Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Light of the World

"The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." John 1: 4&5

The bible talks a lot about light and darkness - the two most extreme things in the universe. The analogies you can design from these two universal expressions are endless. God created both, and has a great deal to tell us about Himself and our lives through those words.

Darkness cannot exist where there is light - even the smallest flicker dispels the blackness. When you open the door to a darkened room, even the slightest crack will illuminate the room. The spell of the dark is broken with just a spark.

So it is with our hearts and minds. When we are consumed with darkness and can't seem to break free, it only takes a flicker to begin to bring full light where we need it the most. Satan would like nothing better than to keep us bound by fear in the blackness. He cannot exist in the light. That is why it is so important to keep the candle of faith burning. We must  respect the light and the darkness, and not take for granted the power of both.

Jesus is the light of the world - and the light we depend on to survive as Christians. Seek it, treasure it and guard it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shrink To Fit

 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before."  Matthew 9:16

Our church has decided to relocate. The fact is, we can no longer meet the financial demands of our building. Our congregation has dwindled over the last few years and the burden of balancing the books has become too much for the staff and board.

We have a positive attitude, even though it will be difficult to leave. A move will bring new possibilities and spark new growth. After all, the Lord himself never stayed in one place very long!

It has got me to thinking however. I read the scripture above during our church meeting yesterday. I was wondering how it will be to move an imperfect body of believers into a new structure. Or more than that, what would happen if a dysfunctional body of believers moved to a new building? I am hoping that this would be the opportunity to face our shortcomings head on and make things better. No church is without some measure of disunity or unresolved issues - ours is certainly no exception. But I know that just moving a family that has some dysfunction will not make it go away, and the dysfunction will still go on.

How important it is to make sure we have gone through the "shrinking" process before we are "sewn" into a new place. It's not the building that will make us fruitful - it's the heart of every individual in the family. The building will house any kind of believers - but effectiveness depends on how we are meshed with each other and with Christ.

Thank God, he makes the process bearable, with grace and mercy available to all who want the fit to be perfect.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quotes for Inspiration

I am on vacation this week, but I hope to post here and there. I have selected some quotes for thought that I will be posting instead of my usual devotionals. I hope you will enjoy them and pray for our country. We have as a nation steadily let politics turn us from our founding father’s dream for the United States of America. Embracing any and all religious freedoms is the right of every American. But as Christians, let us not forget our Creator, the truths of the Bible, and the good news of Jesus Christ as the first and steadfast foundation of our faith. 

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

John Adams
2nd U.S. President and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
"Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God ... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be."
--Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9.

Patrick Henry
Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."
--The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Do You Hear The Instruction?

“I take joy in doing your will, my God,
      for your instructions are written on my heart.”
Psalm 40:8

Whose vision are you living by? Is it someone else’s vision, or one that God has given to you personally? Are you trying to live out someone else’s direction?

God has instruction for all of us. He speaks to us individually—writing dreams and visions on our hearts. They are meant just for us—tailored to suit our needs and personality.

How will we know his direction unless we hear his voice and answer his call? It takes practice in being still, expecting and listening. Many of us have poor listening skills and are not so good at being patient to hear God speak. Yet his words are life, and following his instructions brings joy.

Just as the compass points us in the right direction, God shows us the right path we are to take. We only need to pay attention to the teacher and guide. He will never lead us astray.

Jesus, through patience and stillness, I will listen to your direction.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trust in His Purpose

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.”
Isaiah 55:8

Craig Lauterbach in his book The Father Revealed, says this:

“Yes, the Father has a plan and He has ordained that every blood-washed believer in Christ be a part of His magnificent purpose. It is important to understand the Father’s position and purpose in our lives, or we will be distorted in our view of who He is and what motivates His heart. When we see the Father more clearly, our disappointments and problems become steps on the path toward a closer relationship with Him.”

I have to ask myself if I really trust the plan of the Father even when I don’t understand it. Do I fully embrace the light of his plan, or do I prefer to sit in the darkness—afraid of the unknown?  I know in my heart that whatever He has in mind for me is for my good, but trusting Him to guide me out of my comfort zone is a true test of my faith.

He may require us to walk through difficult times and unpleasant circumstances. He may ask us to go in a direction that is foreign to us. He might stretch us beyond what we thought we could bare to be stretched. So we seek his wisdom, rest in his comfort, release to Him our will, and keep pressing forward to the end of the race.

We must learn not to interrupt God’s plan for us with doubts, fears or self-serving agendas. The road is long and hard enough without getting ourselves off track with foolish distractions. Thank God, He is faithful to wave us back on the right road!

Dear Lord, help me to keep my focus on your plan for me. Give me light to dispel the darkness of uncertainty.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Do I Love Thee...

This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do.
John 15: 12-14

Does the ability to love and show affection come to us by nature or by example? Considering our condition of being born into sin, I have to wonder if we come by loving honestly. We have all read the stories about humans who are left to be raised by wild animals, or seen images on T.V. about animals raised in isolation. It’s easy to see that the level of understanding about love and affection is limited in those rare occasions.

I know from personal experience how difficult it is to show affection when our own upbringing is lacking in outward expressions of it. Yet Christ commands that we not only love, but demonstrate that love by how we treat one another. We don’t have to go around looking for opportunities to literally lay down our lives, but there are other ways to show strong affection.

It doesn’t take a huge investment on our part to demonstrate love. Christ invested his very life to put his love into us that we might share it with others. He laid down his life so that we might experience the kind of love that was meant to give away. A simple smile, a warm handshake, a heartfelt hug are sometimes all it takes to relate affection to another.

We are called to be the love of Christ on earth. Contrary to what we might think, it is not an optional part of being a Christian. Even though it may not “feel” natural or comfortable, we must pass on the love that is given us. We don’t walk by feelings, but by faith and obedience.

Who will you love today?

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's Your Shape?

“Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.”  I Corinthians 12: 14 & 15

Do you remember that kid’s toy that was a box with different shaped holes? It came with plastic shapes to teach the toddler which shape went in the right hole. I used to watch my kids progressively get better at recognizing the squares, stars and other shapes. It was very tempting to help them along as they tried to stuff a square piece into a round opening. I just had to keep my hands to myself and let them figure it out.

Many of us are trying to fit the wrong shapes together in our own lives. God has molded us to fit in a certain place, and when we try to fit somewhere else…well, we either have to force the opening to change or we rearrange ourselves to fit in a place that wasn’t meant for us. Oh, it can be done if we are persistent. God will give us over to our own selfish will. He will patiently wait for us to see that it isn’t working out so well.

We lean on our own understanding of our make up instead of asking Him first what He would have us do with our talents. When we are tired of being pinched and squeezed, we turn to God and ask why He hasn’t made things work for us. Getting into the wrong shaped hole is tough, but wait till you have to push your way out backwards!

Paying attention to what part we hold in the body of Christ will make us effective in its function. We will find peace in doing what we know we were created to do. Life is difficult enough without spending so much energy on stuffing and squeezing into a place that will never be a comfortable fit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

God's Grace in Conflict

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you.
2 Corinthians 1:12

There are times in all of our lives when we have to deal with unpleasant situations with our brothers and sisters in Christ. No one likes to confront or try to make right a wrong. It can be heartbreaking, to say the least, when conflicts arise and someone gets hurt. But some things can't be ignored, and it becomes necessary to do what you need to do.

It is so very important to preface your handling of these situations with prayerful consideration and not rely upon our own understanding of each situation. Godly wisdom is the only kind of insight that will accomplish His will in any given conflict or confrontation. Jumping in to set someone straight without the blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit can be a disastrous mistake. It will probably make matters worse.

Going to a brother in confidence that you have surrendured all to God in the matter will give you the best chance for reconciliation when the whole issue has been addressed. That should always be our utmost goal - restoration. Otherwise the entire work of the kingdom will take a hit.

Pray for those whom you know are in the midst of disputes, that they may know what is right and do it.

Lord, go before those today who are taking a stand and leaning on your everlasting arms for strength and wisdom.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You Can Count On It

“And then God answered: ‘Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming-it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.’”     Habakkuk 2:2  The Message Bible

Timing is everything. God’s timing that is. But if He says something is coming, you can bet your life it is coming.

When you feel God has given you something to do, a desire, a passion, then wait. Wait, write it down. Keep a journal, prepare yourself. In his time, it will come to pass. It will seem slow while you wait – we are impatient beings. But if He put it in you He will bring it about.

Remember that God starts the work – it all originates with Him. But in his graciousness He allows us to be his instrument. We are partakers of the gifts he bestows on us. The hard part is to let Him teach us all He wants us to learn. We want to venture out before it is our appointed time. But He will complete the work in His time and we must let Him.

Keep hold of your dream, nurture it, and write it down. Then wait and see what He will do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Holy Ground

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.  Exodus 3:4-6

This passage almost sounds like science fiction. We have all seen the movie The Ten Commandments haven’t we? The scene with Moses at the burning bush is low on special effects, but accurate in dialogue. Moses had been curious when he saw the glow of fire on the mountain, and couldn’t stand it any longer. He had to go see what God looked like – even if it cost him his life.

Moses actually got very close to Jehovah, close enough to be afraid to look at Him. God had to tell him to take off his sandals because the ground around the burning bush was “holy ground.” He called Moses by name. The presence of God was overwhelming for Moses and he was forever changed. He was a chosen man, but still just like you and me.

I have to ask myself, have I ever gotten close enough to God that He would ask me to “remove my sandals” because I stood on holy ground? Have I ever been curious enough about the God whose fire burns on the mountain that I felt compelled to see his face – no matter what the cost?

Maybe a trip to the mountain is what you need today – what we all need. I know I will have to work at allowing God to give me courage to go deeper. I will admit, in some ways, I’m scared. But I know someday I will see him face to face, and I want him to call me by name.