Archive for July, 2011

One of the many traps that humans fall into is the belief that God needs our advice on how to do His job.

The truth is that we’ve all slipped into prideful moments of thinking that God needed to be doing (fill in the blank) for our lives or our congregations rather than how He was or wasn’t helping us at the time.

We’re smart people, right? We know just what it takes to be the best person or congregation possible, right? We know what it takes to be successful in a publicly approved way, right? So that means that God should implement our to-do list for Him, right?

“Lord, I need you to change my spouse’s heart toward church and toward me so that my life can be happier…”

“Lord, this job stinks and I don’t understand why you haven’t answered my prayer to get a new job that would remind me that You are God and cause me less stress….”

“Lord, don’t you understand how stressful it is to put up with a rebellious adult child who lives for himself/herself? Why can’t you change our child’s heart so that my spouse and I don’t argue so much over who should be saying what?”

“Lord, why aren’t You having more influence with those other church members who need to be doing more around here? Do you need to change Your approach?”

The list could go on and on, but you get the point, I’m sure.

We’re tempted by our selfish nature to desire a god who functions as a compliant Genie and when He doesn’t, we gripe.

The more we mature in faith, the less this happens, thankfully, and the more we realize OUR need to change.

For we increasingly understand that, even on our best days, our level of knowledge and wisdom is like a speck of sand compared to the solar system-sized level of knowledge and wisdom possessed by God.

Like the old hymn says, we are to trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus. Let’s just trust and obey.

You see, our life is a gift from Him. It was given so that His power might flow through us. And all praise for His blessings in our lives should flow to Him.

It’s all about Him. In fact, here’s the passage from my daily devotional reading that prompted the above Morning Devotion.

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:34-36)

Like Paul wrote, “Amen!”
As always, I love you

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When I was a kid, my family would periodically visit a lake in northwest Indiana that had hundreds of houses along its shoreline.

Well, you know how boys are…. my brothers and I would go exploring in our aluminum jon boat, sometimes to fish, sometimes to swim, and sometimes to check out properties that appeared abandoned.

One of those neglected houses faced a deep-water cove and down at the water’s edge was a long, 12-inch-wide board with one end buried in the clay soil with several concrete blocks propping up the other end about five feet above the water.

This ad hoc diving board looked quite inviting, even though it was covered with a very thin layer of moss.

My 45-year-old memory is fuzzy at this point but I think my oldest brother Dan was the one who decided to taste the fun ahead of the rest of us.

And so he ran up the board and jumped hard on the end in order to spring up into the air as high as possible, just as we typically did at the city pool back home in Bloomington, Indiana.

You surely can guess what happened. The expected “pha-wooomph!” was replaced with an ear-piercing “CRACK!”

Fortunately, Dan wasn’t hurt when he and the board collapsed into the lake. We all learned that day to be more careful about what we trust.

I was reminded of this story this morning after reading from Psalm 20.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

Listen, when tough times come with job relationships or family relationships or medical matters or temptation struggles or financial failures, Satan wants us to rely on worldly solutions.

For example, he wants us to think that the chariot of “in-your-face” power is going to intimidate the world into becoming more compliant to our wants.

He wants us to think that the horses of a pushy attitude or a sharp tongue or choosing the right club/gossip circle will help us succeed in life.

Such things are dried-out, wooden diving boards, my friend. They might work for a while but when you really count on them to do what you want, they fail you.

And they certainly fail the God who loves you and wants you to do more for others.

When times are tough, don’t count on chariots and horses. They didn’t do Israel any good and they won’t help us, either, when what we need is God’s help.

Chariots and horses are designed to get us into conflict, not help us to rise above it. That’s God’s job.

Trust God with your prayers, with your learning of the Word and with your living out of its principles with humility and Christ-imitating determination.

That’s SO much better than hearing the “CRACK!” when your worldly strategy for finding inner peace fails you at the worst possible time.

As always, I love you

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We longtime Christians face a recurring temptation that is so devious.

We are randomly tempted to feel so confident in our decision-making that we stop checking with God’s Word to see if we’re choosing wisely.

After all, we think, we haven’t been ruined by our past decisions so why would we be ruined by any future decision?

Dumb line of presumptive, incomplete reasoning, I know.

Listen, no matter how long we are in the family of God, we still have to listen to Daddy for, truly, Father knows best.

We can make 100 smart decisions as a teenager, decisions that applied the lessons and principles that both our earthly and heavenly father/Father taught us. But if, just once, we decide that we don’t need their advice or don’t need to base our decision on their lessons and values, we’re likely going to end up in a bad situation.

This still happens with older, longtime Christians unfortunately.

The roster of “Thought I could do it myself, but I learned that I was wrong” people in scripture is very long.

Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jonah, Peter were all bigshots of faith who made big problems for themselves because of prideful reliance upon their own understanding.

King Asa of the Southern Kingdom belongs on that list, too. He was a wonderful, godly leader for 35 years, pushing for all sorts of spiritual renewal among the people in the years before Babylon invaded and destroyed that kingdom. You can read about it here.

But then, despite so many years of faithfulness, pride grabbed the reins of his heart and he messed up big time by ignoring Solomon’s warning to lean not on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Instead of turning to God when hassles and intimidation came from the arch enemy/backslidden Northern Kingdom of Israel, Asa hired pagan mercenaries to come and threaten Israel with war.

In an earthly sense, the plan worked because Israel withdrew, the pagan army got a bunch of Asa’s silver and gold and Asa didn’t have to worry about losing his land to the deadbeat, backsliding, morally compromising sort-of Jews to the north.

In avoiding the battle, though, Asa lost the war.

God sent a preacher named Hanani to Asa and told him, in effect, that the dumb mistake of trusting a godless king to protect God’s people and God’s Promised Land was really, really bad. Hanani reminded Asa that God’s eyes go everywhere to find and help those totally relying on Him.

Sadly, Asa’s pride had lured him into a one-way trap.

You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war,” the prophet promised Asa.

Listen, no matter how long you or I have been a Christian, we CANNOT drop our guard by looking to worldly help as a replacement for God’s help.

I really don’t know why Asa changed his pattern and relied on a pagan king rather than God. Perhaps there was sin in his life at that time and he didn’t want to repent before seeking help.

Hmmmm….. guess that happens all the time with longtime believers, doesn’t it?

Please make sure that you’re right with God spiritually and that He’s the first call you make when tough times — or tough temptations — come.

The cost will be too high to do something else and you will keep paying for it over and over.

As always, I love you

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One of the mistakes that some Christians make is to think that “big worship” as in that found at a Christian convention or megachurch is more important to God than the worship in a small congregation or house church.

Yes, it’s true that more people are involved in big worship and the number of “bells and whistles” of musicians, electronic media and cool-looking settings tends to be higher.

But the last time I checked, the Bible promises that if two or three people are gathered in the name of Christ, He’ll be there and the people will be having church.

I’m in no way criticizing big worship. Actually, I like it when I have the opportunity to participate.

But big worship should never be established as a requirement for effective worship.

I share this today because of my reading this morning from 2 Chronicles 6-8. King Solomon’s dedication of the brand-new Jerusalem Temple is described in this passage and it is an amazing event with countless thousands of Israelites present for at least 14 days. During that time, 144,000 animals are sacrificed.

That’s right — 144,000 bulls, sheep and goats.

It was an amazing time with appointed, anointed professional musicians leading the worship.

I don’t know that we can identify with these worshipers since most of us have never experienced even a several-day, all-day revival/worship service.

Fourteen days… all day… worshiping…wow.

What moved me from this passage was not the big show of big worship, even though that was incredibly impressive.

Instead, it was the core message of God to Solomon and the nation. Here’s my paraphrase — “When troubles come because I’m disciplining your spiritual apathy toward Me, humble yourself, pray and seek My face as you repent of your sins and self-will. Then I will heal your land. If you don’t, your land and your temple will be destroyed by your enemies with My permission.”

The key passage containing the above promises of God is found in 2 Chronicles 7:12-21.

Here’s the wrap-up. No matter the size of the worship, this core message still applies: if we walk in faith, whether it’s out of an arena church or out of a house church meeting in a trailer, the promises above still apply.

Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking big worship is more important than the “big idea” of putting God first in all things, even if it means having to swallow our pride in order to take the medicine that restores our place in His presence.

Remember, no matter how big our worship experience is, if we haven’t humbled ourselves to the point of a repentant heart, we’re probably not worshiping God but instead the experience.

As always, I love you

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We all know a few people who have a real gift for remaining calm and contented, even when chaos swirls through their corners of the world.

Job loss? They calmly start cutting back their lifestyle and crank up their prayer lives, with contentment characterizing their interactions with others.

Medical problems? They calmly — and without complaining — start making difficult dietary and activity changes that might improve their prognosis and they crank up their prayer lives, with the resulting contentment in their faith shining like lighthouses.

Family stress? They calmly and graciously seek to guide their loved one(s) toward accurately recognizing the core reasons for conflict and they crank up their prayers lives in recognition that only the Spirit of God can remake another person’s heart and transform stubbornness into a supple love.

Contented Christians know that the things that truly settle the heart are those things that only God can do through His Holy Spirit.

The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Proverbs 19:23)

A person or a disease might rob me of my meager estate, but God has my eternal rewards safely stored away in glory where I’ll still be just starting to enjoy those centuries after I’m dead.

That’s enough right there for me to rest content in the Lord.

But there’s so much more.

I’ve had a season of long-term unemployment — as in nearly two years.

And with not even the first penny of unemployment income from Uncle Sam.

But I rested content because I knew that my eternal nest egg was untouched by financial stresses of this life and in the fact that God had provided a job for my wife and at least we had food to eat, clothes to wear, a small place to live and two old cars that still worked.

As 2 Cor. 9:8 promised, God WAS able to graciously provide for us so that we might abound in good works for His Kingdom.

Even in the midst of difficult health issues during the long-term unemployment, I was content. Not because I’m SuperChristian but instead because of my daily reminders found in God’s Word of how He is sovereign AND involved in the daily lives of His children.

Listen, my friend. If you don’t feel genuine contentment in your heart, particularly when things aren’t going well in your life, please do the humbling work of looking honestly and deeply into your heart.

Is God sitting in the driver’s seat there? Or are you still the boss of yourself? If you want contentment, I suggest that you slide out of the driver’s seat and let God have the seat that has had His name on it since He created you in your mother’s womb.

Your life will have times of chaos swirling around you but your soul WILL get to your mansion over the hilltop, a mansion that will never face another storm.

As always, I love you

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