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April 25, 2017, 9:44 AM

Keep on Keeping On!



“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”  II Thessalonians 3:5

One of Paul’s prayers for the church at Thessalonica was that they would be would be directed into the steadfastness of Christ.   To be steadfast is to endure.  It would help to understand that the church in Thessalonica had faced much persecution and difficulty as a church.  They faced a difficult road in which endurance would be required for each day of life.  

The Christian life is a long steady climb upwards and onwards as we march toward Christ and the perfection that is waiting for us in Heaven.  It is a steady pace that we are to take and it should be a consistent, determined march that is both towards God and alongside the Savior as helps carry our load.  

Sure there are ups and downs in the Christian life, but living the Christian life should not be compared to riding a roller coaster.  Rather, it should be a steady ascent as Christ propels us and carries us forward.  It is when we climb out of His capable arms that we find the dips and plunges that often mark our lives. The Christian life is also not supposed to be an “on again, off again” life that characterizes the lives of so many believers. 

The problem is that too often we sprint when we are on a spiritual high, and we want to give up when things bog down.  

Endurance is the ability to keep on keeping on when things get tough and you want to quit.  

So what is the key to spiritual endurance? It is easy to miss this even though it is spelled out in the verse.  

Surprisingly this Scripture does not speak of our endurance at all!  It is a prayer that we would be directed by God, into Christ’s endurance.  The Christian life is not about your ability to whip up enough grit to cross the finish line.  The Christian life is not about your ability to pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  We might be able to find enough internal fortitude to slog through a difficulty with something that resembles endurance but it would not be accompanied by joy or peace, or any of the exhilarating hallmarks that make the journey the adventure God intends.  But, looking to your own strength and will power will only eventually grind you down  and end in bitterness and failure.  

To live the life abundant that we are called to in this life we must find our strength in Christ, and we must rely on His endurance that unlike ours, never fails. 

How do we do that?  We do so by continually returning to Him in prayer.  We do so by asking Him to give us the supernatural strength and endurance of Christ.  We find that supernatural power in the arms of a loving Savior who not only died to save us, but also walks along with us until we finish the course of our life.  

Living the Christian life does not mean living a perfect life based on your ability. Rather it is a supernatural life, fueled by supernatural power.  

For that life you need the supernatural endurance of Christ, not the limited endurance of you.  




April 24, 2017, 10:50 AM

So You Think You Have Blown It?



She had an affair while her husband was out on the battlefield defending the country.  Then her lover, after he failed to manipulate her husband in covering up the affair, plotted to have her husband killed, and succeeded.  Because of their sin, God caused  their illegitimate child to die.  For the rest of time her name was attached to one of the most disgraceful chapters in Israel’s long history.  Her name was Bathsheba, and for many people she represents illicit temptation, unfaithfulness, and sin.  No, she did not commit the act alone.  But her name has been reviled through the years since.  Think about it; throughout the years since her time, there have been as many girls named after Jezebel and Delilah as there are Bathsheba’s.  

But…

In the Gospel of Matthew in the first chapter, you will find the genealogy of Christ.  Most people skip over the genealogies when they are reading the Bible, but pay close attention to Matthew 1:6 because you will find her name listed in the line of Christ.  

“Jesse was father of David the king.  David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.”

Can you imagine the shock and surprise of early readers of the book of Matthew must have been to find her name listed prominently in the line of the Messiah?!?

Perhaps you live a life with a secret or not so secret past of wrong choices and indiscretions.  Perhaps you think that your past precludes you from being used for God’s purposes or even loved by God himself.   Perhaps, you are a believer, but deep down inside you think that you are somehow a second rate Christian.

Maybe you think that the promises of God’s love don’t apply to people like you. That somehow you have blown it, and don’t deserve to be loved by God or at the very least used by God for His will and purposes.  

This verse and genealogy proves that you are wrong.  

It does prove that God keeps His promises.  God had promised David that the Messiah would come from the family of David. (II Samuel 7:12)  The promise was made to David before David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. (II Samuel 11) God had made an unbreakable covenant with David, and even David’s despicable act of adultery, deceit, and murder could not break that promise.  

But God could have kept the promise to David without including Bathsheba.  Why?   Because sin is the story.  The no-so-subtle message of Matthew is that Jesus didn’t come from those who are self-righteous but from those who lives are stained with sin.  

This is what makes the concept of grace so radical and surprising! The Gospel doesn’t invite good people to do better; it invites broken, flawed sinners to throw themselves upon the mercy of Christ.  Surrender to Christ, the Messiah who came from a family with a checkered past.  

Why did God use a child from David and Bathsheba?  Because God delights in using anyone who is repentant from sin.  David (and Bathsheba) are on record as repenting and confessing of their sin and begging God to be merciful.  

God’s grace was for repentant sinners like David and Bathsheba then, and God’s grace is for repentant sinners like you and me today.  

Grace allowed the sins of David and Bathsheba and grace allows for your sins to be paid for and for you to be restored to a place of love and usability to God just as if you had not sinned.  

Our sins might be different than that of David and Bathsheba, but we all need the same grace.  And it is available to all who will turn to a loving Christ that loves you no matter what you have ever done.  

 




April 21, 2017, 10:23 AM

Put God first!



“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” - Exodus 20:3

It really is that simple.  It could not be any more clear.  Yet, we struggle with priorities and what is important in our lives.  

In her book, “My Memories of Ike”, Mamie Eisenhower tells that after she had only been married a month, Ike was given a new assignment and announced to Mamie that he must leave.  She said to him, “Ike, you are not going to leave me this soon after our wedding day are you?”  He put his arms around her and said gently, “Mamie, there is one thing you must understand.  My country comes first and always will; you come second.”

While the may be surprising and sound harsh, the reality is that God must come first too.  He will not share His place with anyone or anything.  “Before me” means in preference to me.  In other words the central theme of this commandment, the first commandment given, is all about priorities.  God wants to be our number one priority.  He demands to be first, and it shouldn't even be a close race as to who/what is our highest priority.

Does God really have first place in your life?  

There are two simple tests to determine if there is any other god that would come before The True God:

1.  The first one is the love test.  We are called to love the Lord our God:

“with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”  Mark 12:30

But if you give your love to someone or something else instead, then you are placing them before God.  What do you spend your time, effort, and energy on?  

Where you place the resources of your life is where your heart and love are.  Is God first?

2.  The second test is the trust test.  Do you trust anything more than God?   When you are in need do you turn to anyone or anything for help before God?  If so you have placed that as a god before the living God.  

Is God first in your life.  Or is there something else in your life that has taken God’s place.  Is it even a race?  The bible says that in perspective of our love and priority on God, everything else should not even compare.  It should seem like we hate our life in comparison to how great our love is for God.  That doesn't mean we should hate others, or hate where God has us in life, simply that there is no comparison to the love and pre-eminence we have for God.  

Nothing is more important than your relationship with God. God demands first place.  Be honest before God.  He knows the truth.  If we turn in honesty to God about where He stands in our lives, He alone can help us get to the place where we need to be and to help us put in Him in the place He aught to be...first place in you life.  




April 18, 2017, 9:26 AM

Go Against the Flow!



I have many memories of growing up on Clover lane in Toledo, Ohio.  Many of my summer time memories revolved around an above ground pool that we had for a few years when I was in my early teens.  

One of my most vivid memories of that pool was making “whirlpool” in our pool by walking as fast as you could through the water around the circumference of the pool.  The more people you had and the faster you walked the faster you could make the current flow in one direction.  We often did this so that we could make it easier to vacuum the pool, (before they had auto-mated pool cleaners, we kids were the pool cleaners) but also just so we could then turn around and fight the current.  Everything in the pool was caught up in the current and would go racing past you.  Dirt, bugs, leaves, pool toys, and even my little brother would come bobbing by in a floatation device.  I remember how difficult it was to stand against the current or to move against the pressure of the water.   If you would try to swim or tread water, you would find yourself being carried quickly backwards.  You would have to brace yourself with all your might and then slowly try to walk forward. Even then my brothers would yell at me to not break the current…just go with the flow. Eventually you could break the current and then we would start all over.  

Life is like that.  The “currents” of this life will pressure you to just go with the flow.  It is not easy to go against popular opinion.  if we try to stem the tide or stand against the flow we are often chastised to stop fighting and just go with the flow and get along.  Everything, seemingly, gets carried away by the currents of life and if you are not careful you can find yourself being carried away by the world’s values

But the Bible warns against just going along with the world and even gives a solution to help you stand against the tide of a lost world’s movement:

“And be not conformed to this world:  but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” - Romans 12:2

We are challenged in this passage to conform not to the world, but that will be found difficult if not impossible if we are not transformed to be like Christ by Christ.  The key is letting Christ do the transforming of our lives as opposed to the world doing the conforming to that of it’s ways.  

Conforming happens more or less without much effort.  Much like going with the flow of current.  

Transforming is impossible without God but the transformation takes place through immersing ourselves in God’s Word and in prayer.  It take work and time to immerse ourselves, but God then can do the work of transforming us and protecting us from conforming to the world.   As we stand against the current by heeding God’s Word, He transforms us through our mind so that we can know better what His will is for us.  

Standing against the flow of conforming currents of the world is not easy, it is often not pleasant, and is unpopular, but it is necessary for the Christian and possible by His power, mercy and grace.  

Don’t go along with the world, stand against the flow and Go with God.  It is both His will for you to know it and to do it.  

We are called to be different.  We are called with a different calling.  We are called with a higher calling.  Go against the flow and answer the call of God for your life today.




April 17, 2017, 1:33 PM

God, You Just Don't Understand!



Have you ever encountered a situation in life and thought:  God, why are you allowing this to happen to me?  Or, God why are you wanting me to do it that way?  God, Why do you let this go on.  Or perhaps, God if you would just do it this way…

Sometimes we might  wonder if God even understands our burdens, trials, or path in life.  Let’s just be honest, sometimes we think we might have a better way of doing things than He does.  That is why we often do things our way instead of His way.  

When times like this come and thoughts like these take place, it might do us well to remember Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thought are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, saith the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God doesn’t look at things the way we as humans do.  If you haven’t figured that out yet, just look at the cross.  Or, look at the dilemma of the Garden of eden.  Or maybe you could read how God led the Hebrews the long way through the wilderness to the promised land.  Or, perhaps you might just want to read just about anywhere in the Bible. 

There are a lot of things that to us just don’t make much sense. 

But that is a good thing.  

Any god that would make decisions based on how I make decisions is not much of a god that I would want to follow.  

Any god that would think the way I think is going to be flawed in how they think because I am flawed in how I think. 

Our thinking is finite, God’s is infinite.  Our reasoning is limited, God’s is limitless.  Our logic is confined to what we understand.  God is not confined in anyway and is all powerful.  Our vision is shortsighted, but God’s is eternal.  Our view point is biased, but God’s is perfect. 

Always remember that we want a God who’s thinking is far greater than our own.  Whose understanding is far greater than our own.  Whose love is greater than our own.  

Perhaps today you might want to thank God that He does not think, reason, or make decisions as you do.  

When you cannot see God’s plan trust His hand.  

When Jesus had died and was buried, he was concealed in a tomb with a stone over the door.  No one could see what was happening.  But behind that door, according to the plan of God, Jesus was fulfilling the removal of sin and redemption of mankind for all who believe.  

Just because you cannot see or understand what God is doing does not mean it is not far better than what we would do.  

Praise God today for the fact that he does not think like we do!  And trust Him.


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