Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorials

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

In the United States, we have a holiday on the last Monday in May. It's called Memorial Day and it honors those who gave their lives to protect our nation. And whether you're here or in another country and whether or not this is a holiday where you live, it's worth taking the time to remember what others have done for us.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In My Flesh....

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

The first verse of that passage from Proverbs 3 came from the latest Wednesday evening service at my church. No, I wasn't the preacher. But it speaks to part of today's thought. And, in a sense, we're going to start at the end and work backward.


Monday, May 23, 2011

What Are You Thinking?

Proverbs 23:7a For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:

Computer people might restate that as "garbage in, garbage out". But I prefer Ann Curry's quote from jazz great Charlie Parker, "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." And that describes us. We're a product of everything we take in ... physically, mentally and spiritually. And that's what I want us to consider today.

In an old post, I commented that I felt sorry for some of the Pharisees. I could really stretch that to more modern examples. There are believers and unbelievers who hear the Truth and reject it when they obviously shouldn't. There are others who have been trained throughout their lives to believe something else, then are given a brief exposition of Truth that isn't likely to change anything. And there's a third group who've been questioning what they'd been taught and readily receive and embrace Truth. And, just days ago, we saw examples of these.

First, there were those in Harold Camping's group who followed his multiple erroneous rapture predictions, despite having had better teaching prior to affiliating with Family Radio's teaching. Private interpretation took precedence over Truth. Along with those, somewhere on the fringe, were technicians, etc. who claimed not to believe the prophecy, but were technically active in spreading the false teaching. I'm not sure I'd want to be any of them when the real judgement arrives.

Second, there are those who listened to Family Radio when they were first saved and became indoctrinated in the combination of good and false doctrines. They know nothing else as proper doctrine. But they were learning because they wanted to draw closer to God. They're the ones who get hurt by the false teachings. Because, when those teachings unravel, they question the bad doctrine, themselves and even the good teaching around them. And we may be to blame for some of that by not taking enough time to disciple our new converts. We need to get better at that.

The third group could, maybe, be exemplified by the dazed Camping followers who recognize that there's something wrong with the results of the doctrinal stance that was taken. Ready to explore and embrace Truth. And this is where we have a real opportunity to show God's love. By not condemning, but lovingly showing them proper doctrine and demonstrating God's love for them.

I'm sure there are other examples of the three groups, but this one has been in the news and is recognizable by believer and unbeliever alike. The great thing is that, as public as this example was, we have one responsibility. The words of 1 Corinthians 14:6-9 tell us to trumpet the message of God's grace, mercy and love with a certain sound. And, as Charlie Parker put it, "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."

As always, pray for Libby. And besides that, consider my friends Curtis and Dana, with varying needs and requests. And all the victims of the recent natural disasters, from Japan to Joplin and anywhere in between.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More of the Random

1Corinthians 14:40  Let all things be done decently and in order.

That verse is key to some of today's random thoughts.  The first being another tech gem to make life and ministry easy.

One that's become almost as indispensable as my right arm is Evernote.  It's, basically, a note taking/keeping system.  Which doesn't seem like much, but it's so much more.  Evernote is available for PC and Mac, plus most smartphone platforms (more to come). Once you create an account, notes are stored in encrypted form online, accessible from computer or phone either via dedicated software or web interface.  Anything you want to commit to writing and have readily available, no matter where you are, is perfect for Evernote.  Your privacy is protected, the contents of your notes is considered yours only and those plus your account are protected by encryption.

The utility of Evernote is amazing.  Here are some examples:

1) You can organize by multiple notebooks and stacks of notebooks on the computer.  The phone apps (at least for Blackberry) don't do this, but will now recognize all the notes you've created.
2) There is a webclipper add-on for most computer browsers that allows copying web content directly into an Evernote note.
3) Your Evernote account includes an Evernote email address.  That allows you to create an email to your Evernote account that goes directly into a note.  Have you ever been somewhere and wanted to keep notes for future use, possibly on a different device than you might later want to access the info from?  Email it to your Evernote account and the info will be available on all the devices you use Evernote on.
4) The Biblereader phone app can send your personal Bible notes to your Evernote account.
5) There's a function called myEM that connects your Twitter and Evernote accounts so that you can send selected tweets to your Evernote account.

Those are just a few of the gems that make Evernote so good.  As long as you sync with your account before closing, each time, you can create and edit something anywhere you've got a device that can let you access your account.  So, you could start something on your home computer, continue it on your phone while commuting (if you're not driving), edit from your office computer, etc.  Flexible and it allows you to be creative when the thought is in mind.  Available at http://evernote.com.  Decently and in good order.

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Pastor Mark Driscoll recently tweeted "They are addicts, getting high on preaching & mingling, needing a fix: Conference Christians.http://theresurgence.com/2011/05/16/the-crisis-of-conference-christians/".  Follow the link to the full article.  Whether it's a variety of conferences or conferences within your own ministry, does it sound like anyone you know?

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It's always a joy when I get to hear, see or read real wisdom.  I'm not talking about flowery speech and great philosophical thought.  I'm talking about the simple wisdom that comes when you think with God. Kim Bruce is young lady who's relatively new in the blogosphere, but she writes well and definitely shows a heart after God.  You can find her posts at http://soulunpacked.blogspot.com.  Particularly Sunday's post, "A Conversation with God About Adventure" at http://bit.ly/lYSn41.  Read it.  It puts the proper perspective on a lot of things.  You can also follow her on Twitter as @kimthebruce.  In both places, decently and in good order.

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I think I've given you some good links to some things to take your walk with God a little further.  So, I'm going to go enjoy my birthday. As always, continue to keep Libby and her family in prayer.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Do You Know Your Passion?

Nehemiah 8:10  Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. 

Today's foundational verse might not seem like it has much to do with understanding our passion.  But one of the things that's been in my meditations lately is that there seem to be those who are miserable in what they do, while others seem to be having a blast.  And that's where the above verse comes in, which we'll get to, momentarily.

Recently, Mary DeMuth was a guest author on Michael Hyatt's blog. She wrote an article titled "Find Your Passion in Three Steps."  Miss DeMuth covers a lot of territory, including a number of things that can keep us from our passion.  You can read the full post, plus a lot of other great articles at http://michaelhyatt.com.  But let's focus on the three steps:

1) Where does need and joy collide?  Miss DeMuth gives a great ministry related explanation for this.  In short, ministry meets a need and your passion is where you find your greatest joy  in meeting the need.

2) Do the Three Movie Exercise.  This one could also be three favorite books or three favorite sermons.  The point is that your favorites are going to have a common thread.  And that common thread is related to your passion.

3) Ask Others About "One Thing".  Another good suggestion.  We can be too close to ourselves to clearly recognize what our passion is. But others, from reading our writing or being around us, may have a better understanding of the thing that moves us.

Keep those three steps in mind.  And definitely go to http://michaelhyatt.com and read the full article.  In the meantime, we're going to look at another post on the subject.  Shortly after I read Mary Demuth's great article, Pastor Jason Moore covered the same subject from a different angle.  The full post is titled "3 Questions" and can be read in full at http://altarsflame.blogspot.com, along with some other great posts.

Psalm 137:1-6 gives 3 questions: 1) What do you dream about? What would you do if you had no fear of failure. 2) What do you cry about? Burdens that drive passions. 3) What do you sing about? What causes you to rejoice. Consider these answers and to what direction do they take you - are you walking that way?

Six great probes into our hearts to find our passion.  Yet, I think there are other probes that are core to who we are as Christians and how we find our passions.

One of my outreach leaders suggested that it didn't make much sense to do a particular outreach if our heart isn't in it, if we aren't having fun doing it.  Don't get me wrong.  There will be times of trial, sadness, etc.  But there will still be a sense of fulfillment, even in those.  And, once in awhile, there are times when it's just plain difficult and hard. And only 20/20 hindsight will show us our true place in those circumstances.  But we need to look at our life.  If we're hearing from God and following our call, we're very likely living in our passion. Perhaps not to the extent we might like.  But I believe that we naturally are drawn in that direction.  So, look for it. And that's where our starting verse comes in.

Nehemiah 8 talks about Israel being read the Law by Ezra at the Feast of Trumpets.  Their response to the Word of God was sadness because they had failed to adhere to the Law.  And, here in verse 10, they're first told to celebrate and feast.  Relaxed enjoyment.  Then to share that feast with those in need.  So far, that sounds an awful lot like Mary DeMuth's first step.  Next they're told not to be sorry.  Not lacking repentance, but not living in self pity and loathing, either. Finally, the verse gives the reason   Our strength comes from the joy given by the Lord.  We don't live in self focus on our failures, nor in our self proclaimed desires.  If we heed God's leading and call, He will direct our ways (Isaiah 45:13).  We get to find our passion by being delivered into it by God.  Thus getting to live in His joy in what we're doing because we're in His will!

So, we can enjoy our passion and rejoice in the fact that God gave it to us to enjoy. As always, continue in prayer for Libby.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 6

Psalm 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Now, we come to a verse I don't have much to say about.  Not because it's not important.  Not because there aren't things to say. But here we have the result of all the things talked about in the preceding five verses.  Following the Shepherd, recognizing the beneficence of all God's thoughts and actions toward us, resting & trusting in all that.  Those all lead to the conclusion that goodness and mercy will be an integral part of my experience, forever. Because I will have been drawn to the inescapable conclusion that all my experiences, good and bad, are for my growth and blessing. Once that becomes core to my thinking, the brightest of times become brighter and the darkest of times are no longer quite so dark.

The second part of the verse isn't quite so obvious from the previous verses.  But there's an unstated, underlying Truth that leads to the conclusion that I'll live with God eternally.  In order for all the previous verses to be true, there's an understood basis that I've accepted that God has a rightful place in my life and I'm willing to give Him that place.  Because He's shown His love and protection before. As 1John 4:17-19 says, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us."  His love for us draws out our love and trust.

God never expects us to come to Him without His first giving us a reason to.  And it may be the good things that do that for us.  Or we may need what seem like not so nice experiences to see the contrast.  If you haven't realized the importance of a relationship with God and how great His love is for you, I urge you to consider that now!  And I'll make a suggestion to help with that.  Go through the posts here about each of the verses in this Psalm.  Then take at least 5 minutes to a half hour (more, if you have the time) after each reading to consider how that relates to God's love for you specifically.  The decision about what your relationship with God will be is the most important decision you can ever make.  It has eternal consequences. So, take the time to consider how much He wants that relationship with Him to be positive and heaven bound.

Till next time, please continue in prayer for Libby.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 5

Psa 23:5  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

The verse begins by describing a situation where the writer is banqueting, but surrounded by enemies.  Maybe it was the proximity of Mothers Day, but my mind went back to the time we had a new grade school teacher that I somehow ended up on her bad side, with a few notes sent home to my parents.  The next thing I knew, my mom had invited the teacher to our house for dinner.  Much to my chagrin, they got along very well.  And there I was, feeling like I was having dinner "in the presence of mine enemies".  But the truth is that my mom was always doing things for my benefit.  Just like God did for David and keeps doing for us.  Because this really doesn't talk about a banquet where the guests are enemies.  It speaks of everyday life, where lots of things come against us, but God gives us a feast in the midst of the turmoil. That feast may not always be evident.  However, if we're looking for it with the right spiritual eyes, we'll know it's there.

The next part of the verse tells us that David's head was anointed with oil.  Anointing was sometimes done to recognize an office, sometimes for healing, but always to show that God was equipping the person to deal with a situation.  We're given what we need to get through our particular circumstances.  Which is why, when we say we don't think we'd ever get through something someone else is going through, we're absolutely right.  We aren't given the anointing and grace for another person's trials...only our own.  So David (and us by inference) could expect God to supply the anointing and grace for bad situations and give him the insight to recognize the spiritual banquet that was a part of those circumstances.

Finally, the verse says, "my cup runneth over."  There's a saying in the world that asks whether you see the glass as either half full or half empty, if it's 50% full of something.  A friend of mine, Kim Poston, recently posted a different take on that when she wrote, "When your glass is half full, pour a little into someone else's cup;" One of the responses to that was Cathy Caron stating, "Isn't this a beautiful truth! We are blessed in giving..."  And that's the heart of this verse.  If we use the spiritual tools God gives us, we recognize that that there's always a blessing hidden in the situations where we're surrounded by "enemies", we're always given what we need for every circumstance, and our cup overflows.  No matter whether the cup is half full or there's so much that the contents are pouring over the sides, we always have exactly enough...and more.  So, we don't have to think about giving some to others.  It's a spiritually natural response of the mature soul to bless others, without even thinking about it.  The results include seeing that spiritual banquet when everything else around us is falling apart.

This is a day late thanks to my back doing interesting things   Maybe that's one of my situations with a built in spiritual banquet. Anyway, a belated Mothers Day with for all.  And, as always, don't forget to pray for Libby.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 4

Psalm 23:4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Verse four is one of those "Wow!" verses.  Just jammed full of rich meaning.  After all the good things mentioned in the previous three verses, he begins to reflect on the times that were not so good.  He begins with "though I walk".  Very telling.  David was in motion, he wasn't going to just lie down and give up.  He was going through the valley, not stopping to have a pity party there.  In Hebrew, valleys were often named by events or activities that occurred there (such as the Valley of Vision in Isaiah 22:1).  This one referenced a very dark time, the closeness of death or death itself.  David certainly saw all of those.  And yet he wanted the reader to know that he wasn't pausing there to soak in the atmosphere.

The next phrase in this verse is, "I will fear no evil".  Yes, David experienced the results of evil acts.  But, here, David struck right at the heart of the issue.  He knew that as bad as evil acts were, they couldn't exist without morally evil thinking.  And that's the meaning of "evil" in this verse.  David was not going to give a place for the darkness and spiritual death of moral evil to create fear or awe in him. And then he explains why.

The rest of the verse reads, "for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."  David realizes the Lord is at his side, with him and for him.  But especially he realizes the enormity of that! The Hebrew word for "rod" describes a ruler's scepter and the staff a shepherd uses to herd the sheep.  Both can include discipline. The "staff" is both the walking staff of a shepherd and the staff that denotes the office of a prophet.  David saw himself protected by a God who had the strength of a king, the gentleness of a shepherd, the spiritual wisdom of a prophet, plus, in all instances, ready to take on the enemy to protect those in the flock.  And that's the point, isn't it?

This verse is an opportunity for God to speak to us through David about our own walk with Him.  And the message is that, no matter what circumstances come our way, God "has our back".  No matter what we go through, we have the power of the King of Eternity, the gentleness of the Great Shepherd, the spiritual wisdom of The Prophet to carry us through.  And, as the predators stalk our well being, we can rest in the knowledge of God's commitment to defend and protect us.  In John 14:27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

And please continue to pray for Libby.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 3

Psa 23:3  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

I don't know about anyone else, but I've thought of this verse out of context more often than I have in context.  But it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Because, in fact, my soul is restored because the Lord is my shepherd, because He leads me to a place where I can rest in comfort and gain spiritual food and water.  I therefore don't have unmet needs.  And we really need to see that there is a difference between our wants and our needs.  Many times there's a difference between what we think we really desire and what we really need in order to move forward in God's kingdom.  And the more we are able to make our own decisions, the more that will be true.  God gives us the opportunity to be exposed to those options so that we have a chance to start thinking His way.  That's the part about being led in the paths of righteousness.  God does the leading, but he never forces us to follow.  It's a gentle leading.  And it's what results in my soul being restored.  And that points to the other part of the equation.

Pastor Tom Sliva spoke recently about "Walking on the Water".  When we think about Peter walking toward Christ on the water, that kind of trust has to come from not only understanding God's power, but  especially understanding His heart toward us.  Recognizing how powerful a person or leader is will give us a trust in their capabilities, but not necessarily trusting in them as a person.  And that's the second part of the relationship.  In order for it to be a real relationship, we have to participate, too.  When we pray to God, we share our desires and our heart with Him.  And that's good.  When we meditate on His Word, we get to understand what His heart is toward us.  He gets to talk to us.  That's good, too.  But combine the two and we get a conversation that has heart consequences and eternal consequences.  We come to realize that we not only can rely on God's power to carry us through all our circumstances, but we can rely on a love for us that never wants anything for us except the very best.  If we really want that kind of understanding in our life, then we have to be active participants in the process.  We have to pray and we have to hear from God.  He'll do the rest.

Verse 4 next time.  Don't forget to pray for Libby.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Psalm 23, Verse 2

Psalm 23:2  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

After verse 1 states that we are guided and our needs are met, verse 2 talks about that covering.  We're brought to a place where there's comfort and rest (the green pastures).  And what do sheep eat?  Grass. So, the green pasture is a place of comfort and rest, but also is our source of food.  That sounds exactly like Jeremiah 15:16 tells us, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts."  The Word of God bringing rest, comfort and nourishment.

Then there's the second part of the verse, "he leadeth me beside still waters."  The Shepherd brings the sheep to a place of peace and calm. And sustenance!  Not in the sense of nutrition.  Man can last almost six weeks, in the right circumstances, without food.  But he requires one to two liters of water a day and can only last a week without water!

So, our Lord gives us comfort, rest, peace, calm and all we need to survive, both spiritually and physically.  And all we have to do is follow The Shepherd.

Don't forget to pray for Libby.