Me jealous?

August 24, 2016 Leave a comment

gray word on red wallAs believers, we sing of God’s amazing grace, but, if the parable Jesus told in Matthew 20 is any indication, lurking beneath these praises could be a heart of jealousy.

AIn this story, found in Matthew 20:1-16 and often called the Laborers in the Vineyard, Jesus tells of a landowner who hires laborers to work in his vineyard. He does this throughout the day, so that the laborer hired in the early part of the day works many more hours than the laborer hired at the end of the day. Yet, the landowner pays each worker the very same wage–the amount initially agreed on when the hiring took place. Thus, those who worked longer received the exact same wages as those who worked for only one hour.

Predictably, when those who had worked a full 12 hours noticed that the landowner had paid each man the same wage, they grumbled and complained to the owner of the vineyard. This was the owner’s answer in Matthew 20:15, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

Since the landowner is representative of God, we should take this parable as a cautionary tale to guard ourselves from complaining about the blessings God bestows on someone who appears undeserving of such grace. Instead, when God showers someone with blessings, our response should be one of joy. Imagine how pleased the landowner would have been if the workers, who bore the heat of the day, had rejoiced with with the workers who had worked but a few hours. What a celebration they could have had!

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14-15.

Trust Isn’t To Be Trusted

August 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Trust with blue markerPlacing trust in someone doesn’t mean they are trustworthy. Trusting a chair to hold you up doesn’t mean it’s sturdy enough to do the job of bearing your weight. Trust must have a basis. Otherwise, it’s not to be trusted.

Trust is a word that’s being discussed a lot these days. That’s probably why I was intrigued by a story about trust in the Old Testament.

Without getting too caught up in the details, here’s the background: The King of Assyria sends an army to fight the Israelites led by King Hezekiah. When the envoy from the King of Assyria arrives outside the gates of Jerusalem with a huge army, he has a message for King Hezekiah.

“Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours?'” 2 Kings 18:19

“On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Hezekiah rested his trust in the Lord. His trust was in the Almighty God, the God of his fathers, his Creator. He trusted Him for deliverance rather than an army of thousands. This was a trust to be trusted.

Hezekiah demonstrated his trust by praying for deliverance to a trustworthy God. “O Lord … you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.”   

Hezekiah’s trust was well-placed.  God delivered the Israelites from the Assyrian army in a miraculous way (2 Kings 18-20).

One of Hezekiah’s ancestors, King Solomon, left instructions about how to trust the Lord. Those instructions are found in Proverbs 3:5-6. They involve two commands. 1) Don’t rely on your own understanding and 2) Acknowledge the Lord’s right to control your life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.”

“On what do you rest this trust of yours?”

Best “Hack” Ever!

July 16, 2016 2 comments

open book on a cloudIf you’ve spent any time at all on any of the social media sites, you’ve come across something called “best hacks” or “unbelievable hacks.” These are usually discoveries people have made to make life easier. Whether it’s simply a description or a full-fledged video, each discovery uses a tagline to get your attention. My favorite is “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”

Here’s my own “best hack” for having a meaningful, God-glorifying, devotional moment. And yes, “this shouldn’t work, but it does.”

Take almost any Scripture, short or long, random or favorite, and read it through once. Then, go back and emphasize each word, using that word’s meaning to draw your attention to the Lord.

Here’s an example from Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

God–Of course, this is an easy one. Focus on your Creator, the maker of all things.

Is–Focus on God’s state of being; the essence of being the “I Am.”

Our–Focus on belonging to Him

Refuge–Focus on God as a shelter

And–Focus on God being more than

Strength–Focus on the availability of His strength for you

By the time you’ve completed this simple exercise, you will have glorified God and, most assuredly, you will have been blessed yourself.

Lost Your Way?

June 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Finding Your WayIt’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with facts and philosophies and desires and practices and beliefs.

However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.

First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and  in return, you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.

Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance an individual’s faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t always about the individual’s needs. It’s about a people who together desire to give glory, honor and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.

Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.

Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

What In The World Is God Doing?

June 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Going OnOften, God’s work in our lives seems hidden, a barely discernible matter. That’s true in the life of an individual, the life of a church, and especially in the world itself. Yet, the Bible assures believers this is simply not the case. God is doing something in all areas of our life, our church, and the world. He’s doing it all the time.

So, what is God doing when we can’t see what He’s doing?

When God made His presence known to Moses through the flame shooting up from the non-burning bush, He told Moses what had been going on with Him while the children of Israel were suffering under the oppression of the Egyptian pharaoh. God said,I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3:7).

That’s what God was doing then. That’s what God is doing now. He’s doing it in your life and He’s doing it in my life. He’s doing it throughout the world today.

God told Moses He “had surely seen.” Nothing escapes His attention. He sees it all. From the beheadings in the Middle East to the hairs on my head, not one thing gets past God. He’s observing every minutiae and every big thing.

God said He “had heard.” Not one word coming from my mouth escapes God’s ears. He hears my sweet words as well as my harsh words. He hears what your boss utters as well as what you utter about your boss. He hears words of profanity and words of praise. His ears are never closed; He hears it all.

“I know,” God said. God is aware, thoroughly knowledgeable, about me. That means He is completely cognizant of my every thought, my every motive, my every desire, my every sin, my every . . . my everything. This is true of a church body. This is true of a family, This is true of a nation. This is true of our universe.

When God told Moses what was going on with Him, He did so, not to instill fear, but to give Moses comfort. Moses was afraid of God, so God wanted to reassure Moses that the manifestation of His presence wasn’t to be feared. God described what He was up when He spoke from the midst of a flame in a non-burning  bush. God did it again when He spoke in the form of His Son Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

We can be comforted by what’s going on with God both now and in the future. God not only told Moses what He was doing in the present, He also told Moses what He was about to do for His children. “I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:8).

God will do the same for His children today. “Yes, I am coming soon”  (Revelation 22:20).

Filling in The Blue Bar

May 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Download imageIf you would have asked me the moment I made my commitment to Christ if I loved the Lord, I would have said yes.

Now though, as I look back on it, it’s hard to measure that kind of love.

That’s because I know more about Him now, so I feel I love Him more. My relationship with Him now, as compared to when I first came into a relationship with Him, makes that initial claim of loving him seem as nothing.

I was thinking about this one day as I sat in front of my computer watching a new program get downloaded. A pop-up box dominated the screen with a line of text assuring me the process of downloading was taking place.  Even though I wasn’t able to see it, I was supposed to believe it was going on in the background.

To help me visualize the progress of the download, a long bar appeared in the pop-up box. The bar was clear with no color showing. Because I’d done this before, I knew  the moment the software elements were added to my hard drive, the bar would begin to fill up with blue. The colorization would begin on the left side and gradually make its way over to the right, culminating in a solid blue bar. Once that happened, the download was complete, and I was encouraged to begin using my new program.

How this blue download bar related to my thoughts about my love for Christ is easy to describe but hard to explain.

Picture the clear bar as the moment I accepted Him as my Savior. Then, picture the bar as completely filled in at some future moment in eternity when I shall know Him fully and love Him perfectly.

In this comparison, what kind of progress can I see on the blue bar right now? Practically none. Perhaps a little sliver of blue on the far left-hand side. Nothing more.

However, like the message on the pop-up box, God’s Word is continually reassuring me my life is  being changed and the elements of my sanctification are being added. Though I may not see any progress, I must believe the message.

One day, Jesus promises His believers they’ll hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23).

One day, the download will be complete, and we’ll be able to use our new program.

In the meantime, be patient and keep reading His Word, His Message of Hope.

Finding Happiness

May 3, 2016 Leave a comment

stay away 2As I enjoyed an early morning quiet time on my patio recently, I became captivated by the play of light and dark, shadow and sunlight, across the foliage of my backyard. I had just been reading a devotional about mankind’s universal search for happiness. In the article, C. S. Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity, is referenced, particularly this quote, “All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

After reading this quote, I glanced up from my iPad and saw the patterns the early morning sun was drawing in my garden. Some flowers were in shadow, while others were in sunlight. The flowers highlighted by the sunlight looked “happier” than those flowers residing in the shadows. Why was that? Well, obviously, it was because the “happier” flowers were basking in the sun’s light, while those in the shadow were not receiving the sun’s full benefits.. 

Although I’m quite certain flowers do not experience human emotions, my garden’s shadows and sunlight illustrated the truth of my devotional reading. We all seek happiness, but as long as we remain in the shadows–substituting other people, pleasures, and pursuits for God in our lives–we will never be truly happy.

“You make known to me the path of life, in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.

Turn your face toward the Son. Bask in the warmth of His Light today. 

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