Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Work of God is His (Video)

image used under Creative Commons 
license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Like our Todd Parsons devotionals, it's been awhile since we've shared a video from one of our church services.  And it's time to make up for that, too.  This was the 9am service, Sunday, October 25, 2015.

Our service, that morning, found our head pastor away.  So, we get to be blessed by two friends of mine.  Pastor Bailey Norman and I used to do outreach together.  He has the introduction, this time.  Pastor Barry Quirk and I used to work together for a number of years, before he became the principal of our Christian school.  That only ended when Pastor Barry went to Budapest to run a K-12, there.  And he's now returned to head our school, again.  I think you'll be blessed by the preaching of both.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Power, Possibility, and Opportunity

image used under Public Domain license
@Inspire_Us: "Behind me is infinite power, before me is endless possibility, around me is boundless opportunity." - Author Unknown

That thought struck me, as I read that tweet, this morning.  Let's think on that one, together.  The Amplified Bible says this:

Colossians 1:17 And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).

When we go back to Genesis we see an interesting picture.  God took nothing and transformed it by creating out of it a something. Light and dark,  The planets and stars.  Land and sea. Animals, plant life, man.  There was nothing beyond God, then His power suddenly created it.

Our illustration is earth as seen from outer space.  That's part of what God created, but there's more to consider than just that.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Breastplate Gems - October, Day 11

We haven't shared anything from our devotionals in some time.  It's out now as a single volume, Breastplate Gems - Kindle. That's a one year devotional and, yes, that's a link to the page for the Kindle edition.  If you'd prefer the paperback edition, that's here: Breastplate Gems - Paperback.

Our devotional is set up so that each month has fourteen devotional readings.  Each gets read twice in that month. Then, it's meditated on several times that day.  That way each truth is more likely to become a part of us.  The result is that we not only get blessed on a daily basis, but are strengthened in our faith.  We get to live in 2 Peter 3:18, which says "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.".

Finally, each devotional ends with prayer thoughts, not a set prayer that gets said every time we read that particular reading.  Each time, our prayer will be different.  Those prayer thoughts should trigger our prayer, based on those and how the devotional spoke to us each time.  And those prayer thoughts may even be the final part of the devotional.  As we grow in our faith, what we receive and what we pray will change. With all that in mind, let's look at our devotional for today.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Roots and Retakes

image used under Public Domain license,
from the Public Health Image Library
That title came from a BBM conversation with my friend Jake.  Jake is involved in the music at his church and had been helping with recording an album, after pulling roots in the garden,  He was talking about his fingers and hands being sore from gardening, then playing music.  At which point, that title popped into my head.

I'm not a gardener, so I'm not sure if the young lady in our illustration is doing the same thing Jake was, that day.  But keeping a garden looking good and growing well requires some effort.  And that came to mind as I was thinking about that title.

When we think of that and, in particular roots in a Biblical discussion, we have to start with the harsh realities of the climate of those locales.  It's dry desert..  So, plants may or may not bloom, but they have roots.  Deep roots.  That's essential to the survival of the plants.  The deeper the root, the more likely it reaches a source of water.  And, if nothing else, the longer the root, the more surface there is to absorb any available water.  That got me thinking about some important spiritual principals.

1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

We all know that verse and usually leave it at the love of money.  Some even stopping at money. But, yes, it's the love of money.  Although that's a hindrance to our relationship with God, it's an example of a deeper issue.  If we let anything get in the way, it has the potential of taking over.

Jake weeds his garden so the things he doesn't want growing there are removed.  If he doesn't root them out, they have the likelihood of taking over and choking out the things he does want there. That's a principle of nature.  It's a spiritual law, as well.  

Mark 4:19  And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 

If we allow the wrong things to get into our soul and they aren't dealt with, they can outgrow the things that ought to be there and choke our spiritual life to death.  So, we need to be good spiritual gardening tools, periodically weeding out sin and any distractions, feeding the things that grow our walk with God.

We said that, in the environment where the Bible was written, that it was important for plants to have deep roots in order to survive.  So, how about this verse?:

Isaiah 27:6  He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. 

That's quite a promise.  And it highlights a spiritual reality.  Whether we take that to be the physical ancestors of Jacob or those spiritually connected to him through Christ, it's not their efforts that count, but God's grace and mercy functioning in their lives to allow that fruit.  What happens is that deep spiritual roots allow blossoming and fruit bearing.  But we're never our own gardeners, as much as we may think we are.  When we realize that, it eliminates pride in that area and it takes the pressure off us to do something we never could, anyway.  Think about a New Testament example.

Ephesians 3:17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 

If we go back a couple of verses, Paul says he prays for this to happen.  First of all, it's God prompting him to pray.  Then it's God fulfilling the prayer.  Seeking their salvation, working out their being discipled.  It says "being rooted and grounded in love,".  That's God's love, toward us then through us.  

"Being rooted and grounded" is an interesting phrase.  We need deep roots in God to gain the right nutrition and watering.  But there's more.  Remember all those old western movies we saw, with the dust or sand storms?  There's the tumbleweed we see blowing around, but that's already dead.  If the film makers are accurate, there will be some smaller, more flexible plants blowing around, too. In real life, those are plants that are still barely alive, but the roots didn't hold them onto the ground. Short roots don't get as much water and nutrients.  And, in a storm, they're either too weak not to break or too short to anchor the plant.  That's one heck of a spiritual image, isn't it?

Then there's the second part of our title.  The retakes.  With music, whether it's recording or rehearsal, there's always someone getting some part or note wrong, initially.  That requires repetition to get it right.  Sometimes it's once more, other times, it'll be multiple times.  I've had that with blogging and writing.  And we can all point to things in our lives where that's been the case.

1 John 1:8-9  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We're imperfect beings, courtesy of the decisions Adam and Eve made.  And, what's worse is that we feed our imperfection through our own tendencies to live in the inherited weaknesses.  That passage in 1 John says we have short roots and we can deceive ourselves into believing we're anchored in righteousness, despite that.  Then, it tells us something really important about our relationship with God.

The passage says that if we confess our sinfulness, God will forgive us and that combination of actions makes us righteous, again.  The police want crime confessions, with the criminal telling the police of their crimes.  Some churches insist on telling another person of our sins.  But that's not what this verse is about.  There certainly isn't any man, woman or child on this planet, at the moment, who has the power to forgive sins.  And we really don't need to tell God.  He's omniscient, so He knows all our sins.  What we're talking about, in good King James English, is being in agreement with God about our performance.

The gist of 1 John 1:9 is our title's retakes.  Yes, there are instances where we need to go to the person we've sinned against.  But that's mentioned elsewhere and deals with specific instances. What we're looking at here is agreeing with God, on a consistent basis.  Although it's not stated here, there are good reasons for that.
  1. Since God already knows our state, then it allows us to see the depth of our depravity.
  2. Recognizing our sinfulness allows us to realize the enormity of the grace and mercy that God bestows upon us
  3. Honest awareness of our true sinfulness has to lead us to remorsefulness.
  4. That remorse prepares us for repentance, each time.  Repentance isn't just a one time thing, at salvation.  Is repetitive, for the rest of our earthly lives.  And it's a state of mind that will keep us agreeing with God.
So, we want our roots going deep with God to get all we can to enhance our relationship with Him. And so we're anchored to him, not blowing around in any wind of understanding.  We're open to spiritual "do overs", our retakes.  Our confession, remorse, and repentance brings us God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.  And, with the right spiritual attitudes, we grow closer to God.  So, how are your roots and retakes, today?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Concentrate on Him & Worship Him‏

It's Saturday and our "anything goes" post day.  And, just to be clear, there are limitations to that anything.  But we might have a post of our own if we're continuing in a series or God really puts something on our heart as needing to be shared on our Saturday post.  We might pop in a video post -- maybe a sermon from my pastor or other Christian video, with permission.  

Often you'll find a guest post, here.  That could be something new or a repost (again, with permission) that really speaks to us and we think will bless you.  Most often, that's likely to be a devotional from our friend, Todd Parsons.  We might also jump over to our Other Stuff blog for something not necessarily considered spiritual -- particularly things like politics.  We also have a sporadic, but ongoing, series called Gadget Goodies for all things tech.  Today, we're going to be blessed, again, by Todd Parsons.

Zecharaiah 8:23  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

     'Skirt' in the Bible speaks of an intimacy of relationship, or worship, i.e., concentration. 'Take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew', "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...", Hebrews 12:2. As we look unto Jesus we find the heart of the Selfless One, One who worships the Father's will and we also find the Father is with Him, for He now sits at the Father's right hand of the Throne of God, Hebrews 12:2b. Take hold of Him means to be in Christ. As we look to Him with worship and see Him, we see less and less of self, simply because of becoming more and more occupied with Him, by means of concentration...
     John 9 is the passage about the man born blind and his concentration and worship on the Lord and the receiving of his sight... John 9 also reveals a people that say "they see" and their blindness is made plain and open... John 9:30-33, the man born blind is instructing those that say they can see in that which they see not...

John 9:31  Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does His will, him He hears.

John 9:33  If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.

John 9:35-38  Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?  He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?  And Jesus said unto him, You hast both seen Him, and it is He that talks with you.  And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him.

John 9:41  Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remains.

Ruth 3:9  And he said, Who are you? And she answered, I am Ruth your handmaid: spread therefore your skirt over your handmaid; for you are a near kinsman.

     "So Forget About Yourselves,
     Concentrate on Him and Worship Him,
     Worship Him, Jesus Christ Our Lord"

     Of So Great Love, we are, tjp

Monday, October 12, 2015

Floccinaucinihilipilification

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Sander van der Wel, from Flickr
Today's title got your attention, didn't it? I'm not sure how many of us could get through pronouncing that correctly and smoothly at the same time.  Bekkie Sanchez has been sharing unique words on Google+ and that was one of them. Google says it's a noun and is "the action or habit of estimating something as worthless. (The word is used chiefly as a curiosity.)."

That whole idea of worthlessness got me thinking about some of the realities of who we are and the contrasting misconceptions some tend to espouse and live by.  It leads us directly to the sense of depression and dejection we see in our illustration.  Whether it's circumstances, other people, or ourselves beating us up mentally, is that emotional beat down correct?  Should we be dwelling on our shortcomings?  Do we need to fix ourselves?  Or, perhaps, are we too depraved to be repairable?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What is Enough?

image used under Public Domain license,
photo obtained from commons.wikimedia.org


We spent the summer with some great photographers and having a second chance to be blessed by the spiritual thoughts some of their work led to.  Then we had our "bouncing" series that alternated between blogs, discussing the pitfalls of letting our things possess us instead of us just owning them.  And there was a brief, related LifeNotes series.  So, it's been awhile since we've had the blessing of a Todd Parsons devotional.  The wait is over!



Monday, October 5, 2015

If Not You, Who?

image used under Creative Commons license,
courtesy of en.wikipedia.org user khym54
The tail end of July saw me a little north of Chicago, at Quentin Road Baptist Church, for a conference.  I was also trying to get a visit in with a friend who is part of their staff.  So, I went up a day or so early.  I was hoping for a little time with John, at the same time, avoiding having someone miss midweek service just to pick me up at the airport.  Teen camp had already begun and, with nothing going on at the church during the day on Wednesday, I got to join the teens for their morning Bible study and their lunch.  Our title was displayed on their camp t-shirts and onscreen.  It was the theme for the camp week.  Without us going through the entire series of Bible studies that were the underpinning of the camp theme, it still generated thoughts that led to this post.