Friday, August 31, 2012

Stay in the House 8/31/2012 (rp)

"For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them." 2 Peter 2:21

I remember very distinctly my mother getting my sister and me ready for church in our Sunday best and instructing us to sit still on the couch until she and my father were ready to go. The idea was that we were not to get restless, go outside, start playing and through some course of events, get our "church clothes" dirty. I also remember what happened when I disobeyed. It only happened once.

Beloved, as Christians, we have been saved from all of the things that pollute us and contribute to our destruction. It took nothing less than the sacrifice of the Son of God to accomplish this miraculously loving deed. Once we have been washed clean in his blood, we must guard against going outside (of his loving protective commands) and getting dirty (willfully sinning). The apostle goes on to compare this to a dog returning to his vomit and a washed pig returning to the mud. This not only discusses the utter futility of such actions but also of our proclivity to do so. This is why we must steadfastly guard against slipping back into our old condemned selves.

We have been equipped with an innate sense of right and wrong. We instantly know when we have crossed the line. Today, the encouragement is to stay in the house until it is time to go.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This One is For God 8/28/2012

"As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?"  Ps 42:1-2

Today, thoughts of my Father are heavily upon me. In the midst of travels, work, school and various other responsibilities I am immersed in thoughts of Him in ways that I cannot adequately describe.

It is so easy to take Him for granted. He is so easily treated as the unseen and distant God. Today I am reminded that He is ever with me, keeping my heart beating, keeping my lungs breathing, keeping my organs working, sustaining my mind to accomplish tasks. He protects me in my home, in the car, in the air and crossing the street. He ensures that I have enough to eat and enough to give. He has supplied me with a beautiful family who means everything to me. And He has entrusted me with His invaluable, soul saving word that others might be introduced to Him and encouraged in Him.

He does all of this despite my sin. Even when I am out of position, standing outside of His will and looking in (or not), He cares for me. When the wrong spirit afflicts my heart and causes me to be less than encouraging to someone in need, He gently squeezes my conscience and reminds me of His love for me and the love I need to display to others. He has not snatched my life when I have fallen short as He did Ananias and Sapphira. He has been longsuffering with me. He has been merciful to me. He has issued grace to me. And now, the words and emotions of David fill me.

While keeping the birds in flight, the sun rising, the moon setting, the trees flowering, the rivers flowing and a mother giving birth, He still condescends to give thought to me. He does so for you too.

Beloved, I will not ask your forgiveness for or indulgence of this intensely personal devotion today. It just spilled out of me, tearfully at times. I just feel the presence of my Father today in a way that is more intense than usual. I cannot explain, so I will not try. But I remembered that this all started as a personal devotional that I decided to share in hopes that it would in some way benefit you. Though I pray that it can in some way serve as a reminder to all who read it that God is and that He cares for us in ways we do not even consider, this one is my devotion to Him.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keep to the Path 8/2/201

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matt 7:13-14

The Lord never promised that following him would be easy, picturesque or a smooth path lined with flowers. He never said there would not be bumps in the road, storms or threats. He never said that you would not stumble. And he never said that the journey would not sometimes seem lonely. In fact, he said that the path would sometimes be arduous. Speaking to us as citizens of heaven rather than that of the world, he said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." John 15:19

Beloved, this does not sound like a very good ad campaign for Christianity, but it is an honest one. If a person can accept this then it is certainly worth knowing that it is a path that leads to everlasting joy. It is a path that we will never walk alone because he is ever with us. If and when we stumble, he will be there to pick us up, dust us off and encourage us along the way. The eternally fantastic news is that on the other side of the gate is where we will see God. Let us choose the correct path, discipline ourselves to remain upon it and persevere through all obstacles to make to the journey's end. Nothing will ever be more rewarding.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, August 24, 2012

BFF 8/24/2012

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15 (NIV)

During study, I ran across this scripture. It reminded me so much of my childhood. More specifically, it reminded me of bible school and the songs we used to sing. "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," along with "Jesus Loves the Little Children" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" were ingrained in us at a very early age. Admittedly, it was a vague concept back then. Now it is in much sharper view.

Think about the concept of friendship. What types of things are typically associated with it?  Surely we must be able to trust, rely upon, confide in and share vulnerabilities with our friends. We enjoy sharing time, triumphs and tragedies with them. If we have a felt need, our friends are typically the first people to whom we go.

Now think of what it must be like to have a friend in Jesus...from Jesus' point of view. He is the creator of all that exists. He willingly took on human flesh and came to dwell with those who would ultimately reject him and play a role in taking his life. It was worth it to him to do so due to his unsurpassed love for us. Whereas we were once slaves to sin and Satan, he redeemed us with his own blood and made us free. Now rather than being slaves, he has accepted us as friends. He who is the ultimate Power, Love and Creator is a close, warm and personal friend.  He has invited us to become his friends.

Beloved, our relationship with Jesus should supersede all others. When we think about how we treat and feel about our BFFs (Best Friends Forever), we must think about who our true forever best friend is, what he has done for us and how he made forever possible. Those thoughts should have an impact on everything we think, say and do. We show our friendship to him by obeying his commands. He showed his for us through his ultimate sacrifice. He said, "No man has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" John 15:13.  Indeed, what a friend we have in Jesus.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Pleasing Faith 8/22/2012

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Heb 11:6

Trusting others comes hard for some. Trusting the unseen God can be even harder. Perhaps this is so because people have let us down in the past. We feel that the only one we can truly rely upon is our self.

Beloved, the Holy Spirit inspired admonition to have faith in God comes in the midst of a listing of individuals who did just that, often at their own peril or that of loved ones.

  • Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice to God than his murderous brother Abel
  • Enoch lived such a faithful life that God took Him straight to heaven without having died
  • Noah built an ark and saved his family when it had never before rained
  • Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son
  • Rahab went against her whole village to hide those of God's people spying out the land
The list goes on.  If our progenitors in the faith trusted God in this monumental ways and were never disappointed, can we not trust Him with our relatively small things?  Let us constantly seek to please Him by living the faith that we claim.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Living Your Christianity 8/21/2012 (rp)

"...fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith." 1 Tim 1:18-19

There are those who wear Christianity as a banner, announcing to the world that they are set apart believers in Christ Jesus. Others, carry it quietly within themselves, piously humble, understanding the privilege and allowing it to direct their course. Still others hold it out in front of them as a shield, using it to deflect all accusations. Finally, some accept it as a calling for their own lives and use it as a motivator to call others to a relationship with Him who is the author and the finisher of our faith.

Beloved, there will always be a diversity of views about Christianity and how it is expressed. Rather than set ourselves up as judges of one another's faith, we must focus on our own motivations and actions. Paul encouraged Timothy to not neglect the gift that had been given him by God, but to use it to correct error, encourage others and to remain steadfast. His words reveal that this is no walk in the park. There will be challenges to our faith...if we are living it properly. We need only look around at the moral slide our society is undergoing to see the truth in this. When these challenges come, we are to hold on tight to Him who called us.

Sadly, there are those whose faith has little depth. You have seen those who have made their confession, been baptized and then never seen again. One of the great tragedies of spiritual life is witnessing those who knew enough to come but lacked the fortitude to stay. For this reason, we must do all we can not just to remain wrapped in His will ourselves, but to encourage others. It is through this that Christianity finds its highest expression.

Rejoicing in the Lord,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Persistence in Prayer 8/16/2012

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:13

Every parent wants to give their child the world. Some do it by lavishing the best they are able to provide on their young ones. Others do it by teaching hard work, relating that nothing comes easy but equipping them to be able to acquire things for themselves. Few us do not want our children to have it better than we did growing up.

The interesting thing about that statement is that not many of us had it bad at all. This was because our parents wanted us to have it better than they did and so it continues.

Beloved our kids do not have to ask for most of the things we provide. If they ask persistently, we are likely to relent even if we are not necessarily predisposed to give them that thing. This is analogous to our relationship with our heavenly Father. He lavishly gives so much and so constantly, we take Him and his blessings for granted yet we still take our wants and needs to Him. Let us lift our minds from the material to things such as mates, recovery of health, answers to inquiries, solutions to problems, relationships and so on. These are things that are important to us. God invites us to bring these prayers and supplications to Him.

Jesus said we should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). He also rhetorically asks, "Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you he will see that they get justice, and quickly" Luke 18:7-8. Not only does persistence pay, it is authorized and encouraged.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Saving Our Children*-8/15/2012

"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." Deut 6:6-7
There are unfortunately many times when the unpopularity of the faith finds its most significant expression among our own children. As we teach our kids everything they know about life, from their first steps and words, to avoiding electrical sockets and hot irons to looking both ways when the cross the street, to how to deal with heartbreak, we spend a significant part of our lives preparing them to live theirs. Naturally when we attend worship, we bring them along, send them to their classes, take them to vacation bible school and work side by side with them on church work days or visiting the sick.

Somewhere along the way, however, the world intrudes into this idyllic existence. They discover that there are people out there that are their age that do not necessarily share the same beliefs with which they were raised. They discover that there is music out there that attracts them despite their questionable lyrics. There is alcohol, cigarettes, coarse language, drugs, sex and homosexuality. And because their friends and what those friends think is cool becomes more and more important in their lives, an erosion of everything we have tried to teach them about God and righteousness begins to erode. It is then when the kids begin to question the existence of God, not because He is not real, but because in their minds, He stands against everything that has become increasingly important to them.

Beloved, many parents are experiencing these very things every day. Some even try home schooling in order to limit outside influences but have found that Satan is pervasive, persistent and patient. There are three things we must remember. First, give your children the best biblical and spiritual foundation possible. Ensure that they develop their own relationship with God and that He is much or more a part of their reality as your love for them. From this they will never depart. Second, guard them as much as you can. Watch TV, listen to music, read books and pursue other entertainment and activities with them while teaching them what is acceptable and good and what is not. Third, understand that the world will break in. Just remember your own youth and the first time you tried ________. It is absolutely inevitable. And lastly, stay with your child through their mistakes and experimentation. The purpose is not to approve what they do, but to love them through it come what may. Constantly encourage them toward the faith and constantly remind them of the spiritual and biblical lessons with which they were raised. Remind them that God is and that He loves them and that you do too.

Heartbreak is an unavoidable hazard of parenting, but we can mitigate the loss of our children to Satan by following these steps. Certainly others involve seeking the counsel of your trusted clergyman, fellowshipping with other parents and families and always, always, always seeking the Lord in prayer. Our children are truly under attack. Let us protect them with the same vigor that we always have against all threats. God will help.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


*Originally published as "The Unpopularity of the Faith (pt. III)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Was Lost is Found 8/14/2012

"In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

This passage is embedded in a trilogy of parables about things that were lost, then found. They each relate the unsurpassed joy that accompanies the find. These stories were told to address criticism from Jesus' adversaries concerning his interacting with sinners. The religious authorities of the day, particularly the Pharisees, preferred to remain separate and apart from such people rather than sharing the love of God with them and seeking their salvation. By relating these stories, Jesus demonstrates that seeking and saving the lost is the point of God's love and his own coming. Further, that when the effort is successful, there is great cause for joy.

Beloved, I try to resist making these devotionals about me, but instead point them to our Heavenly Father, the object of our adoration. However, our family has experienced the joy that is felt and expressed in heaven at the "finding" of Michelle's and my daughter, Paris. This past Lord's day, she obeyed the gospel and gave Jesus the headship of her life. It was my honor, privilege and great joy to be able to baptize her into Christ (Gal 3:27).  Ultimately, this is truly about the Father and His grace and mercy.

I pray that you celebrate with our family, our congregation, the body of Christ and the angels in heaven even as we must with everyone that is "found."

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, August 13, 2012

Doing Your Part 8/13/2012

"But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." 1 Cor 12:24b-26

One of the great metaphors associated with the church is that it is the body of Christ and that Jesus is the head, Eph 1:22-23. This certainly gives us a picture of the unity and design involved with being a Christian. The metaphor is extended when the Scriptures reveal that "the body is one and has many members and all the members of that one body being many are one body; so also is Christ" 1 Cor 12:12. This tells us that we are one body but that the body is made up of individual parts. From here we are told that every part is important and has a specific function on which the rest of the body depends.

Beloved, the questions we must answer are "do we know our place in the body and are we fulfilling our role?" The Holy Spirit has uniquely equipped us with gifts to use in support of the whole which functions to glorify God. If you have carpentry skills, are you using them to assist those in need in order to create an opportunity to share Christ with them? If you are gifted with financial knowledge are you helping your brothers and sisters get out of debt and supporting missions with your God given resources? If you have the gift of teaching, are you using it to do what Jesus did (seek and save the lost)?

God knew what He was doing by providing us with certain talents, skills and abilities and He knows what He is doing by placing where we are. We must then take inventory, check our surroundings and ensure we are functioning as intended. Imagine the impact of one of your own body parts not working to full capacity or working at all for that matter. Endeavor not to be the blind eye or the deaf ear in the body of Christ.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, August 10, 2012

Serve Because You Have Been Served 8/10/2012

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:14-15 (NIV)

When is the last time you truly served someone completely selflessly out of the depth of your love for Christ and that person? I do not mean performing a loving act for a family member or close friend, but someone who is more distant or person you do not know?

The apostles were jockeying with one another for position with the Lord. In fact two of them had their mother appeal to Jesus for spots on his right and left in the heavenly realm. The bible says the others were indignant. Subsequent to this, Matthew and Mark record Jesus' response: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" Matt 20:26-28.

Beloved, Jesus is our great example. Rather than flaunting his Deity, he willingly set it aside to serve. Rather than espouse his greatness, he humbled himself. And to provide a pattern for those to whom he entrusted the spread of the gospel by performing an act of service typically relegated to the lowest of (then thought) soulless slaves.

Today we are far to concerned with ourselves and the insistence that others know who we are (as in "Do you know who I am?). We want to fly first class, avoid all lines and have the best of everything. The Christian ethic, however, is to place the needs of others above our own. This is a hard truth isn't it? But it is a truth nonetheless, just as it is a hard truth that Jesus put our needs above his own. One visit to the Garden of Gethsemane brings this fact home with HD clarity.

Let us then pursue being more like the one who came to serve and to save us. Let us adopt his mission of seeking and saving the lost and serve others. When they ask why we are doing it, tell them it is through, by and for the love of Jesus.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Do You Do? 8/9/2012 (rp)

"And whatsoever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col 3:17

Early last century, a study was done at the Hawthorn Works factory just outside of Chicago. The goal was to determine which, if any, lighting level was most conducive to increased productivity from the workers. Productivity seemed to increase whenever changes were made regardless of whether the lighting level was raised or lowered. Production decreased when the study concluded. What became known as the "Hawthorn Effect" shows that people improve or modify aspects of the behavior when they are being evaluated...or watched.

Beloved, Christians are called on to be their best at all times, not so much because God is watching, but because we desire to do His will. We are nothing short of His representatives. We are His children. We should always be on our best behavior, do our best work and be our best selves because of this simple fact.

The simple fact is, however, that we are being watched. People with whom we come into contact are constantly evaluating our behavior in terms of our claims. They are quick to assign labels from "religious" to "hypocrite," all from their observations. And as previously mentioned, God is always aware of even our internal intent. We must conduct ourselves in a godly fashion in order to win others. It was through watching someone that your beloved became a child of the King. When God saw this, He accepted me.

So when you are in traffic and get cut off, what will you do? When you see a person in need, what will you do? When you find a lost wallet, what will you do? When Sunday morning comes around, what will you do? When you do not want to go in to work but your health is fine, what will you do? Let us be productive while the lights are on (it is day), for night comes when no man can work.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Smelling the Flowers-8/7/2012

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4

Beloved, the Lord has seen fit to bring all who embarked on the cruise to Alaska back home safely. A good time of fellowship, family and blessed rest was had by all as well as no small amount of food (you know what I'm talking about if you have ever been on a cruise)!

One of many things that struck me was the beauty of God's creation. The majesty of the mountains, the depths of the fjords, the beauty of the thousands of waterfalls and the complexity of His many creatures. It put me in mind of the fact that we all need to stop and take time to smell the flowers. So often we take God's goodness for granted as we rush to and fro pursuing work, education, relationships, entertainment and the like without ever stopping to take a look around and notice what God has done and is doing. Certainly we had plenty of opportunities to do this last week, but it can and should be done at any time wherever we are because God's masterful work is never hidden. It is apparent to any who would even look at a blade of grass in more than a passing way.

In the midst of this Eden, he placed man. And while it is easy to feel small when compared to such immensity, we should never feel insignificant. From the smallest atom to the greatest galaxy, it was all spoken into existence by our Creator and Father for His greatest creation, mankind. This should fill us with awe of Him rather than ourselves and should cause us to pause, appreciate and say "Thank you Lord."

Rejoicing in the Lord,


P.S. I did not know if the picture I wanted to include as part of today's post would make the transition through the group distribution so I included the link to my photography website where the image is housed.  It is called "God's Morning" and is a sunrise captured early Sunday Morning just south of Juneau, Alaska.  While you are on the site, feel free to look around for more examples of God's handiwork captured digitally.