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.

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Busy as a Bee…not!

lazy bee

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.

 

Grace & Perfection

There are some passages in Scripture that will take an eternity for me to fully fathom.  Second Corinthians 12:9 is one of those passages.  It is a truth statement from the Lord to Paul addressing the nature of His grace in the life of Paul as he deals with the reality of his “thorn in the side”.  The Lord tells Paul

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I kid you not…it will take an eternity!  There is so much to this verse.

First there is the sufficiency of God’s grace.  Whatever the situation, whatever the need, whatever the sin, whatever the failure, whatever the trial, whatever the time, no matter how high the mountain is or how low the valley goes…His grace is sufficient for me.  His grace covers my sin.  His grace grants me an eternity in His presence.  His grace lets me see past the fog of fear and beyond the perils of pain.  His grace is sufficient when mankind is ungracious.

Second, His grace gives evidence of His perfect power in wren on rosemy weakness!  When I try to fix things on my own, remove the trial on my own, I fail to give God the opportunity to demonstrate His perfect power.  Think about that for a second….my weakness is an opportunity to lean deeper still into His grace…into His perfect power and in that solution there is perfection.  I can do nothing perfectly no matter how hard I might try.  But by trusting in God’s grace in my weakness His perfection thrives.

I still do not understand it fully…but I understand it a little better.  Every day, every trial, every weakness is yet another opportunity for me to look at those “thorns” in my life and to trust wholly in the powerful, all-sufficient, perfect grace of my Lord and Savior.

When Will It All End?

Matthew 24:7-14 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

We read this passage and often we focus our attention on the events that will be happening in the end times.  We read of the wars, famines, earthquakes in the news daily.  We see or perhaps experience persecution and tribulation constantly.  We see people hate each other in some of the most violent and abhorrent ways.  With the reality of all of those truths bombarding our eyes, our minds, our hearts every day, we read with hope and expectation the words of this passage and are encouraged by the conclusion that we must be living in “the end days”.

We are reminded to endure to the end; to persevere in our faith; to run the race so as to win.  Amen and Amen to all of that.  May we all be found enduring, running, battling, striving, abiding in the name of Christ and for His glory and honor.

But if we read all of that and miss the exhortation, no…the command of Christ found in verse 14 then we miss our living purpose.  Christ declares “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”   

The evil and wickedness that pervades our world will not stop the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ from being proclaimed.  It must be proclaimed!  IT WILL BE PROCLAIMED!  But it isn’t going to happen on its own.  God expects us to be His mouthpiece to the nations of the world.  Second Corinthians 5:20 says as ambassadors for Christ, God is “…making his appeal through us.”

The assurance and hope that is found in Christ’s return, that time when the end will come, is directly related to our proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world; proclaiming the truth about Jesus’ amazing grace.  The truth of His loving sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins is the hope that this world needs.

Let’s get busy and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and tell others what He has done for us so that the world may hear, so that our testimony may go to ALL NATIONS, and then He will return!

 

Just Another Bill

I enjoy technology and the many benefits that it brings.  Microwaves, cell phones, cameras, Bluetooth gadgets, and the like all have a place in my life these days.  Like many folks my age, I amphone from an age group of transitional folks that have gone from having a 4 digit phone number with a rotary dial phone stuck on the wall as a kid, to a cell phone that has more technical capabilities built into it than my entire high school did just a few decades ago.  But along with all of the benefits that these technical wonders bring, come risks and dangers.  phone

Many folks run their entire life from their phone.  Bank accounts, investment portfolios, electronic bill pay, contact lists, calendars, emails, songs, pictures, events, games, thoughts, books, home utility management system, home security access, and remote pet video camera, are just a few of the many items living on many folks tiny portable devices.  And then they lose it and their world comes apart.  Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!  I digress…

Perhaps one of the more convenient and time saving things that has become more popular in the past 25 years or so is online bill pay.  Whether it is your electric bill, your mortgage, or a one time gift to a favorite charity or “GoFundMe” page, whatever the cause or amount, you can set up a payment of that bill so that the money is paid out on time.  You can just “set it and forget it”.

So what about online giving of tithes and offerings at church?  Is it evil or a blessing?  My thought on it is this…it is just a tool.  Much like our cell phones, it is just a tool to be used by us in a manner that brings glory to God.  How we use it, how we think about it, makes all the difference.  Being able to be faithful in giving to the Lord by setting up auto-pay may help some folks to be more regular or consistent in their giving.  For younger generations, where a paper checkbook is as antiquated as the rotary phone I used to use, the ability to give online is a basic expectation for a church to be current and relevant.

What really matters in all of this is our heart condition as we approach giving of ourselves in the form of finances to the Lord.  One particular passages in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:7, helps to explain the importance and approach to  understanding God’s will regarding the “why” and “how much” we give back (not give) to the Lord.  IT says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Another passage, James 1:5, gives us the biblical approach on how to make that determination in your heart regarding giving.  It says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

As much as I love putting our family offering into the plate each week, I expect we will make the change to online giving.  It won’t change or diminish our worship of the Lord in any way.  It certainly will not change the manner in which my wife and I approach prayerfully considering and determining what will be given back to the Lord.  The truth is, everything we have is His in the first place…we are just stewards of it while we are here and while He gives us the opportunity to manage it.

At the end of the day, if technology helps us to be more faithful in our giving by doing it online, great!  We just must make absolutely certain that our worship through giving can never be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing.  We can never develop an attitude where tithing is just another bill to be paid.

“Absolutely and Emphatically”

One of Strong’s definitions for the Greek word for persevere found in the Bible says this: “absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”   In the light of the headlines these days it is perhaps more important than ever that those that profess faith in Christ persevere;  that we “absolutely and emphatically” hold fast to our faith in Christ.

Not to bum you out or anything…but here are some recent news headlines:

  • “Gunman kills 3 then self at UPS facility in San Francisco” (www.cnn.com) 

  • “Moderate earthquake, 5.1 mag was detected near Champerico in Guatemala” (earthquakenewstoday.com)

  • “Leading GOP Congressman and Aides Shot in Alexandria, VA” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “Christian Pastor Tortured in Vietnam for Evangelizing” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “ISIS Kills Two Chinese Missionaries Who Were Evangelizing in Pakistan”  (www.christianheadlines.com)

Those headlines might draw your attention to Matthew 24:3-14 which records Jesus’ conversation with the disciples regarding the signs that would precede the end of the current church age.  The disciples ask a pointed question of Jesus saying “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”  Jesus’ responded very specifically and told them about an array of signs that ranged from world events such as earthquakes and famines to people issues such wars, false prophets, persecution, hatred, and betrayal.  But that was not the thrust of what Jesus wanted to convey to them.  In the light of those things Jesus gives them real life exhortation that would ultimately change their worldview.  Jesus turns the conversation back to one of major themes of His life…enduring love.

In verse 12 Jesus responds to their question saying “…because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”   But he doesn’t stop there…and here is where the life application kicks in. He goes on to say “…but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  That word for endure is the same word for persevere described above.  If there was ever a time in our lives to endure, to persevere in our faith in Christ, it is now.

With each passing day the number of opportunities in our lives to share the truth about the love of Jesus decreases.  Time is not on our side and Jesus knew it when he commanded the disciples and His command still holds the same message and urgency for us today.  The question is…what are we to be enduring at doing?  It is the entirety of the Christian life…it is our faith in Christ, and in the context of this text it is our love for the Lord.  “The love of many will grow cold” Jesus said.  But for the enduring, persevering Christian it cannot…it must not.

Remember the definition provided earlier… persevering, enduring, is a command for us to “…absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”  Christ promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us.  His love for his children is enduring, it perseveres.  Despite misfortunes and trials, the reviling words of man and the brutality of the cross did not keep him from persevering in His steadfast enduring love.

The Holy Spirit worked through the author of Psalm 136 to give us an image of the enduring, persevering love of Christ in words that are truly remarkable.   I share them here in closing since they are such a vivid reminder and encouragement that will prompt us to live a life for Christ, with an enduring love for Christ that lasts forever:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever.
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Pages Left Over

More than 30 years ago my wife worked in her college print shop.  As a gift to me she made a custom pad of paper that I could use for when I did some side jobs in tree work.  It was awesome to have something with my name and “company” information on it that I could give to people.  It was a way for me to communicate with customers with something far better than chicken scratch on a napkin.  Once we were married and I had taken a city job, the days of weekend tree work dwindled and so did the use of that special pad of paper.

The other day, when going through some old boxes of stuff, the last remaining remnants of that special pad of paper resurfaced.  My wife showed it to me and once again, so many tktree paper imagememories of jobs that I had done during those years came rushing back.  I remember the long days spent dragging sticky pine branches with my wife, hauling logs to the dump, splitting hardwood for firewood, and smelling like a combination of pine tree, wood chips, and gasoline.  I remember just how utterly exhausted I would be but also how satisfying it was to put my hands to a task with passion, determination, and great care.  Those memories are powerful, fresh in my mind, and lasting.

But there are pages of the pad left over…pages that have not yet been used.

For some reason that fact bothered me for a time and it made me wonder if there were more jobs that I could have done, jobs that I missed or turned down, that would have used up all the pages of my special pad.  I know that at this point in my life I am not going to be climbing up any 100′ trees or splitting a cord of wood any day soon.  So I am left with the memories and a longing.

As I thought about that I started to reflect on the work that I have done for God.  I remember days of hard labor for Him.  I remember nights in long meetings working with determination and care on the things that have eternal meaning.  I have memories of preparing to teach a class, preach a sermon, or build the stage for a VBS program.  I remember having sore “spiritual muscles” for days or weeks all from working hard for Him to teach and to learn from His word.  It is good to be doing that kind of work…it is the best kind of work.

gloves and stuff.jpgBut just like that special pad of paper for my tree business, there are still pages left on the spiritual pad of paper of my life.  God put my name in His book, on His special pad, and he wrote Jesus’ name on my life.  Every day He wants me to reflect Him to others.  He wants me to be getting dirty doing the work He has called me to.  That is something to be excited about.  That is the kind of work to put my heart, mind, and soul into.

There are still pages on the pad of my life to be lived for Jesus and for the glory of God and until His pen stops writing it is my job to keep my life’s pad out of storage and ready to be written on!

How about your life pad…is God busy writing all over it or is it packed away in a box somewhere?

Return to Sender

We have all probably gotten some mail back at some point in our lives that has a stamp on it saying “RETURN TO SENDER”.   Perhaps the person doesn’t live their anymore, or perhaps we just wrote down the wrong address.  One way or another the destination was wrong and the delivery couldn’t be made.

As believers we have a sender in fact, we have the entire Trinity involved in our earthly destinations.  The apostle Paul wrote about it in the first few verses of his letter to the Galatians when he said “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…”  A few chapters later he writes “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Paul knew exactly who selected the destination and he knew who would be assisting in the delivery.

The Lord doesn’t make mistakes when he chooses the destination address that he has chosen for you.  The only thing that can mess up the delivery is if we resist His leading in our lives (see Jonah).  Let us be yielded to the Lord’s leading and make sure we are delivering His truth and love.  Neither rain, nor snow, nor stubbornness, nor pride, nor unloving attitudes, etc… shall keep us our appointed rounds!

In Christ…