Friday, February 27, 2009

Are You Self Righteous or UN-Righteous?

Matt. 21:28 "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29 And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Jesus is being questioned by the Pharisees, as they are trying to trip Him up in His answer. He has already silenced them in the last question, but He is going to push a bit farther and deeper. He is going to hit them right between the eyes.

This paragraph is proof that God resists the proud. The Pharisees has more outward "righteousness" than anyone in their time. They prided themselves in everything they did "for God". Jesus shows them how much He appreciates their "righteous acts".

Jesus also tells us, in the section, that as long as the heart still breaks there is hope. There are many who profess repentance, but then never really get anywhere past professing. There are others who are reluctant to jump right out and tell everyone that they are now Christians, in fact they might tell you that they think you are stupid for believing. God starts to draw them and they start to walk. He starts to change them and pretty soon they are really different people.

Those of us who have walked a long time without coming to Christ are the "tax collectors and prostitutes" Jesus is referring to here. He didn't come to save the self righteous, but the UNrighteous. We must always remember that we have no good thing to bring to Him. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags and yet He draws our dirty selves to Him, makes us clean through the blood of Christ and then seats us with Him in Heavenly places.

What a transformation He has wrought in those who He has saved. Only He can do this work. Pray for those around you that are still walking in darkness, that might see a great light. He can and does change the hearts of "tax collectors and prostitutes" even when we are old. Don't give up on The Hope.

No Shame in Following God

Ps 119:73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!

David understands that Creator God has formed him and fashioned him and that He knows everything about Him. This took great faith, as he didn't have nearly as much written Revelation as we do. He also knew that since God knew everything about him, God could also instruct him on exactly what he needed to know and that He could do this instructing better because He is the initiator, and completer of everything. Without God there is nothing.

God's people are encouraged by the faith and hope of other believers. We must display both the struggles and the victories along the way, so others can see our progress. Not so we might be glorified, but that others would know that we only have faith because of Christ's work on our behalf.

David didn't run away from trial or affliction, because He knew that everything was from God and that includes trials. He knew that God's Word is true and that God Himself is faithful to bring us exactly what he needed. Even though those trials are difficult, they are necessary to bring us closer to Him.

The comfort that we have, as believers, can't be compared to anything apart from God. There is no resting without God's promises for us to run to. His is Love and He is Faithfulness. There is none like Him.

His mercies, that are new every morning, give us life and hope. We find our strength for each day in the "pantry" of His Word. The Fountain brings refreshment like nothing else.

The world mocks and scoffs at His children, but He is faithful. We need not worry about what they are doing or saying, but we must run to His Word and put our hope in The Hope. There is no shame in trusting Him.

Again, David gives encouragement for us to live our lives in such a way that others may see our good deeds and glorify our Father who is in Heaven. He says in a sense, "look at my life, and learn from me as I learn from God. He is faithful to change you, just like He has changed me".

A pure heart and a clean conscience come from following God's Word. We can be pure vessels for the King to use, but we must follow His instructions.

The overriding message of this section seems to be that there is no shame in following God's Word, others will look to us and be encouraged along the way as they see us looking only to Christ and God is faithful to keep His Word.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rough Parenting Stages

Teresa and I were privileged to take a parenting class, what seems like a really long time ago. One of the things they talked about was the stages of relationship between the parent and the child. I don't remember every one of them but here's a stab at it. This is going to be pretty rough, sorry.

When they are infants we are basically nurturing them and caring for their every need. There is almost no discipline, except for things like extending the times between feeding and letting them cry a little longer. This helps them to understand that they are not the center of the universe.

As they get just a little older we can give them some choices, but with those choices come consequences. For example; they don't get to decide what they want to eat at every meal. Mom is not a short order cook. So if they refuse to eat the meal she has prepared, then they don't get to eat until the next meal. Guess what. They will appreciate their next meal all the more. And if they refuse that one, because of their stubborn little hearts, well then they will be all the more hungry the next time. It seems cruel, but as adults we don't get to make decisions on a lot of things that go on in our lives. There is a lot of discipline going on in these years.

As the child reaches their middle years there are even more choices for them to make. With those choice should come child/parent discussion on what the outcome of the choice will potentially look like. They are generally not ready to make every decision, but they are going to have to make a lot of decisions pretty soon, so we need to give them the tools to make God honoring decisions. This is really like being a coach. We have trained them in practice for many hours to make the right decision and then we have to sit back and watch them go out and either succeed or fail. When there is a break in the action then it is time to coach some more. "I noticed you did this in this situation. Do you think now that was the best choice, or would you do something different looking back on it now?" Those types of questions and discussions.

The final stage is friendship. Often parents try to get to friendship way too quickly and it blows up in their face. When all the nurturing, discipline and coaching is completed, then you are able to have a real friendship relationship with your child. This is really rewarding, as they can be great friends.

These stages include both spiritual and physical training. If you do the first stages really well, then the latter ones are much easier. If you neglect the first ones, you are in for a long haul.

Be encouraged. God can and does bring our children to Himself and He can give us godly children in spite of our imperfect parenting. My kids are proof positive of this. I have not been a great dad to them and yet He has blessed Teresa and I with 3 friends that we like to be with, and that others like to be with as well. He has taken my parenting neglect and turned it into 3 kids who are trusting and following Him.

As Ryan said, "Work like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on God".

Please keep us updated on the progress of your child's walk.

A little more encouragement. One of the girls in the small group that meets at our house professed first time repentance on Monday night. We have been praying for her for quite a while and God chose to bring her into Him family.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fight For Your Kids Souls

Last night Teresa had a very sad yet revealing discussion. A young lady has been displaying her heart for all the world to see. Posting all kinds of PDA and language on her web page. We have heard she is dabbling in some drugs and alcohol, so Teresa called to talk to her mother.

This is where the sadness comes in. Her mom asked Teresa to talk to the young lady and give her some Bible verses, because "she doesn't know her Bible that well". Mom knows this is not the way she wants her daughter to go, but doesn't want to make waves or set boundaries and lay down the law. She is just letting her do whatever she wants.

For sure it is up to God to draw our kids to Himself. But for sure we are stewards of their young souls. We need to do everything we can to bring them to Him and He has to do the work of saving them, but WE NEED TO WORK AND FIGHT FOR THEM!!

This young lady went to the movies and her father picked her up and she kissed her boyfriend on departure.

Dads are the gate keepers for their children, especially the daughters. As dads we had better make it very difficult for some young man to get physically connected with our daughters. We can't make it impossible for them to get away with anything, but they should have to openly rebel, and show their spiritual deadness, in order to be pleasing the lust that is crouching at their heart's door. Young men should be very afraid of over stepping their bounds when it comes to the hearts and bodies of our daughters.

Parents, don't waste all you have learned from when you were younger. Remember what you did and how you did it and use that as ammo to fight for the hearts of your kids. We are in a battle for the hearts of our kids. When you are in a battle and people are shooting at you, there is no time for sleep, no time to relax and no taking days off. Sin and the evil one don't take time off and they are trying to take your kids hearts away from them. Be sober, be vigilant!!

The spiritual health of our kids depends on how we engage in this fight. Be warriors. Ask for help. Be nosy. Make them uncomfortable, if that what it takes, but get in the middle of their lives and stay there. Pray for their salvation everyday.

Help me Please

This is from a parent who posted a comment on the blog.

I have heard people say, "It is not my job to assure my child of their salvation, it is the Holy Spirit's job." How do you do this with a young teen, who is professing faith? How do you encourage them, yet not give them a false sense of security if you are not sure of their salvation yourself?

This was my reply to her question, but I want you all to add or subtract anything that is necessary. We are to be about making disciples, even if we never meet them on earth. It would be good of God to use us in some small way to help others make disciples. Please comment.

"I hope that some of our other staff will chime in on this as well.

We need to be very careful when reassuring others salvation. The cost is too great to be wrong.

When searching for fruit we should not be looking for things that can be done in the flesh, like being pleasant or helpful, but we should look for things like selflessness, a desire for spiritual things and a love for the Word. Not perfection but direction. Look at where they were last month and are they growing?

Our kids/students need to be challenged in their walk. They don't need to have some easy believism taught to them. The Christian life requires that we are willing to give up all that we are and have to follow Christ. Do you see that willingness? If so, there is your encouragement.

We all want to see our kids walking with the Lord, but we certainly don't want to give them assurance when we are questioning their salvation ourselves.

Who do they hang around with? The cool kids or the godly kids? Those generally are not the same. Do they have a web page of some sort? You can see their fruit and their friends by reading those. It may make you cry to read what is in their hearts, but better to ask the hard questions, in love, now than be too late. They want you to be concerned and ask them, even though they may squirm and act mad. In the end if they know you love them enough to be uncomfortable yet ask anyway, that will speak volumes to them.

God gives us those instincts for a reason. Pray that He would give you the right words, at the right time and with the right heart and go talk. It may be the hardest, best thing you will ever do for them.

We will pray for you. God is BIG and He draws those He loves to Himself. We are stewards of many things, including our kids."

Scared to Death of Death

1 Cor. 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Phil. 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

To the world, death is a scary thing. Many may claim they are not afraid of death, but I think it is because they don't think about it, or they don't think it is going to happen to them any time soon. What about you?

I was talking to Teresa yesterday about death. I told her I had been driving along behind a truck that had a bunch of rebar on the trailer and some was sticking way out the back, with little red flags on it. I thought, "If that truck stops really fast, I will be skewered". Some people would not drive behind a truck like that any longer than they absolutely need to, because they are afraid of pain, maybe, but probably death. I truly thought to myself, if God wants me home then He will take me, and I'm ready to go, but until he does I want to be available for Him in whatever way He chooses to use me.

Paul wasn't afraid of death, because he knew that it was a promotion, but he also knew that there was work left for him to do as long as he was alive on earth. He went from talking about the "sting of death" to "always abounding in the WORK of the Lord". Why do you suppose that is? Paul had a freedom in this life, because he knew that to die was better, but since God gave him life here on earth, He still had a plan, He still had some work for him to complete before it's time to go home.

This understanding of why we are here gives courage, boldness and freedom to go after it. How can we be afraid to talk to people about Christ when the best thing they could do is kill us? There are many here on earth that are "scared to death of death". If others around us are afraid of the future, and of death, shouldn't we be the calming force in their lives? When death comes up, or the uncertainty of the future, shouldn't we be the "steadfast, immovable" ones they can look to for comfort? We are Christ to the world. The only Christ they will see is us, living it out. If we are afraid, and we have the hope of Christ, where does that leave them?

I am truly ready to go home, maybe more excited than I should be. I need to have Paul's love of the work here. Paul didn't love the world, or the things in the world, but he loved the people and the Lord's work.

"As long as I breath, I will praise You Lord,
As long as I can sing, I will sing Your praise.
Wherever You lead me, I will follow You.
As long as I have breath, I will praise You Lord."

This is a choir song, but I don't know the writer.

A few questions;
Are you really ready to die?
Am I known as being other worldly, or just worldly?
Are you REALLY ready to die?
While God gives breath, He gives work. How am I doing on the work He has for me here?
Am I living in such a way that others are drawn to Christ?

Lord, may You give us courage to live in light of eternity. You have placed eternity in our hearts, not to fear it, but to cherish the life to come more than this one here on earth. May our hope be evident to all. May we go about your work here with fervor. Give us joy in our toil, because we know that our labor is not in vain and You only will leave us here while You have work for us to do. May we be looking toward Heaven and the prize that awaits, but looking for ways we can minister to the needs and struggles of others.
Give me a love for others that only You can give. Make my purpose Your glory. Slow me down enough to see the needs of others and then give me the heart to ask the right questions. You are Big and I am not. Take my hand and guide me where You want me to go. Give me a trust in You that can't be broken. This has to come from You, but You delight in growing and changing Your people. Change me into a vessel that You can use, for whatever purpose You choose.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

quote of the week

Teresa and I talking about a touchy subject at work;

"It's not like you're going to egg shell around".

Learning and Affliction go hand in hand.

Ps. 119: 65 You have dealt well with your servant,
O LORD, according to your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
68 You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
69 The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

We are servants of the King and yet He calls us friends. The King has dealt more than graciously with us as His servant. Though I bring no resume, no work ethic and no ability He still lets me come to work everyday, He still teaches me and He still pays me much more than I deserve. He should fire me, but instead He lets me feast at His table. We can know we are His children when He deals so kindly with us.

He is always instructing, always teaching and always training, that we might be more complete in Him. His method of training is often affliction, and it is a very good teacher. He will not spare any form of instruction so that in the end we are pure vessels fit for His Kingdom.

It doesn't matter what other say or do, my delight is in His Word. He keeps me in it and makes it fresh and alive that I might want to be in it.

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." is something that I need always to remember. When my life is over and I reach Heaven and the only thing I have learned is the character of God, then that is more than enough. If He chooses to teach me through trials and affliction my heart should rejoice in the fact that He actually chooses to teach me anything.

There is no money or treasure that can compare to knowing Him. If I have to choose between having anything, or everything, here on earth and Christ, He is the Pearl of Greatest Price. He is the Treasure and His Word is the map to find Him. Many have left all to seek out buried treasure, but to no avail. He promises that when we seek Him with our whole heart we will find Him.

It's Cool to talk about Spiritual Things.

In Jr. high and high school I attended a Christian school, where my dad was the principle, most of the time. I remember part of the self evaluation portion of our report card was a list of things such as, "Gets along well with others", "Does not talk in class", as well as "talks about spiritual things". This morning I was just thinking about my own kids, and some of the students in our ministry.

First off, let me say that I always talked too much in class, so a couple of my kids now will know who to thank for that character trait. I always got along well with the people I liked, but not so much with those I didn't. And I never talked about spiritual things unless a teacher brought it up. Being a pagan certainly doesn't lend itself to a desire for spiritual things. And that is the point of this post.

Not until very recently have I had a desire to talk about spiritual things. God draws His children to Himself and also gives us the desire to be in His Word and in prayer. If He doesn't give that desire it will be a long grind and often end in failure of the relationship, unless we keep begging Him for those desires. I think that most people give up and walk away when the "desert walk" is too long. Pray that He would give a desire for fellowship everyday. Pray for rain to water the seeds that are planted, so that they will spring up, get leaves, branches, blossom and then bear fruit. He will do it, we just have to be disciplined to keep begging Him.

When God works in us and changes our desires, even and maybe mostly, through trials, we can have an assurance of salvation. God wouldn't give you a desire to be in His Word, pray, have fellowship with other believers and to meditate and talk about spiritual things if you are not saved. The desire would go away and you would go back to settling for lesser loves and joys. So if this is you, thank God for His work in your life. If it is not you, keep begging He would change you. Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable in your walk. When was the last time someone asked you, "How's your Bible reading going?" "What are you learning?" Are you known as a person who talks about spiritual things often, or do you change the subject when spiritual things are brought up, because it makes you uncomfortable? We should be "at home" talking about the One we love the most.

So, on to the kids. God has given us 3 great kids with our earthly genetics and a bunch of great kids with our spiritual genetics. Kimmy, Grant and Garrett are not perfect children, as they all are related to me, this could not happen. But, they are 3 kids that God has drawn and is drawing to Himself, and it is evident from the fruit in their lives. As parents we are called to be fruit inspectors, especially in our children. We need to help them inspect their own fruit and where the fruit is evident, give encouragement of salvation and where there is no fruit talk with them about it. You can say to your kids, "You know, I am not seeing much of a love for the Word. Are you reading your Bible and does it seem like a lot of work, or is it your joy?" Questions like this are good for us to ask, and great for our kids to answer. Encourage them when you see areas of growth.

Help them to choose friends that spur them on to love and good deeds. Encourage them to choose their friends very wisely. Friends that will talk about spiritual things, ask hard questions and pray for them, are the friends we want our kids to hang with. Mutual edification is a good thing.

What about the kids who don't have a heart for spiritual things? Who will minister to them? You and your kids. When there is a party, make it at your house and tell the spiritual leaders before hand they should spark the conversation and direct it in a spiritual direction. When leaders lead toward spiritual things, then it just might be considered "cool" to talk about spiritual things. We are to be salt and light, but that means we actually have to be salt and light.

Some practical things to think about;
1. Are you personally interested in spiritual things?
2. Do you have someone you trust that helps to keep you accountable?
3. Are you helping or hurting others desire to talk about spiritual things?
4. Are you inspecting your own fruit, and is someone else giving you feedback?
5. If you have kids, are you inspecting their fruit?
6. Are you asking them the hard questions?

Remember to encourage where you see growth and ask hard questions when you don't. MySpace and FaceBook pages are a great indicator where hearts truly are. Is there any mention of spiritual things there, for all the world to see, or is it just like every other one? Example, if you see lots of skin, foul language, course jesting, and PDA, there is a good possibility that spiritual fruit is not coming any time soon.

Oh Lord, may we be children of Your Word and children who love to talk to You. Give us the desire and the will to be "other worldly". Make Yourself our greatest joy and treasure. May You be our first and best thought, by day or by night. May we think about You often, meditate on Your Word and be in prayer continually. May we desire to tell others of the One who gave Himself up for us; the One who has given us life. Give us joy here, today, that others would see our love for You and be drawn to You. Give us companions that encourage our walk toward godliness. Protect our kids from the evil one. Give them a love for You. May they see You in us and be drawn to You because of it. You have to work all these things in us. Please do Your great work and we will rejoice when You start because we know that You finish what You start.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Godliness is our Spiritual Beauty

"Godliness is to the soul what the light is to the world: to illustrate and adorn it. It is not greatness which sets us off in God's eye but goodness. What is the beauty of the angels but their sanctity? Godliness is the intricate embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Ghost. A soul furnished with godliness is damasked with beauty, it is enameled with purity. This is the clothing of wrought gold which makes the King of heaven fall in love with us. Were there no excellence in holiness, the hypocrite would never try to paint it. Godliness sheds a glory and luster on the saints." Thomas Watson

1 Tim. 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

We are called to a life of godliness, to train ourselves, work toward it and strive after it. All of these actions are not traits of the slothful, but of the disciplined. But it is our duty, on one side, and should be our joy, on the other.

In this first paragraph, the statement, "which makes the King of heaven fall in love with us", blows me away. Can there really be anything that would make the King of Heaven fall in love with me? If so, how can this be? I have nothing to love, except He gives it, yet if I am godly He falls in love with me.

This is why godliness should be our joy, as the fruit of godliness is a relationship with our Heavenly Love. When we are far away from godliness, we are far away from His love.

Oh, that I might be more godly tomorrow than I was today.

Workers in the Vineyard

Matt. 20:1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last."

Last night 5 people were baptized at our church. Normally there are quite a few younger kids, but this time there were some more mature people.

God is amazing how He allows some to see the truth of His Word and moves them in repentance at an early age, and others He allows to go a long time w/o true repentance. The younger ones should not grumble that they have HAD to work all these years while the elder people were going along in sin. The younger should be thrilled that God spared them from so many evil things.

God's gift of eternal life is free to all and it is the same to all. Whether you come to true repentance when you are 6 of 96, God saves those He wants to save and He gives the Prize to all equally.

Let us not despise the kindness of the Lord toward others, but rejoice in their salvation, and ours.

Trials. Who Needs 'em?

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do Not Grow Weary
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Ps. 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.

I have had the opportunity quite a few times this last week to talk about Grant's story with people coming through our home show booth. Some of these people are old friends who hadn't heard about his event, others we have just met and we started talking about kids and one thing led to another.

Grant's event has produced many different things in me personally, and in others as well. As I have shared in these postings, it has better prepared me for today's economy and to really trust God much more.

But why trials, afflictions and testings? Why does God allow us to go through these kind of times? When we are saved He could make it so that our salvation is the end of our suffering on earth and we would begin to receive the rewards of following Him right away. To some Christians that may happen, but I don't think it is the case most often. So why would anyone ever want trials? Previously I never wanted trials, but God is changing my thinking.

Trials produce so many good things in our lives, that without them we are but a small portion of the Christian we would be, in so many areas, if God chose to allow us to go on the easier road. Much of the following reflections are from Thomas Watson's book, The Godly Man's Picture, though not in his exact language.

When God chooses to bring trials into our lives, we can know that He cares for us. If we have no trials, we should be looking closely at why He is not bringing them. Is He allowing us to go on our own path w/o any correction? If so, then are you really His child, if He disciplines the ones He loves? Trials bring assurance of His love for us.

I personally have found that trials produce much more fervent prayers. When everything is going good I, most often, am not driven to my knees to cry out to God for His help. I work hard and try to be a nice guy and then take the credit for it. But when I am being tested, I quickly see that this has nothing to do with me, and it is God who is doing the work. Whether the work is stopping and starting Grant's heart, or bringing in business at PG, it is still all of God's doing, not mine. God is glorified when we are begging Him to deliver us, not from the testing as much as from our lack of seeing our utter need of Him in every situation. When life if "good", I totally miss that. Trials give us a longing to pray.

When life if "good" it has been easy for me to get caught up in the affairs of this world and to try to find all of my happiness, success and value in what I am doing. But when trials come it makes me look at everything this world has to offer and evaluate just what I am accomplishing in the grind. In the end there is nothing left that compares to the life to come, but if life here is easy I would totally miss the fact that Heaven is my home and would not be focused on the Prize. Watson said, and I paraphrase, "If there are apples and flowers along the way, our journey is slowed because of the enjoyment of those things. But if a child is afraid along the path, then the trip is much faster because they can't wait to get home". How true this is. When we have everything we need here on earth, why would we want to leave? But when life is hard here on earth, why would we want to stay? Trials give us a longing for Heaven.

Since Jesus is the Great Physician and grace is His medicine, would we ever know the richness of grace and the curing power of that grace if we were never "sick". Our trials drive us to our knees begging for His grace and when those trials are severe He then lavishes His mercy and grace on us the most. With small trials come small graces, with large trials graces flows like a river over us, to heal us. Trials bring great grace.

Trials enable us to endure things which are difficult, so down the road, when we face another difficult situation, we have been tested and we can look back and say, "God brought me through this trial last time and He will be faithful to do it again". Once we have gone through one difficult situation, we are then better prepared for the next one. Trials produce patience.

When the road is rough and the weather is nasty, we can look down the road to see a glorious Kingdom, we can have hope that all of this craziness of life is but a breath and we will soon be with our Lord, the Sweet Shepherd, reigning with Him. People travel over many rough and windy roads to get to some remote place to smell the air, take a picture, put their feet in the water or sand, and then turn right back around to go home again to the grind. Well this trip on earth is one of rough and windy roads, but when we reach what is truly paradise, we won't ever have to leave again. Trials bring a glorious ending and a glorious reward.

Lord, please bring us trials that we may trust in Your care. You give us exactly what we need for our completion and You also give us the grace to endure the trial. You have given us faith to trust, grace to encourage our hearts, patience to endure, Your Word to light our path, and prayer to comfort. May we rejoice in our trial, even though they are hard, they bring about the fruit of righteousness and bring us closer to You, which is where we want to be.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What is the Cost of Discipleship?

Matt. 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

What does it mean to deny one self? What about taking up our cross? Jesus can't mean for us to actually carry a literal cross today, can He? How do we really follow Christ, since He is not walking in front of us, like He was with the disciples? How do you lose your life, when you actually are alive right now?

"Come after me" is talking about being disciples of Christ; a Christian. Being a "disciple", or "come after me", would have had the same meaning to the people listening to Jesus; a follower.

"Deny yourself" has the idea of knowing that we are totally inadequate on our own, in our flesh, to come and follow Christ. We have no ability to desire Christ above the world's pleasure. We are lost, without hope, dead, without power to save ourselves and we must look to Christ for His work in our lives to make us alive. Deny any ability on our own for salvation.

"Take up you cross" would have had a very poignant meaning for them, as many Jews had been crucified by the Roman government. This would have a clear meaning of an instrument of death to them. I often think about a literal cross, but Jesus was speaking more of a means of death to ourselves. I am much better at the big "crosses" than the little ones. I can see the big ones as important, but the little ones are more of an inconvenience, rather than something that I have to be willing to die to. Yet these small ones all add up to the weight of our daily, hourly, minutely, struggle in dying to ourselves.

So when we have finally reached the point of seeing our need to follow Christ, through His leading, and understand that none of this comes from within us, but it's all of Christ's work in us, on our behalf, when we are finally willing to joyfully follow Christ's example of self denial, as He demonstrated for us by leaving Heaven and coming to earth to die for the ones He created, then, and only then, are we ready to say we are ready to become Christians; Disciples of Christ; His Followers. Until then, we are trying to gain without going through pain, we are trying to have both the treasure and the easy life here on earth. This is not the path to Heaven as Jesus is lining out for us.

Jesus is saying that if we want to gain eternal life in Heaven with Him, we need to be willing and ready to suffer for His name, like He suffered here on earth. There is no gaining w/o losing. He MAY chose to bless us here on earth, but there is no guarantee of that physical/material blessing, and we need to be wary of earthly wealth; as He tells us it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter Heaven. Does He say that we can't have earthly riches? No. But He is saying that we need to be willing to not have even a place to lay our heads, on earth, if that what it takes to follow Him completely.

In the end, what have we gained if we have possessed the entire world's treasures, for our short time, and have traded that for an eternity w/o God and in Hell? We haven't gained at all, but we have made the worst investment possible. We have traded being rich for "a day", for being poor for "a lifetime".

Does being rich on earth gain you anything in the pursuit of the salvation of our souls? No, all souls are valued the same and are bought with the exact same price; Christ's blood on the cross. The question is, are you really willing to trade?

The thought of the trade may be more painful that the actual trade, because like the rich young ruler, there is a potentially great cost. I say "potentially" because again, God may chose to allow you to have much of what we have already acquired here on earth, but the pain comes in asking yourself if you are really willing to give it all up, if that is what He requires. Are you willing to leave everything you have received, all by His goodness in the first place, for the possibility of having nothing but Him while you remain on earth? There is where the pain comes from. This is not easy believism.

This is from an unknown author, but seems to sum up what Christ is saying about denying ourselves.

"Suppose you have been neglected or unforgiven. You sting with the hurt of the insult from such an oversight, but your heart is happy because you have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ. That is what dying to self is all about.
When your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, and your opinions ridiculed, and yet you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or try to defend yourself, you are practicing dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently stand face to face with folly and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did, you have died to self.
When you are content with any food, money, clothing, climate, society, solitude, or interruption by the will of God, you have died to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, record your own good works, or desire commendation from others, you are dying to self. When you can honestly rejoice with a brother who has prospered and had his needs met, and never feel any envy though your needs are greater and still unmet, you have practiced dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and humbly admit he's right with no resentment or rebellion in your heart, you have died to self. Are you dead yet?"

From this list, I have a long way to go. I am encouraged that Christ has begun the work, and I pray that He would continue it, as I don't have the will, nor the capacity, to do this w/o Him doing it in me.

Drawn to His Word

Ps. 119: 57 The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!

There is nothing I desire here on earth but the Lord, and He is my portion, but I can't promise, on my own, to keep His Word. There is too much evil in me to promise to do good, there is too much running away for me to promise always to run toward. But He has given me an attraction that I have never had before, and by His drawing I desire to be being conformed to His Word and in turn Christ likeness.

He has been gracious to me according to His promise. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; much more pleasant than I deserve. He has blessed me beyond what is required, and if He chooses to bless me more, that is totally up to His goodness, not because of any worth on my part. I would ask that He continue to bless, so that He might be shown even more gracious, not that I may have comfort.

When I think of my ways, I am not as David is here, I am "prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love", but He is able to "take my heart and seal it", to chain me to His Word, so that I might be ready "for His courts above".

He is working in my heart moment by moment to give me the desire to run toward His Word, to remember it, to meditate on it, to think about it even in the late watches of the night. When I wake up too early, or am awake too late, His Word is near me, shaping my thoughts, hammering the sin, and water the seeds of righteousness that have been planted that they may grow and produce fruit. He is the seed and the water and it is Him that causes the growth. He is worthy of my praise, may I give it freely. May I be overflowing with praise for Him, every moment of every day. May His praise be continually on my lips.

He has worked and is still working to change my heart to love His people. On my own, it is not all who fear Him that I am inclined toward, but if He can change my heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, He can bring this about in me. His people are my best friends in life, but it should be that it is ALL His people, not just some of His people. He will continue to work.

The whole of the earth can't contain all if His love, but it is filled to overflowing with it. If I choose to think about it, everywhere I look I can be reminded of His steadfast love for all His children, long suffering toward the wicked and sustaining grace for all of creation. Give to me the desire Great God of love, mercy and compassion.

I want to know all His Statutes. I want His Word to be the food that I long for more than physical food. I want to eat His Word, that I might be strong in Him and ready for the battle. He gives the appetite, the desire, and then He gives the growth and more desire from the growth.

Oh Lord, do not take away the desire from me. Give an over abundance. Make me a glutton for Your Word that I might be spiritually fat. May I be consumed with consuming Your Word and may it be the feast I long to have every meal. This is only possible when You give it and when You sustain it. There is nothing in me that is drawn to good, except You put it there. Please keep putting it in me, so I will continue to be shaped and fashioned by it. After You have finished Your perfect work in me, may all who see the change know that it is You that has done this, and not me. Glorify Yourself by the change in me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Illumination & Revelation

Matt. 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus tells His disciples, and us, that there is no illumination without divine revelation. This doesn't mean that we are to keep our "findings" to ourselves, we are still to "Go and make disciple of all the nations".

We don't seek unless we are given the ability to seek, we can't see w/o our eyes being opened by The Father, we can't find w/o Him leading us to the Truth, and yet we are still to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling".

This shows the responsibility on man's side and the ability on God's. God gave it so Peter got it. If God has illumined us, we are to be "illuminating others" by your walk?

Gold Purification

Malachi 3;1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

If you want to refine gold today, you need a bunch of permits, you should be a chemist, you should also have a nice, safe lab to work out of and a list of chemicals that are both dangerous and hard to pronounce. You also need a very hot fire, some 2000-ish degrees.

I was thinking and then doing a little reading about refining. The articles say things like, "this will achieve 99.4-99.5 percent pure gold, but if more purification is required..." Some even say, "this will achieve 99.9% but if more purification is required".

I was thinking about this process because I was thinking about the process in my own life and how I want to be refined, but often I am creating a lot of extra work in the process.

Imagine the Refiner working, heating up the gold, adding chemicals at just the right time, letting it cool down, washing it with this other chemical, heating it up again with a different solution added this time; all the while having to make sure that the pollutant don't get into the atmosphere, because they are very harmful, and then imagine ME in the process throwing more dirt into the mix every time I can.

This is how it is with our sin. God is refining us, taking away the impurities a little at a time, carefully extracting the junk away, painstakingly looking for every bit of impurity, so that we might be 100% pure gold, no just 99.4%. The usefulness, and subsequent value, of 100% pure gold is so much higher than the 99.4%, yet every time I have an opportunity to add some more dirt, I go back to my sin, that He just purified out of me, and throw it back into the mix.

We need for God to show us our sin and then we need to get rid of it once and for all. It is His desire that we are pure gold. It is His desire that we are pure, so we can be used for whatever He deems best. He is the only One who can keep us turned toward the cross so that we might run away from sin and cling to joy.

Refine us Lord. Make us pure gold, so we can be used for Your honor and Your glory. Show us our sin and make us hate it, as we grow in our love for You. May we be pure and holy as You are pure and holy. Do this work in us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

You have made me Hope in Your Word

Ps. 119:49 Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old,
I take comfort, O LORD.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
who forsake your law.
54 Your statutes have been my songs
in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O LORD,
and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.

Would God have us to hope in His Word and then leave that hope empty? He is not the God of disappointment. He puts hope in our hearts from His Word, for His working, and He makes those hopes come to life. His promises do give us life and light in our afflictions, because we are able to recount all the times He has kept His Word and this makes our affliction light and momentary, as we know that in His time, He will make all things beautiful as He works all things together for our good, as we love Him and are called according to His purpose.

In the night, when there is nothing to do but sleep or lay there thinking, He is my comfort. When I start to worry, He reminds me of what He has done for me already. He is so good to give me His Word that I can meditate on in the late watches of the night.

There are blessings when we follow His Word in obedience. Sometimes those come right away and some will come when we reach Heaven, but there are blessings for those who love His Word. All blessings come from Him and He loves to care for the righteous. He in turn makes the righteous love righteousness more, as we obey.

Oh Fulfiller of all hopes, Rewarder of the righteous, may I love Your Word most, may I be drawn to it like the wicked are to money and pleasure. May all my hopes be focused on You and Your goodness. Don't disappoint as I hope in Your promises, but don't let me have so much that I forget where the blessings come from.

The Lord Hears When I Call

Psalm 4
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?

3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.

6 There are many who say, "Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!"

7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

I started reading "Confessions" by Augustine and he wrote something that made me think about this chapter.

Who am I that God should listen when I call and then answer? Why would He answer me and not another? I can not call on Him unless He draws me to call. He doesn't need me, yet He wants me to call on Him, so He can answer. He answers the righteous, and yet I have no inclination to righteousness unless He puts it in me, as I am only inclined to evil.

Why does God need me to call on Him, when He needs nothing? Why would He want to show mercy and kindness to me, when He gives me all that is good in me in the first place? There is no wisdom in me that He did not put there, and yet He wants me to talk to Him. I have nothing to add to the conversation.

The only thing God gets from a relationship with me is a dependent, needy, sinful person, who left to my own devices would run away as fast as I can back to the sin that so easily besets me. Why does He want a relationship with another needy person?

What wondrous love is this, Oh my soul, Oh my soul. He shows me love and compassion when the only thing I deserve is His wrath. He seeks me out, even when there is nothing lost from His sight. He cares for every one of His sheep, even when we wander back into danger, in love He brings us back to Himself. He never looses one of His children.

He has put joy in my heart more than those whose barns are full and banks are overflowing, because I have Him. When I have Him, there is nothing I lack. He is the provider of all good things, even when those things are trials. I have seen Him using trials to draw me to Himself, which is the best place to be. He takes what seems like "bad" and turns it into what is best for me.

Oh Lord, maker of Heaven and earth, Creator and Sustainer of every thing. Provider of food for every bird of the air and fish of the sea, provider of each heart beat we have and of every breath we take. You are great and glorious and yet You seek me out. You answer when I call to You in my distress, yet if I truly trusted You there would be no distress in my life, because I would always be trusting. Give me faith when I call to You. Remind me of Your mighty works You have done over and over again, that I may not lose heart. I am weak and the "sword" is heavy that I need to carry to fight off the wickedness of the world around me. Give me strength and courage to fight hard, but may I also know that You are the one fighting, not me. Great and marvelous are You, Oh King of the Ancients. Who shall not fear You oh Lord, and bring glory to You name? For You have done great deeds in the land, You have scattered nations who rise up against You and You have sustained Your people even when they have turned their backs on You. You still call them to Yourself. Give courage to Your fearful servant. Make Your name great and crush those who stand against You. Let them see that You are The God of all gods, the King of all kings. There is none beside You.
Thank you for hearing my call and drawing me to Yourself. Keep drawing me and don't let my feet slip. Keep me close to you so that I am not afraid. Keep my love for You hot so there is no distractions that will take my eyes off of You. You are my all in all, and I want nothing beside You. Don't let me go away from Your presence. Hide not Your face from me, for in Your presence there is fullness of joy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Desperately needy, yet lacking nothing.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

I have been asking God to not let me be satisfied with lesser joys. When we have too much, it is easy to think that we are not dependent on God for everything we have. I really don't want to get to that spot again, as I lived in that neighborhood for pretty much the first 45 years of my life. I don't want to move back there.

The trials of life keep me chained to Him. I feel like a little boy who wants to be right next to his dad, because dad will take care of everything. It's scary and comforting. I am supposed to be the one who is in control, yet I know I don't have a clue what will happen even tomorrow. I think that this is where He wants me to be.

I want to submit- voluntarily line up under- Him, because I know He has it all covered and I don't have to worry about anything when He is in control, but that doesn't make it easy to just let go, after trying to run my own life for 45 years.

It seems that I have been praying according to His will, because He is keeping me in a very dependent state. It is grueling, being so dependent, but it is where I really want to be. It's hard but best. I am needy yet lacking nothing.

What do you mean, "Don't tell anyone"?

Matt. 9: 27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, "See that no one knows about it." 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

When Jesus changes our lives, through salvation, it should be that there is no shutting us up. There should be no way to keep us silent. We should be telling others, all the time, what God has done and is doing in our lives.

These men were blind and Jesus heals them. He then tells them, "See that no one knows about it." I think I would have said, "What, can I not say anything? Everyone is going to know that this morning I was blind and now I can see, and You don't want me to let anyone know?" How is it that Jesus changes our lives so drastically, in salvation, and yet we are still the same in so many ways that no one notices?

Unless we are being conformed to His likeness, through His Word and prayer, we will remain the same as we were previously. Pray that He would give us that desire. If you currently have it, pray that He would continue that work in you, until you are complete in Him.

Oh what a blessed day when we will see our Savior and we start to get a real glimpse of how great He is. When we can see for the first time what He has been trying to tell us about Himself and of Heaven. We will probably be walking around saying, "I had no idea".

Lord, give us a glimpse of Your glory and splendor here, today, so we would be encouraged by the Prize and remain in the race. Don't let us lose heart, for You are the only prize worth running after. Give us endurance for the race today. May we run with joy, because You are our prize and we desire You more than anything else. Give us other worldly thoughts, other worldly loves and other worldly vision.

Consider Your Calling

1 Cor. 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

"Humility is the doorway into repentance. The door is small and narrow..." John MacArthur

There is no way that a tall, wide person can go through a short, narrow door. God wants us to be small, so He can be shown off as Great. He is great whether we are small or not, but His greatness is all the more evident when He works great things through His people and they are foolish and small.

God chooses to use the foolish things of this world as His instruments, so that in the end there is no way that any of us can boast of our accomplishments. I am proof that He doesn't pick the sharpest tool in the shed. I am very thankful that He doesn't select His children by what they can bring to the table, as there would be a long list much more qualified than I am. But His ways are not our ways and He gets the most glory out of using some insignificant tool to do any work.

Lord, use me today to show off Your great power, not so I can boast even that You have used me, but that Your power and grace would be seen by those who know how weak and frail I am. Many know of my weakness and yet if You choose to work through me, they would be encouraged that if You use me, and do any sort of work, then there is hope that You would use other weak vessels as well.
God, it is Your power that works in me, it is You that gives me strength to continue, faith to believe and love for others. Don't let me be put to shame, or let my enemies triumph over me. You are my Shield and Stronghold, don't let me be consumed. Show Your strength, by allowing me to be victorious. There are no victories w/o You. The fight is surely lost, before it is begun, if You are not in it.
Thank you for choosing to use me in some small way to bring about Your plan. Open doors so I know where You want me to go and then give me understanding in things I know nothing about to enter and show You off. God, You are mighty. There is none like You and You have chosen me. May I reflect Your image today and rejoice in knowing that I am chosen by the King. May I represent You in a way that all would know that it is You that is the reason I am here and it is you that has changed me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The "BE" Attitudes

Matt. 5:2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8" Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9" Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus' first sermon, His first words that were audible for all to hear, are contained right here. It is interesting that He starts by telling us what we are to BE, inwardly, not DO outwardly. He doesn't start with a bunch of rules.

The Pharisees would have been there, listening but not liking what they were hearing. They were all about outward compliance and didn't put really any thought toward inward qualities. Jesus tells them, and us, what is most important.

"Blessed" also means happy or joyful. If we want to be truly happy then BE these things. Then He gives a list of things that we can't be. At least not on our own. These are all fruit of the Spirit. He then gives a reward for each of them. The greatest reward we can have, even if we never get anything here on earth, is that we would receive Heaven when we are finished with the race. The reward for many of the things on the list is "The Kingdom of Heaven". If we are these things, and we have these attitudes, we will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lord, give us an appetite for You Word and all that You are. Give us hearts that want to conform to it. May we love it, seek truths in it, hunger for it and be consumed by following it. As You do this work in us may we have these attitudes that You want for us to have, so that in the end, You would be glorified and we would have an inheritance in Your Kingdom. Give us this eternal perspective and may we not settle for anything less than Your highest good for us. Work in us, so that we can be these people.

Pray for Grant

Grant is speaking tonight in 128, our youth ministry, so pray for him. Pray that God would use him in a mighty way. That He would reward him for all the study he has done by being comfortable as he speaks. Pray that the students would be changed by the Word.

Also, on a different note. Grant has been working for a friend of ours, doing some demo in their house. The wife noticed that Grant was often flush as he worked, so she thought he should have his BP checked. Grant went to a pharmacy, to pick up his meds, and Teresa told him while he was there to check it on the machine. It was 150 over 80. This is higher than it was in the hospital. Pray that Teresa would rest in God's care for Grant and that the doctors would know what to do, if anything. He has so many things that happen to him all the time that it is hard for him to discern whether this thing or that is important enough to say anything about. He really is a trooper.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I was thinking that we often complain about not having enough rain followed closely by "too much rain", not warm enough and then "it's too warm", ask for sunshine then complain "I need to get to some shade"; and that is just the weather.

God controls and brings what we get and He knows what we need. He often gives us what we want, rather than just provide for our needs.

We need to practice our thankfulness, even when He doesn't give us exactly what we ask for, as He knows what is best.

I want to be a thankful servant of the King, quick to praise Him for what ever He brings. He allows are needs to bring us closer to Himself, so we remember our dependence on Him. Oh that we would remember w/o being complainers.

Nichole Nordeman

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .


We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .


We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
Everything we want and what we really need

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case . . .


We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace

But Jesus, would You please . . .

Poor In Spirit

Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be "poor in spirit"?
Poor, means to be begging, impoverished, having nothing to claim as ones own.
Spirit, is speaking of our spiritual life, or our souls.
So put together, it would means that we see our dependency on another for our spiritual well being or, we see our inability to bring anything to the table spiritually.

Personally, I want to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Right now I want Heaven more than anything else. I don't want that to change as times get better, if they do. I want to always be thinking about how much better it will be in Heaven than it will be here. I am concerned that if God gives, like He has before, I will get caught in the trap of "working as unto myself", and forget that He is the Provider.

I want to always be tasting the "honey" from His Word and Who He is, rather than trying to find sweetness in the world. I want to always be drinking from the living fountain, and not go back to dry cisterns.

The pull of the world is strong and sin is enticing. I must be vigilant in killing sin. I must be vigilant in repenting. I must remember that in and of myself I have nothing to bring to the table and that Christ is my only hope for inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. I don't want to ever find myself with my head in a dry cistern.

Lord, continue to show me my sin and my abject need of all that You are. Bring joy in repenting from that sin. Don't let me love anything here, but keep my affections hot for You and for the things of Heaven. Thank You for letting me taste of Your sweetness and remind me often of how sweet You are compared to the bitterness of the world. You will not lose one of Your own, so keep me close to You. Guard me with Your strong right arm and beat down all the things this world tries to replace You with. Show me Your glory in ways that only You can, so I will never want to go away from my first Love. Let me be satisfied in You and only You, so I will have true joy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pray for our Elders

Col. 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in ONE BODY. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is my prayer for our elders this week.

I Love Your Commandments

Ps. 119:41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD,
your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me,
for I trust in your word.
43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your rules.
44 I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place,
for I have sought your precepts.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your commandments,
which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.

Something I notice immediately in this section is that David loves God's Word. He wants God to bring it to him and leave it there. He knows that the reason he has answers for the questions is because of The Word.

"Walking in a wide place" gives the meaning that our lives are unencumbered by sin, so we are free to run wide on the path, rather than walking on a very tight and slippery slope. We are free from the chains of sin as we seek His precepts. They direct us to do what is right, rather than the law requiring, and forcing, us to do what is right. Doing what is right now becomes our delight, not our duty.

David was a man who loved God's Word, consumed God's Word, meditated on God's Word and that Word changed His life.

May I love Your Word more than silver or gold. May I speak boldly of Your Word because of the change it is making in me. May it be my source of comfort, wisdom and encouragement and may I never want to be w/o it.

Dust and Ashes or Restoration?

Since God loves a broken and contrite heart, Ps. 51:17, and He also want us to be joyful in every circumstance, thankful for all that He has done, and is doing, in our lives and He wants us to be holy even as He is holy, there seems to be some overlap of attitude and character here.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that I need to be broken for a long time over my sin for God to see that I am actually contrite and repentant. Is this what God really wants from me? After giving it some thought, I don't think that is the case.

The Bible gives us many examples of people turning from sin, and also people remaining in their sin. David was a man after God's own heart, so his repentance and restoration would be a good model to follow.

There were many times he was in "dust and ashes" over his sin. He would have seen his sin for what it truly was and been desirous to turn from it, back to true joy. I think the part I dwell on too long is the "dust and ashes". God wants us to be serious about sin, just like He is, but He also wants us to be restored to fellowship quickly with Him and not be thinking about that sin over and over again.

Repentance is turning from sin, toward true joy, but the turn should be quick. As soon as we are shown our sin, we need to recognize it for what it is and then get right back into fellowship with the One who allows us to see our sin, created the relationship in the first place, and has paid the price for our sin so we can actually have a relationship.

If you tell your kids to do something and they disobey, what has just happened? They have broken the relationship. You have not done anything wrong, they have. So when you show them the error of their way, what do you want them to do about it? Is it helpful for your relationship for them to be saddened over their sin for days; to walk around defeated? No. Your desire for them is that they see their sin, quickly acknowledge the sin for what it is and then restore the relationship you just had back to where it was so you both can have joy again.

Lord, may we love our relationship with You so much that we guard it from the sin, that steals our joy in You, with all we have. Please show us our sin, so that there is nothing that comes between us. Please help us to see how You want us to be, in repentance and forgiveness, so that we would not be out of fellowship with You any longer than is necessary. Give us joy inexpressible when the relationship is right. Give us peace indescribable when we are resting in You. Give us love overflowing as we interact with others and they witness Your power in us. You can do this in us, we have no power on our own, so please make us children of the Light, that want to walk in the Light as You are our Light.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Heart Breaking & Heart Revealing

Prov. 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.

I was saddened tonight when we returned home from church. Teresa was reading some of the student's conversations on some web site and found that some of them are using fowl language as they write each other. I guess I was hoping that if they were going to use filthy language they would at least try to keep it out of print, but this truly reveals their hearts.

Pray for our students that they would not be lured away by the world and their friends, who apparently don't care about purity or decency. "Out of the heart the mouth speaks" and this is certainly true of our youth. Pray that God would crush their cold, stone, hearts and give them a heart of flesh.

We are in a battle for the souls of our students and we need to be in prayer for them, as sin doesn't wake up tired and the evil one would love to capture them for himself early on.

Willingly Waiting

Ps. 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

What does it actually mean to wait for the Lord. Since we are unable to do anything on our own, aren't we forced to wait for Him. Is waiting on the Lord saying, "Well, He is in charge and I can't do anything about it, so I'm just waiting on Him"?

First off; shouldn't we be more than willing to wait for Him, as He has waited so long for our repentance? We are willing to wait for all kinds of things that are but a breath of time when they arrive, and yet we push to hurry God's timing. Whatever we are waiting for may not be on our time table, but it certainly is not out of God's timing.

Second; Waiting suggests patience in trials. "Patience is a cheerful submission of our will to God: 'The will of the Lord be done' (Acts 21:14). A godly man acquiesces in what God does, as being not only good but best for himself. The great quarrel between God and us is, Whose will shall stand? Now the regenerate will falls in with the will of God." Thomas Watson.

Can we just say that we have to be patient and have that still be patience? It seems like we don't have any choice, and patience is willingly lining up under God, not forced. What does it say if we submit while being whipped? Nothing, except that we were smart enough not to push back any more, so we are no longer being whipped. It reveals much more about our hearts when we have the choice to do whatever we want, yet we choose to wait for God to direct us. This clearly says we want to follow Christ.

It is easy to say that we need to be patient, but much harder to do. Likewise, saying "Be still and know that I am God", or "Wait patiently for the Lord", is much easier to say than to put into practice. When God allows trials in our lives, we are still to be patient. When He takes away something, or someone, we love, we are still to be patient. Thomas Watson said, "He never takes something away from us without giving us something better to replace it".

Let us practice waiting on the Lord, and watch Him work everything for our good. Hope in God and just wait to see what He does to show off His goodness. He is faithful, kind and good and He wants what is best for us.

Plants and Pillars

Ps. 144:12 May our sons in their youth
be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars
cut for the structure of a palace;
13 may our granaries be full,
providing all kinds of produce;
may our sheep bring forth thousands
and ten thousands in our fields;
14 may our cattle be heavy with young,
suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;
may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15 Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

Our children are a heritage from the Lord; each one a blessing from His hand. They are the generation that will either build and grow on our faith, or fall away, as the generation of the Israelites did after coming into the Promised Land.

May our young men be strong in their faith, bold in their proclamation of the Gospel and planted in His Word that they would continue to grow through the years to come.

It is interesting that the daughter are the pillars holding up the palace, rather than the sons. Our daughters can keep family ties strong and tight; they can be a grace to our homes and churches as they grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Oh that the Lord would continue to bless our families and grow our children into the men and women He would have them to be. May He give fruit for our labor and increase of faith as we watch Him work in the lives of our off spring. May our barns be full, as He gives the increase. May we be content to live and love as He provides.

Lord, You have blessed me with so much more than I deserve. You have blessed me with great kids of my own, and surrounded them with other young men and women who love You and want to pursue You above everything else. May they love Your portion, seek You first, love Your Word and grow to be strong examples of Your grace in a life spent pursuing You. Bless them for following You. Give them fruit for their labor enough to keep them encouraged, but not so much as to become proud. May they be the leaders of tomorrow's churches and families that You would have them to be. Root them deep in Your Word and then from that deep foundation, make them as giant trees in the land that others can come for food, shelter and protection.

Plastic and Fabric

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Matt. 4:8 The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

"'You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.'"

I wonder what it must have looked like, to Jesus, to look at the world from the perspective Satan was trying to give Him. Was it even remotely a temptation to accept his offer when Jesus created the world, knows the flaws it has, after sin, knows the final outcome and has seen the immeasurable differences of Heaven. Was this really a temptation when He had already tasted Heaven?

If we could just get a glimpse of Heaven many of our issues, sins and earthly loves would just go away, because we would see how foolish these small joys are compared to what is coming.

Little girls play with dolls. This is a good thing for them, so they can learn what it is like to "love" this little entrusted to their care. Soon after they get this dolly they are hugging, kissing and talking to this piece of plastic and fabric. When they grow up and become real moms they do the same thing to their actually babies, but they never seem to go back with the same affection to the doll. Why do you suppose that is? Because now they have tasted the true joy and love from the real thing.

When we start to see Heaven as our prize, then all that this life has doesn't compare. All the things we work and plan to get are like a little plastic and fabric dolly, yet we spend most of our lives working to get a new and better dolly.

"The world rings changes. It is never constant except in its disappointments. How quickly we may remove our lodgings and make our pillow in the dust! The world is but a great inn where we are to stay a night or two and be gone. What madness it is so to set our heart upon our inn as to forget our home!" Thomas Watson.

Lord, give us a glimpse of Heaven that we might truly see what we are running after here. Give us a taste of Your feast so we would know and never be completely satisfied with what we are chasing here on earth. Make Heaven our passion. Make Your Presence our highest aim. Give us other worldly loves. Of our selves, we are weak and want cheap trappings that satisfy for but a breath. Help us to see the futility and look for eternal things. You can change our loves and our hearts. Please do that, so we may be more like Your Son. May we love You most of all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Home Show

Ps. 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

We start the home show today. It's 9 days of meeting people, visiting and making friends. Some of those friends turn into clients.

We need God to bring us the people He wants us to meet, that are ready to begin a project and like what we have to offer. We are at His mercy and grace in this endeavor, as we are at every place else in our lives.

Lord, give us grace for the hearers today, and for the week, that we might be a light to this dark world, even at the home show. Bring us the work You have for us to do Lord, and let us rest in you care. Don't let me be anxious about show traffic and what others are saying is happening to them, but let me look only to You, as You are more than able to accomplish what concerns me today. Thanks for our abundant provision already, on our behalf, and for the markers You have given us along the way that we might remember them and then remember Your goodness to us. You are great and worthy to be praised and we look forward with great anticipation for the day when we will be perfectly rejoicing in front of Your throne. Oh, for that day!

My Valentine

Song of Solomon 4:9 You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
11 Your lips drip nectar, my bride;
honey and milk are under your tongue;
the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

My sweet Teresa. You are the love of my life, even though there are certainly times I don't express that to you. You are my helper and completer, more than you know.

Before Kimmy was born it was hard for you to think about staying home and "Just being a mom", but as soon as she arrived she changed your heart. Thanks for being willing to be a great mom to our kids. They are so much better for your investment in them. Thanks for taking up the slack that I left while I was at work.

Thanks for your heart for working hard, both in side and outside. You are an encouragement to so many people as you just stop by a weed a little patch, or plant some little tree. You are spreading your "branches of generosity" wide.

Thanks for being willing to share our home with so many others. It is always a lot of work, but you are willing to minister to others in this way.

Thanks for your tender heart. You are compassionate and caring, and want to carry others' burdens with them.

Teresa is;
Pasture- a place to go in order to be refreshed and filled with good things.
Partner- both to me and others as we work towards Christ-likeness.
Philanthropy- always giving of herself for others.
Peace Maker- always wanting everyone to get along.
Pace Setter- especially when it comes to gardening.
Predictably- unpredictable.
Phun- always looks at the lighter side.

Thanks for being my Valentine for all these years.


Matt. 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Evangelism; what kind of things just popped into your head? Was it Billy Graham, a guy standing on the street corner on a milk box, some fanatical people in a stadium that for sure were not there to watch the game or a couple of guys walking around knocking on doors? All of these are forms of evangelism, but is this what Jesus had in mind, inclusively?

I don't think that is what Jesus was trying to get across to His disciples that day. There are times when these forms of evangelism work, but Jesus was talking about making disciples "as you go". As you go to the grocery store, as you go about your work, as you go riding in the car, as you go visit with your friends, as you go talking to clients and whatever else it is that you do every day- make disciples.

You might say, "I can't do that, it's too scary", or "God hasn't given me the gift of evangelism". I might say "Really?", in a sarcastic tone of voice:)

I am not the greatest evangelist, but every one of us has a platform for making disciples that is different then the next. If you're a stay at home mom with 5 little kids, first of all- praise God for allowing you to fulfill His command for your life- and second- you have a very different platform than your husband does, who might be running some fortune 500 company. The people who are watching you are very different than those watching your husband, but people ARE watching both of you. There is no way the women around you are going to listen to your husband the same way they are going to listen to you. Your husband has a great opportunity where he is working, but it is very different than yours.

Why am I posting this? Well if we are here "On Purpose- For A Purpose" and Jesus' final instructions for His disciples was "As you are going, make disciples" then shouldn't we all be making disciples?

Moms, you are making disciples when you tell your kids what God is doing, and has done, in your life. This way when they are older they will remember the good things that God has done and want to serve Him.
Dads, you are making disciples when you live out Christ in front of your families, so they will know what it is like to have a kind, gentle and serving father. When they see you living out Christ, they will want Him more than anything this world can offer.
Children, you are making disciple as you honor your parents. When many of the kids around you are not honoring their parents you will have a platform for evangelism as you share the joy that God gives when we are obedient to His Word.
Bosses, you are making disciples when you work as unto the Lord, giving God the glory in every situation and letting Him direct your business. When your employees fall on hard times they will come to you and ask about the hope that is in you.
Employees, you are making disciple when you, also, work as unto the Lord. Your fellow employees, and your boss, will see that you are different. Someday they will ask you why you work so hard and you will have a platform for evangelism.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven, Matt 5:16. We are to be salt and light, not 24 grit sand paper, as we go through this life. People are looking for something to hope in, and Jesus is the Only Hope.

As we go, take the time to tell the people you have a relationship with of the Hope that is in you. If God gives you a bigger platform for evangelism, then that is great. But for right now, practice your evangelism by loving others as only Christ can love, and tell them about the change repentance towards joy has brought in your life.

Lord, give us love for others, love for Your Word and courage to speak of Your goodness as we go. May our lives be fountains where others want to come to be refreshed. May we always tell of Your greatness and faithfulness. May this be the praise of our hearts, our main point, the focus of our lives and the joy of our hearts. May You be the song that we are always singing. Give us opportunities and then give us boldness. You are our greatest love and highest prize, may we want to share the best we have with others.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Let Us Not Forget To Praise Him!!

My Offering
Nicole Nordeman
If You made me like the grass that is green
Growing tall; covering the hills above me
Maybe I would pray for sunshine and a little rain
To fall now and then to make me lovely

I could be a place where sheep could graze
Or barefoot feet could play
And I would grow and grow and hope You'd bend down low
To hear me sing my offering

Open up the heavens, open up the skies
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song so let the earth sing along
'Cause I just want to praise You

If You made me to be a cloud in the sky
Found the perfect place way up high where I could hover
Maybe I would pray for skies that were blue
Or a sunset or two to show Your colors

Or maybe I might be
A mountain strong and steep

But I would try and stand as tall as I can
And I would sing my offering

Open up the heavens, open up the skies
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song so let the earth sing along
'Cause I just want to praise You

And the sun every morning can not wait to shine
And the stars every evening are all standing by to light the sky
Give the rocks and the stones voices of their own

If we forget to sing praises to our King

So open up the heavens, open up the skies
All of Your creation wants to testify

We just want to praise you
We just want to praise you
Lift up your voice and with us sing
I have a song so let the earth sing along
'Cause I just want to praise You