To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

DSCN9161“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

These words come at very end of the book of Second Peter.  They come at the end of instructions from Peter about Christian living; about growing and maturing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. They are a part of the doxology from Peter as he closes a heartfelt exhortation to his readers and in it he puts a worshipful exclamation point on his dispatch.

“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

To Jesus be all worship, praise, and honor all the time. We often think about bowing down in worship for all eternity, but Peter reminds his readers that they are to give Jesus the same intensity and purposeful glory-filled worship in this life as we are for all eternity.

“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

Our lives need to be living doxologies of worship to the One that has called us, redeemed us, and preserved us for all eternity.

To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen!

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.

Church Speak

In his book Between Two Worlds, author John Stott wrote in 1982 about the future of the computer chip and the impact it would have on human relationships and the Word of God.  He wrote the following:

It is difficult to image the world in the year A. D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today.  We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power.

Little did he know how true those words would be.  The positive impact of technology in our lives cannot be overstated.  But it has come at a cost to our human relations in ways that we are still discovering and learning how to cope with.  Stott went on to write this corollary statement…

Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.

This statement has a lot of truth to it and you must admit that today, more than 30 years after Stott wrote that statement, we see the impact of our “smart” phones and “i”-everythings invade our lives at every turn, often hindering us from speaking with each other face-to-face or at least person-to-person.  We hardly ever use our voices, hands, and expressions to convey the depth of our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and dreams. Instead we use emoticons, acronyms, and abbreviations to convey the depth of our love, our frustration, and our laughter.

What is perhaps the most significant remark that Stott makes is that he relates the impact of technology on the church, specifically on preaching and teaching the Word of God.  He writes:

In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on screen.  In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less.

 

 

God is not silent…in fact He spoke all of creation into existence!  “And God said…” is what Genesis 1 says…not “And God text…”   God is a god that speaks to us.  He wants to communicate to us through his Word.

genesis-1-slant-view

How wonderful a privilege to gather together with others to hear the Word of God proclaimed. If you are not regularly attending a church where the Word of God is being shared, I would encourage you to get out there and find one.  Find a church family where the Word of God, the Bible, is taught verse by verse, and people long to dig into the truth of what God has said.

Get out there so that we all can preserve that Godly character trait of real, true, loving personal communication with God and with each other.

Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today, John Stott, 1982 p.69

Hunger and Thirst

hummer

My wife and I have lived in several different locations and at each home we have been blessed with seeing God’s creation in all different shapes, colors, sounds, and sizes.  Perhaps the one critter that is the most intriguing are hummingbirds.  There is just something about them that makes them compelling little critters to watch.  Sometimes they are super territorial, chasing each other away from the feeder with incredible tenacity!  Other times several of them will be sitting peacefully around the feeder enjoying the sweet water.  They are shy, yet aggressive.  They are ravenous, but selective.  They are either going 1000 miles per hour…or nearly motionless.  They don’t say a lot, but when they start talking other hummers listen.  It is easy to see why it was no surprise when the Lord used one of his little hummers to teach me a lesson today.

As you probably know, hummingbirds are perpetually hungry and thirsty.  In fact, when it comes to food and drink, they eat all kinds of soft insects and they suck down nectar like crazy.  Amazingly, they can consume twice their weight in nectar each day!  How can they drink that much?  Why do they need that much nectar?  The short answer is that they have an extremely high metabolism and it requires a tremendous amount of energy for them to fly.  They simply have to continually consume it because they are constantly in need of it!

bird3In the hummingbird we see a balance of high energy and high consumption.  There are no fat hummingbirds.  There are no slow flying hummingbirds.  There are no hummingbirds that will casually pass up opportunities to get into a feeding hole and consume that nectar.  In fact, it is a battle for them at times to get to the food.  Sometimes they cannot even sit down to eat…but they are determined to eat anyhow.  They are tenacious.  They are driven.  They are purposeful.  You see, if they cannot get what they need…they will die.  So they are driven to seek it out, fight for it, and consume it as often as possible and at each and every opportunity.

In Matthew 5:6, Jesus is sharing what are referred to as the beatitudes, and he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” A few verses later in Matthew 6:33 Jesus would say to the disciples “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness...

When I saw that little bird, I began thinking of my personal life and how I simply do not always live with that singleness of priority or determination to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I was reminded by that hummingbird that I need to pursue righteousness with zeal, fighting to make time for myself at the feeder, and drinking more than I think possible.  I was convicted of the need to seek first His righteousness and to remind myself that my failure to hunger and thirst after righteousness will leave me unsatisfied.

The righteousness that Christ spoke of is not selective or limited in scope in any way.  In fact, the Greek word for “righteousness” in the first passage is written in the accusative case.  That means that the hungering and thirsting is for the whole of righteousness.  It is like the difference between saying “I ate chicken for dinner.” and “I ate the chicken for dinner”.  Christ says that those that hunger and thirst for the whole of righteousness will be satisfied.  Also, notice it doesn’t say that those that have consumed and drank righteousness will be satisfied…it says they are to “hunger and thirst”.  Here again it is important to look at the original language.  The Greek words “peinōntes” and “dipsōntes” translate as “hungering” and thirsting” respectively.  They are to be ongoing real time activities in our lives.  We don’t stop hungering and thirsting.  We may sin or fail at times, but our never-ending desire is to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

hummer feeding clearer crop

As I watched that tiny bird I witnessed the passion with which the bird approached the feeder for food, I saw the peaceful manner while it sat there drinking in life, and the purpose with which this precious little creature would return over and over again to this available source of life giving food. Unlike food or drink in our lives, the hungering and thirsting for righteousness will never be met this side of heaven, but in our love for our Lord we seek His righteousness, we hunger and thirst for it.  We long for it.  Nothing else will ever satisfy.

My prayer is that as children of God we will all increase in our hungering and thirsting for the His righteousness and do so with intense passion, peace, and purpose claiming in our hearts the promise from God that the result of that hungering and thirsting is being satisfied.

Have you lost your mind?

Has anyone ever asked you “Have you lost your mind?” Perhaps at that moment they were convinced that whatever it was that you were doing or saying was completely crazy. Perhaps as believers we have lost our minds…and that would be a really good thing!

Throughout his letters Paul exhorts his readers to be of one mind, and one spirit. In Philippians 1:26-27 he encourages them to:

…let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel”.

Over in Romans 15:5-6 Paul writes:

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So what is this “one mind” thing that Paul is referring to? Does it mean we are to all think the exact same thing all the time? Is this brainwashing of the religious kind? Well, in a manner of speaking yes. When we are saved we become a new creation. There are several things that happen to us the moment we are saved. Two of the things that happen when we are saved: the first is that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and a second is that we are given the mind of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 Paul writes to the church regarding their behavior and reminds them that as believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, they have the capacity to understand the deep things of God. In verse 16 Paul writes “For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” What an incredible truth about the redeemed believer…that we have the “mind of Christ”. So this of course begs the question…what is the “mind of Christ”?

First and foremost it is the heart of Christ for the Gospel. Christ came to seek and save the lost. But more than that it is also all that Christ taught, lived out, shared, modeled, everything he did demonstrated his mind. In John 15:15 Jesus speaking to the disciples said “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  The mind of Christ is so much more than we know now, but as we seek the wisdom of God through study and prayer, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we grow in our understanding of the mind of Christ.  As we live our lives as believers we renew our minds, immersing ourselves in God’s word so that we might be sanctified in His truth, because His word is truth (John 17:17).

May we be losing our worldly minds, and growing in the wisdom and knowledge of the deep things of God and living in obedience to God with the mind of Christ!

 

 

Giving Thanks for Given Grace

“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus…” 1 Corinthians 1:4

Before Paul started to address the issues of the early Corinthian church, he deliberately and lovingly reminded the church in Corinth of a truth that perhaps has once again slipped through the cracks of our basic Christian foundation.

One of Paul’s first priorities was to let the believers in Corinth know that he was always thankful for the grace of God in their lives given to them by Christ Jesus.  Before he would address the issues that were present in the church, he wanted to remind them of the common ground that they shared found in the saving grace of God.

The common ground we have as true believers is that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  That grace is a gift given to us by God.  It is that blessing of saving grace, that common ground, that true believers share and like Paul, it should be a touchstone in our mind as we live and serve our risen Savior together.  As redeemed believers we share the truth of our salvation and we should thank God always for that truth.

Take time today to thank God for the joy, the blessing, and the truth of the grace of God given to us as believers in Christ Jesus. Then let other believers know that you are thankful for the grace of God that was given to them by Christ Jesus! Then go out and share the truth of the grace of God with someone else!

 

Compelled, Controlled & Consecrated

What is it in your life that not only compels you to do things, but also controls how you do them?  What is the ultimate “why” that is the reason for your doing things?  What is it in your life that governs the intent and purpose of your innermost being, your soul?

We might eat or drink to satisfy a natural need of hunger or thirst.  We might exercise to stay fit or lose weight.  We might study or read to increase our human understanding or seek entertainment.  But what is it that would drive you if all else was taken away, if those things were removed from your life.

Why do you “run the race”?  Why are “in training” for?  What is the “prize” you are seeking to win?

In his second letter to the church of God in Corinth, Paul writes in defense of his purpose, mission, calling, and passion.  In chapter 5 verses 14-15 he responds with these simple yet deeply powerful words to declare the “thing” which compels him, that controls him in all that he does.  He writes: “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.”  cross logo 2

In the surrounding verses Paul explains what “the love of Christ” is.  It is his salvation.  It is all that Christ did for him.  It is the dual truth of Christ’s justifying work on the cross to make payment for the immeasurable weight and cost of Paul’s sin, and at the same time the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in his life.  It is the personal, real, immediate and eternal affect and effect of the Gospel in his life.

In the unmatched, undeserved light of the truth of the personal working of the Gospel in Paul’s life, he says that nothing else has preeminence in determining the code by which he will live, the prize to which he strives, and the standard of measure by which he is driven. It impacts the why, the what, and the how of his life.

In our lives we need to adopt a similar singularity in our hearts and minds. The love of Christ should compel, control, and consecrate all that we do, think, and say. With the love of Christ as our locus we are certain to stand before God and hear well done, good and faithful servant.

 

Are You Hungry for the Will of God?

This time of year the subject of food seems to be the topic of many conversations. I don’t know about anyone else, but given all the amazing and delicious foods that I have eaten in the last month or so, I probably should not be hungry until late May!

In John 4:1-42 we find the wonderful gospel story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. As I was preparing to teach on this passage recently and as I went through and studied the various actions and reactions of the individuals in the story, perhaps none struck me as significantly as that of Jesus to his disciples.

When the disciples rejoin Christ from their trip into town, they say to him “Rabbi, eat something”. Jesus’ response could have focused on the physical need that he had as we are told that he is weary and thirsty from the journey. The situation could have played out where Jesus and the disciples share a meal and discuss the unheard of conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. But that is not what God wants us to see, that is not what was on Jesus’ heart. Jesus replies to the disciples in a manner that draws attention to his priorities in life and ministry, and that should set an example for our life as believers. Jesus plainly states “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Later in John, Jesus again stresses this point when he tells the disciples “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” His spiritual food, his sustenance, is found in doing the will of God the Father.

Christ was not sent to be idle while on earth. He was not sent to simply come and sit in the temple and reign from some lofty place of authority. He came and “he did”. Far too often our churches become a place of passivity. A place where people observe, receive, and are served, rather than a place where believers are doing the will of God…seeking, giving, and serving. Christ engaged, he gave, and he served with his entire being. And he did it all so that the will of his father would be done and would be finished.

If you have been called by God your heavenly Father to follow Christ, then you were called to do a mighty work for the God who called you. Be encouraged to seek and do the will of your heavenly Father, he longs to feed you with an abundance of grace, mercy, wisdom and love.  Let us always hold foremost in our hearts and our minds the work of Christ…remember his willing, unconditional, and immediate obedience to the will of his father, and strive to pattern our lives after our Savior.  Be fed in the will of God and let Christ satisfy your hunger and thirst.

“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:33

Great is My Faithfulness?

Why is it, that conflict, hate, slander, and anger seem to find their way into the church body? Why is it the smallest of things so often end up causing the biggest division and hurt? Sometimes those things, those events, are so ugly and hurtful. They tear your heart out and leave you wondering… What just happened? Why our church? Why our Pastor? Why my best friend? The hurt cuts deeply and the pain and questioning seem to linger for far too long. Why God…why?

It is so important during these times that we remember that through it all we are called to be obedient to God and make sure we do not lose sight of our priority of serving and worshiping Him alone. In Deuteronomy 6:5 God commanded Israel in saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Then, in Matthew 22, Christ responds to the Sadducees and Pharisees regarding the greatest command and once against reminds them of correct priorities regarding our relationships, especially to the Lord, and he says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

But what does that have to do with the pain that we experience when turmoil and warring finds its way into our church family and tears the body apart? It seems that more often than not, people forget the truth of God’s word. We forget His character. We forget who it is that we serve. We forget that when we gave our lives to the Lord we became his slave. Our heart, mind, soul, strength…they are not ours anymore…they are His. As a new creation we are to worship God. We are not supposed to worship pastors, or people, things, programs, processes, budgets, or even ourselves. We are supposed to love and worship the Lord…and love our brothers and sisters.

In John 15:17 there is a commandment from Christ and it is not the least bit vague. Christ said “This I command you, that you love one another.” In all of our trials and disagreements, we need to continue to love the Lord and love each other. If our mindset was first and foremost consumed with that command, if we were modeling the love that Christ has for his Father, and the love he has for us, we would guard our hearts, our mouths, our minds, everything, and bring it into submission before the Lord.

Consicross logo 2der for a moment how Christ reacts when we disagree with Him…when we willingly disobey His commands…when we sin. How does he respond? Does he leave us in anger? Does he condemn us and hold that sin against us? Does he go before His Father and slander our name? Does he gossip about us to the Holy Spirit? Does he change His holy character and suddenly become unfaithful and unloving? Never. Never. Never.  He is loving.  He is gracious.  He is merciful.  He is forgiving.  He is faithful.

God has called us to live righteous lives, to be holy, so we should look to Christ as our example and evaluate our holy or unholy responses to others. When we go through these times we should ask ourselves if we are acting with a character that models the Risen Savior that died on the cross and rose again, that is forever gracious, merciful, faithful and loving? He is forever faithful.

Lord, we are your new creation. Help us to demonstrate righteous behavior towards each other all of the time and teach us to do it with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen.