Monday, December 13, 2010
Like all of the fruit of the Spirit joy is something that is the product of the believer in Christ in spite of any circumstance. Joy is a deeper gladness of heart that cannot be affected by any outward circumstances. The growth of joy in the life of the believer is the mark of maturity that enables the Christian to step into every day with love and good cheer, knowing that the Lord will complete His good work in each of us. And while we can sustain many painful losses in this life, not one force on earth can touch our eternal position in the Heavenlies in Christ. Here is the striking reality: The only way that this world could ever see true joy isn't on a card, or written in lights. It is the burning flame that emanates from the heart and life of every person who is living in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, each and every day. The Christmas card that really matters is you!
...you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:3
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
As a young child walks carelessly behind his mother though a department store he is almost overwhelmed by the endless rows of tinsel and lights. Dazzled by the blink and blush of lights and advertisements titillating commercialism of the Christmas season it is hard to imagine that there is a better time than Christmas. The thought of toys, candies and cookies weighs heavily on the child's expectations. Suddenly the child wakes from his reverie and finds himself separated from his mother. The panic sets in and the child goes racing through rack after rack of pants, shirts and jeans. Where could his mother have gone? Finally, he gives himself up for lost, falls on the floor and starts sobbing loudly. Not a moment later his mother pokes around the corner, sweeps him up in her arms and chides him for not staying closer to her.
We can identify with the moment of terror and longing. As much as this sensation has befallen all of us, it only gives us a glimpse of the Jewish anticipation for the Messiah. Jewish girls treasured their baby boys because this child may be the promised one; the anointed savior that was yet to come. They comforted each other with the promises that God had given of this great prophet, priest and king that was yet to come: God's anointed, the Messiah.
As we approach this holiday season don't forget to take some time to appreciate how great the Old Testament saint longed to see the Messiah as clearly as we now see Him. That God took on flesh and tabernacled among us. That all of this was promised from the very beginning and God is always faithful to His promises. His promises to humanity to provide a Savior. His promises to Israel of land, seed and blessing which still await their total fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. His promises to each of us individually who have placed our faith in His Son and have been given eternal life which Paul described by saying: "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) This week lets focus on our God who is THE promise keeper.
Monday, November 22, 2010
We often think of self-centered people as the ones who act in their own interests all of the time. We think that the selfish person is the one who takes the last of the turkey before everyone has eaten, however there is another, more insidious self-centeredness that may look far more attractive to others. The busy-body, the workaholic, the people pleaser, the super-mover, the temptation to be self-centered in this way may be just as great or greater than all other temptations combined.
How would life change if, when we were most tempted to see ourselves as the center of the world, we were able to turn our eyes upon the One who actually does hold all things together? Remembering that gravity exists at His behest, and the planets swim through space in their orbit by His will, should readjust our skewed view of reality. Realizing afresh that it is not all about us, but that it is all about Him, is the medicine our weary soul needs when we think we are "just holding together" or when it all seems to be falling apart. Taking responsibility for things that are not ours to control is a sure fire path to frustration and pain, resting in Him is our hope.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
How often is a difficult situation made worse by a knee-jerk reaction? How many times is a relationship hurt or destroyed on the basis of a misunderstanding that quickly explodes? Sadly the stories of influential, famous or powerful people whose quick tempers destroyed their personal lives are known to each of us. The world system doesn't help us as we seek to understand this phenomenon. Some may use their angry, fearful, patterns of their flesh as an excuse to commit great atrocities. Saying, "I couldn't help it, I was just so mad." While our culture may at times accept this excuse it is not in keeping with the Biblical view of maturity...it is not what God is making us into as He conforms us to the image of Christ.
The Proverbs warn us that the person who is controlled by his emotions alone is in danger. This is not to say that anger is bad, but it is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and left unchecked can be incredibly destructive. In Ephesians 4:26-27 we are told: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." So we know that to feel the sensations and feelings surrounding the emotion of anger is by no means sin, but it easily leads to sin. By what means can we hope to control it? Counting to 10 never seemed to work for Donald Duck. Deep breathing and excusing yourself when you feel you are getting to hot? These types of methods may have some value, but the Bible offers us a more lasting solution:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Notice all of these wonderful characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit! How does fruit grow on a branch? Why by remaining connected to the Vine (see John 15). Self-control is the character of someone who is resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not controlled by anger, or the passing winds of any emotion. The one who is walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) is able to experience anger, not be controlled by it, yet act appropriately to resolve it. On rare occasion it may exhibit itself as it did when Christ turned over tables, but most commonly the appropriate and Christlike response will be lead to a more peaceful conclusion.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
Monday, November 8, 2010
So the question for you and I is: "How big is our God?" Is our God big enough to work good through every tragedy, difficulty and heartache? Is our God big enough to redress every wrong, and free us from the need for retribution? Is our God big enough to give us assurance in times of political turmoil and financial difficulty? The God of the Bible decidedly is greater than even these meager worries necessitate. So the only question left is whether or not we are willing to trust Him.
Monday, November 1, 2010
How many times have you gotten all the way out to your car before you realized that you left your keys in the house? It is frustrating to realize that even though you are in the right place, missing the main point (the fact that you need the keys to run the car) means that you have to go back inside. Modern Christian pop culture has clearly missed the point, and thus Christianity at large is becoming worthless (even if it is moving towards greater "relevancy"). One recent Christian topseller tells us how we should be doing more nice things for people, because THAT'S what the gospel is about (said author neglects to mention what the Bible says the gospel is about in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Another trend in pop Christianity is to attempt to come up with a "green Christianity". Based on the error that the Church has replaced Israel, and the assumption that Jesus is not coming back the gospel is warped to involve how we take care of our planet. A popular Christian periodical will do everything to attach the importance to some "experience" that one must have. Other Christian books get believers wrapped up in evaluating God and the Church in terms of self-centered therapeutic methods, rather than remaining focused on the Lord.
The math hasn't changed: Jesus plus anything equals nothing.
The gospel is under attack from every direction, and each of these attacks attempt to take the focus away from Jesus and put it on ourselves. We must be aware that just because something is called "Christian" or is sold in a "Christian Bookstore" doesn't mean that it has anything to do with the faith of the Bible and the Savior revealed therein. It is because of what Jesus did on the Cross that we are forgiven, and created anew. It is because of Him that we have fellowship with our loving Father God, reject anything that takes your eyes off of Him and puts them on the world, the institutional church, the flesh or yourself. Look at Jesus.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I may have to group all of these "perfect day" posts together and hide them under something heavy for another day when I will need them. This has been another one of those days/moments that I simply want to freeze in time.
After a somewhat turbulent night's sleep I awoke, had a great time of prayer. Enjoyed eating eggs with my kids (watching kids peel/eat boiled eggs is a great pleasure that is often overlooked). Then bustled off to church to get some things done there. Praying over the congregation here is such a pleasure and an honor I cannot describe it fully.
I did my morning reading and prepared for my days studies. Providence forced a change of locale and off I went to the local coffee shop. This coffee shop is a nice sized house to which a friend had given us a gift certificate. For just over $2 an "all day cup" is given and since 10:00 I have been sitting listening to my bluegrass music, slowly sipping coffee and building studies for our Sunday evening service, and our Thursday pm. Romans group.
The weather is getting cooler and I am in a comfortable sweater and my favorite hat. I am blessed with a wonderful, loving and supportive wife; and supported by the Body of Christ. But of course I haven't even mentioned my 3 happy, healthy children and the endless love and care with which Christ has filled me for them. How much perfect can you fit in one day? There is only one word to describe such perfection that I have no way of taking any credit for: Grace.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Finn is just plain crazy for cars and trains. Nobody told him to be crazy for them, he just loves them. Most every outfit he wears has either a car or a train on it, including pajamas. One of the most difficult things I have to do in a week is to convince him to take off one train outfit for another. He just loves being identified with trains. It is so strange! He is too young to think about advertising for Thomas the Tank engine, and isn't really old enough to think about any desire to be professionally involved with them. He just loves trains. He can't even communicate why he loves them (as he is only 2 years old!).
So aside from cuteness why do I mention it? As humans we do long to be associated with what we truly love. Band T-shirts, bumper-stickers, hobby clubs and interest meetings, sports jerseys regularly turn big profits, and even posters for rooms and fences. We like people to know what interests we define ourselves by. As I write this I am wearing a t-shirt with my kids screened onto the front! (Thank you, April!) So what is the point?
I am not suggesting we all get more magnets, bumper-stickers and t-shirts with Christian messages on them (I'll let you make your own decision about those). I AM suggesting that we remember our close identification with Jesus every day. Finn can't wait to put on a new train shirt, what a great example for us. How thrilling that each day we are found in Christ! This wonderful garment of love, peace, hope and joy. We are to abide in Him, rest in His care, and believe that we are loved beyond our wildest imagination. Are you excited to wake every morning because you are identified, by His grace, with Jesus Christ, the source of love, joy and life? I hope you are...it is wonderful!
Monday, September 20, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
"...and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and it has come out of the pan half a minute ago." C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
I've had a day so nice I must share it. After a productive morning I raced my way up the River to put a line in the water. I don't usually catch many fish and it is mostly and exercise in patience and the enjoyment of nature. This time, however, five beautiful trout chose to grace the end of my line. I will spare you all of the gory details of the fight, and which were caught on dry flies and which on subsurface flies. However, I did decide to keep two of the five. One because it was a nice fish and greedily grabbed at my fly as it floated on the surface. It was a planned attack, and a great moment of victory. The other I kept because he didn't allow me to get the hook from his mouth in time for him to have a chance at survival. That's okay...more fish for me. There are no pictures of the glory moments. However, the memories are strong. There are some pictures, however:
The catching was a riot. It was a bit overcast and gloomy with a mist in the air that almost seems to stand still as you walk through it. The river provides the most fantastic listening experience, it is amazing how you can hear so much and still feel like the words "peace" and "silence" some how apply perfectly. Then came the cooking.
I fished until 7:00 which means I didn't get home until 10 till 8, I really didn't each much today (besides a few donuts in the morning
). So I was ready to eat. Not long after I arrived April got home with the kids who had been spending the day with their grandparents who love them very much. The kids ooh'ed and ahh'ed at my catch (loved every second of that), and then let me put them to sleep without a fight. After they went down the cooking began! Salt, garlic powder, lemon juice and pepper all went into the tin foil pack and the pack went on the grill for 15 min. while the taters simmered. The results were delicious!
My mother was a bit concerned that I didn't "clean" the fish before cooking them. Well they aren't very big, and I don't mind eating around the fish innards nearly so much as I mind blemishing my fresh caught fishes with knife strokes. The fish was perfect. Soft, flaky, moist, and delicious. I am so thankful that our creator gave us fish to catch and eat. They really are a wonder. The taters were boiled and tasted remarkably like boiled potatoes. They were special in that they were grown by a brother in the Lord at our church body. That made them taste even better!
Of course a cup of decaf English breakfast tea had to be drunk with careful appreciation.
And all moves from better to best as my beautiful wife and I chatted about the events of the day over my late supper. She tolerated the fish smells without complaint and worked on the Sunday school lesson for tomorrow. Truly an amazing woman who I am so blessed to have and to hold, to love and to cherish.
Sometimes a day contains so much good that you may just think it will burst and leave even the other days overflowing. This was a day like that.