Friday, November 30, 2012

Choosing to be Godly 11/30/2012 (rp)

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.'" Job 1:8

Most of us are familiar with Job. His name is synonymous with patience, virtue and suffering with grace. Many of us turn to the pages on which his story is recorded for inspiration and reassurance during times of trouble.

Though the answer may seem to be obvious, have we really ever considered Job? Satan accused God of protecting him and thereby allowing him to maintain such integrity. I believe his statements were tantamount to saying that Job had been made that way by God. This is proven not to be the case. God merely identified him as a unique individual among all men. Noah was so identified in his time as well. They were both men that chose to lead godly lives and in Job's case, continued to make that choice under the most extreme conditions.

Beloved we all have trials and tribulations that we endure in this life. We suffer discomfort, want and loss at various times throughout our lives. Who among us, however, can claim to have endured what Job did? And if any among us can, who can claim to have steadfastly maintained such a beautiful perspective on his relationship with God and the realities of life? Who among us has avoided sin regardless of those trials and tribulations?

We all have the same ability to choose. We all serve that very same God. We can all look forward to the same rewards. Why do we seem to wilt under much lighter circumstances? Was Job anything special? Being just a man who made the ultimate choice to remain faithful no matter what, I would say so. But you and I have that same ability.

One last thought: It is amazing that Job lived such a life among men that it was known in heaven and offered as proof that we as His creation have the ability to truly live and serve as intended. Further, God had so much confidence in Job and his steadfastness that He allowed him to be tested severely. As much confidence as we have in God, can you imagine what it would be like for God to have that much confidence in you?

It could happen.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sacrifice and Salvation 11/29/2012

"So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."  Heb 9:28

In the times of the Old Testament, it was necessary for animal sacrifices involving much blood to be made for the inadvertent sins of the people.  It was a fairly complicated process that involved the high priest going into what was called the Holiest of Holies to render sacrifice to God.  He had to first do so for himself and his family and then for all of Israel.  This sacrifice of atonement as it was known, allowed the high priest to approach the very earthly presence of God (located in the Holiest of Holies) just once per year but it had to be done each year.  This was done not to forgive his sins and that of the people, but was done merely as a reminder of sins.  "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."  Heb 10:3-4.

Beloved the sobering fact is that there was indeed a sacrifice that could take away sins and it was made by Jesus.  It is only through his perfect obedience to God, his perfect and sinless life and the perfect nature of his sacrifice that we have access to salvation.  His sacrifice ushered in a new covenant between God and man that did away with ritual offerings and provided the availability of a clear conscience for those who fear God as well as direct access to him through Jesus.  Whereas formerly, only the high priest could  approach the presence of God once a year and that with blood, we can all now approach God any time through the shedding of Christ's blood.

This act and this fact is nothing less than the very foundation of Christianity.  And since he has given us access, we can take confidence in knowing that when he returns, it will be not to suffer as he has already done, but to receive those who have received him.  Have you truly received Jesus?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Still Thankful 11/27/2012

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary."
Ps 107:1-2

For the Christian, giving thanks to God neither begins, culminates or ends on a man inspired day to do so.  Giving thanks is a way of life.  It is a daily, even hourly habit that supersedes that of even brushing of teeth and washing of face.

There are a plethora of reasons to stop and give thanks throughout the day.  None who give the smallest effort should have difficulty identifying reason after reason for doing so.  The psalmist provides many reasons (which come from his close, warm, personal relationship with God).  In particular, he lists the redemption, even salvation, from those who are arrayed against us.  This could be anyone from a bad boss to Satan himself.  Where as we were under the burden of slavery to our situation, habits, circumstances or enemies, God laid out a clear path inviting us to peace and prosperity.  Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest" Matt 11:28.  We did and he has.

Beloved, we as Christians should be the first in line to proclaim thanks to God and to tell His story to others.  There are many who continued to be lost.  There are many that continue to struggle daily with their various adversaries.  And their yet remains One who can deliver them even as He has delivered us.  Let us continue to give thanks day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute.  One day we will all be able to stand united around the throne of grace and proclaim as the psalmist has:

"I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones"
Ps 52:9.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks 11/21/2012 (rp)

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations." Ps 100:4-5

We are taught from the earliest age to simply say "thank you" when anyone gives to us or does for us. Michelle and I have a 20 month old grandson who is still formulating his vocabulary but "thank you" can already be found in his limited repetoire. It is one of the most polite yet fundamental things we can say in response to everything from the a "God bless you" when we sneeze to the very sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Beloved as our nation and much of the world has set aside tomorrow to stop, reflect and be thankful, let us as Christians, in our own way, lead this effort. Let us do so by placing our thanks where they belong, at the God's throne of grace. Let us do so by encouraging one another to count blessings rather than complaints. Let us give as we have been given. And let us do so not just on the 3rd Thurssday of November, but every moment of our lives. Surely God blesses us so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Think to Thank 11/20/2012

"Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?'  And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”  Luke 17:17-19

There were ten who were suffering from leprosy who, against all social and legal conventions of the time, put themselves in proximity to Jesus and cried out loudly for relief of their suffering to the only one who could provide it.  Jesus heard their cries had mercy on them and gave them instructions on how to become cleansed.  Once accomplished, just one returned to give thanks while the others went their merry way.  The one who returned was not one of God's own but a Samaritan, a traditional adversary of God's people.

Beloved how often have we found ourselves in the most heartfelt and desperate need?  Be it physical, financial, psychological or relational, we have all been there at one time or another.  We all know what it is like to need relief from an affliction, malady or situation.  We then, like the lepers, cry out for help. 
We may pursue our own means but sooner or later we get around to the Lord, placing ourselves at His mercy, begging for assistance.  He is faithful and just and hears our cries to which He always responds.  This can be said with confidence because none of us is suffering from the same malady as yesterday.

Since He comes to our aid just as Jesus came to the aid of the lepers, let us not be as those who went their merry way.  Let us be as the one who came back, threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.  Remember that this man was not of the people of God.  May it never be said that those who are the children of God are less praising and thankful than those who are not.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 19, 2012

This Little Light of Mine 11/19/2012

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matt 5:14-16

It is important for Christians to know that being a child of God is not simply a status, but a calling with a purpose and with responsibilities.  It is true that there is a great inheritance reserved for us, however there is a great work we must do until such time as that inheritance is received.  This work is not done in order to receive, but because it has already been set aside against the day of God's timing.

Beloved, we are God's advertising campaign.  Though the majesty of His creation shouts His existence and love, we are the ones who are charged to tell the story, make the introductions and invite the world into a relationship with its creator.  All that we say or do should be seasoned with that purpose in mind.  We are advocates, representatives, ambassadors, samples and examples.  It is only through His blessed family that others can and will come to Him.  Let us engage in activities and behaviors that would draw all not to ourselves but to Him who made us all.  Let us allow our light to shine brightly thus illuminating the very love of God.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be Encouraged 11/15/2012

"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" 1 Pet 1:6-7

There is not one among us who does not at one time or the other experience problems, difficulties, tragedies and loss.  Issues come up in personal relationships, work situations, neighborhood interactions, finances and even misunderstandings among those with whom we worship.  Speaking of worship, there may even be times that we are subjected to persecution because of our beliefs.  None of us should be shocked by this.  In fact this situations should actually encourage us and give us cause to rejoice.

Beloved, as Christians, we are called upon to be a different type of person with different beliefs, hopes, dreams, perspectives and certainly different responses to trials and difficulties.  Our savior has taught us by his word and his example that life and reality are bigger than our current circumstances. There is an entire eternity before us against which many of the things we endure today diminish into triviality.  We are sons and daughters of the living God!  That must mean something to us and by extension, those who come into contact with us.  We must look at these events, situations and circumstances as simply faith builders (our faith being more precious than pure and refined gold).  Think about it this way: there is not a single situation out of which God has not delivered you or is not currently in the process of doing so.  Not one.  When he delivers us, our faith that he will do so the next time and the time after that and the time after that grows.  We will eventually come to rely on him completely and begin to accept trials with joy, knowing that God has us now as He always has.

There is one more thing that helps us grow into this mindset and this truth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" 1 Pet 1:3-5 (emphasis mine).  We have every reason to be encouraged, even in the midst of the worse life has to offer.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 12, 2012

Pursuing Happiness 11/12/12

"He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord."  Prov 16:20

Sadness and sorrow are big and weighty subjects with many reasons and causes.  The same can be said for joy and happiness.  There is not a person alive who would not rather be happy than sad so let us consider ways to secure happiness.

The author of the proverb first suggest attending to the word of God.  Matthew states that it is not bread alone that sustains us but "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" Matt 4:4.  God being our manufacturer has supplied us with a manual for life.  In it contains all we need to know about Him, His expectations and provisions and directions regarding how to lead a happy and successful life.  If we would simply follow the instructions, we would learn to experience joy and happiness even in the most challenging times.  This is possible because the word also gives us instructions on how to endure difficulties and also supplies information about the promise or everlasting peace and presence with God for all who are His.

Having attended to His word, trust in God is a logical outcome.  An even casual survey of humanity's history reveals the presence and the activity of the Lord.  This leads to an examination of our own lives where the presence of God can also be readily seen.  He has done and continues to do all that He promised.  It is up to us to constantly seek nearness with Him.  In so doing, we will be blessed or as it is otherwise translated, happy.

Beloved, we were created to be a happy, joyous, content and praising people.  Our great God has put everything in place in order to make this possible.  Each of us must decide whether that is our desire.  If so, let us attend to His word and trust Him.  He takes care of everything else.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Purpose of the Thorn 11/9/2012 (rp)

"And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch." 2 Cor 12:7

Most Christians and many non-Christians are familiar with the plight of Paul's thorn in the flesh. He attributes it to having visited heaven and witnessed things too amazing to describe. He then specifically states that the discomfort he was given (not a literal thorn in literal flesh) was given, for all intents and purposes, to keep him humble.

Beloved there are at least two messages here. To the Christian, the benefits of a relationship with God should be obvious. In fact, it would exceed the available space to even try to list them all, however, this would be a great place to pause and give quiet thought to how good God has been to you throughout your lifetime. That done, none of us have to look far to see those who have been so blessed by God that they think they have accomplished and acquired everything in and of themselves and therefore do not need God. These folks have missed the point entirely. In situations like this, it would be better to have some sort of reminder of both the hierarchy associated with our very existence and the source of every blessing than to lose sight of both because of His overwhelming goodness. One might think, "Why does such a reminder necessarily involve pain?" We should not assume that Paul's malady involved pain, however we know that whatever it was not only kept him in line but served as an example to others and glorified God. Have you ever been inspired by the faith of someone less fortunate than you?

To the non-Christian considering membership in God's family, it should be known that it is not all cookies and cream. God never promised us an easy row to hoe. In fact, there is full disclosure given regarding the difficulties that can be expected from faithfully living the Christian life. Our purpose in life is to glorify Him through our praise, worship, love, obedience and sharing with others. In so doing, we may become scuffed or inconvenienced, but the benefits of being a child of God are beyond imagination and eternal. Paul experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, but learned ultimately to depend on God for everything and accept His will in all things. That is the purpose of the thorn.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God and Governments 11/7/2012

"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;  for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.  Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.   Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due;  custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."  Rom 13:1-7

Today I ask you to forgive not the usage of the word of God (as the consideration of Scripture is the whole reason for this meditation), but the unusual length of the passage.  Yesterday, citizens of the United States, as many countries do according to their own timing, played an active role in choosing leaders of its government.  It is important to the Christian to know where God is in the results and more accurately, where we as members of a nation are in God's overall plan.

As has been the case many times before, the country is sharply divided over its choice of leadership.  There is a constant ebb and flow of power and position between political parties, ideologies, visions and methods.  Each group feels that its way is best and right and that there is little of interest or merit to those who do not share its convictions.  Inevitably, when a leader is chosen, as much as half of the the electorate can (and in today's case does) feel disappointed, distraught and disenfranchised.  Almost immediately, the effort begins to "correct the problem" by identifying and preparing those associated with the ideology that did not prevail this time for success next time, hence the ebb and flow of power and position between parties.

Beloved there is much to say about this process but not nearly enough of it involves the sovereignty of the Almighty Creator of the universe.  We do not always understand what possible good it accomplishes or how it fits within God's will to have particular individuals elected to office, particularly given the stated position of some that do not reflect Christian values.  Submitted for your consideration this day are two things about which to think.  First, consider that God always intended to be (and ultimately is) the government of all mankind.  The initial rebellion and rejection of this authority occurred in the Garden of Eden and later, among the then chosen people of God, at the choosing of an earthly king.  Second, God has provided for us His own values and directed us to live, move, breath, think and make choices based on them.  Difficulty occurs when godly people are swayed by godless society to begin adopting stances that are ungodly and begin making choices that reflect this shift.  Two obvious examples are the choosing of leaders that have legislated prayer right out of schools and the appointment of a judiciary that have upheld laws that do not value the sanctity of God given life.

Why does God allow these things to be?  It is because He gave each of us free will.  Some freely choose his ways while others do not.  How does this impact His sovereignty regarding leaders among men?  It does not.  Our choices have never impacted his sovereignty in any way.  Having foreknowledge of all things, God ultimately uses all things to His own glory and through all things ultimate good is accomplished for all those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28), though we may not be able to fully understand or even see that purpose in the present.

On this day after a historic election (and they are all historic in one way or another), let us not focus on the winners and losers.  Let us focus on the word, will and way of God.  Let us be comforted in knowing that he remains in charge whatever our choice or that of the citizenry at large.  Let us as Christians reexamine and reflect on his values and the choices we make as a nation and as individuals regarding them.

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Monday, November 5, 2012

Wake Up! 11/5/2012

"These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead." Revelation 3:1 

Early in the book of Revelation, the Lord writes letters to seven congregations.  Interpretations of these letters range from them being specific messages to specific and actual churches to being metaphors of the state of "the church" through the ages.  Without regard to where one stands on this and many other controversial issues involving Revelation, there is still a word from God to be heard by each of us.

In the case of the letter to the church at Sardis, the Lord has an indictment.  It is stated that the church enjoys a reputation for things that are no longer the case.  In short, he describes them as being dead.  Of course there would be no need to write a letter to those who are not alive to read it.  What is meant is that the "life" has gone out of their worship and their relationship with God.  Whereas they were once known for the fire and passion associated with Christian living, there is no longer anything observable that can substantiate this image.

Beloved, we must not only be aware of this pitfall in our congregational life, we must be aware of it in our personal lives.  Reflections of our individuality can be seen in our corporate settings.  Each must consider what is being done or what is failing that would cause the Lord to describe us as being dead.  Are we attending worship regularly?  Our we studying the word daily?  Are we giving like we should?  Are we putting others before ourselves?  Are we sharing the gospel with the people we meet? We then must look at our congregation and make the same evaluation. 

Jesus has given us a twofold solution to this critical problem.  First he says, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (v. 2).  As long as we have life, we are not dead yet, however, the first step in correcting a problem is to recognize it.  Waking up involves a sincere and honest self assessment.  Secondly he says, "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent" (v. 3).  We must be willing to turn from our "dead" ways, remind ourselves both of what God had done for us and requires of us and get to work.  If we our successful, the Lord has promised that he will never blot out our names from the book of life and will acknowledge our names before God and the heavenly host.

Wake up!

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Friday, November 2, 2012

How is Your Portfolio? 11/2/2012 (rp)

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward." Heb 11:24-26

There are many who look at the Christian life as one of restriction and denial of many things to which all people are entitled. As times continue to advance, it seems that society allows more and more of the things that are counter to the teaching of Christ and to the very commands of God. Of course these things are not new. There has been sin and debauchery virtually since the creation of man. The enjoyment of these things creates a natural division between those who are endeavoring to live according to God's word and those who are not.

The focus today is not on those who are not, but those who are. Paul said in 1Cor 6:12 that all things were lawful to him but not expedient (profitable). We all have the ability and the right to go out and do whatever we want but would things contrary to leading godly lives be profitable? I submit to you that they in fact could be extremely costly.

As a member of Pharaoh's household, Moses might have enjoyed a life filled with luxury, wealth and the satisfaction of the slightest whim throughout all the days of his life. He clearly realized that compared with eternity, the pleasures of this world are insignificant. He was willing to invest in the Lord and His guarantees of the ultimate return. How is your spiritual portfolio?

Rejoicing in the Lord,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Power Over Your Life 11/1/2012

"Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult."  Prov 12:16 (NIV)

Have you ever noticed how quick we can be to respond to an offense?  Why do you suppose that is?  Clearly no on desires to be badly treated, insulted, taken advantage of or abused, however, we must consider our response to these inevitable occurrences.

It is important to determine how much power we give other people over our lives.  If you are having a great day and someone even offhandedly says the "wrong" thing to you and your day goes into a nose dive, you have relinquished power over your life.  Consider Jesus.  Immediately after what could arguably be considered his best day (the day of his baptism and identification by God as his own), he went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan.  Despite all Satan tried to do, Jesus simply replied with the word of God and more importantly, resisted.  On arguably his worst day (the day of his crucifixion), he withstood insult, beatings, false accusations, being spat upon and the rest of the well documented horror associated with the day, yet he said not a word and humbled himself at the cross.

Beloved, this was within Jesus' ability to accomplish because of one simple fact.  This fact is born out throughout his life and is demonstrated at many times and many ways, but perhaps most when he voluntarily lowered himself to perform a task of the lowest of the low slaves and washed his disciple's feet.  Of this occasion, Scriptures says of him, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God" John 13:3.  In other words, he knew who he was in God and that he was destined to return to his rightful place at God's right hand. 

We should be similarly motivated when the world does not treat us well.  We are God's own and we are destined to be with Him throughout eternity.  With this perspective, we can stand any temporary and relatively meaningless insult or offence because we know whose we are and who we are in Him.  With this knowledge, we can maintain Holy Spirit derived power over our own lives and reactions rather than giving it away to those who would abuse it.

Rejoicing in the Lord