October 29, 2010
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
People frequently ask if I have a ‘life verse.’ They want to know the one verse that has guided me through my entire experience of life. I actually have three life verses. The first is Matthew 6:33. This verse started guiding my wife and me through our experience of marriage and ministry that both began in 1956.
When it was time for me to preach my first sermon in the storefront church we were just starting, my wife was critically ill after the birth of our first child. I wasn’t going to go and preach to about 20 adults because the doctors could not assure me she was out of danger. However, because she insisted I did go.
Our church sight was about 20 miles from the hospital. During the drive the evil one really beat up on me because I had promised the people I would be their pastor for $50.00 a week – if it came in - and we were running up an enormous hospital bill with no health insurance.
I had instructed our founding elder to show me a slip of paper with the amount of the offering written on it. When he did the amount was $1,497. 27. As I saw those numbers I had a private worship service and promised God that I would never doubt His ability to provide for me and my family! Looking back, I’ve never been disappointed in God’s provisions of grace.
As our decades of ministry rolled out this verse has taken on many deeper and more profound applications that have guided us. Are you willing to let Matthew 6:33 guide you through your life?
October 26, 2010
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years… Teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90: 10,12)
I attended a conference for pastors when I was 25 years old. Our speaker was a famous pastor who had snow white hair. I felt sorry for him because he was so very, very old. When he started to speak to us his first words were: “I’m old. I’m gloriously old and I wouldn’t be as young and ignorant as you are for anything in the world!” I was looking at him feeling sorry for him because he was so very old while he was looking at me and feeling sorry for me because I was so very young.
In many cultures of this world today age is considered a plus because wisdom comes with age. The psalm quoted above makes the statement that we reach 80 years “by reason of strength.” I have had chronic fatigue since 1978 and have found that strength to be a strength which comes from the Lord and is exhibited in the showcase of my own physical weakness.
I was born eighty years ago today (25 Oct), so these verses resonate with me in a very personal way. Two of the ways Moses exhorts us to apply this psalm is to number (or value) our days and gain a heart of wisdom about how we should spend them.
He then concludes his psalm asking God to show us the work He wants us to do for Him so that His glory might appear to our children. His last words invite God to anoint the work He reveals to us.
October 22, 2010
“… in everything … with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6, 7)
In the last chapter of the letter to his favorite Church at Philippi Paul gives them and us a prescription for peace. The peace of God is a state of personal peace in which God can keep a believer if they meet certain conditions (Isaiah 26:3). I find twelve such conditions in this chapter.
As I seek to maintain my personal peace of God I get more mileage out of the prescription listed above than any of the others. I have discovered that when I begin to thank God for all the good things in my life it is as if a switch is thrown and I find my mind automatically moving from the negative to the positive.
To use another metaphor, if I were to place all the bad stuff in my life on the left side of a scale-like a scale of justice – and all the good stuff on the right side of that scale, the right side will far outweigh the left side. That’s what happens when I implement what we might call, “The Therapy of Thanksgiving.”
An old hymn put it this way:
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed.
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
That’s why the prescription of Paul is that when we pray, in everything (not for everything), we should pray thankful prayers. He promises that when we do so the peace of God will stand guard over our hearts and minds.
October 19, 2010
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8, 9)
If a man’s steps are directed by the LORD, how can that man always expect to understand the way he is going? (Proverbs 20:24)
When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah He told us there is as much difference between the way He thinks and does things and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth. Building on that revelation the wisest man who ever lived proposed a logical question: if God is directing the steps of a person how can that person always expect to understand the way they are going?
As a God-passionate person, doing your best to follow the guidance of the Lord, have you ever found yourself completely baffled and blown away by inexplicable happenings like the sudden death of a loved one, or other tragedies? When we put the two Scriptures quoted above side by side we should expect there to be times when we simply do not understand what God is up to.
Moses explained that what he called the “secret things” belong to the Lord but the things He wants us to do He has made very clear (Deuteronomy 29:29). That means there are secret things God is keeping to Himself. If God is keeping those secret things to Himself nobody can explain them.
All these verses considered together are telling us that while we walk with God we should not expect to understand everything. We walk by faith. If we understood everything we would eliminate the need for faith.
October 15, 2010
“For… to Him are all things… To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” ..(Romans 11:36)
The Apostle Paul concluded the argument of his greatest theological masterpiece with an inspired benediction in which he declared that God is the Source of all things, He is the Power behind all things and the glory of God is the purpose for all things.
When Paul puts these two words “all things” together as quoted above he is referring to all the things he has written about in his letter to believers in the city of Rome. He then concludes his inspired and the most comprehensive explanation of the Gospel ever written by quoting Isaiah: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments (decisions) and His ways past finding out!” That is followed by his benediction as referenced above.
I come to this truth on the day when many who love me are celebrating my 80th birthday. A secular motivational speaker, Dale Carnegie, wrote that the most beautiful sound in the world to a man is the sound of his own name. I disagree with him because there is a sense in which I do not even like the sound of my name. To me the most beautiful sound in the world is the name of Jesus Christ because apart from Him I would be a zero with the circle rubbed out.
As I reflect on Paul’s benediction I have made the commitment that I do not want to pour my life into any venture unless I am certain that God is the Source of it, He is the Power behind it and the glory of God is its purpose. How does this benediction impact your mindset?
October 12, 2010
“For… through Him… are all things…” (Romans 11:36)
The Apostle Paul concludes Romans with a profound benediction where he tells us that God is the power behind all things. This claim is preceded by his declaration that God is the Source of all things and it is followed by his announcement that the glory of God is the purpose for all things.
I resonate in a special way with this middle part of his benediction because I have been experiencing chronic fatigue since 1978. Since as a bed fast quadriplegic I now have no strength of my own, it is impossible for me to be involved in the work of God unless God is the Power behind all the work He wants me to do for Him in this world.
It is the plan of God to use the power of God in the people of God to accomplish the purposes of God according to the plan of God. The Bible is filled with stories that illustrate this proposition. To this end we continuously read that God delights in doing extraordinary things through very ordinary people while He uses His power in them to accomplish His purposes.
Sadly, many people think God cannot use them because they are just ordinary people. But the more ordinary we are increases the glory God receives when He works through us. God can anoint our tool kit and our skill set when we surrender our will to His. He can also add spiritual gifts to our life we do not have before we bring our ordinariness to Him and lay it at His feet.
Are you willing to do that and prove that God is the power behind all things?
October 8, 2010
“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Throughout his inspired writings the Apostle Paul uses the two words “all things” frequently but never lightly. In his letter to the Romans his theological argument begins in the first chapter and ends with the verse quoted above. When he uses these two words here he probably means all the things of which he has written in this theological masterpiece of all his writings.
To paraphrase and summarize this verse, he is stating that God is the Source of all things, the Power behind all things, and His Glory is the purpose for all things. He then begins the application part of his letter by telling us it only makes sense for us to surrender our will to the will of the One Who is the Source of everything, the Power behind everything, and whose glory is the purpose for everything.
To take these propositions one at a time, consider the reality that God is the Source of all things. Is God the Source of the financial downturns we are experiencing today? The great prophet Isaiah wrote: “I am the LORD, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.’ (Isaiah 45: 6-7)
It seems that calamities are like a black velvet backdrop against which God exhibits the diamonds of His Gospel. If there were no evil how would our God exhibit His goodness, unconditional love and salvation? In the Hebrew history recorded in the Old Testament God frequently got the attention of His people by turning off the growing processes and creating a famine. Could He be doing that in your life today?
October 5, 2010
…“But he brought us out from there to bring us in …” — (Deuteronomy 6:23 NIV)
God often wants to do a new thing in our life. This strategy of God is profiled in the verse quoted above where we read that He brought them out (of Egypt) that He might bring them in (to the Promised Land of Canaan.)
When He wants to do a new thing in our life He has three challenges. First He has to get us out of the old so He can lead us into the new thing He has for us. That’s not easy because we are creatures who are bound by security issues and we don’t want to come out of the old. He, therefore, sometimes has to blast us out of the old so He can bring us into the new thing. That is why the will of God often involves a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.
His next challenge is that he has to keep us going so he can pull us through the transition time between the old and the new. Transitions are hell and so we need a lot of grace to get through our transition times. This is especially true when the transitions may involve years of time.
His third challenge is that He has to get us right so He can settle us into the new thing He has for us. This could happen because we are burned out in a dead end job of an old place and He has something much better for us. There are many reasons why God may want to do a new thing in your life. Will you cooperate with Him as He works you through those three challenges?
October 1, 2010
“… All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16 NIV)
I find it intriguing to know that in little genes that cannot be seen with the naked eye the genetic heritage of a human being is determined: how high their head will be from the sidewalk, the color of their eyes, their hair, the capacity of their intellectual gifts, their athleticism and even mannerisms are all wrapped up in microscopic genes.
In this inspired Psalm, David – a great warrior, king, man after the heart of God and hymn writer - tells us that before we existed as genes God had determined the days we would live on this earth. The Living Bible Paraphrase reads that before we existed God had an agenda for every day we were to live on this earth.
One day my wife and I woke up and prayed together that if our agenda for that day did not agree with God’s agenda we were willing to be preempted. While we were having lunch with our pastor son later that day, I realized I was having a heart attack. While the 911 people were taking me out the door I said to my wife, “Looks like we’re being preempted big time!”
They were able to turn things around before it became a full blown heart attack. However, that experience gave my wife and me a perspective we will never forget. There is God’s agenda and there is our agenda for every day we live. How should that truth impact the way we plan our agendas each day? Are we really willing to be preempted by God’s agenda every day?