Tag Archives: Trust

Scarecrow in a Melon Patch

Where is our confidence? Where is our trust? Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow because each day has enough trouble of its own. He told us not to worry about what we Image result for scarecrowwould wear or what we would eat. Look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field that are beautiful to watch and to look at. We are more valuable to God than all the other parts of creation. Don’t get all hung up over something that will impress others. Who are you living for and what will all these things do for you? They won’t bring you happiness!

Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation are spending a lot of time engaging people who will help us plan to make sure our finances will last as long as we do. Many have accumulated collectibles, homes, toys, etc. that are the result of planning and playing out our personal passions. The proverb says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (15:22) And another, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (21:5) We need to know that God applauds planning.

Yet, in recent years, many have become uncertain about their security or the future of those things we’ve collected being placed in the hands of their beneficiaries. We must however keep all these things in proper perspective. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk..Do not fear them, they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (Jer 10:5)

Our stuff is just stuff. All our collectibles may be good hobbies which keep us active and capture our interest, but the things and money that are the results of our diligent planning are just things. They are inanimate and exist in our lives much like a scarecrow which serves only to scare off the birds that would otherwise eat the fruit of the garden. The scarecrow can’t hear you. In fact if you talked to it, some might begin to wonder about you and your ‘friends’.

Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 19:23) That is because these things begin to own us. We allow them to become part of who we are and a path for acceptance among people. The only path for acceptance we should be pursuing is to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven by God. Another proverb on planning tells us that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.”

Let’s not let the scarecrows run our lives. Enjoy the fruit of your diligent planning. Know that the Lord has honored your diligence for a purpose. Consider what he wants you to do with your resources to further his purposes. When we commit our lives to God, that includes our assets and resources. Let’s give it all to him and let God direct our paths.

Lots more to say on this subject, but for now, be wary of the scarecrows in your melon patch.

Be Strong and Courageous

I am the Lord and beside me there is no other …

Image result for strong and courageousThis phrase is repeated ten times over three chapters of Isaiah 44 – 46. To be repeated this often, perhaps God has a message for us? What is he saying? What are the implications of this saying?

It is interesting to note that there are also five instances of “I made you, and formed you in the womb!”

He’s telling us that he has things under control. He put the king of Persia in place to serve his purposes in rebuilding Jerusalem. Just as he made us he also made the king of Persia and just as he has a purpose for us he has a purpose for the king, even though his people had abandoned the God who created this world.

There are many messages in these three chapters, but a consistent theme is God’s confirmation that He alone is God and there are no other gods like him. He has things under control to the point where he made us and formed us in the womb with a purpose that serves his greater purpose.

If God is in control, we should not be shaken by the events taking place in this world, such as terrorist attacks or changes in leadership. We should not be shaken when our personal worlds are shaken by financial instability or sickness. I have friends who have come through cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I have friends who are currently going through treatments for illnesses. I have recently lost a friend to a sudden heart attack. There are many in my life who are going through a period of financial hardship. Indeed my own world is shaken in the mighty winds that blow.

There is a two word phrase often repeated in the scriptures, “but God …” Those two words give us hope. God has a larger plan, he sees the larger picture and tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love him and follow him. He also has a plan for this world that will not be thwarted. One only has to look at the book of Revelation to read about the end of the story. It ends with God and everything that is good and right in his eyes surviving and finally bringing the peace that we all seek.

We can have a sense of that peace even today. By placing our faith in the Son of God, we can have peace in the middle of the storm. We can have the hope of an eternity with God. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. In verse 9 he says, be strong and courageous because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He is the Lord who made us, named us, and formed us in the womb. He is the Lord who made this world and everything in it? There is nothing in this world big enough to disrupt God’s plans for us and for this world. God’s purposes will be done and our job as believers is to be strong and courageous salt and light in our world. Be an encouragement and tower of strength for those who don’t know the God who made them. He said in verse 7 of Isaiah 45, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”

We have a God who made us to be salt and light for him in this world. Each with a purpose and each with access to the hope that he has offered us free of any obligatory behavior. There is nothing we can do to curry favor with him besides believe in his Son whom he sent. Through faith we are all children of Abraham.

Rather than buying into all the fear, uncertainty and doubt in this world, know that he said, “my peace I leave with you.” It is the peace that passes all understanding.

Carpe diem, seize the day, the Lord your God goes with you, it is he who has made you to overcome the world. Be strong and courageous! Let’s have hope and peace even in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

God has told us “My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Have faith. Have hope. Love God first, then love your neighbor.

A Little Wobbly?

We are in times of transition … in our lives … isn’t the aging process fun? This month the Image result for wobblyleadership of our country will make a shift not only in leaders, but also in philosophical direction. This is unsettling to many, especially when we hear more about the unhappy souls than about those who believe the shift will take us in the right direction. Turning on the TV or radio is akin to turning one’s stomach into a churning mass that begs for a handle bar to stabilize us.

Hebrews 10:23 tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Are you feeling a little wobbly? Let’s not lose sight of the real hope that we have. Let’s take a step back and keep our eyes focused on the hope of life with the only one who can and will deliver on promises. There is only one whose promises will be delivered at the end of our time here on this earth.

Use his promises to keep you from wobbling and wavering back and forth. Remember where your help comes from. King David said, “I will lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

Let’s take the assurance of the only One who will deliver on the hope He has given us. This world will come to an end. The doomsday prognosticators  are right on that point.

But for those of us who have laid hold of the Hope, it will be a glorious ending, for he who promised is faithful. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev 21:1 ff) I would add an exclamation point to that  What a fantastic future we have if we’ve taken hold of His promises!

Have a blessed day and stand firm!

On Being Thankful

All around the USA today will be a day when we pause to give thanks. We know that those who traveled here from Europe in the 17th century, together with their Native American Image result for thanksgivingfriends, paused to give thanks to God for their first harvest in this new land. George Washington issued a proclamation of thanksgiving during his Presidency. In 1863, with a country torn apart by the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared a national day set aside for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” The setting is an interesting one for the declaration of a day of thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, we are not the only country that takes a day to give thanks. At least 11 other countries have similar holidays. It is important to have a thankful heart. We need a time when we can set aside our anxieties and remember to give thanks. A time when we can give thanks to God for each other. A time when we can give thanks for life itself. Yes, even a time when we can give thanks for those things that God has provided for us.

I think it is no stretch to say that a thankful heart makes us glad. Happy people tend to live longer. There is another side to it as well. It’s been said, “Harboring bitterness (not being thankful) is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” A thankful heart is a healthy heart. We have so much for which to be thankful. According to a February 11, 2016 Time magazine article, happy people are not as prone to sickness, are healthier over all, and as a result live longer.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes about thankfulness and contentment. He writes, “The Lord is at hand: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly all of us face some sort of personal challenge on a regular basis, whether it be sickness, financial, work, or relationships. Yet even in this we can give thanks. Give thanks to a God who will carry us through these times. There are people in this world who are much worse off than nearly any American but they have learned how to be thankful. There is an old Dutch proverb that says, “They are not poor that have little, but they that desire much. The richest man, whatever his lot, is the one who’s content with his lot.” Where do we find our contentment? How many of us grew up dirt poor, but we were rich because we didn’t know we were poor.

Paul wrote this, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” What is that secret?

I go back to the two great commandments which are that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. That secret is buried in these two great commandments. The first helps us know that there is a God who is sovereign, who created the universe, and cares about us at an individual level, and we love and worship Him. The second helps us take our eyes off of ourselves and our own pity party and look out for the needs of others. No matter how bad our situation, we can always find those who are in a worse position than the one we are in. In that fourth chapter of the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gives us the foundation for his contentment and thankful heart. In verse 19 he writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Can we take that promise by faith. Can we believe that the God who created this universe, the far reaches of which are still being discovered, cares enough to meet your needs and my needs? If we can do that, we can live a life of thanksgiving. We can be thankful that we know our God who rules this mighty universe cares about you and me enough to make sure that all our needs are covered. Let’s choose to be thankful this holiday season.

Thanks for taking time to read today’s ramblings.

The Direction We’re Headed

Much to-do has been made in recent years about “the direction we’re headed.” In many https://i0.wp.com/pbs.twimg.com/media/CoDyrtjUAAMSl8p.jpg:smallcases that phrase is used in the context of our governmental dictates and decisions, or non-decisions. In some cases the phrase is used about our world in general, and still in others, it is used regarding societal values. In nearly any context the phrase is used in a negative sense and the need for change. In most cases we see the abandonment of Christian values, e.g., banishing prayer from schools, the press for removing references to God and the scriptures from the public square, attempts to change the definition of family, and the list goes on seemingly endlessly. Man’s attempts to make up his own rules on the fly have resulted in ever changing standards of acceptable behavior, and with each change, acceptable behavior becomes ever more defined by one’s personal perspective and preferences.

Interestingly, that ancient book of wisdom, the Bible, foretold of these days and provided counsel on how we should respond. In Proverbs 3:5 the wisest man who ever lived gave us these words from God himself, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” In other words, quit making up your own rules to explain or guide your lives. Trust in God and his word and he will make your ways consistent and aligned with his design.

He told us in Romans 1 that the wrath of God would be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Isn’t that what our government and many in our world are trying to do? They’re trying to suppress the truth about their immorality and the value of life itself. We have a President of The United States of America justifying the killing of police officers. We have an entire group of radical Muslims waging war against any organization or country and anyone who stands for Christian values as prescribed in the scriptures. It seems at times that our country’s leadership is bent on protecting their right to do so.

God is giving these people up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. He is giving them up to dishonorable passions. Their women and men have exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and they have become consumed with passion for one another. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. More and more of our Christian denominations are condoning and participating in such things.

So where does all this lead us? The country in which we live has an election this year for the leader of what used to be the most influential country in the free world. Many are bemoaning the choices before us, as the successful candidate will most likely be elected, not on his or her merits but, as the choice of the lesser of the evils. Does this not sound as though God has given us up to our own passions and suddenly we recognize the repulsiveness of those passions? One candidate is an egotistical braggart with a platform based on platitudes and slogans, and the other is a habitual liar who was declared guilty of stupidity in the best case scenario, but no charges were filed because she was the leading candidate for her particular party. Does this not sound like a country that is being turned over to itself?

How can we respond in the face of such choices?

First, know that God is still God and he has not lost control of his plan. If you read the last book of the Bible, you’ll see that God wins. At the end of all this tomfoolery, God still wins. God created this world and so deeply loves the people in this world that he sent his Son to die on the cross for every person who will place their faith in him. God knew this was going to happen. It may be that he is turning us over to ourselves, we don’t know all that God is doing in this season. We do know that nothing we do here can surprise him or thwart his plan.

Then we can pray. Pray for our leaders. Pray that God will turn this country toward himself so that we will once again, respect and honor his name. We can pray for the election. We can get involved in the process by supporting that candidate that is running on a platform of values that are consistent with God’s word. For those who are so gifted and called, we could be working to take our voice to Congress and the White House, not to mention the Supreme Court.

Last but not least we can vote. I’m sorry that there are those Christians, even in my circles, who feel they should not vote. Not voting is voting. Being angry at all the candidates is not being responsible. You may not like either of the candidates, but God has put you in a country where we have the opportunity to voice our opinion. Not using that gift is casting aside a gift that God has given you. One of the candidates will be elected whether you vote or not. It would be better for your vote to be counted than for you to defer to an unacceptable candidate because you chose not to vote.

Be thankful that God placed you in a country where you had an opportunity to determine the future direction. Not voting is an abandonment of your responsibility to the next generations. The next President will place several Supreme Court justices and will influence the laws in this country for decades to come. Few in this country like its current direction. Some will vote to change that direction. How about you?

Life Priorities

In John 12:25, Jesus says this about our priorities, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This is an important principle that tells us how we prioritize our lives in this life will determine how we will spend eternity.

Whoever loves his life will lose it – wow, that is a caution for us … in the book of Mark 8:38 in another setting, Jesus says, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So we can value our lives with our pride and put other relationships, careers, and toys before God now, but know that when it comes time for the final judgement, Jesus will be ashamed, or separate these folks out with the goats in the final judgment. We talked about this over the past few weeks in the context of Psalm 1. This is not new teaching that Jesus brings. This is the truth that God has had from the beginning of time. The first commandment says, we should value no god above the Lord our God. To the extent that we’re ashamed of or deny our relationship with God before men, Christ will deny knowing when we stand before the Father.

Yet, whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone of us serves him, we must follow him and where Christ (God) is there will Christ’s servants be also. Those of us who serve Christ, will be honored by the Father. More powerful and strong words. So why do we have a Bible study? So that we can learn what it is to follow him and serve him.

We need to think about giving up our pride and our personal preferences for what it takes to follow Christ. Now here’s the frequent objection to this line of thinking … this is a one-sided deal, this sounds like I am not allowed to have any fun or have any good or nice things. I don’t think this is what he’s saying. Go back to the beginning of chapter 12 where Mary got out a pound of very expensive ointment, expensive enough that at least one disciple said that she should have sold it for the poor. Jesus didn’t chastise her. Instead he complimented her. Why? Because everything she had belonged to God. She did not hesitate to spend extravagantly to show her love for Jesus. This all becomes a question of who owns our stuff. Are we willing to give what we have to help someone in need? What if God permitted a stock market crash comparable to 1929? How would we navigate those waters? How important are those things to us? In the normal course of life, we depend on those resources, but would our lives end should the banks go out of business? What if the housing market crashed? Many of us are fairly heavily invested in our homes. What happens to our hearts if those values turn to dust?

The questions Christ is asking here, is about our priorities, our values, our confidence, our faith. What is the foundation of our confidence in this life? Is Christ all we need? What about those students at Columbine who were asked whether they were believers, knowing that if they answered affirmative they were dead, and if not, they would live. These are not hypothetical questions. What if our friends began to drift away because of our faith? What if some in our neighborhood, began to distance themselves because of our participation in a Bible study? Friends, I think these are real questions. Now we need to make sure that we don’t become a stumbling block for others, but the time could very well come when some of our friends and neighbors are going to migrate to others who choose a different system of world values.

Much time is spent on the cost of discipleship. In discussions like these, we also need to spend time on the upside of following Jesus. Looking back at Psalm 1 it tells us that “blessed” is the man whose delight is in the word of God and one who meditates on God’s word day and night. I like what the Holman Christian Study Bible says: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers. Instead his delight is in the Lord’s instruction …” This man is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season. In other words, the flip side of losing our lives, should be gaining something. This Psalm tells us that someone who has given his life to Christ is like a strong tree in his community able to bear fruit in season, but also he is one who doesn’t fade at the end of the race (his season), it says his leaf does not wither, but in all that he does he prospers.

This is not some prosperity gospel as is put out by some, this is a man whose desires and joys or delights are in God’s word and the fruit of his strength is bringing wisdom and shade and strength to those around him. The purposes of this man will prosper or bear fruit. Comparing this man to those who choose another path, they are like the chaff that the wind blows away. They may be able to tell you how to make money or how to attain power. Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In building our homes and our families would we rather not say with the Apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God given to men, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. (our successor generations are building out on the foundations that we have laid) Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it(the final judgment that may seem so far away, but take this to the bank, it is coming), because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

So then, many of us consider ourselves savvy investors … where would you rather invest your time and your energies? For me and many of my friends, our career working days are pretty much over, but there is lots of opportunity to do work that will count for eternity.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matt 6:33

Tipping Point

In many areas of life we tend to take baby steps. We take small incremental steps when
practicing new skills for even such simple things as taking our first baby steps. We are Image result for tipping pointtentative at first and take halting steps while we regain our balance between each step, and our confidence continues to build until one day reach the tipping point of confidence and we start running around the house or out in the yard. This concept is in play when we enter school, take new jobs, enter the grand world of parenting, and, yes, it also includes our faith.

When considering faith, we are prone to take the view that the decisions and commitments of faith are binary. Either you have it or you don’t. However, scripture doesn’t support this. Even Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth these words, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged. (2Cor 10:17). The NIV carries it by saying “… as your faith continues to grow …” Christ talked in terms of the size of one’s faith when He said if we would have faith even as small as a grain of a mustard seed, we could move trees and mountains (Matt 17:20, Lk 17:5-6).

When we take our first steps of faith, the reality is that we are groping about trying to find our way in this new euphoric, yet bewildering relationship with Jesus Christ. What does it mean to accept Jesus into one’s heart? In Galatians and Revelation, scriptures talk about our first love. That initial feeling of suddenly knowing that we have a relationship with the God of the universe brings a sense of love and awe; a feeling of excitement that lasts until our first real challenge when Satan brings back the old doubts, and friends scoff at such a foolish decision. How can we move from our first love to having our faith take hold, to learning more about our God, to finding out that prayer really works because we pray to a living God? How can we grow in the faith to reach that tipping point of having the confidence that God is faithful, that God is not defined by our circumstances, that we really do have forgiveness of our sins and can celebrate communion with grateful hearts?

1 Peter 2:2 tells us, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” This is telling us that in order to grow up into salvation, we should long for pure spiritual milk. Pure spiritual milk is that which brings growth in the faith, taking instruction from trusted teachers, pastors, and friends. We need to look into the scriptures to see how they call us to maturity and talk about the faithfulness of God. To read the stories of God’s faithfulness and then pray that God would show His faithfulness in and through us. I have friends who are seeing prayers answered and are seeing opportunities to help others on their journeys. Through conversations and Bible study, together we learn how much God loves us and died for the sins of the whole world. We learn that unexpected successes come as the result of prayer. When we see such things happen, we begin to pray for our own needs and for the needs of others.

Then one day, we reach a tipping point; that point where we’re able to learn from scripture by faith. We reach that point where we are able to put our preexisting condition(s) to the test against the eternal truths of scripture. We come to a point of rest in the salvation of a loving and living God. We rest, knowing that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He will guide and protect us just as He did the patriarchs of the Old Testament. We develop a passion for telling others about Jesus as the Son of God and His death and resurrection. We reach a tipping point where faith overshadows questions once unanswerable. Those questions pale in comparison to the hope of spending eternity with the God we loved and embraced when we first opened the door of our hearts to Jesus’ knocking.

I pray that you have reached that tipping point in your life. If not, please let me know how we can encourage you.