the sacrifice for our past transgressions).
Mercy is from the Latin merces, which means pity or favor. Those two things may seem very different but they are really closely related. God took mercy on us, understanding our frailty and faults, and with great love, taking pity on us, made provision for them.
Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” That scripture is giving us the promise that we can come to our Father without reservation or timidness, despite all that we know about ourselves. We are approaching the One who sits on a THRONE OF GRACE – not judgment or criticism. We can obtain mercy for the past, and grace for the present and for the future.
And forgiveness? Forgiveness is the bridge between the two. The great theologian, John Calvin, said “while sin is overflowing, grace pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it.” That emphasizes the fact that once God has forgiven our sins they are completely wiped out of His remembrance.
We know that because Psalm 103:8-12 reminds us that God is “merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever. He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. That is forgiveness.
And that sums up the greatness of grace. It covers what is behind us, what we are facing today, and what is before us in the future. All with the same steady, loving kindness of God. There will never be any residual resentment over the sacrifice He’s made on our behalf, or our continued failures. And in fact, He gives us a clean slate day by day and moment by moment.
Like the ripples from stones skipping across the water, God continues to forgive – loving us with limitless mercy and grace.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on September 12, 2020 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
Although we don’t always like to admit it, and sometimes even deny it vehemently, most of us really believe our opinion is far and away the most accurate in the conversation. I think as we get older, we often learn that listening can be far more enlightening than speaking, but it’s really just human nature to get an idea in our heads and hang onto it for dear life.
Sometimes we cling to our beliefs long after they have proved valuable, profitable or functional. And sometimes our pre-conceived ideas, origin unknown, aren’t even true! But, while we know whatever we’re doing isn’t working, we find ourselves paralyzed with an inability to change the dysfunctional thinking long after it’s started to create havoc in our lives.
Then, when someone tries to introduce some kind of change, they suddenly become the enemy. It doesn’t matter that what they’re pointing out should to be challenged – WE DON’T WANT TO CHANGE, or even admit we may need to change. And that especially applies to our minds.
But Jesus’ teaching shows us that we need to be open to new thinking, experiences, and people. His existence, and His purpose, was to introduce change and inclusion in a very broken world. He didn’t say that we embrace dysfunctional or sinful behavior or attitudes, or accept bad behavior under a banner of love for everyone - “I’m okay, you’re okay” is a book written in the 70’s, not a verse in the bible - but He did say that we have to accept the differences in one another and allow God to be the judge. And in fact, our very differences could be our strength.
Really, I’m not okay and neither are you – except by the grace of a very loving God. But okay or not, we must learn to love and accept one another despite our differences. I’m not just talking about skin color, denomination, fashion choices, popular thinking or politics. We must also be able to accept each other’s weaknesses and failings. If we can’t love past those, we can’t love at all.
Thankfully, as in every other case, God gave us the provision and the ability to move past our own stubborn human nature. In John 15:12 scripture tells us “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you.” Jesus wasn’t commanding us to feel a certain way, but He was telling us that we can show love to one another through our action and our words.
It’s easy to love someone when they look like we do, believe like us, talk the same language, frequent the same places, worship in our church, and fit our preconceived notion of “normal.” But what about those who may not be in that mold? Luke 6:32 says “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” And a more important question might be, “what benefit is that to anyone else – or to the Kingdom?”
It’s more than a command to “love like God loved us,” it’s a requirement – a demand. In exchange for God’s grace and love, we must extend grace and love. Not to those we deem worthy of it, but to everyone. Why? Because it’s one of our strongest witness tools. John 13:35 says “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Beyond that, considering the sacrifice of Christ, it seems the very least we could do. Our very diversity, if we will become unified, would be an unbeatable weapon against a cunning enemy who wants to divide and conquer.
God loves us equally, regardless of our politics, color, denomination, or even behavior. He doesn’t stop loving us when we’re living in sin or have moved out of His favor. His love follows us relentlessly. So that person we’re condemning, treating differently or saying we just can’t love? That person is also His chosen. Loving the loveable is easy. Loving the hard to love? That’s God’s command.
Be blessed, my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on September 5, 2020 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Changes. The older I get, the less I want to embrace them. I know that change is part of the human existence. I see it every day as I look in the mirror, or test the limits of my physical capabilities. But we certainly have been challenged with a lot of unique challenges this year. 2020 is sure to go down in the history books -- and not in a good way.
I’ve been on a kick lately of watching primitive survival shows and old timey re-runs. I recognize that it’s because I just can’t take one more stomach-churning headline or hate-filled speech. Somehow, watching people struggle to survive against a real enemy – the weather, non-human predators and the relentless environment, at least gives me the sense that there is something tangible to fight.
In the harsh landscape of our modern society it seems there are elements to battle that you can’t even really name. Brothers and sisters, both through blood and through the family of God, are so divided on every issue that we can hardly have a civil conversation, let alone comfort and encourage each other. Every issue is a mine-field, ready to set off an explosion - even among those who have shared life-long relationships. My heart breaks over the childish in-fighting and division.
So, I take joy in watching reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” where people stood together against life’s obstacles. And in survival shows where success depends on a group working as one unit to build something that will stand up to the challenge. I long to get back to the basic design God had in mind when He created Eve for Adam. To be each other’s help through adversity, standing back to back and shoulder to shoulder, fighting this very real battle we are in.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls. For he has no one to help him up.
This was God’s plan for us. That we would hold each other up, be strong where someone else might be weak. Pastor Louie Guglio says “God’s plan was to bless, prosper and guide His people as a demonstration of His goodness in a self-destructive world where people worshiped everything but the one true God. But God’s chosen people were incessantly rebellious, constantly doing things their own way.”
I guess not much has really changed from the OT days when the rebellious Israelites fought over every little issue. We think the terrible disfunction we’re experiencing is a result of change – but it’s really because we keep embracing the same old patterns over and over again. Choosing to NOT work together and support one another, but to argue over issues that have no real eternal importance. You can’t win a tug of war with Satan when everyone is pulling in a different direction.
So, in retrospect I guess it’s not change that saddens me, it’s the fact that we still can’t seem to get things right. At some point we must have been headed in the right direction, but the distractions of comfort, prosperity, property and wealth has somehow lulled us into complacency and entitlement. And to defend it, many seem willing to tear each other to shreds.
The rest of that well-known passage in Ecclesiastes says “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” It is my prayer that as the Body of Christ, we can find it in our hearts and spirits to be reminded that success will only be found if we learn to love each other through our differences, and stand united as God intended. That’s our strength, and that’s how we’ll get the victory over Satan.
If we band together even when we don’t agree, we will be stronger. And if that seems counter-intuitive, we should remember to test our personal opinions against the very important measurement that St. Augustine left us: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Even in those areas where we can’t agree on an issue, we can agree to love one another and treat each other with grace.
Remember, with everything else that has changed – God has not, and neither has His design for His children. As we’re told in John 15:17, we are to “Love one another; as He has loved us.”
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 29, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
As I write this, one of my oldest friends and my ministry partner is in the coastal area of California helping to move livestock that needs to be evacuated because of the dangerous and deadly fires that are burning out of control right now.
In California alone nearly a million acres have been scorched, more than 100,000 people have been displaced, countless homes obliterated, and who knows how many will eventually be affected. 2020 has been a year of unrelenting and unprecedented turmoil, unlike anything most of us have ever experienced.
It’s a time of confusion and fear, and it’s causing us to react in ways that we don’t even recognize. Many are striking out in anger because that’s the only outlet they have to let go of the mind-numbing panic. And even those who have held to their faith in God their entire lives are beginning to feel a sense of impending doom – perhaps wondering if they have been abandoned in this mess.
But we can choose how to react to the tornado around us, and we can choose how to act in spite of it. I’m not proposing that we let go of our fear completely and mindlessly allow things to happen, but there are steps we can be taking to right the ship and change the projectory of history.
My friend is demonstrating her faith in God, and her Christianity, by reaching out in any way she can. Some might say “if you’re going to do something, help feed those who’ve evacuated, or give money, leave it to the experts.” But she doesn’t just talk about her faith, she walks it. As she loads horses onto trailers and coaxes goats and cows into a pasture, people see her willingness to understand their situation and concerns.
When someone strikes out in anger at us, we can respond in kind or we can try and understand what the anger is all about. And if we can’t pinpoint the reason, at least we can douse the fire by not reacting with anger of our own – even if it might be justified.
When we’re struggling with our own finances, we can share what we do have with someone who has even less. Or we can send a meal, or just an encouraging word. And more than anything, we can pray, encourage and support each other.
We have one job to do while we’re here on earth – our temporary home, by the way. That’s to demonstrate the love of God, and try and grab the hands of everyone around us and pull them into a saving knowledge of His redemptive power and grace.
It is not possible to separate love for God from love for people. Matthew 25 tells us that “whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.” We can give someone a few bucks (or even a lot of bucks), but we can’t buy someone’s salvation. We can’t beat a person over the head with every scripture we’ve ever memorized and assume they will be wrestled into an understanding of grace. And we can’t judge, school or trick someone into feeling God’s love.
We have to demonstrate by our actions, by our willingness to set our own comfort and fear aside, and by doing whatever we can to lift someone else up – no matter what ditch they’ve fallen into. And we have to do it over and over. We can’t expect the world to come to us, we have to go to them. And that can be scary and messy.
Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.” Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’re part of an elite club. We’re the most common of the common. Why do you supposed God sent His Son as an ordinary man – a carpenter – not born into a royal household, but just a working class family? Because salvation isn’t just for the elite – it’s for all.
Today, more than ever, in this time of unrelenting and unprecedented turmoil, we have an opportunity unlike most of us have ever seen. We can use the circumstances around us to demonstrate the sovereignty and grace of God. We can let the world know who we are, and whose we are.
Be blessed friends. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM||comments (0)|
Many folks think that being a peacemaker means we are weak and ineffective. In fact, they often equate it to a lack of courage or laziness. I’m here to tell you that being a peacemaker isn’t for the weak. It takes great self-control, strength and resolve to step down from a fight – especially when we believe we’re in the right.
Today’s world is full of contention, bickering, and strife. A result, I’m convinced, of the extreme situations we find ourself facing. Right now, just turning on the news can give you agita, an Italian word that comes from “heartburn,” but really describes a feeling of anxiety or upset. A pretty good description of the rolling headlines, or at least what they do to our peace of mind.
As Christians, we are called to bring peace to these angry times, not add to the stress by throwing kerosene on an already blazing fire. Romans 12:18 tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” In fact, Matthew 5:9 promises that we will be blessed as peacemakers and “called the children of God.”
Why? Because bringing peace to a volatile situation reflects the character of God. Not that God can’t get angry, because Scripture has documented many times when God’s anger blazed in righteous fury. From kicking Adam and Eve out of paradise, to the complete destruction of the earth in a flood that raged for 40 days, God will react when He feels He must.
But His anger is tempered with mercy, as well as the knowledge of all sides of a situation – and with wisdom. Not just a passing knowledge of the immediate circumstance, but deep and abiding understanding of past, present and future. And not only does God understand, but He deals with a completely impartial and just hand.
James 3:17 tells us that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure.” God never has a hidden agenda or any baggage that He might be bringing to the conversation. He is unchanging – and that includes His great love and grace for every one of His children, not just the ones who are currently living the way they should.
The passage goes on to say that [His wisdom] is “then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” No matter how hard we strive to be all of those things, we’re simply not humanly capable of it. If we were, we wouldn’t need grace at all.
As we’ve moved from one crisis to another this year, it seems we have become increasingly suspicious of everything. What once seemed to be paranoid musings is now starting to seem pretty valid. It’s easy to fall into a cycle of believing conspiracy theories, and rampant speculations are beginning to feel like absolute truth. But if we allow ourselves to get lost in that kind of negative rhetoric, we’re stripping God right out of the equation.
Though we may feel powerless over the horrible things that are happening, we can’t grab our power back by responding in anger. Our authority and strength will always come from standing under the shadow of the Almighty. The best weapon in our arsenal is to trust in God, knowing that justice and restoration belongs solely to Him.
That’s why we’re called to peacemaking, rather than straightening out the world all on our own. Because the only thing we can be absolutely suspicious of is our own motivations and fears, and our ability to over-react when we don’t sit back and let God take control.
When we’re feeling the most vulnerable, before striking we must remind ourselves of the promise God speaks directly to us in Psalm 91. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue Him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him...”.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 15, 2020 at 10:50 AM||comments (0)|
When we see others and conclude they never have any trouble in their lives, we call them blessed. In fact, we think they are favored – sometimes more than we think they deserve. And it’s hard not to wonder why they have been chosen over us.
If we see someone prospering and happy even though we feel they aren’t living their lives the way they really should, it can lead us to question why we’re not doing better. After all, we work hard to do the right things, talk to God, and behave like Christians. How is that fair? Those kind of questions can drive us absolutely crazy if we let them. The biggest being ‘why are we suffering while they are being blessed’?
But Jesus didn’t look at it that way at all. In Matthew 5:4 He says “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus wasn’t just saying that He would be there for us in our sorrow, though He most certainly is, but that we would be blessed because of the grief.
In fact, in Romans 5:3 we’re told to “rejoice in our sufferings.” How is that possible? In that passage, Paul reminds us that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. In other words, we don’t appreciate the good things that are heaped on us (even though we might enjoy them) as much as we do the things we’ve earned.
Successful parents teach their children to be independent and strong. Not because they want them to eventually wander away, but because they want them to feel a sense of accomplishment that only comes from achieving something on their own. Some of the worst adults are created when, as children, they are simply handed every privilege in life, never required to work for anything. We all know stuff doesn’t equal love.
On the other side of that coin, children that are never given anything, who don’t have their parent’s attention or nurturing, can turn into greedy self-seeking people. Having done too much on their own they never learn that life is about compromise and community. The only thing they understand is fighting to get ahead, no matter who else it harms. And that also makes for some pretty bad adulting.
The problem with looking at someone else’s life from the outside is that we can’t possibly know the circumstance of where their “blessings” came from, and we can’t discern if they feel any real sense of accomplishment, love, or satisfaction. Because at the end of the day, only God knows the whole circumstance of someone’s life and what’s going on in the center.
Wishing for the sleek figure of your favorite super model? What if she’s carrying a cancer deep inside her DNA – just waiting to blossom – or fighting a debilitating eating disorder? Salivating over someone else’s car or house? What if keeping it is costing them a relationship with their children or spouse, or forcing them to work so many hours they don’t ever feel a minute’s peace? Wonder what it would be like to be that rich person who doesn’t have to work for anything because it’s all been handed to them on a silver platter? Where do they learn their worth, aside from money and position? Do they question the origin of every relationship?
And if we compare against situations that are worse than ours, will that give us a sense of wholeness from what we do have? Not really. Because deep inside we know it isn’t about what we hold in our hands - it’s what we feel in our hearts.
I always pray that everything is exactly how it looks on the surface, but I know that anything worth having must be earned in one way or another. It’s easier to “rejoice” in our hardships when we step away from comparing our blessings to that of someone else. And really, no comparison is needed because God has a different plan for every one of His children. A unique journey designed to give each of us the very best life possible.
In James 1 we’re told to “count it all joy when we fall into trials, knowing that the test of our faith will produce patience.” I know it can sometimes feel like our lives have been one long quest for patience, but our good, good Father is teaching us to be the best adults possible. And unlike an earthly parent, in spite of noble intentions, He will never leave us to struggle on our own but will continue to work everything out for our eventual good.
When we come to the end of our lives, however short or long that will be, we can look back at both the suffering and the abundance and count it all as blessing, because God’s hand was in every moment.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 8, 2020 at 1:25 PM||comments (0)|
Why have telemarketers not yet learned that when you pick up the phone and hear “this is an important message – don’t hang up,” the first thing we’re going to do is hang up! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that. Or does it?
In truth, even when we actively try to separate fact from fiction, it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of believing the loudest or most persistent voice. Why do you think telemarketers call us so many times? They know the odds are that, on some level, we’ll eventually start to listen and question if they pound the same message over and over again. And they are masters are mimicking the legitimate.
Statistics show that the most successful telemarketer has a 96% turn-down rate. That means that, for every 1000 calls they make, only 40 will listen to them at all. The number dwindles even further because just “listening” doesn’t mean they make a successful sale. But they know that if they can just get you to hear their message, they have a chance to convince you that - more than anything in the world - you need whatever they’re selling.
That’s a lot how Satan works too. Now, I don’t mean to compare telemarketers to the devil – and I’m not saying they are all evil. There are many legitimate companies and organizations out there, mine included, that believe in what they’re offering and know that, thanks to the scammers and the jammers, they have to make a lot of phone calls and hear a lot of abuse to get their job done and their message out.
But I am talking about those who have nothing legitimate or useful to offer. All they want to do is take your money, your peace of mind, and trick you into believing whatever gives them the most payback. Most operate by either terrifying you into thinking that you need them to save you from disaster, or that they’re offering the one thing that is going to give you so much delight and happiness you can’t possibly turn them down. Either way – they are truly Satan’s instrument, because that’s just how he works.
So then the question becomes, how do you know the difference between a legitimate offer and a scam? In this world, as in the spiritual realm, the answer is always “test the source.”
1 Chronicles 16 tells us that “every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God’s will for us, and His desire for our happiness, is the same today as it was when He had to close the doors of Eden to Adam and Eve. And as much as He loves one, He loves all. So what He won’t do is allow an individual to prosper by hurting someone else. If what you’re being offered is “only for a lucky few” it isn’t sourced from God. He’s not a respecter of persons and wants good things for every one of His children.
Be reminded that Jesus promised us that His “sheep know His voice” [John 10:27]. If you’re questioning the source, it’s probably because it’s not the voice you need to be listening to. Once we’re committed to His flock, we instinctively know our Shepherd’s voice.
But can I just warn you of an easy trap? If you think God is only going to speak to you in the big situations, and in a huge grandiose way, you’re going to miss the small blessings that He showers on us all the time. In 1 Kings 19, we’re told about the prophet Elijah who, in abject discouragement, just wanted to die. He desperately needed to hear from God.
First there was a great strong wind that broke apart the landscape, but God wasn’t in the wind; after the wind an earthquake and then a fire – but the Lord wasn’t in either place. But then, in verse 12 we’re told Elijah heard a still small voice. And that’s where God spoke to the Prophet and set him back on his feet again.
We can only know the voice of our Shepherd by seeking His sound. And we can only know the will of God, by letting Him softly whisper to us. When faced with questions, confusion or fear, we can’t separate His voice from the noise unless we’re used to listening for it. He speaks all the time – not only working through our circumstances, but in the very words of Scripture. We just have to learn how to hear it.
God knows that Satan is working to be the only chatter we hear – the most successful Telemarketer. So instead of pummeling us with shouts that try and convince us of what we need for survival, He gently speaks to us of blessing and the bounty of what He will provide simply because we are His. Even in the chaos and noise, His will be the voice that cuts through with love and hope. We just have to spend time learning to listen for it.
Be blessed my Friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on August 1, 2020 at 10:55 AM||comments (0)|
It’s hard to look at the current times as a growing season. Between worry about finances, fear over our health, the many unknowns, and the unrest we are seeing all over the world, it’s much easier to either bury our heads in the sand or just stay in a state of hyper alertness. Neither is conducive to the energy that’s required to see and create growth in our personal life, or that of others
But if we shift our focus just a little, and try and visualize what we can do to make this a time of learning, can we change the trajectory of history – or at least of the community around us? I think we can -- if we don't lose sight of the fact that our primary mission here hasn't changed.
In a study by Beth Moore she says “God wants to send us… into the world in His name. Our tongue is the instrument of His greatest potential use.” We know that scripture also gives us that instruction. The words of Jesus are written in Mark 16:15: “you are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.”
While we might not be able to travel, our ‘world’ is defined by more than a mission field in some far-off country. Our world is anywhere our lives intersect with someone else’s. And that really is where we have the most opportunity to make an eternal difference in someone’s life.
It can be as simple as practicing kindness and charity. I’m not talking about giving someone a couple of bucks when they have their hands out on the side of the road. I’m speaking of letting things go when it’s easier to be offended. Charity means giving something that isn’t expected or required – and sometimes that’s just us not responding to a snarky opinion on Social Media, or a rude person that somehow crosses our path.
I used to take a lot of pleasure in the fact that I could cut someone down with my words, and the recipient of my acidic comments hardly saw the ax coming. Being intelligent and articulate is a gift, but also a great responsibility. Today, I’ve come to understand that those mean words (whether I thought they were justified or not) were only making me feel temporarily better. They didn’t solve anything, they didn’t teach anything, and they certainly didn’t do anything to change the situation.
In truth, just because I thought they were justified, doesn’t mean they were. Who was I to judge someone else’s behavior or words? Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” There is no good enough reason that we should execute someone else, particularly over something said to us that has absolutely no authority over us.
So back to the original question. Can we grow and flourish in this unprecedented season of struggle? Anything that is an opportunity to witness is a chance to create a new life in Christ. Sometimes that happens by us just stepping back and letting something go. And there’s no more precious seed we can plant than that.
When we want to respond to a situation with anger, sarcasm, or negativity, but instead choose charity and kindness, we’re planting a seed. When we see a horrible injustice being done, and we spread healing oil instead of gasoline on the waters of change, we prove that victory can come with peace rather than violence and hate.
Psalm 139:4 reminds us that “before our words are on our tongue, You (God) knew them.” Judgement will come, but not by us. And while it’s convenient to think our “tormentors” are the only ones who will face judgment, Scripture shows us we are all subject to it.
God doesn’t judge as much by what’s done, as by what’s in our hearts. And that is evident by our words because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” [Matthew 12:34]
The best advice we could get, and one of our most effective witness tools, come to us from James the brother of Jesus. He simply said, “don’t be too eager to tell others their faults.” Because to decide what someone’s “fault” is, we must step into the role of judge – and that’s so far out of our pay grade it’s not even in the neighborhood.
We can’t change our external dialog until we change our inner feelings and thoughts (our heart). So during this time of isolation and uncertainly, let’s make it an opportunity to get to know God a little better, and take a moment to decide how He would respond. When this crisis has passed, as it most surely will, let’s plan for a great harvest.
Be blessed my friend. God is on the throne!
|Posted on July 26, 2020 at 12:05 AM||comments (0)|
In the third chapter of Exodus, we’re introduced to the story of how the Israelites were to be led out of captivity in Egypt. It starts with one of my favorite characters, Moses. It opens innocently enough, with our lead man just minding his own business, tending his father-in-law’s flock of livestock. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he was near Horeb, known as the Mountain of God. Interestingly, Horeb is also the Hebrew word for wasteland or desert.
He’s in this desolate place, all alone, and notices a small fire. Scripture says “suddenly the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him as a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw that the bush was on fire and that it didn’t burn up, he went over to investigate. Then God called out him, “Moses! Moses!” (Exodus 3:2-4)
At first Moses must have been completely baffled. This was out of even his vast experience with God. Keep in mind this was prior to the whole “red-sea parting incident” and you can imagine his skepticism. “Who is it?” Moses asked.
Scripture goes on to say that he was told by God, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.”
Moses wasn’t a young man, and while comfortable, was living the life of a fugitive. While God had miraculously spared him death as an infant, he’d been raised in a pagan culture in Egypt, then murdered a man for mistreating someone of his biological heritage. In the end, he was forced to run to escape a death sentence. He must have felt like a man without any real heritage or home.
Imagine him realizing that God was not only present, but speaking directly to him in this mind blowing way. God went on to tell Moses that he would be leading his people out of slavery and abuse, and into freedom. But first, Moses would have to go back to the Pharaoh and demand the release. I’m sure he felt less than comfortable returning to that scene.
Moses protested that he wasn’t the man for the job, but God stood firm, saying “I will be with you.” When God enters the situation, whatever it is, it becomes holy. And “holy” means consecrated to God, sacred. And it certainly means He will be with us – no matter the obstacles. If we’re called to something, God makes us more than capable.
And even more precious than that, He makes the ground around us holy, sacred and consecrated to Him. Whether that’s a broken home, a tent in the middle of a homeless encampment, our workplace or a hospital room – once God is on scene, He is with us through it all.
Sometimes we look at a situation with our human eyes and see an impossible mission. We get so wrapped up in fear and frustration, it’s like having a blindfold on. But God will get our attention, appear in the situation, and do whatever it takes to make us whole again. And, by the way, He will use us to help others blindly battling in their own mess. We just have to be willing to accept the assignment, have the humbleness of spirit to take off our metaphorical sandals, and stand before Him on that holy soil.
There’s a reason that Moses is a hero. God anointed and appointed Him in the beginning of his life. And in spite of Moses’ many misadventures, God never removed that mantle from him. In the end, after much prodding, intervention and many mistakes, God used him in a mighty way.
We, too, are anointed and appointed by God. We know He has a plan for every life, mapped out even as He was breathing life into us in our mother’s womb. And we can hang on to the promise that when we most need Him, God will show up and make whatever swamp we’re mired in holy ground.
When we feel like we’re in a wasteland, we need to remember the promise given to us in Isaiah 46:4. He says “I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.” Cradle to grace, He is with us. Take off your shoes. Your mess can be holy ground.
Be blessed my friends. God is on the throne!
|Posted on July 4, 2020 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
Is our walk with the Lord anyone else’s business? As much as we would like it to be, the answer to that question isn’t a simple yes or no. We live in a society that can be judgmental, and criticism without understanding often seem to be the rule rather than the exception. No one wants to hear someone else’s opinion about their personal life, and nothing is more personal to us than our relationship with God, so it’s easy to assume that it’s simply no one else’s business.
But while our relationship with God is deep, personal and permanent, and one that only He can judge, how we display that relationship in our day to day behavior is subject to speculation by a very critical world.
Scripture tells us to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). But who defines what is evil? And more importantly, is it the same today as it was when Paul communicated this in the New Testament days?
First we need to step away from the misconception that the word “appearance,” as it’s used here, means something that is seen with the eye. In this case the word literally translates more as “form.” So, the scripture is actually telling us to avoid any form of evil. Good advice no matter who you are.
Having said that, Jesus was very clear in His teachings that we need to lead others to Him by our example more than our words. In Matthew 17:24-27 He tells us Peter that in order to “not cause offense” they will pay their taxes. Jesus knew that allowing ourselves to be subject to government, following the rules, making decisions that reflect good morals and a strong sense of personal ethics speaks to our character. And our character is a direct reflection of God in us.
And, in Corinthians 8:9, we’re taught that we are to avoid doing things that others might think is wrong simply because it could cause another brother to stumble. Do we think that God doesn’t know that the world is going to be looking for a way to blame us, and so be hypervigilant to every little thing Christians say or do? Of course He knew that. Which is why He also knew the world would know us by our love. And that love is displayed by our willingness to give up our own little liberties for the greater plan of leading others to salvation.
We are called to lead a life that exemplifies the humility, sensitivity, honor and awareness of others that Jesus showed. Sometimes we have to give up our own rights for the good of others. The passage in Corinthians finishes by saying “beware lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”
The bottom line is that we Christians have a higher standard to live up to. In Romans 12 we’re told to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” That means those who believe as we do, and those who don’t. It takes some humility to recognize that we’re subject to the world’s opinion of us. But just remember that while you may be subject to its opinion, at the end of the day you’ll only answer to the judgement of God.
The world is watching, and we must be prepared to be a mirror that reflects the nature of our Father. Our finances need to be in order, we can’t cheat our employers on our timecards or by “borrowing” resources that don’t belong to us. We can’t lie to get out of sticky situations, and we can’t throw angry words and social media posts around like everyone else. We don’t have the luxury of being angry and belligerent when someone has wronged us, or being part of gossipy and unproductive chatter. Because we’re better than the rest of society? Not at all. It’s simply because we are called to a life that is a reflection of the God we serve.
Our Christian walk is the business of everyone around us because it is the tool that God uses to reach everyone around us. Everything we do is a testimony (bad or good). And if we have to sacrifice some of our personal freedoms to be God’s mouthpiece, we should be okay with that. Compared to the sacrifice that was already made for us, it’s a small enough price to pay.
Be blessed, my Friends. God is on the throne.