Monthly Archives: November 2012

Live It Up

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11 is without doubt, THE chapter in the Bible on faith.  And it speaks of the confidence and sustainability of the strength each of the characters of the Old Testament we have come to admire.  It is quite the list — a “Hall of Faith.”

Something each of these men and women demonstrated in their lives was an assurance of the mighty God who has promised to deliver, to provide, to comfort, to protect, to heal, to save and to strengthen.  All of them remained focused not on their circumstances, but instead on things above.

Living by faith means living it up.  Living by faith means living in response to who God is and not what I want.  Sure, I ask for God to perform miracles both big and small, but my faith in response to who God is can be seen when I don’t get what I want.  God has nothing but great things planned for me and despite my circumstances, I trust, through faith, that whatever it is, it’s better than anything I could ever dream.  So I live it up . . . lift it up . . . trust in that which I cannot see and press on in the hope of the promise made that you will deliver, provide, comfort, protect, heal, save and strengthen me.

The men and women of Hebrews 11 never received what they were promised.  They were, however, commended for their faith.  “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given me.”  Romans 5:1-5

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The Treasure

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Finding God’s treasure is better than any pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  My wife has told me stories of her as a child with her dad driving to find the end of the rainbow.  What a fun pursuit . . . an adventure for treasure indeed!  But with any treasure hunt, it is never about what the treasure get’s out of being found. It’s always about the hunter, the seeker and the reward they get from the bounty to be found.  It’s about the thrill of the hunt and the unmistakeable joy that comes in celebrating a great win.

But with God, the journey is different.  Unlike the joy obtained in finding loads of gold and silver, the celebration looks remarkably different.  It’s because God longs for me to pursue Him — to find Him, and it’s a treasure I will find … guaranteed, when I pursue Him with all of my heart.  God the Treasure, finds joy in my pursuit of Him.  God the Treasure celebrates when I find Him.  His embrace is rich in salvation forever!

And as I seek Him and find Him, I see more of the beauty He beholds.  I see the works of His hands, the richness of His wisdom and knowledge.  And in the words of Solomon, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:4)

My God, as I seek and find you, may I know and understand the immeasurable level of joy you find in my pursuit of you and you alone!

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  Proverbs 2:1-6

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Facing The Fear

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4

Fear is a powerful thing.  It robs.  It steals.  It promises only one thing — defeat, which leads to death.

But why do I fear in the first place?  Is it because of the presence of evil?  Is it because of the unknown?  Is it because of having few answers to the many questions?  Is it because of helplessness or tiredness?  Is it because of a lack of faith or surplus of self?  Why do I fear?

I’m reminded, in this season especially, of Mary when the angel appeared to her for the first time to tell her about her virgin pregnancy.  The angels first words?  “Fear not . . . ”  It’s quite obvious the angel knew his presence would invoke a reason to fear.  But he brought with him and spoke through the power of the Kingdom of Heaven and Mary was fearless.

I’m confident there was fear in the Israelites as they faced the Philistines.  Fear because of the insurmountable odds against them . . . after all, Goliath was huge!  But, with the power of the Kingdom of Heaven, little David showed the Israelites what it meant to stand in the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil!

The Babylonians lived in fear of their king, Nebuchadnezzar.  To exercise power over his people, he ordered all to bow and worship him — or death.  But, with the power of the Kingdom of Heaven, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood fearlessly to worship the only true God.

These are only a few of the many examples in God’s Word.  Casting away fear unleashes the power of the Kingdom of Heaven!  Who can stand against that?  Mary would say . . . “No reason to fear, God is with us!”  Goliath would say . . . “Not me [grunt]”.  King Neb would say . . . “I am no king, stand and worship the true King and God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!”

So, how do I face the fear without an angel as my coach, without a few stones, without the threat of a fiery furnace?

This is how . . . I face fear head on, confident of the power of the entire Kingdom of Heaven at my disposal — Christ Himself as my coach, the Sword of the Spirit as my stones and the heat from the testing of my faith as I trust in Him who is the Author and Finisher of everything in me!

Lord Jesus, teach me to be like Mary!  Teach me to walk down into the valley to face fear.  Teach me to stand firm, in confidence that today all things are working together for Your good!  Be my words, be my thoughts, be in me!

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  I John 4:18


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The Most Hallowed Spot

“Persuaded, as we are, that the foot of the cross is the nearest spot to Heaven, that Heaven’s choicest blessings are found only there; that, beneath its warm sunshine the holy fruit of the Spirit ripens, and that under its sacred shade the sweetest repose is found; that, never is the believing soul so near to God, in such intimate fellowship with Christ, more really under the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit, as when there, we would sincerely employ every scriptural argument and put forth every persuasive motive to allure the reader to this hallowed spot, assured that, once he finds himself in believing, loving adoration at the foot of Christ’s cross, he has found himself at the focus of all divine glory, and at the confluence of all spiritual blessing.”
— Octavius Winslow,  The Foot of the Cross

Octavius Winslow stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century. A Baptist minister for most of his life, he seceded to the Anglican church in his last decade. His Christ centered writings show devotion, practicality, and excellence. His writings are richly devotional and warms the soul and inflames the heart with sincere love, reverence, and praise to Christ.

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Self-Inflicted Cain

“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Psalm 51:11-12

I recall the pain and still experience the occasional grief.  It hurts terribly and in those moments, when all seems lost and hopeless I cry out, “God . . . don’t leave me!”  It’s a state in which your heart yearns for comfort, embrace . . . forgiveness and grace.   And, before my spirit rests in tune with my soul and body on the presence of God living within me, I blame . . . I judge . . . I condemn . . . I self-inflict Cain upon me.

Cain, as you recall (especially if you read the story in Genesis 4 yesterday), was confronted by God on his anger toward Abel.  God spoke clearly to Cain regarding the presence of sin, it’s sneaky, “ready-to-strike” position and the fact that he (and we) must master or conquer it!  This is a simple reminder that God, my only strength, enables me to conquer the grip of sin!

But Cain chose for sin to master him.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree did it?  In fact, that orchard is still producing fruit and it continues to drop not so far from that same tree!  The seed of sin was welcomed in and it grew to death — Abel’s death.

Cain, fully aware of the sin in his life began to experience the essence of pain, grief, shame and guilt we all experience because of sin in our own life.  And Cain, like David many years later, casts judgement upon himself.  Thinking he knows God well enough to predict the Creator’s behavior, he tells God what to do.  I’ve never done that . . . HA!

“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  Genesis 4:13-14

God’s reply?  “Not so!”

What???  Not so?  Cain was wrong!  He miscalculated the love of God . . . God’s grace and forgiveness!

  • Where Cain felt punished, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt burdened, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt kicked out, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt abandoned, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unloved, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unwanted, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unworthy, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt restless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt homeless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt friendless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt hated, God said, “No way!”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  II Corinthians 12:9

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Pain Of Cain

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  Romans 6:16

Sin carries such a heavy burden on the soul it causes our bodies to sag and slump.  It saturates our very being with guilt and shame so as to reflect the disobedience in our hearts.  I’m reminded of the child that has disobeyed their parents, but confesses nothing of the such.  He goes about his day thinking and feeling the pride before his fall.  Not until he stands before his judge (his father and mother) does he begin to feel the weight of the sin of disobedience.  And once he does, his head drops, shoulders slump, eyes turn away, a frown appears and a strong desire to be somewhere other than here manifests itself.

Cain experienced this with his brother, Abel.  In case you’ve forgotten the glorious details of this amazing story (Genesis 4), allow me to shed the highlights.  I would encourage you to read it, read it again and then read it slowly!

In response to God’s receipt of the brother’s offerings, Cain became angry.  Cains body reflected his anger and his heart stirred in his countenance.  God asks Cain why his face is so downcast.  And then, the most profound words perhaps in the entire Old Testament are spoken by God directly to Cain.  He said, “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  WOW!!!!  Perhaps the first . . . . okay, the second lesson on sin!  It didn’t work the first time, so now God is spelling it out to Cain.  Sin doesn’t own you!!

But Cain, in his sin and shame, responds much like many of us respond to our own sin.  Filled with shame and guilt, we listen to the lies about who we are, what we are like, what others must think and rarely recover from the self-inflicted wounds to our own heart.  Cain felt so ashamed of the most horrid of crimes he committed, killing his brother, that he condemned himself to become an outcast from God’s own sight and a target to any who find him.

God’s response?  The most amazing grace ever found in Scripture!  While Cain felt certain his punishment would lead to death, God’s plan . . . God’s way was and is much different!  God said to Cain, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  WHAT?  God raised His glory from the ashes of ruin in Cain!  Through the pain of Cain came the salvation of the world!!!

How might you ask?  Well, Cain was used to build a city. Then, through the descendents of Adam’s third son, Seth (because Cain killed Abel) came Noah!  WOW!

Salvation of the world through the pain of Cain!  Who knew?

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7

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Thanksgiving And God’s Goodness

Many are arriving at homes with their best dish in hand to visit with family and people they’ve never met before. Regardless, God is good and we all have much … so, very much to be thankful for. For something different, I thought this videowould be a bit of fun and perhaps something we all can relate … God’s goodness!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Faith Is Rest, Not Toil

Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.”

— Horatius Bonar

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Original Owner

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  Hebrews 9:14

I must confess something that may surprise the least of those that read this.  Last night I watched an episode of “Man vs. Food.”  I wouldn’t place this in the category of quality television, but it did strike an “Unbelievable!” chord.  Personally I can’t believe this guy isn’t 900 pounds, but that’s beside the point.  If you are familiar with the show, it is about a guy who visits diners, parlors and restaurants across the country to face challenges spun to attract the man or woman willing to take it on.  In this episode, he placed himself against the ultimate ice cream sundae.  It was called the “Kitchen Sink.”  True to form, it was a small kitchen sink filled with just over 2 gallons of scooped ice cream, loads of chocolate syrup, sprinkles of various kinds, multiple bananas and more whipped cream than I’d serve at a family reunion!  My stomach churned at the look of it.  Yet, there he sat, with a big spoon, taking on the challenge, confident he’d win this.  I’m not going to spoil the ending and reveal the winner.

Man or Food?  It’s a matter of ownership.  Either he was going to own this massive ice cream beast or the ice cream was going to own the man!  We saw this play out in many of the same ways in the Valley of Elah.  Remember the event?  The Israelites pitched camp on one side to face the Philistines from the other.  The challenge?  Send your most mighty warrior and meet in the valley between.  So, the Philistines sent their mighty Goliath, yet the Israelites sent no one because they were troubled — worried . . . owned!  Then came David to the scene.  Warrior?  Not really, more shepherd than a brute.  Aware of the troubled Israelites and the challenge they faced, the unlikely David volunteers.  It was “Boy vs. Beast.”  David went to the valley to meet this challenge with only a sling and a few stones.  Many say that his courage was bigger than Goliath, or his sportsmanship was sharp, or he got lucky on the first shot.  But there is a remarkable difference between he and the Israelites cowardly watching from the hillside.  He did not allow the fear, the facts or the odds to own him!  Instead, he focused on WHO OWNED HIM!  David said to Saul who questioned his abilities, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  David remembered his original owner and served Him despite the circumstances!

It’s a lesson for me to remember.  Not as much to remember who owns me today, while that is still very important, but to remember who has owned me throughout!  I serve my King — He owns me, not the giants I face or the sweet moments that serve nothing but pain and agony.  I have victory before I face whatever challenge is before me.

There’s a reason I say, “I can’t do this.”  The reason?  I let it own me!  I serve the master of sin instead of the Savior who lives within me and He gives me access to all the power and strength in the universe to be owned by nothing.

My Jesus, I am not a slave to sin any longer because you paid the ultimate price for that in my life!  I no longer have to live being owned by my sin, rather I now live in freedom through You!  Remind me that you have already won this battle and you sit upon the throne and I am seated with you!

“It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere.  Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.”  Deuteronomy 13:4


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Down For The Count

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  I Corinthians 8:37

Becoming a man who lives his life defeated auctions the birthright of ownership for himself over being owned.  It’s the difference between allowing the perspective I have of my life to determine my direction and living, not in defeat, but victory.  Those things look so different.  The trouble is while walking the streets of life we often follow the most attractive down the alleys of destruction only there to find ourselves sulking under the trash of our past.  Is that really what it’s all about?

Mohammad Ali took a few hits for his time.  Agreed?  Unfortunately, we can witness the ill effects of the battles he fought only to face his greatest yet in life.  No doubt there were moments when he got knocked so hard that many, himself included, thought he may be down for the count.  Getting up from defeat takes strength and humility beyond measure.  Either in a boxing ring or the ring of life it is still the same.  The famous and memorable character Adrian, in the Rocky movies, was famous for his no compromise attitude as Rocky lay on the mat bloodied and bruised.  Adrian yells over and over, “Get up!  Get up! Get up!”

I know I have felt slapped to the mat, defeated, bruised and bloodied and I have waited for someone to come, clean my wounds, help me up and tell me it’s all going to be just fine.  And while there’s definitely a need for this kind of love for one another (Love your neighbor as yourself . . . Romans 13:9), it is temporal and unpredictable.  This kind of dependence on man reminds us how lonesome the ring can be at times.  There’s no one yelling, “Get up!”

This is defeat at it’s finest.  And the Savior I serve ate defeat for breakfast – lunch – and dinner!  Last I checked, I serve a RISEN Savior who conquered death and the grave!  And when life slaps me to the mat bruised and bloodied, hopeless and helpless, my Savior is there and He says, “Get up! Get up! Get up!  Since I live in you — you ARE victorious!  Get up!”  We are never down for the count!

Thank you Lord for the victory we have in You!  We are more than conquerors and can get back up when we get knocked down because You already won!

“But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  I Corinthians 15:57-58

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