January 29, 2009
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
When Jesus told us that He is the Vine and we are branches, He also told us that when a branch is fruitful His Father cuts it back that it might be more fruitful.
I do not consider my limitations as a bed-fast quadriplegic a setback, but a cutback, because some of the most fruitful and lasting things I’ve ever done never would have been done if I did not have my limitations.
This concept taught by Jesus was not new to those who heard it. When God’s people were not fruitful God often sent them a famine, which cut them back severely, got their attention, and ultimately made them more fruitful.
All indications are that we are entering into a time of cutback as the people of God. Some of my godly friends have already been cut back severely having lost millions in 2008. When you listen to the news these days it always seems to be bad news, and our leaders are preparing us for the reality that it’s going to get worse.
When we put a spiritual perspective on this recession is it possible that what’s happening is not a setback but a cutback?
January 23, 2009
“…Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
A word that has been on the hearts, minds and lips of millions this week is the word “inauguration.” A synonym for this word is “beginning.” The common usage for this word is something like “a celebration of the beginning.”
Every day we live is the first day of the rest of our life. There is a sense in which we experience an “inauguration” with every new day, week, month and New Year we live. Our Lord’s advice to us is to celebrate the beginning of every new day and accept it from Him as a gift – a clean slate with no marks on it.
We cannot change the marks we put on the slate of yesterday. And He told us not to worry about tomorrow because one day’s trouble is enough for one day. If you think about it, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. He therefore emphasized one day at a time – as in “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I challenge you to celebrate each new day with a private “inauguration” ceremony and ask God to give you the grace and strength to be all you can be for His Glory, one day at a time.
January 17, 2009
“…If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins…” Matthew 6:14-15
We need forgiveness in three dimensions: when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in.
If we believe the Gospel, the first dimension is a given. The great Bible word for that is “justified.” It literally means to ‘un-sin’ our sin. You can break up the word this way: just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. Plus, the word means that He declares us righteous. In the 18th chapter of Luke, Jesus pronounced that anyone who prays, “God be merciful to me – a sinner,” is justified. Can you see why I say the first dimension of forgiveness is a given if you believe the Good News?
The second dimension is more complicated. You need a special measure of grace to forgive those who have greatly harmed you. And you can’t control whether or not those you have hurt will forgive you. But Jesus mandated that we have forgiveness in this second dimension. When He taught his disciples how to pray, He literally told them to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.”
At the end of His teaching His disciples how to pray He added a solemn commentary: “If you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, then My Father in heaven will not forgive you your sins. In other words, if you don’t have forgiveness in this second dimension you lose your forgiveness in the first dimension. What a solemn truth!
Those who have sinned grievously will tell you that the third dimension of forgiveness is the toughest one. When devout people fall into sin, they especially have a very difficult time forgiving themselves.
Pray for forgiveness in these three dimensions because the greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness.
January 9, 2009
“In so far as your own responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, J.B. Phillips translation)
The Apostle Paul shares a great truth about responsibility in this great verse about reconciliation. There is a place where our responsibility begins and there’s a point at which it ends. God does not hold us responsible for that over which we have no control. We can’t control that person who is alienated from us. But we can control the reality that we are at peace with him or her.
A Christian psychologist wrote that if our serenity depends on what our adolescent children are going to do, or not do, our serenity is very fragile. We experience a great deal of emotional pain because we do not accept the boundaries of our responsibilities.
A former mentor of mine said: “You cannot control the weather or rainy days but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you. You cannot control the height that your head will be from the sidewalk but you can control the height of the contents of your head.” After sharing several more examples of this, he continued, “Why worry about the things you cannot control? Accept responsibility for the things that do depend on you.”
Your responsibility begins with what you can control; you are at peace with all the people in your life. Your responsibility ends with what you cannot control – like whether or not they are at peace with you. You will have more personal peace when you accept that responsibility boundary.
January 4, 2009
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“Where have you come from and where do you want to go?”
God asked a person who was running away this question. It is my favorite devotional thought as I approach the threshold of a new year. When you have reflected on an old year and been filled with resolute thoughts about a new year have you ever had the thought, “I can’t stand another year, or a decade of years, like the years I’ve been having?”
If you have, this is a good New Years devotional thought for you. This question implies that if we do not have a crisis that changes things, we’re headed for more years like the years we’ve been experiencing. The most important change we actually need is that we be changed ourselves.
The Bible tells us that when the Ethiopian can change the color of his skin and the leopard her spots then we who are accustomed to messing things up are going to start getting it right. The good news is that we can meet certain conditions and then be changed by God.
It is possible for God to give us an experience Jesus called being “born again.” When that happens to us we’re told that we are a new creation. Old things have passed away. All things have become new and all this is done by God – not by us. So we’re not doomed to go where we have come from because we can be born again. The how question is answered in one word; that word is “BELIEVE!”