Monthly Archives: January 2014

Worrying about the Wrong Thing?

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When Jesus began his teaching ministry one of the things he encourages us not to do is to worry about the future. Not even basic things like food and clothing :

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

 Jesus asks, “is life not more than food and the body than clothing”?. Before Jesus asks this question he tells us

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)

Perhaps Jesus is saying something like this…  “Worry is the result of placing too much value on earthly treasures.  As if life is found in having earthly treasures.  Life is actually found in how many heavenly treasures you have.”

Instead of letting your heart focus on ‘What do I do to store up more earthly treasures so I can have a happy, pleasant  future on earth?’ challenge your heart to focus on “What do I do today to store up more and more treasures for myself in heaven”?

I’ve never been anxious about the size of my heavenly treasure.  Never woke up in the morning thinking, “How big is my bank account in heaven and how can I make it bigger”? The root of worry is valuing this world too much.   When worry and anxiety creep into my soul it is like a warning bell going off…”You are valuing this world too much. Start valuing treasures in heaven.”

Our Spiritual Tug of War

tug-o-war1-1024x345Sometimes I think Peter and Paul say things that are contradictory, or maybe they are  just more in touch with both earthly and spiritual realities. 2Cr 6:10 “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing” and I Peter 1:6 “…you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”. How can you have sorrow and Joy, Rejoicing and grieving going on at the same time in your heart? Or maybe it is more like a tug of war, sometimes you are pulled toward the grief of living in this world and sometimes you are pulled toward the joy of the Lord and his soon return. Joy vs sorrow. Someday only joy. No more sorrow. Even so come quickly Lord Jesus!

Captured by the Triune God

trinity imagesWhen the Apostle Peter wanted to bring hope and encouragement to suffering, anxious Christians he begins by pointing them to the Triune God (I Peter 1:2).  He reminds them who they are:

chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

Wow! How easy it is, when going through a tough time in life, to get caught up in yourself and the uncertainty before you.  Peter wants us to focus on who the Triune God is and what he has done for you.  Let’s look briefly at what the Triune God has done for us his children:

I. The Father chooses us.  Chosen by the Creator to belong to him forever!  He knew me before the creation of the world, knew all the ways I put myself first, all the ways I fail to love BUT he still choose me for himself.

2. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us.  Sets us apart for the Father, makes us clean before the Father.  The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to draw us toward Jesus Christ and away from continuing on our path of self-indulgence & self-absorption.  The Holy Spirit enabled us to taste the love of Jesus Christ. The taste is so wonderful, we want HIM!

3. The Son of God sprinkles us with blood.  It is the blood of Jesus that makes us clean and acceptable before the Father.  We stand under the cross, the dying blood of Jesus, drops down on us…. drip, drip, drip.  Every drop touching our soul, cleansing us from our failures to love and worship.  We are made clean!

Now we have access into the Father’s presence, to adore him and cast our anxieties on Him, longing to obey his Son Jesus.

 

Patching Up Life

(This is a blog post by Dr. Larry Crabb, a quote from his book, “Finding God”.  http://newwaymin.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/we-have-a-larger-purpose-than-patching-up-life/)

 

patchinglife“We all fear that life is intolerable and overwhelming, but we don’t want to admit it. To do so would require a terrifying dependence on God. But the fabric of life is shredded beyond repair. Legislation, therapy, social action, church programs, personal growth seminars–nothing can sew it back together.

“…We will never fully mend the rip–only God can accomplish that. But we have a larger purpose than patching up life: to know God and enjoy him forever.”

Dr. Larry Crabb, Finding God, Page 55

 

I Desire Nothing on Earth?

hand-reaching-to-heaven-for-secrets-300x271This morning, “happened” to pick up my Bible which was opened to Psalm 73.  Here David makes an amazing statement in his prayer to the Lord:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

Really? I desire all kinds of things that I think will make my life better and more enjoyable.  David had reached the point in his life where he surrendered his earthly desires for heavenly ones. Knowing God intimately, personally, was the only thing that would satisfy his empty soul.  Unfortunately, I keep pursuing dreams on earth, solving life’s problems as my first passion.  No wonder life can sometimes feel empty and boring.  Time to repent of misplaced desires.

In this psalm, The Lord is calling us to desire closeness to him as our first passion.   There is nothing on earth that will taste as good as He does! (Read Psalm 73 to hear David’s amazing journey from earthly desires to wanting God himself alone).

Gall of Bitterness

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Heard a sermon today on the heart.  About taking  an honest,  inside look at what is stirring in your own heart.  The message came from Acts chapter 8 where Peter confronts  a man named Simon.  He was bitter because Peter had a more powerful, famous ministry than Simon did.  Simon wanted a ministry like that, people talking about him like that.  Simon wanted this kind of ministry so badly, he was willing to pay money to have it!

Peter’s response seemed harsh:

“… your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.

Is your heart “In the Gall of Bitterness”?  Two strong words together… Gall… meaning bile, yellowish green yuk, the yukky stuff coming out of you on both ends when your sick!  Bitterness:  the most bitter tasting stuff you can imagine.  The kind you want to spit out immediately.

Simon was performing miracles on the outside but he was doing  it from a heart filled with bitterness.

It is a sin I can easily I commit.  How many times in my life have I been jealous of other pastors who have a bigger, stronger, more well known ministry than me?  Bitter that my ministry did not succeed but that theirs did.  I want what he has! I can look good on the outside but on the inside have a bitter, demanding heart.  Wickedness!

What is in your heart today? Jesus wants you to take an honest, inside look! He wants us to      “first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may be clean also”. (Matthew 23:26)

[For an excellent book on taking an inside look, repenting,  and finding forgiveness read  “Inside Out”, by Dr Larry Crabb”]

 

I shall not Want… Really?

ask-more-300x185Frequently, when I am with older folks in Care Facilities, I start quoting Psalm 23 to encourage them. Surprisingly, some of them, finish quoting the Psalm for me.  They can’t remember what they said or did two minutes ago but they remember Psalm 23.

Had a flashback tonight.  When I was about ten years old, I remember riding in the car with my father.  I had recently read Psalm 23 and was asking him a question about verse 1 from the Psalm.  “What does it mean, ‘I shall not want’?  We want things.”  Does the Christian not want anything?

Today, as an adult, I recognize I want lots of things.  Mostly things I don’t have. I want those things… Satisfying  income, relationships, success, health, etc.  Is that wrong?

David found the Lord Jesus Christ so satisfying for his thirsty soul that he didn’t want or lack anything else.  He knew those other things don’t satisfy the deepest parts of his soul. David had an intimate relationship with the Lord, that relationship was so fulfilling, what more did he need?  What else was lacking?

I need to remember that the Lord looks at me with eyes of love, longs to pour his love and presence into me.  He is the one who walks beside me even when it is through the valley.

Perhaps what I need to do is quit thinking about how dark and scary the valley is and start enjoying an intimate conversation with my Lord. Focus on Him, the one who walks beside me.

Overcoming Anxiety

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It’s a New Year. Are you excited about the upcoming year? Maybe! Maybe not!  Most of us, deep down, are hoping the New Year will be better than last year.  But we hope, we don’t know for sure.  What do we do with this anxiety over an uncertain new year.  Here is one idea God gives us as we fight the daily battle with anxiety.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you”.    (I Peter 5: 6,7).

What do we do when anxiety comes?

1. Humble ourselves…. Lower ourselves before God. Submit to his will whatever it is, whatever he has planned for us

2. Take our anxieties and throw them on our heavenly father.  Give them to him.  Constantly give our anxieties to him whenever they invade our thoughts.

We do this because, we are confident that he cares for us, loves us, and wants to draw close to us as we experience anxiety.

Heaven is wonderful, Only Jesus Christ can carry us there.

heaven is a wonderful place

Having been a pastor for 30 years I’ve discovered that people really want to go to heaven.  I have done many funerals for families who have no current church or religious connection, yet assume that there is life after death.  Never have I done a funeral where the assumption is “We will never see this person again. He/she is gone forever”.  People always assume their loved one is in a better place, often assuming that person is looking down on us.

One of my favorite Scripture passages that I always read at funerals is from Revelation 21:3, 4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

In the new heavens & new earth, a physically recreated heaven on earth, the restored garden of eden, in that place… no more death, no more pain, no more mourning.  Imagine a world without hospitals, funeral homes, nursing homes, jails, wars. A beautiful place where God himself dwells.  A place that feels safe all the time, no more wars, anxieties, worries of any kind.

How can we make sure that we will inherit such a place?  How can we know that is where we are headed when we die?  Only by admitting we have sinned against God and Jesus Christ is our only hope.  Some scriptures that come to mind on this is…

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.   John 14:6

 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God. 1Pe 3:18

He [the criminal crucified with Jesus]was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luk 23:42,43

Heaven is a wonderful place.  Only Jesus can pick us up in our broken, helpless condition and carry us into our Heavenly Father’s presence.   No human being can do that for us. You can’t do it yourself.  The government can’t create a heaven on earth. Only the true and living God can bring heaven to earth.

“Strong in the Lord” or “Poor Me”

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Which Attitude will it be?

Strong in the Lord  –  Habakkuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17,18)

OR

Poor Me –  Elijah:

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers. (I Kings 19:4)

 

Today, reflecting on the end of another year, the beginning of a new one.  One thing is for sure, the new year will be a strange mixture of blessings and disappointments.  We all hope there will be more blessings than disappointments. God is calling me to adopt a new attitude more like Habakkuk than Elijah.  In the coming year, “Be Strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”. (Ephesians 6:10)