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Life Out of Focus?

October 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Out of FocusOne of the great things about most cameras today is the automatic focusing feature. I’m old enough to remember using a camera that required fiddling with a bunch of dials before snapping the picture. Most of the time, those waiting to be photographed weren’t very patient about this process, and, oftentimes, after all that effort, the photo turned out to be out of focus after all.

As children of God, it would be nice to have this automatic focusing mechanism built into our daily lives, so that the moment our lives became blurry around the edges—from taking part in all the world has to offer, from neglecting Bible study, from participating in non-glorying activities—then our focus would automatically be returned to our Father and to living out Christ in us, “the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27).

However,  none of us has an automatic focusing mechanism. What we have is something even better—the Word of God. While having a device to automatically redirect one’s  focus towards God sounds good, in reality, such a device would ultimately lead to taking God for granted, and it would not adhere to the command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

God’s Word directs us to focus on Him in numerous passages of Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament. One of my favorites is 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Have you lost your focus? Direct your heart today to the love of God“The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Direct your heart to the steadfastness of Christ. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Spending time  with the Lord in daily Bible study brings clarity to our lives and sharpens an otherwise blurry picture.

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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.

Fear The Lord!

March 24, 2016 2 comments

Fear God 1The notion of being afraid of God seems foreign to those of us who view God as the Lover of our Soul, who sing of His blessings, and who trust Him with our eternal soul.

Yet, one can’t read the Bible without encountering the oft-repeated admonition to “fear the Lord.” Throughout the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s children receiving a blessing because they fear God. Also, because of fearing God, they do what He commands them to do. (Genesis 42:18; Exodus 1:17; Exodus 18:21)

Fear of God  is not just an Old Testament concept, though. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Nevertheless, there are times in my life when I’ve struggled with the concept of what it means to fear God. That’s why, when I recently came across a definition of fearing God in Drew Dyck’s book, Yawning At Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying, I spent time meditating on it.

Dyck says, “To fear the Lord is to be grounded in reality, to have an accurate view of God’s holy nature and his awesome power.”

Fearing God doesn’t mean we cower in His presence—like a dog who knows he’s displeased his master—nor does it mean we run and hide instead of joyfully approaching Him. Instead, we embrace the fear of God because we recognize His to-be-feared characteristics, such as His all-powerful wrath toward sin, His unending sovereignty, and His unapproachable holiness, are an accurate understanding of who God really is.

The  fearfulness of God is a reality, even if we don’t like it very much.

Having a true picture of God is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

I live in Norman,  Oklahoma. That means I know what’s it’s like to watch a mile-wide tornado approaching my city. It’s a fearful thing. However, if I’m hunkered down inside an indestructible storm shelter, I’m able to be in awe of the storm’s fierceness without fearing for my life.

We should fear God. We should  be in awe of His wrath and His judgment. Yet, at the same time, we should have peace, knowing He is shielding us from wrath, sheltering us in His arms forever.

Come And Dine!

March 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Thanksgiving table decorationI’ve discovered having a successful Quiet Time is a lot like having a dinner party.  To have a successful dinner party, you’ve got to plan well. I do that by asking myself several questions.  Who will I invite to the party?  What will be the main course?  What will I use for a table decoration? Will I use the good china or my everyday dishes?

It’s the same with having a daily devotional time. I have to plan for a successful outcome by asking some pertinent questions. What version of the Bible will I use?  Will I read the Bible through this year or study one book at a time?  Will I record my thoughts in a journal? What’s the best time for me to be alone with God?

I seldom have a party without something unexpected happening. There might be a quick solution to the problem, like making a fast trip to the grocery store when the ice maker stops working.  Sometimes, however, there is no easy solution, and things just don’t turn out the way you’d hoped, although your guests will probably not notice when things go wrong.

You need to expect the unexpected during your Quiet Time too. There will be days when the telephone rings, the dog needs to go out, or the kids wake up early. At those times, you might be able to resume your appointment with the Lord.  On the other hand, some interruptions don’t have quick solutions, and your daily devotional time may seem like a failure, although I doubt the Lord will ever feel your time with Him is ever a failure.

My most enjoyable dinner parties aren’t necessarily those rare ones where everything turns out beautifully. Instead, it’s the one where I forgot to make the gravy because I was hearing about my friend’s hurt feelings or the one where I decided to stop looking for the wooden salad bowl so I could hear a funny story from someone who never tells funny stories.

Having an enjoyable daily Quiet Time may not always involve high moments of ecstatic wonder or theological insight. A pleasing time with the Lord may be consumed with painful confessions or heartbreaking requests. Yet, in the end, the real reason for having a Quiet Time, like the real reason for the dinner party, is to set aside time in your day for sharing yourself with a friend.

Complimentary words from guests as they leave your home when the party’s over are always nice to hear. But, listen to these complimentary words from the writer of Psalm 119 after spending time with the Lord, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”(Psalm 119:103)

Pinhole Glimpses of God

January 21, 2016 Leave a comment

SpaceI love looking at NASA’s Hubble image of the day, and I’m drawn to any Pinterest image displaying views of outer space. My Astronomy board testifies to this obsession. But, I’m not a big Science Fiction reader, nor did I ever take a course in Astronomy.

I’m drawn to the heavens because I’m able to see the incredible beauty of God’s handiwork there. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above declares his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1.

Scientists tell us when we look at the heavens above our heads, even with the most powerful of telescopes, we’re only able to see a minuscule portion of the universe. Human beings can never fully grasp the vastness of the world our Creator has made all in order to display His glory.

I believe God intended it to be that way.

God created an incomprehensible universe because He is incomprehensible. The immense heavens reflect an immense God, giving us, at best, only the barest pinhole glimpses of a God of unlimited power.

Someone has suggested perhaps the Universe is just ONE of God’s thoughts. How mind-blowing is that?

Trying to comprehend the power behind a Being who can create the Universe is impossible for a finite human creature. It’s just as impossible to understand the grace of God in making provision through His Son for human beings to live with Him in His Universe forever and to enjoy a personal relationship with him.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

What to know more about the possibility of a personal relationship with God? Watch the video below.

 

That’s Not How It Works

July 31, 2015 1 comment

Depositphotos_21089997_s-2015When an old woman from a small village won a washing machine in a contest, she was delighted. A few days after it was delivered, a friend visited her and was astonished to discover the old woman was still washing her clothes by hand, filling the tub with water and rubbing the wet clothes against the sides of it!

“That’s not how it works,” the friend explained, showing her how to let the machine do the work for her.

The old woman replied, “But if I do it that way, everyone will praise the machine and not me.”

As human beings we crave praise. Because we’re made in the image of God, that’s understandable. The desire for praise is an integral part of who God is. In Isaiah 48:11, God says He does everything in order to bring glory to Himself. “For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, my glory I will not give to another.”

However, as a result of our fallen, sinful nature, we reject the idea of giving praise to God and seek it for ourselves instead. Jesus warned his disciples about religious acts carried out in order to get praise from others. He gives an example of this in Matthew 6:1, where he pointed to the prayers of the religious leaders of the day.  “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.”

While not as obvious as praying in public in order to bring glory to oneself, to glorify oneself in private can be just as troublesome. Do you give yourself high marks for  reading God’s Word, church attendance or tithing? What about being faithful to God? Do you find delight in your high moral standards?

To make sure all our praise is directed outward, to the one who deserves it most, His love for us needs to be at the forefront of our hearts and minds. The Psalmist says in Psalm 26:3, For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”

It’s the faithfulness of God that we walk in, not our own. It’s God’s love for us, not our love for God, that we’re depending on. It’s what God has done for us, not what we have done for God, that makes us able to spend eternity with Him.

For Him to get the praise, that’s how it works.

 

 

 

 

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