Pathetic When I Am Sick

Guilty as charged. I have a pretty high tolerance level for pain…just ask my wife about the time I shoved a four inch splinter in one side of my hand and out the other.

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But…give me a bad head cold and I become as useless as chocolate teapot.  Everything aches, my head feels like its going to explode, and I just want to be pitied by all mankind. It really is quite pathetic.

In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul, talking about believers says, that “If only for this life we have hope in Jesus Christ we are of all people most to be pitied.” If Jesus was not raised from the dead, if He was not resurrected, then my hope in Him as my savior, my redeemer, my assurance of eternal peace in the presence of  Almighty God ends when I die.  That would truly be pathetic. But I know that He lives.

When I was sick and my heart was corrupted by sin God had pity on me. He demonstrated His love towards me even when I was a total screw up. Even now when I screw up every day, He loves me, forgives me, and comforts me.

If you are struggling through life and feel like there is no hope, no peace, and you are just sick in your heart then turn to Christ.  Jesus said to some people one day:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus loves you. He wants to give you rest in your heart and soul. Seek him out. As him to forgive you and acknowledge him as the Lord of your life. It doesn’t mean all the problems of life go away, but the promise that you receive in and through Jesus gives you a peace and assurance that gives hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.

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Do You See What I See?

hazy mechanic

A few years ago I shared the message below at a church in the Northeast. Some recent conversations and events brought this text back to mind and I thought perhaps it would be an encouragement as we turn the page to a new year. 

 

December, 2015

It has been a year filled with excitement, with challenges, with loss and with growth. It has been a year where the biblical foundations of morality and truth have seen increased attack in the governments and societies around the world.  It has been a year of incredible turmoil in the world, Paris, the Middle East and even here on our own soil.  The level of fear and anxiety has increased for many this year as the threat and reality of terrorism and persecution has become more widespread. But we remember the promise of God found in Isaiah 41:1

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

As we come to the end of 2015 and look forward into 2016 (and now 2019) many of us go through the annual process of making New Year’s resolutions.  It is also a time of year when folks might do a bit of a self-evaluation and ask some pressing personal questions…you know…questions like:

Why did I eat so much at Christmas? Or perhaps… How on earth am I going to pay my credit card bills in January? More seriously…in light of all the changes around us, we might ask ourselves questions like: What is God’s purpose for me? or What is His will for me?

Let me draw your attention to some truths in scripture that deal with the old and the new…passages that deal with how we look at life and what our purpose really is especially in light of all that is going on.

The passage of Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:11-21. The text is found in a letter that Paul is writing to the church at Corinth to respond and address some attacks on his ministry, his character, his motive and his credentials.  After leaving the church at Corinth false teachers had crept in and in addition to twisting the truth of the gospel, they were maligning and disparaging the work and ministry of Paul. In chapter 5 Paul is going to remind people about his ministry and his passion and then reminds them about who they are as believers, their ministry.  He then declares the truth of the Gospel to those that would read and hear his letter.

Paul writes in verses 12 and 13 “For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.

The false prophets of Paul’s day were in it for the money…for the glory…the accolades.  Their hearts were not right and therefore their motives were wrong.  The motivation that drove these false teachers was not righteous…it was not done for God…it was done to boast in themselves.

Paul says “...if we are beside ourselves…it is for God!”  They thought that he was crazy…he had declared truth about God and his zealousness, his passion for the truth of Jesus caused the critics to believe that he was crazy. Paul goes on in verse 14 of his letter and he gives the reason for his zeal…his insanity…

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

The love of Christ…the truth of salvation, Christ’s birth, life, death on the cross, and resurrection COMPELS him to speak the truth.  That love drives him to preach, to teach, to pray, to serve, to live, and to love.

What compels you?  What drives you to live and speak the way you do every day?  For Paul…it was the LOVE OF CHRIST that compelled him in everything he said and did.

What is that love of Christ…well…it is the love that only a true believer can know and understand.  It is a love that results from a changed life. A transformed person that is in Christ is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” It is a tremendous truth of our faith that in Christ we are made new.

But I skipped a verse…and in that verse we find one of the most amazing and compelling verses in Scripture.  You see, when we become a new creation we often think of our heart being changed…and it is. We also think about our mind being renewed…and it is. But did you ever consider your eyes being changed?  Did you ever think that when you are in Christ you don’t see people the same way anymore?

In verse 16 Paul writes “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”

Paul had known Christ and others “according to the flesh” before he was saved.  He saw Jesus and others with a worldview that was governed by an unchanged heart. Those “old things” and old ways provided the filter through which he saw others. Paul had known Christ “in the flesh” but now he regarded Christ in that way no longer.  His view of Christ had changed and so had the way that he viewed others.

When Paul writes “from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” he is saying that he not longer sees people as rich or poor, young or old, by the color of their skin or their position in society.  Now he sees them the way that Christ sees them. He sees them with the love of Christ that is concerned about their relationship to Jesus.

Paul says that the love of Christ that has changed the way he sees others compels him to continue the work that he was called and equipped to do…the ministry we are called to do…the ministry of reconciliation.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

As believers we have been reconciled to Christ. Our sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ, and our relationship to God has been reconciled through Jesus. But God didn’t stop there.  He has given to Paul and to us, the ministry of reconciliation and the “word of reconciliation”. Paul describes in vivid detail what this looks like…

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Paul is saying we are ambassadors, emissaries, representatives of the Lord Most High.  We are ambassadors for Christ himself…as if God were using our lives, our actions, our speech, to plead with people to be reconciled to God. And we use the Word of Reconcilation…His Word, as we do that ministry.

Paul goes on to say “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The truth in this verse is so enormous and unthinkable that it leaves me humbled, thankful, and transformed. ALL of my sin was charged to Christ on the cross AND at the very same time ALL of His righteousness was credit to me. What an incredible truth.  All of my sin is washed away and God now sees me in the righteousness of Christ.

God wants people to be reconciled to himself; He longs for it. God has given believers the ministry of being his ambassadors to help fulfill that ministry of reconciliation and to share with those that are not reconciled this incredible truth so that they might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and be reconciled to God.

If you are a believer, someone that has known the incomparable joy of being reconciled to God through Christ, I would challenge you to think about a few things:

  1. Are you so zealous for the things of God, speaking the truth of the love of Jesus and bible to friends and family that folks think you have lost your mind? I know my zeal could use some work.
  2. Does the love of Christ compel you each and every day to love Him and to love your neighbor?
  3. How do you see others now? Do you see them through the righteous eyes of Christ wanting desperately to know if they are going to spend an eternity with God or separated from him by their sin? Are you actively participating in the ministry of reconciliation?

 

If you do not yet know the joy of salvation…of declaring and knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and being reconciled to God, I plead with you right now to come and know the joy, peace, and assurance of forgiveness and love that is found in Christ alone.

John 3:16-17 may be familiar to you…it says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

We have all sinned, all of us, and the cost, the penalty of that sin is death…an eternity of of separation from God. But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ alone.  You cannot get to heaven through good deeds or acts of kindness. No amount of money, combination of activities or anything else that you can do on your own or in your own strength. There is only one way to be forgiven and be saved from an eternity separated from God.  The bible says that “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified (our sins are forgiven) and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus as your Lord, and if your heart has been moved by the Holy Spirit after reading these verses from the Bible, then I encourage you to pray and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today.

If you have trusted and confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior today I would love to hear from you.

Valleys, Furnaces, & Pits Part II: Contentment in God’s Sufficient Grace

Are you dealing with trials in your life? The trial of living with chronic, debilitating pain, has been life-altering. Honestly, I have frequently found myself to be discouraged, frustrated, and confused. At times I have been discontent and unhappy with the whole painful thing, but…

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Recently a couple of verses have softened my heart and changed my attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul is writing about some revelations shown to him and that, in order to keep him from becoming conceited about knowing those things, God put a thorn in his side, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. After Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn in his side, the Lord responded and said My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s grace was all Paul needed in his infirmaties and trials. God didnt remove the trials, instead he comforted and encourage him by reminding him that in His grace alone, Paul would find contentment in the midst of his trials. That was enough for Paul.

The question for me and perhaps for you is simple…can God’s grace be sufficient in the midst of life changing trials?

Paul’s response has humbled and encouraged me. He writes “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The words gladly and pleasure just jump off the page for me. There is true joy to be found in the midst of my trials. Whether in the valley, the furnace, or the pit, in those places in my life when I am weak, it is there and at every other turn, that the matchless grace of God is demonstrated and realized. This world teaches self-sufficiency in all things. For Christ’s sake, I need to remember and live the truth that there is true contentment in the all-sufficient grace of God. The trials in my life are a gift from God and in them, His grace is gloriously demonstrated.

In the hymn God of Grace, Keith Getty and Jonathan Rea wrote these practical, liveable words:

God of grace, I trust in Jesus; I’m accepted as His own.
Every day His grace sustains me, As I lean on Him alone.

Amen.

Hanging in the Balance

Sometimes it can seem like the challenges in your life are so heavy and you are standing on a branch that is just too small.   It feels like your whole life is hanging in the balance.  If you move forward you have to let go of something.  If you stay where you are…well, you can only do that for just so long before something is going to force you off that branch.  Sooner or later something has to change.

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Whatever the situation, seriously WHATEVER it is, God is bigger, he is trustworthy, and he loves you.  Psalm 147:3-5 gives us this assurance and truth:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

So when that branch seems just a bit too small or the weight of the world seems too much, remember that the same God that raised Jesus from the grave, is the same God that understands your situation better than you can possibly fathom, is more powerful than anything in this world, and he most certainly can help you, especially when it seems that your life is hanging in the balance.

Thanks

The song “Give Thanks” by Don Moen that you may have heard starts like this:

“Give thanks with a grateful heart Give thanks to the Holy One Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son…”

Sometimes people can be ungrateful.  Sometimes we might do something special for someone else, something above and beyond, and we do it because we care…because we love them.  Do you expect anything in return?  Do you expect a “Thank you” or perhaps a “Wow, that was so kind or generous of you.”  Should we expect anything?

How do you think God looks at us when we have been given the gift of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him?  How should we respond?  Do we sometimes forget the eternal blessings that are ours in Christ and because of His ultimate sacrifice on the cross?

Colossians 3:15-17 says this…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the LORD Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Our lives are to be lived with perpetual thankfulness for what Christ has done for us.  “Whatever you do” means all of life, whatever we are doing.  Work, play, singing, worshiping, giving to others, caring for family, changing a dirty diaper, whatever it is we do it in the name of the Lord while giving thanks to God for what he has done for us.

Today you will do a lot of things, some pleasant, some unpleasant.  Some fun, and some that are not so fun.  But whatever we do today our heart is to be filled with gratitude and thanks “…because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son“!

Amen!

Valleys, Furnaces, & Pits

Sometimes the trials in life are brief and sometimes they last for a lifetime.   There are no limits it seems to the types and durations of trials.  One thing is for certain we know they are going to come and we know sometimes they are going to seem overwhelming.  The bible is replete with trials of all sorts, the fiery furnace of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to the pit of lions that Daniel found himself in, to Job’s loss of nearly everything.  What about David who met the trial of fighting Goliath with confidence but who ran and hid from Saul in fear for his life.  And then there are the trials that Paul…imprisonment, beatings, whippings, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, lashed, starved, adrift at sea, and without clothes.

But God is the God of hope.  Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Each of the individuals above trusted in God during their times of trial and suffering.  We too must have faith and trust in God to sustain us during those times of trouble.  In them we can have joy and peace by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul writes “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”   Gold-Scales-Of-Justice-Icon

Not only are these trials momentary in the view of eternity, but they also achieve for us an “eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)  Another translation reads “an eternal glory beyond all comparison.”  The eternal glory that is ours from faithfully enduring our trials in life is immeasurable, it is far greater than all that we might endure on this earth.

The more we allow God to refine us through “momentary afflictions” in our life, the more we look like Christ and the more glory we, and others, bring to God.  Second Corinthians 4:15 says… “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

As Paul said, do not lose heart…persevere; be steadfast in your faith in God knowing with full assurance that these things, as brutally hard and crushing as they may seem, confirm in us and for us a future of weighty glory in heaven with our Lord.

A Healthy Diet

I went to my regular doctor the other day and after talking about the various aches and pains, medications, and so on, he made the comment that I would be well served to lose some weight.  I can’t argue with him.  Losing weight would help to reduce some of the pains I was experiencing.  I knew it before I went in there and I know he sincerely wants me to be in the best health I can be.  There is just one problem with losing weight…me.

ice cream cones (2)Losing weight involves a bunch of things like exercise, good sleep, and of course a healthy diet.  My recent back surgery and arthritic ankle make the exercise thing a serious challenge, but I can ace the sleep thing! The biggest challenge…the diet.  The problem is that diets require me to stop eating those things that are so appealing to me.  Things like ice cream, cookies, bread, and pasta.  My body craves them far more than things like celery, carrots and sprouts!  But the kind of diet, one that is good for physical health, requires deliberate choices every day and that is not always easy.

In the same way, a healthy spiritual diet and lifestyle is a deliberate choice.  It takes time, effort, and choices that seek to achieve those God honoring short and long term spiritual healthy goals.  IT means filling my life with the “things that are above” rather than the things of this earth.  Colossians 3:1-17 is replete with instructions for how to have a healthy spiritual life.  It talks about stopping the consumption and practice of those things that are not healthy such as evil desires, sexual impurity, lying, anger, and several others.  Those things are so damaging to spiritual health and simply they must go.

The passage continues with exhortations that focus on those things that typify a healthy spiritual lifestyle and diet.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We are more than just individuals though; we are members of the family and body of Christ.  Our spiritual health and diet, not only help us to grow and mature individually in our faith and in our knowledge and understanding of our Lord, but it also impacts the spiritual health and wellbeing of our larger family.  The verses above provide specific and achievable goals in our spiritual life that we can all be working on and incorporating into our lives that will help us to all to be spiritually strong and healthy.

May God bless us today with the strength and burning desire to begin anew today striving to “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”   Amen.

Busy as a Bee…not!

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The age old idiom goes “Busy as a bee”.  But when the cold weather sets in the cool morning forces bees to slow down, conserve energy, and then, as the day warms they become more active.   Today was our first cool morning of September and this little bee was camped out on our porch waiting for the sun to warm the air and it’s little fuzzy body.  Personally, I thought it was dead, but first impressions aren’t always what they seem to be are they.

Far too often it seems many of us feel that we have to be as busy as a bee all the time.  It’s the pattern of our society to push, stretch, and wring every morsel out of every waking day.  Jesus didn’t see it that way, nor did his life demonstrate a state of constant busyness.  He often rested and restored his soul.  He made time to pray and to  be alone.

John 12:36 says that Jesus “…went away and hid Himself from them.”  In Luke 4:32 it says “When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place…”  In Mark 1:35 it says “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” It is a behavior that was modeled by Christ, so shouldn’t we consider it to be an important part of our lives as well?

Sometimes bumble bees need to simply enjoy the gracious gift of warmth and rest that God provides to them without their even asking for it.  Sometimes we need to be at rest and be thankful for the blessings that God provides to us that we don’t even ask for.  In those quiet moments we can warm ourselves in his loving kindness and grace.

Creation Scale Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  James 1:5

How many times have you found yourself desperately in need of wisdom from God and praying like James describes in this passage?  I have found myself in recent days struggling with some complex and challenging issues.  By nature, I am an analytical, problem solver kind of person and it drives me nuts to not be able to figure something out or know how to fix it.  As I wrestled in my own power, I was reminded of the passage in Proverbs 3:5-6 about leaning not “…on my own understanding…”  My reading lead me to read all of Proverbs 3 to put that passage in context and maybe give me a bit more help with my issues.  No surprise, the Lord had a more significant lesson in store for me.

In Proverbs 3:19-22 it says “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”  I have read that verse many times but this time the words grabbed my heart, soul, and  mind.

The Lord got me to thinking about my human wisdom (or lack thereof) and then my thoughts quickly turned to the nature of God’s wisdom.  Quite honestly, I don’t think I have ever given much thought to the wisdom of God.  I just knew He had it and I needed to ask for it.

Far too often I make God too small and forget the unlimited scale and power that he operates with.  As I read through chapter 3 of Proverbs, I came to realize that when I ask God for wisdom, I am requesting wisdom from the God who, in his wisdom and knowledge, created the earth, the heavens, the seas, the sky, the dew, everything.  From the immensity and choreography of the universes, to the amazing beauty of a baby being conceived.  From the created beauty and grandeur of the bluest of oceans and snow-capped mountains, to the diversity of biology that sustains and mystifies us.  All of it was planned, designed, created, and sustained by the wisdom of God.  How amazing.  How wonderful.  How humbling.

Realizing just a glimpse of the magnitude of His wisdom, has changed my thinking completely.  When I am in need of wisdom to deal with a trial in my life, why would I even think for a moment about trusting in my own wisdom.  I simply need to turn and humbly ask God for His wisdom, the very wisdom that created the earth in which I live.  He has perfect creation scale wisdom in unlimited abundance and he is ready and willing to share it with you and me.

That is the God that loves us, that cares about us, and that will give wisdom generously to all that ask.  Praise God for his lavish gifts that he gives us each and every day.

A New Creation

It is absolutely incredible that some creatures are created by God to shed their entire external shell to become a new creation! Right down to the little hairs on their face and pinchers on their nosa shell of a bug 2 (2)e!

Jesus’ death on the cross provides forgiveness for a sinner to repent of their sin and shed that sinful shell and become a new creation too!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Romans 10:9 says “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Jesus offers us a new start…to become a new creation in Him.  Praise the Lord for his gracious gift of salvation and the wonderful gift of becoming a new creation in Him.